Eric Stoltz is only look­ing for­ward

Po­lit­i­cal teen com­edy “Class Rank” con­firms Eric Stoltz is more di­rec­tor than ac­tor.

Metro USA (New York) - - Wknd - GRE­GORY WAKE­MAN Gre­gory.Wake­man@metro.us

Even if you’re not a child of the ’80s, you know Eric Stoltz’s work.

Back then, he was the star of movies like “Mask” and “Some Kind of Won­der­ful,” a streak that con­tin­ued into ’90s with films like “Pulp Fic­tion” and “Jerry Maguire.” (He was also fa­mously cast as Marty McFly in “Back to the Fu­ture” but was re­placed by Michael J. Fox just a week into pro­duc­tion.)

In a way, the ex­pe­ri­ence helped him find his true call­ing be­hind the cam­era. For the last 15 years, he’s helmed episodes of “Glee” and “How to Get Away with Mur­der.”

“I don’t re­ally see my­self as an ac­tor any­more,” he says. “I think of my­self as a di­rec­tor at this point. I do en­joy act­ing. But, hon­estly, I rarely look back at any­thing I have done in the past. I am too busy and in­ter­ested in what is hap­pen­ing right now to care.”

Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in front of the cam­era helped shape him into a di­rec­tor with not only more em­pa­thy but ex­per­tise for what the work takes on the other side of the lens. It takes “ex­treme pa­tience” and the abil­ity to “speak the very dif­fer­ent lan­guage” of ac­tors.

“In all of the years I was act­ing, I can count on one hand the di­rec­tors that ac­tu­ally spoke a lan­guage of act­ing that was help­ful,” he says. “Most of them were very tech­ni­cally adept but were kind of afraid to talk to the ac­tors.”

His lat­est project finds him back in the movie world with “Class Rank,” a com­edy about two high school­ers try­ing to take over the school board, out May 11 in the­aters and On De­mand. Stoltz came on­board when pro­ducer Sandy Stern sent him the script, and he found some­thing many high school come­dies strug­gle to achieve: a story that’s both charm­ing and smart.

“It was very po­lit­i­cally ac­tive in an un­sus­pect­ing way,” he says. “I love all the char­ac­ters, as odd and as gruff as they are. I felt com­pas­sion for all of them, and that’s a very rare qual­ity in a script.” In the film, a high school stu­dent who needs a lit­tle help get­ting into Yale tries to get an­other stu­dent elected to the board to make some pol­icy changes to help her. The mes­sage, Stoltz says, couldn’t be more timely. “I want young peo­ple to think, ‘Why don’t we run for of­fice? Why don’t we try and change the world? Why don’t we try and con the sys­tem?’” he says. And there’s a les­son for the adults too: “Per­haps older peo­ple might think, ‘Why don’t we fall in love? And smoke a lit­tle pot? And let’s guide the kids as best we can.’”

Whether it’s act­ing or di­rect­ing, Stoltz feels like he’s been do­ing what he loves for nearly four decades. “Some­times it is easy, and some­times it is hard,” he says of show busi­ness. “I do con­sider my­self an enor­mously lucky fel­low. I love what I do. And I get to make a liv­ing do­ing it. And I just pinch my­self ev­ery morn­ing. It is a great life.”

CINEDIGM

“Class Rank” is a rare high school com­edy with charm and smarts.

GETTY

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