BOGDANOVICH RETURNS TO CINEMATIC FARCE. Exclusive Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.

| August 21, 2015

It would be fair to say that iconic director, author and some time actor Peter Bogdanovich is nothing if not a Hollywood survivor. An enfant terrible from Hollywood’s independent landscape of the 70s and 80s, the acclaimed director of such classics as The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon and What’s up Doc? continues to defy e odds and work in what is considered a young person’s game. An accomplished author on books about his mentors Howard Hawks, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, Bogdanovich has enjoyed a checkered career as a director, from seminal hits to misses such as At Long Last Love and They all Loved culminating in a brief comeback with his Oscar winning Mask starring Cher.

As an actor, Bogdanovich is best known as the psychiatrist in the HBO classic The Sopranos, a show he cheekily references in his latest film, She’s Funny that Way, that just opened in select theatres.

She’s Funny that Way is a screwball comedy that pays tribute to the classic farces of Hollywood legend Ernst Lubitsch, whose wonderfully funny “Cluny Brown” is explicitly referenced in the film. It revolves around a theater director (Owen Wilson) whose affection for prostitutes—and whose habit of giving them money so that they can get out of the life after they’ve been with him—leads to complications after one of the girls (played by the deliciously engaging Imogen Poots) shows up to audition for his latest play. The film, which also stars Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte and Jennifer Aniston, recalls classic stage farces in its Broadway setting and escalating hilarity. PAUL FISCHER recently spoke with a very exhausted Bogdanovich in Beverly Hills as he prepared for the release of She’s Funny That Way as the pair discussed the film’s geness as well as the core differences between Hollywood in its ‘silver age’ as he calls it and now.

Paul Fischer: Let me begin by asking you what was the genesis of She’s Funny that Way?

Well it was two things. I liked the phrase ‘squirrels to the nuts’ [referenced in the Lubitsch comedy Cluny Brown] and originally that’s what we called the picture and that got changed because they thought it was difficult to translate and they also thought people would think it was a kid’s movie. So reluctantly we changed it. The other thing was, I was making a picture in Singapore in 1978 called Saint Jack, and it was the story about an American pimp in Singapore and we did a lot of research having met quite a few escorts who were down there to get a felling of the milieu. A couple of the girls were cast in the movie and they were very appealing but sad because they wanted to go home, and I gave two of them some extra money if they promised to quit being escorts and go home, which they did. So for years I thought it would be fun to make a movie about a guy who pays an escort to stop being an escort. And that was the basic premise.

P.F: Farce is such a difficult genre of comedy to pull off so what is the secret of creating a successful farce?

Bogdanovich: I don’t know exactly. I think it depends on how it sounds and the tempo of it all. I remember asking [Howard] Hawks once about His Girl Friday and I notice you get a lot of speed within the performances but you’re not cutting to get the speed. If you do that it’s going to be artificial. So what you want to do is get it within the frame so a lot of the scenes in She’s Funny that Way are shot without a lot of cutting.

P.F: So tonally, how does this compare to your earlier What’s up Doc? Is She’s Funny that Way the flip side of that coin?

Bogdanovich: Well only in that it’s dealing with prostitutes and infidelity, it’s much more cutting edge than ‘Doc’ which is basically a G-rated comedy and more like a cartoon while this one is more grounded in reality.

P.F: If you look at ‘Doc’ today or any of your early work what do you see?

Bogdanovich: Well I try not to see them. If I ever see my pictures it’s usually with an audience rather than by myself. I happen to have seen What’s up Doc recently with an audience and it played great. It played the same as it did in the Music Hall back in 1972.

P.F: Now despite your filmography and track record, is it harder today to get films off the ground for you?

Bogdanovich: Oh yeah it’s terrible, because the studios are basically making tentpoles and the independent business is very difficult, because you have to get the actors, the money.

P.F: How do you cope with the changing face of Hollywood?

Bogdanovich: I just ignore it, just try to get the money and be determined to just get the money somehow.

P.F: You’ve written some great books of classic interviews etc. Are you going to do any more writing?

Bogdanovich: I’ve got a book that I’ve been fiddling with for a while now which is pretty much ready to gout I’m not sure if I want to publish it yet because it’s intimate. I kept a diary for about six and a half years from the middle of 1965 to mid-1971, a lot about Cybill [Shepherd] and my first marriage, making the film Targets, doing The Last Picture Show and that whole period. Then I make commentary on the diary with a contemporary viewpoint. Most of it’s written but I’m a bit loathe to publish it now because it could be controversial and i don’t want any controversy now. I just want to finish the fucking movie and be left alone.

P.F: When you read back over a diary like that, what goes through your mind?

Bogdanovich:That I was so young, 26 or so and now the numbers are reversed.

P.F: If you could make one last film, a passion project, what would it be?

Bogdanovich: I have one that I hope I’ll do next. It’s called Wait for Me and and Brett Ratner likes it so I guess we’ll do it. I’ve been writing it for 30 years and I’ve done 10 drafts and i think I finally got it just right. It’s a comedy drama/fantasy, because there are 6 ghosts in it, and I’ve never done that kind of picture with special effects. It’s about a movie maker who writes, directs and stars in his pictures mainly known for comedy. He’s been married 6 times and he has 6 daughters. His last wife with whom he didn’t have a child, was killed in a plane crash with two of his friends, about 6 0r 7 years before the movie starts. So when we pick him up a number of years after this tragedy, he’s a mess. He xan’t work in Hollywood because he beat up a producer so nobody wants to see him in Hollywood. When we meet him he spent the last few months bullshitting the Italians into having them pay for him to travel around Italy looking for locations for a script he’s supposedly writing but he isn’t. That’s the set up.

P.F: Is it autobiographical?

Bogdanovich: I never beat up a producer, but there are elements of it that are.

P.F: What do you recall about working in Hollywood in the 70s?

Bogdanovich: It was a lot easier making pictures.

P.F: And audiences were different.

Bogdanovich: There weren’t these teenage kids wanting to see things get blown up. It was a much more civilized time. The 70s really started in the 60s around 1966 and ending 10 years later before the blockbuster.

P.F: Was it a seminal period in film history for you?

Bogdanovich: It wasn’t the golden age but more silver. Now I think we’re in brass or bronze. .

She’s Funny that Way has just been released in select theaters across the country.

About the Author:

Paul Fischer I've been an entertainment writer going on for three decades. Born in Australia, I began writing for Australian papers and was the first Australian journalist ever to interview both Woody Allen and Mel Gibson. I moved to Los Angeles at the end of 1999, and apart from my teaching career, have written for Film Monthly and Dark Horizons.

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