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Oscar Week Feature: Top 20 Interviews of 2015, by Patrick McDonald

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CHICAGO –The movers, the shakers, the prominent filmmakers – they’ve all gone through the interview filter by Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com. What better way to celebrate Oscar week than to review the TOP 20 talks of the 2015, with many 2016 Oscar favorites among the celebrated.

The criteria for making the list are basically who the participants were, what they happened to say and what they were representing, The least reviewed film might have the greatest quote and the bigger stars or director might provide an insight that has stuck throughout the year. It all comes down to a magic 20.

The interview highlights are broken down by “Background and Behind-the-Scenes” and the “Memorable Quote” associated with each subject, and are often accompanied with exclusive photography by Joe Arce of HollywoodChicago.com. Six notables who just missed the list include (click the name) Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson, Patricia Clarkson, the Chicago Blackhawks “Golden Jet,” Bobby Hull, the intriguing director of “Entertainment,” Rick Alverson, and one of the great new director voices in Chicago, Jack C. Newell. The following interviews represents the films, events and nostalgia of 2015. Happy Oscar Week!

StarBrian Wilson of “The Beach Boys”
 

Brian Wilson
Unbroken: Music Icon Brian Wilson in Chicago, May 18th, 2015
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: If there was a Mount Rushmore of Pop/Rock composers, the great Brian Douglas Wilson would undoubtably be carved in that mountain. He did some rare interviews for his biography film “Love & Mercy,” and I nervously interviewed him backstage before a Q&A at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre. He is famously reticent about talking in general, but to have a few minutes with the legend was number one in my book.

Memorable Quote:For the most part, everyone [The Beach Boys] stayed the same. They took to it graciously. We were never like ‘we’re the greatest group!’ That kind of attitude just wasn’t there, we stayed humble. Mike had a bit of an ego, basically he cooperated, but he would tell you if he didn’t like a tune. He loved the early stuff I wrote for him, like ‘Surfin’ Safari,’ ‘Surfin’ USA’ and ‘Do It Again.’ 
I define love not so much through melody or harmony or lyrics or the song, but it is everything that comes together, that four-part blast that comes out of the speakers – creating more harmony – and in a way, love.” 

Click here for the full interview with Brian Wilson.

StarKevin Costner, Actor, Director, & Oscar Winner



Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner in Chicago, January 9th, 2015, for ‘Black or White’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Kevin Costner promoted a smaller and intriguing film he performed in last year, “Black or White,” along with director Mike Binder and (rising) co-star Anthony Mackie. The three sat for a group interview, but he length of time was enough to get Costner to open up about my all-time favorite subject, the John F. Kennedy assassination and his role in the seminal film on the subject, “JFK.”

Memorable Quote:I think everybody has a little bit of doubt [about the JFK assassination]. I sat up in that sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository for a long time, and I had a similar gun, pretending to shoot out that window for about four hours. I found it very hard to do. Now, you are that guy in the sixth floor window, and you know you’re going to take a shot at the President of the United States, and it’s taking a long time for his car to get into range. There was never even a consideration for the idea that by the time that limousine came into view, your tension would be absolutely out of control. I have a little bit of doubt that based on that tension, that one man could have made that shot. Having sat up in that window, that’s what I want to say about it. ” 

Click here for the full interview with Kevin Costner, Mike Binder and Anthony Mackie.

StarSir Ben Kingsley, Actor & Oscar Winner 

Ben Kingsley
Sir Ben Kingsley in ‘Learning to Drive’
Photo credit: Broad Green Pictures

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Sir Ben was in town to promote the film “Learning to Drive” (with Patricia Clarkson, see third paragraph above), and his presence is one that fills any room, including where the interview took place. He is a consummate actor and philosopher, and spoke of many topics associated with creating the role in the film.

Memorable Quote:Unfortunately my father was emotionally absent, and through his alcoholism was unreachable. So I’m very sorry to say that is very little that I derived from him, except in negative values. I had to live in a bubble as a child, and had to raise myself up and make my own choices. But, in the sense of that question – Babu is the word in India for Dad – look at the fathers I have portrayed in my career. I’ve portrayed Simon Wiesenthal [writer, Holocaust survivor], an amazing patriarch. Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father was another, and Itzhak Stern in ‘Schindler’s List.’ I even portrayed Moses. All these men are great patriarchs and father figures.” 

Click here for the full interview with Ben Kingsley.

StarActor John Cusack 

John Cusack
John Cusack in Chicago, May 18th, 2015, at the Music Box Theatre
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: John Cusack grew up in the Chicago area, and has had a magnificent run as a film actor as leading man, character actor and ensemble player. He was side-by-side with Brian Wilson during the “Love & Mercy” interview, treating him like a respectful son (he portrayed Wilson in the film). Cusack is an intensely intelligent and passionate his craft, and was doubly honored to portray Brian Wilson.

Memorable Quote:When I was younger, they kept saying to me ‘you’ve done something good, so keep doing it.’ As an actor, I wanted to keep exploring. I think every artist can relate to Brian Wilson’s struggle to keep creating, and to be true to himself. That is not the easiest thing in the world when people want hits. So the idea, for example, that Brian did ‘Pet Sounds’ and the ‘Smile’ sessions while the pressure was for him to do what he’d already done, and every artist would think, ‘my god, don’t they realize what he was trying to do?’ We’re all not geniuses like Brian, but every artist relates to that struggle between commerce and spiritual creativity.” 

Click here for the full interview with John Cusack.

StarMark Ruffalo, Actor & Oscar Nominee for “Spotlight” 

Mark Ruffalo
Actor Mark Ruffalo on the Red Carpet
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Mark Ruffalo’s film career is on fire right now, as he balances the commercial (“The Avengers”) with the prestige (“Spotlight”). He was on the Red Carpet as the recipient of the Gene Siskel Film Center Renaissance Award, a career overview achievement. The Red Carpet interviews are trickier, but if you ask the right question you can get good answers, especially with the lively and engaging mind of Mark Ruffalo.

Memorable Quote:What people love about actors are their unique qualities. So the more an actor can live authentically within their own individuality, that’s what people are looking for. So I say put down all the magazines that just emphasize fame, and maybe pick one or two actors that you can steal from, and then make it all yours. Then run like hell. [laughs] Stella Adler used to say, ‘the young actor feels that they have a greatness inside of them, that they want to give back to the world.’ That was a big, important truth for me, and kept me going when things were not so great. So maybe looking for the greatness in the people that I play is something I hold onto as an ethos.” 

Click here for the full interview with Mark Ruffalo.

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