Vanessa Angel [Interview]

Vanessa AngelOh sweet Vanessa Angel.  How you were the modern day Ginger, but with the kind hearted sprit of Mary Ann for a formative young male when you shot to the screen on the hit television sitcom based on the classic John Hughes film, Weird Science.  And to top it off, you performed in what I still consider to be the finest Farrelly Brothers film to date, Kingpin.  Your beauty is as recognizable as your delightful acting chops.
Okay, I will stop withe fascinations now, just long enough to state that I am super excited that we have been allowed the opportunity to steal a few words from one of the most beautiful and prolific women who has ever graced the stage and screen.  And although she took some time off to play the most important role of her life (mommy, of course) she has never truly faded out, and has had a great career that is definitely booming once again, and she is still just as impressive as she has ever been.  Ladies and gentlemen – please welcom actress, model, fashion designer, mom, genius – the  amazing Vanessa Angel!
Kingpin is by far the most superior of the Farrelly Brothers films, in my personal opinion. How was it making that movie and working under the legendary comedic duo?
Kingpin is definitely one of the highlights of my career. I feel very fortunate that Peter and Bobby Farrelly took a chance on casting me as Claudia and filming was just an incredible experience. They were coming off the success of ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and a lot of actresses were keen to work with them. During the auditioning process, they fought for me, as I was kind of the dark horse. I was on hiatus from ‘Weird Science’, so thankfully my schedule allowed me to be available for the film. I can remember Peter calling me to tell me I got the role and I literally jumped up and down with joy! They are just great guys with a wonderful, close knit family and everyone made me feel welcome and included. They have a lot of family members and old friends come to do cameos in their films, so the atmosphere on the set is very warm. We shot mostly in Pittsburg and surrounding areas, so we were all together, which helps create a bond with the cast and crew. I was a little intimidated to work with Woody at first, as he takes a while to warm up to people, but once we got our first scene completed, I felt a lot more comfortable. I knew Bill Murray a little, as I had met him through Dan Aykroyd and was so excited to get the chance to work with him. He helped me a lot creatively during the shoot and was so supportive. Randy Quaid was great too and it was so fun to watch him transform into Ishmael everyday. The role was written as someone in their early 20’s, hence the reference to him as ‘kid’ but Randy bought such a sweetness to him that it really worked. Peter and Bobby work so well together and really trust each other. They have great instincts and a brilliant sense of humor. Bobby would always be at the monitors and Peter would communicate more directly with the actors. They were always coming up with new ideas for funny scenes, so a lot of moments were added as we filmed and weren’t in the original script. You really have to trust their process and take a leap of faith. I was unsure of the scene in the parking lot when Woody and I fight and he punches my chest. I had to wear these mechanical cups that moved and I wasn’t really into the idea, until they assured me it would work and now I think the scene is hilarious, the way I can stand up to him physically and mentally. It took a while for people to discover the film and it wasn’t a big box office hit initially. I think after the success of ‘There’s something about Mary’, people took a look at the Farrelly’s previous films and discovered ‘Kingpin’. I think it has a lot of heart, as well as cutting edge humor, and audiences respond to the characters as well as the comedy and it’s wonderful that after all these years, it’s become sort of a classic. It was wonderful to work together again with The Farrellys on ‘Hall Pass’. It seemed like no time had passed and the set was fun and warm and I felt like part of the family again.
What was the dynamic like between you and your cast mates on Weird Science? What are your most memorable momements from being on that show?
There was a lengthy auditioning process for ‘Weird Science’. John Asher, Michael Manasseri and Lee Tergesen had already been cast, so when it came to the final few callbacks, I got to read/audition with the guys, which made it a lot easier. I got to know them a little during that process and we could feel that we had good chemistry. I was so excited to get the show, as I hadn’t done much comedy and wanted to see if I could step outside my comfort zone. I thought Lisa was such a fun and sweet character and I approached it as though she was seeing things for the first time, almost like a child, with innocence, yet a little mischievous and fun while she had also been programmed with smarts and wisdom. The show had been picked up for 13 episodes before the pilot was even shot, so we had the luxury of knowing we had some time to find the right dynamic. We actually shot 2 episodes before the pilot episode, so we had time to get the timing and tone right before we filmed ‘She’s Alive’. John was the funny, goofy guy, who worked very spontaneously and Michael was much more serious and worked hard on his craft and timing. Lee Tergesen is one of the funniest people I have ever met and the whole cast and crew were always happy when he was on set, making everyone laugh. I actually met my husband of 16 years through Lee, so I will be forever grateful to him for that! The show was filmed, one camera at Universal Studios. It was fairly new at that time to film comedy without a live audience but it meant the days were long, averaging 13/14 hours. There was quite a lot of special effects and blue/green screen, so it was the only way it could really work. We had a lot of fun together, although you’re always racing the clock on tv, so there’s a sense of urgency to get the day completed on time. The crew was so great too and really helped make the days easier. I would look forward to seeing what stories the writer’s had come up with each episode and what crazy, fantasy situation we were in. I had to sing, dance, play with different accents, so it was challenging at times to quickly hone a new skill. I remember having a quick drum lesson for the rock and roll episode and learning to tango with Michael for ‘Spies R Us’, as well as various other things. I sometimes had very uncomfortable costumes to wear and was always up at the wardrobe department getting fitted for some outfit. I even had the costume designer make my wedding dress, based on a dress I had worn on an episode. It was a wonderful show and it helped me to grow as an actress and also to step out of myself and not take myself too seriously. During the first season, my father was very ill and passed away and I remember feeling so fortunate that I had to go to work every day and step into the fun of the show, which helped keep things in perspective during a difficult time. I think of it now as such a special time in my life and have truly fond memories.Vanessa Angel2
What is your greatest non-entertainment related influence in your career? Why?
I’m not sure about a non-entertainment influence but I grew up just outside London and although my family wasn’t in the entertainment business, my mother loved going to the theater and in school we read classic literature and plays at an early age. I had an older sister who was very smart and popular and I was kind of the awkward, shy, skinny girl, so I think I had an inner desire to be ‘seen’ from an early age. My sister and her friend and I would put on plays/vignettes for our parents and their friends and I would always have to be the ‘character’ role, being the youngest and I often got the laughs and I think it made me feel validated and that may have been an initial seed. I was a part of all the school plays and definitely felt more comfortable in that world. We even performed The Caucasian Chalk Circle when I was around 12 and other weighty material, as well as comedies and musicals. I never thought of pursuing a career in acting but after being discovered as a model and later having the opportunity to be cast in my first film, ‘Spies Like Us’, looking back it all sort of made sense and I think it was my destiny to take this path. I think this life has sort of forced me to face my demons. As an actor, your constantly in the position of being judged and it takes a lot of courage to be rejected so often. I think the need to come to terms with who I am and not needing others to validate me has been a constant learning curve in my life and you have to get to a place where you feel comfortable in your own skin, regardless of what others think of you. That’s been a big life lesson and influence that’s comes from being an actress.
Since I became a mom in 2001, I now take into consideration what my daughter would think when I consider a role. I have done a few films for fun, like Baby Genius 2, that I thought she would enjoy!
Can you tell us a bit about VANE LA? What made you want to get into the world of fashion?
I have always loved clothes and fashion and took ‘needlework’ classes at school and made a lot of my own clothes from age 9 on. Then when I started modeling at 14, I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best designer’s, stylists, photographer’s and fashion editors, who really influenced me. VANE LA kind of happened organically. I started making a few dresses for myself about 3 years ago, simple styles but in great fabrics that I couldn’t find made at reasonable prices in stores. I had a friend who worked at Ron Herman at Fred Segal, which is one of the most popular boutiques in Los Angeles and she put me touch with the buyer, who loved one of the dresses I made and ordered 200 dresses for their 4 stores. I had to figure out very quickly how to make that happen! I’ve had to learn a lot about the fashion business and am still working on growing the line. The initial dress sold really well and from there I started offering different styles, and introduced tops and t-shirts too. I like a simple, casual yet elegant kind of way of dressing and my designs try to capture that essence. I sell at a few boutiques, including Ron Herman and Rona in Studio City. I feel quite proud of it, as I literally do all of it, expect the actual manufacturing, on my own. A lot of people in this business get the chance to collaborate on some kind of fashion line but they are basically just lending their name. Not to knock them but I literally do all of it on my own, including delivery! I have a very basic web page, and a VANE LA facebook page to check out.

Can you tell us about Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft in which we will see you in this year? What will you be doing in the film?

Hansel and Gretel is a dark, modern day twist of the fairy tale. BooBoo Stewart from the Twilight films stars, so it’s aimed at more of a tween/teen audience. I play Ms. Keegan, the school guidance councilor, who is not who she appears to be! I enjoy playing characters that are hiding their truth and are deeper and darker than they show on the surface. To be honest, you have to keep in mind that this film was literally shot entirely in less than a week! David DeCoteau was the director, whom I’m really fond of and enjoy working with. It’s actually extraordinary how quickly he can make a film. Not easy to get 20 pages shot in a single day! I always say there are films out there that aren’t great that had several months to shoot, and they have no excuse, so if anyone is critical of this endeavor, keep that in mind! I am happy to have the opportunity to work with people I like and wanted to work with David and Eric Roberts. I think for what it is, its a fun watch.

What does the future hold for Vanessa Angel?
I hope the future holds many more years of feeling fulfilled creatively and a sense of contributing something meaningful. As a mother to an 11 year old daughter, I want to be the best role model I can be and help her to grow and flourish and navigate these next few years. I made a choice to cut back on my work once she was born, and although my career has suffered for it, I feel very glad that I have been able to be there for her in her most formative years. Now I’m ready to work more and I hope the future holds another tv series. I feel I have matured and have a different more experienced voice to share and would celebrate the chance to be a part of a show. I want to continue with my fashion line and get more involved with causes I feel are important. I feel more politically aware and have a sense of greater responsibility and a desire to be part of the solution to the problems facing the world. If I can find even small ways to do that, then I feel I am contributing positively.

Vanessa Angel3What was the last thing that made you smile?

I just saw an unexpected photo of a friend wearing one of my VANE LA dress at a red carpet event today, which made me smile and I was also getting some oranges off a tree outside my kitchen early this morning and a baby bunny hopped away with the cutest white bunny tail. Can’t help but smile at that. We have a rapidly growing family of bunnies living in our yard at the moment, much to our lawn’s dismay!

29 Great Love/Missing You Songs [Exclusive]

As many of you fine readers may know, I am currently dislocated from the woman I love, and the children we created together.  And to put it frankly….it sucks.  Throughout our almost ten years of marriage, I have had to run off all over the world for stints of time ranging from two weeks to six months.  But this time is a doozy.  If you have read the Travelogue section, you will know that I am in South Korea for the remainder of 2013.  An entire year away (although there will be a couple of reunions in the near future).  And dammit do I miss her, and she the same.

Technology these days makes it far more easier to stay in contact than ever.  When I left on my first trip to the desert way back in 2006, I was allotted a daily phone call and a couple of minutes on Myspace (Remember that thing?) on a public computer.  Now whether you are in Afghanistan or South Korea, there are things like Skype and Magic Jack, as well as WiFi fucking everywhere!  So, it is not so bad.  But still, it sucks.  We miss each other dearly, even though we see each other almost every day in a digital manner.  There are two other things you need to know about myself and my beautiful wife though:

1.  We love music!  And for the most part, we agree on almost every genre of music.  Or she at least deals with my choosing all the music, and then complaining about some of her choices.  What can I say, I’m a critic.  Critics are assholes.  But really we do both love a grand selection of modern indie rock, and 90’s alternative that makes up probably 75 percent of our catalog.  We differ when it comes to what is “real classic rock”, but that is an entire argument in itself.  Also our general music choices don’t match our moods.  I dig happy go lucky folk songs by the likes of Golden Bloom, and she is into some dark twisted shit like Civil Twlight.  Pretty weird.

2.  We are corny as fuck.  Sometimes, that is.

We are so corny in fact, we have made it a regular thing to research pretty little love songs to post on each other’s Facebook pages, and then Melissa makes them into a mix tape and sends them to me in care packages alongside Tim’s Cascade chips and pajama pants.  Yes, I know, it is corny.  But I will be damned if I didn’t say how great it is to see these videos on my Facebook page, and how much I enjoy looking up something for her.  It is just another way we manage to kill this disgusting thing called time that we must spend apart.  Some of them are obvious.  Especially the 80’s Monster Ballads.  But, how can you not love those, right?  You’d have to be a soulless bastard to not feel moved by “More Than Words”.  But, we manage to pick out some pretty good stuff.  And just like anything that is personal between Melissa and me, I want to share it to the world for my own exploitation!  And by no coincidence at all, today is my lovely wife Melissa Trembath’s Birthday!!  Now, I know she wouldn’t want me to throw out her age for the world to know, so I won’t do that.  But, I will say………..

Here are 29 Great “Love/Missing You” Songs you absolutely must hear!!  (I love you baby!)

***Disclaimer:  This is obviously not a definitive list.  And there is no real order.  Just like what you see, folks.***

(6/22/13) Additional note:  A brand new list of 29 (More Great Love?Missing You Songs is up and available now, HERE.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Into My Arms

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Into My Arms

29. Dispatch - If You Call My Name Out Loud

Dispatch – If You Call My Name Out Loud

28. Fun. - The Gambler

Fun. – The Gambler

26. Stevie Nicks & Don Henley - Leather & Lace

Stevie Nicks & Don Henley – Leather & Lace

25. Buddy Holly - True Love Ways

Buddy Holly – True Love Ways

24. Sophie Madeline - You Make Me Happy

Sophie Madeline – You Make Me Happy

23. The Moldy Peaches - Anyone Else But You

The Moldy Peaches – Anyone Else But You

22. Matthew Sweat & Susanna Hoffs - Sweet Melissa

Matthew Sweat & Susannah Hoffs – Sweet Melissa

21. Better Than Ezra - Desperately Wanting

Better Than Ezra – Desperately Wanting

20. Belle & Sebastian - Didn't See It Coming

Belle & Sebastian – I Didn’t See It Coming

19. Extreme - More Than Words

Extreme – More Than Words

18. Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy

Gin Blossoms – Hey Jealousy

17. Counting Crows - Colorblind

Counting Crows – Colorblind

16. David Bowie - Lets Dance

David Bowie – Let’s Dance

15. Boyz II Men - I'll Make Love 2 U

Boyz II Men – I’ll Make Love 2 U

14. The Weepies - I Gotta Have You

The Weepies – I Gotta Have You

13. Peter Bjorn & John - Far Away, By My Side

Peter, Bjorn, and John – Far Away, By My Side

12. Neutral Uke Hotel - King of Carrot Flowers

Neutral Uke Hotel – King of Carrot Flowers

10. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home

9. Neil Nathan

Neil Nathan – Do Ya

8. Meat Loaf - I'd Lie For You (And That's The Truth)

Meat Loaf – I’d Lie For You (And That’s the Truth)

7. Mark Geary - You're The Only Girl

Mark Geary – You’re the Only Girl

6. The Lumineers - Flowers In Your Hair

The Lumineers – Flowers In Your Hair

5. Loretta Lynn & Jack White - Portland Oregon

Loretta Lynn & Jack White – Portland, Oregon

4. Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love

Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love

3. Justin Nozuka - Be Back Soon

Justin Nozuka – Be Back Soon

2. John C. Reilly & Jenna Fischer - Let's Duet

John C. Reilly & Jenna Fischer – Let’s Duet

1. Hootie & The Blowfish - Hold My Hand

Hootie & The Blowfish – Hold My Hand

That will do it folks.  Now obviously, there are so many other great tracks to choose from, and we might even do a sequel to this someday.  Melissa and I have shared several more videos already.  We shall see how it goes and maybe we return with another addition.  Get your YouTubing on folks!!

Stephen Rebello [Interview]

Stephen Rebello2When I heard there was going to be a film about Alfred Hitchcock in the works, to say I was intrigued would be an amateur sentiment. I was freaking ecstatic. Like millions of viewers across the world, I am a huge fan of pretty much anything Alfred Hitchcock did in his illustrious career. But, when I heard that the film was less than a biopic, but more of a period piece, I became even diligently ecstatic. In this day and age, there is a world wide web that could provide several different versions of a man in a biographical sense. But, when we deal with direct periods, such as the making of a film that completely redefined the career of an already acclaimed filmmaker (i.e. Psycho, if you hadn’t caught on yet), we get a more detailed and in-depth look into the emotional stamina of a subject. And if that weren’t enough, I learned that film was based on a book written by a man who I had only known as a fantastic journalist. And after reading Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, I knew that between the film, and the as per usual far superior book, I had stumbled upon an in-depth look into something beautiful.

And lo and behold, I managed to be able to steal a few words with the author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, Stephen Rebello to get an even greater insight into the world of Hitchcock. And while we were at it, we got to showcase the career of a man that has had an abundance of personal and professional achievements in his esteemed career. And through a bit of research, I learned some pretty amazing and/or interesting factoids about the great Mr. Rebello himself. We are very excited to introduce one of the today’s finest writers, journalists, humans of world of words today. Enjoy!

How does one move from the world of social work and therapy… journalism in the entertainment world? Are there any similarities?

I’d call it some fantastically weird , cosmic collision of ambition, neurosis, persistence, hard work, and incredible amounts of luck punctuated by occasional flashes of talent. I don’t think I’ve gotten here in ways that are very much different from how people have been doing it for decades – I’m talking about the ones who gravitated to careers in the arts from law, newspaper reporting, fiction writing, film criticism or what have you. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’ve been dreaming and imagining from the womb. I sang professionally as a kid, too. I’ve found new ways to sing, I guess. Even while I was happily working as a therapist, I began to write pieces that got the attention of editors and publishers and one thing lead to another. I’m just grateful that, from the beginning, there have been those who seem to like the sound of my ‘voice’ — and continue to, especially as it evolves.

Did you find yourself slipping into some sort of neurotic way of being while researching and writing about a subject that revolved around murder and psychopaths? Did you ever have to stop and analyze yourself?

Not any more neurotic than usual. I’m not a Method writer. I roll up my sleeves and become a relentless, endlessly inquisitive detective, psychologist, worker bee. Doing research, you’re a living camera, a tape recorder, a witness. Doing research for something like this, you become a tape recorder, a witness, a camera, a detective, a psychologist, an interrogator.  Researching Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the murderer and psychopath in question was Ed Gein, whose 1950s crimes and pathological personality somewhat inspired writer Robert Bloch’s creation of the Norman Bates character in his novel, Psycho.

When I was researching, I was up to my neck in original vintage script notes, sketches, casting notes, production schedules, contracts, and screenplay drafts. More than that, I was spending face time on a weekly basis with the people who actually made Psycho – and others films – alongside Hitchcock. That was insanely fun, thrilling and informative. It almost felt as if I were plunged back into the time when Psycho was being made. Years later, when my agent and I sold the screen rights to Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho to one of several bidders, eventually the film studio hired me to do several rewrites of the existing screenplay adaptation of my book. Shifting from non-fiction to fact-based fiction was an exciting transition. I had already spent months immersing myself in the ‘50s, the era in which Psycho was birthed. I devoured period music, books, magazines, news footage, videos, and the films of the era. The iconography, conservatism, optimism, paranoia, mores, notions of romanticism, the slang and language were absolutely crucial to me – though they were less so to others. It drove me insane whenever people involved in the film version of the book kept trying to have the characters throw around anachronistic, clichéd phrases like “serial killer” or insist on having Hitchcock talk self-consciously to other characters as if he knew Psycho would be a game-changer while he was filming it. Hitchcock was a genius but he wasn’t clairvoyant. Anyway, some battles you win but you lose many others.

Stephen Rebello3

Through all of your research for Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, what would you personally say was the most surprising and unique trait of Mr. Hitchcock?

As you mentioned earlier, I was a therapist and I’ve been in therapy, which is an important professional requirement. Aside from that, I’m very present in the world so I have to tell you that very little about human behavior surprises me anymore. I work in Hollywood, remember? The most revealing things about Alfred Hitchcock came from the remembrances of those who worked on films with him, socialized with him, knew him for years and years. I learned how painfully self-conscious he was about his appearance and how that shaped his work and his life. I found out how disdainful he was about collaborators whom he thought were unprepared or giving less than their best. How open he was to actors who were intelligent, engaged and thoughtful, which is why he so enjoyed Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh, for instance. How emotionally strangled he could be, to the point where he often had to communicate through others. How he would spend time and money surprising someone he liked by sending them a rare, expensive book or an imported delicacy. How he would financially support old coworkers during rough patches in their lives, sometimes for decades. How, to ease his terrible emotional pain, he sometimes fabricated fantasy romances involving women he knew he could never attain. How contradictory and complex he could be. How relaxed and playful he could be on a movie set, knowing he’d already sweated the details for months if not years. We live in a world full of people who somehow seem certain that they know the ‘real’ Hitchcock, have some inside knowledge about what made him tick. They don’t want their Hitchcock messed-with. It’s almost like, “Don’t you dare confuse me by telling me actual facts.” I trusted his collaborators, who graciously and candidly shared so many different insights into the many faces of Hitchcock they knew

In hindsight, were there any segments you would have liked to have seen differently in the film Hitchcock? And what is your overall opinion of the film?

Films based on real events work best for me when they dramatize actual facts in powerful, unexpected ways. So, maybe selfishly, I like Hitchcock when it’s sticks to the kind of movie that I was envisioning, the kind of movie I wanted to see, the kind of film for which I was hired to write dialogue, scenes and characters. For instance, as I mentioned to you before, for the screenplay, I had no interest in the real life murderer Ed Gein because the novel and film Psycho are about the fictional creation Norman Bates, not Gein. Hitchcock could not have cared less about Gein, either. I kept trying to minimize or cut those scenes because they ate up valuable storytelling time without much dramatic payoff. Others liked them, so there you go. I’m all about Hitchcock when it’s focused on him battling hostile studio executives, using any trick in the book to convey his artistic vision to his actors and crew, enlisting his wife Alma’s expertise in “fixing” the movie, orchestrating Psycho’s evolutionary advertising campaign, enjoying the sounds of the audience reacting to seeing Psycho for the first time. What I miss is Hitchcock’s inner life and struggles as a man and a great, complex artist, his revealing, rich relationships with graphic designer Saul Bass, composer Bernard Herrmann, his assistant Peggy Robertson. All that said, though, I’ll never forget that day in 2008 when I finished and sent off to the film’s then-director a speech I’d written for Alma. It’s the one in which she sets Hitchcock straight, really laying into him for his casual cruelties, neglect, monomania. She reminds him exactly who she is as a person, a mate and collaborator. That particular scene, among others, comes from a very deep place in me and in Hitchcock, it’s virtually word for word how I wrote it. Some old friends called to bust me after seeing Hitchcock because when Alma sarcastically tells Hitchcock that Doris Day should do Psycho as a musical, my friends reminded me I’d made that exact wisecrack to him back in Boston, Massachusetts when I tried to lighten the mood as we were leaving a grim, devastating film about the Nazis. Several people contributed to the Hitchcock script but I always saw Hitchcock and Alma’s fascinating relationship as the project’s emotional heartbeat. There were many other strong scenes – with Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles — that would have brought the viewer deeper inside Hitchcock’s creativity, his complex relationships with coworkers, his larger-than-life humor, his sadness, his genius. They were never filmed. I miss those.

Quite the opposite of psychopaths, you have written books based of the art of films like Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame…the Disney versions. What made you want to start working for Disney?

I’ve loved classic Disney animation from childhood and my storytelling has been influenced by Disney. A fantastic Disney publicist and great friend named Howard Green was a fan of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho and kindly brought me in to meet with the studio executives who were interviewing writers to work on their making-of books. I got the OK and had the privilege and challenge of documenting the production of three of Disney’s animated films. That led to my getting hired as a writer doing story development for several Disney animated feature projects, as well as my writing the teleplay for an ABC TV musical based on Sleeping Beauty. Like many other projects, those scripts are locked in towers guarded by dragons but crying out to be filmed.

Stephen RebelloYou have had the opportunity to interview an immense amount of incredibly interesting people. Who, besides Alfred Hitchcock, would you consider to be the most intriguing person you have spoken with?

What a privilege, right? So many. A standout has to be the great illustrator Al Hirschfeld, who held me spellbound for hours in his incredible Manhattan home and studio telling me tales of his art and of people he knew intimately –the Marx brothers, Will Rogers, the Gershwins, Moss Hart, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Fannie Brice, Fred Astaire, Jack Benny. His intelligence, gusto, the way he bit into life still inspire me. Interviewing Ernest Lehman, one of Hollywood ‘s greatest screenwriters known for North by Northwest, The Sound of Music, Sweet Smell of Success, Sabrina, West Side Story, led to an extraordinary friendship and mentorship that I miss to this day. He was razor-sharp, complicated and so funny. We both have a sardonic, gallows sense of humor, a taste for the macabre, a love of understatement. We nearly collaborated on a book about his hair-raising experiences making Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Mike Nichols. Unfortunately, Ernie got cold feet about doing the kind of tell-all book he’d originally set out to do, so the publishing deal collapsed. We were also deep in discussions and exciting new ideas for an original screenplay that he’d wanted to do decades before with Hitchcock. The agents were actually working on the deal. One day, I showed up for a story meeting. That morning Ernie had taken a cab to a doctor’s appointment and had just come back. Anyway, he announces that our movie project was off. Why? He’d tried-out the idea on the cab driver and the cabbie hadn’t liked it enough. I was stunned and thought the mood would pass, but the more I tried to reason with him, the more he resisted. We brought each other potential new material, but we could never seem to agree. I think he was frightened of competing with his incredible past successes. Oh, but, if only.

Your book Reel Art: Great Posters From the Golden Age of the Silver Screen was positively revered as a one of the finest books written about Hollywood. And that was 25 years ago. Therefore, if you could add any additional “reel art” from the years since you released the book, what would make the book? What would not? Why?

There’s been continued interest in another Reel Art book but that’s all hot air until someone actually steps up to the production costs involved. Too many posters of the past few decades have just been assemblages of “floating head” photos of the stars. Too many contemporary posters are also too much like the work of Saul Bass. There have been some cool, imaginative ones, though like Brazil, Fargo, The Tree of Life, The Truman Show, American Beauty, Walk the Line, Moon, Batman, 127 Hours, Cloverfield, Moonrise Kingdom.

What was the first book you can remember completing? Did it have any impact on you?

At six or seven I won a supremely cool Schwinn bike in a Peter Pan lookalike contest at a local movie theater, so I read Peter Pan probably to figure out whether winning that contest was a slam or a good thing. Anyway, by the time Barrie described Peter as “clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that flow from trees,” I was just wowed. I loved the adventure of flying over London rooftops, the pirates, the Indians, the Lost Boys, all of it. By the end of it, though, the whole play made me incredibly sad and melancholy which it’s supposed to because that queasy dark underside, those deeper implications are big aspects of Barrie’s genius. It’s interesting that the project Hitchcock most wanted to film throughout his life but never got to make — or was never allowed to make — was Mary Rose, a dark, sentimental ghost story by Barrie. I wish he had done it in the ‘50s at Paramount starring Audrey Hepburn.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Aside from some of your questions, you mean? I got a completely unexpected message this week from one of our most respected American writers telling me how wonderful and underappreciated he thought Hitchcock was. That was incredibly nice and moving. When he added, “But it would have been even better if it were more like your book,” well, I’m not going to lie. I’m still smiling.