Academy Award Winner Chris Cooper Wraps up Beacon Hill Seminar Film Seminar

Special to the Times

Beacon Hill Seminar (BHS) members were in for a surprise when Academy Award winner Chris Cooper joined the last session of their “Portraits of Leadership in Classic Films” seminar.  Course leaders, Stephen Devaux and Christine Eyre, led this highly interactive 6-week course that examined the role of leaders as portrayed in five Oscar-winning films.

To help class participants better understand leadership concepts and themes, Devaux and Eyre employed standardized personality tools and reviewed theories on the motivations of exemplary people. Course participants applied these concepts to each film they watched and then shared their observations during class discussion. Class member, A.T. Stair, in his evaluation of this course noted “This seminar gave me a new perspective on thinking about leadership and made viewing these outstanding films an even more enjoyable and thought-provoking experience.”

Academy Award winning actor, Chris Cooper, with BHS members on the last day of the “Portraits of Leadership in Classic Films” seminar.

Academy Award winning actor, Chris Cooper and his wife, actress and author Marianne Leone, well-known for her role as Christopher Moltisanti’s mother in the Sopranos, joined the final class discussion. Participants viewed a clip of Cooper as Joe Kenehan in Matewan, a 1987 film about a deadly coal miners’ protest in 1920.  Cooper shared that this was his major film debut at age 35, and it was one of his most memorable acting experiences. In interpreting the role, Cooper said he initially considered himself as “a worker, one of the crowd, and nothing special” before becoming a highly effective union leader.  His personal comments provided an additional significant dimension to the group’s understanding of leadership.

Members were also delighted to hear about Cooper’s upcoming film “Boston Strangler” which is being filmed in Boston. Cooper plays the role of the editor of the Record American newspaper, which existed in the early 1960s at the time of the murders. The film, written and directed by Matt Ruskin, also features Keira Knightly as one of the two female journalists who uncovered the fact that multiple killers were involved. According to Cooper, the film also sheds light on the struggles professional women faced at that time.

As the course finale, Cooper led a mock Academy Award ceremony after class participants voted on which actor, in the five films viewed, was the ‘Best Leader’ in an acting role.  Think of the challenge of comparing Alec Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai with Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Cooper revealed that the class voted for Gregory Peck in his role in Twelve O’ Clock High.

BHS will be hosting its Spring Semester Kick-off virtually on Wednesday, January 5, from 2 to 3 PM. Attendees will be able to learn about the 20 courses offered this winter and spring including 10 in-person and 10 online courses. For more information visit

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