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Hanging with Cary Elwes, remembering Jack Kehler

Gray Areas

Assorted ramblings from the world of entertainment:

・ At this point in my life, I don’t get too nervous doing an interview, no matter how famous the person is.

But nearly all of the interviews I’ve conducted didn’t have an audience watching it live.

So I’ll confess to being a little anxious preparing to talk to Cary Elwes, star of “The Princess Bride,” on stage at Packard Music Hall last Saturday after a screening of the movie.

Elwes couldn’t have made it easier. He was gracious with his time and kind to everyone he encountered. I was told before he arrived at Packard that he wasn’t feeling well, but if that was true, he gave no indication of it.

The makeup artist, who I should call Miracle Max since she also had to make me look good — or at least better — said she wished everyone she worked with was that nice. He invited my “Princess Bride”-loving daughter backstage and spent several minutes signing her T-shirt, praising her purse ( made from a copy of “The Princess Bride” novel) and posing for pictures.

One of those photos involved a coincidence that thoroughly delighted Elwes. While Packard’s lobby and other parts of the building have gotten a facelift in the last decade, the dressing rooms look like they haven’t been touched since the music hall opened in 1955. There is little adorning the walls.

The only thing hanging in the makeup room was a framed poster from a wrestling show at the venue in 1984. Topping billed that February night was Andre the Giant, who would co-star with Elwes a couple of years later in “The Princess Bride.”

The poster wasn’t put there especially for Elwes. It’s always hanging in that spot. Elwes had several photos taken with the poster for himself and even talked about it on stage while sharing memories of the gentle giant.

・ Character actor Jack Kehler died Saturday from complications related to leukemia.

If the 75-year-old Kehler’s name isn’t familiar, don’t feel bad. He’s the kind the of actor who only the most hardcore movie buff would know by name, but most people looking at his photo would say, “Yeah, I’ve seen that guy.”

His IMDb.com page lists 171 film and television credits. He was the Dude’s landlord in “The Big Lebowski,” the host body of an alien in “Men in Black II” and made multiple appearances on such television series as “The Man in the High Castle,” “NYPD Blue,” “Murder One,” “Newhart” and others.

According to his IMDB bio, Kehler was a Philadelphia native, but he does have a Mahoning Valley connection. Kehler came to Warren back in 2012 to star in a short film directed by Ryan Moody (who grew up in Warren and Cortland) when he was a filmmaking student at UCLA. The short film, titled “Last Call,” was shot primarily at downtown Warren’s Horseshoe Bar.

Moody shared a couple of memories of Kehler via email.

“Working with Jack was one of the greatest honors of my life,” he wrote. “I remember when he came to audition, I recognized him immediately from his illustrious body of work. I was surprised such an accomplished actor would be interested in my project. I was young, with little experience at the time, but Jack treated me like a professional collaborator right away. It meant so much to me that someone with his abilities, with his experiences, would take a chance to work with someone who was just starting out.

“But that was the kind of guy Jack was. If he liked the material, he was in. It was that simple. Just by being there, Jack elevated the work of everyone around him. The feeling on set was that, if Jack was here, then this must be something special. It was.”

Moody said they stayed in touched with Kehler after the project was completed.

“Over the years, I learned a great deal from him, but the most important lesson was to always put your whole heart into the work. Whether it was a huge studio movie, or a tiny short film shot in Warren, Ohio, Jack loved his part, and put all he had into making it great. He was an enormous talent and a hell of a guy. I will miss him terribly.”

“Last Call” can be viewed online at vimeo.com/ryanmoody/lastcall.

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@tribtoday.com.

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