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DVDTalk Interview - Peter Bogdanovich'
by Phillip Duncan

DVDTalk Interview - Peter Bogdanovich'

Director Peter Bogdanovich's career spans decades and includes such films as the Oscar nominated " The Last Picture Show" and the follow up "Texasville." The multi-talented director is also an accomplished actor, often taking small roles in film and television. Most viewers today would recognize his visage today from his frequent appearances on HBO's hit series "The Sopranos" as Dr. Melfi's psychiatrist. To top it all off, he is also an accomplished film scholar and writer who holds an almost unique view and position in the industry today. Throughout his career as a journalist he has interviewed many of the famous directors from the beginnings of cinema. He has called directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Howard Hawkes as friends. His background and love of cinema history has influenced his work and permeates his newest DVD release " The Cat's Meow " starring Kirsten Dunst, Cary Elwes and Eddie Izzard. DVDTalk writer Phillip Duncan was given the chance to chat with Bogdanovich regarding his newest DVD release, his upcoming projects and his thoughts on film today.

Are you a fan of the DVD format?

Definitely, video commentaries, outtakes, trailers, featurettes, and all that sort of stuff, I think it's just great. It's a boon for film students and I think it's a boon for fans to get all this extra stuff and I think it will give all pictures a new lease on life. I have in my own career, that I know of, there are five films of mine coming out shortly. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

I noticed that "Texasville" and "What's Up, Doc" were coming out shortly.

I think they're coming out this year. Unfortunately "Texasville" is not the version I would prefer. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

I noticed it was a bare bones edition. Were you involved?

They didn't even call me. They absolutely didn't even call me or ask me if I would od anything and they put out the wrong version. So I'm not thrilled with it and think it's not the one to buy. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Is that something you hope you can go back and revisit?

I would hope so. That's MGM. I don't know what they were thinking. Warner Brother's is putting out "What's Up, Doc," and we did an audio commentary, which I think is good. They putting some extra stuff on there and I don't know if Barbara (Streisand) has agreed to talk but I know they're after her. Paramount's putting out a package of three of my pictures next April, "Paper Moon, Targets" and "Daisy Miller." Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Going into the film, are you actively thinking about the DVD?

Well, we certainly had a lot of it on "The Cat's Meow" and I would certainly think about it from now on. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

There are several features on that DVD.

Oh yeah, there's a lot. There's a featurette, an EPK. There's quite a bit. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Is the commentary something you enjoyed doing on the film?

I like doing them better for newer films than older ones. The older ones you go down memory lane and sometimes you have few bumps in the road. This is fine, the one on "Cat's Meow." It gives you chance to look at the picture and remember everything you did and talk to the viewer about it. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

You originally heard this story from Orson Welles years ago. Was it your familiarity that made you choose this as your next picture?

No, the producers sent it to me and thought I'd be right for it. I got it and started leafing through the script and I said Holy Mackerel, this looks like the story Orson told me years ago, more than 30 years ago now, and I never thought about making it as a picture at the time. Never thought about making a picture of it until the script arrived. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

I noticed you tend to use a lot of long takes and extended scenes in your filmmaking.

I think that when you need a close-up or when you need to cut, if you've been cutting frantically the whole time you use up your vocabulary and you use up your grammar and you don't have anything to go to. It's very difficult with the kind of editing techniques that are current. It's very difficult to get an effect. You probably got to put some kind of cymbal crash to get somebody's attention. They do it with music a lot. Big stingers, you know. They do it with the soundtrack instead of visually. When I go to close-up it means something. It's using a close-up for what it's supposed to do, which is to have an impact. If you're whole picture is shot in close-up then when you need a close-up you don't have that in your vocabulary or in your grammar to use. So you've got to use music or something else to get people's attention. This must be important, let's hit it with about 15 pieces of brass. But I like the sustained scenes because the actors love it. Actors just love to sustain the scene and let it play. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Something they don't get a chance to do often.

No. We do move the camera sometimes quite a bit, but other times we just let it play because there's no reason why it shouldn't. There's no reason to interfere. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

It's also a sign that you have good actors.

Good actors and directorial continence.

Speaking of good actors, Joanna Lumley was just amazing and I did not recognize her until I looked on the credits.

She was a dream. I want the perfect actress. Okay, take Joanna Lumley. She's wonderful. She's funny, made wonderful contributions, fun to be with, can do anything. I just loved her, really. Crazy about her. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Eddie Izzard was incredible as Chaplin as well, something I would not have envisioned.

I didn't either. I didn't know who the hell to cast. I just got lucky. I couldn't figure out who to cast in that part, a very difficult role to cast. Thought of a few people, offered it to one person who turned it down and I'm very happy because Eddie was better. I just by coincidence was given a ticket to his in-person concert here at town hall in New York a couple of years ago and I went to see him. I had not seen him before, in fact never heard of him. It happened that his manager for a minute was my manager for a minute and he had a ticket. I went down and saw him and he blew me away. I thought he was brilliant. 10 or 15, 20 minutes into the show I thought, he's English and he's a comedian and he's short. He's a brilliant actor of comedy, which means he's a brilliant actor, because comedy is the hardest thing to do. I thought maybe he could play Chaplin, after all Chaplin was an English comedian who's short. I met with him a few days later and asked him if he would be interested and he was. He had just gotten into Chaplin just within a year of when we met. It was all fortuitous really. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Going back to DVD, you said you were a fan of the format. What was the last movie in your player?

I don't know, I haven't been looking at too many lately. What was it? "Marnie" maybe. It was either "Rear Window", "Marnie" or "Rio Bravo," because I've seen those lately. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

In your book "52 Classic Films," with the exception of a few, all of the films were made before 1963. Do you feel that films have declined in quality since then?

I think that I said in the introduction to that book that I feel there has been a general decline since the early 60's. Not that good films haven't been made, also I am trying to get people to focus on things more recent. All that anybody does generally in America is what's new and I'm all for what's older. I'm not worried that people will miss the more current films, since the 80's. These are all treasure waiting to be discovered and I think it's really sad that people don't know about these things. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Do you think things like AFI's film lists help promote older films?

Usually there are some older films on there so it's not a total loss. I disagree often with the 100 and think that some should be rated higher than others and some films in there I don't understand. At least it calls attention to older films and I think that's worthwhile. There's certainly quite a few in each list that are worth seeing. It's not a perfect world. Certainly they wouldn't be my choices, not a lot of them. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

When you were directing "The Cat's Meow" was there a reason you chose to film in Greece?

We had a yacht that we couldn't move to far and the only good yacht we could find was in Athens. It was the on;y one that was period and that they would let us use. So that was a very important location. The yacht was in Athens and we could only move it so far. We looked in the area of Athens and didn't find anything, except 5 hours from Athens by a very good car. The company went in a bus and it took them 11 hours.

 

Not a comfortable ride.

Well, I was in a Mercedes and it took 5 hours. The crew took 11. It was quire remote. A remote fishing village on the Greek coast of the Mediterrainian. It ahd two piers and two places that we could use that would look different from each other. It became a terrific location but it was just hell to do it. Hell to get there, hell to shoot it because we were caught in two weather systems. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Do you have anything coming up as far as writing, direction, or acting?

I've been acting quite a bit. I'm in the new season of The Soprano's, which starts soon. I'm in that. Couple of movies. I just did a movie with Eric Stoltz called Out of Order. I think it's a Showtime film and actually it's the pilot for a series. I've got a book that will probably be out in a year called "Who the Hell's In It." It's a sequel to my directing book and it's all about stars. It's called Who the Hell's In It: Encounters and Conversations with: John Wayne, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stuart, Henry Fonda, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Marlena Deitrich, Lauren Bacall, Bogart, Lilian Gish, Sinatra. It's quite a list. I'm preparing a movie called "Squirrels to the Nuts" which is hopefully a comedy. With that title I'm in trouble if it isn't. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Do you prefer directing, writing or acting?

I think I like directing the best, doing the whole picture. I like actually being on the set directing, that's the part I enjoy. Acting I enjoy a lot. Writing is my least favorite, but I do a lot of it. It also helps me to focus. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

You got your start acting, correct?

I started out as an actor in the theater and then into live television. An actor in theater in television and then I started directing in the theater and then directed in the moviesanbd acted. That was the order. In between there I started writing as a journalist to making a living. Audio Answer Listen to the reply...

Thank you for taking time out to talk to us.

You're welcome, sorry that it was cut short.

Purchase Cat's Meow DVD


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