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EVERLASTING GRACE

From the July 2006 issue of The Christian Science Journal


Horton Foote talks at 15 miles per hour. Well, at least it sounds that way here in New York City, where most of us talk faster than a taxi streaking down Broadway at 3:00 a.m.

But Mr. Foote, who hails from Wharton, Texas, and lays claim to an apartment in Manhattan's Greenwhich Village, where we met recently to discuss his life as a dramatist and Christian Scientist, talks not so much slowly as gently. And still, make no mistake, you feel unequivocal propulsion. Call it the velocity of Southern charm. Or the tempo of insight. As in his stage plays and films, Foote's unique, poetic wisdom unfolds during conversation at an unhurried yet rhythmical grace pace.

One of America's leading and most beloved dramatists, Foote has been crafting introspective small-town stories for TV, stage, and film for over half a century. These stories capture some of the nuanced complexities, unpredictable heartbreaks and triumphs, and underlying hope that characterize everyday life for so many people. Among his masterpieces, three screenplays stand out: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)—Foote won an Academy Award for this unforgettably moving screenplay, adapted from the novel by Harper Lee. (During the making of this film, Foote became lifelong friends with actor Robert Duvall, who played the mysterious 'Boo' Radley); Tender Mercies(1983)—Foote again won an Academy Award, this time for best original screenplay for a film that featured Mr. Duvall as down-and-out Mac Sledge, a drifter on the road to redemption (Duvall also won an Academy Award for best actor); The Trip to Bountiful (1985)—originally written for stage play opened on Broadway in 1953. The acclaimed movie version starred Geraldine Page as an aging mother desperate to revisit the town where she grew up. The play recently enjoyed a four-month off-Broadway revival. Other works include Foote's screenplays for the film trilogy 1918, On Valentine's Day, and Courtship, starring his daughter Hallie Foote. He recently turned his play The Widow Claire into a screenplay and hopes to see it in production soon. Foote currently is at work writing a new play.