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

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StarDirector Paul Feig of “Spy”

Patrick McDonald, Paul Feig
The Interviewer and Director Paul Feig
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Paul Feig is one of the funniest writer/directors working right now, and he has proved it time and time again. On TV (“Freaks and Geeks,” “The Office,” “Arrested Development”), and in films (“Bridesmaids,” “The Heat”), Feig has created a bright and poignant style of comic farce that has staying power after multiple views – how many times have you watched “The Heat” on cable? This is the only photo I will include with me in this article, only because it’s a perfect example of personalities in motion (I dressed up for Feig because of his reputed sartorial splendor). One more note: In the original publication of the interview, I mistakenly gave co-creator credit for “Freaks and Geeks” to producer Judd Apatow. Mr. Feig’s wife wrote me personally to correct this egregious error – it was all pure Paul.

Memorable Quote:I just relate to funny women more, and I find their comedy more humorous. I’ve always been a sensitive guy, sort of made fun of as a kid. So besides my fellow sensitive guy friends, all other guys were this army waiting to kill me. Guys can be very aggressive, so I just found girls to be goofier. It was more pure and fun. Those are basically the people I found to be funny, when I started writing. I’ve always struggled to write for men, interestingly enough, I equate it to a woman trying to write for a guy. I have a very feminine take on the world, I guess.” 

Click here for the full interview with Paul Feig.

StarDirector Alex Garland of “Ex Machina” 

Alicia Vikander, Alex Garland
Lead Actor Alicia Vikander Talks On-Set with Alex Garland for ‘Ex Machina’
Photo credit: A24

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Alex Garland, one of the most original sci-fi film writers of recent years (“28 Days Later…,” “Sunshine”) made his directorial debut in “Ex Machina” in 2015. “Ex Machina” is nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the upcoming Oscars. The film is a magnificent overview of the near future, regarding man’s interaction with technology, as a somewhat mad tech scientist (portrayed by Oscar Isaac) creates android beings that look like alluring women. With multiple social statements and symbols, “Ex Machina” is one of the most powerful and best films of last year.

Memorable Quote:What I really thought about is that if you produced a consciously thinking machine, it would be like the development of a child and an evolutionary change. And with children, what we want most of all in our anxious interaction with them, is that they’ll outlive us all. If we have a life, we’d want our children to have a life that is better. So the idea that conscious and emotional machines would have the same existence that we do, and would survive environments that we can’t, doesn’t seem scary to me as much as exciting and good. The circumstance wouldn’t be separate from us, it would be a continuation of us. I’m more alarmed by humans than machines. ” 

Click here for the full interview with Alex Garland.

StarProducer Gigi Pritzker 

Gigi Pritzker
Gigi Pritzker at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Producer Gigi Pritzker is from one of the most prominent families in Chicago, and expanded her reputation by striking out on her own as a producer in Hollywood. Her most prominent film was the Oscar nominated “Drive,” but she has also scored with “The Way, Way Back” and “Ender’s Game.” I met her at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival, and her passion for the producer role was evident in all she expressed.

Memorable Quote:I feel unbelievably lucky and blessed to do what I do, I have gotten so much out of the films I’ve had to privilege to make, and the people associated with them. For me, it’s really the camaraderie and the experience of doing something that is fundamentally impossible to do – we’re always stuffing 25 pounds of things into a 5 pound package, no matter the budget. It’s long hours, improbable problem solving and I just love the process and the people. Personally, it’s given me an enormously satisfying life, and I’m grateful for that.” 

Click here for the full interview with Gigi Pritzker.

StarLinda Gray, Sue Ellen of TV’s “Dallas” 

Linda Gray
Actress Linda Gray
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: One of the great perks of getting involved in this profession a little later in life is the opportunity to interview some of the influential performers of the last half century or so – the prime entertainment years of my lifetime. Linda Gray was Sue Ellen Ewing on the mega-TV show “Dallas,” opposite Larry Hagman as J.R. The series was more than big, it became a cultural phenomenon during the 1980 summer of the cliffhanger “Who Shot J.R.?” Ms. Gray got the opportunity to reprise the Sue Ellen role in the 2012 TNT Network reboot of “Dallas,” and reflected on it in our interview.

Memorable Quote:I strive to be very present in any scene that I do, like I want to do in my life. So a very powerful scene for me was in the revival of the ‘Dallas’ series in the second season. It was at the grave site during the J.R. Ewing funeral episode. It was personal and powerful because I’d just lost Larry, and everybody thought it wouldn’t be easy because he’d just passed. But I knew I had to be in character as Sue Ellen, and it had to be about Sue Ellen and J.R.’s life together. The key for me then was being in the moment and present as that character, and for me as an actor to bring it to life. The producer and I worked hard to hone that scene, because the audience who had been with us since the original show deserved it, and I made sure that the words in that scene were consistent with the whole history of their relationship. The producer and writer agreed, and changed it to reflect my input.” 

Click here for the full interview with Linda Gray.

StarActor David Dastmalchian 

David Dastmalchian
Actor David Dastmalchian
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Another perk of the business is to go beyond the soundbites, and really make a connection to a performer. David Dastmalchian got his start in theater here in Chicago, and has gone on to produce and act in his own films (“Animals”) and has taken on prominent character roles, including last summer’s turn as a wacky Russian henchman in “Ant-Man,” a renegade movie group which he dubbed affectionately as the “Antourage.” He is going on to bigger and better things, no doubt, and I’m lucky to call him a friend. Appropriately, he puts the finishing touch on the Top Interviews of 2015, speaking of the joy of landing his first major role in “The Dark Knight.”

Memorable Quote:I had auditioned for ‘The Dark Knight’ for the role of the Joker’s henchman at the bank robbing scene, in the beginning of the film. I was called back to the director [Christopher Nolan], and he was quiet and kind, and I read the dialogue. And that was that. I read in the newspaper a couple weeks later that they’d already shot the bank heist scene, and [thinking he didn’t get the role] I was kind of devastated, because I’d been a comic book fan all my life and The Joker was a favorite.

I was sitting on my futon in my little apartment in Uptown in Chicago, and the call came. My agent said, ‘Do you have a passport?’ And I said, ‘no, why?’ And it came back that ‘the Batman people have a role they want you for, as somebody who works for The Joker, but you’ll need a passport because you’re probably going to do pickup shots in London.’

I didn’t walk, I sprinted to the post office, tears of joy in my eyes. [laughs] I went to somebody I knew who worked there, and asked, ‘how do I get a passport in the fastest way possible?’ She figured it out for me, and I had to borrow 50 bucks from a friend to process it, but the rest is cinema history.” 

Click here for the full interview with David Dastmalchian.

CLICK HERE for the 10 Best Films of 2015 by Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com.

CLICK HERE for the 10 of 2015’s Worst Films by Patrick McDonald and Spike Walters of HollywoodChicago.com.

To directly access the reviews, interviews and writings of Patrick McDonald, Writer and Editorial Coordinator of HollywoodChicago.com, click here. HollywoodChicago.com also does VIDEO interviews, conducted by publisher Adam Fendelman, and produced by Jeffrey Doles. Click the names to view 2015 interviews with Zac Efron & Emily Ratajkowski of “We Are Your Friends” and Woody Allen & Parker Posey of “Irrational Man.”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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