Writer-director Greg Nava made his reputation with the unforgettable 1983 film El Norte, and then gave the world an exceptional musical biopic, Selena. He is happy to recount the stories behind those memorable films for Leonard, who witnessed El Norte’s breakout screening at the Telluride Film Festival, and Jessie, who has committed Selena to memory. This long-overdue conversation follows a happy reunion at this year’s Telluride fest.
Harold Lloyd dangling from the hands of a clock on the side of a building is arguably the most famous single image from the silent-film era. The movie in which that scene appears, Safety Last, was made in 1923 and is being screened Sunday at 2pm at the Academy Museum, with a 27-piece orchestra playing the late Carl Davis’s original score. Leonard and Jessie are delighted to welcome back Suzanne Lloyd, who was raised by her grandfather and grandmother, and her longtime friend Rich Correll, who as a teenager began the process of preserving Harold Lloyd’s film collection. We owe them both a debt of thanks for keeping these movies safe for current and future generations to enjoy.
Gifted and versatile are two adjectives that describe the women responsible for creating costumes for Netflix’s Emily in Paris (Marylin Fitoussi, who spoke to us from Paris), Queen Charlotte (Lyn Paolo and Laura Frecon) and the esteemed Colleen Atwood (Wednesday), who with this show continues her long partnership with filmmaker Tim Burton.
Several contributors to the Netflix series Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities discuss their collaboration: prosthetic makeup designers Sean Sansom and Mike Hill, production designer Tamara Deverell, and cinematographer Anastas Michos.
Two talented women talk about working on the long-running Netflix series The Crown: costume designer Amy Roberts and hair and makeup specialist Cate Hall. How does the challenge of replicating well-known figures from recent history affect their approach? Listen and find out.
Today we talk to some of the talented people who worked on the Netflix series Beef: costume designer Helen Huang, casting directors Charlene Lee and Claire Koonce, and editors Laura Zempel and Nat Fuller. You don’t have to be familiar with the show to enjoy hearing them describe their work and the passion they bring to each new project.
Alan Silvestri’s credits as a film composer are a bit overwhelming: Forrest Gump, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Abyss, The Avengers, and on and on. He has just hatched his first Broadway show, a musical version of Back to the Future that will soon open in London as well. And when John Williams was unable to compose the music for Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, Alan was the one chosen to fill his shoes. (It’s a great story…) Leonard and Jessie knew this would be an exceptional interview because Alan and Leonard share a history: they graduated from high school in the same class!
He acted in George Lucas’ first student film. He directed Honey, We Shrunk the Audience for Disney theme parks in 70mm 3-D. He made a virtual reality television series. He studied at USC with actress Nina Foch and “total filmmaker” Jerry Lewis. But as long as he lives, Randal Kleiser will be best known as the guy who directed Grease. He has a new book called Drawing Directors, based on his close encounters with notable colleagues, and has completed a documentary about his high school graduating class called Baby Boomer Yearbook. As Leonard and Jessie learned, Randal lives in the present, looking toward the future.
His name may be most closely associated with Laugh-In, the television comedy phenom of the late 1960s/early 70s, but George Schlatter has spent a lifetime in show business, with countless credentials and friendships to show for it At the age of 94 he’s Still Laughing—which is the name of his newly published autobiography. He kept Leonard and Jessie laughing as he spun tales of working with Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and the stars he launched on Laugh-In like Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin. The stories never stop…...
As president of Duplass Brothers Productions, Mel Eslyn has her finger in a number of creative pies. (She’s an executive producer of the underappreciated HBO series Somebody, Somewhere). The new theatrical release Biosphere bears her stamp as co-writer and director; she even got to direct her “boss,” Mark Duplass, who costars in this provocative comedy with Sterling K. Brown. Leonard and Jessie admire the way Mel and her colleagues work: offering opportunities and a helping hand to deserving beginners.
In this bonus episode, Jessie talks to actors Molly C. Quinn and Jennifer Holland and writer-director Natasha Halevi about their film Give Me An A. In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a number of actors, writers and crew joined forces to create this anthology feature about body autonomy. It’s raw and real, alternately serious and ridiculous, expressing genuine feelings about this startling reality.
The League is the latest documentary directed by Sam Pollard, and like most of his other work it is first-rate: a fascinating history of the Negro League and its often-overlooked contribution to baseball in America. Pollard has won almost every prize imaginable in his field and edited six features with his friend and contemporary Spike Lee. As Leonard and Jessie learned, he is also a major cinephile whose influences are wide-ranging. The League opens in selected theaters on July 7 and heads to VOD one week later, July 14. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate this slice of Americana: it is not to be missed.
Matthew Jeffers is a little person who possesses major talent. At one time his options in show business would have been limited, but witnessing the success of Peter Dinklage inspired him to pursue an acting career. Leonard and Jessie are among those cheering him on, as his costarring role in the 2022 sleeper Unidentified Objects has earned him a following. You also may have seen him on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or FBI. One thing is certain: his future is unlimited.
This long-married, theater-trained couple has been writing and producing popular television shows for some time, including Madam Secretary, Gray’s Anatomy, and Fire Country, but their newest creation is in a class by itself: A Small Light tells the story of Miep Gries, the remarkable young woman who hid Anne Frank and her family for two years during World War II. This emotionally charged eight-part series is a must-see, and you can find it on NatGeo, Disney+ and Hulu. Leonard and Jessie appreciated the chance to discuss it with Joan and Tony, who spent years researching and filming this exceptional show.
While he may be best known for his role on the hit show The Walking Dead, Chad L. Coleman has made indelible impression on many TV series, including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I Hate my Teenage Daughter, and Superman and Lois, to name just a few. His presence in the groundbreaking show The Wire still inspires him—and us. Leonard and Jessie were amazed at the breadth of his life experiences, which have surely contributed to his rich performances on stage and screen. His latest film is another unique endeavor, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster. The film will be exclusively in Theaters on June 9th, and on Digital and on Demand on June 23rd.
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.