Brothers Jedd ’89 and Todd Wider ’86 have earned an Academy Award nomination for the short documentary film Kings Point, which tells the stories of five senior citizens living in a Florida retirement community. The two producers teamed with director/producer Sari Gilman to create the film, which won the Grand Jury Prize for best short at the 2012 Silverdocs documentary festival.
The Widers were executive producers of Alex Gibney’s 2007 feature-length documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, which won a 2008 Academy Award and a 2009 Emmy, following its release on HBO.
At least two other alumni have a personal connection to Oscar nominees in the Best Picture category: Jamie Horton ’78, a Dartmouth College theater professor who had a small role as U.S. Rep. Giles Stuart in Lincoln; and Hal Saunders ’52, a former State Department official who was a real-life player in the events depicted in Argo.
Horton, who submitted an audition tape at the urging of a friend, told Dartmouth Now that director Steven Spielberg selected regional theater actors for several roles in the film. “As an actor and as an American, it was an amazing experience to work on this epic movie, and it’s one that I will treasure,” he said.
Saunders is portrayed by actor Bill Kalmenson in Argo, though he noted in an email to Class of 1952 secretary that it is “a non-speaking role.” Saunders was an assistant secretary of state during the Iran hostage crisis. He currently serves as director of international affairs at the Kettering Foundation.
A handful of Princetonians have won Academy Awards, including actors James Stewart ’32 and Jose Ferrer ’33; writers Ring Lardner Jr. ’36 and Bo Goldman ’53; writer, director, and producer Ethan Coen ’79; Pixar animator Michael Kass ’82; and most recently, Pixar software engineer David Laur ’84. The University also was the focal point of an Oscar-winning film, Princeton: A Search for Answers, which won the 1974 award for best short documentary.
Update: An alert and loyal reader noted another film with alumni connections — How to Survive a Plague, a best documentary feature nominee this year. Howard Gertler ’96 produced the film and Loring McAlpin ’83 was an associate producer. The documentary follows the work of two groups — ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) — “whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.” The film won best documentary at the Gotham Independent Film Awards last year.