Alda’s find has a very bright future – By William Wolf (San Bernardino Sun, 1985)

  • San Bernardino Sun, Volume 112, Number 186, 5 July 1985
  • Alda’s find has a very bright future
  • By WILLIAM WOLF Gannett News Service

Actor-director Alan Alda has discovered a striking new actress. He’s so smitten with the talent of as-yet-unknown Lise Hilboldt that’s he’s cast her as his leading lady in “Sweet Liberty,” the new movie comedy he wrote and is currently shooting. Hilboldt has appeared in television dramas and has a background on the stage in America and England, but this is her first film. A tall, exuberant redhead with a lusty, spontaneous laugh, she was completely unknown to Alda when she turned up for a reading arranged by her agent. Now she’s not only playing Alda’s girlfriend, but suddenly finds herself in the stellar company of Michael Caine and Lillian Gish not bad for a screen debut. The comedy, being filmed in and around Sag Harbor, N.Y., but really set in the South, is about a university history professor who has written a novel being turned into a movie. Alda plays the professor, who is desperately trying to protect the integrity of his work, set during the American Revolution. Hilboldt plays Gretchen, also a professor, who wants him to marry her, while he just wants to live with her.

Alan Alda, Lillian Gish and Michael Caine – Sweet Liberty 1986

Gish plays the professor’s mother, Michael Caine a movie star cast as a general in the film-within-the-film, Michelle Pfeiffer his co-star, and Bob Hoskins the screenwriter mangling the professor’s work. Saul Rubinek plays a hot-shot movie director and Lois Chiles is the university dean’s wife. “Sweet Liberty” is being produced for Universal Pictures by Martin Bregman, whose previous movies include “Scarface” and “Serpico.” Alda has directed one previous film, “The Four Seasons.” As this year began Hilboldt was still struggling along in off Broadway shows hoping for a break. Was she nervous when she tried out for Alda? “I knew he’d never heard of me, so I was just going to go in and do my best,” she said. “Linda Hunt is a good friend of mine, and she went up for her big part in ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ without being known. And look at Tom Hulce in ‘Amadeus.’ So I rehearsed and thought I should just go in and be brave.”

SWEET LIBERTY, from left: Alan Alda, Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, 1986, © Universal

Her secret weapon was the 10 years she had spent preparing for that moment. Hilboldt, who was born in Milwaukee and grew up in Racine, attended the University of Wisconsin for a year and then went to England to study drama. “I felt at first that my future would be as a classical actress. I would go to see plays with all the highly skilled British actors, like Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith.” An American studying and working in England gets the kind of solid experience in classics that is hard to come by at home. While in England, she met Allan Mayer, a foreign correspondent and now senior writer for Newsweek International. They’ve been married for six years and live in New York. Hilboldt slipped into various accents with ease to show the range of characters she can play. She talked like the Texan she played in “Noon Wine,” a television drama shown on PBS.

Lillian Gish Cecelia Burgess Sweet Liberty 1986

In ”Sweet Liberty,” Alan Alda’s genial spoof of movie making, she portrays, all too briefly, the hero’s cantankerous but beguiling mother, who has slept in her living room for 11 years ”because the devil is in the bedroom.” The hero (Mr. Alda), asked how long his mother has been crazy, replies, ”All my life.”

Miss Gish said she was at first reluctant to portray such a quirky character but agreed to do so during a talk with Mr. Alda because he is such ”a beautiful, charming man.” Your face, she said, mirrors your soul.

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