John Landis Interview -- Stanley Kubrick, Michael Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Steven Spielberg, and Pro-Wrestling!Posted Thu Jun 21, 2018 at 06:39 AM PDT by Bryan Kluger
I had the extreme pleasure to sit down with director John Landis and talk about some of his movies, life, and career. What's remarkable about John Landis is that he's worked with some of the best in the business during the height of their careers in some of their best work. It's really a trifecta of magnificence that culminated in some of the best motion pictures ever made.
John Landis got his start in the movie business by working as a stuntman in western movies, including The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. He was known in the business for taking a shot and falling off a horse nicely. He then made a fun B-Movie called Schlock, but then moved onto some of the most recognizable and best motion pictures in history. Some of his films include: Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Coming to America, Trading Places, Michael Jackson's Thriller, An American Werewolf in London, Three Amigos, Amazon Women on the Moon, and Spies Like Us.
That's to just name a few. As you can see, Landis has worked with the best of the best at their best through time. In this interview, we talk about his love of movies, some of his stories from the set of JAWS, meeting Stanley Kubrick, his love of pro-wrestling, shooting Coming to America, and working with Michael Jackson. There are a ton of great stories here, which I feel we barely scratched the surface. Even though I had almost an hour with Landis, it felt like only a few seconds. The guy is so talented and has worked with such geniuses, that I imagine there are at least 24 more hours of stories to tell.
If you'd like to check out a specific portion of the interview, here are the time stamps for each subject:
Intro - 00:00
State of film today - 00:33
Shooting Digitally vs Stock - 01:33
Schlock - 01:45
Refer to movies as motion pictures - 02:37
Directing Coming to America (Barber Shop Scene) - 02:53
Eddie Murphy as old Jewish Guy - 03:57
Eddie Murphy improv on set - 05:27
Coming to America joke at end of movie - 06:10
Working with Michael Jackson on Thriller - 06:47
Michael Jackson in his prime - 09:07
Michael Jackson’s childhood - 10:13
Michael Jackson's “Father is a pig” - 10:34
John Landis picking his music for his films - 11:13
See You Next Wednesday dialogue - 13:04
Meeting Stanley Kubrick - 14:15
Stedicam - 16:00
His time with Stanley Kubrick - 19:01
Working with Spielberg/Lucas/Coppola/Scorsese - 21:26
Living with Spielberg on the set of Jaws - 22:49
Building set on Jaws - 25:00
Being a stuntman in Westerns - 27:00
Blues Brothers stunts - 27:51
John Landis on Pro-Wrestling - 29:02
Triple H in WWE - 32:08
The Rock in WWE - 33:47
Favorite Scenes in Movies - 34:13Continue Reading
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Incredibles 2 marks the 20th Pixar film since the studio debuted Toy Story in 1995, changing the landscape of animated motion pictures forever. In these 20 years, we've seen animation transition from a computer-enhanced 2D hand-drawn medium to 3D CGI renderings capable of photo-real textures. Every other studio followed Pixar's lead, but technically and visually speaking, Pixar remains a pioneer.
Not only has Pixar changed the game as far as visuals go, they weave well-rounded, emotional stories with deeply-developed characters and thematics that connect with audiences young and old. With the release of The Incredibles 2, I thought it would be fun to rank all of the Pixar movies, getting to revisit each movie once again.
Brave stands out as Pixar's first fairytale or princess movie. It also features Pixar's first female protagonist. Yet, while the movie is visually rich, the story and characters are forgettable.
The story is a mother-daughter bit that should play to the heart strings of people of all ages, but somewhere along the way, the creators add in a bit of slapstick humor, which makes the film an uneven balance of sincere emotion and silly comedy. Most of the time, this sort of thing works when Pixar is involved, but it misses the mark by a million feet in Brave's case. What we are left with is a jumbled up mess of comedy and half-cocked emotion with easily forgettable characters. This is my least favorite Pixar movie to date.
Monsters University is Pixar's first prequel to an amazing film from several years before it. The film features two of its most beloved characters back when they were in college, which I imagine is Pixar's attempt at an Animal House type of situation. With Monsters University, we get mostly a funny, silly film without any emotional heft. That's about it. Sure, there is a decent message, but we already know how everyone turns out from the original film, so nothing is at stake nor is there any real conflict.
The film looks great, of course, but this prequel just failed to impress above a silly comedic level that doesn't have a good replay factor at all. Even when you're watching this movie, you can't help but want to watch the original film instead. There are some wink and nod jokes throughout, but other than that, Monster's University doesn't have a lot going for it.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR
Arguably the worst Pixar movie to date is The Good Dinosaur. However, I moved it up a couple of rankings due to the movie's very sincere ending. There are many things to dislike about this movie, but at the end, Pixar tugs at those heartstrings quite well, which leads to a few instances of forgiveness. First of all, I do believe this is Pixar's attempt at a subtle western movie. There are numerous homages to the western movie genre, which play out great, but the fact remains that The Good Dinosaur fails miserably due to its horrible protagonists.
Arlo the dinosaur and Spot the cave boy are so obnoxious throughout the whole movie that you begin to loathe being with them. Add to that an incredibly slow paced movie that results in snoozes and snores. I do enjoy the fact that Pixar uses real-life settings and backdrops in the movie, but the contrasts of the goofy-looking animated dinosaur is (dare I say it) an eye-sore. This had a lot of potential, but again, it misses the mark.
I'm so torn on this movie. On one hand, Cars 2 is a spy thriller film with Bruce Campbell lending his voice to one of the cars. On the other hand, this is a horrible Mater-centric movie that is unfunny, lacks any emotion, and is quite a chore to even watch with my eyes open, let alone listen to the awful sound of Larry the Cable Guy's voice-acting.
Even with Bruce Campbell being a part of this movie, I just can't in good conscious give it a good ranking. What puts it further up the chain than the others, though, is it's spy thriller side story and excellent visuals that take us out of Radiator Springs and into new worlds. It is simply gorgeous. Other than that, Cars 2 fails to do much of anything else, other than excite the few of us who love the Evil Dead franchise for a few minutes.
Visually, Finding Dory is stunning, and is maybe one of the best looking Pixar films. Every nuance of sea life and underwater scene is intricate with the finest of details and fully immerses you into this world. The voice work is spot on and Ellen DeGeneres shines as Dory, while Ed O’Neill and Albert Brooks pack some good laughs. Even though, a lot of the charm and boldness of the first film is gone here, Finding Dory is still worth your time.
Finding Nemo did everything the first time, where as this sequel just re-hashes the same material with a somewhat different message behind it. That is until the final act where all of the fish actually drive a car on the highway. This is where the film lost me and became low on the totem pole. Finding Dory may have some good moments, but they aren't great.
Cars 3 if a bit better than part 2, but still falls short of the original. This film has some good moments, but I'm not sure why they decided to tell a story about retirement to its core demographic of eight-year-olds. By and large, the Cars franchise is mostly geared to its younger audiences, but in Cars 3, it's all about being old and retiring, or at least knowing when to retire.
It's a good message and storyline for sure, but it's just a strange one to tell. Given the storyline, most of the movie is actually quite slow moving, that is until the third act of the film, when the visuals look exceptionally good. Again, it's nice to see a lot of people return to their voice roles and see Lightning's transformation, but they may have jumped the gun a little bit with this one. All in all, Cars 3 is a decent film, but not a keeper.
Pixar's take on a world inhabited by talking cars is a good one. It's a sweet movie with fun characters and a great message of helping someone new -- with a backdrop of how difficult it is to get a job and keep a business from failing. This film applies to all ages and is a joy to watch. The only thing missing is any real sort of big conflict that would be drastic to anyone.
Sure, we want to see Lightning win the race and Radiator Springs thrive with business, but that's about it. There isn't a sense of urgency to keep our interests up to see these characters save the day or win the race. Instead, the film is just natural and fun, and sometimes that's all you need. Cars is a film that isn't talked about a lot, but is still worth your time. Plus, it's the only Pixar film to have George Carlin in it, and that should count for something.
Before Inside Out was released, Pixar had a few movies that didn't play well and lacked any emotional heft to them. Luckily, Pixar returned with a vengeance with Inside Out, a movie that is as funny as it is sad, which is exactly the point of the film. Pixar tells an amazing story about a little girl who moves from her hometown to somewhere new, with her emotions struggling to accept the new environment.
This message and story is highly intelligent for both kids and adults alike. It tells us that we as humans need to have a healthy dose of not just happiness, but also sadness to help keep us sane and well-rounded individuals. There are some funny moments for sure, but there are also some extremely emotional scenes as well that are done with love and tenderness. The story structure and voice acting is incredible, too. One fault I have with this, is perhaps the emotion characters themselves are a tad bit silly, but still, Inside Out is a fantastic film.
Finding Nemo is a fantastic film through and through. It is the first time in Pixar's career that we get to see life under the sea and what it might be like. Nobody thought that a trio of fish could become household names, spawn sequels, and make you cry and laugh all in the same scene. Finding Nemo does that. It follows a father/son dynamic that is filled with thrills, adventure, big monstrous fish, and even life and death.
It's a powerful story that really connects to its audience, which is just about everyone. The film looks gorgeous and never slows down. If you're wondering why Finding Nemo isn't higher up on the list, that would be due to a few out of place slapstick scenes, which are more or less a staple early on in Pixar's career. Still, it's a fantastic film.
One of Pixar's earliest films is Monster's Inc. and it brought audiences into unfamiliar territory with different dimension where monsters scare human children to power their lives. It could have gone in a horrible direction, but Pixar plays it out beautifully from start to finish. Billy Crystal is a welcome addition to the Pixar family with his unique comedy in the character Mike, and of course the extremely cute toddler named Boo melts everyone's heart.
However, there is more than meets the eye with Monster's Inc. in the character that John Goodman voiced so perfectly. This big monster named Sully is the most famous monster in this Pixar world, but it comes at a cost. He's completely lonely, which I imagine is a satire on the rich and famous in real life. Even though they are respected, wealthy, and successful, some of them are completely alone, and that's how Sully feels -- until he meets Boo. It's a fantastic and heart warming Pixar favorite.
A BUG'S LIFE
A Bug's Life doesn't get enough credit like it should. It's an amazing film that was the second effort from Pixar and follows an ant colony, which shouldn't be confused with AntZ that was released around the same time. This Pixar film though has a ton of heart, which features an ant who thinks outside the box, but is shunned and looked down upon, because he doesn't follow the pack.
It's a great message about being yourself no matter what obstacles come your way. It doesn't have the emotional weight that other Pixar films embody, but the characters are top notch, the script is tight, and it's a lot of fun still to this day.
What a lovely film from Pixar that probably plays more to grownups than a younger crowd. This film follows a rat who loves to cook in Paris and eventually befriends a fumbling intern cook at a fancy restaurant. The visuals alone of the Paris cityscape and countryside is breathtaking, but it also has an amazing story about family, doing what you love, and great food. Patton Oswalt hit a home run with his voice as Remy the rat, while the animation is some of the best we've ever seen for the time. Ratatouille brings the kid out in all of us with this story of love and food.
One of the most recent Pixar films proves that Pixar still has the juice in the engines to make amazing and important films, such as this one - Coco. The filmmakers completely immerse themselves in Mexican culture for their research for the film in every aspect and it shows flawlessly on screen. Coco will have you in tears every time you think about it, as it tackles subjects of family and warmth as well as sympathy for strangers you might not know yet.
I would also go as far to say that Coco is the most colorful and best-looking Pixar film to date, showcasing the underworld and beautiful villages of Mexico. The score and original songs are perfect and spark emotions that you didn't know were there. This is Pixar at its finest and let's hope they continue with this type of filmmaking.
The movie that started the Pixar movie franchise back in 1995 still holds up after all these years. Nobody knew if Toy Story was going to be good or if the new animation style was going to take off, but the creators made a beautiful film, not only visually, but with iconic and endearing characters that we still talk about today. It is a fantastic simple story of what our toys or think when we humans are not playing with them.
It could have been left at that, but instead Pixar takes two characters with Woody and Buzz who make their way into our hearts forever as they try to stay relevant to their owners. This film brings out the kid in all of us and reminds us of our best friends growing up, which were our toys. There are no forced emotions here, but rather just natural kindness and fun. Toy Story is still magnificent and one of the major milestones in filmmaking and storytelling.
TOY STORY 2
Sometimes you get terrible sequels, however at other times, you get sequels like The Godfather: Part II. Yes, I'm going to do that. I'm going to compare Toy Story 2 to The Godfather: Part II in that it's just as good if not better than the original film. We get more of an insight into the world of these toys and what makes them tick as well as dive head first into the good and sinister world of toy collecting. Each character develops even further, along with some new faces that are instantly likable. Also with Toy Story 2 is the faint hint of a hard hitting, emotional film, which we see in later films, but it's here where it all started.
What an incredible movie for sure. Pixar took a chance on its version of the superhero genre and scored a big win. Not only that, but they set the story in the mid-century modern 1960s in the vein of noir spy thrillers.
The Incredibles centers on a family of superheroes in a world where it's frowned upon. It's a wonderfully told story on just how important family is. The movie doesn't shy away from showing adult problems or arguments within the family, nor does it sugar coat a villain. In fact, the villain -- played perfectly by Jason Lee -- is ruthless and evil, which makes everything relevant and worthy of your time. The Incredibles is an amazing film from top to bottom, and has some room for some emotions and a great score, inspired by the 1960s.
THE INCREDIBLES 2
The most recent Pixar film is stunning and highly entertaining. You might be thinking why it took so long for Pixar to make a sequel to one of the most popular films in their wheelhouse, but we can all rest easy now, because The Incredibles 2 is here and it's one of their finest achievements. The Incredibles 2 takes place right where the first film left off and fully develops each character even more with bigger twists and turns around every corner.
The same message is still in play here of family sticking together, but there is more to it than just surface material. There is also an added element that can relate to our own political and social climate these days, which plays out perfectly. The visuals are even better than the first film and the action along with the adventure and thrills are at an all-time high. There isn't an emotional punch in this one like in some other Pixar films, but it's not needed. The Incredibles 2 is utterly fantastic.
TOY STORY 3
Toy Story 3 really breaks the mold and decides to go all out with a super emotional and very dark film. Andy is all grown up and going to college, where all of his toys, including Buzz and Woody, haven't been played with in a long time. They are kept in a trunk, which leads to a garbage bag headed for the attic. This film goes to new territory in a very adult way that tackles situations such as death, abandonment, getting older, and broken relationships.
On top of all that, it's the funniest Toy Story film out of all of them. Pixar took a chance here, and it reaped the rewards on each of those chances. There are two big tear-jerking moments that you'll never forget, in that you've grown up with these toys and they are friends and family and not just pieces of plastic. I really don't know if they can top this one with Toy Story 4.
I've seen this movie no less than 50 times and each time I bawl my eyes out throughout the entire film. The opening several minutes of the film have almost zero dialogue, but tells a story of decades between a couple who fall in love, which brings tears to my eyes as I write this. This is the most mature of Pixar films, but it's told so tenderly that all ages know exactly what's going on in the film, and just how big the stakes are.
The unlikely duo of an elderly man and a young kid who go on an adventure of a lifetime with a talking dog is a visual spectacle to behold. Not only that, this story rips out those heart strings and will cause you to tear up and think of those you love dearly. This is a one-of-a-kind movie and holds up after each viewing. Up is one of Pixar's best ever.
Wall-E is the perfect film. This is Pixar's opus on all levels and is the movie we all need right about now. The film tells a story about a futuristic Earth that has been abandoned due to our own greed and unhealthy ways, leaving a series of robots to clean up our trash on Earth. This is the fall of human kind in a way, which is quite scary and could possibly become a reality sooner than later as the technology in the film is becoming more and more true with each year. After all that said, this movie really is a love story between two robots.
Wall-E is an old soul who is kind, generous, curious, and is struck by the love-at-first-sight arrow when he sees the impressive and technological robot Eve. What's great and poetic about this movie is that Wall-E is the hero of the film, but he's not your typical hero. He doesn't save the day or protect his loved one because he fights for a great cause or wants to impress anyone. Instead, he does these good things, because he wants to be kind and love everyone. This could be billed as the world's sweetest movie.
The emotional charge is here as are the simple funny moments. This love story and two characters are probably the best in-love couple on screen, and they barely talk in the film. In fact, the first part of the film there is no dialogue, but the filmmakers tell a story so intricately and perfectly that you instantly bond with these robots. Again, Wall-E is the perfect film that rounds out this ranking. Now, I dare Pixar to do better than this.
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"I can fly!"
If you missed your chance to own Disney's Diamond Edition Blu-ray release of Peter Pan back in 2013, fear not, the Mouse House is taking the film out of the vault just in time to celebrate its 65th Anniversary. As part of the celebration, I got to talk with Wendy Darling actress and performer Kathryn Beaumont. During a delightful chat, we discussed the film's longevity, her experience changing studios, and what it was like working on Peter Pan.
"I was shocked when I realized it! I mean, 65 years? These stories are also timeless and that's how they lasted through the years and from one generation to another to another. People enjoy these very special stories.
Starting out as an actress in Hollywood, Kathryn actually began in small roles for several MGM productions before she was hired in 1951 to voice and be the live reference model of Alice for Walt Disney Studios' Alice In Wonderland before she would continue working with the studio portraying Wendy Darling as well as serving as one of the life references for Tinkerbell.
"It was a totally different experience. I hadn't really had a lot of experience when I went to MGM and coming to Disney was quite a different world. When I went to Disney it was a much more relaxed atmosphere and people would come to meet me and get to know me and I really felt like I was part of the team and it was just a wonderful, wonderful experience from what most studios probably would be. I consider myself very fortunate to have been a part of Walt Disney Studios."
As she was still a young girl during the making of Peter Pan, I asked her what her day-to-day work life was like working on the film.
"When I was given the part for Peter Pan as Wendy, there was a session first for recording where you had the script and you did the recordings, and that was followed by live action. And that was where for reference you would go through the motions and act out the scenes that you just recorded earlier on. And that was for the artists to watch on a small screen and see how the movements of the characters were so that it would help them to draw more realistically of what someone was doing while speaking their roles. In a nutshell, that was what I was doing when I was working on the part of Wendy."
Today, the technology behind animated films has changed so drastically that we can actually use motion capture computer programs to get life-like movements and performances for CGI animated characters. For Peter Pan, the process was very different.
"You did the recording first and then a few weeks later you would do the live action because that was the reference for the artists to help them draw the figures more realistically. And so we would have a day of rehearsal and that would be to just block the scenes and know where we were moving and all that sort of thing. And then the next day was under the bright lights where they actually filmed. But there wasn't really a full set, it was a fairly empty set with just basic things that might be needed for us to work with where our actions would show so they would know what to draw with those particular actions.
Those would take a couple of days to do and it was an ongoing process because you would do the voice work first and then you would go and do the other part. And when that was finished you would go to the next scene and then do the live action for that. So it was an ongoing production that went for quite awhile."
The process didn't stop with just simple live action movements. The animators needed a little help to convincingly portray the weightless movements of flight.
"We had devices that were attached to us, these devices were like harnesses, and they would hoist me up into the stage area and then they would move me around so that it looked like I was flying free. That's how they got what proper flight might look like because they could animate that. Of course, it was a little difficult for me because I was afraid of heights! It really wasn't that high up, it was just that I was so frightened and I was so little!
As a young girl who was still in school, her days were a combination of voice recording or live film acting as well as having to put in a full day of school work.
"I had a teacher who was on call from the district, the L.A. Unified District. What she had to do was to make sure there was exactly four hours of work time and three hours of school time. So we would start off our day and maybe do an hour and then we would go up to the set and start working on the production. I would be working on it maybe for an hour and then do an hour of schooling and each time she would log in the time I came in to work with her and the time I left to do some under the bright lights work. So it was back and forth, back and forth all day which would be a full day as the time went along. So it would be four of work with three hours of school with your lunchtime and all of that. So it really was a full day. She was very watchful to make sure I had my full time of school as well as my full time of work."
After her time with Peter Pan, Kathryn would appear in small roles for a few Disney projects here and there. Ultimately, she left the entertainment world and became a teacher. With her distinct voice that is still crystal clear today as it was 65 years ago - some students would realize she wasn't simply just their teacher.
"I would teach some of these classes and at some point, someone would realize that I had this other background. I remember this one little student coming back into the classroom one afternoon - a child who didn't use to come in for help like most who would stay back at the end of the day. And he was sort of standing there and I asked him "what's the matter, do you need something?" and he quietly walked up and asked "well… well… are you the voice of Wendy?" And I said "yes, yes!" and with that, he couldn't handle it any longer and turned around and just dashed out of the room!"
As part of the new bonus feature package for this new Signature Series Collection release of Peter Pan, an absolute must-see piece is the brief, but very informative A Darling Conversation With Wendy & John: Kathryn Beaumont and Paul Collins. It's a wonderful piece that dovetails nicely into what Kathryn and I discussed over the phone.
The new Anniversary Edition Signature Series Collection release of Peter Pan arrives on Blu-ray June 5th. Read my review HERE and don't forget to pre-order this one before it goes back into the vault!Continue Reading
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