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.
Rick Carter’s credits as production designer are staggering: Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, A.I., Amistad, Cast Away, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the two that won him Oscars, Avatar and Lincoln, to name just a few. Yet he remains open-minded and recently mentored eight local artists for an amazing installation at the El Segundo Museum of Art, or eSMOA. That’s where Leonard and Jessie sat down with him to discuss his extraordinary career and the exceptional films he’s helped bring to life.
Show business was always Martin Short’s destination. When he was a boy he wrote TV Guide listings for the variety show he envisioned for himself. Most of his dreams have come true, from television to Hollywood to Broadway. He’s just completed season 2 of Only Murders in the Building for Hulu, costarring his pal Steve Martin and Selena Gomez. If it looks like the stars are having a good time working together, it’s because they are. Both Leonard and Jessie were nervous talking to someone they admire so very much. Their guest was unfailingly thoughtful and good-natured. How could he be otherwise? He’s Martin Short!
Lots of baby boomers read comic books, but only one pursued his love of comics so far that he wound up buying the screen rights to Batman. It took ten years for Michael Uslan to get that first movie made, with Tim Burton behind the camera and Michael Keaton in front, but it was a game-changer for Hollywood. Michael has told his life story in a book, The Boy Who Loved Batman, and now it’s going to be a Broadway show! During the recording of this conversation Jessie realized that Michael and Leonard must have inhabited the same space at one time years ago. Listen in and you’ll learn the answer.
If you’re casting an unconventional character and you need someone the audience will relate to—no matter how strange his story—you might want to call on Paul Walter Hauser. Clint Eastwood did for the leading role in his movie Richard Jewell, Craig Gillespie did for I, Tonya, and Dennis Lehane did for the current Apple+ series Black Bird. (Spike Lee has used him twice—in Blackklansman and Da 5 Bloods.) Jessie has been a fan since the TV series Kingdom, and Leonard is still catching up with this gifted performer’s work.
Annette O’Toole’s first professional job was dancing with Danny Kaye on his network TV show… and she hasn’t stopped performing since. She’s about to film the fifth season of the Netflix series Virgin River and is brimming with enthusiasm for it. Her credits include six years as Ma Kent on Smallville, an Emmy nomination for playing Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy in The Kennedys of Massachusetts, and an Oscar nomination for the song “A Smile at the End of the Rainbow” from Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind (which she wrote with her husband Michael McKean). Leonard and Jessie love talking to people like Annette who love what they do—and are so very good at it.
Dennis Lehane is the best-selling author of Boston-based crime novels that have translated well to film (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone). His first experience with television was on The Wire, a great show that helped inform his new six-part series called Black Birds, which debuts Friday, July 8 on Apple+. It’s an incredibly gripping drama and Lehane is happy to talk about it with Leonard and Jessie. You’ll learn about the importance of casting not just the leading roles (Taron Egerton, Paul Walter Hauser, Ray Liotta) but every person who appears on camera.
Leonard and Jessie are unapologetic proselytizers for the new theatrical feature Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. This disarming feature is an outgrowth of a short Fleischer-Camp created with his partner, actor/comedian/filmmaker Jenny Slate that went viral back in 2010 when that was uncommon. Dean explains how he and Jenny dealt with that phenomenon and tried to protect their precious character, who emerges triumphant in this charming and surprisingly emotional film. If you’d like to hear our 2017 conversation with Jenny, just click HERE. https://maltinonmovies.libsyn.
Hi everyone… Jessie and I recently helped our beloved Richard Sherman celebrate his 94th birthday. He is a living legend and a bona fide Disney Legend who with his brother Bob wrote songs we all know and love from Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Disneyland, to name just a few of his many credits. We spoke to him in 2016 and thought it would be fun to play that episode again. His passion for music and life is inspiring, and we feel very lucky to know him
How is it that Kiwi native Rose McIver is so talented, so versatile, and still so nice? Popular most recently for her appearances on IZombie and the current Ghosts on CBS, she has also worked with Peter Jackson on The Lovely Bones and a host of other TV shows (like Masters of Sex) and films—going all the way back to Jane Campion’s The Piano--sometimes playing American (flawlessly) and other times letting her natural voice be heard. In any event, she’s fun to listen to.