Hollywood comes to Canton: Actress stays close to home

The Patriot Ledger
June 23, 2009

CANTON — Cindy Lentol puts one in mind of Lee Remick, the all-American beauty from Quincy who graced the screen several decades ago in such superb films as “A Face in the Crowd,” “Anatomy of a Murder” and “Days of Wine and Roses.”

Blond, blue-eyed and possessing a dazzling smile, Lentol may resemble Remick, but her outlook on their shared profession is very different from that of her predecessor. Remick was groomed to be a movie star in a system that overtook a performer’s life, from where she lived – inevitably Hollywood – to the kinds of roles she played and the image she was supposed to project, on and off the screen.

In sharp contrast, 30-something Lentol is an independent contractor, living where she chooses – Canton – and running her own career, from a leading role in a 15-minute short to a small part in the multimillion-dollar “The Departed,” alongside such A-list actors as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg. She fills out her resume with voiceover work, commercials, industrial films and modeling for print media.

During an interview at the Barnes & Noble café in Braintree, she says she’s rarely unemployed, which isn’t surprising, particularly because the film industry has changed profoundly, mainly in its decentralization.

As in other parts of the country, Massachusetts is vigorously wooing moviemakers. Film companies are sprouting up all over the state, and at least three state-of-the-art studio complexes are in various stages of development, in Weymouth, Plymouth and Boston. That means – when all these entities are up and running – filmmakers won’t have to go back to California to shoot interiors or do all the post-production work that a movie requires.

Besides the lavish accommodations, the state has put out the welcome mat for producers by offering them tempting tax incentives that over the past few years have resulted in many major motion pictures being shot here. One of those films, playing in theaters now, is the romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” in which Lentol portrays one of the girlfriends opposite Matthew McConaughey.

A professional performer for the past 20 years, Lentol came to Massachusetts – by way of Connecticut, Ohio and California – a decade ago because her husband was establishing his business in Braintree.

“It’s been a good move,” she says, referring not only to the fact that it has been a good place to raise her two children, but also to the fact that her career has thrived over the past 10 years. For a while she’d had a dual career path, aiming toward graphic design as well as performing. But the latter took the lead when she found herself “going to auditions during my lunch hour.”

In talking to Lentol one doesn’t get the impression that she’s a driven diva focused only on a successful career. Very involved in her children’s lives, she intersperses her film gigs with responsibilities at their school. Hers is a 9-to-5 profession when it comes to the big movies she appears in, most recently “The Company Men,” a drama about three corporate types trying to survive a recession. Being directed by John Wells (“ER,” “Southland”) and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner and Ben Affleck, the film is still being shot in the Greater Boston area.

“In my scene I’m hosting an upscale dinner party in South Boston, and one of my guests is Tommy Lee Jones.” At that point, Lentol brings out her cell phone, on which there’s a picture of her and Jones strolling down a Boston street. Another photo is of her and McConaughey.

She also recently had a role in a television pilot starring Donnie Wahlberg and Brian Dennehy. Scheduled to air on TNT, “Bunker Hill” could become a series that would be shot in Boston. But Lentol doesn’t seem to be counting on that. She’s actually more fired up about a couple of shorts that recently generated a lot of interest at the ninth annual Chlorudis Film Festival held at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge.

In “Well-Founded Concerns,” a timely piece about a couple of germaphobes caught up in a world-wide plague, which won First Place for Best Short Film, she plays one of the germaphobes. In the other film, “Mind the Gap,” which won second place for Audience Favorite, Lentol portrays a school counselor trying to help a girl traumatized by her father’s involvement in a fatal mass-transit accident.

These two films, only about 15 minutes long each and shot over single weekends, afford her what the blockbusters don’t – the opportunity to create characters whom she describes as “organic, people who are true to themselves.” Indeed, her beauty is played down in both these films, a sharp contrast to her flirtatious stewardess in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.”

Lentol represents the new era in filmmaking. The goal isn’t always to become a star. Sometimes it’s simply to enjoy what you’re doing. “I love making movies,” she says.

But she also loves going home to Canton after work. When Lee Remick was seeking a film career, she had to go west. In Lentol’s case: “Hollywood has come to me.”

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