Penn Jillette is the talking half of one of the most successful acts in all of show business, Penn and Teller. He is a highly principled purveyor of magic and a great entertainer as well. He and his partner have conquered every conceivable medium and show no signs of slowing down—in Las Vegas or on television. Leonard and Jessie loved getting to spend an hour in the company of someone they’ve admired so long.
Rahmin Bahrani is one of the most gifted filmmakers of our time. He proved this with his first ultra-low-budget features, Man Push Cart and Chop Shop—keen-eyed observational portraits of characters living in the margins of society. (Both are now available in comprehensive Blu-ray editions from the Criterion Collection). What’s more, he is a recent Oscar nominee for his searing adaptation of the prize-winning novel The White Tiger, which streams on Netflix. He also teaches filmmaking at his alma mater, Columbia University, inspiring a new generation of storytellers. Leonard and Jessie are long time admirers of his work and loved having an opportunity to discuss his remarkable career.
Jake Johnson is a versatile guy who was inspired by the Second City troupe in Chicago, and set out to emulate them, first in New York and then in Los Angeles where he started landing movie and TV roles. Eventually he won a costarring role in New Girl with Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield. Leonard and Jessie discuss how each job—and personal connection—has led to other projects, from the modest indie Safety not Guaranteed to Jurassic World. His co-wrote his newest film, Ride the Eagle, with New Girl director-producer Trent O’Donnell, and you can see it On Demand and in theaters July 30. Jake’s positivity is a tribute to the creative spirit that even a pandemic couldn’t vanquish.
The music you remember from The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, Angels in America, Finding Nemo, 1917, and the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre was all written by Thomas Newman. His father was the legendary film composer Alfred Newman (who won nine Oscars and composed the 20th Century Fox fanfare). His brother David is also a film composer, and his cousin is songwriter/composer/performer Randy. Thomas admires them all but still managed to find his own “voice.” Leonard and Jessie are unabashed admirers, all the more so after speaking with this gifted but unassuming musical talent.
Max Casella has been a familiar presence on TV and movie screens since he was a kid, costarring in Newsies and Doogie Houser, M.D. Since then he’s kept busy on Broadway (in The Lion King--as the original Timon), on stage, television (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire) and films, working with everyone from George Clooney to Spike Lee. He costars with Kevin Corrigan and Paul Reiser in the pandemic drama Scenes from an Empty Church, which is now available on Video on Demand. And he appreciates the fans like Leonard and Jessie who have been following his career from the very start.