From college grad student to director of Creed and Black Panther in a short span of time, Ryan Coogler has kept his feet on the ground. He relies on his wife Zinzi Evans and former USC classmates who form the core of his working team. From his debut feature, Fruitvale Station, through his latest box-office smash, he has found ways to make each film personal to his own experience. Leonard and Jessie are unabashed boosters of this talented filmmaker and loved having a quiet, intimate conversation with him amidst award season tumult.
He’s won five Emmy Awards and is a longtime radio host and political pundit. But guess what? Dennis Miller is also a diehard film buff who revels in watching Turner Classic Movies. Jessie was blown away as Leonard and Dennis started comparing notes on favorite films and the people in them. He’s the same sharp-witted comic he’s always been, but this time the focus is on movies. Excelsior!
At 96 it’s fair to call Norman Lear a living legend. He gave birth to such TV series as All in the Family, Maude, and The Jeffersons. Instead of living in the past he’s reinventing it, supervising a reboot of One Day at a Time, just for starters. He’s worked in television since 1950, but no one seems to talk to him about the movies he wrote, produced, and/or directed, like Cold Turkey or those for which he was a midwife (like The Princess Bride). Leonard and Jessie relished spending time with this highly amusing, soft-spoken giant—even when he fielded a cell phone call from a political fundraiser in the midst of our interview!
We’ve watched Michael Angarano grow up on screen; he’s been acting since the age of 5. He worked with Meryl Streep at age 12 (in Music of the Heart), got to improvise with Frances McDormand in Almost Famous at 13, then joined the cast of Will & Grace as Sean Hayes’ son in his early 20s. He’s a likable, unpretentious guy who credits his family for helping him navigate the often-treacherous waters of show-business. Jessie and Leonard had a great time talking with him about his youthful experiences and more recent successes like a running part in The Knick. Coming soon: his debut as writer and director.
The world-class filmmaker with the distinctive voice is our esteemed guest today. He’s not intimidating—quite the opposite—as he describes his early life, what drew him to filmmaking, and how he teaches students by throwing them in the deep end of the pool, so to speak. His passion is undiminished after more than fifty years of memorable, provocative films, most recently a series of fascinating documentaries like Grizzly Man and Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Leonard and Jessie were more than happy to sit at the great man’s feet and listen to him discuss his extraordinary life as a moviemaker.
He’s playing a hero in The Predator right now, but Boyd Holbrook has been a chameleon-like presence in TV shows and movies like Narcos, The Big C, Gone Girl, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and Logan, just for starters. Along the way he’s had valuable experiences with Gus Van Sant, Liam Neeson, and a host of others. Leonard and Jessie were so impressed by his stories, candor, and genuine passion for all things expressive and artistic.
Get ready to meet a new Jonah Hill—a serious writer-director who has poured his heart and soul into his debut feature film, mid90s, which is playing the festival circuit and opens in theaters in late October. After several years of writing and research (and input from such august filmmakers as Martin Scorsese), he is unveiling his “baby” to the moviegoing public. That’s what brought him to Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas where Leonard and Jessie spoke to him before a live audience. Just as he progressed from broad comedy to Oscar-nominated performances onscreen, he’s tackling something new and exciting in this latest adventure.
Still hale and hearty at 103, Norman Lloyd is one of the few men on the planet who can speak first-hand about Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese…and even Amy Schumer. (He was in Trainwreck.) He set out to be an actor, and earned immortality as the man who dangles from the Statue of Liberty in Hitchcock’s Saboteur but proved to be even more useful behind the scenes, ultimately becoming a producer on his weekly television series. If you watched TV in the 1980s you probably saw him as Dr. Auschlander on St. Elsewhere. He has been a fixture in show business for ninety years and shows little sign of slowing down. He held Leonard and Jessie in his grip and it’s likely you, too, will fall under his spell.
Not since Norman Lear has one man had an impact on television comedy as great as Chuck Lorre. He has created, co-created, or produced and written such long-running hits as The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Dharma and Greg, Mike and Molly, and Young Sheldon, to name just a few. Leonard and Jessie found him to be candid in discussing the nuts and bolts of steering these wildly popular series. If you like smart TV, chances are you’re watching at least one of his shows. Now you can hear from the man behind the curtain.
Scion of a multi-generational show business family (and the youngest of five siblings), David Arquette has worked as an actor, writer, director, and producer. Listeners of a certain age will always associate him with the Scream series. He won Leonard and Jessie’s heart with an impromptu pantomime performance he gave at a recent Buster Keaton-related ceremony. David is a delightful conversationalist, recounting show business lore and reviewing his own wide-ranging career.
A free spirit and a formidable talent, Catherine Hardwicke started out as a production designer, working with some of the top directors in the business (Richard Linklater, David O. Russell, Cameron Crowe) before taking the plunge herself. Her debut film was the impressive Thirteen, which she wrote with costar Nikki Reed. Since then she’s made all kinds of movies, from personal projects like Lords of Dogtown to the smash hit Twilight. Leonard and Jessie loved talking to this creative, outgoing woman and learning about her journey.
Floyd Norman is an official Disney Legend, and so much more: Walt Disney’s first full-time African-American animator, a contributor to such films as Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book, a disciple of Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men, and a story man on such Pixar features as Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc. What’s more, as Leonard and Jessie have learned, he’s a naturally funny man, a great storyteller, and a sweetheart of a guy with an irreverent sense of humor. He’s even the subject of a first-class documentary called Floyd Norman: An Animated Life. Tune in for some great anecdotes and first-hand memories of Walt Disney.
Recorded live at That’s from Disneyland, courtesy of its creators Richard and Nicky Kraft
If you’re a certain age, you probably first saw Peter Facinelli in films like Can’t Hardly Wait and Dancer, Tex. Pop. 81. A decade later he won even more fans as Dr. Carlisle Cullen in the phenomenally popular Twilight movies. He spent seven seasons as another medico, Dr. Cooper, on the TV series Nurse Jackie. Now he’s making his feature directorial debut with Breaking and Exiting, playing in theaters and on VOD beginning today. Leonard and Jessie learn that he’s an actor who loves a challenge, and is proud of his Italian roots (especially his mother’s cooking).
A likable actor with excellent bloodlines, Colin Hanks has built a busy career for himself in such films as Orange County, King Kong, W. and TV series like Roswell, The Good Guys, Fargo and the current Life in Pieces. Now he’s exploring new avenues as a documentarian with two first-rate features under his belt: Tower Records: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records and Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends). What’s more, he’s a great conversationalist, as Leonard and Jessie learn in this latest episode.
Director and film buff extraordinaire Joe Dante and Leonard go back a long, long time—to their teens, in fact—and enjoy swapping stories about early inspirations, moviegoing adventures in New York City, Joe’s move to Hollywood, his first big breaks, and events leading up to casting Leonard as himself in Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Jessie learns some things she never knew before in this entertaining episode.
RZA is a hip-hop icon, music producer, actor and director. Leonard and Jessie sat down with him at the San Diego Comic-con to discuss his upcoming heist movie Cut Throat City (set in New Orleans during the chaos of Katrina) with two of his talented cast members. Articulate and fun to talk to, RZA’s enthusiasm is infectious. It’s easy to see how a cast and crew would respond to him.
Jessie and Leonard flesh out their interview with observations on that one-of-a-kind event known as Comic-con.
Kelly Macdonald became an overnight sensation when she made a memorable screen debut in Trainspotting some twenty years ago. She hasn’t looked back since, doing exceptional work in such films as Gosford Park, Nanny McPhee, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and as the voice of Merida in Pixar’s Brave. Her newest film, Puzzle, gives her a rare leading role and a great showcase for her talent. Leonard and Jessie are unabashed fans and were delighted to find Kelly as unpretentious and fun to talk to as they hoped.
If you remember Bobcat Goldthwait’s “extreme” standup-comedy persona, it might be difficult to reconcile with his career as a prolific TV and movie director. He’s made some great films like World’s Greatest Dad with his pal Robin Williams, and Call Me Lucky, a compelling documentary about one of his mentors, comedian-turned-activist Barry Crimmins. Now he’s presiding over an unpredictable anthology series on TruTV called Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits & Monsters. Leonard and Jessie were delighted to meet the real guy behind the comic mask and the creative force behind so many interesting TV and movie projects.
With two drama teachers for parents it isn’t surprising that Logan Marshall-Green grew up in and around the theater. But it was television shows like 24 and The O.C. that got him noticed, and the small screen has continued to offer him great opportunities, as in Quarry and Damnation. He’s just as effective in movies like Prometheus, The Invitation, Spider-man: Homecoming and the current release Upgrade. Logan is articulate and charming, as Leonard and Jessie were happy to discover in their animated conversation.
Paul Williams is a master storyteller: Oscar and multiple-Grammy winner, actor, hit-maker, composer of everything from “The Love Boat” theme to the immortal “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie. He’s as busy as ever, costarring in this season of Goliath with Billy Bob Thornton and serving as president of ASCAP, the performers’ rights organization. He’s also a raconteur, and you’ll hear about everything from Orson Welles to Phantom of the Paradise. Leonard and Jessie are still recovering from the experience of spending time with this exceptional man.
Mia Wasikowska became an instant star in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland eight years ago and hasn’t stopped working since—in a variety of challenging and rewarding parts. Among her credits: The Kids are All Right, Jane Eyre, Only Lovers Left Alive, the underrated Tracks, and Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak. Her latest, now playing in theaters, is Damsel, costarring Robert Pattinson. Leonard and Jessie had a great time talking to this talented actress and budding director. She loves her work and doesn’t take herself too seriously. By the way, she still calls Australia home.
Jessie and a friend needed cheering up one evening and watching the lighthearted girlfriend comedy Ibiza on Netflix was just the ticket. Gillian Jacobs, of Community, Girls and Love joins us for a buoyant conversation with the film’s writer (Lauryn Kahn) and director (Alex Richanbach ), both veterans of sketch comedy and Funny or Die. Their enthusiasm and team spirit are engaging and inspiring, as you’ll hear for yourself.
In honor of Fathers’ Day, Leonard and Jessie invited another father-daughter duo: seven-time Oscar winner Rick Baker, master of makeup whose credits range from The Exorcist and Star Wars to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and his daughter Veronica, who grew up in a kind of wonderland and is now pursuing her own creative ideas at D.C. Rick’s stories of getting started and finding the right mentors are inspiring and fun to hear…along with Veronica’s memories of growing up Baker (especially on Halloween).
Chaz Ebert is a force to be reckoned with. A strong, loving partner to her late husband Roger, she maintains his website rogerebert.com as well as his annual film festival, now known as Ebertfest, in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. That’s where Leonard and Jessie persuaded her to play hooky for an hour of candid and uplifting conversation.