Friday, January 14, 2011

Meet 'Mockingbird' actress at Redford Theatre tonight and Saturday

Actress Mary Badham, who won an Oscar nomination for her role as Scout in the 1962 film “To Kill a Mockingbird,” makes a guest appearance today and Jan. 15 when the movie plays at The Redford Theatre.

In the 1962 film “To Kill a Mockingbird,” 
young Mary Badham played Scout,
daughter of Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck).

"I'm really excited," said Badham, who played the daughter of Atticus Finch portrayed by Gregory Peck. "I'm always keen on anything that promotes reading and the preservation of old theaters and movies."

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is based on the 1960 novel by Harper Lee. Directed by Robert Mulligan, the film stars Peck as Finch, the father and lawyer who agrees to defend a young black man who is accused of raping a white woman. The story is told through the eyes of Finch's tomboyish 6-year-old daughter Scout. Much of the action involves the trial and events surrounding it. But what also makes it memorable are Scout's ever-strengthening bond with older brother Jem (Philip Alford), her friendship with precocious young Dill Harris (played by John Megna), her father's passionate common sense reactions to such life-and-death crises as a rampaging mad dog, and Scout's reactions to, and relationship with, Boo Radley (Robert Duvall in his movie debut), a feeble-minded recluse who turns out to be her salvation when she is attacked by a bigot.

"There was a lot of heart that went into the making of the film," said Badham, in a phone interview from her Virginia home. 

The studios were reluctant to make it and when they did, Mulligan and co-producer Alan J. Pakula were adamant that Horton Foote's adaptation followed the book as closely as possible. For his efforts, the Mockingbird film writer received an Academy Award for Best Screenplay Adaptation.
Badham attributes “Mockingbird's” longevity to the story, which centers on the understanding and tolerance of each other as human beings, and realistic characters.

Badham auditioned for the part at age 10. "Some kids had monologues to do. But there was a set and we just played around and made stuff up at the spur of the moment," she said. That’s exactly what the talent scout was looking for. With her blue eyes and dark brown hair, Badham landed the role because she - like the character that she would portray -- was very much a tomboy. 

The film garnered numerous honors, including Peck's Academy Award for Best Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actor, and an Oscar for Best Art Direction. Badham got an Oscar nomination for supporting actress, but was beat out by Patty Duke for her role in “The Miracle Worker.”

"I was absolutely, morbidly terrified that I would win it," Badham said. "I was just this dumb little kid having a good time. I was so glad when Patty Duke won it. She was brilliant."

Badham retired from acting but remained close to “Mockingbird” cast members Alford and Peck or "Atticus" as she fondly referred to him.

"He'll always be my Atticus. I knew him too well to call him Mr. Peck," Badham said. 

“To Kill a Mockingbird” plays 8 p.m. today, and 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 15 at The Redford Theatre, located on the northeast corner of Grand River Avenue and Lahser Road. Tickets are $5. Mary Badham will attend all three shows, and will speak before the shows and during intermission. She will sign autographs from 7 to 8 p.m. in the lobby. Charge is $20 for 8x10 glossy photos, $30 for a paperback book, $50 for a hardback book and $20 for any personal item.

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