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Former Dedham man in Oscar-worthy film

Dedham’s Ben Kurland is happy with his scene alongside Berenice Bejo in “The Artist.’’ Dedham’s Ben Kurland is happy with his scene alongside Berenice Bejo in “The Artist.’’ (Weinstein Company)
By Paul Kandarian
February 12, 2012
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ACTING BREAK: Talk about an actor’s ultimate resume builder: Former Dedham resident Ben Kurland has a supporting role as a casting director in “The Artist,’’ a movie nominated for 10 Oscars at the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 26.

Kurland, whose dad, James, runs the Baker Boys, a gourmet cookie-dough wholesaler in Dedham, has been acting since he was in first grade, learning a lot of lines over the years. For “The Artist,’’ he learned nary a one. It’s a silent film.

“The artistic expression is different, that’s for sure,’’ said Kurland, 27, by phone from Los Angeles, where he’s lived since 2003 and studied theater at the University of Southern California. “Because you don’t have words to express yourself, the body has to overcompensate a little. I think there’s a real honesty to performances like that, it really shows how little importance we should place on words in terms of telling an emotional story.

“That’s what’s special about ‘The Artist,’ ’’ he said. “You watch and fully understand what’s going on’’ without the actors telling the audience anything.

Kurland was born and raised in Newton, where he attended the Fessenden School, and moved with his family to Dedham in 2001. James Kurland said of his son that acting is “the only thing he’s ever wanted to do. Even in the first grade, he was most comfortable on stage.’’

The arts are in the Kurland blood: Ben’s grandmother Anita Kurland was executive director of youth activities at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and cofounded youth concerts at Symphony Hall with Harry Ellis Dickson.

Ben has one scene in “The Artist,’’ appearing onscreen with the film’s female lead, Berenice Bejo. For that scene, he also worked with British actor Malcolm McDowell.

“The whole film is like that, like little vignettes, each scene has its own importance,’’ Kurland said. “That aspect makes the film special, those little moments.’’

The film is playing all over, including at the Dedham Community Theater on High Street, where it will continue through the Oscars, and where Kurland spoke after a recent showing of his movie.

Kurland said he counts among his favorite movies a Boston biggie, “Good Will Hunting,’’ created by and starring then-little-known locals Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

Before “The Artist,’’ Kurland’s acting gigs had been “nothing of much note,’’ he said, including a pseudoreenactment show on TLC, “Untold Stories of the ER,’’ and an independent film, “Sinners.’’

Since landing in LA, he’s been a bartender, which, he said, “is a fun job and there’s a reason so many actors do it, it pays well and keeps your days free for auditions.’’

With the popularity of “The Artist,’’ a slew of auditions are already coming Kurland’s way, including for TV roles and a possible shot at “The Newsroom,’’ an HBO miniseries in the works. He plans to be at the Oscars ceremony, if he can score a ticket, and will be at movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s after-party (“The Artist’’ was produced by his company).

“Being in this movie has opened up a lot of doors, but ultimately it’s going to come down to my craft and talent,’’ Kurland said. “Being in ‘The Artist’ isn’t a guarantee of anything. I’m extremely proud of it, but what excites me most is finally getting the opportunity to be seen among my peers and colleagues as an actor, being part of the world I’ve worked so hard to be part of.’’

TEACHING REWARD: Will Dreyfus, an English teacher at Chapman Middle School in Weymouth, was named the first winner of the “My Favorite Teacher’’ program at Main Street Grille, a restaurant in Weymouth.

Dreyfus received a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant based on an essay by eighth-grader Stephanie Smith, who received a “Great Student Award’’ and her own $50 gift certificate.

The award programs will continue, said Chris DiMambro, a partner at Main Street Grille.

BEEFY PRIZE: Bridgewater resident Christy Bustard won the “Flavors of Flay’’ sweepstakes, part of the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, netting an expense-paid trip to the festival from Feb. 23 to 26.

She and her husband, Michael, will attend high-end events in Miami Beach, such as Wine Spectator magazine’s “Best of the Best,’’ which features the country’s top chefs preparing signature dishes paired with top-shelf wines.

The couple will also attend “The Flavors of Flay,’’ presented by the Certified Angus Beef brand, which sponsored the sweepstakes. The event brings together executive chefs from Food Network star Bobby Flay’s restaurants.

Updates on their adventures will be posted on the beef company’s blog,

WINNING SPEECH: Leigh-Ann D’Andrea of Plymouth, a junior at Sacred Heart School in Kingston, was named the Massachusetts champion in the Veterans of Foreign Wars-sponsored Voice of Democracy contest.

As state champ, she earned a plaque and $4,000 in cash and scholarship vouchers, and will travel to Washington next month for the national level of the contest, and a chance to win the $30,000 first prize.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at

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