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Film Feature: Top 20 Interviews of 2016, by Patrick McDonald

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StarBarry Jenkins, Tarell McCraney & André Holland of “Moonlight”  

Holland
André Holland of ‘Moonlight’
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: The Oscar nominated “Moonlight” has gone beyond a movie, to become a cultural touchstone. The story of identity, told in three chapters, with three different actors portraying the main character in different phases of his life, has created an energy of its own. In October, the director Barry Jenkins, story creator Tarell McCraney and actor (in the third chapter of the film) André Holland came to Chicago to promote their epic statement. I also loved Holland in the Jackie Robinson film, “42,” and we talked at length about that.

Memorable Quotes:[Holland:] I hope that when people see [‘Moonlight’s’ main character] Black at the end, in the African American persona that everyone has been taught to be afraid of, that it challenges us to understand him. This is a person who has been led to this place, not all on his own, but within the circumstances that created him. If we all just give it a second, and not turn away, we might be surprised by the value that he possesses – to you and the world. [McCraney:] I rarely get to talk about Kevin [best friend of main character], so I’m going to talk about him. The real ones in my life, and the character. Kevin is the type of person you meet in your life that no matter how well you think you know yourself, he knows you better. He’s always been there, and you look at him and think, ‘why do I have such room for you in my heart and psyche, and why do you have room for me?’ When you find that person in your life, it’s difficult to let loose of them. Even though they are no longer around you, they serve a purpose. I love that about him.” 

Click here for the full interview with Barry Jenkins & Tarell McCraney, which will lead to the other “Moonlight” interviews.

StarChef Robert Irvine
 

Irvine1
Chef Robert Irvine at Studio Xfinity in Chicago
Photo credit: Comcast

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: If you love the Food Network, then you know the muscle-bound motivator, Chef Robert Irvine, who was doing a promotion at the Studio Xfinity store in Chicago last November. Whether he is upgrading an American eatery in “Restaurant: Impossible” or competing on “Iron Chef,” Irvine is a motivated and high-energy force of nature. He also currently has a syndicated self improvement talk show, so get off the couch!

Memorable Quote:I’ve never been a competition guy. I’m appearing next month, for example, on ‘Guy’s Grocery Games’ for charity – like ‘Chopped’ last year, it’s all charity driven. I think people are getting tired of it, I’m tired of it, and I want to see food and chefs on the Food Network. Right now, they’re are so many food shows on all networks, so the Food Network should get back to what it was always about, the food.” 

Click here for the full interview with Chef Robert Irvine.

StarMelissa Rauch (“The Bronze”) & Simon Helberg (“Florence Jenkins”) of “The Big Bang Theory”
 

Melissa Rauch
Melissa Rauch Goes for the Gold in ‘The Bronze’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: The two co-stars of TV’s “The Big Bang Theory” – Melissa Rauch (Bernadette) and Simon Helberg (Howard) – came to Chicago on separate promotion tours, for the films next to their names in the headline. But what a great opportunity to talk about the this juggernaut of a popular series, with the characters that populate it.

Memorable Quotes:[Melissa Rauch] ‘The Big Bang Theory’ was like that. I was suppose only do one episode. What was different was the cast and production staff was so welcoming, even though I was only scheduled for a week. I was thrilled, because I loved the show. I did my best, thinking I’d just move onto the next job, and not to try to be a recurring character or anything. Toward the end of the taping, there were rumblings that I would come back. I was so excited, and couldn’t believe it. [Simon Helberg] I think it becomes more instinctual than specifically thought about, and the writers on the show do a tremendous job of evolving Howard. He begins on the page, and then I get the script, and suddenly I know something else about him. ‘That’s interesting,’ I say to myself. [laughs] At this point, though, I do want to keep him fresh, but obviously I can’t be gratuitous about it. It’s not like I can give Howard a nose ring, because I was bored.” 

Click here for the full interview with Melissa Rauch. Click here for the full interview with Simon Helberg.

StarDirector Whit Stillman of “Love & Friendship”
 

Stillman
Director Whit Stillman of ‘Love & Friendship’
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Whit Stillman has always been a bit of a cultish director, after successes with “Metropolitan,” “Barcelona” and “Last Days of Disco,” but he hadn’t had a significant hit until 2016 with “Love & Friendship,” a comical adaptation of a Jane Austen short story. The magnanimously opinionated Mr. S. came to Chicago to promote the film, and regaled with stories of his father’s days in the John F. Kennedy administration.

Memorable Quote:[Kennedy’s death] was devastating for my father, and I think it eventually broke up my parent’s marriage, which led to a bad period for my family. It killed my father’s political ambitions. He tried to continue after the assassination, but Lyndon Johnson eventually got rid of all the Kennedy people. It was very depressing for him, because no one would tell him why he didn’t have a job. It was short-sighted on Johnson’s part, because he disenfranchised all the Kennedy-ites and East Coast liberals, so when [Senator] Eugene McCarthy challenged his presidency regarding the Vietnam War, there was all this dry tinder of disenfranchised Kennedy people, and they all joined the 1968 Bobby Kennedy campaign. But 1968 was also a bad year.” 

Click here for the full interview with Whit Stillman.

StarDirector & Animator Travis Knight
 

Knight
Director Travis Knight of ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: “Kubo and the Two Strings” is not only one of the best animated films of the year (and Oscar Nominated in that category), but one of the best films period. A sumptuous visual feast, it has roots in the Japanese samurai traditions, but is an original story. The director of the film, Travis Knight, also has another footnote – he is the son of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. The brilliant thing about Travis K. is that he has forged his own legacy through Laika Entertainment, and will undoubtedly contribute more to the animation culture.

Memorable Quote:[On using Anglo actors to voice Japanese characters in ‘Kubo] It’s an important question, and an important issue, and I can appreciate that the casting process can be opaque. But there are well-considered reasons behind every decision we make. It’s important to note that acting in live action films and animation are two different things. What an actor looks like in a live action film is a defining quality, but that is not the case in animation. In performance, there is what you see and what you hear. Obviously in live action those two things are bound together, in animation those two things are totally separate. Ultimately, what matters most for us is the ability of the actor to capture the entire range of performance and emotions that we need for the role, independent of their genetic code.” 

Click here for the full interview with Travis Knight.

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