“The Little Film Festival That Did”

Tryon’s celebrity resident takes on a local role

Actor/model/muse Patti D’arbanville has a family history in Tryon. Today she’s a resident and a judge for the town’s growing international film festival.

Patti D’Arbanville, a judge at this month’s Tryon International Film Festival, is a little disappointed she can’t track down a copy of the film in which she made her screen debut, Tuesday and Blue Silk. “I was eight years old coloring on the street in Greenwich Village where I was raised,” she recalls. “NYU students who saw me asked my mom if I could be in their movie. She said yes, and that was the beginning. I kind of knew then it was a fit. I loved the camera, and the camera loved me.”

That mutual love affair birthed countless roles in films and television, starting when she was a teenager in the Andy Warhol films Flesh and L’Amour and segueing through five decades. D’Arbanville modeled in London, where she had a relationship with singer/songwriter Yusuf/Cat Stevens, and in Paris — where she learned French for work in movies there: “I saw modeling as a step to acting.”

She returned to the U.S. in 1973 and worked steadily until the birth of her first child in 1982, when she took a little break. Then it was back to work on large and small screens and three more children. Not only has D’Arbanville portrayed grandmothers by now, she has five grandchildren in real life.

The actress has had recurring roles on Third Watch, Rescue Me, The Sopranos, and as Lt. Virginia Cooper in the Fox series New York Undercover.

Many people who began acting careers as children did not have good outcomes. What made a difference for you? 

I am a strong life force, and I knew how to take care of myself.

You’ve had roles ranging from arm candy to commanding lieutenant officer. What has that evolution been like? 

I think it’s been a reflection of society. The whole platform for women has changed.

How did television compare to films?  

I was a TV snob at first, but then realized it was good work and wonderful shows were being made.

What was it like to have two hit songs – “Wild World” and “Lady D’Arbanville” — written about you?

[Cat Stevens] sang “Lady D’Arbanville” to me in our bedroom when we were breaking up, so it was a little weird. I loved “Wild World.”

What brought you to Tryon? 

My grandparents moved here in 1962, so we’ve always had a house here. I was living in New York City and needed to get my three grown kids out of the nest and let them fly. I had a family home in the most beautiful place in the world and said, “I’m going!” You kids can come visit, but you’re on your own.

Tryon is the birthplace of Nina Simone, as many people know, and today it’s a high-end equestrian destination. But despite these distinctions, it’s still a very small town. So … an international film festival? 

At first I was skeptical, like everyone else. But Tryon is a very artistic community … people decided to go for it, and it’s gotten bigger every year. It’s like the little film festival that could — and did.

Surely with your life experience, you have been approached about writing a memoir? 

Oh, yes, a million times. I actually started one and got to 68 pages and decided I didn’t want to rattle anyone’s cage who was in my life or let my kids and grandkids know some of the things I did. There’s a lot that’s nobody’s business. Maybe that’s the book. Nobody’s Business. The shortest memoir ever written. 

The Tryon International Film Festival happens Friday, Oct. 7 through Sunday, Oct. 9, in downtown Tryon and nearby venues. For more information, see the event’s Facebook page or tryoninternationalfilmfestival.com. 

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