DAN FUTTERMAN

JUNE 14 2007 21:22h

"Mighty Heart" Star Says Acting Days Are Done

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Actor Dan Futterman spent nearly two decades looking for his big break in Hollywood and about two years ago, he finally got it - as a writer

Actor Dan Futterman spent nearly two decades looking for his big break in Hollywood and about two years ago, he finally got it -- as a writer.

Futterman portrays slain journalist Daniel Pearl in the upcoming movie "A Mighty Heart" but it was his screenplay for 2005's "Capote" that earned him an Oscar nomination and opened the doors of Tinseltown's top agencies and movie studios.

Even though he is now starring in a major movie next to an A-list actress, Angelina Jolie, Futterman, 40, told Reuters he is trading in his makeup case for a word processor.

Fans who know Futterman from Broadway plays such as "Angels in America" or on television hits like "Will and Grace" are, for now, getting their last chance to see him act in "A Mighty Heart," which debuts on June 22.

"(Acting) wasn't feeding a part of me," Futterman said. "I tend to over-intellectualize things and it can be a challenge -- once I've done research and thought about a character -- to get back to an instinctual, gut reaction which I think you have to do as an actor.

"Writing allows me to stay in that place a bit more, and there's something about it that just feels more comfortable."

"A Mighty Heart" is based on a book by Mariane Pearl about her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who in 2002 was kidnapped in Pakistan by Islamic extremists and beheaded.

The film's plot revolves around the search for Pearl and looks at the emotional toll it took on the people who tried to find him, including Mariane, who is played by Jolie.

SHORT BUT SWEET

Futterman's screen time is brief but his portrayal is pivotal to the success of the film, which attempts to show the Pearls' empathy for different world cultures and get audiences to feel the same sense of global humanity.

To achieve that goal, British director Michael Winterbottom focuses, in part, on the love between two seemingly diverse people: Daniel, a Jewish man from a Los Angeles suburb, and Mariane, an Afro-Cuban raised in Paris.

"Their upbringing was so different, yet they connected on such a deep level," Futterman said.

To add to a sense of reality, Winterbottom shot the movie in Pakistan and encouraged actors to improvise many of their scenes off the script, which Futterman said helped them "drop the artifice" of acting.

But despite the improvisation -- and as might be expected from a fellow writer -- Futterman defended John Orloff's screenplay for the film, calling it a "detailed and emotionally grounded foundation" from which to work.

Futterman should know. His screenplay for "Capote" lost the Oscar to gay romance "Brokeback Mountain," but many critics considered his work exceptional, exposing the dark nature of author Truman Capote and his relationship with convicted murderer Perry Smith -- a key figure in Capote's book "In Cold Blood."

"I always had a sense I wanted to write ... and I got hooked on the Capote story. It felt like a great, complex, mixed motivation relationship to explore," Futterman said.

Since then, Futterman has collaborated with his wife, Anya Epstein, on a romantic comedy, "Finn at the Blue Line," and has been adapting a new book into a screenplay.