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Interview: Peter Bogdanovich Talks 'Cold Turkey,' Endless Frustration Of Orson Welles' 'The Other Side Of The Wind' & More

Interviews
by Drew Taylor
November 20, 2013 11:45 AM
1 Comment
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The new film is produced by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach—were they hands on or did they lend their name to get the ball rolling?
That was pretty much what they did. They were very helpful in getting the picture financed and getting agencies behind it and they are very busy doing their own films but their input has been invaluable throughout the process. They were great catalysts in getting the thing going.

You were very friendly with Orson Welles early on and now you're looked up to by Baumbach and Anderson. Does it feel odd to be in that mentor role now?
Well… It's different… I call Wes and Noah "my son." And they call me "Pop." I have two daughters and a bunch of grandchildren so I'm used to be calling Pop. So it comes with age. I don't mind it.

A couple of years ago you were talking about "The Other Side of the Wind" finally coming out. Do you have any updates?
Well that's a very difficult saga. Frank Marshall and I have been trying to put it together for many years. Orson died in 1985 and we've been trying ever since. It's just ridiculous. The problem is that a lot of different people own parts of it or claim to own parts of it. And so the chain of title is difficult to establish. But it keeps inching forward and we keep getting closer and closer and things fall apart again. It's just a very, very difficult situation. I think it will get done some time but not in the near future.

"I'm sorry that the studios aren't doing more innovative work...But there's talent around and a lot of good actors and good writers. It's just that it feels like we're in a period of decadence."

You started as a film critic. What do you think of the state of film criticism and do you still read your own reviews?
Well, I didn't start as a film critic, I started as an actor at 15. Then I started directing in the theater at 20. Eventually I got into writing for Esquire and the Museum of Modern Art and that was really a way of earning a living while waiting for my next theater gig. Then I decided that I wanted to direct films so I moved out to L.A. and continued writing out there while waiting to direct. In order to answer your question about film criticism, however, I read film criticism occasionally. There are some critics I like and whose stuff I read. The New Yorker has some good critics as well as the New York Times. There are good critics around. I don't read too much because I've been too busy. I'm sure I'll read the "Cold Turkey" reviews. Actually, I have my assistant read the reviews and if they're not good, then I don't read them. 

You recently talked about loving "Nebraska." What have you seen that you loved and what directors are you excited by?
Well I liked Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" [a conversation between Baumbach and Bogdanovich is included in the just-released Criterion Blu-ray]. I thought that was very good. And I generally like everything Wes Anderson does. And Quentin, of course, who's a friend, I like his stuff. I thought Scott Cooper did a great job on that movie that he did with Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart." You know, I don't get a chance to see that many movies. So I'm not up to date on who's who. My movie-going has diminished significantly because I'm not a big fan of science fiction, I don't like horror pictures and sometimes pictures are so depressing that I just don't go, even though I hear it's good. I've come to the point where I don't like to be depressed by a movie.

How would you evaluate the state of movies today?
I think it's unfortunate that there's very little middle ground. It's either very expensive or very cheap. And I'm sorry that the studios aren't doing more innovative work. It feels a little moribund, the whole thing. But there's talent around and a lot of good actors and good writers. It's just that it feels like we're in a period of decadence. 

Is there a film from your body of work that you feel is underrated?
Well, that's difficult to say. Somebody was talking to me about pictures that I had made and they were saying that certain films like "Paper Moon" and "Last Picture Show" and later films didn't have that kind of success and yet filmmakers like Wes Anderson or Noah or Quentin like later films like "Saint Jack" or "They All Laughed." And I kind of agree with them: I think they are two of my best pictures. Then there's a film I made for Disney called "Noises Off," that was based on a Broadway play and I think we did a good job with that. I think that's worth seeing again. I think it's a bit egotistical to talk about my films in that way. That's for other people to decide. And some of them do like some of my more recent work. And I'm happy to hear that when I hear it.

"At Long Last Love" just came out in a new cut. Are there any alternate cuts lying around or movies you'd like to tweak? 
Well, that was quite an amazing story about how that came about… But there's a director's cut of "Texasville" that came out on laserdisc and I would dearly like for that to come out. It's a much better film than the one that was released. It was available on Pioneer laserdisc for a while but that's gone the way of the dodo bird. And I finally got "Nickelodeon" out in black-and-white on DVD and that was a big triumph. It's a much better picture in black-and-white. As Dave Kehr in the New York Times said, "it becomes a totally different picture." And he's right – it does. But most of my films I've had problems with like "Mask" or "Nickelodeon," have come out in versions that I prefer.

Is "Saint Jack" ever coming out on DVD?
Well it came out on DVD a while ago. Roger Corman put it out. But I don't think it's in print now. Criterion is considering it, so that's great.

Have you talked to Criterion about "Texasville?"
Yeah, we've talked about it and we're still discussing it.

Is there a movie from that '70s period that you wish you had gotten to do but didn't?
Yeah, there were pictures here and there that I wanted to make that didn't work out for one reason or another. None that come to mind that are killing me that I didn't make it or anything.

"Cold Turkey" is out on Friday in New York and available now On Demand. For more Peter Bogdanovich, visit his Indiewire blog here.

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1 Comment

  • the sneering (homo-phobic) snob | November 24, 2013 7:27 PMReply

    As long as Bogdanovich is heterosexual hes OK by me.

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