In the world of film there are two types of attention; the kind that you receive from the public which is lofted on high with your name in lights and your face on magazines, and then there’s the kind that is received by your peers taking note of your work and respecting it. Leonard Waldner is completely comfortable with falling into the latter of the aforementioned categories. Of course, this is likely so palpable because those noticing him include celebrated director George Gallo who has cast him in multiple films, Julie Pacino (celebrated filmmaker and daughter of acting legend Al Pacino), and the most famous and iconic actors of a generation. These and other admirers of Leonard’s prowess on screen have made him a recurring face in big films as well as those with a greater Indie style. Mr. Waldner is commanding on camera and always memorable for the physicality that he brings to every role.
For Director George Gallo’s remake of The Comeback Trail, he needed magnetic actors capable of a wide spectrum. Leonard Waldner was eager to join Gallo for the cast which included a trio of Oscar Winners: Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, and Morgan Freeman. The story mixes the worlds of Hollywood and the mob with substantial comedic payoffs. Described as a Get Shorty/The Producers cocktail, The Comeback Trail is heavily driven by its incredible cast.
Unpredictable is the ideal adjective to communicate the tone of The Comeback Trail. Each scene is poised on the precipice of danger and comedy. As mobster Shawn Williams, Waldner is often in charge of maintaining the peace amongst his fellow criminals. Whether in a high stakes poker game or out on the streets, Shawn is in control through there is an air of volatility about him. Waldner took inspiration from his time with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with informing him of the edginess found in his performance. Though it’s difficult to see him go, the events which result in his character’s demise are infused with the violence and humor that make this film and Waldner’s performance so memorable.
Julie Pacino’s (known for the films Billy Bates, To See the Day, Shifting Past, Hidden Blue Prints: The Story of Mikey,) utilized Leonard in her comedy/horror film Harmony in Gold. The two connected while Waldner was rehearsing a play in NYC, resulting in Pacino offering him the part of Midas in the film. Mixing mysticism and murder, Harmony in Gold sees Midas struggling to make it out of a mansion with his life by using his persuasive skills. The semi-lucid quality of Midas is rooted in Leonard’s presentation of his character as consistently “high” throughout the film. When Marylin Lara Clear (of the Oscar Award Winning film Bombshell) administers drugs to Midas at a party, his perspective becomes a bridge which makes the supernatural undertone of the story more accessible. The result is a three-dimensional reality for the character of Midas of his other-worldly experience. Marylin has already murdered one woman, making Midas keenly aware that the game of cat & mouse he plays with her has potentially mortal consequences for him. The dynamic between the two characters is riveting, as is Waldner’s performance. He quickly credits his director for enabling this stating, “The excitement of being able to do this project with Julia was everything. My experience left me with more passion and reminded me how important the work is. She made it easier to completely immerse myself into my work. I’ve gotten more joy out of it. To really be great and to have a place where you obsess over it, Julie gave me that.” Quick to point out that he is fortunate to work with a number of extraordinarily talented filmmakers, Leonard adds, “Having the trust of someone like George Gallo gives me the ability to really open up my imagination and see the big picture of the scene and adds insight to my character. I’ve gotten to know a giant of a man who has no pretensions, who never displays any ego and who is loved and respected by the Hollywood studios. He’s just a humble, beautiful human being with an amazing talent.” The foundation of Hollywood is talent recognizing talent; in this regard, Leonard Waldner is in the proper company.
Writer: Arlen Gann