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Film Director Robert Altman Remembered for Actors Touch

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's take a moment to note the passing of a first-class filmmaker. Director Robert Altman died in Los Angeles on Monday at the age on 81. NPR's Neda Ulaby has this remembrance.

NEDA ULABY: Robert Altman was a celebrated film iconoclast, who in the 1970s, released a string of masterpieces - including “M*A*S*H,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and “Nashville,” - which featured, among it's 24 major characters, the crumbling country music star.

(Soundbite of movie, “Nashville”)

Unidentified Woman (Actress): I'm a little excited, you know, I feel a little bit rushed.

Unidentified Man (Actor): How you feeling?

Unidentified Woman (Actress): I feel great.

Unidentified Man (Actor): I told the band you were gonna start off with a love song like the cowboy Song.

ULABY: Robert Altman loved actors and he loved having masses of them in his movies. In later films like “Gosford Park,” “Short Cuts” and “Prairie Home Companion,” stars from Maggie Smith to Lindsay Lohan flocked to his ensembles. But Altman told NPR in 2000, he never gave them specific directions.

Mr. ROBERT ALTMAN (Late Film Director): What I want to see is something I've never seen before. So I can't explain to anybody what that is.

ULABY: But he caught it when it happened, and he made it alive, complex, and grand.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.