RACHEL BELLE

Seattle actor Tom Skerritt plays first starring role at 88 years old

Jan 27, 2022, 9:26 AM
East of the Mountains, Tom Skerritt...
The movie poster for "East of the Mountains," starring Tom Skerritt.

In Seattle actor Tom Skerritt’s 60-year acting career, he’s covered practically every genre of film — from playing Viper in “Top Gun” to Strawberry in Cheech and Chong’s “Up In Smoke,” to roles in “Steel Magnolias,” “A River Runs Through It,” and “Alien.”

Now, at 88 years old, Skerritt is playing his first leading role in a new film called “East of the Mountains,” also starring Mira Sorvino as his daughter. The film is based on a novel by David Guterson, a friend of Skerritt’s, who also wrote “Snow Falling On Cedars.” Guterson told Skerritt if the book was ever turned into a movie, he wanted him to play the lead.

“I said, ‘Great, if we can do it up here in Washington state,'” Skerritt said. “And we made the film around the Gorge area, with Washington people. We wanted to have two women, put women at the forefront — producer and director.”

The film was directed by S.J. Chiro and produced by Jane Charles, both Seattle filmmakers. Skerritt is very vocal about two things: He wants more projects filmed in Washington, and for women to run the world. He owes his early appreciation of art to his mother.

“She always pushed me to go to these educational programs,” Skerritt said. “On Saturdays there was a school bus that would take us to the Detroit Institute of Art — it’s a great museum. I didn’t know what I was looking at. I was 7 or 8 years old and I’m going through and looking at Rodin’s The Thinker and I remember looking at that and thinking, ‘Naked guy sitting on a toilet without the sports section.’ And I go in and see all these other things and it just knocked me out. I didn’t know what the feeling I had was except for it was a strong, powerful feeling.”

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In “East of the Mountains,” Skerritt plays a retired heart surgeon and recent widower who learns he has terminal cancer and retreats to his boyhood home of Eastern Washington by himself to live out his last days. I asked him how it feels to get his first leading role at 88 years old.

“I’m so appreciative to be able to make a living the way I’m making a living,” he said. “I just never could get around that good fortune, and I’ve never taken it for granted. So I’ve never really been concerned about the big movie star thing.”

Skerritt and the film have already been nominated for a couple awards. Click here for a link to watch “East of the Mountains.”

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Seattle actor Tom Skerritt plays first starring role at 88 years old