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AND THE FIRST SHALL BE ‘LAST’

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich is coming to Salt Lake City next week, Thursday, Nov. 17, to talk about his career before an audience at the Broadway Centre Cinemas downtown, and to present a digitally restored screening of his first big hit ‘The Last Picture Show’ (1971), which earned eight Oscar nominations. He also came through town back in 1982, to publicize his romantic comedy ‘They All Laughed.’ Here’s my Deseret News interview, published Feb. 5, 1982, under the headline ‘Peter’s skill also directed at acting.’

A lot of actors are turning to directing, but Peter Bogdanovich is reversing the trend: “People ask me why I’m acting. You can’t find any actors, they’re all directing. So I’m going to act!”

Acting isn’t really new to Bogdanovich. Though he’s best known as the writer-director of  “The Last Picture Show,” “Paper Moon,” “What’s Up, Doc?” and many other films over the past 14 years, he acted in his first directing effort, “Targets,” and has played various roles in other pictures since then. But 1982 really is a hiatus from directing for Bogdanovich, who plans to do quite a bit of acting this year.

He was in Salt Lake City last week promoting “They All Laughed,” his latest directing effort, which he finished shooting nearly two years ago. “It’s a long, complicated story,” he begins … and it is. To boil it down, Time-Life Inc., which financed “They All Laughed,” went out of the business before the picture was completed, and Twentieth Century-Fox, the distributor, had no faith in the film. So it was shelved.

But Bogdanovich did have faith in it and was determined to get it before the public. So he bought the film back (through his production company, Moon Pictures) and is literally distributing it himself. The result has been very successful — in some cases breaking house records. Not bad for a little social comedy that nobody wanted. And it’s racking up rave reviews as well.

     

Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich offers direction to Cybill Shepherd on the set of 'The Last Picture Show' (1971).

But putting so much energy into distribution of the film has pushed back some of the priorities for which Moon Pictures was created, mainly producing low-budget movies. So he’s producing in the background and acting in the foreground for a year until Moon gets moving, then he’ll be back behind the camera.

Bogdanovich is just as his press describes him. The half-closed eyelids belie the wit he exudes and the calm exterior seems a facade for the passion within.

In the course of the interview, he imitates John Wayne, sings a song from “Pal Joey” to illustrate a point and gets quiet when the late Dorothy Stratten is mentioned. He’s not reluctant to talk about her but his voice drops and his gaze becomes more fixed.

Ms. Stratten was the former Playboy model and actress who was shot and killed by her husband in August of 1980. She has since been the target of an exploitative television movie, “Death of a Centerfold,” and is the subject of an upcoming Bob Fosse movie.

Bogdanovich, who finished directing Ms. Stratten in “They All Laughed” just a month before she died, didn’t see the former and he’s angry about the latter. Bogdanovich’s own book about Ms. Stratten, “D.R.S. – 1960 to 1980,” will, he hopes, clear the air on the matter. Proceeds will go to Ms. Stratten’s family.

     

Peter Bogdanovich directs Audrey Hepburn on the streets of New York for 'They All Laughed' (1981).

In addition to writing films Bogdanovich writes about film and has published several books on the subject. He is now in the planning stages of writing a series called “Peter Bogdanovich’s American Pictures,” each volume containing his analysis of 14 movies in a particular genre. The first will be musicals, the second westerns, etc. “They’ll be little books aimed at the general consumer, not the film buff.”

As far as reviews of his own films are concerned, however, Bogdanovich stays away from negative notices. “When I was writing about movies I didn’t see much point in wasting my time on bad movies. I never really thought of myself as a critic. I thought of myself as a popular writer. If I liked something I wanted to share that enthusiasm.”

In the case of his own films, Bogdanovich said negative reviews just upset him but positive, constructive reviews help him evaluate his work. “If the picture doesn’t work I’m the first one to see it. If the audience doesn’t laugh, I’m the one who gets embarrassed.”

Bogdanovich also talked briefly about a movie he made (as an actor) for Orson Welles some years ago, “The Other Side of the Wind,” which he said is in a vault in Paris with Iranian investors arguing with Welles about ownership. He played a young director helping an older one (played, appropriately enough by John Huston).

And his main complaint about “Hollywood,” is that films cost too much and have chased away older audiences. “They’re either terribly silly or terribly arty. The older audience will come out for a picture they feel they aren’t going to be offended by. I’m past 40 now, and I feel that way myself.”