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We received the sad news that Leonard Kastle, director of The Honeymoon Killers, passed away on Wednesday at his home in Westerlo, NY, at the age of eighty-two. In addition to writing and directing that film, Mr. Kastle was an accomplished opera composer and librettist. He used the works of Gustav Mahler, his favorite composer, to great effect throughout The Honeymoon Killers.
He was a brilliant, spiritual man who graciously let my colleagues Abbey and Robert, myself, and a film crew into his home in 2003 for the interview that appears in our release of his film. He spent a few hours with us and gave possibly the longest interview ever about his musical career and single foray into filmmaking.
The research he did for the film inspired Abbey and me to follow his path and visit the New York State Archives to read the letters between Martha and Ray, the real-life honeymoon killers on whom the characters were based, along with their trial records, which proved to be a chilling experience.
In 2004, I had the pleasure of traveling with Leonard to the USA Film Festival for a Q&A after a screening of The Honeymoon Killers. Humble and gracious, Leonard made quite an impression on the film community in Dallas. I think he was pleased to receive the well-deserved attention for what Truffaut called his favorite American film. Ann Alexander at the festival wrote to me this week, “He was such a lovely man and artist. One of those guests we felt so absolutely privileged to have been fortunate to host. I have thought of him so many times since his visit. He had such a big impact on me and all of us—such a lovely, cultured man.”
Leonard was a one-of-a-kind genius and a man of faith who believed that one day he would meet his “Great Director.” We will all miss him terribly.
This video clip from 2003, in which Leonard Kastle talks about directing The Honeymoon Killers and working with the film’s lead actress, Shirley Stoler, is a tribute to the man’s vision and sensitivity.