You don’t fully realize how prolific, talented, and funny Fort Worth actor Barry Corbin is until you see clips of his many film and TV performances strung together in a video tribute like the one shown this weekend at the USA Film Festival in Dallas.
A packed theater at the Angelika Film Center watched clips of him swapping lines on the big screen with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, and numerous other A-listers. They saw Corbin playing a lovable sidekick in the greatest TV miniseries ever shown, Lonesome Dove (1985); sagely advising John Travolta’s character in Urban Cowboy (1980); and looking worse for wear in No Country For Old Men (2007).
The crowd was continually cracking up at Corbin’s onscreen lines such as, “I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it’d do any good” from WarGames (1983), and “Without Corene and them kids, hell, I’d be just another big old pile of dogshit drawing flies” from Urban Cowboy.
“Half that stuff that’s in there I made up off the top of my head,” Corbin told the crowd.
Fort Worth Weekly featured Corbin in this cover story a year ago.
Corbin has played good guys, bad guys, dumb guys, and wise guys, and he’s provided comic relief in a variety of films. He’s an avid worker, appearing in about a dozen films last year alone. One of those, NoNames, was screened at the festival on Friday. The movie features James Badge Dale, an actor who reminds me of a young Harvey Keitel, and co-stars Gillian Jacobs (the blond actress from the TV comedy series Community). It was nice to see Jacobs in a dramatic role after watching her in the formerly funny but now slowly dying Community.
NoNames was filmed in Wisconsin and included a role that called for a wise old man. Director Kathy Lindboe immediately thought of Corbin and wrote him a letter asking if he would consider taking the role despite her low budget.
“He came and supported this small, small film in Wisconsin and I don’t even know why,” she said, speculating that perhaps he was moved by her pleading letter.
Corbin said the letter was nice but he agreed to the role because he liked the character — and he loves to work. (The movie is based on the true and tragic story of Lindboe’s brother, and it’s an interesting combination of drama and comedy that’s well worth seeing.)
Much of Corbin’s post-tribute speech centered on his longtime manager Hilly Elkins who died last year after a heart attack. Early in his career, the Texas-born Corbin needed a Hollywood agent but wanted someone “who wouldn’t scare and insult people like some of them do,” he said.
He was referred to Elkins, and they quickly hit it off and agreed to a working relationship. The actor asked about signing a contract and Elkins said his handshake was as good as a contract, and it was, Corbin said.
After the screening, Corbin attended a private party at a Dallas plastic surgeon’s home, and Blotch tagged along.
The private home in North Dallas offered valet parking, while inside were tables filled with gourmet food, and a bar stocked with free beer, wine, and liquor. Original art, some of it quite spicy, decorated the home’s walls.
Actor Malcolm McDowell (an avid collector of American folk art) was there chatting it up with guests, including local businessman and antique collector Brent Hyder. Also spotted was longtime Channel 5 entertainment reporter Bobbie Wygant.