The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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November 14, 2013

'Challenger Disaster' film stars William Hurt

(Continued)

“I’m working pretty hard,” he says with clear understatement as he unsnaps the leash worn by Lucy, a gentle Doberman pinscher-Labrador mix, who is nibbling some grass and contemplating the joggers.

“Your mind, your heart must learn to value yourself,” Hurt says, pivoting back to what Feynman taught him. “That’s where your answers will come from: Learn to bear your frustrations gladly, ‘cause they’re your teacher. YOU are your teacher.”

An actor often outspoken about the frustration he bears as an actor (”I have a hard time finding work that will allow me to do what I know how to do, because they won’t give me time to prepare”) has only good things to say about shooting “The Challenger Disaster.”

A co-production with the BBC, the film was directed by James Hawes (”Doctor Who,” ‘‘Fanny Hill”), whom Hurt hails as “a great human being and a great director.”

Under Hawes’ stewardship, Hurt says, he got what he craves as an actor: “Not to be showing off, not to be insecure, but to open myself to a new look at life.”

Hawes, speaking by phone from England, describes their first meeting while he was on a trip to New York last fall.

The pair took a stroll to visit, fittingly, the shuttle Enterprise prototype installed nearby at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex.

“The sun was shining,” Hawes recalls, “and we had the most extraordinary walk. By the end of it, we had a bond.”

Once shooting commenced in South Africa, Hawes goes on, “I arranged for William to have a lesson on the bongos, because Feynman notoriously played them. I’m not usually that Method, but I knew that he is a man who loves his research. I’ll never forget sitting there in the dying light of a South African evening with William Hurt and a bongo teacher hammering out rhythms.”

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