Palm Beach County has an emerging movie star in its midst.
Making it official, Kate Katzman of Delray Beach was anointed with the Star on the Horizon Award at last month’s Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, where her latest big screen feature, The Comeback Trail, was the opening night attraction.
“To be recognized like that is thrilling enough,” she says by phone, “but to receive it at a prestige festival like Fort Lauderdale makes it even more special.”
A movie fan from an early age, Katzman, 37, says she would allow herself to dream of an acting career, but never really thought it could become a reality.
A strikingly attractive blonde, Katzman had little trouble gaining a modeling career in Miami. Then, following a fluke introduction to Hollywood legend Burt Reynolds, she took acting lessons under his encouragement and mentorship.
“I really do owe my career to Mr. Reynolds,” says Katzman. “He helped give me confidence as an actress and opened so many doors for me in the industry. He always emphasized being truthful in my acting choices, which I try to do. Even though he is no longer with us,” Reynolds passed away in 2018, “I feel like he sits on my shoulder, spurring me on.”
Katzman made her film debut in 2015’s Walt Before Mickey, playing Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian. While it got her foot in the door in Hollywood, afterwards she scurried back to Florida to take master classes in acting at Reynolds’ Jupiter institute.
Now, in The Comeback Trail, she is in heady company, performing alongside a trio of Oscar winners – Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones. Katzman concedes that appearing opposite such veteran actors did initially make her nervous, but they could not be nicer or more encouraging to her.
“How could you not be intimidated by Robert DeNiro?,” she asks. “But he is nothing like the roles he has played. He’s so soft-spoken and low-key. I sensed that he, and the others in the cast, were really rooting for me to do well.”
The Comeback Trail is actually a remake, based on a little-seen tongue-in-cheek western from 1974 that featured Chuck McCann and Buster Crabbe. In both versions, a down-on-his-luck, desperate producer (DeNiro in the new film) takes out a large insurance policy on his has-been star (Jones), planning to knock him off during the making of the movie, allowing the producer to pay back what he owes an impatient mob boss (Freeman).
Katzman auditioned for a minor role, but she so impressed director-screenwriter George Gallo that he cast her as the director of the film-within-the-film and reconceived the part for her. “Being on that set was like attending more master classes,” she said. “I should have paid them for letting me be there.”
Regardless of how The Comeback Trail fares – it is scheduled to arrive in theaters on December 18 – Katzman’s career is on the rise. Also completed and expected to be released next year is Adverse, a crime thriller with Mickey Rourke, Penelope Ann Miller and Lou Diamond Phillips. More recently, she signed to appear in Panama, an action picture slated to star Mel Gibson.
Although The Comeback Trail was shot in the New Mexico desert and Panama will take Katzman to Puerto Rico, she is adamant about keeping South Florida as home base for herself, her husband and her two young children.
“I feel very fortunate the way my movie career is headed,” says Katzman. “I will go anywhere if a role is good, but nothing is better than coming home to Delray Beach.”