Week of Ed Harris screenings and events benefits Norman's Women's Resource Center 

click to enlarge Ed Harris  at the award ceremony honoring Holly Hunter with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA. 05-30-07 - BIGSTOCK
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  • Ed Harris at the award ceremony honoring Holly Hunter with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA. 05-30-07

Actor Ed Harris was born in New Jersey, but make no mistake; he’s a true Okie.

Harris, known for playing devious or stern roles in films like A Beautiful Mind, The Truman Show and Places in the Heart, always had a connection to Oklahoma. It’s where his parents are from. He also studied drama at the University of Oklahoma.

Harris returns to Norman for a weeklong celebration of his film career, all benefiting Norman’s Women’s Resource Center (WRC), a nonprofit serving those victimized by sexual and domestic violence in Cleveland County.

The center hosts Ed Harris Film Festival with screenings featuring some of the actor’s most notable films Monday through Nov. 3 at Norman library locations at 225 N. Webster Ave. and 300 Norman Center Court.

Harris will attend a special screening of the 2000 biopic Pollock, a film that he directed and starred in, on Nov. 4 in OU’s Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communication auditorium, 395 W. Lindsey St. The actor hosts a question-and-answer session after the movie.

The week concludes with dinner and discussion 7 p.m. Nov. 5 during the charity gala An Evening with Ed Harris at Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, 2401 Chautauqua Ave.

“The Women’s Resource Center is an invaluable asset to the Cleveland County community,” Harris said in a WRC media release. “I’ve been a supporter ever since I learned of its existence and the great work they do there. The shelter, support and services for those who have been abused or sexually assaulted and are seeking shelter have saved countless lives and given women second chances.”

Making adjustments

Harris had a role in selecting the festival’s planned films.

The festival was originally scheduled at Evans Theatres Robinson Crossing 6 in Norman, but the theater unexpectedly closed after being evicted by its landlord just weeks before the Harris screenings.

WRC board president Mary Sue Backus said organizers scrambled to find a replacement venue and found a welcome home inside Norman’s two public libraries and at OU’s College of Journalism.

Backus said though the loss of the dollar theater is a blow to the community, she was pleased to see how many Norman residents offered assistance with the festival as it relocated. Tickets previously purchased through the Evans Theatres website will still be honored.

“There’s no hard feelings [with the theater],” Backus said. “It’s just a sad story that Evans went out of business.”

Moving the Pollock screening to OU might even improve the overall experience for guests.

Backus said the College of Journalism’s auditorium is a more intimate, personal space to share with Harris.

“It only seats like 170 people,” she said. “It’s going to feel like you’re really having a conversation with him because it’s close. You’re not in some distant movie theater.”

Those who attend An Evening with Ed Harris at Sam Noble museum should expect a catered Italian dinner by Benvenuti’s.

WRC will give a short presentation on its programs and mission before Harris speaks about his career and history with Oklahoma.

Getting connected

Backus said Harris has worked with WRC in the past, but not since she started serving on the board. She tried to reconnect with the star by mailing an old address for Harris they had on file.

Backus was thrilled we she received a response from the actor saying he was open to doing something with the nonprofit again.

She said her interactions with Harris have left her repeatedly impressed.

“He’s just the nicest guy,” she said. “I emailed him and I was afraid to tell him that we had lost the Evans Theatre, and I said, ‘Don’t worry; we’re rearranging it!’ He said, ‘I’m not worried, Mary Sue. I’m looking forward to being there.’”

All proceeds from the Harris events help support core WRC programs, including its family shelter, rape crisis center and education and counseling efforts. Backus said WRC in the last year received around 3,000 calls to its crisis hotline and conducted more than 60 post-rape examinations in its facilities.

“Like every nonprofit, we struggle for funding,” she said. “We’re so thrilled [Harris] is coming, and we hope it’ll be a big boost.”

Visit wrcnormanok.org for more information.

Print headline: Star treatment, Ed Harris takes a break from Hollywood to support Norman’s Women’s Resource Center with a personal film festival.

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