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Oscar-Winning Actresses Portray Couple in Cloudburst

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Why would an esteemed actress such as Olympia Dukakis play a potty-mouth lesbian in the independent film “Cloudburst?” The reason, she tells, is simple:

“I liked this character. I liked the genuineness, her willingness to confront things, and I was moved by the price she paid for how she wanted to live and what she had to do.”

Out on DVD as of today through Wolfe Video, Cloudburst was written by Thom Fitzgerald and has won dozens of awards in film festivals all over the world, including 27 best picture awards.

And Dukakis is so annoyed that a distributor wouldn’t take a chance on putting the film into US theaters, she’s out stumping for the DVD release to make sure the film gets the attention she says it deserves.

“They’re going to distribute it all over the world, that’s good. But not in the US of A,” says the Academy Award-winning actress.

The distributor doesn’t think there’s an audience for a lesbian drama, yet “It’s been playing for 10 weeks in Toronto,” she laments.

The film stars Dukakis and another respected actress, Brenda Fricker, as a committed lesbian couple. They become victims of their age, health issues and “well-meaning” relatives who, like too many true-life family members with an interest in an elderly relative’s assets, refuse to recognize the couple’s relationship. But the couple doesn’t roll over without a fight.

A hitchhiker played by the charming Ryan Doucette as a modern dancer provides the male eye-candy in the film.

“It’s funny, people laugh a lot at it,” says Dukakis. “And it’s a real change of the character, Brenda’s character becomes independent and her own woman at the end. I’m always fighting and grappling, and at the end I actually let go of it.”

Dukakis also recognized something in the character of Stella that she hasn’t seen in all the characters she’s played before.

“When I saw that I told my husband, there’s a scene where you see the price she pays for that rebelliousness. It was shocking to me, shocking. Because I have that in my own nature, as you can probably tell.

“And I said it to the director…. He said to me, ‘The rebelliousness and the price she paid, that’s all you Olympia.’ I thought yes, he’s right that is. It’s the first time I’ve seen that in myself. So it was an extraordinary experience for me.”

This isn’t the first time the rebellious Ms. Dukakis played a queer character. She was the memorable Anna Madrigal, the matriarch in the groundbreaking television series Tales of the City and More Tales of the City. Based on Armistead Maupin’s novels about a group of San Francisco neighbors, it isn’t immediately revealed that Madrigal had been born male.

Dukakis says that the reaction she’s getting from her brash Cloudburst character is similar to what she experienced with Tales of the City.

“It was such a wonderful series,” Dukakis recalls. “I think people liked the character, they had sympathy for her, they understood her.”

But the show also drew angry response from conservative politicians. City aired at a time when artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe were drawing attention to the National Endowment for the Arts, Public Broadcasting and controversial works that received public funding.

While she’s happy with the progress society has made since then, she’s adamant that it’s “not enough.”

“If you can’t get a film like Cloudburst in theaters in the United States? This is the country we’re living in, you can’t get that film distributed?” she says with disgust.

Dukakis has no fear that playing a bristly lesbian or any other role will tarnish her career.

“You know darling, I’m 81! What do I give a shit about career? I stopped worrying about my career when I was 60 or something. We joke about it, my husband and I, was this is a good career move?”

Dukakis is proud of Cloudburst. And she believes that, “younger women, the lesbian women,” are gaining an “understanding of what came before them and how women were treated, and how they had to live, how they had to hide.”

For more information on Cloudburst, see GO West Hollywood GO WEHO LGBT Entertainment News and Industry

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