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Six Degrees of Celebs with Ties to S.F.’s American Conservatory Theater

As A.C.T. turns 50, a look back at alumni who’ve made it big.

Clockwise from left: Danny Glover, Amy Irving, Annette Bening, Anna Deavere Smith, Denzel Washington, and Nicolas Cage

 

The American Conservatory Theater is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. While most people know A.C.T. for its stage productions, its conservatory has developed an impressive roster of Hollywood stars—which got us to thinking about how they’re all connected.

Danny Glover, a former member of the A.C.T. Black Actors’ Workshop, who starred alongside Oprah Winfrey in the film adaptation of The Color Purple, directed by Steven Spielberg, who at the time was married to…

Amy Irving, who attended a summer program at A.C.T. in the 1970s and was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1983’s Yentl, starring Barbra Streisand and Mandy Patinkin, who was cast in the 1990 film Dick Tracy by Warren Beatty, husband of… 

Annette Bening, who graduated from A.C.T.’s Advanced Training Program in 1983 and received an honorary MFA in 1994, a year before the four-time Academy Award nominee starred in the 1995 film The American President with Martin Sheen and…

Anna Deavere Smith, the noted playwright (and 1977 A.C.T. MFA graduate), one of whose first plum Hollywood roles came in the Oscar-winning 1993 film Philadelphia, costarring…

Denzel Washington, who studied at A.C.T. from 1977 to 1978 and won a Best Actor Oscar in 2001 for Training Day, which also starred Ethan Hawke and Eva Mendes—the latter of whom, in Werner Herzog’s 2009 film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, played the love interest to…

Nicolas Cage, who in 1979 graduated from the A.C.T. Young Conservatory program while spending a summer with his famous uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, director of the Godfather films and, among others, the 1997 John Grisham adaptation The Rainmaker, featuring, in a minor and uncredited role...Danny Glover.

 

Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco 

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