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2011 Starz Denver Film Festival

The noted actor James Cromwell will receive the 2011 Mayor's Career Achievement Award at the 34th Starz Denver Film Festival (SDFF). Cromwell will be presented with one of the festival's most prestigious awards, presented by Mayor Michael Hancock, preceding the noon screening of A Year In Mooring, on Sunday, Nov. 13 at the Starz FilmCenter. 

In a career spanning four decades, the six-foot-seven-inch Cromwell has convincingly portrayed four U.S. Presidents (a fictional one in The Sum of All Fears and West Wing, Lyndon B. Johnson in RFK, and a manipulative George H.W. Bush in Oliver Stone's W.). He's played Great Britain's imperious Prince Philip (in The Queen, opposite Helen Mirren); a pair of stern prison wardens (The Green Mileand The Longest Yard); and a variety of crooked cops and sleazy congressmen. In short, he dramatizes the exercise of power as well as any veteran actor on the planet--and that skill stems in part from his pedigree and his politics. 

The son of a Hollywood actor-director who was blacklisted in the McCarthy era, Cromwell opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s and our present misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan from the beginning. He supports animal rights (his Oscar nod came for playing Farmer Hoggett in 1995's pig-friendly hitBabe) and Native American causes, among others. A new documentary by his son, John, A .45 at 50th, shows how Cromwell once snuck a couple of fugitive Black Panthers into his parents' fancy Manhattan apartment for safekeeping. And while his vivid TV portrayals of George Sibley on HBO's Six Feet Under and warp-drive inventor Dr. Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact weren't overtly political, the 71-year-old actor clearly took delight in his roles as arrogant newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst in RKO 281 and savings-and-loan crook Charles Keating in The People vs. Larry Flynt. 

"There are only two emotions," Cromwell has said, "love and fear. If men don't acknowledge their fear and suppress it . . . then they react with anger and violence. They create enemies where there should be none." 

In that vein, Cromwell will portray LBJ again in next year's assassination drama Flying into Love, costarring Romola Garai as Jackie Kennedy. That's fine with him, but he says there's an even more troubled character he's always yearned to play--the one he calls "Mount Everest" for any actor. That would be King Lear, whose tragic flaw is the foolish vanity born of power.