Born in 1941 in Rochester, New York, Robert Forster was one of Rochester’s most beloved and enduring entertainment figures. The son of an elephant trainer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (a poster of the circus hung in his office in Jackie Brown), he graduated from the University of Rochester in 1964. Within three years, he was working with Hollywood luminaries such as John Huston, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Alan Alda, Dustin Hoffman, George Cukor, Gregory Peck, and Eva Marie Saint. His big break came in 1969 with Haskell Wexler’s fiction debut, Medium Cool. He worked steadily in both film and television, amassing more than seventy credits in the next thirty years. He credited three steps to his perseverance: 1) Accept all things, which gives you a good attitude; 2) Deliver excellence right now, which gives you the best shot at the best future and the reward of self-respect and satisfaction; and 3) Never quit, because you can win it in the late innings if you don’t quit. In 1997, Hollywood came calling again in the form of Quentin Tarantino, who directed Forster to an Acadamy Award nomination for Jackie Brown. Forster went on to appear in more than one hundred additional projects before he died of brain cancer on October 11, 2019.
Forster, a loyal Rochesterian, was elected a trustee of the George Eastman Museum in 2001 and served on the board until 2010. He donated his own personal 16mm print of Medium Cool to the Moving Image Department in 2004, and served as trustee emeritus for the past nine years.
The Dryden salutes Robert Forster by presenting film screenings of two of his best-remembered performances on Saturday, November 2.