Feb. 19, 1930-July 6, 2002

By Gary Sinise
December 23, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
John Frankenheimer: Kobal Collection

Gary Sinise remembers John Frankenheimer

John had a forceful, dynamic, funny personality that I immediately responded to, and an incredible understanding and respect for acting. Unlike most directors, he would always require two weeks’ rehearsal prior to shooting, where he could let the characters come alive. Then he shot the movie based on what he and the actors came up with together. In his 20s he did 150 or so ”Playhouse 90”s for television. The medium was new to him then, and new to everybody. He was making it up as he went along, so by the time he made his first film he was very confident.

But he didn’t work for much of the 1980s; the movie business was not a place where he was finding any support. But in 1993, he directed ”Against the Wall” for HBO and everything changed. So television was where he began and ended his career, ultimately with last January’s acclaimed drama about LBJ’s struggles over Vietnam, ”Path to War,” also for HBO.

He was drawn to dramatic material, and found a lot of drama in biographical subjects. His television movies in the ’90s were based on real events or real people, like Brazilian environmentalist protester Chico Mendes in ”The Burning Season,” and the biopic ”George Wallace,” which was the first of three projects I did with him. The television movies would bring him four Emmys for his direction.

He had an enormous amount of energy, and at 72 was reemerging as one of the great filmmakers of all time, somebody whose work was as powerful later in his career as it was in the beginning. (Frankenheimer died of a stroke in L.A.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Gary Sinise earned an Oscar nomination for ”Forrest Gump” and won an Emmy for his lead role in ”George Wallace.”