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.
If she didn’t catch your eye in The Tudors, where she played Anne Boleyn, or the last two Hunger Games movies, you likely know Natalie Dormer from her four-year run as Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones. Now, this talented actress has made her writing and producing debut on a film called In Darkness. She also plays the starring role! As if that isn’t enough, she’s the lead in the new miniseries remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Leonard and Jessie are glad she found time to chat for an hour: she’s articulate and amusing, as you will hear for yourself.
The Duplass Brothers have become a valued brand name as writers, producers, directors, actors and now authors, with an outstanding new book called Like Brothers. Mark discusses the intimacy of his relationship with his older sibling, the perils of collaboration, and the often painful lessons he and Jay learned on their way to achieving their goal: complete independence. Leonard and Jessie interviewed him in the attic of their headquarters, a spacious four-story house where they have shot and edited movies, while giving a helping hand to young up-and-comers who deserve a break.
Alia Shawkat has been acting since she was 9 years old, but when she worked with director Miguel Arteta on the sleeper Cedar Rapids he sensed that she had things to say and suggested they collaborate on a screenplay. The resulting film, Duck Butter, is now available on demand. Leonard and Jessie explore their careers in film and television, from Alia’s long-running role in Arrested Development to Miguel’s exceptional films like The Good Girl and Beatriz at Dinner in this free-flowing, candid conversation.
Actress (and long-ago schoolmate of Jessie’s) Ashley Bell has made an impressive directorial debut with Love & Bananas. It’s a fascinating documentary about elephant rescue in Southeast Asia, made with the cooperation of a remarkable woman named Lek Chailert. She is the Mother Theresa of pachyderms, a miracle worker you really ought to meet. Ashley and her team join Leonard and Jessie for a dynamic discussion of their film, which is now playing in theaters. Check their website atwww.loveandbananas.com and learn more at www.changeforbalance.com.
Since Americans discovered him in Bridesmaids Chris O’Dowd has enjoyed a busy trans-Atlantic career, appearing on such popular shows as Girls here and Moone Boy (which he created) in England. His fans across the pond already knew how funny he was from the hilarious sitcom The IT Crowd. By now it’s no secret that he is equally at home in comedy and drama, like the new indie release Love After Love with Andie McDowell. Leonard and Jessie enjoyed Chris’ wit and charm as they discussed his multifaceted career.
Stand-up comic, actor, voiceover specialist, author…Patton Oswalt wears many hats and wears them well. Whether you know him from The King of Queens or Ratatouille, a video game, solo comedy special or a cartoon series, he’s always sharp-minded and original. He’s also a great conversationalist, which made an hour fly by for Leonard and Jessie. (This episode was recorded before the recent revelation that his late wife’s true-crime book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark led to the arrest of a serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area for more than a decade.)
Jim Gaffigan is one of the most successful and best liked comedians in the country. He’s also a best-selling author and moonlights as an actor. Leonard and Jessie discover that acting was always on his agenda in this conversation recorded at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Listen as he engages a live audience without seeming to lift a finger. That’s a great comic talent.
Jon Hamm was so good on television’s Mad Men that some people still associate him with the enigmatic character he played, Don Draper. But he’s shown his versatility in a number of interesting films (like the new release Beirut) and revealed his flair for comedy, even hosting Saturday Night Live. He’s fun to talk to, as Leonard and Jessie can confirm—serious when the subject demands it and gloriously goofy when the mood strikes him. In other words, a perfect guest.
Whether you know him from MadTV, The Mindy Project, or movies like Neighbors, it’s likely that Ike Barinholtz has made an impression on you: he’s a naturally funny guy who projects sweetness and goofiness in equal measure. He costars in the new theatrical release Blockers, which gives him another chance to show his human side along with his comedy chops. Leonard and Jessie had a good time talking to Ike as he checked his iPhone to see if his wife was about to give birth to their third child! (She considerately held off until we finished recording.)
Al Pacino—yes, Al Pacino—spends an hour with Leonard and Jessie talking about the theatrical release of his long-delayed film of Salome(featuring a young Jessica Chastain) and its accompanying documentary Wilde Salome. If you also want to hear what challenges him as an actor…or stories about the making of The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, and other classics of American film, you won’t be disappointed. Hey, it’s AL PACINO!
One of the funniest performers around, Bill Hader is also a movie savant, as knowledgeable as he is enthusiastic. Now he’s starring in an HBO series called Barry that allows him to fulfill a lifelong dream to direct. Leonard and Jessie interviewed him in front of a live audience at South by Southwest and had a ball, as you will tuning in.
An overnight success in films like The Faculty and Halloween H20, Josh Hartnett has moved beyond being a teen heartthrob and proved that he’s a long-distance runner. He’s worked on Broadway and London’s West End and is choosing interesting film projects like the indie Oh Lucy! that’s now playing in theaters. Incredibly bright (and likable), he shares stories of working with everyone from Warren Beatty to Harrison Ford in this enjoyable chat with Leonard and Jessie. We even talked about our mutual interest in jazz.
Jimmi Simpson has carved a niche for himself as a young character actor who doesn’t shy away from playing weird, wacky parts. You may remember him as Lyle the Intern with David Letterman, or that guy on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. You may be watching him right now on Westworld or Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. The only thing his portrayals have in common is that they are memorable. Leonard and Jessie discover the bright, articulate man behind these “out-there” characters in a lively and engaging conversation.
Pete Hammond is the must-read columnist for Deadline Hollywood and the best Oscar handicapper in town. He’s also Leonard’s pal, since their days together at Entertainment Tonight, and Jessie’s godfather. He hosts screening series and more q&a panels than anyone can count. How did a lifelong movie fan carve this kind of career for himself? Listen and see how passion, knowledge and determination can spell success. In a business where bad behavior gets headlines, Pete is truly one of the Good Guys. Stay tuned and you’ll hear his predictions for this year’s Academy Awards.
Jordan Peele proved himself a brilliant sketch comedian long ago, but he’s made a remarkable transition to Oscar-nominated filmmaker with his knockout debut feature Get Out. Soft-spoken, articulate and admittedly shy, he is pursuing a lifelong dream of making movies—the kind that inspired him when he was young. Leonard and Jessie are delighted to have him as a guest in the final run-up to the Academy Awards.
The Emmy-winning creator of Everybody Loves Raymond is a pretty lovable guy himself. Phil Rosenthal is a writer, producer, author, and host of an irresistible Netflix series called Somebody Feed Phil in which he travels the globe bonding with people over food. Leonard and Jessie share his enthusiasm for that subject, but he’s also a major movie buff (with particular fondness for Stanley Kubrick) and a delightful guest.
We’ve all been watching and enjoying Dylan McDermott for years. In the hilarious new Fox TV series L.A. to Vegas he gets to exercise his comedy chops as Captain Dave and is having the time of his life. Leonard and Jessie are fans of the show and talk to him about it and other highlights of his rich career: being on Broadway in a Neil Simon hit for a solid year, working with Clint Eastwood, being directed by Jodie Foster, and much, much more.
The man who directed Superman (with Christopher Reeve), The Omen, Lethal Weapon, and The Goonies should need no introduction…but Richard Donner’s career began in theater and television and he has many great memories he’s happy to share. Is there anyone else who can say he directed episodes of Perry Mason, Get Smart, and Gilligan’s Island? Leonard and Jessie were happy to tap into his prodigious memory for an hour of wonderful anecdotes and observations.
The role of Gus in Breaking Bad (and its prequel, Better Caul Saul) has made Giancarlo Esposito world-famous, but he’s been acting since he was 8 years old—on Broadway, in films and television. Some of us first took notice of him in Spike Lee movies like Do the Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues. His newest film, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, has just opened in theaters. He describes himself as a chameleon but as Leonard and Jessie learn, he is also an extraordinarily charismatic man with a refreshingly positive outlook on the acting profession.
The writers and directors of the new sleeper Small Town Crime pay a visit, following their costar Clifton Collins, Jr. last week. Ian and Eshom Nelms have such energy and enthusiasm it’s no wonder actors like John Hawkes, Anthony Anderson, and Danny Glover are willing to work with them…not to mention Octavia Spencer, who helped pull their new cast together. Leonard and Jessie find it heartening that genuinely nice, un-cynical guys like these can still get movies made. Small Town Crime opens in theaters today and is also available on VOD.
Clifton Collins Jr. costars in the new movie Small Town Crime and is featured on HBO’s Westworld, but his credits are all many and varied: major features like Traffic, Babel, Capote, and Star Trek, episodes of TV series like Alias and Ballers, and a memorable cameo in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. He draws inspiration from his grandfather, Pedro Gonzales Gonzales, a lifelong entertainer who was under personal contract to John Wayne. In this colorful and unpredictable conversation Leonard and Jessie learn how he prepares for a role and makes it his own.
Robert Patrick had to overcome his first great success as T-1000 in Terminator 2. It’s the only way people could picture him, at first. But he beat the stereotype and hasn’t stopped working since: in memorable roles like Johnny Cash’s father in Walk the Line and on such hit shows as The Sopranos, True Blood, and (currently) Scorpion. He’s played opposite Melissa McCarthy and been directed by Clint Eastwood. What hasn’the done? Leonard and Jessie have fun talking with Robert about his prolific career.
Pop culture guru, comedy and animation writer, Jack Kirby biographer, and all-around good guy Mark Evanier joins Leonard to talk about one of their favorite subjects: Laurel and Hardy. Having grown up watching Stan and Ollie on television every day, they find it hard to imagine a generation that doesn’t know and love the great comedy team. Perhaps they will inspire you to revisit, or introduce yourself to, this timeless duo.
Alonso Duralde, the savvy and articulate film critic for The Wrap, joins Leonard and Jessie for a survey of the movie year 2017. They don’t always agree, but Alonso makes his case for some films Jessie and Leonard don’t care for, and vice versa. As the author of the book Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas, our guest also weighs in on some of his favorite films of the season.