Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries." (Julius Caesar; Act 4, Scene 3).

Category: Interviews (Page 2 of 6)

“Captain Fantastic” & “The Infiltrator” Best Movies of the Summer So far

For those of you tired of the seemingly endless supply of children’s animated films and/or Marvel Comic spin-offs, two new movies for serious film buffs offer respite this summer season, and I highly recommend them both.

First (because I saw it first, in Chicago, with the director present) would be “Captain Fantastic,” and, no, it is NOT a Marvel picture. Ross even told the impressed audience who had just sat through the film, that he was unaware that there was a comic book movie of the same name, as well as an Elton John album, but that he likes “powerful titles.”

PLOT

Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) has removed his children from society, living a seemingly idyllic life in the woods of Oregon. (Note: Director Matt Ross, himself, attended Julliard by way of Ashland, Oregon). The main character opts to educate his children on his own, but, as Matt Ross told “CineArts” magazine: “If we’re analyzing Ben’s faults, it is that he really hasn’t prepared them in terms of socialization to the world outside. He has this idea that, in order to really teach his children his values, he needs to take control of their education and their environment. In a larger case, that is true for everyone. We send our kids to school and hope that it’s the truth that they are being told and taught.”

Q&A

After the showing of the film at the AMC Theater in Chicago (it opened July 13th), Ross answered questions for the audience, and many of them had to do with the casting process for the children and the lead, played by Viggo Mortensen.

First, let it be noted that this is a film about family and the other great film of the summer (so far), “The Infiltrator” with Bryan Cranston, is also a film about family. Said Ross: “I think all great dramas are about the family. Look at The Godfather. What is it really about? It’s about family. Tonally, it’s a very different movie, but about family.” A great line from “The Infiltrator is this one, articulated by Benjamin Bratt’s character: “Without family or friends, what kind of world would this be? There would be no reason to be alive.”

Ross—who has an impressive array of movie and television roles to his credit, including Alvy Grant in “Big Love,” as well as roles in “American Psycho” (2000), “Face/Off” (1997), and “The Aviator” (2004)—both wrote and directed “Captain Fantastic” and it won him the Best Director award at Cannes for new directors, something he admits pleased him immensely.

BACKGROUND

The writer/director was also able to draw on his own life experiences as the product of a mother who was active in the eighties in commune-type life in North Carolina and Oregon, explaining that his parents were “artisans who didn’t’ want to live in cities, but in harmony with nature. I also lived in London and some people had electricity and plumbing. Some did not. We celebrate Noam Chomsky Day (Dec. 7th) at my house.” (A recurring film point).

Ross also admits that becoming a father, himself (he has two children) was a factor in the film’s genesis, saying, “For me, personally, the reason I wanted to tell this story is because I have two kids and I was certainly thinking, ‘What are my values? What do I want to teach my children?’”

The conflict in the film comes when Matt Cash’s wife, who is bi-polar, dies. Matt (Viggo Mortensen) and his unorthodox family are not exactly welcome at the funeral being planned by her father and mother (Frank Langella and Ann Dowd). It is obvious that Claire’s father (Langella) may blame Ben for his daughter’s death, and they have no intention of honoring her wishes of having a Buddhist funeral, cremating her remains and scattering her ashes. It is this crusade on the part of her husband and children to honor her wishes in death that becomes a major plot point, as they drive to the funeral destination, cross-country, on their family bus.

CONFLICT

One reviewer dissed this plot idea, but it serves the purpose of injecting even more conflict into the plot and making Ben Cash aware of how his own viewpoint about the world might not be the only point-of-view that his young children should be exposed to. In one of the most poignant scenes of the entire movie, Viggo is simply shown driving the bus, thinking that he has sacrificed his entire family to society (i.e., giving them up to his wife’s parents to raise) for their own good.

VIGGO MORTENSEN

Mortensen displays why he is such a perfect choice for the role and what a great actor he is during that scene, which consisted of no dialogue at all, but simply his own communing with his thoughts as he drives.

Ross said, during the Q&A, that Viggo Mortensen was his first choice to play the role, and it is quite easy to understand why if you know anything about Mortensen’s somewhat unorthodox lifestyle. Aside from Gary Busey, I’ve not read more stories about a leading man who “lives off the land” and generally has unusual idiosyncrasies in his personal life. Said Ross during the Q&A of the film in Chicago: “Viggo is always very real and very simple. On paper, the main character was more of a playful father. Viggo had a bit more of a center for him. Any actor will make a part their own. With actors, you get to see their work habits. For most people, you are not cognizant of the mechanics. Great film moments are great acting moments. Some directors do not like actors, but I have acted and I don’t feel that way. The answer is that I believe that if you’re reading and playing instruments and you are intelligent, you are right for these parts.

Ross even shared that Viggo showed up early with definite ideas about Ben Cash’s character. Said Ross: “He (Mortensen) helped build the set. He came a couple of weeks early and slept in the tipi before and during the shoot. He built the garden by himself and made sure it was a functional garden that would sustain itself throughout the year. He showed up with a pick-up truck full of props and books. We had an excellent prop department on hand, but he felt very strongly about what kinds of books the characters might read. I wanted to cast someone I believed could really live in this environment an actually understands what he’s talking about.” Said Ross to “CineArts’ Frank Gonzales, “That’s a tall order. You need an actor who can portray someone who is well spoken, well read, and very intelligent. These are challenges you have to navigate with casting, but with Viggo you absolutely believe it!”

Q1: What about the children in the film? How were they cast?

A1: “It was a traditional casting process with Jean Carthy doing the casting. We cast in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. We had an extensive call-back process. I wanted kids who were fit, who could play musical instruments. All the goods are objectively good actors, but I made judgment calls based on their spirit. For some kids, there was only one choice. I wanted them to look like Viggo’s—that they could be from the same gene pool. We were in Washington state for two weeks. Then we sent the kids to a wilderness camp: rock climbing. Rehearing music. Esperanto. Two girls actually killed a deer. Yoga. Viggo was learning to play the bagpipes. Training changed their eating habits during the time of shooting. Ultimately, we wanted them all to fall in love with Viggo. (*The children were Bo: George McKay; Rellian: Nicholas Hamilton; Kielyr:Samantha Isler; Vespyr: Annalise Basso; Zaja: Shree Crooks; Nai; Charlie Showell).

Q2: Talk a little about your directing style.

A2: I went through the script, line-by-line, and talked them through it. The way I like to work is they have their lives and they could follow them and improvise. I’m not propping up a dead object, but creating a living, breathing thing. Charlie picking his nose around the fire because he forgot he was being filmed is an example of that. Film is a collaborative medium.

In this way, Ross’ words echo the sentiment expressed regarding “The Infiltrator” in Frank Gonzales’ “CineArts” summer film guide this way: “All great moments in sports, in moviemaking, and in life are not done alone and in a vacuum. Just as a pro-golfer or tennis player needs a coach to nurture and push their talents to championship levels, a great movie is usually the result of a team of actors and artists working together to reach unprecedented heights. And the coach that gets them there is the director.”

Q3: What’s the deal with the Noah Chomsky references recurring throughout the film?

A3: (*Noah Chomsky is an intellectual who is far, far left). For me, personally, I think he’s a brilliant human being, a great humanitarian. You’d have to ask him about making his birthday (December 7th) a holiday like Festivus. He’s still alive. He might be appalled.

Q4: Talk about the opening scene of the movie, shot in the wilderness and involving the death of a deer.

A4: There is a tradition of felling a deer with nothing but a knife. I think it is felt that, in that way, they honor the deer. (Masai tribesmen sent their young men out to kill a lion with just a spear.)

Q5: When you conceived the story, did you have the backstory of Viggo’s wife Claire being bi-polar?

A5:

"Captain Fantastic" director/writer Matt Ross.

“Captain Fantastic” director/writer Matt Ross.

The short answer is yes. Because of the temporal nature of films, I outline very carefully. Things change when you’re writing it. And then there’s a long rewriting process.

Ross, when asked about how the family was able to survive in the wild (what about money?) said, “I purposely chose not to answer that. I think there are clues in the movie. She had a lucrative law career. I think they have savings and they are frugal.”

More about “The Infiltrator” momentarily.

Radio Interviews on June 1st & June 2nd

“Obama’s Odyssey” continues its national radio tour with 3 stops tomorrow and some special pricing.

The stops will be: 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., CT in Centralia, Illinois on WILY-AM with Tootie Cooksey’s “Hotline.”

11 to 11:30 a.m. on WAMV-AM with Bob Langstaff’s “We the People” in Amherst, Virginia.

Noon to 12:16 on KPCL-FM in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Annette Ayoub’s “Day Brightener.”

In conjunction with the radio tour, Volume II of “Obama’s Odyssey” is FREE for June 1 and June 2. Volume I is only 99 cents in e-book format from Amazon. The easiest way to “click through” and get to the special offers (which will expire on June 2nd) is to go to ConnieCWilson.com and click through, although you can also opt to go directly to Amazon and type in the book’s titles (Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House) and/or my author name, Connie Corcoran Wilson).

Specific Times & Stations for Radio Tour

It was pointed out to me that potential listeners would not know, from my previous post, what station to tune in to (if they happened to be in cities ranging from Ocala, Florida to Minneapolis, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington.)

So, here is a more specific update by station and show and time for May 18th, Wednesday, only. There will be an additional 5 stations on May 19th and then it will jump till June 1st.

Don’t forget: on May 18, 19, 20 and June 1 and 2, you would be able to download BOTH “Obama’s Odyssey” books for a total of 99 cents, because of the radio tour. Volume II will be totally free and Volume I will only cost 99 cents (normally $4.99) for the dates mentioned here.

Wednesday, May 18:
1) Harrogate, TN, WCXZ-AM with Tom Amis in the Morning from 7:30 to 7:40 a.m.
2) Willmer, MN, KWLM-AM with Bill Dean’s The Morning Brew from 7:50 to 8:00 a.m. (*Note: Bill Dean once attended the Mason City, IA, auctioneer college.)
3) Charleston, SC, WTMA-AM with Charlie James from 8:06 to 8:16 a.m.
4) Minneapolis, MN, KBEM-FM, with Ed Jones from 8:40 to 8:50 a.m.
5) Charlotte, NC, WSAT-AM, with Buddy Poole from 8:50 to 9:00 a.m. (*Note: Buddy is now General Manager of the station, but he owned it up until 2014.)
6) Lexington, KY, WMST-AM, Dan Manley’s Mid-Mornings on Main from 9 to 9:30 a.m. (*Note: this is a full half-hour on Kentucky radio. Yee haw!)
7) Hartford, CT, WJJF-FM with The Lee Elci Show from 9:40 to 9:50 a.m. (*Note: Lee used to play pro baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals.)
8) Ocala, FL, WOCA-AM, Larry Whitler’s The Source from 10:05 to 10:15. (*Note: This is a Fox News Outlet).
9) Festus, MO, KJFF-AM, Matt West’s The Morning Magazine from 10:30 to 10:40 a.m. (*Note: Festus, Missouri, is just south of St. Louis, I’m told.)

Thanks to all the radio hosts and wish me luck at those hours in the morning!

“Obama’s Odyssey” (Vols. I & II) on Radio & Specially Priced

For all of you who, like me, are watching this year’s presidential race with mouth agog, I thought I would remind you that my book about Hillary Clinton’s last run for the presidency, [when she was soundly beaten by the upstart Barack Obama], is going to be on a national radio tour of 18 major markets, starting tomorrow, May 18th.

In honor of my dragging myself out of bed and speaking to morning drive talk show people from coast to coast (list to follow), I’ve lowered the price of Volume I of “Obama’s Odyssey” (e-book only) to 99 cents for the dates May 18, 19, 20, June 1 and 2 and we are giving Volume II away absolutely FREE during those same dates. (Normal price: $4.99 in e-book; $14.99 per book in paperback).

If you don’t know much about either book, you can see me explaining my light-hearted approach to political coverage in a YouTube video that was shown on Chicago television. Simply go to YouTube and type in Connie Corcoran Wilson. You’ll see a picture of Joe Biden, one of the many politicians I tracked through the snowy wastelands of Iowa (and elsewhere) for close to 24 months in 2008.

My 1,000 articles were “hit” over 3 million times by Yahoo readers, and I was named Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics. The books came later—not until after July 14 of 2014, when the Content Contributor Network I served for 10 years was dissolved to employ Katie Couric, instead. ($10 million for Katie; $0 for us).

The company informed us they were not going to maintain the servers to keep the thousands of articles from those of us in the Content Contributors’ Network up on the Internet.

So began MY Odyssey of hiring public school teachers who were off work in the summer to assist me in getting my articles down off the Internet before they would be trashed. And, once down, it seemed as though there were too many pictures–especially unused ones still in my pictures file— for just one book, so I divided the campaign up into 2 parts: 1) The run-up to the conventions, when various candidates jockeyed for position to be their party’s nominee and,
2) The campaign itself, right up to and through the Inauguration.

Volume I has 67 blog posts from the field, with only 27 photos. Volume II has 60 (sixty) previously unpublished historic photographs taken all over the country and within the DNC and RNC, town hall meetings and the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic, with 27 accompanying articles.

My appearances on various radio stations began with a small station in Brownwood, Texas at 7:10 a.m. Tomorrow, 9 stations will speak with me, as follows:

1) Harrogate, TN, WCXZ-AM, Tom Amis in the Morning
2) Willmer, MN, KWLM-AM, Bill Dean’s the Morning Brew
3) Minneapolis, MN, KBEM-FM, Ed Jones
4) Charleston, SC, WTMA-AM, Charlie James
5) Charlotte, NC, WSAT-AM, Buddy Poole
6) Lexington, KY, WMST-AM, Dan Manley, “Mid Mornings on Main”
7) Hartford, CT, WJJF-FM, Lee Elci, “The Lee Elci Show”
8) Ocala, FL, WOCA-AM, Larry Whitler’s “The Source”
9) Festus, MO, KJFF-AM, Matt West’s “The Morning Magazine

On May 19th, Thursday, I’ll be chatting with:
10) Burlington, IA, KBUR-AM, the Steve Hexom Show
11) West Chester, PA, WCHE-AM, Geoff Harris
12) Seattle, WA, KORE-FM, Ken Johannessen
13) Minneapolis, MN, KLTF-AM, Ron Specker’s “Party Line”
14) Yuba City, CA, KUBA-AM, Moe Howard

Then, I’ll be silent (and sleeping in) until June 1st, when I’ll be heard on:
15) Centralia, IL, WILY-AM, Tootie Cooksey
16) Amherst, VA, WAMV-AM, Bob Langstaff’s “We, the People”
17) Albuquerque, NM, KPCL-FM, Annette Ayoub’s “Day Brightener”

If you’re anywhere within listening distance of these stations, tune in. If you’re not, I recommend the YouTube video, which I may post here momentarily.

And, regardless, please consider downloading (or is it uploading?) a FREE copy of Volume II of “Obama’s Odyssey” on the days it is free (May 18, 19, 20 and June 1, June 2) and a 99 cent copy of Volume I on those same days.

Anyone who knows my aversion to early mornings knows I won’t be doing THIS again any time soon, so get them while you can!

Blog Tour Ongoing for “Obama’s Odyssey” (Vol. I)

Right now, there is an ongoing blog tour for the first volume of “Obama’s Odyssey,” complete with some giveaways for a free copy on some blogs.

Originally, the tour was to kick off as I returned from Cancun (April 23), but apparently it started while I was out of the country, so I will attempt to find the dates and blog links to report to you, but, in the meantime, go out to Amazon, type in my name (Connie Corcoran Wilson) and check out the 6 new reviews for Volume I (which is the only one actually “on tour” currently).

I will be doing a radio interview with a Texas station this coming Thursday morning at 7:40 a.m. and the book is currently on the shelves of Book People, the largest independent bookstore in Texas, in Austin on Lamar Boulevard.

There is also a giveaway ongoing until May 28th on Goodreads for Volume I in paperback.

As soon as can, I will post the blog tour links for this timely book, but you can see many of the reviews posted behind the Amazon listing.

SXSW: Tony Robbins, Self-Help Guru, Profiled for Netflix

Tony Robbins

 

Surprise!

Imagine my surprise when a documentary at SXSW that I thought was entitled “The Incomparable Rose Hartman,” about a famous female photographer who catalogued Studio 54 in its heyfrday (70 minutes) turned out to be “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru,”documentary from Director Joe Beringer for Netflix.

 

About the Film

The film follows self-help guru and author Robbins (name at birth: Anthony J. Mahavoric) through 6 days of his intensive and expensive self-help sessions entitled “Date with Destiny.” With 2500 people from 71 countries in the large ballroom, all having paid roughly $5000 a head for the 6 days, doing the math led me to a figure of $1,250,000 for the take on this event. Indeed, Wikipedia estimates Tony Robbins made $30 million in 2007. Pretty good for someone who never went to college and once worked as a janitor.
Having come to see a film that was only supposed to be 10 minutes longer than an hour, I found the nearly 2 hour film very long. The last (6th) day could have been omitted entirely, as far as I’m concerned, as it left me thinking of Don Draper at the end of “Mad Men,” while the preceding 5 sessions were more like Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” (for which Cruise won the Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.) That film role was written specifically for Cruise by Anderson and modeled on a different self-help guru who advised people how to get dates.

 

Robbins would be the first to acknowledge that he “planned” himself into his overpaid career as a motivational guru, speaker and author. It’s a little bit like the old saying, “You don’t plan to fail; you fail to plan.”

 

Robbins did not fail to plan and he claims that taking care of an abusive, pill-dependent mother turned him into what he termed “a practical psychologist.” (Wikipedia says that his mom chased him out of the house with a knife when he was 17 and he never went back.) Today, Robbins the motivational speaker says, in the film, “If she had been the mother that I wanted, I would not be the man I am.” He also says, “Most of us are so busy living life that we don’t have time to design a life, and you’re going to wake up in 10 years and say, ‘Where did it go?’”
Tony is asked, at one point, by the director, what his own “breakthrough” moment in his life was, and he dodges the question as skillfully as any politician, while giving props to a high school forensic speech teacher in his sophomore year at Glendora High School, Mr. Cobb. Apparently, Mr. Cobb launched young Tony into a speech competition, telling him, “You’re not a speaker; you’re a communicator” and Tony’s stellar performance in the category of Persuasive Oratory led him, ultimately, to some work with neuro-linguistic programming, as well as skydiving, board breaking and firewalking to help those attending his seminars break through barriers (and, no doubt, be entertaining while doing that.) He also studied Ericksonian hypnosis.

Some notable quotes from the six-day seminar:

  • “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and under-estimate what they can do in decades.”
    “I constructed this Tony Robbins guy.” (*Fact: Tony’s mother’s 3rd husband’s last name was Robbins and he adopted young Tony to give him that surname.)
  • “Everyone needs something to move forward to, to move towards.
  • “Date with Destiny is a place that you go to discover who you are and what you are about at this time in your life.”
  • “Words have the power to pierce the pattern” (used to explain why he seems overly fond of the “F” word.)
  • “Life is happening FOR us, not TO us.”
  • “The whole thing is a dance.”
  • “What’s prevented you from having the life you deserve?” (This after some scenes of meetings with staff, where they discussed the mix of variety/entertainment/energy/engagement and “people with red flags.”

 

Dramatic Interactions

In any group this size, says Tony to staff, there are going to be about 12 who are suicidal. He assigns various staffers to support those identified through their writing(s) on questionnaires as potentially suicidal. One young person had attempted suicide only 2 days prior. It is also these writings, handed in during the sessions, that guide much of the next day’s “interactions,” as dramatic situations take precedence over the ordinary.
For instance, one 26-year-old young attractive woman named Dawn, who was abused sexually as a member of a cult called Children of God. We hear Dawn’s sad story of sexual abuse of her entire family unit. She broke free, but now feels that she is not strong enough to provide emotional support to every other family member, all of whom she describes as depressed. We later learn that she has pawned all her belongings to get the $4,995 fee for the seminar, but it pays off when $100,000 is donated to Dawn to help others like herself. (She is now writing a book). Dawn also scores private sessions with Chloe Madonna, whom Tony touts as a great therapist, and 3 friends (male) whom she selects from among the mesmerized audience who agree to contact her monthly for 6 months.

 

One woman is made to call her boyfriend up on the phone and break up with him while everyone listens. (We are told later that this attractive forty-ish brunette had reconciled with her boyfriend after the class’ conclusion). I got the distinct impression that, if asked questions off camera, this woman might have been resentful of what Tony Robbins demanded of her. She did not seem to like the fact that he was “warm and fuzzy” to others he counseled, but not towards her.
The director asks “Are you ever concerned about giving the wrong advice?” This better-looking version of Dr. Phil says, “Depth is what people are missing. And when you take people deep, it’s riveting because it’s so rare.”
There was another encounter with a suicidal young man who seemed to be foreign-born. By the end of the tearful encounter, he is crowd surfing with a goofy look of happiness on his face as all his new friends support him. And a lot of the “therapy” of the moment seems to come from making those participating feel that they are surrounded by loving fellow humans, (whether or not they ever see these people again.)

The Music

Music is skillfully used to work the crowd into a certain mood prior to Tony’s arrival onstage, and music is used during his interactions (“Tiny Dancer” was playing in the background at one point). Translators are working with headsets to interpret Tony’s gems of wisdom into 6 different languages. Here’s one such truth: “You’re a miracle to everyone in this room. (Big hug here) With you, it stops. Pure love. You’re incredible. There’s no way I would feel like this unless I had felt emotions of my own that are similar. You take all the power back today.” (This to the Christian Soldier girl, Dawn).

Young People

I was struck by the fact that, for this documentary, which will be shown on Netflix, all the highlighted people were relatively young, well-dressed and attractive. There were no dowdy middle-aged women or overweight balding men being counseled about their difficulty adjusting to retirement (or some such). Everyone was beautiful, just like the sit coms on TV. And Tony, himself, is a handsome physical specimen. He grew 10 inches in high school (due to a tumor on his pituitary gland) and is an imposing physical presence, with perfect white teeth and a huge smile. He has been married 2 times and has paid judgments of $650,900 to Wade Cook for copyright infringement and plagiarism, [according to Wikipedia], and also was forced to pay $221,260 to the FTC, but he has also won at least one libel suit for a much smaller amount.

 

At one point, all the adult participants are shown making posters for Day 6 (the final day) and they are required to sit in a yoga Lotus position, palms upturned, chanting OM and thinking about 3 things they are grateful for at that last meeting while Tony says things like, “Take the greatest gift home—who you’ve become. You’ve been on a journey, not a trip. You were the concert…Heal the boy and the man will appear.” He talks about the “birth of new values, of a new life” and says the primary question is, “what you focus on in your mission statement.” (These were the posters all the participants were busily drawing prior to Day 6.)

Here At The End

Meanwhile, we learn that Tony’s staff of approximately 50 people are telling him how late he is running (2 hours, at one point) and he is selecting different strategies to employ in his final delivery of material (second wife Pearl “Sage,” married in 2001, is an acupuncturist, among other things.)
Tony Robbins’ TED talk in 2007 is the sixth most-watched TED talk, according to Wikipedia. He played himself in the 2000 movie “Shallow Hal,” as the guru hypnotizing Jack Black so that Jack Black could see the inner beauty of Gwyneth Paltrow’s obese female lead. Interesting, inasmuch as nobody in THIS documentary Is allowed that flaw. On Season 3, episode 22 of “Family Guy,” Tony Robbins was lampooned and a non-human character shown on TV screens in “Men In Black” is Robbins.
Tony Robbins.jpg He currently assists Oprah with a Lifeclass on her OWN network and is going to be the co-owner of a Los Angeles soccer league with Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm and Peter Guber in 2017.
Film editor for this Netflix documentary was Cy Christiansen. To Mr. Christiansen, I’d say, “Day 6 dragged.”

Howard Shore Is Honored at 51st Chicago International Film Festival on October 18th

On October 18, 2015, Howard Shore celebrated his 69th birthday inside the AMC Theater in Chicago, Illinois, listening to a studio audience of fans sing an off-key version of Happy Birthday To You. Shore was being given an award at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival, and the Canadian composer (Shore was born in Toronto, Canada)—winner of 3 Oscars, 3 Golden Globe awards and 4 Grammies—shared many stories of his collaborations with such great directors as Martin Scorsese (5 films) and David Cronenberg (all but one of Cronenberg’s films). [*See the Filmography at the end of the article.]

As Shore told it, he had admired David Cronenberg’s dark films from the age of 14, but didn’t get up the courage to ask if he could do the music for one of Cronenberg’s horror films until the age of 28 in 1978, after completing his training at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, (where he is now on the board.)

Howard Shore waves to the audience singing "Happy Birthday" to him on October 18th.

Howard Shore waves to the audience singing “Happy Birthday” to him on October 18th.

Shore described how he selected a clarinet housed in a shoebox as his first musical instrument at the age of 8, saying, “The clarinet seemed pretty hip for a 10-year-old.” He began writing musical harmony with a pencil (which he said he still does today) and training in harmony and counterpoint from an early age, thanks to an early teacher Morris Weinstein, and the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), a government institution, welcomed him and gave him an early start. Shore says the government tested the hearing of all young children. When his hearing was found to be excellent, they encouraged him to become a musician. He reminisced, “I was a kid in a room with a tape recorder listening to a lot of good music.” Shore acknowledged that his life has been one of capitalizing on opportunities that came his way as they came his way.

Howard Shore in Chicago.

Howard Shore in Chicago.

A chance meeting at summer camp with another future prominent Canadian, Lorne Michaels, creator of “Saturday Night Live,” would lead Shore to do summer camp productions of plays like “West Side Story” as well as a show called The Fast Show with Michaels, and, ultimately, to perform onstage with the original “Saturday Night Live” greats gathered from such diverse cities as Detroit (Gilda Radner), Los Angeles’ Groundlings troupe, and Chicago’s own Second City. Shore would do 103 live episodes of “Saturday Night Live” between 1975 and 1980, even appearing as a beekeeper in a Belushi skit. He gave John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd their nickname “The Blues Brothers.”

In the Q&A following the showing of clips from his many film triumphs, Shore spoke about his illustrious career.

Q1: Was collaboration stimulating for you, or was it just a means to an end?
A1: I was used to writing and acting with other people. Working in film is really working in the theater, but you’re till the lonely kid in the room. It sort of combined everything I liked.

Q2: How did you end up on “Saturday Night Live”?
A2: I met Lorne Michaels in summer camp in Canada. We used to do summer camp productions and we did some collaborating at the CBC. Then, a few of us ended up in New York City putting on this show. I didn’t give up my home in Canada, at first. I don’t think I really thought I could make a living at this or at putting music in film, or that “Saturday Night Live” would last, but I was always interested in working with strings and orchestras. I think I worked for 10 years before it occurred to me that I might be able to make a living at this. In 1986, after I had done “After Hours,” “Big” and “The Fly,” Scorsese knew Cronenberg and, from word-of-mouth, I got the job of doing the music for “The Aviator,” which was set when silent films were giving way to sound. There was a certain sound then. I was doing concerts of “Lord of the Rings” with a symphony in Belgium and that West German sound was good for “The Aviator,” which used percussion and castanets—the castanets because of the Hispanic influence in Los Angeles. Marty was using Bach, also.

FilmFestival2015 049Q3: Working with Scorsese was another big collaboration of your life. How was that?
A3: Marty doesn’t like to watch his films with temporary music inserted, as some directors do, or any music inserted that doesn’t belong. David Cronenberg is very similar. What Marty does that I love is that he collects sounds, from a jukebox playing in a scene, etc. I’ll collect them and slowly build from that material. For “Hugo,” a couple of sounds per month were collected. I’ve never seen a director do that as well as Scorsese. But Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings”) works completely differently. Marty doesn’t want to give anything away with the music, but Peter wants to reveal and have it out front in his films.

Q4: Tell us about your music for “The Silence of the Lambs”?
A4: In “Silence of the Lambs” the music moves in very claustrophobically. Spooky sounds near the end. Heavy breathing when Clarice is in the basement in the dark. Muted somber tones. Jonathan Demme directed that film and he said to me, “Suppose we take the point-of-view of Clarice?” You could have written the music for Hannibal Lecter, but the score wasn’t created that way. Early nineties opera was really influencing me at the time—Verdi, Puccini. Now you see a lot of films being done this way. I did it in 1986 for “The Fly,” but I had difficulty with the producers—never with Cronenberg—but when the movie was a hit, the producers were going, “Oh, right.” Up until “The Fly” I hadn’t really had full London Philharmonic type sound access. All of that later developed into “The Fellowship of the Ring” music. I used to set up all of my recordings the way the New York Metropolitan did, splitting the violinists, the cellos over here, bass over there. Most movies at that time weren’t being done that way. This score was interesting, because depending on how the orchestra was playing that day, I’d adjust. It even led to things like the film “Crash” and the techniques in that 1995 film sort of led to surround sound.
Film music is a perspective. You could take any scene and do it 7 or 8 different ways. David Cronenberg wants his music to be more ambiguous. He doesn’t want to tell the audience anything up front, but Peter Jackson wants it the opposite with everything in the center. He wants clarity.

Q5: Tell us about your work for the movie “Seven.”
A5: With the movie “Seven,” directed by David Fincher—who is a great director— I was going with electronics, ocean sounds, underwater things, whereas the music in “Silence of the Lambs” always sounds a little unsettling and disturbing.

Q6: What about your score for the Johnny Depp movie “Ed Wood,” directed by Tim Burton?
A6: That was set in a great period for music—the late fifties . Jazz. Cuban music. Mancini scores. They were all coming in. It was a very rich period for music and the theramin instrument was being used. It’s the only instrument that you don’t touch. It was created as a classical instrument. Working with Tim Burton was a great project, a lot of fun. You couldn’t really do anything wrong in his world.

Q7: What about Cronenberg’s “Crash”?
A7: I did “M Butterfly” right before “Crash” with 2 harps…actually 3 harps: left, center and right. I added 6 electric guitars, so it became sort of a live ensemble. Then, I added 3 woodwinds and then metal percussionists, playing into the idea of machines and their fetishistic relationships to people. (“Crash” was David Cronenberg’s 1995 film.) It produces a sound that’s hypnotic and dangerously inviting.

Q8: How was collaborating with Scorsese on “Hugo,” for which you received your 4th Oscar nomination?
A8: Collaborating with Marty again felt the same. This was Scorsese’s first 3D picture and the films of Michael Powell influenced his approach. Powell is widely regarded as a British filmmaker who should perhaps be considered up there with Hitchcock, but his controversial 1960 film “Peeping Tom” made it nearly impossible for him to work again. His career went off the rails, but he was married to Thelma Schoonover, Scorsese’s long-time film editor, from May 15 of 1984 until his death in February of 1990, so there was that influence in “Hugo.” The entire movie is really a love affair: a movie about making movies.

Q9: What about “Lord of the Rings?” How much music did those films require? How long did those scores take?
A9: “The Fellowship of the Rings” project was like scoring 4 films. The extended version would be 5. It is eleven and one-half hours of original scoring for film and it took me 4 years writing the music. It was a great project and came to me with great timing. It had a lot of good strokes for me. It all came together for me, as a composer. I was trying to put Peter Jackson’s images into music. [*Note: Since 2004, Shore has toured the world conducting local orchestras in performances of his new symphonic arrangement of his highly acclaimed “Lord of the Rings” scores, a new work entitled “The Lord of the Rings: Symphony in Six Movements.”]

Filmography:

“I Miss You. Hugs and Kisses” (1978)
“The Brood” (1979)
“Scanners” (1981)
“Videodrome” (1983)
“Nothing Lasts Forever” (1984)
“After Hours” (1985)
“Fire with Fire” (1986)
“The Fly” (1986)
“Nadine” (1987)
“Moving” (1988)
“Big” (1988)
“Dead Ringers” (1988)
“She-Devil” (1989)
“An Innocent Man” (1989)
“Signs of Life” (1989)
“The Local Stigmatic” (1990)
“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
“A Kiss Before Dying” (1991)
“Naked Lunch” (1991)
“Prelude to a Kiss” (1992)
“Single White Female” (1992)
“Sliver” (1993)
“Guilty as Sin” (1993)
“M. Butterfly” (1993)
“Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993)
“Philadelphia” (1993)
“The Client” (1994)
“Nobody’s Fool” (1994)
“Moonlight and Valentino” (1994)
“Seven” (1995)
“Before and After” (1996)
“Crash” (1996)
“The Truth About Cats and Dogs” (1996)
“That Thing You Do!” (1996)
“Striptease” (1996)
“The Game” (1997)
“Cop Land” (1997)
“Gloria” (1999)
“eXistenZ” (1999)
“Analyze This” (1999)
“Dogma” (1999)
“High Fidelity” (2000)
“The Cell” (2000)
“The Yards” (2000)
“The Score” (2001)
“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001)
“Gangs of New York” (2002)
“Panic Room” (2002)
“Spider” (2002)
“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002)
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)
“The Aviator” (2004)
“A History of Violence” (2005)
“The Departed” (2006)
“Soul of the Ultimate Nation” (2007)
“The Last Mimzy” (2007)
“Eastern Promises” (2007)
“Doubt” (2008)
“The Betrayal” (2008)
“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (2010)
“Edge of Darkness” (2010)
“A Dangerous Method” (2011)
“Hugo” (2011)
“Cosmopolis” (2012)
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012)
“Jimmy P” (2013)
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (2013)
“Gynasiearbetet: En Introduktion” (2015)

Bill Murray’s Role in “St. Vincent” Generating Oscar Buzz

St. Vincent Director Ted Melfi managed to get Bill Murray to star in “St. Vincent” by being persistent and calling him “about 40 times” on his 800 phone line, because Murray has no manager or press agent. Says Melfi, “The hardest part about getting Bill Murray in anything is finding him, because he has no agent and no manager; he has an 800 number. I bet I called that 800 number 40 times. When he actually did call me back, at first, I didn’t think it was him. Then I realized that was his voice.”

 

“So Bill Murray says, ‘Meet me at LAX in an hour, which was 9 o’clock. And so I drive down to LAX, and, sure enough, Bill Murray comes down the causeway and says, “Ted? Let’s go for a drive.’”
“ We drive for 3 hours from L.A. to the Pechanga Indian Reservation and Casino. So, Bill says to me, “I like you. Do you wanna’ do this movie?”

I said, “Yes…that’s what I’m here for”
“Do you want to do it with me?”
I said, “Yes, and Bill Murray says, ‘Let’s do it!’”

“I say, the only thing is, do you think you could tell someone else besides me that this whole thing happened—that we were driving down the road and you agreed to do the film? I can’t go to the studio and say, ‘Hey! Bill Murray said yes in the back of a town car on the highway on the way to an Indian Reservation. That’s just not gonna’ happen.”
“I look at Bill Murray and I don’t just say, ‘He’s one of the greatest comedians of our time. He’s one of the greatest actors of our time. And what people don’t know about Melissa (McCarthy) is that this girl did 7 years of hard-core drama in New York theater. And the goal for us, on set, was to not be funny.” This is quite obvious in the dialed-down performance of the often over-the-top McCarthy. Naomi Watts’ part as the brash Russian hooker/stripper is quite the departure from the woman surviving the tsunami in Thailand, but she pulls it off (No pun intended). Writer/Director Melfi described her talent as “the tip of the iceberg.” Chris O’Dowd, as always, was genial and enjoyable.
Says Melfi, “I remember the first day, I said, ‘Bill—do you want to rehearse with the kid?’

And Bill says, ‘No.’ And I think, ‘This is not gonna’ be good.’

I bring the kid to the set and take him over to Bill and I say, ‘Bill, this is Jaeden; Jaeden this is Bill.”

Bill grunts. And walks away. And I think, ‘This is not gonna’ work out.’

And then they did a scene together and Bill comes up to me after and says, ‘The kid’s good.’ And I said, “Yeah—he’s pretty good.’ And Bill said, ‘He’s real good.’ Once he figured out that the kid was good and that he was not a “kiddy” actor, they became, like, very best friends. In fact, Jaeden got the part on Cameron Crowe’s new movie. And Jaeden goes to Hawaii and Bill is offered a part in the Cameron Crowe movie. And Jaeden goes, ‘You should do it.’ And so Bill flies to do the Cameron Crowe movie because Jaeden told him to do the movie, and they spent the whole month scuba diving. So, it’s like this most ridiculous love affair, father/son beautiful thing.”
Melfi shared the story of the film’s genesis (which he wrote and directed).  Melfi and his wife adopted his brother’s 11-year-old daughter after his eldest brother died eight years prior. Her Catholic school in Los Angeles made the assignment that is featured in this touching-but-funny movie. The students in Melfi’s daughter’s new school were assigned to write a paper on a “modern day” saint in their real life and a historic saint who shared the same qualities. She picked St. William of Rochester,  the patron saint of adopted children, just like Oliver in the movie. “And, ” adds Melfi, “she picked me. It was just like this touching, sentimental moment for us. And I said, ‘Okay. That’s the movie.”

“Vincent is a timeless character because so many of us get to the end of our lives and go, “That was it?”
“So, what’s amazing about the movie, for me is that this little kid, Oliver, who’s 12, tells him, ‘Dude, you did great. You served our country in the war. You took care of your wife for 8 years. You did freaking great, so be proud of what you’ve done.
“Too many filmmakers think to themselves that they have to put their stink on everything they make,” says Melfi. Using Michael Bey’s films as an example, Melfi said, “I choose not to stink up the place” ( “Last Call” appearance with Carson Daley). Says Melfi, “The film is about an older gentleman who is a Vietnam veteran who is kind of a drunk curmudgeon who doesn’t have much to live for any more until a little boy (Oliver, well played by newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) moves in next door to him.” The young boy  shows the boozy reprobate that he hasn’t been such a loser, after all. Murray becomes the boy’s nanny/babysitter while mother Melissa McCarthy works long hours as an X-ray technician.
“It is like The Isle of the Misfit Toys,” says Melfi. “Bill Murray is a misfit gambler. Melissa McCarthy is a broken-down single mom who can’t get her life together. Naomi Watts is a pregnant Russian hooker. So the only person who has their act together, really, is the kid.”
The film opens with Murray telling an Irish joke that involves confusion between the words porch and Porsche. (Fill in your own joke here). The joke’s not that funny, but, then again, the movie is not really a comedy, either. It’s more of a heart-warming “dramedy.” The humor it does contain is created by what we can call the Murray Mythos. Murray is laid-back. Eccentric. Cool. Funny in the Murray throw-away fashion. Gruff on the exterior; warm and fuzzy on the inside.
And, as we learn in scenes within the film, Vincent has been faithfully visiting his addled wife (in an expensive nursing home he can’t afford) for 8 years, even though she doesn’t remember who he is.
For me, the inclusion of Chris O’Dowd—who was so good in the little-seen movie “The Sapphires”—carried with it echoes of the younger Murray as he used to be on Saturday Night Live when he’d play everything from a bad lounge lizard singer to skits with Belushi and the gang. The troupe on SNL was truly remarkable. This cast is no less so, including Naomi Watts, Terrance Howard and the  trio of Murray, McCarthy and  child actor Jaeden Lieberher.
The scene we’ve all seen on television (official trailer above) where Murray tries to close out his bank account, only to learn that he has used up all the cash he received from a reverse mortgage and now has a negative balance is indicative of the kind of deadpan “so sad it’s funny” acting that Murray does so brilliantly.

What you don’t see on the film clip  is “the rest of the story.”

When the Asian bank teller initially asks him why he wants to close out his account, Murray says, “I do not want to tell you to go f— yourself, so let’s just leave it at that.” There are also some Murray Moments showing the cranky curmudgeon answering phone calls from telemarketers with his typical brioche.(“Come on, Coward! Try to sell me something.)
The film also drives a sharp stake through the use of the catch-all phrase, “It is what it is.” Murray boils it down this way, explaining that it really means: “You’re screwed and you shall remain screwed.”
Chris O’Dowd’s priest, a teacher at St. Vincent’s, the private Catholic School that Oliver attends, worked 12 to 14 hour days, flying in on the red eye and working for four days, as he was also simultaneously shooting a television project. O’Dowd’s scenes are  loose and genial. He gets the line, “Catholics are the best of all, because we have the most rules,” which he tells his classroom charges.
The concept of an adult who takes an innocent young boy out and exposes him to the seamier side of life was done earlier this year in Jason Bateman’s “Bad Words;” Murray’s taking young Oliver to the race track and a bar are scenes from the same playbook. The difference is that Oliver’s unsuspecting mother (Melissa McCarthy), who is waging a battle for custody of her young son, learns what “the babysitter” and his charge have been up to only when they are appearing in court. (The husband will be a familiar face from “Thirty Rock.”)

The other difference is that this is Bill Murray. Once Murray committed to the film, said Melfi, things fell into place. Other “name brand” actors wanted to work with Murray, in much the same way that marquee names known for taking films for reasons other than a gigantic pay-day attract other talented performers. This is an excellent cast, and they all deliver the goods.

It’s a fine movie with memorable performances. For emotional resonance, think of Clint Eastwood’s stint acting in “Grand Torino.” It’s always a pleasure to see Bill Murray in a role that lets him take the bit in his teeth and run with it, even if he’s running with a cigarette in his mouth and a drink in his hand.

So hunker down and enjoy the debut performances as well as those by an accomplished actor who seemingly can do it all.

 

One-on-One with Liv Ullmann, Star of Ingmar Bergman’s Films

One day after her film adaptation of the 1888 Strindberg play “Miss Julie” opened the 50th Chicago Film Festival, actress Liv Ullmann was kind enough to speak with me one-on-one about the film, her future projects, and life, in general. We met at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Chicago and the beautiful Norwegian actress, muse to Ingmar Bergmann in so many of his films, was warm and welcoming.

 

Ullmann had much praise for her “Miss Julie” dream cast (Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton) saying, of Jessica Chastain, “She is both cool and cold. She’s a young woman grappling with non-existence. I just think she’s a genius. It’s very much the way I act.” She added, “I think the actors’ movie is the actors’ movie” and praised the trio universally. Liv remarked on Miss Julie’s feeling of not belonging, indicating that she thought Ms. Chastain was remarkable as the female lead.

 

The director was no less effusive in her praise of male lead Colin Farrell, saying, “No one else could do the movie as he did it.” Although selected partially because of his handsome good looks, Ullmann remarked that, during filming, Farrell awoke one night and wrote a poem as though he were John the valet, writing to Miss Julie. “I tried to find a way to use it in the film,” said Ullmann, “but ultimately we could not fit it in.”

 

Ullmann said, of Farrell’s selection as the male lead, “I saw a lot of Colin’s movies and I could see that he is also a theater actor. For me, I like to work with theater actors because I like to make films that are film theater.”

 

I mentioned Farrell’s appearances in both “Tigerland” and “In Bruges,” both early films of his, and also repeated the quote that Al Pacino once called Farrell “the greatest actor of his generation.” Liv Ullmann said, “He was fantastic in “In Bruges.’ What first sold me on him for ‘Miss Julie” was what he said during a phone conversation.  It floored me.  I thought, ‘This is a soul mate.’ He’s an incredible actor and he’s going to bring what I think no one really will expect from him to television’s ‘True Detective,’ (with Vince Vaughan) because he has dimensions which you seldom see in a film actor. He shows you the good and, at the same time, he shows you the bad.”

 

I had brought along a Chicago Tribune clipping about an Atlantic Monthly article quoting Mayor Emanuel’s older brother, a noted oncologist and bio-ethicist, saying that 75 was the optimal life span. After that, suggested the Mayor’s older brother, you were not viewed the same way and might even be seen as pathetic.

 

Upon entering the room, I gave the article to Ms. Ullmann and said, “The Mayor of Chicago’s older brother says we all should die at 75.” This was a bit of a simplification, but the thought was definitely there in Ezekial Emanuel’s words. [Ezekial Emanuel is an oncologist and bio-ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania and has been singled out by his brother, the Mayor, as “the smartest one” of the three brothers].

 

Unfortunately, Liv Ullmann thought I had used the word “diet.” When she realized that the word was actually “die” she seemed as upset by Ezekial Emanuel’s remarks as I was. She is also deeply concerned about the class system and the unequal distribution of wealth that is occurring, world-wide, saying, “I believe more in its (the class system’s) existence now than ever!” She was praised for her humanitarian works from the stage on Premiere night by Colin Farrell.

 

New projects? “I will be doing an adaptation of ‘Private Confessions.’ Ingmar (Bergman) gave it to me years ago saying, “I don’t believe in God, but you do.” The National Theater in Norway will adapt it for the stage.” Ullmann said, “It is about connecting. How damaging is it to lie to one another? How damaging is it to be truthful?”

Interviewing Celebrities: Finding Out “Who Is Naughty & Who Is Nice”

EdBurnsCloseUp

Guillermo del Toro, with Ron Perlman in background.

Guillermo del Toro, with Ron Perlman in background.

Kurt Vonnegut
Russell Crowe.

Russell Crowe.

In reading today’s March 21st Chicago Tribune, an interview caught my eye, with comments from television’s Giuliana Rancic. She relates that when she was conducting red carpet interviews and was fairly new at her job she encountered Russell Crowe.

Says Rancic: “Russell Crowe was so mean to me. I had been at ‘E!’ for a year, and I thought, ‘I’m going to go easy because he’s pretty tough.’” (Giuilana might have been referencing the telephone-throwing incident that has haunted Crowe since a New York City hotel stay.)

Rancic:
“Are you excited to be here? Your big movie premiere!”

Crowe: “I’m contractually obligated to be here. What’s your next question?”

Rancic: “OK—um—isn’t it so wonderful to see all the fans?”

Crowe
: “’That’s your second question? One, two, you’re through.’ And then he walked away, says Rancic.

The retelling of a bad interview brought back memories of some, good and bad, that I’ve conducted over the years. Perhaps among the worst was the interview of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., I conducted when a college sophomore at the University of Iowa.

I needed 2 more hours to transfer from Iowa to Berkeley and it was too late in the semester to sign up for an additional class, so I talked my instructor in “American Humor & Satire” into allowing me to do a special paper interviewing the notoriously crotchety author, who was then teaching on campus at the Writers’ Workshop. I had to get at least a “B” in order to transfer to Berkeley from Iowa. That didn’t happen when the interview subject clammed up and became monosyllabic.

I had been interviewing adults since I was ten, so I had 8 or 9 years of experience interviewing others, but I had never interviewed a celebrity as prominent as Vonnegut.

Nor, as it turns out, as difficult as Kurt Vonnegut turned out to be.

Many years later, I was told that he hated, on sight, “little blonde girls from Minnesota.”

I wasn’t from Minnesota, but I qualified on the other counts.

I had read every book Vonnegut had ever written and was a huge fan. I was also immersed in the writing of other humorists and satirists as part of my “American Humor & Satire” class. We had just completed discussing “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller.

When I asked Vonnegut how he would compare his worldview with Heller he looked very irritated. It was late on a cold, wintry night. At that time, writing classes met in Quonset huts left over from World War II. He looked tired, haggard, cold, impatient, and like he’d rather be anywhere than where he currently found himself. Still, he had agreed to the interview, and I was trying to be properly respectful and had done my research on the Great Man.

Vonnegut fixed me with a tired, baleful glare and said, “There is no basis for any comparison.”

Welllllllllll. If you know anything about the work(s) of these two men, you might say that, at the very least, they deserve comparison because they were of the school of humorists then being dubbed “the black humorists” and were contemporaries.

After that, the interview quickly descended into Vonnegut acting like a bad guest on an old Johnny Carson show, and me beating a hasty retreat to try to make a paper out of few, if any, quotes. No longer could I plug in the author’s Words of Wisdom to the paper I had been working on for weeks, because he had offered no usable quotes of any kind.

The only thing I can say is that later Edie Vonnegut (Kurt’s daughter) ended up in my University Lab School class, never attended, and, therefore, flunked, so maybe there is some sort of Divine Justice.

As I read of Giuiliana’s experience(s) with Russell Crowe, I thought back to other famous celebrities I’ve been placed on the Red Carpet to interview, and how they have treated me as a print interviewer.

First, the good ones: Guillermo del Toro was a dream and so was Ron Perlman, who accompanied him. When I gave del Toro a copy of my book It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, he actually stopped so long that his handlers had to come urge him to move along. While standing in front of me browsing the book (in which he seemed genuinely interested), he noticed that his shoe was untied and said, with a laugh, “Oh! Oh! Fat man with shoe untied! Not good.”

Ed Burns
(“The Brothers McMahon”) was also very nice, posing with people in a friendly fashion. He was very charismatic. Likewise, Gary Cole was a good guy, but his companion that night (Dennis Farina), who I thought would be friendly and welcoming to any journalist in the Chicago crowd, was not, which surprised me. I expected him to give all of us a moment of his time, but the late Farina headed straight for the TV cameras and gave everyone else short shrift. Likewise, Forest Whitaker was kind and giving (when he finally arrived—quite late).

Among the worst experiences (after Vonnegut) was that of Alan Cumming (Eli Gold on “The Good Wife”). It wasn’t so much that Mr. Cumming was actively rude but that he acted as though anyone who did not have a TV camera on their shoulder was beneath his dignity. The rest of us were invisible. His handlers were actively involved in keeping all print journalists at bay.

As for writers, I’ve yet to encounter one who was as actively rude as Vonnegut in 1965, and I’ve interviewed David Morrell, Jon Land, Joe Hill, Anne Perry, William F. Nolan and many, many others.

Maybe writers are just naturally inclined to act more like “real people” since, in a sense, they ARE real people, known to audiences only because of their fictional constructs. There may be a few who don’t fit that description, but, in general, a best-selling writer can be as much of a celebrity (or as little of one) as he or she wishes, which is one good

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