Feature: HollywoodChicago.com 10 Best Interviews of 2013

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CHICAGO – Every year, the movie stars, actor/actresses and filmmakers come knocking, and HollywoodChicago.com is there to answer. Film Critics Brian Tallerico and Patrick McDonald have combined their best-of interviews for 2013, and it’s an intriguing and eclectic mix.

With so many promotional tours, conventions and shows coming through Chicago, the opportunity to get a wide range of celebrities, filmmakers and up-and-comers is one of the privileges of covering TV and film here. The following interviews – enhanced (except for two interviews) by the photography of Joe Arce – were significant for their background stories, promotional circumstance and memorable quotes.

StarSheryl Lee of “Twin Peaks”
 

Sheryl Lee at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Sheryl Lee at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Interviewer: Patrick McDonald

Opening Note: Before getting started, there are so many arresting interviews I participated in during 2013, and if you plug these names in the search engine, you can read them – Director David Gordon Green (“Eastbound and Down”), Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite of “Blackfish,” Director Dror Moreh of “The Gatekeepers,” Jeff Garlin, Martin Landau, Leonard Maltin, John McGinley, Judy Belushi and director Adam McKay (“Anchorman II: The Legend Continues”). Also a direct link shout-out to the cast of the independent film ”You Don’t Say!”. The director and cast – including Larry Thomas of “Seinfeld” Soup Nazi fame – sat around a speaker phone at a hotel the night before their premiere, fielding questions and finding answers. Now back to Sheryl Lee of “Twin Peaks.”

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: There is something so alluring and mysterious about the Laura Palmer character in the classic TV show “Twin Peaks” (1990-91), that still resonates in the entertainment and pop culture. And the actress who portrayed Laura, Sheryl Lee, still maintains that profile in representing the character. The versatile performer has also done turns in the popular film about The Beatles called “Backbeat” (1994), in addition to the film “Mother Night” (1996) and recent TV series “Dirty Sexy Money” (2007-09). Not only was it a thrill to interview Ms. Lee – at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con – but to also find her to be as radiant, intuitive and unique as her famous character.

Memorable Quote:As I grow as a human being and woman, the roles I get are reflected back to me as to what chapter in my life I am experiencing them in. It’s not black and white, as I ‘am’ them, but it’s an underlying sense of what archetypes are present in my life, what issues I’m investigating and what corners of my soul I am healing. That becomes reflected in the characters that choose me, or who I choose, to navigate through. I feel like all the women that I’ve portrayed are friends in a way, because they’ve taught me and allowed me to explore elements of myself and elements of the human psyche. It’s a gift to be actually paid and have the time to investigate the richness of being human, the multi-dimensional facets of us all and the complexities of our souls.” 

StarDirector Ramin Bahrani & Dennis Quaid

Dennis Quaid in ‘At Any Price’
Dennis Quaid in ‘At Any Price’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Interviewer: Brian Tallerico

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: It was as emotional an April as the Chicago film community has ever experienced when we lost our influential leader, Roger Ebert. As tributes and memorials wound down and we figured out how to move on by incorporating the lessons he taught us into our work, I got the chance to speak to an incredibly talented young filmmaker who was well-known to be one of Roger’s favorites. A champion of his “Chop Shop,” “Man Push Cart,” and “Goodbye Solo,” Roger Ebert actually became friends with writer/director Ramin Bahrani, and had a chance to make his review of Bahrani’s “At Any Price” one of his last. I spoke with Bahrani about Roger at the end of a great chat with the filmmaker and his star, the eternally-underrated Dennis Quaid, and the discussion reached a point I’ll never forget when Ramin said that Roger gives him courage. Not past tense, present tense. I’m proud to say, as I try to put what I learned from his incredible skill and worldview into practice in my work, he does the same for me.

Memorable Quote [Bahrani on Ebert]:Like you, I’m sure, I came to know there was such a thing as film criticism by watching his shows as a kid. And then that leads you to his written work and this guy knew how to WRITE. He knew how to write about the most complex film in the most simple, imaginative, and incisive way so that anyone could understand and yet he was always deeper than anyone else. There was no phony intellectualism. He always got to the heart of it. And he helped elevate cinema in people’s minds so that it could be something worth talking about. That we can sit here in this room and talk about cinema but without it being pretentious. That’s really, really hard to do. Personally, he gives me courage.

StarJim Gaffigan

Jim Gaffigan for his book, ‘Dad is Fat’
Jim Gaffigan for his book, ‘Dad is Fat’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Interviewer: Patrick McDonald

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: One of weirdest elements of doing celebrity interviews is the “phoner,” or interview-done-via-phone. You sit in your home office, and suddenly a familiar voice comes through the speakerphone, and they’re talking to you – which in this case is particularly surreal, when it was the laconic and familiar comedian Jim Gaffigan. Gaffigan was in Chicago promoting his new book, “Dad is Fat,” and riffed on subjects as diverse as growing up in Northwest Indiana (“it’’s 10 minutes away!”) and China. Because he is his “character” on stage, the interview was like being treated to 20 minutes of his stand-up.

Memorable Quote:They – I don’t know who ‘they’ are – say it takes ten years to find your voice on stage. For me, my stand-up voice is a result of me trying to be a lot of things on stage. Developing the act in New York City, among the many stabs of energies and styles, I was trying too hard to get on late night television. Eventually, I decided that if I was going to do it, I’m going to do the type of comedy or point of view that I would like. That steered me towards an analysis of the id, and gluttony and laziness. The audience considers it ‘clean,’ I just view it as dealing with the minutiae.

StarJesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson on the Red Carpet for ‘Fruitvale Station’
Jesse Jackson on the Red Carpet for ‘Fruitvale Station’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Interviewer: Patrick McDonald

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: The Red Carpet – in this case for the notable 2013 film “Fruitvale Station” – is often a chaotic mess, with camera flashes and TV lights getting more play than a dork with a digital recorder. But occasionally there is an outside figure, usually a government official or politician, who walks with the folks associated with the film, to give it gravitas or atmosphere. On this carpet was the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He is a divisive figure, there is often no gray area of opinion regarding his person. But among his accomplishments, he is a historic participant and survivor of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, and a memorable lieutenant to Dr. Martin Luther King. Jackson witnessed King’s assassination in Memphis, and I was prepared to talk about it.

Memorable Quote: [The period after Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral] was chaotic and painful, but hopeful at the same time. We were determined that one bullet would not kill the whole movement. That’s why we spent more time on what killed him, than who killed him. We completed the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C. and we kept pressure on to end the Viet Nam War. From the blood on the balcony in Memphis in 1968 to the election and the White House in 2008, we never stopped. I’ve never stop fighting, and I’ve never healed. It may take months, it may take years, but the hurt doesn’t end. Dr. King was only 39 years old, we’d been talking and laughing all day long. We were just going to dinner, when his life was taken away. It hurts me to think about it every time.” 

StarSarah Polley

Sarah Polley, Stories We Tell
Sarah Polley, Stories We Tell
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Interviewer: Brian Tallerico

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Opening night of the Chicago Critics Film Festival. Nerves are high. [Note: I was one of the producers of this inaugural fest.] We know we’ve sold a good number of tickets, done everything we can in terms of promotion, and that whatever will be will be, but there’s still those natural, opening-night jitters. We couldn’t be prouder of the fact that we had the multi-talented Sarah Polley there as our Opening Night guest with her brilliant “Stories We Tell.” When I sat down with in the afternoon of that landmark day for the CFCA, the conversation was so smooth, fascinating, personal, and easy that she actually calmed my nerves. She’s such a confident, smart woman, the kind of intellectual talent that one could speak to for hours. She’s at the top of her game already, likely to get an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary this Thursday, and yet the overwhelming feeling when one speaks to her is that she’s just getting started.

Memorable Quote:A lot of people say they come out who they are but I feel like every day with my daughter I see that her experiences have shaped a little bit more of who she is. It’s directly related to her experience. I feel like there’s a trend now to nature but that’s not my first-hand experience. I feel totally shaped by the family I grew up with. I would have been a totally different person if I grew up with a different family.

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