Tom Skerritt plays his first leading film role as Ben Givens, a retired heart surgeon and recent widower who learns he has terminal cancer. Determined to navigate his final days on his own terms, he shares the news with no one—not even his daughter (Mira Sorvino)—instead, traveling back to his boyhood home in Eastern Washington with only his dog in tow. But the journey does not go as planned; the familiar landscape triggers memories and a connection with a kind stranger (Annie Gonzalez) inspires new insight. Based on David Guterson’s best-selling novel and unfolding against the scenic vistas of the Columbia Basin, this compelling character study offers a long-overdue showcase for one of cinema’s greatest treasures.
This film is a moving, thought-provoking portrait of an 88-year-old who is faced with the cruelty of being diagnosed with cancer. Being a heart surgeon for over half a century, he is well aware of the future he has to face as his cancer progresses. He decides to live this most critical part of his life his way.
East of the Mountains truly belongs to Mr. Skerritt. You can’t help but focus on his character and his personal journey even though there is a great supporting cast.
As an aging journalist in these times of challenge, I think about how I would face my own mortality. Although it may not be roughing it n the mountains and facing a crazy gun-totting backwoods lunatic, I would like to think that my choice would be my own.
Tom Skerritt has long been one of America’s most reliable and versatile actors, equally at home in comedy (HAROLD AND MAUDE, UP IN SMOKE), science fiction (ALIEN), action (THE ROOKIE) and sentimental drama (STEEL MAGNOLIAS). He made his feature film debut in the 1962 combat picture WAR HUNT alongside two other notables making their first appearances on screen, Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack.
After spending the 1960s working in iconic television series like Gunsmoke, FBI, and The Wonderful World of Disney, Skerritt garnered attention for his role as Duke Forrest in Robert Altman’s classic comedy M*A*S*H (1970), which led to a 50-year run of exceptional performances in exceptional films: as Shirley MacLaine’s husband in the Oscar-nominated THE TURNING POINT (1977); as a sensitive sheriff in David Cronenberg’s masterful Stephen King adaptation THE DEAD ZONE(1983); and as the weak-willed victim of a teenage temptress in Katt Shea’s cult favorite POISON IVY (1992).
Although Skerritt won an Emmy for his leading role on the TV series Picket Fences, his film career has consisted almost entirely of supporting roles – until now. With 2021’s EAST OF THE MOUNTAINS, he finally gets the long overdue showcase worthy of him playing Ben Givens, a widower and retired heart surgeon who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and becomes determined to live out his final days on his own terms.
The American Cinematheque is thrilled to welcome Tom Skerritt for a tribute that will include an advance screening of EAST OF THE MOUNTAINS along with a 70mm presentation of his iconic role as Viper in Tony Scott’s TOP GUN. The performer will join us for live virtual Q&As following each film.
1328 Montana Ave Santa Monica, CA 90403
Opens This Friday September 24 In Select Theaters and on VOD