I must begin by saying, this was a very interesting interview. For myself, as a film historian, writer and critic, it was a challenge to prepare for. Mr. Bogdanovich is known to most movie fans for his Oscar-nominated direction of The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, which garnered 10-year old Tatum O’Neal an Oscar in 1974, he discovered Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski), Eric Stoltz (Mask), and directed River Phoenix’s last completed film, The Thing Called Love. His history as a film director aside, he has interviewed legendary film directors John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin, to name a few. He’s written countless film books and started his journey as an actor and then worked as film critic in NYC. As someone who is doing exactly what he did (interview legendary directors), well here’s how it went…
Paul Booth: Does being an established director interrupt your acting?
Peter Bogdanovich: No, acting is where I started. I started with Stella Adler, so it’s second nature to me.
PB: What do you look for in a project?
Bogdanovich: Good Script. Will it be fun. Will they pay me (small laugh). Actually, it really goes back to the script.
PB: With your experience in casting, does it make you nervous when being on the actor’s side of casting?
Bogdanovich: Well, for this film I was sought-out. So, I didn’t have to go through a process. They felt I was right for the part, I liked the writing. So I said “o.k.”. I met with Will the director and he was a good guy, nice kid.
PB: Do you allow Directors to seek your thoughts or do you stay out of their vision?
Bogdanovich: I stay out of directing.
PB: With your experience was this role easier or harder for you?
Bogdanovich: Every part is a challenge. This was a new role for me. A big one. It was well-written and I knew it was personal to the director. We did in 12-days and it was the first-time I had to carry a movie. I’d never had so many lines or been in so many scenes. (Pause) I guess you could say, I was nervous about the “size” of the role.
PB: Having interviewed, known or been personal friends with Actors like Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda (and so many more), are there any you’re specifically influenced by?
** We switched the discussion (briefly) to film history **
PB: I read in your book, you said people are missing old films. You mentioned many older art-forms are preserved but sometimes movies fall by the way side. Do you feel people should watch more old movies?
Bogdanovich: Old movies are not old; there is no such thing as old Shakespeare. People need to know more about films. In America we don’t have a set tradition of American culture. So films get labeled as old or new. (this quote is a mix of his book and him re-visiting the point on the phone).
PB: Since you came up in a day when the studios had fallen and directors had total control of movies and people like Roger Corman would give directors a start (Corman launched Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme — ALL Oscar-Winning Directors), do you feel there will ever be time like that in film again?
Bogdanovich: Maybe, anything is possible. I mean, back then the business would say what we were doing was “impossible.”
Note: Bogdanovich’s first big-hit The Last Picture Show was Produced by the legendary producer Bert Schneider. Schneider also Produced Easy Rider, created the hit TV series The Monkees (the same year) and launched Jack Nicholson’s career even further with the follow-up Five Easy Pieces. Schneider was also a famous rebel-rouser, even hiding Huey P. Newtown of the Black Panthers from the Police and Govt.
PB: What about Bert Schneider, will we ever have another guy willing to throw all his resources behind first-time directors and just let the chips fall? You know, encouragement of story and vision, not profit?
Bogdanovich: (a brief moment of thought) well … Bert was rare.
Interview by Paul Booth
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