Tag Archives: The National Memorial Day Concert

Gary Sinise Talks Memorial Day Concert, ‘Forrest Gump’ Re-release

 mantegna sinise           Never say never. A few years ago, an online movie pundit declared that “the theatrical re-issue is dead” — and added, “Do not expect to see ‘Forrest Gump’ on its 20th anniversary back on the screen.”  It turns out, a theatrical re-issue is in the cards for the iconic film that was originally released July 6, 1994 — and went on to win six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis and Best Actor for Tom Hanks. “Paramount Pictures is going to re-release the film for its 20th anniversary celebration in the fall,” reports Gary Sinise, who, you’ll recall, was also an Oscar nominee for the film. “It will first be coming out in the IMAX theaters and then it will be rolling into theaters across the country as a special 20th anniversary look at ‘Forrest Gump’ again.”
            Sinise already celebrated “Gump’s” special year the way he does best: his Gary Sinise Foundation coordinated a multi-day “Hollywood Salutes Heroes” celebration in February, with some 100 wounded service members being flown to L.A. for a VIP holiday. They made trips to Disneyland, enjoyed Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. feasts, and were honored at a big celebrity-filled party and “Forrest Gump” screening at Paramount Studios that reunited Sinise with Hanks and the movie’s “Bubba,” Mykelti Williamson. A concert by Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band followed.
            “Gump,” of course, is the film that started a life’s work for Sinise — with the real-life military, especially wounded warriors, embracing his Lt. Dan character as their own rough-hewn phoenix rising from the ashes of the battlefield. Today, Sinise is constantly involved in efforts to support such veterans via his Gary Sinise Foundation and a never-ending string of fundraisers with his band. He hasn’t acted since “CSI: New York” wrapped production in February 2013 — and doesn’t foresee himself acting again for awhile. “I’m too busy now. It’s very full-time for me with the military support work and the Foundation work we’re doing,” he explains.
            He will, however, be seen on PBS Sunday (5/25) as he cohosts The National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, D.C., with his long-time pal Joe Mantegna.
            “This will be my 10th year, my 9th year as cohost,” says Sinise. “They always have extraordinary-talented performers. Whoever wins ‘American Idol’ will sing the National Anthem, the winner of ‘The Voice,’ will perform, Megan Hilty will perform, Gerald McRaney, a wonderful actor, Dianne Weist, General Colin Powell — he never misses because he knows how important it is to keep awareness up of all the sacrifices that are made to maintain our freedom. That’s what Memorial Day is all about — honoring those who have served. That’s why I won’t miss it.”
            Looking back on some of the most memorable moments in the concert’s history, Sinise says, “One that comes to mind is Charles Durning who was on this concert for so many years, and who passed away last year. Charlie — one year he told the story of hitting the beach at Normandy and fighting his way into Germany. He told his own story. It was so powerful and so moving. These are the stories we need to keep reminding people. This freedom is precious.”
            The Concert’s Executive Producer, Jerry Colbert, also recalls the special peformances that have highlighted the event. “There have been many over the years, but a few that have stood out for me include Forest Whitaker, who did a story about a gentleman with PTSD and TBI that was an incredibly moving performance,” he says. “Katie Holmes and Dianne Wiest told the story of Jose Pequeno, about major traumatic brain injury, which showed tremendous sacrifice and dedication of the families. Also Colleen Dewhurst, who was on the first Memorial Day Concert 25 years ago.”
            According to Colbert, probably the biggest challenge he’s had to face came not from performers or their handlers, but from mother nature — “the rain that happened in 2012. There was such severe lightning and thunder that the program was closed down half-way through and the grounds evacuated. But with the great support of the crew, we were able to edit together the first half of the 2012 concert that aired live, followed by a seamless transition to footage of the full dress rehearsal from the night before. So viewers were still able to see the entire show.”
            Sinise is fresh from a Lt. Dan Band concert to raise funds for the building of an adaptive home for a wounded veteran in Lancaster, CA, when we settle down for a morning’s chat. The vet, he says, is “confined to a wheelchair. He’s paralyzed. He’s missing an arm. He has limited use of his right arm. He’s got traumatic brain injuries. He has two kids and he’s living in this cramped up trailer,” adds the actor. “The local high school kids out there found out about him and they started raising money to build him a house. I found out about it. My foundation is involved all over the country in building homes for the wounded. I called him up and volunteered to do a concert to raise money.”  Additionally, Sinise’s foundation reportedly kicked in $60,000.
            As far as “Forrest Gump” and its re-release, Sinise notes, “Having traveled all over the world performing for troops — you know many of them weren’t even born or were just being born when ‘Forrest Gump’ came out.  But even with that, I’m always hard-pressed to find a young person who hasn’t seen the film.
            “So there’s an entire generation of folks who’ve never seen the film on the big screen, so this will be an opportunity for them to see this beloved film. I think folks feel it’s a great time to put it out in theaters.”

Gary Sinise a Busy, Busy Patriotic Star Memorial Day Weekend

It’s going to be hectic time for Gary Sinise next week in Washington, D.C., when the “CSI: NY” star headlines back-to-back events.  On the 26th, he and his Lt. Dan Band will perform as part of the Rolling Thunder XXV motorcycle run festivities, by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

“Then I’ll leave right from there, race over and rehearse for the Memorial Day Concert the next day,” he tells us.  “This will be my seventh year in a row doing the National Memorial Day Concert.”  Sinise cohosts the concert Sunday, May 27 with Joe Mantegna.  Sharing the bill are an eclectic lineup including Colin Powell, Dennis Franz, Ellen Burstyn, Natalie Cole, Selma Blair, Trace Adkins and  “American Idol” finalist — and maybe winner — Jessica Sanchez. (Check your local PBS station for air times.)

Sinise has a full calendar of Lt. Dan Band dates this summer — before he goes back to work on “CSI: NY.”  Talk about an eleventh hour reprieve.  Up until last weekend, Sinise didn’t know whether the show would continue into a ninth season or be cancelled.  Last Friday night’s season finale, in which his Mac Taylor character had a near-death experience, was designed to work either as a season-ender that opens up new territory for stories next year — or as goodbye.

“I thought the writers did a good job with that,” he says.   Since it was a “reflective episode, there were a lot of wonderful scenes between my character and all the principle characters on the show” — including Mac’s new girlfriend, Megan Dodds.

Sinise had made it clear he wanted to go on with “CSI: NY,” and that the writers feel they have a lot more to say.  Viewers can look forward to Mac opening up his personal life, now that he has finally been able to let go of the anguish of losing his wife in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Asked whether he’ll be involved in endorsing or campaigning on behalf of any candidate this election year, Sinise says, “I stay away from all that.”  Though he is known to have strong political views privately, he takes a nonpartisan posture in deference to his ongoing, tireless charitable activities.  His Gary Sinise Foundation to benefit military service members in 2010 is the latest.

“We’re out there all the time,” he notes.  “We have to remember, each and every day should be Memorial Day when it comes to supporting and acknowledging those who fight for our freedom.”

Memorial Day Concert Close to Kris Allen’s Heart

Kris Allen

“American Idol” Kris Allen will have family on his mind today (5/29) when he performs at this year’s “National Memorial Day Concert” in Washington, D.C..  “Both my granddads were in the military,” says the 25-year-old singer from Conway, Arkansas.

“And actually my wife’s family is a military family.  Her dad is retired from the Air Force” — in addition to her brother, who is just back from Iraq.  Allen also says he’s been looking forward to meeting fellow luminaries on this year’s lineup.  The show, being aired on PBS (check your local listings) has Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna as cohosts, with an appearance by General Colin Powell and performances by “American Idol'” contestant Pia Toscano, Forest Whitaker,  Dianne Wiest, B.B. King, Jason Ritter, Hayley Westenra, Daniel Rodriguez, Yolanda Adams, A.J. Cook and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Kris Allen Talks Lauren, Scotty, Memorial Day Concert, ‘Glee’ and Next Album

Kris Allen Fox photo

“American Idol” Season 8 winner Kris Allen shrugs off the fact that his two favorites for this year’s winner — Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams — didn’t make it to the final showdown.  “It is what it is.  The people in the finale are great, too — Lauren and Scotty.  I can’t imagine going through what they’re going through at that age, so kudos to them,” adds the 25-year-old peformer, speaking of 16-year-old Lauren Alaina and 17-year-old Scotty McCreery. 

 “She’s a sweetheart, really nice.  When they sang that Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis song together, Lauren just blew away everyone in the audience,” adds Kris — who happens to be Lauren’s favorite past “Idol” winner.  

 Kris says he’ll be at both tonight’s (5/24) final performance show and tomorrow night’s (5/25) crowning of this season’s “Idol” as an audience member.  “There’s always a party after the results show and I think I’ll go to that,” he says.  “It’s a lot of fun, and great to see all the people you don’t get to see very often.”

 The singer-songwriter will be among the stellar lineup for this Sunday’s (5/29) National Memorial Day Concert in Washington D.C., performing before an estimated crowd of some 300,000 — and millions more watching live, here and abroad.

 “That will be, without question, the biggest crowd I’ve sung for — by far,” he notes with a laugh.  “They asked me and, when you think of something like that, it’s kind of a no-brainer.  I’m really excited to be out there that day.”  Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna cohost, with a lineup that also includes General Colin Powell, “Idol’s” Pia Toscano, Forest Whitaker,  Dianne Wiest, B.B. King, Jason Ritter, Hayley Westenra, Daniel Rodriguez, Yolanda Adams and the National Symphony Orchestra. 

Kris will sing “God Bless the U.S.A.” at the event honoring those who have served or are serving in the military, particularly those who lost their lives in the line of duty.  Lending a particularly emotional personal note to the event, Kris notes that his wife’s brother is just now coming back from Iraq.  “Everyone’s really happy.  I’d love to have him at the concert, but he’ll probably want to just be home chilling with his wife.”

ALSO:  Kris found out recently that “Still Got Tonight,” which he cowrote, and which has become a single for Matthew Morrison, is going to be performed by Morrison in [TONIGHT’S] the June 8 season finale of “Glee.”  “I met Matt not too long ago and we had lunch together.  He’s a really nice guy.  And then I hung out on the set of ‘Glee.’  That was really cool.  That it’s in the finale is even better.  It’s nice to be on this side of things, for once,” he adds, speaking of his behind-the-scenes role. 

Kris has been focused on writing songs for himself of late, in anticipation of recording another album, soon.  He tells us, “I’m hoping that — it should be — out sometime this year.  If not, I’ll look at it as a failure.”

Clinton-Blair Film Could Never Have Gotten Made for Big Screen, Says ‘Special Relationship’ Director Richard Loncraine

Dennis Quaid, Michael Sheen "The Special Relationship" HBO photo

Esteemed filmmaker Richard Loncraine reports that his ‘The Special Relationship’ movie — debuting on HBO tonight (5/29) — is being released theatrically in countries around the globe, save for the United Kingdom, where it will be shown on the BBC.

‘It will be interesting to see how a cinema audience accepts this subject,’ he says of the drama that sheds behind-the-scenes light on the relationship between President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair in the ’90s. ‘Is it the kind of film people will spend money on a babysitter to go see?’

With dazzling performances by Dennis Quaid as Clinton, Michael Sheen as Blair, Hope Davis as Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Helen McCrory as Cherie Blair, ‘The Special Relationship’ will undoubtedly be remembered at awards time. However, Loncraine doubts it could have gotten made for the big screen ‘in the present studio or independent film environment.’ He feels the same way about his Emmy-laden ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘The Gathering Storm’ as well. ‘This is the fourth film I’ve done for HBO and they’ve been a real pleasure,’ adds the director, whose feature credits include such fare as ‘The Missionary,’ ‘Richard III,’ ‘Firewall’ and ‘My One and Only.’

He candidly tells us that ‘The Special Relationship’ ‘really wasn’t much of a challenge for me, to be honest. It was an odd one for me. Peter Morgan decided directing wasn’t for him on this project, and I came in four weeks before principle photography,’ he says, referring to the play and screenwriter, who’d been planning to make his directing debut with the cable film. ‘Usually, directors have been working six months on a production before shooting starts, the last three months of which are very stressful and involve things like not enough money, or arguing with the studio. I didn’t have any of that, so I wasn’t as exhausted as directors usually are.’

He points out that HBO insisted everything be vetted for accuracy, which he did find demanding, especially since, ‘I’m not a particularly political animal.’ Much of the material was new to him, in fact. ‘I was struck by the realization that without Clinton’s infidelity, the world be a different place today. Obviously it was harmful to his wife and family, but it wasn’t like he declared war on South America. It’s stunning to think that such a relatively small event had such enormous repercussions from then on.’

MEANINGFUL DAY: Joe Mantegna, who marks his ninth year of hosting PBS’s National Memorial Day Concert before a crowd of hundreds of thousands on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol this weekend, has been met with much appreciation from veterans, active service members and their loved ones. But he’s not one to take thank-yous for his participation in the music-filled event that celebrates and memorializes the sacrifices made by troops past and present. ‘I mean, look, there’s no reason to thank us. The whole point of this is to thank them. I realize this is probably the most important thing I do all year,’ says the ‘Criminal Minds’ star.

‘The fact I have a career and have a good life and all that is due to the fact that we have people in the military who’ve been out there protecting us. There’s nothing to thank us about. I’m glad to do it.’

For the fifth year in a row, he co-hosts with pal Gary Sinise. This year’s event (check local listings) will include Lionel Richie, Brad Paisley, Blythe Danner, Dennis Haysbert, Yolanda Adams and Colin Powell.

THE VROOM VROOM ROOM: Supermodel-turned-super mogul Kathy Ireland has now turned to the world of super motors.  She has become the most recent celeb (David Letterman and the late Paul Newman come to mind) to become part owner of a major racing team — and car 43 will be carrying her brand out onto the Indie 500 this Sunday (5/30) with none other than John Andretti at the wheel.  The Kathy Ireland Home division of her Kathy Ireland WorldWide design and marketing empire is joining racing legend Richard Petty and Window World as sponsors of this top Memorial Day 500 entry.