John Badham directed Saturday Night Fever and even after decades of other good work (WarGames, Whose Life Is It Anyway, et al) that remains his calling card. But he and John Travolta had an uncomfortable standoff during production at 2 a.m. in freezing weather on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in NYC, as he recounts in his lively book I’ll Be in My Trailer—which is available for the first time as an audiobook. He’s been drawing on his vast experience while teaching at Chapman University in Orange, California for the past 19 years. Leonard and Jessie learned useful “life lessons” from John during our hour-long conversation.
While retaining his leading-man looks, Josh Duhamel has branched out into writing and directing, having just piloted the ultra-raunchy comedy Buddy Games: Spring Awakening, which hits theaters today and VOD on June 2. (He also costars in the film.) But it doesn’t take long to learn that he has an old-fashioned work ethic. It helped to earn him a daytime Emmy twenty-some years ago for All My Children and it stood him in good stead on the recent Disney TV series The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. Leonard and Jessie talked to Josh about working with Michael Bay, turning to a fellow school parent for advice before making his first comedy, and much, much more.
Tom Sito is a master animator and a walking encyclopedia of animation—not only for his credentials, which range from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Scooby-Doo—but for seeking out pioneers and masters of the art form and telling their stories. He’s a teacher, a scholar, a union leader, an author and also a terrific guy who used to drop in to Leonard’s animation class at the New School for Social Research in NYC back in the 1970s! Jessie marvels at the longevity of their friendship, which shows no sign of ceasing anytime soon. Tom’s books include Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson, Moving Innovation, A history of Computer Animation, and Eat, Drink, Animate: An Animator’s Cookbook.
He directed the new theatrical release Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World. But George Tillman, Jr. is as much a film enthusiast as he is a filmmaker. It was seeing Michael Schultz’s Cooley High and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver that set him on his career path, which began with Soul Food and Men of Honor. Now he is in a position to give other talented young black filmmakers a helping hand—and he does just that, as a prolific producer of films and television. Leonard and Jessie thoroughly enjoyed talking movies with someone who is so clearly passionate about what they do.
It’s hard to believe that forty years have gone by since John Pizzarelli recorded his first record album (on vinyl). He has a delightful new collection drawn from movies and Broadway shows called Stage & Screen (Palmetto Records). It reaffirms our opinion that he is the most engaging jazz musician and entertainer working today. A guitar virtuoso, he learned his craft from his Dad, the late Bucky Pizzarelli, and carries with him great memories of music legends he met while growing up. John believes that good music should be entertaining, too; Leonard and Jessie heartily agree.
One of the architects of improv comedy at Second City in Chicago, Paul Sand is still going strong at the age of 93, having just written and directed a play called The Pilot Crashes the Party (info at www.onstage411.com/Pilot) and stealing scenes in the indie film Loren and Rose starring Jacqueline Bisset. He studied in Paris with the great mime Marcel Marceau and landed one of his best movie roles (in 1972’s The Hot Rock) because the director was so impressed with his Tony Award thank-you speech! Leonard and Jessie were charmed by a man who has always marched to his own drummer.
Yes, Greg Laemmle is related to Carl, the movie pioneer and founder of Universal Pictures. But he is—more to the point—the third generation owner of Los Angeles’s celebrated Laemmle Theaters chain. The history of this business and how it narrowly survived the pandemic is the subject of Raphael Sbarge’s documentary Only in Theaters, which is still making the rounds of film festivals. (Leonard appears in it as an interviewee.) When it comes to running a movie theater, there is very little that Greg doesn’t know and he speaks with the easy authority of a veteran. Leonard and Jessie are among his many loyal customers.
Scott Caan didn’t intend to follow his late father James into show business; he was much more interested in sports, then hip-hop. It was working in the theater that finally got his juices flowing. In addition to the successful TV series Alert: Missing Persons Unit, he stars in a dynamic new movie, One Day as a Lion, which he also wrote and produced. It is now playing in select theaters and available on VOD. From the opening scene it’s clear that he has a formidable presence, as well as fundamental acting talent. Is some of that due to good genes? Leonard and Jessie suggest that you watch the film and decide for yourselves.
Her first acting gig was on a soap opera. Kyra Sedgwick went onto costar with Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July and amass an impressive list of credits before landing the starring role in The Closer, which earned her an Emmy award and a kazillion fans. In the midst of this she also raised two children with her husband, Kevin Bacon. She has most recently turned her hand to directing, first on TV (with episodes of Ray Donovan and Grace and Frankie, among others) and now a feature film called Space Oddity that opens today in select theaters and is also available on VOD. Leonard and Jessie enjoyed reviewing highlights of career and hearing interesting stories about everyone from Gena Rowlands to Paul Newman.
Before Yellowjackets introduced her to a new flock of fans, longtime admirers Leonard and Jessie sat down with Melanie Lynskey in 2017 to talk about her enduring career, which was jump-started when director Peter Jackson cast her and an equally unknown Kate Winslet in his exceptional film Heavenly Creatures. Seen by millions of viewers on the network comedy Two and a Half Men, she has never forsaken her indie roots, and we discussed her latest Sundance sleeper I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore. And yes, Melanie is as nice as she is talented.
This week we wind the clock back seven years to a 2016 episode featuring the talented Bryan Cranston, who had completed his unforgettable five-year run as Walter White on Breaking Bad and was on to conquer new roles on stage and film. (This was long before his current Showtime series Your Honor was even in the planning stage.) Articulate and enthusiastic, he provides keen insights into the life of a working actor.
Bruce has taken his lifelong love of movies and turned it into a career. He responsible for the repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum and its special presentations: he has staged tributes to gimmick-master William Castle, silent film star Harold Lloyd and many others. He also runs Rialto Pictures, which circulates often-forgotten foreign-language films and brings them back to vivid life with beautiful prints and newly-translated subtitles. In other words, he’s a hero. Leonard and Jessie are longtime admirers and look forward to his annual trivia games at the TCM Classic Film Festival.
At one time she was known as the daughter of two top movie stars, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh…but she quickly made a name for herself as the durable heroine of Halloween and star of such hit movies as Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda, and True Lies. Now, after forty-five years in front of the camera she is an Academy Award nominee for Best Supporting Actress for her disarming and delightful performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once… and she is genuinely thrilled by the honor. She wears many hats, all of them well: actress, activist, author, and entrepreneur. Leonard recently interviewed her onstage at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and their easy rapport extended to this lively and candid conversation with him and Jessie.
Bob Gazzale is President and CEO of the American Film Institute. He is also one of the kindest men in Hollywood, as both Leonard and Jessie can attest. He oversees the AFI Conservatory, repeatedly ranked as the number-one film school in America…AFI Fest, a Fall gathering of the best and brightest new films from around the globe…the AFI Life Achievement Award, a classy show that sets a high bar for others to emulate…and the AFI Awards, a juried chronicle of outstanding films and television shows that culminates in a star-studded luncheon in January. We asked Bob to relate his “origin story” and he obliged. You’ll like what you hear.
Ben Model is a talented pianist who travels the world accompanying silent movies…but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He’s a good guy who wears many hats: historian, proselytizer, promoter, preservationist, teacher, and distributor, to name just a few. He blew Leonard and Jessie’s minds when he unveiled his research about variable running times for silent films and proved how Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and others used the hand-cranking of the camera to their benefit. See for yourself at https://www.silentfilmmusic.
If you only think of Clint Howard as Ron Howard’s kid brother, it’s time to reassess. He and his older sibling recently wrote a joint autobiography called The Boys which explains their loving relationship and points to their actor-parents as lifelong role models. Early on, Clint embraced his destiny as a young-ish character actor; right now he’s appearing with Nicolas Cage in The Old Way, a Western playing in selected theaters and available on VOD. It’s Cage’s first Western but not Clint’s. There’s almost nothing he hasn’t done in his sixty-one years in show business, from the original Star Trek to The Cat in the Hat (one of many Ron Howard movies in which he appears.) He still lives in the San Fernando Valley not far from Leonard and Jessie, because he’s just folks—like his parents.
He’s got a new horror movie now playing on Digital and VOD called What’s Wrong with the Kids, but chances are you know Zach Gilford better for his work on television, from his memorable role in Friday Night Lights to the current season of Criminal Minds where he got to play opposite his real-life wife, Kiele Sanchez. He has a positive outlook and that is just one reason he’s always working: recent series include L.A.’s Finest, The Midnight Club, Midnight Mass, Good Girls, and The Family. He’s also co-hosting a podcast about Friday Night Lights with his pal Mae Whitman. Leonard and Jessie are admirers and feel certain he will continue to be a “working actor” for many years to come.
Keith Scott joins us from Down Under to talk about his lifelong fascination with Cartoon Voices, which is also the name of his new two-volume book about that subject, published by BearManor Media. Keith has spent decades ferreting out information, much of it from meeting the performers he writes about. Along the way, he became a stand-up comic and voice actor himself. You’ll hear some of his remarkable impressions over the course of our conversation and understand why the late, great June Foray (the original voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel) was happy to work alongside him when he provided the voice of Bullwinkle J. Moose in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000). Leonard and Jessie never tire of talking to Keith, an old friend whose appearance on this podcast is long overdue.
Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are marking 30 years of running Sony Pictures Classics, but we moviegoers are the ones who ought to be celebrating. Thanks to their good taste and savvy salesmanship, films as diverse as The Fog of War, Blue Jasmine, and Frozen River have made their way into American theaters. They have championed such filmmakers as Pedro Almodóvar, Guillermo del Toro, Agnieszka Holland, and Susanne Bier, to name just a few. And they still believe that audiences want to see good films on a theater screen. Leonard and Jessie have known the illustrious pair for many years but never engaged them in an interview until now. They have a lot to say—and a lot to be proud of…including a new boxed set of Blu-ray discs including The Devil’s Backbone, Run Lola Run and their all-time biggest hit, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Screenwriters seldom get the attention they deserve, which is just one reason Leonard and Jessie were happy to talk to David Magee, who wrote (or co-wrote) Finding Neverland, Life of Pi, Mary Poppins Returns, and the new Tom Hanks movie A Man Called Otto, among others. He also scripted the upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. Clearly, he’s good at what he does, but the tale of how he became a screenwriter is perhaps the best story of all and is, to the best of our knowledge, unique. Tune in and hear it for yourself.
Elegance Bratton is a name and a filmmaker to reckon with. His first feature film, The Inspection, is now playing in theaters and On Demand, and it tells his own life story: being ejected from his home at 16 because his mother could not accept that he was gay and winding up in the U.S. Marine Corps during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. He is an imposing and impressive man, as Leonard learned at the Coronado Island Film Festival last month where Bratton wowed the audience. Leonard and Jessie came away with the same feeling after our probing and candid conversation.
With the extraordinary success of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever it’s a perfect time to revisit our 2018 conversation with its director, Ryan Coogler. 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.
With Black Panther: Wakanda Forever bringing people back to movie theaters, it’s a perfect time to revisit our conversation with Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige from 2017. Kevin rules the Marvel Cinematic Universe—but wears his crown lightly. A real movie lover and comic fan, he can hold his own with the fanboys while simultaneously juggling multimillion dollar productions. He attended USC because that’s where his cinematic heroes went to school and remains loyal to his alma mater, visiting Leonard’s class on a regular basis. Jessie and Leonard don’t have to prod him to talk about any of these things--it's his passion. That's what makes him perfect for the job.With Black Panther: Wakanda Forever bringing people back to movie theaters, it’s a perfect time to revisit our conversation with Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige from 2017. Kevin rules the Marvel Cinematic Universe—but wears his crown lightly. A real movie lover and comic fan, he can hold his own with the fanboys while simultaneously juggling multimillion dollar productions. He attended USC because that’s where his cinematic heroes went to school and remains loyal to his alma mater, visiting Leonard’s class on a regular basis. Jessie and Leonard don’t have to prod him to talk about any of these things--it's his passion. That's what makes him perfect for the job.
The Brit who created Peaky Blinders has a new series beginning this weekend on EPIX called Rogue Heroes. Steven Knight is a talented and prolific writer (and sometime director) whose credits include Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things, and the remarkable Locke (with frequent collaborator Tom Hardy), to cite just a few credits. Oh—and he was also one of the creators of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. He draws on his working-class background to breathe life into everything he tackles, and we are the beneficiaries. Leonard and Jessie loved getting to chat with someone they have admired so long.