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

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StarActor Jason Segel

Jason Segel
Actor Jason Segel for ‘The End of the Tour’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: The über-popular actor Jason Segel had a breakthrough in 2015 with the lead role in “The End of the Tour.” In the film, he portrayed author David Foster Wallace (“Infinite Jest”) and created a scenario with the author’s last stop on a difficult book tour. Jason, of course, it also a comic actor, and talked also about his involvement with “The Muppets” and “Freaks and Geeks.”

Memorable Quote:What I do think David Foster Wallace expressed exceptionally about depression is beautifully written in ‘Infinite Jest, and that passage in the book was even in the movie. He makes the metaphor about people jumping out of a burning building. And he asks, in terms of defining suicide, what could be so terrifying about jumping out of burning building as an escape from it? That’s a very poignant way of describing the depth of depression. I don’t think I am educated enough to really have an intelligent opinion about the pharmaceutical drug aspect of depression. It’s an incredibly easy thing to have an opinion, it’s a much harder thing to have an informed opinion. ” 

Click here for the full interview with Jason Segel.

StarActress Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke
Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke Promote ‘Mistress America’
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: The deep and abiding actress Greta Gerwig was briefly in Chicago to promote her underrated “Mistress America,” with co-star Lola Kirke. Gerwig is one of those “names” who react and has a perspective in exactly the way you would think – she is basically the real deal. The set-up was rather chaotic. Kirke was late and Ms. Gerwig was radiating the atmosphere with a blast of her philosophy. It was an epic ten minutes.

Memorable Quote:I am interested in strivers and strugglers, those kind of characters that are like the strugglers in the great American literature and cinema. When, for example, I think of ‘Citizen Kane’ and his insatiable craving to be more, especially based on the limited opportunities of his past. Brooke [‘Mistress America’] didn’t go to college, she’s self educated – clearly smart but not erudite. Brooke is always needing to prove herself. Those strivers you see in literature generally are not women. I think giving female characters an epic struggle, even if it’s just epic to them. I think it’s a distinctly American psychology, but also New York City represents the epicenter of where people go who want to make something of themselves.” 

Click here for the full interview with Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke.

StarActor Sam Elliott

Sam Elliott
How the West is Won: Sam Elliott in ‘3:10 to Yuma’
Photo credit: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: If there was a vote for a modern day John Wayne, all ballots would be cast for the great character actor Sam Elliott. Known for his Western roles, Elliott branched out in 2015, as he was cast for the film I interviewed him for – “Grandma,” co-starring Lily Tomlin, and had another great turn in “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” opposite Blythe Danner. When you have one of the most movie-historical Western stars, you have to ask him about Westerns.

Memorable Quote:It’s all mythic at some level, in the way we’ve viewed the Western genre forever. Whether in literature or film, we’ve talked about the ideals and the character of cowboys – but for me it is an ideal of form, in an idealized time. Everything was black and white in those types of Western stories, and I think the Western went to hell when it became more gray in nature. When it became more inwardly psychological rather than a man against nature, or man against man and the nature of himself. That to me is the most interesting part of that time. The simplicity of Westerns has always intrigued me – there is a real beauty in that.” 

Click here for the full interview with Sam Elliott and director Paul Weitz (“Grandma”).

StarActress Jada Pinkett Smith

Jada Pinkett Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith n ‘Magic Mike XXL
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Jada Pinkett Smith has been in the news of late, for her outspoken and passionate views on diversity in the film industry and at the Oscars. When I interviewed her, it was for the 2015 film “Magic MIke XXL.” Ms. Smith is one of the “first ladies” of Hollywood, quietly managing her family and her career, in partnership with husband Will Smith. It’s tough to be controversial when talking about Magic Mike and his XXL. But did you know she once fronted a metal band?

Memorable Quote:One the reasons why I created Wicked Wisdom is because I’d always been a metal head, probably because I was black and female, and it wasn’t really for me. Part of my purpose was being in a metal band was to reject that idea. Metal music is about breaking down all the boxes. That was a helluva box to try to break in that arena. [laughs] But to me the idea was – within that scene – to open my eyes and expand those beautiful ideas. The music itself, the culture itself, is all about breaking the rules and breaking outside of the construct. In those breaking of the rules and construct, let’s also see who is accepted within this art form. That was really the purpose.” 

Click here for the full interview with Jada Pinkett Smith.

StarActor Thomas Haden Church

Thomas Haden Church
Thomas Haden Church for ‘Max’
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: One of the steadiest character actors working, with roles as diverse as wacky Lowell in the TV’s “Wings,” Jack in “Sideways” and Sandman in “Spider-Man 3,” Thomas Haden Church was promoting the excellent family film, “Max” when I talked to him. The film actor’s life is full of adventures, and Church has certainly had his experiences.

Memorable Quotes:[On ‘Sideways and Paul Giamatti] We’d both gone through rigorous audition process to land the roles, by the time I talked to him for the first time. I got on the phone with him, and we talked for four solid hours. It was in the Summer of 2003, and we talked from when the sun was fully out until it was completely dark. We had crazy common interests – Louis L’Amour cowboy novels from the 1970s, the author Cormac McCarthy and the rock group Iron Maiden. As soon as we got together for the film, it was like a brotherly love affair. After we spent that time together, we’d be doing a number of promotional tours, and even in a big crowd – like a magnet to steel – we would find each other within minutes. ” 

Click here for the full interview with Thomas Haden Church.

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