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Conventional Wisdom and the Man of 'Steal'

August 17, 2000|ROBIN ABCARIAN

The generation gap narrowed in Santa Monica on Tuesday at the local premiere of "Steal This Movie!," the indie film about antiwar icon Abbie Hoffman.

Producer-director Robert Greenwald told the audience it was conceived as a way to explain the '60s to his two 20-something daughters. There was no avoiding the rich parallels between a film partly set during the "police riot" of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago and political events in L.A. this week.

"It's a marketing achievement that [movie distributor] Lions Gate was able to organize the protests among young people here for us this week," joked Greenwald.

The movie was also a family affair for artist Robbie Conal, who did the movie's poster, and his wife, Deborah Ross, who created the titles. For inspiration, Conal borrowed the American flag shirt worn by actor Vincent D'Onofrio in the movie. "It was scrungy and muddy, with fake blood all over it," he said. (One scene crosscuts Hoffman being beaten by cops with TV clips of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in beaded flag shirts.

Playing the late Hoffman, said D'Onofrio, was scary and satisfying. "Two things go on," he said. "First: shame. You wanna do the right thing and you don't think you can because who are you to play this guy and so you're ashamed. Then, the parallel track is the need to take a role that's so meaty and lose myself in the research and do a good job as an actor."

In the back row of the Laemmle Monica theater, state Sen. Tom Hayden, who stood trial with Hoffman as a member of the Chicago 7, watched his son, Troy Garity, 27, play him on screen. Later, Garity, whose mother is Jane Fonda, gave his stock answer to the inevitable question of how it felt to "be" his father: "Better than being my mother."

*

A Convention to Remember

* Recalling '68 "conspiracy" and trial.

Calendar Weekend, Page 6

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