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R.I.P. Peter O’Toole: My Favorite Interview

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We lost one of the greats today when Peter O’Toole, star of stage and screen, passed away at 81. I had the honor of interviewing him in 2007, when he was promoting “Venus,” which earned him a record eighth Oscar nomination. I remember this interview so vividly, how I was waiting in the lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel, when I looked up and saw a legend walking towards me. It’s not online anywhere, so I’ve reposted it below.

In the Game

Peter O’Toole holds court on great actors, good roles, and bad theatre.

By Jenelle Riley

In the 1982 masterpiece My Favorite Year, Peter O’Toole plays Allan Swann, a drunken, womanizing performer living off the glory of his swashbuckling roles of youth. He has no misconceptions about his art, famously intoning, “I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star!” When he inevitably disappoints Benjy Stone (played by Mark Linn-Baker), the young TV writer who worships him, Benjy tells him he’s useless as an ordinary man. “I need Allan Swanns as big as I can get them,” he pleads.

They don’t come bigger than Peter O’Toole. Since he emblazoned himself on screen and into movie history as the passionate title character of David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece Laurence of Arabia, the Irish-born actor has become so renowned for his behavior on and off stage that he’s entered that elite pantheon known as living legends. His performances are renowned, from the conniving king of The Lion in Winter and the shy schoolteacher in Goodbye, Mr. Chips to the manipulative film director of The Stunt Man. His roles are so numerous and varied that at one point while reminiscing about his favorite parts, he even stops himself and thinks out loud, “What else have I played?”

It’s a bright Sunday in Los Angeles and the 74-year-old actor is in the city thanks to a record eighth Oscar nomination for his performance in the comedy Venus, his first since My Favorite Year. Once again, he is nominated for playing an aging actor, but whereas Allan Swann was defiant and fun-loving, Venus’ Maurice is all too aware of his own mortality. Reading obituaries of his peers and wondering “how many lines will I get” when he dies, Maurice becomes obsessed with a crass 20-year-old girl (played by newcomer Jodie Whittaker). O’Toole convincingly conveys Maurice’s unrequited affection for his diamond in the rough, speaking volumes with a single glance of those still-stunning blue eyes.

While somewhat frail in person, O’Toole’s sharp wit shows no signs of slowing down. He is verbally quick and clever, and little gets by him. “We’re being photographed, are you aware?” he asks, gesturing towards a bush where a paparazzi is hidden fairly inconspicuously. “You start to develop a sense for the camera.” No surprise, as O’Toole has lived most of his life in front of a lens. And his deserved nomination for Venus has feel like a vindication for the actor. When the powers that be wanted to bestow an Honorary Academy Award on him in 2003, he considered refusing, noting he was “still in the game” and might just “win the lovely bugger outright.” He eventually relented, appearing at the awards and delivering a heartfelt speech, but as it turns out, he was right—he wasn’t done yet. O’Toole stands a good chance of walking away with the gold on Oscar night, an occurrence that would mark a sweet coda to the career of a man who remains one of the last great movie stars…in addition to being a terrific actor.

Back Stage: Maurice seems like a role created specifically for you; but apparently it actually wasn’t written with you in mind?

Peter O’Toole: Indeed. This is the way our business, the actor’s business runs. As any actor knows, good parts make good actors. Oh, you have to be able to do it, of course. But good parts make good actors. When things were a little bit dry or fallow in my business, what I always did, throughout my entire life, was to stick on a play. I avoided the Royal Shakespeare Companies and the National Theatres and all that rubbish. I don’t like any of them; I have not liked them for half a century. So I’d put them on myself. Within weeks, usually, the phone would be ringing and another job would come to light.

Back Stage: What have you got against groups like the Royal Shakespeare Company?

O’Toole: Apart from the fact that they’re very bad? There was a period—a generation, indeed—thirty odd years in which the Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre and the Royal Court, all that lot—they were mediocre, which is unforgivable. Mediocrity is just disgusting. Laterally, within the last five, ten years, they’ve become bad. And that is such a relief.

Back Stage: Do you think they know they’re bad?

O’Toole: No, they’ve got a very high opinion of themselves. They live in an isolated little community. All it is, is a young bunch of mediocrities who are being exploited because they get no money—all the money goes into production or some director’s pocket when it’s transferred to London.

Back Stage: When was the last time you were onstage?

O’Toole: I did my last theatre in 1999. I did a revival of a modern play I’m very fond of called Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell by Keith Waterhouse that I originally did in 1989. It and Waiting for Godot are my favorite modern plays. It was at the Old Vic, where it all began for me in 1953. I managed to get the same cast we had in 1989 when I first did it. We did the first half and it seemed to be going all right. Then the second half went beautifully, I know it did. Come curtain call, as I walked onto the stage to take my bow, the entire theatre jumped up at me. And as I was bowing I said to myself, “Pedro, now is the time to go. Go now. There will never be another part that requires the same energy and movement and diction. And if one came along, you wouldn’t be able to do it and you won’t be able to do what you used to do quite well.” And I have no wish to shuffle on as a butler. As anyone will tell you, theatre is an enormously tiring and exhausting business. I didn’t use the word retire, neither shall I because, who knows? I might have to get my props and go off to the north of Scotland to do a tour.

Back Stage: You’ve done a lot of theatre in America, including your Broadway debut in 1987’s Pygmalion. Do you have a preference between continents?

O’Toole:  I prefer to do my theatre in London. It’s what I know. But I’ve played in Chicago, in Washington. I did Vanya and Present Laughter in Washington. We broke every record at the Kennedy Center.

Technically, Pygmalion wasn’t my debut. My daughter had done an off-off-Broadway play a long time ago when she was a Yale student. It was The Hostage; I went to see her to do it. I was nervous—worrying could she do it, could she act? And she could. I went down the second day and a flu had hit New York and the cast was short. In The Hostage, you have dozens of people. They could manage just about, but at the end they couldn’t find someone to play the secret policeman. So I went on as the Secret Policeman. The audience didn’t have the faintest idea. So my daughter got me a part. Very nice of her.

Back Stage: What drew you to Venus?

O’Toole: I read it and after a sort of hiccup—I wasn’t quite sure about one particular thing—I said, “When do we do it?” The thing was, I wouldn’t do it until we could find a Venus. And where do you find what the English call a “chav”—a real sluttish, tracksuited-wearing, popcorn-munching slob? Who can also do it at a high level and handle complex dialogue. And she couldn’t be a glamour puss, she had to be sort of plain and yet lovely. Roger said, “Oh, she’s out there.”

There’s an old theatre truism that says when you read a play and there’s a part for a woman or a man and you can’t immediately think of one or two people who could play it, be very careful. Of course like all truisms, it has its exceptions. Roger was auditioning hundreds and he rang me up and said he had three contenders and wanted me to do the reading and they could put it on film. I would say, quite cheerfully, that two of the three could have done it. Astonishing. I went to a film place in Soho so I could watch them with the sound and picture blown up and get a proper look. And it was Jodie.

Back Stage: Do you concern yourself at all with people drawing comparisons between this role and your real life?

O’Toole: If I hesitated over people’s misconstructions about me, I’d be finished. My Favorite Year, for example, gave me a wonderful opportunity for self parody. But Maurice and I have absolutely nothing in common at all. Maybe a tenacity for life. But I’m a grumpy old bugger.

Ultimately, it was a beautiful script. And of course, we got the best cast you could possibly find. Like my beloved Vanessa. I’ve worked with her father, her sister, her children, her niece, her brother, but I’ve never worked with Vanessa even though we’ve known each other since the 50s. And I think our particular scenes are about as good as one could do anything. The Redgraves are a deeply talented family. My lot are coming along, I’ve got two now who are in the business. My daughter Kate and my son, Lorcan, who’s 23 and a struggling young actor.

Back Stage: Does he ever ask you for advice on his struggles?

O’Toole: He did a lot once. He wanted to know a lot in the early days. Don’t forget, the young man has been under my shadow for a long time, particularly when he became an actor. In the last couple years he’s decided to do it his own way, and that’s cool.

Back Stage: How did you respond when your children told you they wanted to be actors?

O’Toole: The chief thing is, if anyone says they want to be an actor, I try to say as little as possible. I like to go and look at them. And see if they can do it—and very, very few people can, you know? Thousands of people have it as a job description but only a handful in any one time in any one generation can do it. It was a delight to see my daughter; she could do it. Then I went to see [my son] as a 16-year-old and he can do it. And if you can do it, when you don’t get the job, you can go back home and think it’s their fault. But if you cannot do it, you spend the rest of your whole life mystified about what is this acting? What do I do? Mystified. Because you’re born with it…or not at all.

Back Stage: Can’t training help make you an actor?

O’Toole: Training can sharpen and deepen and enrich. But it can’t teach you how to act. It’s impossible. I would say that in England there are about 150 people who can really do it in any age group, from my age group to the middle age group to the young age group. There’s probably 50 from each group. And there are thousands of actors.

Back Stage: Is it frustrating for you to work with people who don’t have it?

O’Toole: No, you get used to it. You get used to it in drama school. None of us who went to drama school knew, “What is this acting thing?” Edith Evans was asked about becoming an actor and she said, “You catch it, like influenza.” You do. And it’s a mystery, you don’t know what you’re doing, you just know you want to try and do it. And after a couple turns, you realize you’re not all that bad. And after awhile you see a look in someone’s eyes and you know immediately—immediately—they get it. Or you go onto a set and look in someone’s eyes and there’s nobody home. And they try and they try and they try and they’re just in for a lifetime of mystification.

Back Stage: Are there any new actors today you admire who have that special quality?

O’Toole: Oh yes, there’s always young talent. It renews itself. Not many, but a few. There are some exceptional young women and men today. There’s a young English actor called Simon Russell Beale, he can do any damn thing. I love to see him work.

I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately, including this year’s [Oscar nominees]. That’s what I’ve been doing; I spent yesterday at the pictures. Having rather arrogantly announced that I was still in the game three or four years ago, I’ve been dealt a very nice hand. So I’m going to play it.

Back Stage: It’s been reported that before you received the 2003 Honorary Oscar, you considered turning it down. Were you being serious?

O’ Toole: Well, that’s a jumble that has been reported and misreported. Put it this way: at first I wasn’t at all keen on it. My behavior was a little bit crass, but you might expect that. And it was pointed out to me, very firmly, by my daughter that this is the highest honor. So I accepted gladly and delightedly.

Back Stage: I recently read an interview where you referred to your 1991 comedy King Ralph as “bottomless stupidity.” Do you always go into a film with the same amount of commitment and dedication, regardless of the project?

O’Tolle: Oh yeah. Whether theatre or cinema, acting is what I do for a living. It’s how I put steam on the table. I have to earn my living. And the longer I go on living, the more expensive it becomes. I’m not going to get a Venus or a My Favorite Year or a Beckett or any of those through the post every month. Maybe every 10 years I might get one. I can’t always be the supreme judge of the material. If it’s a good job, I’ll do it. It’s like asking a musician if he turns up and he’s going to play Vorisek  and he doesn’t like it, will he bugger it about? Not at all. He’s going to play it. You go out there and you plow your author. That’s an old 18th century English expression: “Come on old plowhorse, plow your Shakespeare.”

Back Stage: Is it possible for you to pick a favorite role from all the ones you’ve played?

O’Toole: Strange thing, but I can walk into a room and they’re all sitting there. I never know quite who’s going to live on. All I have to do is think of them and they come. I’ve got about half a dozen parts that are there—sitting in the chair. And I know them, I could do them tomorrow.

Back Stage: You mentioned being unsure of yourself for a long time. At what point did you feel accomplished as an actor?

O’Toole: I was as green as grass when I began, I had no confidence. I wasn’t from an acting family, I didn’t know the business. I’d been a journalist and a sailor for three years. By the end of drama school, I had a certain amount of confidence from doing plays. And when I went into repertory at the Old Vic, it took me about a year to 18 months before I began to see I could do it. And other people were saying I could. Then the compliments began to grow and grow and grow.

There’s an old saying—in America it takes 20 years to become an actor. In England, the saying is 15 years. I thought, “I can’t wait 15 years.” I was playing Man and Superman on stage in Dublin in 1967 or 68 and I’d just done The Lion in Winter with Kate Hepburn. As I turned up to work every day with my beloved Kate, it dawned on me that for the first time in my life, I felt that I was completely on top of it. And that was 15 years.

Back Stage: What’s been your biggest challenge as an actor in your career?

O’Toole: The most difficult play on earth is the one we call the Scottish play. I was quite confident in doing it. I knew that so many people had come unstuck throughout history. But I felt prepared and convinced I could do it. It’s called hubris. Yet I knew as I was walking onstage that I was going to be no use. I knew it. But we weren’t a bad company and it isn’t a bad play. We toured the whole of England with it and by the end of the tour, I had an inkling of how to play…MacBeth.

It’s a sublime play and the most difficult of all the parts, no question. Man, woman, every part in there is difficult and complex. Macready, he spent 10 years trying to get MacBeth right. He said, “I got onto the stage and could not put on the stage what was in my imagination. I’m in despair.” Henry Irving was booed off the stage. Alec Guinness died a death, Albert Finney died a death, I died a death. Yet the whole company was determined to get it right. All of us were guilty of hubris, even the witches.

Abercrombie CEO: “No Fat Chicks!”

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Hey, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries. You handsome devil, you. I just read about how you don’t want overweight people (read: above a size 10) wearing your clothes because you only want the “cool kids” to. That’s a’ight. I’m not going to get too worked up, as I understand  bias against the overweight is one of the last acceptable forms of discrimination these days. Again, I would challenge you to substitute any other word for “fat”–black, Jewish, gay–and see how it goes over when you say you don’t want _____ wearing your clothes.

I really don’t have the energy to get into this yet again. I will just say this:  I make a lot more money than the hipster waifs you’re pursuing, so I’ll spend that elsewhere. (Why do you think your target demographic is so thin?? They can’t afford to eat!)

Also, I appreciate how you had your eyes surgically altered at such a severe angle so everyone would appear thin to you. Like a funhouse mirror. That’s commitment to a bit. Enjoy judging other people’s appearances, Mr. Kettle.

Oh What a Night: The LA Weekly Awards

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Still reeling from last night’s LA Weekly Theater Awards, where I was nominated against so many people I respect and admire and somehow managed to walk away with a win for Best Comedy Direction for “A Kind of Love Story.” For those of you who don’t know, this has been an amazing, exhilarating, remarkable journey for me with a story I’ve been kicking around for 15 years. I couldn’t have written the script I wrote then, I had a lot more living to do, and I wouldn’t have been a director as recently as five years ago. Proof that things happen at the right time and the universe has a plan for us all. And the best part was getting to share the night with so many people, as Sacred Fools’ “Stoneface” also swept up a slew of awards and sister theatre Theatre of NOTE was ably represented.

I was in a blur while giving my speech—genuinely shocked—and was afraid to start naming names because I knew I would leave someone off and feel like a colossal jerk. (I’m already embarrassed I didn’t think Steven Leigh Morris and the good critics at LA Weekly, who truly love the medium of theatre and work so hard to put on such a special show for the artists of 99-seat theatre.) So I thanked my cast, crew, and Sacred Fools, but wanted to use this endless virtual space to specifically thank everyone who made this possible. Even so, I cannot possibly name all the people who turned up and laughed and passed on kind words and just did the most important thing: YOU SHOWED UP. Thank you, may your god bless you, and you have my lifelong devotion.

I don’t want to take myself too seriously, but there are people who are due some thanks, and I do take that seriously. So here’s what I would have like to have said, given unlimited time and space:

Exactly how do you win an award for directing? You get involved with the finest group of artists in town, the most talented and committed group of people called The Sacred Fools Theater. You hone your craft there over the years thanks to the producers of the late-night show “Serial Killers” and one-off events like “Fast & Loose.” You find your voice, you find what works, you allow yourself to fail. Over and over again.

You pray for an Artistic Committee like Alyssa Preston, Leon Russom and French Stewart—people you admire so much who actually support and encourage your growth as an artist. You con them into giving you a show and somehow the people who make this theatre run on a daily basis, Managing Director Padraic Duffy and Production Manager Heatherlynn Gonzalez, not only agree, but work their asses off to make the show happen.

Then you surround yourself with producers smarter than you—Ben Rock, JJ Mayes and Monica Greene—and associate producers like Addi Gaash and Annette Fasone. People who have nothing to gain out of working their asses off for you, but do it anyway. Who go above and beyond the call of duty, probably more than you will even know because they don’t want to bother you with every crisis. You get guidance from the likes of Bryan Bellomo. And you put together the best designers you know of—Mark McClain Wilson as your sound ninja, lighting genius Brandon Baruch, costume wizard Marianne Davis, and Tifanie McQueen to put together a set that you want to live in. Jessica Sherman takes pretty pictures for you and Corey Klemow is always there to make sure the website looks amazing and tweak every little request. And Ben Rock and Anthony Backman, way overqualified, make your video. Then people like Zach Bernstein, Suze Campanga, Erik Engman, and Lisa Anne Nicolai dedicate their time to be there practically every night and make your show run smoothly. And CJ Merriman, who belongs on stage, agrees to move your furniture—and cameo as a surly usher named Jan (she has a whole backstory.) This is all overseen by the best goddamn stage manager you can imagine—though she might not want people knowing that, I think the secret is out—Megan Crockett.

Then, the smartest thing you do is assemble a flawless cast. People who you know are going to make you look good. Your go-to stalwarts like Carrie Wiita and Mike Lanahan, who you know the world is going to have no problem falling in love with. Comic geniuses like Erin Matthews, who makes air humping an art form, and Will McMicheal, who can get a laugh out of a wordless Sam the Eagle glare. Fearless actors like Carrie Keneran, who will go anywhere you ask, or Rebecca Larsen who you can’t take your eyes off of every time she steps on stage. People like Curt Bonnem, who is ALWAYS so good in everything, you could almost take him for granted, or Terry Tocatins, who everyone knows is a comedic genius but surprises you with a heartfelt performance. Guys like Rick Steadman, who not only handles the audience’s hatred of his character, he revels in it (so you don’t have to feel too bad.) You cast people like Donnelle Fuller, who you became a fan of the first time you saw on stage and always hoped to work with, or Jen Smith who makes your dialogue sound so natural and real people think you’re brilliant. Then you take a handsome devil like Eric Giancoli and put him offstage in a booth so the world can hear his dulcet tones. And when you think you can’t live without these people, you somehow manage to find amazing understudies like Emily Clark Simpson, Bailee DesRocher, Lena Bouton, Pete Caslavka, Anthony Backman, JJ Mayes, and Terry Tocatins, who not only glide in effortlessly but make the parts their own. The fact that all these people also happen to be ridiculously nice, supportive, and fucking fun to hang with is just a bonus.

And personally, you surround yourself with people who love and support you, who let you know that no matter what happens, even if your show is the “Showgirls” of LA theatre, they’ll still be your friends. Truly too many people to mention but have to thank Vanessa Claire Stewart, Cheyanne Gustason, Carrie Wiita, and Desiree Hall for listening to me complain, talking me off ledges, and always being there, even at ridiculous hours.

So you let all these people work their magic and then you rewarded for being smart enough to get out of their way. Then you hope the audience comes. And you did. And I can’t thank you enough. Some of you, like Brenda Dunn, even came in from places as exotic as Oregon to support me. Some of you came from the Westside, which is just as impressive. And the Weekly people came—Steven Leigh Morris was not only nice enough to take time out of an insane schedule, he even moved to a different night at my recommendation. And then so many artists who I worship and admire—writers like Bob DeRosa, Stuart Gordon, Steve Chbosky, and Bert Royal—are kind enough to make me feel like their peer.

And the day of the awards, this whole team comes out to support you. The balcony is filled with Fools and Foolish friends. Mandi Moss Holmes brings you nail polish. Eric Giancoli gives you a calming massage for your migraine. French and Vanessa Stewart throw a party where you can all celebrate together. And you try your best not to take it all too seriously, but just have a great time. And you do, because the truth is, the nominations were such an unexpected honor, just icing on an already perfect cake. You don’t do this for a shiny plaque, and even before the nominations this has gone down as one of the most amazing, exhilarating, frustrating, wonderful, beautiful, epic experiences of your life. And is truly is an honor being nominated, in such amazing company, receiving that encouragement from people you have so much admiration for. And that’s the real victory—that all these fantastic people worked together to realize a dream you’ve had and make it exceed your fantasies.

But yeah, winning is nice, too.Image

Uber power couple Annette Fasone and JJ Mayes.

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Stage Manager/Actress/Miniature Golf Expert Megan Crockett.

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Fellow fool and BEST DIRECTOR winner Jaime Robledo.

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Photo by Donnelle Fuller–the view from the balcony.

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Shut Up Rex Reed

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So here we are again. Another Melissa McCarthy movie, another person stepping forward to call her names and disparage her weight. I wasn’t going to address the venomous Rex Reed review of “Identity Thief,” where he refers to McCarthy as  “tractor-sized” and a “female hippo” because I didn’t want to lend it any attention. (BTW, why specify a “female hippo,” Rex? Knowing how you hate women, was that your idea of a double insult?)

But then Rex made the mistake of trying to explain himself, and just made matters worse. He went on WOR Radio and called her “Melissa Manchester.” And then he played the card every fattist eventually gets to: Hey, I’m just worried about her health. Yep, it’s the overweight person’s equivalent to “some of my best friends are black” or “I don’t mind the gays, I just don’t want to have it in my face.” The last salvo of a prejudiced person.

Way back in 2010 I addressed this in a blog when a writer for Marie Claire criticized McCarthy and her show “Mike and Molly” in a charming piece titled “Should Fatties Get a Room?” As I said then: “Is she entitled to her opinion? Sure. Is it okay to spout hate speech and encourage disdain of people based on their appearance for a national magazine? Absolutely not.  There is a professional way to have made this argument, but it would have involved the writer having a modicum of class.” That writer and Reed are cut from the same cloth.

So Rex claims he’s just worried about her health. He says: “I have too many friends that have died of obesity-related illnesses, heart problems and diabetes…I have helped people try to lose weight, and I don’t find this to be the subject of a lot of humor.” Give me a break. That’s like me saying I only care about Reed being gay because I don’t want him to die of AIDS. Rex Reed may care about a lot of things but don’t dismiss McCarthy by saying she has “devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success” and then pretend you care at all about her well-being. Oh, and “short career”? Is this an entertainment writer who knows nothing of her lengthy career? Is he unfamiliar with The Groundlings? “Go”? “Gilmore Girls”? Does he really believe McCarthy is just some flavor-of-the-month flash in the pan? Also, does he have access to McCarthy’s medical records? Is he qualified to speak about a person’s physical health?

I don’t want to respond to all this with a personal attack on Rex Reed because it’s not necessary and frankly, it’s too easy. You all know Rex is a failed actor, right? Anyone remember his Magnum Opus, “Myra Breckenridge“? You know, the “Showgirls” of its time, where Rex plays a man who wants so badly to be a woman, he has surgery and is thereon after played by Raquel Welch? I think that says it all; though I love this write-up of his performance by the great Glenn Kenny. What I would like to say to Rex Reed is, to misappropriate a line from “Flawless,” Melissa McCarthy is more woman then he will ever be or have. And more man, too. I will close with the same text from the post over two years ago:

“All I can say is I’ve met McCarthy in person a couple of times and am always taken aback by how stunning she is. I’m not talking in spite of or because of her weight. Beautiful is beautiful, and McCarthy literally glows. As for the guys who want to criticize from their keyboards, don’t get so stressed out.  I have no doubt that McCarthy is way out of your league.”

Hey Neighbor, if you’re going to throw out your hand-drawn Futurama porn, please tie up the bag better.

Hey Neighbor, if you're going to throw out your hand-drawn Futurama porn, please tie up the bag better.

What a nice start to my morning. Taking the trash to the dumpster, I find that one of my neighbors has tossed a bag down the chute and it’s fallen open, revealing HUNDREDS of pages like this.

UPDATE! With a little Internet sleuthing (okay, I Googled “Futurama porn”), I think I’ve found the site these were drawn for. Doesn’t this (http://www.sexycartoonporn.net/category/futurama-porn/page/3/) look like the drawing on the right in my picture of Fry in the headband?? I’m actually somewhat pleased to learn this was drawn for a job, not a hobby. And that this talent is being recognized and rewarded!

BTW, thanks to all the people on Twitter and Reddit who complimented my shoes. They look very judge-y, don’t they?

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Conversations with “Argo” (and Me!)

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I love that this is the screen grab on YouTube. I was fortunate enough to moderate this Q&A with Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin last week. A few hours after this, “Argo” won the Golden Globe for Best Picture. Coincidence? (Probably.) Anyway, my favorite moment is at the 35:00 mark,  when I ask Ben who makes the better spy–him or his wife. Great response. Embedding is disabled, so go here to see the Q&A:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ILQ4wCiWek

Also, I’m thinking of putting together a “Men of ARGO” calendar. The cover shot:

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Perhaps It’s Time To Rethink Your Line-Up

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Saw this while in Pasadena to see a documentary (don’t ask.) A friend said on their website, Lance Armstrong had been replaced by Michael Phelps. Improvement?

“Zero Dark Thirty” and Jessica Chastain

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Well the nice thing about Twitter and Facebook is that plenty of other people take photographs and video of events for me, so I always have lasting souvenirs of these events. Here’s some photos from the Q&As I did with Jessica Chastain the day after she won the Golden Globe. And here’s a link to a video someone took of her talking about the Globe win.  (Ignore the fact they spelled my name wrong, it’s really me.) I was also honored to be the first person to host the Q&As they did for “Zero Dark Thirty” back in November; video highlights here.

I’ve known Jessica for about three years now, thanks to our mutual friend Octavia Spencer and the fact I had seen Jessica in “Salome” back in 2006. I claim no genius in predicting her stardom–anyone who saw that show knew she was on her way to a huge career.  She’s still magnetic on stage; back in December, I got to go see her on Broadway in “The Heiress,” which I thought was fantastic, despite some reviewers who disagreed. Going backstage to see Jessica, the first thing she said was, “Wait, I have to take my nose off!” (I didn’t even realize she was wearing a prosthetic. I’m just that perceptive.)

Anyway, the point of all this is to say that awhile back, I asked Jessica if she had happened to see the Adam Sandler movie “Jack and Jill.” I know, I’m going to get kicked out of the Pretentious Film Critics Society for liking “Jack and Jill,” but it’s actually REALLY FUNNY. And more to the point, in the film, her mentor and friend Al Pacino plays himself. And he’s hilarious in it, pursuing Jill–Adam Sandler in drag–and even singing and rapping  a song for Dunkin’ Donuts. I told her to go online and check out “Dunkacinno” for her own good.

She eventually did, and agreed it was magic. Pacino’s got moves. She kept promising to view the full film, but every time I checked in, she had yet to watch it.

Cut to the day after the Golden Globes. I hand her a wrapped package and say, “I know you’re going to get a lot of great swag this season, but I promise you nothing will top this.” She knew what it was before even opening it. Check out my unadulterated glee.

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