American Film


Charlton Heston, who passed away in 2008, served as Chair of the American Film Institute Board of Trustees from 1972 to 1982. He was best known to filmgoers from his portrayal of Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's TEN COMMANDMENTS and the title character in BEN-HUR. Heston traded his ancient sandals for space boots in SOYLENT GREEN and PLANET OF THE APES, but was proudest of his work in TOUCH OF EVIL directed by Orson Welles. He spoke often to AFI Fellows and, on a November 14, 1979 visit to the Conservatory's Greystone Campus, had this to say about his own education by the director of CITIZEN KANE.

"Orson insists he hates acting but of course is a very good actor and is really able to communicate with actors. It's not too often that you learn about acting from directors, because that isn't what they do. They sometimes make you act better, but to really understand the process is another thing.

Orson really understood the process. I remember we were looking at dailies one day and he leaned over and said, 'You know, Chuck, you have to work on your tenor range. Those of us with great bass voices love to rumble along in them. The tenor range is a knife edge; the bass is a velvet hammer. You have to use them both.' That was very useful. I'd never thought of it before.

He also taught me that looping dialogue in the studio after shooting didn't have to be a necessary evil. Looping involves recording dialogue for scenes where the original production track isn't clean. As an actor, I always felt I could never match what I had done on set. After working with Orson, I regard the looping process as another chance to achieve something of quality."

TOUCH OF EVIL was awarded the top prize at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. The judges were Jean Luc-Godard and François Truffaut.