Friday, October 13, 2000

Peter Coyote

Peter Coyote is an accomplished actor who has appeared in more than sixty American and European films playing the romantic lead, villain, or lawyer. (Scoundrel and lawyer are not always the same thing.)

His first movie was Die Laughing in 1980. The most recent include Erin Brockovich, Red Letters, More Dogs Than Bones, Wednesday Woman, The Basket and A Time For Dancing, all released or broadcast on TV in 2000. His distinctive voice can be heard in TV commercials, voice-overs, documentaries, and audiobook recordings including the infamous Zen Flesh, Zen Bones followed by Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

However, Peter Coyote was a writer before he was an actor. In recent years he has been writing film scripts, introductions to anthologies such as What Book!?–Buddha Poems From Beat to Hiphop, and original essays such as his contribution to Hey Lew, a book about Beat poet Lew Welch, as well as a chapter in the book Gary Snyder: Dimensions of a Life. Peter won a Pushcart Prize in 1993 for "Carla’s Story," published in ZYZZYVA magazine, and in 1996 was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and sent daily dispatches to Mother Jones.

Peter Coyote’s first book is his memoir, Sleeping Where I Fall. This book is a candid account of life at the epicenter of, as he put it, "hellaciously good fun." The book provides insights into his life with the gorilla theatre of the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Digger movement, which evolved into the Free Family. Peter writes unapologetically about his relationships with the Hells Angels, his women and children, drug consumption, plus the failures of both communal living and his experience as a stockbroker on Wall Street. Peter will be reading from his book, so I’ll fast forward to more recent history.

Peter Coyote has been a practicing Zen Buddhist for 25 years and remains a forceful political activist, especially concerning Native American rights and environmental issues. He plays the guitar, writes his own songs and sings. Copies of his audio cassette called Over The Spinal Telephone are available through his website: Proceeds go to indigent jazz musicians.

In March, Peter was the "Voice of Oscar." On August 23, the film ROME: Power and Glory, narrated by Peter was voted the "Best Educational Documentary" at the Third Annual DVD Entertainment Awards. The six-hour program was originally aired on The Learning Channel.

The documentary Renewable Power: Earth’s Clean Energy Destiny, also narrated by Peter, recently received the Golden Apple Award from the National Education Media Network and the Golden Eagle Award. The film provides a vision of a world transformed by solar and hydrogen energy. Next month, filming will begin on Midwives — the story of a Vermont midwife (played by Sissy Spacek) who loses a patient during a very complicated birth. The midwife is accused by the state of murdering the mother; Peter stars as the lawyer who defends her.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial will be re-released in March 2002 to mark the film’s 20th anniversary. Peter played the good-guy scientist named Keys.

The Nye Beach Writers’ Series is honored to host such a charismatic, rebellious, bawdy, notorious, explosive, controversial and eloquent author. I’ll introduce Peter Coyote by reading a quote from a speech he made to students at Grinnell College in Iowa, where he graduated in 1964.

"The mechanism by which the self is directed is called intention. Intention is, to my mind, the single most powerful force on earth available to humans. Through focusing our intention and making it fixed and immovable, we can become like a stake driven into the bed of a rushing creek, forcing the flow around us."

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