Veteran TV and film actors Xander Berkeley and Sarah Clarke bought a farm in western Maine about five years ago, as well as a year-round home in Greater Portland last year. The two will introduce themselves Thursday to their Maine neighbors at State Theatre in Portland, when they’re scheduled to appear at a screening of a film they made together called “The Maestro.”
The 2018 film stars Berkeley as Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a largely unsung composer who worked on Hollywood films in the 1940s and ’50s but whose impact on film music is felt even today because of the composers he helped teach or mentor. His pupils included John Williams, Randy Newman, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith and Andre Previn. Clarke plays Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s wife.
Besides his work on films and mentoring other composers, Castelnuovo-Tedesco is considered one of the foremost guitar composers of his time. He fled to the U.S. to escape Fascist Italy in 1939 and composed music for some 200 films. Some of the films his music appears in include Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” the Bela Lugosi vehicle ” The Return of the Vampire,” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” starring Spencer Tracy.
The film focuses largely on Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s work with one of his students, movie music writer Jerry Herst. Berkeley said he was attracted to playing someone who is essentially a teacher. The film was written by his son, C.V. Herst.
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“My parents were both teachers. This man was a teacher of so many composers who shaped 20th-century music and film, ” said Berkeley, 63. “All of the people he taught had voices that were so distinct. That spoke to me, the idea of a teacher who doesn’t impose his will on others.”
Clarke and Berkeley have long film and TV resumes, ranging from guest spots on shows to roles as regulars in various series. Clarke was a regular recently on the Amazon police drama “Bosch” and played Bella’s mother in the teen vampire film “Twilight.” Berkeley has been seen recently as a slimy character named Gregory in the hit zombie show “The Walking Dead.”
The couple met around 2001 while both were in the cast of the Fox network action series “24,” starring Kiefer Sutherland as a counter-terrorism agent. The survival of the world seemed to hang in the balance every episode. Berkeley and Clarke weren’t in a lot of scenes together in the show but have been together ever since.
Berkeley grew up in Menden, New Jersey, and said that during his years of living and working in Los Angeles he had thought about coming back to the East Coast. He and Clarke worked together on the action thriller TV show “Nikita” around 2012, with Berkeley playing the nemesis of the title character. That show was filmed in Toronto, and living and working there gave the acting couple an idea of what “life out of Los Angeles” could be like.
They started talking about getting a farm and living away from the bright lights and big cities. About five years ago a friend told them he had seen a property for sale in western Maine, a former dairy farm with a 200-year-old farmhouse in the Hiram area.
They bought it as a place to come in the summer and a place to eventually make films. They’re converting the barn into a studio and have bought another historic property in the area, which they hope to use to house film crews. Then, about a year ago, they decided live year-round in Greater Portland. Berkeley said that after living in Los Angeles his two children might experience too great a “culture shock” if they lived on the farm all the time.
The couple will be at the State Theatre before the film, at 6 p.m., for a meet-and-greet cocktail party, included in the $10 price of admission. After the film, Clarke and Berkeley will take questions from the audience.
“We’re looking at this as an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the greater arts community,” said Berkeley.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday; 6 p.m. for cocktail party meet and greet.
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $10
WHAT ELSE: Maine residents Xander Berkeley and Sarah Clarke, who star in the film, will answer questions following the film.