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.
Women are making waves in the world of comedy, on both sides of the camera. Jillian Bell (Brittany Runs a Marathon) costars with Natalie Morales (Language Lessons) in the new indie release I’m Totally Fine, which debuts today in theaters, on VOD and digital. The costars form a mutual admiration society but also have praise for their collaborators over the years they’ve toiled in the TV, movie, and music video arena. Bell is a graduate of The Groundlings in L.A. and Morales has lived here long enough to have seen Buster Keaton films at the venerable Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax Avenue. Those are all the credentials necessary to turn Leonard and Jessie into a rooting section.
How many people can say their childhood dreams came true? Tony Baxter can. He fell in love with Disneyland as a boy (building a perfect replica of Sleeping Beauty’s castle) and wound up as an Imagineer, creating world-famous attractions for “the happiest place on earth.” From Thunder Mountain to Star Tours, he has left his fingerprints in so many places, beginning in Anaheim and culminating in his favorite, Disneyland Paris. Leonard and Jessie have counted Tony as a friend for many years but this is the first time they’ve recorded his thoughts and memories
In the age of zoom, Jessie and I have grudgingly become accustomed to interviewing our guests remotely. Up until the pandemic lockdown we insisted on recording these talks in person. Never were we happier about that decision than when Angela Lansbury welcomed us into her home on the West Side of Los Angeles in November of 2018. She was 93 but quite honestly she seemed ageless to us. We were thrilled that she was willing to review her life and career with us that day… and to our delight, she was also pleased with the result.
Laura Dern grew up in show business, the daughter of Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. She has long since carved a niche all her own, with two Oscar nominations under her belt and a lifetime of colorful experiences. From indie films to Jurassic Park, she has great stories to tell and shares them with Leonard and Jessie. Since we spoke to her in 2017 her career has continued to flourish, with a return to Jurassic World and an Academy Award for her blistering performance in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.
We’ve all been watching Bruce Davison for years—tending to his pet rats in Willard in the early 70s, earning an Oscar nomination for Longtime Companion in 1989, defying the X-Men as a Senator in 2000, and making his mark in an endless variety of roles on stage, television and movies—most recently as the villainous senator on Ozark. It turns out he is also a world-class raconteur. Leonard and Jessie were held in rapt attention as he imitated Burt Lancaster, Henry Fonda and a host of others while spinning a series of unforgettable anecdotes. Don’t miss this encore episode from 2017!
We’re reaching back six years to repeat a great conversation with Ed Begley, Jr., one of the most familiar faces in television and movies. He has great stories to match his incredible career, from Best in Show to Ghostbusters and beyond. He tells Leonard and Jessie how he came to be directed by Jack Nicholson, and reveals how Christopher Guest steers his actors through their improvised comedy scenes. This episode was recorded before our prolific guest joined the cast of Better Call Saul and Young Sheldon.
In celebration of this weekend’s D23 convention in Anaheim, California, we’re happy to revisit this episode from August of 2018:
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
Andreas was 10 or 11 when he saw Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book and it changed his life. As a boy in Germany he dreamed of working for the studio that captured his imagination so completely… and he made that dream come true. A master animator, he brought King Triton to life in The Little Mermaid, Scar in The Lion King, and Jafar in Aladdin, to name just a few. He never surrendered his pencil, choosing to burnish his skills rather than adapt to computer technology. For most of the last decade he’s been working on an animated film of his own called Moushka. Andreas is that rare artist who has carved his own path and been rewarded for his dedication (and talent). Leonard and Jessie are longtime friends and fans.
Meet four of the creative folks responsible for the animated Netflix hit Love, Death & Robots! In their alternate lives, creator and executive producer Tim Miller directed the big-screen Deadpool and Jennifer Yuh Nelson directed Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3… but this attention-grabbing anthology of animated short subjects has got their juices flowing. The same holds true for supervising sound editors Brad North and Craig Henighan, who treat each episode of the show like a feature film and call on years of experience creating unusual soundscapes. Leonard and Jessie can’t imagine all the work that goes into crafting every installment of this wildly imaginative show.
“Gaslit” is one of the best miniseries of the past year, and it has been rewarded with Emmy nominations for Kazu Hiro, the gifted Japanese-born makeup artist who transformed Sean Penn into former Attorney General John Mitchell… cinematographer Larkin Seiple, whose credits include this year’s indie darling Everything Everywhere All at Once…sound rerecording mixers John W. Cook II and Ben Wilkins, who articulate why creating authentic sound effects make a crucial difference to the film as a whole and their expert audio colleagues Stefani Feldman and Kevin Buchholz, Leonard and Jessie value this opportunity to go behind the scenes and talk to such creative collaborators.