An iconoclast in the worlds of independent film and journalism who embodied — and celibrated — Texas individualism, Carson died October 20 in Dallas following a long battle with osteoporosis and other illnesses. He was 73.
A Dallas native whose career took him to Austin, Houston, New York, Los Angeles and many places far afield and in between, Lewis Minor Carson was best known as co-author with Sam Shepard of the Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas (Carson’s official credit was for “adaptation”), which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1984. Known universally as Kit, after his Texas Ranger grandfather, he is credited with helping create the”mockumentary” genre for writing and playing the title role in David Holtzman’s Diary, the Jim McBride film about a navel-gazer who decides to film every moment of his unmomentous life. The 1967 film anticipated such disparate touchstones as the film This Is Spinal Tap and the insufferable ubiquity of today’s Tweet culture. A few years later, Carson co-directed with Lawrence Schiller The American Dreamer, a 1971 real documentary about Dennis Hopper. Earlier, Carson and Southern Methodist University film professor Bill Jones co-founded what in 1971 became the USA Film Festival.
“Back in 1971, the organism started in Dallas with people who were kind of interested in movies but didn’t know much about movies,” Carson told the Dallas Morning News. “There were no film fests in this country devoted to the American independent film … no film festival for Marty Scorsese or Brian De Palma, so let’s start one, because this stuff is happening and no one is saying this is happening.’”
Carson championed director Wes Anderson and was mentor to Owen, Luke and Andrew Wilson; at Sundance in 1992 he and his second wife, producer Cynthia Hargrave, played matchmaker between the director and the Wilson brothers, the result of which was Bottle Rocket, their first feature. As a screenwriter, Carson’s other films included McBride’s 1983 redo of the Jean-Luc Godard classic Breathless and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. A wide-ranging actor, he appeared in Sidney Lumet’s Running On Empty, episodes of Sex And The City and Miami Vice, and in Roman Coppola’s film CQ, which was partly adapted from David Holzman’s Diary.
Carson also was highly regarded as a journalist whose articles on popular culture appeared in Eye magazine and Rolling Stone. He married actress Karen Black during the filming of Robert Altman’s Nashville and their son, Hunter, appears as Harry Dean Stanton’s son in Paris, Texas. Carson’s most recent project, using his Nokia mobile phone to make documentary briefs in Africa, had been shown on the Sundance channel and been renewed for a second season. He was editing at the time of his death.
On his Facebook page, Hunter Carson wrote:
“RIP dad. Your light was and always will brighten the pathways of our future. It will never be extinguished. You did everything the way you wanted and never let anyone else do less than they were capable of doing. You mentored, taught, learned, fought, excelled as both athlete and student. I loved and loved and will love every moment we spent together. Thanks for everything. See you in the movies.”