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

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StarDirector Damien Chazelle of ‘La La Land’

Rosemarie DeWitt and Damien Chazelle at the Chicago International Film Festival
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: The latest wunkerkind filmmaker, with his sophomore film “La La Land,” has received a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations. The man that brought back the lush Hollywood musical is all of 32 years old, and was appearing at the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival on behalf of his beloved (and divisive) film. This was actually the second time I had interviewed him – he was paired with “La La Land” performer Rosemarie DeWitt – and I experienced a slightly older and wiser show business boy wonder. Tonight, I expect some trophies in his hand.

Memorable Quote:I think really it’s about meeting people, and having people you respect actually see the film. One thing fed into another, like meeting Patricia Kelly [Gene Kelly’s third wife]. She manages his estate and legacy now, and invited Ryan [Gosling] and I to ‘rummage around the drawers’ of his career. We saw the original ‘Singing in the Rain’ script, for example. That’s the great thing that came out of ‘Whiplash,’ at the core is the connections. I got to sit with Shirley MacLaine and talk to her about working with Bob Fosse, which was entirely special. That’s when I was really pinching myself, as a movie junkie, to make sure it wasn’t just a dream.” 

Click here for the full interview with director Damien Chazelle and actress Rosemarie DeWitt.

StarDirector Ira Sachs

Ira Sachs
Ira Sachs at the Chicago Critics Film Festival
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: I always will have room for, and deep respect, for the first film interview subject I ever had, in 2008. Director Ira Sachs was in town for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, and for the third time we sat down to talk, this time about his excellent 2016 film, “Little Men.” He is one of the most underrated filmmakers on the scene, releasing great film after great film. His point of view is necessary in these strange times.

Memorable Quote:To come to change, there had to be conflict and pain. To bring it back to the ‘Little Men,’ I do leave Jake’s [main character’s sexual] orientation up in the air, but I hope that he doesn’t have to experience the same pain as the teenage character in my first film [The Delta, 1996]. His sexuality was hidden and shameful, and I want Jake – whoever he becomes – to not have that pain.” 

Click here for the full interview with director Ira Sachs.

StarActor John Krasinski

Actor John Krasinski Joins ‘The Office’ Club
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: John Krasinski is just as cool, and just as nice, as the character Jim he portrayed for many years on TV’s “The Office.” He was in town to promote his film “The Hollars,” which he directed and starred in. When I told him I had taken several wacky selfies with his “Office” cast mates, he was up to the challenge, and the result is above. Steve Carrell, I’m coming for you.

Memorable Quote:It’s totally surreal. I’ve heard in many interviews and opinions that ‘they asked for it, because they’re in the public eye!’ I guess I understand that, but we [he and his wife Emily Blunt] roll with the punches as we got along, but we also know we wouldn’t be where we are if the fans didn’t like what we do. But it’s also cool to have a barrier. You deserve a barrier, and I deserve a barrier. The guy sitting next to on the train should have a barrier. I remember one time we were in New York City, on a Valentine’s Day date. I leaned across the table to kiss my wife, my total romantic move for the night, and suddenly a head popped up. This person was so close, it was almost a three way kiss. [laughs] They said, ‘I hate myself for interrupting, but could I get a picture.’ I said, ‘No you can’t, I’m trying to kiss my wife.’” 

Click here for the full interview with John Krasinski.

StarActress and Daughter of Charlie, Geraldine Chaplin 

Geraldine Chaplin on the Red Carpet at the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: It’s always wild to have Hollywood royalty in front of me, and Geraldine Chaplin may be the most royal. The daughter of Charlie Chaplin is also a notable actress in her own right (“Dr. Zhivago”) and was in Chicago to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award in the very studio (Essanay) where her father worked in 1914, that still stands on the north side of the city. Her perspective is nothing less than a lens through to film history.

Memorable Quote:[On her mother, Oona O’Neill] She was 18 when she married my father, and the studio thought she was just another one of his bimbos. But she took over everything, and she became the only person my father truly respected. He would run everything he’d written through her, she would actually correct him, and sometimes they’d have fights about it. But in the end, he’d do exactly what she suggested. She was a genius.” 

Click here for the full interview with Geraldine Chaplin.

StarActor Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston was Hank Williams in ‘I Saw the Light’
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for

Background and Behind-the-Scenes: Known mostly, and most famously, as Marvel super-villain Loki in “Thor” and “The Avengers,” British-born Tom Hiddleston is a Shakespearian trained actor, took on the role of iconic American singer Hank Williams in “I Saw the Light,” and represented that biopic with director Marc Abraham while in Chicago. His new film, “Kong: Skull Island” opens on March 10th, 2017, and he’s on board as Loki for a new “Thor” film later in the year. He was an introspective and self-effacing individual.

Memorable Quotes:I was able to portray Shakespeare’s Coriolonus on stage in London, and the producers of that theater were satisfied that my name would draw an audience. I was also able to sign onto a British independent film called ‘High-Rise’ [2016] – a very provocative piece of work based on a J.G. Ballard novel, directed by Ben Wheatley – and that my attachment can release a certain amount of financing. That is what I’m grateful for, aside from the fact that Loki is an incredible character. He’s a cocktail of psychological damage, mischief and charisma, that yes, I lucked out.” 

Click here for the full interview with Tom Hiddleston and Marc Abraham of “I Saw the Light.”

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