(CBS Local)– Wynn Handman is one of the most iconic names in New York City theater history.
The legendary theater director taught some of the greats like Michael Douglas, Dustin Hoffman and Richard Gere. A new documentary about his career and life called “It Takes A Lunatic” premieres this Friday night at the Tribeca Film Festival and a conversation with Handman, Douglas and Robert De Niro will follow the screening.
The soon to be 97-year-old is still sharp as a tack and can recall details of productions from many decades ago. Handman will never forget what it was like to direct Hoffman in “Harry, Noon, And Night” and “The Journey Of The Fifth Horse.”
“He had to have his way and you couldn’t budge him,” said Handman in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “His way turned out to be brilliant, but he drove you crazy along the way. If you’re in the position I was in, you have to tolerate it. If you meet Dustin, he’ll tell you how unhappy I was, but when he produced I learned to leave him alone because he’d come up with it and it was brilliant.”
“It Takes A Lunatic” features years of footage from Handman’s career and includes interviews with Douglas, Gere, the late Sam Shepard and many others. Handman tells many great stories in the doc, including one about a conversation with a young Michael Douglas.
“He was a very young when he studied with me,” said Handman. “I knew his parents and it was his parents who sent him to me. There’s no Wynn Handman without Sanford Meisner. He was a truly great teacher. He recommended me to be his replacement. Michael did beautiful work in class. He just had imagination, personality, he had the looks and a real affinity for theater. I gave him one play, an early one act by John Guare, and he came up with the most charming performance. I don’t remember doing it, but he told me that I asked him if it was alright to tell your mother how good you are. He said he gained confidence and that is one of the most important things an acting teacher can give you.”