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Most Influential, Arts: Tom Skerritt

Tom Skerritt remains more committed than ever to the creative economy in the Northwest

By Rob Smith February 6, 2023

Photography by Alex Cayley.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Tom Skerritt is one of Seattle’s 25 most influential people reshaping our region. #mostinfluential  

Fans were understandably disappointed to learn that Tom Skerritt wasn’t asked to reprise his role as Commander Mike “Viper” Metcalf in “Top Gun 2.” “You can’t beat Tom Skerritt with a gun,” wrote one fan on Twitter. Skerritt has said that he knew he wouldn’t be invited back, but added that no remake will ever equal the original.

Skerritt, though, has plenty to keep him busy. The 88-year-old has appeared in two movies and a TV series the past couple of years, the most recent being “Going Home” in 2022. The lifestyle channel his digital media company, Triple Squirrels Inc., launched in 2020, EVRGN, continues to celebrate the region’s creative economy with compelling content that supports the region’s independent spirit. The channel showcases local filmmakers to nearly 10 million viewers.

Next up for Skerritt and EVRGN: A documentary about rivers in celebration of the 1992 release of Skerritt’s movie, “A River Runs Through It,” as well as his longtime support for American Rivers, a nonprofit working to create a future of clean water and healthy rivers.

Simply put, Skerritt remains the most high-profile and vocal advocate of filmmaking and other creative pursuits in the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell last year awarded Skerritt the 2022 Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film, saying, “While traveling the world for his on-screen work, Tom has kept his roots in Seattle supporting our local film industry and generations of contents creators and storytellers.”

Skerritt is particularly upbeat about several recent developments that promise to overturn decades of neglect. 

There’s King County Executive Dow Constantine’s move to transform the former Fisher Flour Mill on Harbor Island into two sound stages to make the region more competitive for film production projects. There’s the Seattle International Film Festival, which Skerritt calls “one of the most underrated and significant” in the United States. 

And, last year, the state increased is film incentive fund from $3.5 million to $15 million a year, a move expected to help cities across the state attract and retain larger film and television productions.

“We knew this (Seattle as a creative destination) would happen. We took a chance of building a company without really knowing where it was going to go,” he adds. “This place has opened up, and it’s just remarkable to watch this stuff go on.”

Skerritt notes that the money is critical, but the region also boasts a robust creative economy skilled in storytelling, which he calls the “basis” for all filmmaking. Without it, all you have is a “hot weekend,” he says. 

He also hopes the momentum will reverse a trend that drives him absolutely crazy: When locales are based in Seattle or Washington state but filmed elsewhere, like the popular TV series “Frasier.” “It would be nice to see some Seattle stuff in situations like that,” he says.

He’s quick to point out that filmmaking is more about a grassroots creative economy than Hollywood blockbusters. It’s all part of a “daisy chain,” or cluster creative economy, which creates jobs and provides opportunities for filmmakers and productions of all sizes.

“That creates a film industry and that will create its own economy,” he says. “And that will be the ripple effect. It’s just a start.”

The region, he adds, is building from a position of strength. After all, it’s not as if the area is unknown to Hollywood. Several big-name and big-budget movies have been at least partially filmed here, including “10 Things I Hate About You,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Twilight,” “The Hunt For Red October,” “Singles” and “Harry and the Hendersons.”

Skerritt won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role of Jimmy Brock in the TV series “Picket Fences.” He has also appeared in movies ranging from “M*A*S*H” and “Top Gun” to “Alien” during his 50-plus year career. Most recently, he was nominated for a Satellite Award in the category Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for his work as Ben Givens in “East of the Mountains,” which was released in 2021.

He was also awarded the 2022 Mary Pickford Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Entertainment Industry from the Independent Press Academy. Previous winners include Tilda Swinton, Stacy Keach and Dabney Coleman.

As he approaches his 89th birthday in August, it’s clear that Skerritt is still going strong. He remains as bullish as ever about the Pacific Northwest and the various creative media that are constantly evolving.

“This is no longer just theater. We’re talking about television, the big screen in your home, iPhones, iPads, all of that. This is the whole media right now, and where it’s going to settle is not so much in big theaters,” he says. “I feel that this is the new beginning of the resurgence of the creative economy in Washington state. And I’m so excited for this new chapter.”

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