With Ad Astra, writer-director James Gray has achieved the kind of box-office success his films deserve. He’s worked with Joaquin Phoenix four times, in such ambitious dramas as The Yards and We Own the Night. If you watch The Lost Kingdom of Z or Two Lovers you’ll see why he’s considered one of the finest talents working today. He’s also a movie buff of the highest order. Leonard and Jessie were mesmerized by his eloquence and grand ideas about the art of film in this compelling interview.
Yes, he’s a Mac. Justin Long is also a talented actor and a full-time cutup, as Leonard and Jessie learned when they recorded this episode before a live audience at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. He’s been in countless movies and TV shows, from Galaxy Quest to Idiocracy, lent his voice to Alvin (of Chipmunk fame) and a variety of characters on King of the Hill. He’s played George Harrison (in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) and worked for Kevin Smith. Each gig triggers a funny story in this especially lively episode.
This rugged Aussie has made a splash in such popular movies as Jack Reacher, A Good Day to Die Hard, the Divergent series, Terminator: Genysis, and Suicide Squad (as Captain Boomerang). But he’s a serious drama student who tackled Shakespeare’s Macbeth on stage in Melbourne not long ago. He’s also quite likable and willing to share his experiences working opposite some of the biggest names in show business. You can see his latest film, Semper Fi, on VOD right now. Leonard and Jessie were impressed with Jai and more than happy to spend an hour with him.
Seth Green is still young but he’s been a familiar face (and voice) for more than thirty years, believe it or not. He played a young Woody Allen in Radio Days and Dr. Evil’s son in the Austin Powers movies before winning a young generation of fans (like Jessie) on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He’s voiced Chris Griffin on Family Guy and Leonardo on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and won three Emmy Awards for creating and producing the long-running animated series Robot Chicken. He has now made his feature directing debut with Changeland, which is now available on VOD. Leonard and Jessie were impressed with how young he was when he understood the business of show business—and pleased to see how much he still enjoys it.
William Sadler is one of those actors everyone knows even if they can’t quite think of his name. He’s played everything from the Grim Reaper in the BILL & TED movies (with a reunion film just completed) to the U.S. President in IRON MAN 3 (and AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.). He was a sheriff on ROSWELL and Tommy’s father on the last season of POWER. But many of his best stories come from his years of work on the stage—and they are hilarious. Leonard and Jessie enjoyed every minute they spent with him on stage at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
A versatile actor and filmmaker, Danny Huston is the son of the legendary John Huston and has wonderful stories to share. He’s built a considerable career of his own, with such films as Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, Children of Men, Marie Antoinette, 21 Grams, Birth, The Constant Gardener, and Wonder Woman to his credit. He’s also the star, writer and director of The Last Photograph, which is now available on VOD. Leonard and Jessie were utterly charmed by Danny and you will be, too.
Fred Willard is a man for all seasons. He’s been making people laugh from the time of Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan to the present day, now turning up regularly on Jimmy Kimmel Live playing everyone from the ghost of George Washington to Donald Trump’s father. He’s unforgettable in Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman and other Christopher Guest movies and has earned Emmy nominations for recurring roles on Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. Leonard and Jessie have known him and his family for years and cherish their friendship with one of the funniest men alive. Listen and you’ll learn about his approach to comedy and his laudable work ethic.
The man who changed television programming with his landmark PBS series The Civil War is back with Country Music, a captivating eight-part, 16-hour saga you don’t want to miss. Ken Burns has become America’s storyteller and we couldn’t ask for a more eloquent or passionate historian. Leonard and Jessie have known him for years on a social basis but this is the first time they’ve ever sat down for an hour of conversation about his magnificent work. It’s a treat to hear him speak on any subject that moves him.
A celebrated actor and man of the theater whose films include Amadeus, Shakespeare in Love, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, Simon Callow is also a master biographer, having written a great book about Charles Laughton and a magnum opus on Orson Welles which has extended to four volumes! And yes, he was also the bad guy in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Charming and witty, he regaled Leonard and Jessie with stories from his extensive career and will do the same for you.
Master cinematographer Caleb Deschanel earned the first of six Oscar nominations for The Black Stallion, and the latest just last year for the brilliant German film Never Look Away. Since then he’s ventured into the newest form of storytelling, virtual reality, to shoot The Lion King. But his best stories aren’t about craft—they’re about life lessons he’s learned since attending film school at USC with the likes of George Lucas. Leonard and Jessie sat spellbound as Caleb regaled them with priceless anecdotes: tune in and hear for yourself.
Jessie fell in love with Phil LaMarr during his long run on MADTV, but that’s just one of hundreds of credits on his resume. He’s a charter member of The Black Version, a hilarious show at Los Angeles’s Groundlings Theatre and one of the busiest voice actors around. You’ve heard him on The Family Guy, Futurama, DC Super Hero Girls, Bojack Horseman, and scores of other animated shows and movies. He’s also appeared onscreen in Veep, Get Shorty, and Pulp Fiction, to cite just a few highlights. He has great stories to share, and Leonard and Jessie were especially blown away by his uncanny impressions. Have you ever heard anyone imitate Chris Rock and Don Cheadle?
A born storyteller and natural entrepreneur, Ava DuVernay has achieved many milestones: the first black woman to be named Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival (for Middle of Nowhere), the first to have a feature nominated for Best Picture (Selma), and the first to pilot a big-budget blockbuster, A Wrinkle in Time. She created the hit series Queen Sugar and directed the powerful Netflix miniseries When They See Us. How she found time in her schedule to chat with Leonard and Jessie we’ll never know, but they discovered that aside from her great achievements, Ava is equally happy to talk about her early inspirations and lifelong love of movies.
Most people know Lesley Manville for her Oscar-nominated performance as Daniel Day-Lewis’s sister in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread or her many films for British filmmaker Mike Leigh including Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy and Another Year. She’s also the star of the irresistible TV comedy Mum, which just launched its third and final season on BritBox. Leonard and Jessie are unabashed fans of the show and enjoyed discussing it and Lesley’s wide-ranging career in theater, film and television.
Forever to be remembered as Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek: the Next Generation and other treks to follow, Brent Spiner is a versatile actor and performer with notable Broadway credits—and two fervent fans in Leonard and Jessie, who saw him play John Adams in a masterful revival of 1776. He’s happy to discuss all facets of his career, from musical theater to his memorable role in Independence Day. Even longtime fans may learn things they didn’t already know about Brent in this delightful chat.
If you’re like Leonard and Jessie, you’ve been watching Alanna Ubach for years—even if you don’t know her name. She’s currently costarring in Euphoria and still winning praise for her portrayal of the matriarch in Disney’s animated Coco. But that just scratches the surface of this talented actress’s career... from Legally Blonde to Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. The secret of her long term success? She’s never turned down a part! She’s also great fun to talk to.
One of Cleveland’s finest sons, Drew Carey is comedy’s long-distance runner. A former Marine, he burst on the national scene as a contestant on Star Search in 1988 and hasn’t stopped since. The Drew Carey Show enjoyed an extraordinary nine-year run on ABC, matched by the improv hit Whose Line is It Anyway. He’ll soon be starting his twelfth season as the host of The Price is Right. We don’t know how he made time to join us but we’re awfully glad he did. Drew is a great conversationalist, as you’ll hear for yourself.
After more than twenty years onscreen, with an Oscar nomination to his credit (for As Good as It Gets) Greg Kinnear has made his directing debut with a likable film called Phil, which opens in theaters and online this week. Leonard and Jessie ask him what inspired him to move behind the camera, and also touch on highlights of his career—from working opposite Jack Nicholson to playing JFK in a major TV miniseries. He’s got a lot of good movies under his belt, like You’ve Got Mail, Nurse Betty, Auto Focus, and Little Miss Sunshine, to name just a few…and a story to go with each one.
The prolific author behind Game of Thrones is also a lifelong movie buff and invited us to interview him at his very own theater, The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico. George and Leonard compared notes about starting out as a fan and contributing to fanzines, back in the pre-Internet era. (For more on this, go to www.leonardmaltin.com.) George went on to teach writing and enjoyed success as a novelist before moving to Hollywood, where he spent a decade working in television. Ultimately he returned to his roots as an author, little dreaming that his novels would inspire one of the most elaborate and successful television shows ever produced. George is a great conversationalist and was a gracious host to Leonard and Jessie; you can join them vicariously by listening in.
Helen Slater won the role of Supergirl in 1984 fresh out of New York City’s High School of the Performing Arts. Now she’s playing Melissa Benoist’s mother in the newest incarnation of Supergirl on the CW network. In between she’s had many experiences in and out of show business which she was only too happy to share with Leonard and Jessie (who fell in love with her in The Legend of Billie Jean). Our favorite: a memorable conversation with costar Peter O’Toole.
Alan Tudyk is a gifted actor and a familiar face who achieved cult status as a costar of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and its follow-up feature-film Serenity…but he’s also become the man of a thousand voices. If you’ve seen Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, or even Rogue One: A Star Wars Story you’ve heard his facility with accents, dialects, and the ability to embody colorful characters. He also stars in one of Leonard and Jessie’s favorite unsung movies, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Alan is only too happy to demonstrate his vocal talents during our hilarious interview. Angelenos can currently see him onstage in Mysterious Circumstances at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.
Tracy Nelson made a deep impression on a youthful audience in the 1980s TV series Square Pegs and is still acting today. She’s also part of show business royalty: her father was Ricky Nelson, her grandparents were Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, and her maternal grandparents were football star-turned-sportscaster Tom Harmon and leading lady Elyse Knox. (Yes, that means her cousin is Mark Harmon.) Tracy is proud of her heritage and Leonard and Jessie were only too eager to soak up all that history
Alexander Payne is one of the brightest lights in American filmmaking, a brilliant social satirist and observer with Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska and Downsizing among his credits as director and writer (usually with his longtime collaborator Jim Taylor). He started, as Leonard did, by collecting 8mm prints of silent comedies with Charlie Chaplin, and has never lost his passion for cinema, as you’ll hear in this compelling conversation with Leonard and Jessie.
Jeff Ross is best known as the Roastmaster General, reigning king of insult humor, but there’s much more to this talented comedian. Leonard and Jessie met him in 2005 when he made a terrific documentary called Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie about entertaining our troops in Iraq. Now he’s acting on the new season of Sneaky Pete and using his producing skills—and sense of showmanship—to introduce a new series on Comedy Central called Historical Roasts. He’s a smart guy who has earned every bit of his success. Be aware that this episode includes some raunchy and highly irreverent remarks.
Americans first became aware of Jacki Weaver when she played the matriarch of a crime family in the Aussie import Animal Kingdom in 2010. Her chilling performance earned her an Oscar nomination and “overnight” recognition outside her homeland, where she’s been working on stage, screen and television for decades. She nabbed another Academy Award nomination as Robert De Niro’s wife in Silver Linings Playbook and hasn’t had an idle moment since. Her newest release is POMS with Diane Keaton. Leonard and Jessie were delighted to spend an hour in the company of this bright, spirited woman who’s enjoying life to the fullest.
Had Don Hahn just produced Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King he’d have earned a place in movie history—and our hearts. But over several decades he’s done so much more: writing books (like Before Ever After and Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Disney’s Magical Mid-Century), directing documentaries (like Waking Sleeping Beauty) and keeping Disney history alive. Not bad for a guy who started out as a messenger on the Burbank studio lot. Don is self-deprecating and funny but his love for Disney is true-blue, as Leonard and Jessie can attest.