Dipping into the Back Catalog: A Look Back at a Few of My Favorite Interviews, Pt. 1

Earlier today, I posted a brief interview with Giancarlo Esposito as my latest TV column for Bullz-Eye (the column’s called “The Light of the TV Shows,” and you get 100 points if you can identify where I borrowed the name of it from), and in doing so, I was – as I am whenever I’ve talked to an actor more than once – inevitably reminded of my previous conversations with him. The first time was a phoner for Bullz-Eye, and it was a fabulously lengthy chat that covered his entire career. The second time was in person, when I visited the set of Breaking Bad in Albuquerque along with several other journalists and was fortunate enough to have dinner not only with Gus Fring but also Walter White, a.k.a. Bryan Cranston. Mind you, this was prior to the premiere of Season 4: little did I know that, in a few short episodes, one of them would be dead.

But I digress.

The reason I bring this up is because a lot’s gone on in my life and career since that first interview with Mr. Esposito, thanks in no small part to my having found a spot as a contributor with the Onion AV Club, and for better or worse, I look back now on a lot of the interviews I did in the past and can’t help but think, “Man, I wish as many people saw that interview as are seeing the interviews I’m doing now.” I mean, for all I know, just as many people did see these pieces, but lord knows the readers of Bullz-Eye have never been as outspoken – be it with appreciation or criticism – as the AV Club commenters are.

Anyway, this is really just a long windup to tell you that I’m about to offer up a post which, if I were a TV series, would be designated as little more than a clip show…and if The Simpsons has taught us nothing else – and it hasn’t – it’s that clip shows are worthy of nothing but mockery and derisive laughter. But laugh along with me, at least, won’t you? After all, these might be old pieces, many of which are guilty of featuring painfully earnest and utterly unnecessary openings (“It’s a real pleasure to talk with you!”), but I promise you that there’s some great readin’ to be found…

Harry Reems: There was a time when Bullz-Eye described itself as “the guys’ portal to the web,” so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to learn that one of my first interviews for the site was with one of the stars of Deep Throat. Reems was doing promotion for the documentary Inside Deep Throat at the time, but he’d long since left the adult film industry behind, embracing Christianity and finding a new life as a real estate agent in Utah, so I’m not entirely sure which of us found it more awkward to discuss his pornographic past, but I’m still pleased with the way the interview turned out…and with my tag-line, “Harry Reems Lays it on the Table.” You’re welcome.

Judd Apatow: My daughter, who’s now seven years old, hadn’t even hit the two-week mark in the world when I talked to Judd Apatow, but you don’t need to know my personal business to recognize the age of the interview, which is made evident by – among other things – repeated references to the fact that The 40 Year Old Virgin was just about to hit theaters at the time of our conversation. This means that there are a lot less possible topics of conversation than there would be now, of course, but if you’re a fan of “Undeclared,” the complete-series set of which he was pimping at the time, I think you’ll find that it’s probably about as in-depth a conversation on the subject as is out there.

Joss Whedon: At the time I interviewed him, Joss Whedon wasn’t anywhere near the Hollywood-superstar position at which he’s sitting now, thanks to the success of The Avengers, but he was still big enough that Bullz-Eye only warranted 10 minutes with him when he was promoting the DVD release of Serenity…although I think I ended up getting 11 by slipping in an extra question about his Alien Resurrection script even after he’d answered what was supposed to have been my last question, which had been about the status of his Wonder Woman movie. This took place so long ago that I asked a question about the possibility that he might do some straight-to-DVD Buffy-verse movies, a rumor so old that I barely even remember it.

Harold Ramis: I’ll be honest: I also barely remember watching The Ice Storm, which is what Harold Ramis was promoting when I talked to him. I also don’t really remember the questions I asked him about the film or how he answered them. All I really remember is that he said that people’s appreciation of “Club Paradise” depended heavily on what they’d smoked before watching it…which, I think you’ll agree, is a line worth remembering. Also, just for the record, the status of Ghostbusters 3 was about the same then as it was now.

Michael Madsen: God willing, I will get Michael Madsen back on the phone one of these days to do a Random Roles interview with him for the AV Club – I’ve actually traded emails with him about it, and he claims to be up for it, yet here I still wait – but even if that never happens, I will forever be proud of this piece, which I consider to be a career high. That’s right, I started to peak pretty early in my Bullz-Eye career. It happens. All I’m saying is that the reason we were talking in the first place was because he was supposed to be promoting a straight-to-DVD flick called UKM: The Ultimate Killing Machine, but then we got into a discussion about some of the less-than-stellar films in his back catalog, and…well, I wasn’t going to really offer up specific quotes from any of these interviews, but I can’t resist with this one:

“You know, you always go into a movie with the best of intentions, and it’s impossible…people will promise you the fucking world, they’ll promise you anything to get you in the movie. ‘This is gonna be this way, and this is gonna be that way…’ And then, seven times out of ten, it’s not that way. And then you’re stuck in the middle of…ha, that’s stuck in the middle of a different kind…then you’re fucked. Because once you’re in the middle of a bad film, it’s not like you can just say, “Okay, forget it,” and walk out. You gotta finish the damned thing…and then it’s there forever. You can only really be as good as the talent you’re surrounded by. (UKM: The Ultimate Killing Machine) is a good example. Something that was described to me as being this military story, with these young actors, these up-and-coming actors, and this young, independent film company who really had this high regard for me and were going to structure this film around me, and it was this great challenging role, and it was somewhat of a heroic character. And I’ve been trying to get away from playing the villain for awhile, and I’ve been wanting to play the leading guy…the one who rides into the sunset, y’know? I wanted to make a change. So I get attracted to these projects, and these people are saying that they’re going to do this or do that in a certain way, and Ultimate Killing Machine is a perfect example of being involved in a situation that you look back on and you go, ‘Oh. My. God. Oh. My. GOD! How am I ever going to explain that one?’ But, I mean, my check cleared, so it put food on the table, fed my children, and kept a roof on their heads, and ultimately, at the end of the day, that’s what it means.”

See? How awesome is that?

Anyway, there’s a few to start off with. I’ll try to do another post soon with a few more.

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