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A Candid Conversation With Hal Holbrook
by Sandra Siepak
More than 20 years of TV/Print experience covering news and entertainment. Coverage of celebrity interviews, feature films stage productions in Los Angeles, CA.

Hal Holbrook has had a legendary career in Theatre, Film, and Television. His notable film roles in Midway, All The President’s Men, Wall Street, The Star Chamber, The Firm, and his latest film,,Water for Elephants, have all made him one of the most engaging actors of our time. Today at 86, Holbrook is busier than ever and passionate about his writing, acting and political views. He has portrayed many memorable characters over the years but none is closer to his heart than his portrayal of Mark Twain in Mark Twain Tonight! which he has been performing on stage worldwide for more than 58 years. He will be touring the country the next few months in his award winning one man hit show, Mark Twain Tonight!. If you haven’t seen his outstanding performance in this renowned program it is an event not to be missed.
“I’m excited to bring this show to audiences once again this year. I’ve been playing Mark Twain for so many years now and every performance is always a little different and unique. There is no set program, I’m constantly editing and changing my material all the time. Audiences will see that Mark Twain was very eloquent and his remarks were extremely intelligent. He was a man who was very close to Teddy Roosevelt and Henry Rodgers. I take his words and edit his material together in my show but often not in sequence. What I try to do is bring humor as well as sociological comments together as well. Mark Twain’s heart was with the common man not Wall Street millionaires. What is really interesting is that what Twain discusses what happened back in 1905 is exactly what mirrors what is happening today in our society,” says Holbrook.
The celebrated actor has carefully tailored his Mark Twain to focus on the many corruptions and dishonesty among both politicians and journalists alike which does indeed seem remarkably relevant now. His delivery in this admirable role is powerful and gripping as he takes the stage as one of America’s greatest writers of all time in one of theatre history’s longest-running shows.
“In the first act of the show I talk about the press and how they have actually corrupted the information pathway. For us today, if you have an information machine like television news which doesn’t always deliver the complete truth and many times gives incorrect information to viewers it’s very sad. I can tell you the news Walter Cronkite did is not the news that is delivered today.”
Holbrook is known to speak his mind politically too. He has strong feelings about the future of our government and acknowledges our tough economic times.
“It really is a dangerous time for us today. I really feel for the younger generation. The one thing that will end up hurting our country is greed. It feeds upon itself. It’s not a good thing for any of us.”

For Hal Holbrook the journey to becoming an actor was definitely not an easy one. Born in Cleveland, Ohio he became an actor as an escape from a tough childhood filled with turmoil and cruelty. Acting was a lifeline that brought him not only eventual success but comfort in knowing he had found his place in life. Throughout his long career he has captivated audiences in more than 40 films, 50 TV movies and series and has been honored with more than 5 Emmy Awards and an Academy Award nomination for his role in the film, Into the Wild. With numerous Broadway stage productions to his credit including, The Glass Menagerie, I Never Sang For My Father, and Man of La Mancha to name a few, his portrayal of Mark Twain in Mark Twain Tonight! also earned him a Tony Award.
When asked about his favorite roles over the years which he admitted there are quite a few, some are exceptionally memorable.
“The Bold Ones: The Senator” on NBC was a favorite of mine. It wasn’t the longest running though. It was cancelled after one year but I enjoyed that show a lot. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed many of the films I’ve done. I liked working with Sean Penn a great deal on “Into The Wild.” I just recently finished shooting the Steven Spielberg film, “Lincoln,” which is due out this year and that too is a very good film. Of course my role as Mark Twain in Mark Twain Tonight! has and always will remain a favorite.“
Although Holbrook is known to audiences as an exquisite and versatile actor, he is also an equally talented writer. His new autobiography, “Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain” is a compelling detailed and brutally honest account of his life that reveals both a painful childhood and an uphill battle to endure tough times throughout his lifetime. He also talks about his personal life including his marriages and five children. He was married to actress Dixie Carter, whom he says “was the gift of my life” for 26 years until her death in April 2010.
“I am a writer. I have been writing since I was young. I love to write and it comes easy to me. In my book I’m telling a story about a boy who had survived. I wanted the reader to know how I felt about my life in this book.”
For now Holbrook says he is looking forward to bringing Mark Twain Tonight! to the stage especially for first time audiences coming to see this remarkable show and continuing his work in feature films.
“I’ve been in this business a long time and it has been good to me. I’m enjoying performing Mark Twain Tonight! I’ve never been able to quit Mark Twain and you know I probably never will.”

Published: Mar 11,2012 16:37
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