Master of Ceremonies
Middletown Pride is thrilled to announce that the Master of Ceremonies for Middletown Pride is Illeana Douglas, Emmy nominated actress, writer, director, author, and Turner Classic Movies host. At home behind the camera and in front, she will be seen in the third season of Goliath on Amazon Video as Rita—a Keno addicted bar fly that befriends Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton)
lleana has many local connections to Middletown and the LGBTQ+ community. In Illeana’s book, I Blame Dennis Hopper she recalls fond memories of seeing movies at The Middletown Drive-In, The Palace, and The Capital. It was there that she nurtured a dream of one day being in the movies. After living in Deep River, Connecticut. Illeana moved to Hartford as a teenager to pursue a career in acting. She became a member of the Hartford Stage Company Youth Theatre, and performed in many local theatre groups including Hartford’s Mark Twain Masquers, and Avon Music Makers.
Always an advocate for LGBT rights Illeana supported the early work of director Richard Glazter- (Still, Alice) (2014) In 1993 she costarred in Grief which starred openly gay actors like Craig Chester, and Alexis Arquette, and included a storyline dealing with a partner’s death from complications related to AIDS. Grief was groundbreaking and at the forefront of what was then called the new “queer cinema”. Since then she has portrayed many gay characters in films like To Die For (1994) and The Californians. (2005) as well as working with director John Schlesinger in The Next Best Thing (2000) playing a lawyer representing a gay man in a custody battle.
In 2011, Illeana returned to her Connecticut roots to shoot The Green written by gay filmmaker Paul Marcarelli and directed by Steven Williford. Shot locally in Guilford, Connecticut, The Green dealt with a small town’s reaction to a gay teacher who is accused of child abuse. The Green premiered at Outfest and Illeana received several awards for her performance as a homophobic teacher.
The granddaughter of two-time Academy Award winner Melvyn Douglas (and fellow AMPAS member) Illeana is an avid film historian and movie buff. She has participated in scores of film history documentaries including most recently All That Heaven Allows-A Tribute to Rock Hudson (2019), 78/52 (2017) and Greatest Cult Films (2017). She is the Executive Producer of Kino Lorber’s multi -award winning DVD boxed set Pioneers: First Female Filmmakers (2018) which won at the 2018 New York Films Critics Award. On Turner Classic Movies Illeana hosted Funny Ladies (2018) with Carol Burnett, Trailblazing Women (2015-2017) which highlighted female pioneers of cinema, and Second Looks (2013) spotlighting overlooked or forgotten films. Her best-selling movie memoir, I Blame Dennis Hopper: A Life Lived In and Out of the Movies was named “Top Ten Books of 2015” by Entertainment Weekly. She hosts the I Blame Dennis Hopper Podcast (available on ITunes) interviewing celebrities about their love of classic film, and is currently working on her follow up memoir, Remember This Never Happened: More Stories of a Life Lived In And Out Of The Movies.
Illeana wrote, produced, starred, and frequently directed episodes of the first branded web series of all time, Easy To Assemble sponsored by IKEA. Easy to Assemble was hailed, “The most successful branded show of all time,” by Ad-Week. In 2018 the Palm Springs International Comedy Festival awarded Illeana the first ever “Pioneer in Comedy Award” for her contributions to online content. Easy To Assemble was the first web series to be fully unionized, have major movie stars like Jeff Goldblum and Keanu Reeves, have star-studded premiers, distribution on multiple platforms including airlines and hotels for free on demand episodes. It was the first web-series to travel to Cannes for MIPCOM. Over five seasons has Easy to Assemble won six Webby Awards (2010-2013) for Best Performance, Best Writing and Best Branded Series; Two Streamy Awards for Best Ensemble Cast and Best Product Integration; the 2010 BANFF Outstanding Online Performance Award; the 2010 NAPTE Digital Luminary Award; and the 2010 Independent Television Festival Innovator Award. The spin-off series Sparhusen was awarded a Webby Award for Best Short Comedy and developed as a pilot for Sony.
As an actress, Illeana first came to prominence as Matt Dillon’s suspicious sister in Gus Van Sant’s To Die For (1995), for which she was a New York Circle Film Critics award nominee. Other memorable films include Goodfellas (1991), Cape Fear (1993), Alive (1993), Search and Destroy (1995), Grief (1995), Grace of My Heart (1996), Picture Perfect (1997), Message in a Bottle (1999), Happy, Texas (1999), Stir of Echoes (1999), Ghost World (2001), Dummy (2003), Pittsburgh (2006), The Green (2012), Chez Upshaw (2012) All Stars (2015). Current films include Unleashed (2017), The Late Bloomer (2016), Max Rose (2016), and She’s Funny That Way (2015). Notable television movies include Rough Riders, Weapons of Mass Distraction (1999), Lansky (2000), and Point of Origin (2001) Illeana played Angela on Six Feet Under, which earned her an Emmy nomination. She is currently on season three of Goliath (2018-2019) She guest starred on Modern Family (2016), Welcome to Sweden (2014-2015), Maron (2013), Grey’s Anatomy (2013) and Drop Dead Diva (2011-2012),and starred in the critically acclaimed comedy Action (1999-2000) as well as Law & Order: SVU, Ugly Betty, The Drew Carey Show, The Larry Sanders Show, and Entourage.
Illeana began her career as a stand-up comedian and sketch performer at Stand Up New York and The Manhattan Punchline. While working for a New York film publicist, Peggy Siegal, Douglas was asked to dub screams and provide additional dialogue for Martin Scorsese’s film, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). This led to a long association with Scorsese, acting in New York Stories (1989), Goodfellas (1990) and Cape Fear (1991)
With Scorsese’s encouragement she began writing, directing and producing. The Perfect Woman (1993) won “Best Short” at Aspen Shorts Fest and was the closing night selection for The New York Film Festival before Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993) The Academy Film Archives has since selected The Perfect Woman for permanent preservation. Illeana wrote, produced, directed and starred in Everybody Just Stay Calm (1994), a documentary about the comedic trials of independent filmmaking, starring Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, David O.Russel, Kevin Smith, and many more for then newly formed IFC Network with producers Jonathan Searing and Caroline Kaplan. She wrote, produced, starred, and directed Boy Crazy, Girl Crazier (1996) also for IFC, and the pilot, Confessions of a Movie Lover (1999) In collaboration with Scorsese under his banner Cappa Productions, Illeana produced and starred in Search and Destroy (1995) and Grace of My Heart (1996) developed scripts of Bedlam with RKO and The Lost Army with Kenneth Lonnergan. She was an Executive Producer of Life Without Dick (2002) starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Illeana wrote, produced, directed and starred in the short films Devil Talk (2003), Supermarket (2004) and Illeanarama (2005), which played in numerous festivals and won many awards at Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca and the New York Film Festival. The Sundance Channel featured a retrospective of all of Illeana’s short films called Illeanarama: (2005) A second incarnation also called Illeanarama was developed with New Line Television as a pilot for the Oxygen Network which Illeana also wrote, produced, directed and starred in. She Executive Produced and starred in the TV Pilot Celebrity Garage Sale (2009) with Tom Arnold for A&E. She wrote, produced and starred in the short film Soulmates (2011) part of an anthology series called Suite 7 for Lifetime. Illeana co-produced the documentary Kingdom Come (2013) and was the producer and co-star of Chez Upshaw (2012). She co-starred and was the Executive Producer of the web series The Skinny (2016) for Refinery 29, which premiered at Sundance.