Interviews: Joan Cusack, Richard Roeper Make Appearances at 2015 Chicago Critics Film Festival

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CHICAGO – The recently completed 2015 Chicago Critics Festival was heavy on celebrity and filmmaker appearances. One of those special appearances was Oscar nominated actress Joan Cusack, who represented the film “The End of the Tour” on May 6th, and her Q&A was moderated by film critic Richard Roeper. talked to both personalities, regarding their careers and their appearances at the 2015 Chicago Critics Film Festival (CCFF).

StarJoan Cusack of “The End of the Tour”

Joan Cusack is a Chicago treasure, having grown up in nearby Evanston and having begun her movie career with a shot-in-Chicago classic, “My Bodyguard.” From there, she has garnered two Academy Award nominations for Supporting Actress in “Working Girl” and “In & Out.” She also key roles in classics like “Broadcast News,” “Say Anything…,” “School of Rock” and voice work in the “Toy Story” series. She appeared at the CCFF on behalf of director James Ponsoldt’s new film “The End of the Tour” – she had a supporting role – which is an exploration of the author David Foster Wallace.

Joan Cusack
Joan Cusack at the Chicago Critics Film Festival, May 6th, 2015
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for Which book did you read, if any, of David Foster Wallace’s did you read in preparation for the film, and what insight did it give you to him?

Joan Cusack: I must confess I didn’t, and that probably would have been good. [laughs] However, because of the role I played in the film [a book publicist], I had prepared for the experience by driving my kids around. How does your first film appearance, ‘My Bodyguard,’ define the character of its Chicago setting for you, and what do you think of your character of Shelley that still resonates within you?

Cusack: It still resonates because I got to be in a movie in Chicago, and it gave the city a bit of magic. I liken it to being an astronaut in getting that role, because I then got to go on and grow my movie career from there. In ‘School of Rock,’ you and filmmaker Richard Linklater took the stereotypical character of the ‘school marm’ and created so much more…

Cusack: Why thank you, I think that’s a compliment…[laughs] Of course it’s a compliment, that was a highlight of one of my favorite films! Finally, I once saw you in Lincoln Square [Chicago] with your family, and an eerie weirdness developed in the atmosphere as people recognized you. What is your opinion about the ‘price of fame,’ in that context?

Cusack: Well, I have to go back to the film we saw tonight. It was great in the context you mentioned, because it was about that subject. The attention doesn’t make you feel good, unless you feel like everything and everyone is just normal at the end of the day. It’s very comforting to think of it in those terms. I loved that about the film.

StarRichard Roeper, Film Critic for the Chicago Sun-Times & ReelzChannel

What better way to celebrate the 2015 Chicago Critics Film Festival than to bring in one of the top film critics in the country, Richard Roeper. He was born in Chicago, and raised in the nearby suburb of Dolton, Illinois. He made his mark in journalism as a general assignment columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, before morphing into film criticism as a colleague to Roger Ebert. When Ebert’s TV partner Gene Siskel passed away in 1999, it was Roeper who eventually replaced him, and “Ebert & Roeper at the Movies” was born in the year 2000. The show ended in 2008 due to Roger Ebert’s illness, but Roeper continues to write reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times, and does film reporting on the ReelzChannel. He is the author of several books, including a memoir of his Chicago White Sox baseball fandom, “Sox and the City.”

Richard Roeper
Richard Roeper at the Chicago Critics Film Festival, May 6th, 2015
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for How do you think your writing ‘voice’ has changed most significantly from the beginning of writing your column to your now primary job as a film commentator?

Richard Roeper: I think when you’re first starting out – and this happens to a lot of young writers – is that you think it’s all about you, and your opinions are the be-all-and-end-all. If you look at some of my early columns, it was like that. In fact, my Dad told me then – and by the way, he worked for the Illinois Central Railroad – ‘do you know how many times I saw the world ‘I’ in you columns?’ [laughs] When you get older, and a bit more confident, you make it less about yourself, and more what you think about the subject your writing about. It’s about that, and not you. What advantage do you think you have in the film criticism realm, since you didn’t – like Roger Ebert – necessarily study film in college or wasn’t necessarily a film buff as a youth?

Roeper: Well, I was a film buff as a youth, and I also have great respect for people who studied film and criticism in college. But I also believe that a lot of the best film critics have other interests. There is a danger if you are just spending your time just seeing and writing about films, and not experiencing anything else – it narrows your viewpoint and makes the reviews a bit too esoteric. My advice to aspiring film critics is of course, watch the movies, but make sure you have other interests. You were recently at the Tribeca Film Festival, at the 25th anniversary celebration of ‘Goodfellas.’ You and Ray Liotta had connected before, so did you get any extra insight into his reaction to the event?

Roeper: When I asked Ray about the last time he saw the film, he told me an interesting story. It was the only other time he had seen the film in its entirety, and it happened by chance at another film festival in Aruba 15 years ago – he was there representing another film. They happened to be screening ‘Goodfellas,’ and his teenage daughter convinced him to go because she had never seen it. He said it was interesting to see the film through her point of view, because she was old enough to view it, and appreciate his contribution to the film. She loved the film, and kept looking back at him and saying, ‘Wow.’ And finally, I always have to ask you a Chicago White Sox question. Since Old Comiskey Park [1910-1990] has now been gone for 25 years, what do your remember about the first game you attended there, and the last game you attended?

Roeper: The first time I stepped into that ballpark, the Sox were playing the New York Yankees, around the 1967 season. I’ll never forget, because they called Comiskey ‘the world’s largest outdoor saloon,’ and there was a ring of smoke in the lights, a cloud of cigarette smoke above the field. It really made me feel like I was in a grown up world. And I also remember that the great Mickey Mantle hit a home run in that first game I saw. It looked to me like the highest pop up in the world, until it landed in the upper deck. [laughs] That’s Mantle.

And I was there for the very last game played in that ballpark. Although it was clearly past its expiration date, it was a still a very bittersweet thing. But I love the new ballpark, especially with the improvements they’ve made to it over the years. It actually has its own personality now.

For more information about the recently completed 2015 Chicago Critics Film Festival click here. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2015 Patrick McDonald,

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