Criterion hosts celebrity benefit

Posted July 09, 2009, at 4:46 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:04 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon urged Mount Desert Island residents to support the Criterion Theatre and Arts Center after a benefit showing Wednesday of “Bull Durham.”

“You have a rare gem here,” Robbins, 50, said of the 1932 Cottage Street theater. “The people who are local need to do all that you can to make sure this theater is revived. You could have some world-class art here.”

Robbins said that his theater troupe, the Actors Gang, based in Culver City, Calif., and his band, Gob Roberts, would perform.

The audience, a mix of vacationers, year-round and summer residents, accepted the offer with applause. More than 300 people paid $35 a ticket to attend the event.

Sarandon and Robbins took questions for nearly an hour after the film. The couple met in 1987 during the filming of the movie, which also stars Kevin Costner, about a minor league baseball team in Durham, N.C.

The couple often summers on Mount Desert Island. Sarandon’s father, Les Tomalin, moved to a house on Long Pond in Somesville in 1981, according to previously published reports. He was active in the community until his death a decade ago.

Robbins and Sarandon on Wednesday looked like many of the people who came to see them. She wore black slacks, a purple shirt and a black hooded sweatshirt. He was dressed in beige slacks and a dark sweater.

Questions from the audience ranged from politics to their favorite scenes in “Bull Durham” to upcoming projects.

The couple was criticized in 2003 and 2004 by many in the film industry for questioning President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. Sarandon said Wednesday that Hollywood could forgive political statements.

“What they don’t forgive is when you get old and fat,” she said. “Then they really don’t like you.”

When asked how they felt about seeing themselves in the more-than-20-year-old film, Sarandon confessed that she had not watched it Wednesday. Robbins, whose bare buttocks appeared in several scenes, admired his younger physique.

“I did like getting naked. My butt was pretty good back then,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to see it now.”

Sarandon and many of the women in the audience disagreed.

Robbins said that the dream sequence in which his character is on the mound pitching naked was uncomfortable to shoot.

“We shot it in September and November and it was about 30 degrees that night,” he said. “I had oil all over my body, not to make me look good but to prevent me from getting hypothermia.”

As for future projects, Sarandon said she would do a film for HBO with Al Pacino about Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who was imprisoned for his assisted suicide work. Robbins said that he would spend the fall in Spain with the Actors Gang touring a production of “1984,” which he directed.

The couple made frequent reference to their children, who have appeared with them in films.

Saradon’s daughter, Eva Amuri, 24, is an actress. She appears in the Showtime series “Californication.” Robbins and Sarandon have two sons, Jack Henry Robbins, born in 1989, and Miles Guthrie Robbins, born in 1992. Sarandon said “the boys” were vacationing with them.

Even though Rob Jordan, president of the nonprofit Criterion, asked people not to take photos or videotape the question-and-answer session, people could not resist snapping photos during the final few questions. Audience members also passed DVD cases, photos and at least one poster up to the stage for the actors to sign.

Jordan said after the event that the money raised Wednesday would keep the theater open through the summer.

“We need a lot more,” he said. “We need to raise $3 million immediately.”

The 2009 budget is $410,000 and it costs $1,500 per day to run the operation.

The Criterion was purchased in 2007 by Anthony and Erin Uliano for $1.4 million from local restaurateur Michael Boland, according to previously published reports. The Ulianos gave the nonprofit a 99-year lease for the building and 10-year window in which the organization could raise the funds to buy the building, which includes several storefronts.

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