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

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StarGordon Quinn of Kartemquin Films

Award-Winning Filmmaker Gordon Quinn of Kartemquin Films
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Kartemquin Films, one of the most significant filmmaking houses in Chicago, celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2016, and the year-long celebration included an exhibit downtown, a memory of their greatest documentary hit, “Hoop Dreams,” and a visit for me to their north side neighborhood headquarters, to interview co-founder Gordon Quinn – who is the “quin” in Kartemquin Films. The avuncular Mr. Q sat down for a perspective-filled three part interview, and filled in the historic gaps. Kartemquin continues it’s reign as one of the best.

Memorable Quote:We had all been politicized by the civil rights movement. Coming out of the University of Chicago, where we had been studying literature and philosophy, we had this idea that a style of filmmaking – recording-reality-as-it-unfolds – had a role in democracy. All of our early films are influenced by that philosophy, like ‘Thumbs Down,’ ‘Inquiring Nuns,’ ‘Home for Life’ and ‘Marco.’ They all had a political dimension, but the political dimension is not embedded in the surface. It came out of the people’s lives that we were profiling.” 

Click here for the full interview with Gordon Quinn, as Part One redirects to the other two parts at the end of the article.

StarAdam Devine and Director Jake Szymanski of “Mike and Dave…” 

Mike and Dave
Adam Devine, Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza of ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox Films

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: One of more hilarious comedies of the year, the under-the-radar “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” featured up-and-coming comic actor Adam Devine (“Modern Family”). He came to town with director Jake Szymanski in tow, and the two had a ball relating the stories of Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick and the rest of film’s gang. Devine in particular has a very skewered view of his own career.

Memorable Quote:Jake blessed me with freedom. It’s really about committing super-hard to whatever you’re trying to create. In essence, I’m just copying my favorite comedic actors, and it’s the people who make me laugh the hardest who commit the hardest. I wanted the audience to fully believe in Mike, even though he’s doing outlandish things. If the viewer believes the character, then he will be funny. I’m always thinking, ‘my career is over, I have to move back to Omaha, and work on the railroad, with the rest of my family. [laughs] So no, I’m never thinking I’ve ‘arrived.’ I think that’s a good way to be.” 

Click here for the full interview with Adam Devine and Jake Szymanski.

StarActor Paul Dooley 

Dooley Away
The Dad: Paul Dooley, with Dennis Christopher, in ‘Breaking Away’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: If there is a quintessential “Dad” in films during the last couple of generations, actor Paul Dooley might get the nod. Besides his classic turn as Poppa Ray in “Breaking Away,” he also played the father in “Sixteen Candles” and Robert Altman’s “A Wedding.” Dooley is in his eighties now, but still robust and working. His career stretches back to New York City in the 1960s, when he worked in a revue facilitated by Chicago’s “The Second City.” He even did a one-man show last year that was very popular in Los Angeles. Paul Dooley rocks.

Memorable Quote:If you know my acting, I have a tendency to play Dads – grumpy Dads, cranky Dads, sometimes nice Dads – but a lot of my other work involves a deadpan and dry comedy. My father was a man who never smiled his whole life, and that is a bit embedded in me. Although I’ve done every range of character, my father is the one I do naturally. All the Dads I play is my father. ” 

Click here for the full interview with Paul Dooley.

StarFood Critic Jonathan Gold 

Jonathan Gold
Food Critic Jonathan Gold in his ‘City of Gold’
Photo credit: Sundance Selects

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: “City of Gold” was a documentary about a food critic, who is worshipped in Los Angeles, named Jonathan Gold. When he came to Chicago to promote the film, the well-fed Mr. G was a great raconteur, and his passion for the subject of food was right on point. Besides the where-to-eat-in-Chicago inevitability of the interview, he waxed philosophical about cuisine in general, and it was – as they say – a chat feast.

Memorable Quote:I think the point of obsession with food means we’re healthy as a species. When we’re hungry, everything tastes good, hunger is the best spice. When you’re in a area that has few resources, you work incredibly hard to have something. And then you make the something taste good. The greatest food in the world comes from the inventiveness of great privation. What emerges is all the miraculous fermentations and all the strong flavors. You put it together in the right way, it’s delicious. That defines survival, and our human species.” 

Click here for the full interview with Jonathan Gold.

StarRichard Cotovsky, Chicago’s “Godfather of Storefront Theater” 

Richard Cotovsky
Richard Cotovsky (right) in ‘American Buffalo’
Photo credit:

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: It is appropriate that the last interview in this Top 20 list is with a true Chicago legend. Richard “Rich” Cotovsky oversaw one of the great “storefront theaters” (Angel Island) in Chicago for over 30 years, through his theater company, Mary-Arrchie. I’ve known Rich for over ten years, and have participated in his annual “Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins” Theater Festival in that time (2016 also saw the last iteration of that festival). He is a generous soul, a terrific actor and my friend. It was an honor to do a two part interview with him after he announced the final show – a production of “American Buffalo” by David Mamet, the very show that inspired him as a young man to go into acting.

Memorable Quote:I’m not going to look back. ‘Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.’ I don’t have anything specific in mind. I want to do what comes my way. No plans, no idea, I believe in things happening organically. Right now the plan is to wrap things up - we’ve got one more Abbie Hoffman Fest to put together - whatever happens after that is unknown. I’m not going to push anything beyond passive behavior. [laughs] Maybe I’ll just hang around my [old stage site] and tell people ‘We used to do theater here.’” 

Click here for the full interview with Richard Cotovsky.

CLICK HERE for the 10 Best Films of 2016 by Patrick McDonald of

CLICK HERE for the 10 of 2016’s Worst Films by Patrick McDonald, Spike Walters and Jon Espino of

To directly access the reviews, interviews and writings of Patrick McDonald, Writer and Editorial Coordinator of, click here. also does VIDEO interviews, conducted by publisher Adam Fendelman, and produced by Jeffrey Doles. Click the name to view 2016 interviews with singer Michael Bolton, CeeLo Green, “Denial” film subject Deborah Lipstaldt, Red-Carpet interviews for the 2016 film Ben-Hur and singer John Legend. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2017 Patrick McDonald,

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