Feature: Top 25 Interviews of 2014, By Patrick McDonald

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StarMother Dolores Hart, Former Actress Turned Nun 

Dolores Hart
Mother Dolores Hart at Her Consecration in 1970
Photo credit: Valerie Imbleau for Ignatius Press

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: This was a book promotion interview (“The Ear of the Heart”), done via phone. As a Recovering Catholic, it was my duty to go in-depth with Mother Dolores Hart, who at the peak of her film career, in 1963, gave it all up to take up a religious life in a monastic nunnery. Hart, who co-starred in films with Elvis Presley and George Hamilton, among others, surprised me with her frank and non-judgmental assessment of her former life, so much so there might have been a twinge of regret between those lines. Regardless, one of the most memorable chats of 2014.

Memorable Quote:My mother was very open when it came to her body. She had a tattoo on her left hip, and this was the early 1950s. And she would walk around the house with just a string covering her boobs and fanny, practically naked doing her housework. She always said, ‘I am who I am.’ I loved her for that freedom in her sexuality. I don’t think I grew up afraid of it, I think I grew up wanting to go somewhere more important.” 

Click here for the full interview of Mother Dolores Hart.

StarTed Neeley of “Jesus Christ Superstar” 

Ted Neeley
Ted Neeley, Superstar, at the “Hollywood Show Chicago” in 2013
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Ted Neeley has portrayed Jesus Christ over 5,000 times, and it only has seemed to slightly affect him. Seriously, Neeley was the movie Jesus in the 1973 film version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and then mounted a stage version in the 1990s that played off and on until 2008, – with over 5,000 productions – the majority of which co-starred the movie Judas, Carl Anderson, as the famous betrayer. This was part of the infamous laryngitis interviews, and I swear Ted wanted to heal me. He’s actually a very sincere man, and Jesus would be proud of him.

Memorable Quote:Apparently, because I’ve been hearing it for forty years – people say to me, ‘you brought me to my spiritual recognition.’ I always contend I’m a rock and roll drummer from Texas, what are you talking about? I recently saw the film again, for the first time on the big screen. I do see what they’re talking about in that experience. It was powerful and visionary, and beautifully plays up Andrew [Lloyd Webber] and Tim [Rice’s] interpretation of the relationship between Jesus and Judas. The essence of that is Judas thought he was doing the right thing – it wasn’t about betrayal, but what he thought was his purpose and humanity. I’m not quoting the Bible, I’m quoting the philosophy of ‘Superstar.’” 

Click here for the full interview of Ted Neeley.

StarPaul Haggis, Director of Oscar Best Picture “Crash” 

Paul Haggis, Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde
Paul Haggis directs Liam Neeson and Olivia Wilde in ‘Third Person’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: The interview took place in a restaurant, and the morning crew was playing the background music so loud that Paul Haggis and I immediately started dancing upon meeting. After that inglorious introduction, the veteran TV and film director promoted his latest film “Third Person” and went over a magnificent and challenging career, which included writing and directing the 2005 Best Picture Oscar winner, “Crash.” Also, he wrote the screenplay for “Million Dollar Baby,” which won the 2004 Best Picture Oscar, making him the only screenwriter in history to pull off two in a row.

Memorable Quote:I woke up one morning from a dream about 12 years ago. It was about two in the morning, and I was drenched in sweat, because I had pictured my tombstone. And it said, ‘Paul Haggis - Creator - Walker, Texas Ranger.’ I knew right then I had to do something to erase that. [laughs] I went off then and wrote ‘Crash’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby.’” 

Click here for the full interview of Paul Haggis.

StarActor Michael Pitt, Director Mike Cahill of “I, Origin” 

Michael Pitt, Mike Cahill
Michael Pitt and Mike Cahill in Chicago on July 14th, 2014
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Two young creatives, taking on the world and its evolution in the wondrous film, “I Origins.” This was my second interview with Mike Cahill, after his 2011 number one film (on my list), “Another Earth.” In partnership with the writer/actress Brit Marling, Cahill creates some prime science fiction involving humanity. Michael Pitt makes a mark everywhere in any media in works in, from “Boardwalk Empire” to “Last Days” – where he memorably portrayed a character styled after musician Kurt Cobain.

Memorable Quote:[Michael Pitt] Kurt Cobain was coming from a place in which he doing obscure music that wasn’t necessarily popular, and was an outcast his entire life. I felt that, because I’ve been an outcast since I was a kid. There were some amazing things that I’ve learned from that outcast perspective, it’s not always a bad thing. But in Kurt’s case, if you sprinkle in a lot of fame and the exploitation of money, he didn’t take the time to understand how it relates to his life. Throw in some drug use, and it can be a recipe for disaster.” 

Click here for the full interview of Mike Cahill and Michael Pitt.

StarCast of “Let’s Be Cops” 

Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson, Rob Riggle
Let’s Be: Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson & Rob Riggle
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Given the opportunity to spend a morning interview session with Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson and Rob Riggle, there is little need for coffee as a pick-me-up. This raucous laugh fest was to promote the oddball comedy “Let’s Be Cops,” which reunited Johnson and Wayans – from TV’s “New Girl” – as gentlemen impersonating police officers. Riggle played the real cop, and nearly stole the film. The three of them had the same weird chemistry in person as on screen.

Memorable Quote:[Damon Wayans Jr] As a kid, I never thought about being in the Wayans family like that – I have a huge family. For all those doing comedy, there is just as many not doing it. There are just as many flight attendants and med students in the family as comedians. It was always a balance. Dad was good friends with Jim Carrey though, back in the ‘In Living Color’ days, and Jim would always be at the house. That would be fun, because he’d always be doing something crazy. I remember once he waited for us to come home, and then fell out of a tree onto our car, and his face slid off the windshield like a cartoon. And this was at nine o’clock at night [laughs]” 

Click here for the full interview of Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson and Rob Riggle.

StarCindy Caponera, Writer and Actress 

Cindy Caponera
Cindy Caponera, Writer, Actress & Southside Chicago Native
Photo credit: Cindy Caponera

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Two fine interviews with this extremely funny actress and comedian, who is now on the production staff of the TBS sitcom “Ground Floor.” Cindy Caponera has had the perfect Chicago comic evolution, going locally from “The Second City” to the staff of “Saturday Night Live” to writing TV episodes for “Norm,” “Sherri,” “Shameless,” “Nurse Jackie” and “My Boys.” But primarily, Caponera is an advocate for her Chicago roots, composing and publishing a book of memoir essays entitled, “I Triggered Her Bully.” In one of the great compliments you can give anyone, she makes me laugh.

Memorable Quote:My mother’s dad, ‘Jumping’ Red Cassidy, was a singer in Chicago. He sang at all the political rallies, and recorded seven records. My grandmother and he were married on Christmas Day, and at their 50th Wedding Anniversary – which was before the holiday – he sang a song to my grandmother, then dropped dead. The song he sang to her was ‘Because of You.’ [laughs] I was in high school at the time, and he just had open heart surgery. He sang the last note, and then expired.” 

Click here for the full interview of Cindy Caponera.

StarIra Sachs, Director of “Love is Strange” 

Ira Sachs
Director Ira Sachs, Then and Now
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: What goes around comes around. The 25th interview of the Top 25 is director Ira Sachs, who was in Chicago promoting “Love is Strange,” his prescient film about a male gay couple – portrayed by Alfred Molina and John Lithgow – who takes advantage of legal marriage after 39 years together, only for Molina’s character to lose his job because his employer discovers the marriage on social media. This was directly parallel to a case that played out similarly in Chicago, that was in the news while Sachs was in town for the film. Be that as it may, Ira Sachs was the FIRST interview I ever did, in 2008, and close to 500 later I got to chat with him again. It was a precise circle in a year in which, obviously, I did more interviews than ever. If you made it this far, thanks for being here.

Memorable Quote:Many people have told me that this film is ‘of the moment.’ But to me what seems timely about the film is that I couldn’t have made it five years ago, because I wouldn’t have had the optimism that I have now. This is a very hopeful film, and I’m in a relationship that I’m hopeful about, and raising kids. In conclusion, I’m glad I’ve worked a lot of my shit out [laughs].” 

Click here for the full interview of Ira Sachs.

StarClick here for the 10 Best Films of 2014, by Patrick McDonald

StarClick here for the 10 Best Films of 2014, by Nick Allen

StarClick here for the 10 Worst Films of 2014, by Spike Walters

Happy New Year to the best readers on the planet! A shout out from me to Adam Fendelman, Founder and Publisher of HollywoodChicago.com, whose faith in me provided these interview opportunities. Adam also does fantastic Red Carpet VIDEO interviews, which we began in 2014 on HollywoodChicago. Click the name to view interviews with Woody Allen, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the stars of Divergent, and the premiere of the Roger Ebert Film Life Itself.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2015 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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