Alfred University students, actor Bill Pullman hold Zoom meeting, discuss film ‘Dark Waters’
A group of 19 Alfred University students recently participated in an online discussion with actor Bill Pullman, about a 2019 film he appeared in, “Dark Waters,” which chronicles legal action taken against chemical manufacturer DuPont for contaminating the Parkersburg, WV, water supply in the 1990s.
ALFRED, NY – A group of 19 Alfred University students recently participated in an online discussion with actor Bill Pullman, about a 2019 film he appeared in, “Dark Waters,” which chronicles legal action taken against chemical manufacturer DuPont for contaminating the Parkersburg, WV, water supply in the 1990s.
As part of a shift to online instruction brought on by the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michele Hluchy, professor of geology, and Jeff Sluyter-Beltrao, associate professor of political science, hosted a Zoom meeting with Pullman and Harry Dietzler, the attorney Pullman plays in “Dark Waters.”
Pullman, who earned an honorary degree from Alfred University in 2011, is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees.
Students from Hluchy’s “Hydrology” class and Sluyter-Beltrao’s “Environment, Politics, and Society” class participated in Zoom meeting on Friday, April 17. They spent an hour querying Pullman and Dietzler—exchanges that provided them with extraordinary access to insider views of both the legal process and the making of the film.
In “Dark Waters,” Pullman played the role of Dietzler, a West Virginia personal injury lawyer who assisted attorney Robert Bilott in a class action suit filed against DuPont. The film was inspired by a New York Times Magazine 2016 story, “The Lawyer who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.”
Hluchy and Sluyter-Beltrao had originally planned to combine their classes as a dinner-and-a-movie event, joining students for a home-cooked meal followed by a viewing of “Dark Waters.” Social distancing guidelines in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible. Alfred University President Mark Zupan contacted Pullman, who in turn suggested that he and Dietzler could visit Hluchy’s and Sluyer-Beltrao’s classes for the joint Zoom discussion.
This isn’t the first time Pullman, a Hornell, NY, native, has engaged with Alfred University students. Last May, Pullman met with a group of students on a study abroad experience in London. He gave them a tour of the National Theatre, where Pullman was part of the cast for the play, “All My Sons,” introduced them to fellow cast members, and joined them the following day for a question-and-answer session. He delivered lectures and taught acting workshops on campus in 2001 and 2007.
Pullman, who joined Alfred University’s Board of Trustees in 2007, was the keynote speaker at the University’s 2011 Commencement ceremonies, as which time he received a Doctor of Fine Arts degree, honoris causa. He has nearly 100 acting credits, appearing in films including “Spaceballs,” “Independence Day,” and “While You Were Sleeping.”
The photo above, a screenshot of the April 17 Zoom meeting, shows Bill Pullman (top row, left) and Harry Dietzler (second row from top, second from left).