2015 was a great year for me of film festivals, press conferences, and interviews. The highlight of my year, though, is a toss-up between my phone interview with Dick Cavett and my in-person interview with Patrick Stewart. How could I possibly choose between those two?
Other highlights include photographing the Tony Award nominees at their annual reception, interviews with personal favorites like Jason Sudeikis and Mary Wilson of the Supremes, and attending the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri for the first time.
I was also honored to have a one-on-one interview with Philippe Sands, an eminent barrister who has been involved in many of the great cases of recent years at the International Criminal Court, about his documentary, “A Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did.”
Read on for some of my other favorite celebrity quotes of the year from people like Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Grant, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Quentin Tarantino, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Alex Gibney.
Dick Cavett on the Vietnam War:
I wrote a line in one of my columns that Andy Rooney recorded one night on his thing on “60 Minutes”: “You don’t give your life; you have it brutally taken away from you.” And my uncle, a top marine in World War II, said, “I don’t want anybody in my unit who wants to give his life or would even consider it. I need every man, and only an idiot would give anything as valuable as his life for an outcome that is uncertain.” I like that.
And the sacrifice these guys made. In the documentary where I’ve got the veterans sitting around, and the guy describes what it’s like to be out there confused and scared in the middle of the field being shot at from every direction. And these are the same guys who said, “When we had the gall to ask what we were here fighting for exactly, nobody could tell us.”
Patrick Stewart on wanting to star in “Sweeney Todd” with Hugh Jackman:
I am continually trying to persuade that one of the major roles that Hugh Jackman must have lined up for himself is Sweeney. He would be incredible with that voice and that acting ability, and the way that he looks. He would be a terrifying Sweeney Todd, but the condition is that I get to play the Judge.
Cate Blanchett on wearing 1950’s girdles during the filming of “Carol”:
There was a scene where Rooney [Mara] was playing the piano, Therese [Rooney’s character in the film] was playing the piano, and I found this position on the floor. And I thought, “I have to be graceful,” and I rehearsed a lot so I could get up in one movement in a girdle, which was difficult.
Bradley Cooper on equal pay for women in film:
It’s a tricky thing to talk about money. I’m never aware of what anybody else gets unless you’re approached to give some of your money. To make movies, it’s getting harder and harder, and people are paying less and less. And people are always taking pay cuts. That’s my experience. So, the only time you ever find out about somebody else is if you have to divvy up the pie differently so someone will come on and do it. But you’re not aware of what other people are getting also, so why not just be transparent and say, “OK, here’s the pie. Let’s divvy it up, and let’s talk about it.”
Hugh Grant on the jobs he had before becoming an actor:
Well, I’ve cleaned a lot of lavatories. [Laughter] Yes, I have! And I was rather good at it. But I did hate it. I remember I was cleaning lavatories at IBM in London, and I was on my way to work one day. I thought, “I really can’t stand it another day. I wish the place would burn down.” And as I turned the corner, it was burning down. I didn’t know I had that power. I’ve tried not to use it too much since.
I delivered new cars. In those days, it was very important that you had to run them in slowly. So, we were told to drive them at 20 miles per hour, and we drove them at 120 miles an hour. I crashed one and was fired from that job.
I was a very good waiter at a gay restaurant at King’s Road. A lot of tips because I was very flirty…. It happened to have a large gay clientele, and I wiggled my bottom.
Quentin Tarantino on the threats that police officers’ unions made about boycotting his film, “The Hateful Eight,” after his statements about police brutality:
I think you can actually decry police brutality and still understand that there’s good work that the police do. I think I’ve made that pretty clear. And I do know that there’s a whole lot of police out there who are real big fans of my work, and I just hope that they’re not going to take Patrick Lynch’s word for what I said.
What I said is what I said, and you can actually look it up and read it. And I’ve actually clarified my comments since then. Not walking back at all, but just a little more clarification. And I still stand by what I say. And actually, I think there’s a lot of good cops out there, and they should agree with what I said if they’re coming from the right place. So, I guess we’ll just see.
Michael Fassbender on playing Steve Jobs:
The one thing that stuck with me was how much of an impression that he made on these people, obviously when he was alive, but since he passed away, you could see that he was still very much present in their lives. Even if the relationships were difficult, there was a sadness, and there was a love there for him that I felt pretty clear. That was something that stuck with me, even though there were stories about how he could be a hard taskmaster. Obviously, the relationship with John Scully didn’t end well, but I could really feel that there was a love there for the man.
Mary Wilson on The Supremes’ image:
Even though we were poor, we went to Motown with a certain image that was just ours. No one created that for us. We were four girls, and ended up being three, who loved glamour. We loved to look good. Grooming was something that was our thing. The people at Motown were smart enough to see that we had something special, something different…. They did not make us. They did not give us that image. That was our image. I’m very proud of that.
Don Cheadle on Miles Davis’ sense of humor:
It’s not something people talk about a lot – about Miles’ sense of humor. I think a lot of people believe he was just this intimidating, imposing force – someone to be scared of. And obviously, if you listen to his music, if you hear what’s happening, it’s full of whimsy. His music’s full of passion and insight. Lyrically, he’s quoting things that are humorous. So, obviously, the man is not just monolithic.
Jason Sudeikis on having two films in the Tribeca Film Festival:
The fact that they both fall under romantic comedies, and they couldn’t be more different, I think that’s a celebration of what independent films can do where you get original voices…. To get to show those different sides, which is simply for me one with a beard and one without. And yet, to just be a vessel for those voices…. It’s follicle acting. There’s Stanislavski; I’m Gillette.
Ben Kingsley on the joys of acting:
It’s always glorious to be so involved in creating a portrait of somebody. I really find that a joyful exercise. Although I don’t use paints or oil on a stretched canvas, I am a portrait artist, and I use my body and my voice and my imagination to create the portrait. And it is a state of absolute bliss.
Patricia Clarkson on driving in the film “Learning to Drive”:
I do have a driver’s license, and it’s valid. But I don’t know how valid…. I said to my father, “You know, Dad, maybe the next time I come home [to New Orleans], you could teach me to drive again.” He was like, [in a Southern drawl] “Oh, Patty. Oh, Patty. I don’t know if there’s enough red wine in the world.”
Alex Gibney, director of “Going Clear,” on the efforts by the Church of Scientology to discredit him and others in the documentary:
If you Google my name, you will find an ad for Freedom.org, the Scientology publication, and you’ll see documentaries about me and everybody in the film…. Some of the documentaries they’ve done, particularly toward the people in the film, are very cruel and wildly misrepresented.
I’ll just give you one example. In one – Spanky Taylor – who rescued her daughter, they talk about once she left the church, she joined this “shady” organization called CAN, “The Cult Awareness Network,” which was sued out of existence. It is true that she joined The Cult Awareness Network, and it is true that it was sued out of existence. But what the Church of Scientology didn’t say is that it was the Church of Scientology who sued The Cult Awareness Network out of existence.
And furthermore, once it went bankrupt, the Church of Scientology then bought the name so that anybody in Scientology who was trying to get out or reaching for help from The Cult Awareness Network was going right to the Church of Scientology.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt on learning to walk the high wire for “The Walk”:
I think everyone in the production was sort of saying, “Don’t worry if you can’t really walk on the wire. It’s all going to be movie magic anyway.” But I really wanted to learn to do it, and Philippe really wanted me to learn to do it. And I did it.
Playwright Terrence McNally on the late Roger Rees:
No actor played simple decency more effortlessly than Roger.
Jake Weber on his “Medium” costar, Patricia Arquette:
I love Patricia Arquette. She’s an absolute angel, a really big-hearted woman. In seven years, I had one moment where she and I had a little spat. It lasted about a minute and a half, and it was done. She’s just a great human being.
Nigel Lythgoe on how “So You Think You Can Dance” has made dance more respectable for boys and men:
Dads come up to me now and say, “My son wants to be a dancer. I’ve seen the show, and I respect him for that. I realize how athletic it is, and he’s going to have to work hard if he wants to be a professional dancer, but I’m fully supporting it.” … I think it’s wonderful that people now realize how tough it is to be a professional dancer.
Filmmaker Brett Morgen on showing the documentary, “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” to Kurt’s daughter, Frances:
I think with Frances, she didn’t really know her dad, and this is the first time she experienced any of this footage and had ever seen any of this stuff or any of these letters or anything. And I think for her, it was liberating. I think that like a lot of kids whose parents take their lives, there’s a tendency to sort of blame yourself, and I think that when she saw the film, she was able to see that it wasn’t her, that the problems started much earlier in life….
One of the things that Frances said in my first meeting with her was that Kurt, for her, was sort of like this unicorn, this mythical figure. The fact is that he presented himself in such a limited way to the public during his lifetime that I think that we’ve all sort of projected a lot onto him. The goal wasn’t to tear him apart. It was to humanize him, to take it from the icon and the myth to something much closer to what he actually was as a man.
“Law and Order: SVU” Showrunner Warren Leight on his propensity for casting musical theater actors:
I write by ear, and I try to have a rhythm in my writing. It may just all be in my head, but I’ve noticed over the years that people with musical chops can hear that rhythm or seem to hear that rhythm intuitively. And it’s helpful to me. We have an extraordinarily musical cast. Danny Pino is a very good singer. Kelli [Giddish] is a very good singer. Ice is a musical legend. Raul [Esparza, who plays ADA Barba and is a four-time Tony Award nominee]. Mariska can sing. In any other cast, Mariska will be the best singer.
Love this! What a year for great quotes from all the interviews and press conferences you’ve done. Hard to pick a favorite, but Patricia Clarkson’s dad’s quote about the wine made me laugh.
True, this was a good year for quotes and I totally love the ones you show us here. I love Hugh Grant’s anecdotes about his life before being famous and the strong will of Joseph Gordon-Levitt who learned to walk the wire instead of sitting down and watch a stunt doing it for him.
Thanks, Ivan. Joseph did use a stunt double for part of the walking, but he walked himself 12 feet above the ground in parts of the film, which is really impressive, I think. It appears to be difficult to get Hugh Grant to be serious in interviews. I mean, did that business really burn to the ground? I have no idea. But I did believe him when he said he used to clean lavatories.