Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck The 10 Best Films Of 2003 The 10 Best Films Of 2003 The 10 Best Films Of 2002 The 10 Best Films Of 2002 Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

'Paul Williams: Still Alive' Star Paul Williams & Director Stephen Kessler Discuss Deleted Scenes, Buddy Movies, Muppets & Daft Punk

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist June 8, 2012 at 1:59PM

Singer/songwriter Paul Williams, as Stephen Kessler’s brilliant (and occasionally heartbreaking) new documentary “Paul Williams: Still Alive” teaches us, is indeed, still very much alive. The versatile entertainer has had a profound impact on popular culture, writing songs for The Carpenters (“We’ve Only Just Begun,” as the documentary points out, originated from a television jingle), Helen Reddy, and Elvis Presley. Williams made nearly constant appearances on 1970s television, not only as a performer and guest on countless talk shows but also in episodic dramas like “Hawaii Five-O” and “The Love Boat.” He wrote “Rainbow Connection” for “The Muppet Movie,” won an Oscar for “Evergreen” from the Streisand/Kristofferson “A Star Is Born,” and wrote the songs, score, and co-starred in Brian De Palma’s cult classic “Phantom of the Paradise.” We sat down with Williams and Kessler to discuss making the film, how it became a buddy movie between the two of them, the Muppets, and Williams’ involvement in the new Daft Punk record.
0
Paul Williams Still Alive

They both point to a moment in the film where the subject and the documentarian break down the walls. It’s when Paul, scheduled to do a series of concerts in the Philippines, invites Kessler along for the ride. Kessler, spurred on by news reports of Al Qaeda activity in the area, practically seizes up – he doesn’t eat, he is visibly nervous, and Williams comforts him. “I think in the Philippines, he’s so scared, he’s so convinced Al Qaeda is going to get us,” Williams (who had been there “many times before”) says with a chuckle. “If I had the slightest impression that was going to happen, I never would have gone.”

Kessler, who likens the situation to being like “ ‘The Seven Samurai’ and the wise warrior taking the little clown through the jungle,” said that, “One thing is I tried to make it very honest and very transparent, and that scene on the bus in the Philippines when Paul starts to talk to me about his childhood, I thought, ‘Whoa, now I have a film.’”

Paul Williams Still Alive

Both are proud of the finished product, although Williams admitted that, “There’s a lot in the film that’s really hard for me to watch.” The eventual DVD/Blu-ray will have even more stuff, including a moment Kessler was particularly proud of. “There’s a seminal episode of ‘The Odd Couple’ where the daughter falls in love with Paul Williams and goes to follow him on tour,” Kessler explained. “And Paul wrote this beautiful song for Felix’s daughter to explain what it feels like to become a father. And I thought it would be great to put that song to scenes with him and his daughter. But there wasn’t a place for it in this story.”

Another amazing aspect of the film is the sense of rediscovery – there’s all this pop culture miscellanea that makes its way into the movie that is really stunning. Williams quipped: “He has an attitude about reintroducing and I had an attitude of ‘we don’t need to do that.’ ” But Kessler was proud of a number of moments, particularly a clip from an episode of “The Tonight Show,” where Williams appeared alongside Robert Blake (a moment he remembers vividly), and the use of "Time & Tide," a song from long-forgotten movie “The Lifeguard.” “I feel like I was able to use that song in my film the way they weren’t able to use it in ‘The Lifeguard,’” Kessler said.

This article is related to: Paul Williams, Stephen Kessler, Interviews


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates