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

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CHICAGO –To quote the sublime Bruce Springsteen, it’s just “talk, talk, talk ‘til you lose your patience.” Well, that ain’t’s Patrick McDonald, who throws down the über-interview on a series of movers, shakers and magical filmmakers. Oscar Day is perfect for the Top 20 talks of 2016.

The criteria for making the list are basically who the participants were, what they happened to say and what they were representing, The least reviewed film might have the greatest quote and the bigger stars or director might provide an insight that has stuck throughout the year. It all comes down to a magic 20.

The interview highlights are broken down by “Background and Behind-the-Scenes” and the “Memorable Quote” associated with each subject, and are often accompanied with exclusive photography by Joe Arce of Seven notables who just missed the list include (click the name) For a third time talk, the comic actor Craig Robinson, a featured performer in “Moonlight,” Naomie Harris, co-stars in the film “Rules Don’t Apply,” Alden Ehrenrich & Lily Collins, comic character actor Dave Franco, activist and filmmaker, James Redford, the star of TV’s “Blacklist,” Harry Lennix, and the Director of the Illinois Film Office, Christine Dudley.

One of the humbling elements of doing a number of film and entertainment talks over the years is when a notable and previously interviewed celebrity passes away. Rest in peace to the great Debbie Reynolds, TV legend Hugh O’Brian, character actor extraordinaire George Kennedy, Oscar winner and TV star Patty Duke, and a hip hop pioneer, of “A Tribe Called Quest,” the unforgettable Phife Dawg.

The following interviews represents the films, events and memories of 2016. Happy Oscar!

StarWoody Allen

Woody Allen 721
Woody Allen on July 29th, 2016
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Woody Allen is one of my favorite living filmmakers, a history that goes back to my college days and the expressive miracle of “Annie Hall.” The opportunity to talk to him, even in the truncated format of the red carpet, was a career highlight. Woody Allen ONLY does red carpets in Chicago, as a key financial backer to his films resides here. I broke it down to three key subjects in a video interview…his current film (“Café Society), his stand up comic past, and his philosophy on love.

Memorable Quote:[Love] has always been great, and foolish, and it doesn’t work most of the time. But you get a short buzz from it that lasts for a period of time…it’s like no other high.” 

Click here for the full interview with Woody Allen.

StarWarren Beatty

Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty in Chicago
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: It was an interesting year indeed when the titanic star Warren Beatty is second on any list, because as a life adventurer he is second to none. The day before I talked to him, I went to an appearance Q&A he was doing for his new film “Rules Don’t Apply,” just to get a feel for how he answers questions – he has a reputation for being particular in interviews. The next day, we had a fine chat.

Memorable Quote:What’s interesting about that is how often I am quoted incorrectly. And the most important point can be left out of the quote, because this is the technology that we’re living in. It’s hard now for anyone to be missing. Privacy, as we used to mislead ourselves that we once had, just doesn’t exist now. To get back to the question [about his parents reaction to he and his sister Shirley MacLaine’s movie stardom], I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be reductive, and I don’t want to do a disservice to our parents. The nice thing is I can’t think of anything negative to say about them. They were positive people.” 

Click here for the full interview with Warren Beatty.

StarIconic TV Producer Norman Lear 

Just Another Version of Me: Norman Lear was the Subject of a New Documentary
Photo credit: Music Box Films

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Since I was a child of the 1970s, Norman Lear was the man. Simply by inserting more authenticity into the media, he produced ground-breaking television (beginning with “All in the Family”) that changed the way programming was presented from his day forth. In town to promote a new documentary, the engagingly entitled “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You,” the then 93-year-old TV titan was everything I wanted him to be. This was memorable and significant at the same time.

Memorable Quote:[Regarding America’s Wars post WWII] In one question you are expressing a world of opinion. Because it is you who thinks that America has been mistakenly starting these conflicts. I happen to agree with you, [laughs] and I will repeat what your question suggested…we have mistakenly gotten into one fracas after another. Why we do that, I think it’s because we’re afraid to look in the mirror and understand who we are. I think America, unfortunately, collectively thinks of itself as the ‘chosen people.’ To my knowledge, there are no chosen people, we are all human beings.” 

Click here for the full interview with Norman Lear.

StarActor Don Cheadle 

Don Cheadle is ‘Miles Ahead’
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: The essential and intellectual Mr. Cheadle was in town to talk about his underrated biography film of jazzman Miles Davis – “Miles Ahead” – that he co-wrote, performed and directed. He is sincere, passionate and vital in person, and if you want some real entertainment, experience how he converses on Twitter. Like Miles Davis, the great Don Cheadle will never be ordinary.

Memorable Quote:Most people who approach me, they’re very respectful, they usually want to talk about how they admire a particular performance that I’ve done. BUT, I do have to say that now that everyone has a camera, it’s a little different. I feel sometimes that I’m just an item that people need to check off in a treasure hunt. It’s like, ‘I got one! I got a dude that’s on something!’ [laughs] Then it is posted for all that social media. Sometimes I’ll say, instead of taking a picture, ‘why don’t we sit and chat for a minute.’ They look at me like, ‘what good is that to me? I don’t want to talk, I need the photo, because otherwise how can I prove I met you?’ I’m just a relic. My kids are always saying, ‘what are they going to do with that shit? You’re just my dumb Dad.’ [laughs]” 

Click here for the full interview with Don Cheadle.

StarDirector Peter Bogdanovich 

Peter Bogdanovich at the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival, October 16th, 2016
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

One of the hardest Hollywood names to spell is a director who made one of the greatest American films. Peter Bogdanovich created a sensation in 1971 with the poignant film masterpiece “The Last Picture Show.” He continues to make films and create ideas within a career that has spanned nearly 50 years. In Chicago to be honored at the 52nd International Film Festival, Bogdanovich is also an incredible student of film history, and helped to revive the honor of many studio-era director titans (like John Ford) in the pre-internet era. I could probably talk to PB for several days.

Memorable Quote:I thought ‘Star 80’ was a piece of shit. [about the murdered lover of PB, Dorothy Stratten] It was badly made, and had nothing to do with the real people involved. Bob [Fosse, director] had never met Dorothy, and had no clue as to what she was actually like – he made her a generic blonde. I actually called him when they announced they were making the film, since it was in such bad taste. I asked him why he was making the film, and he told me it was a good story. I told him I don’t even know the whole story, how the hell did he know it? Then I concluded the conversation with, ‘Bob, if this had happened to you I wouldn’t make a movie about it, that’s all I have to say.’” 

Click here for the full interview with Peter Bogdanovich.

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