Marsha Dietlein Bennett doesn’t need the glitzy red carpet treatment in Hollywood for openings of her films.
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Springfield does just fine for the 1983 North High School graduate.
Her first starring role in the zombie film “Return of the Living Dead: Part II” saw Dietlein Bennett here for its opening at the State Theatre.
She’ll be battling different demons when her newest film,” Getting Grace,” releases Friday, March 23. It’s dramatic comedy about a girl facing terminal cancer who teaches a funeral director how to enjoy life, with Dietlein Bennett playing the title character’s mom.
Dietlein Bennett will be here Friday at Springfield’s Chakeres Cinema 10 for the 7:30 and 10 p.m. showings. She’ll do a meet-and-greet starting at 6:45 and a question-and-answer session following the 7:30 screening.
While an independent film with this subject matter may not be an escape at the movies like “Black Panther,” Dietlein Bennett said “Getting Grace” will touch the audience in a different way.
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“This movie is special,” she said. “I’m not sure if it’s the funniest sad movie or the saddest funny movie.”
Dietlein Bennett plays Venus, a pill-popping alcoholic mess of a mom. “Getting Grace” took years to get made, but director Daniel Roebuck, an old friend, kept her in mind for the role.
“He said ‘My friend Marsha needs to play this part,’ and rewrote it tailored for me,” she said. “He wrote to my strengths. I can be natural, funny and with dramatic chops.”
It’s been a long road for Dietlein Bennett since taking her first role – Luisa in a middle school production of “The Sound of Music” while living in Sidney, Ohio.
Her family moved here during her junior year and she worked at the State Theatre with classmate Dan Carey.
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“Dan and I would perform Oscar speeches and I would dance in the lobby,” she reminisced.
Getting married not long after graduation, Dietlein Bennett cut her teeth in her husband’s family theater and set out for Los Angeles.
In just her seventh audition, Dietlein Bennett scored the role of Lucy, the heroine of the comedy horror film “Return of the Living Dead: Part II.” Her plan was simple.
“I just pretended to know what I was doing,” she said, laughing.
She remembers being at her parents’ home over Christmas and getting the call to return to Los Angeles to audition.
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“It’s exciting to be with family when that happens,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of calls like that.”
“Getting Grace” reunites Dietlein Bennett with her “Return” co-star, Dana Ashbrook. The pair have stayed in touch over the years and glad to work together again.
In an industry where careers rise and fall quickly, Dietlein Bennett has worked steadily in films, television and theater.
“It’s all I know how to do,” she said. “I’ve been lucky to work doing what I love.”
She’s appeared on television series including “Blue Bloods,” “Gossip Girl” and “Law & Order.” Her film work has included being an ensemble performer in several productions from writer-director Ed Burns.
Dietlein Bennett jokes about being honored to have lost a role in one of Burns’ early films, “She’s the One.” The actress who won the role was Jennifer Aniston.
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Dietlein Bennett gets back to Springfield once or twice a year to do girls night out with school friends at places such as Station 1 and Seasons Bistro, as well as reuniting with old friend Carey.
She has two other films due out in 2018, a drama and horror film, and hopes to perform in another of Roebuck’s upcoming projects.
“I always love visiting Springfield,” she said.
Cinema 10 will show “Getting Grace” for at least a week.
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