Thursday, June 21, 2018

Fred Willard

Fred Willard, Toronto, Sept. 11, 2006

LIKE BOB BALABAN, WHO I PHOTOGRAPHED EARLIER THE SAME DAY, I have probably been watching Fred Willard in something all my life. As with Balaban, he was doing bit parts on shows like Get Smart, The Bob Newhart Show and Laverne & Shirley when I was a TV addicted pre-teen, before he came upon his avuncular but slightly addled onscreen persona on Fernwood 2-Nite as Jerry Hubbard - Ed McMahon to Martin Mull's Johnny Carson.

Like Balaban, he was at the festival to promote Christopher Guest's latest ensemble comedy, For Your Consideration. (I also did portraits of Jane Lynch the same day but, alas, they aren't worth sharing here, which is a regret.) I remember all of the talent from Guest's film being somewhat bemused by the ritual of press days, but none more than Willard.

Fred Willard, Toronto, Sept. 11, 2006

There's a smirk on Willard's face in nearly every frame I shot that day. It's one of the challenges of shooting comedians, which usually begins with their urge (I think some regard it as an obligation) to mug for the camera - "playing the clown" is often a full-time job, and it sometimes requires some magic combination of words or an intervention to head it off. Clearly, I had neither the time nor the words to do it with Willard.

Fred Willard is still as ubiquitous on the big and small screen as ever. He has the unusual distinction of playing one of the few live action roles ever in a Pixar movie when he was cast as the head of the Buy-N-Large corporation in WALL-E - the sort of glibly untrustworthy authority figure that he's made his specialty, and since authority of all kinds hasn't made itself any more trustworthy in the decade-plus since I took these photos, I don't imagine Willard will ever have a shortage of work.

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