The TCMFF 2018 Red Carpet
May 11, 2018
For the third time, I had the opportunity to cover the red carpet at TCMFF. This year’s opening night festivities including a screening of The Producers (1968), complete with an appearance by Mel Brooks, and the awarding of the inaugural Robert Osborne Award to Martin Scorsese for “his longtime dedication to preserving and protecting motion picture history.”
As mentioned in my Day 1 recap, Jessica and I kind of partnered up on the carpet, which was nice, because I certainly learned from listening to her. Though there’s plenty of room to polish and improve my interviewing skills, overall I think it was a successful evening.
Obligatory red carpet photo. (Thanks to Jessica for taking this one!)
Fun fact: I was well prepared with questions for several guests, but as these things go sometimes, ironically I ended up interviewing many people I didn’t expect to. So some quick thinking had to be done in certain cases!
With that said, please enjoy my highlights of the TCMFF 2018 red carpet. (And excuse the lack of decent photos or snaps from my interviews. The ones posted below are a mix of people I spoke to and those I didn't.)
Alicia Malone, TCM Host and Film Journalist
My question: Do you have a female screenwriter you admire or look up to?
She had several, including Elaine May, Jane Campion, Ida Lupino, and Dorothy Arzner. As for Arzner, Malone elaborated: “She told such great stories about women and very powerful feminist movies.” She also added that she loves films like His Girl Friday (1940) that “celebrate women that are whip-smart, have great things to say, and can keep up with the guys.”
Makaylo Van Peebles, Melvin Van Peebles, and Mario Van Peebles.
Dave Karger, TCM Host and Journalist
My question: What is your favorite Oscar-winning screenplay?
Karger was recently appointed a TCM host along with Alicia Malone, a job he is still very excited about. He also told us that he’s an Oscar nerd, so I had to ask him about his favorite Oscar-winning screenplay, as the festival’s theme this year was “Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen.” His answer: Lost in Translation (2003). As for the classics? All About Eve (1950). “I think that is just the perfect screenplay. It’s wise, it’s bitchy, it’s smart, it’s fun,” Karger explained of the latter. He also gave a shout-out to James Ivory, who won the Oscar earlier this year for Call Me By Your Name (2017), as he was getting ready for an hour long interview with him at the fest the following day.
Not a red carpet image, but I mention the festival key art in the text below, so I figure I'd showcase it.
Pola Changnon, SVP, Brand Creative and Marketing, TCM
Group question: What is your vision for the brand?
Changnon explained that this is something the team ponders almost on a daily basis in order to continue analyzing how new audiences approach classic film. “I think one of the expressions of the brand that best utilizes all the thinking of the passionate people who work here is the film festival, because it’s the one place and time where we can talk about how you depict that experience in a physical way,” she explained. “How do we inhabit physical spaces with a brand? It’s a unique creative challenge, and I think this year is particularly outstanding.” Agreed; TCMFF’s branding is always on point. She also highlighted the festival’s key art as well, which I felt was exceptionally strong, second in my opinion to 2013’s.
Ruta Lee, Actress
My question: What was it like working on Witness for the Prosecution (1957) with legends such as Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton? What did you learn from them?
“Oh, hello! They’re much too young and too pretty. Get the hell out!”
That’s how the interview with Ruta Lee began. Lee told Jessica that there’s nothing like performing in front of a live audience because it “feeds you back energy.” Well, in speaking with her for only a few minutes, it was obvious that the red carpet elicited a certain energy from her; she clearly thrives from interacting with real live people.
To get to my question, which she expanded upon in her introduction for the movie, Lee began: “What I learned from that was I don’t care how much talent you have and how well you are placed, your career is mostly luck.” And luck she certainly had loads of, especially when it came to casting Witness for the Prosecution.
Lee attended the opening night of Frank Sinatra's run at the Mocambo, scoring a prime seat right in front of him. So, she sat there watching him, absolutely captivated (she called him the most "mesmerizing" performer). Afterwards, the host of her table received a note which read: "Would you mind bringing Miss Lee around to my table? I’d like to meet her.” The host obliged and brought her to the table, where she met Arthur Hornblow, Jr., one of the producers on Witness for the Prosecution. He told her: "I have just given you the most unique screen test; I watched you watch Frank Sinatra, and I think you would make a very good love interest for Tyrone Power in the film I'm doing. Would you come in and meet Billy Wilder?" Lee answered: "Is today too soon?"
Lee met with Wilder, and though I assume she impressed the director, Marlene Dietrich wasn't too pleased when she saw her - and specifically Lee's blonde hair. Lee recalled: "Marlene took one look and said 'Nicht, nein, forget it!' I became a brunette overnight and that's how I got Witness For The Prosecution."
What a story! (And she had more at the screening!)
Illeana Douglas (in the black dress on the left) and Ben Model.
Illeana Douglas, Actress, Director, Writer, and Producer
My question: What is your favorite screenplay?
“Because I’m always a proponent of women, I’m going to go with The Birdcage (1996). You know, Elaine May worked on that script and it’s perfect as a comedy. But then the other one that flashed into my mind is Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (1968), because that is…you know, it doesn’t get better,” Douglas said. “In my opinion, for me, he’s the greatest comedy construction writer that we’ve ever had.”
Diane Baker, Actress
My question: What is your favorite character that you’ve played?
Baker's reply was Sheila, the Indian girl, in Nine Hours to Rama (1963). “I thought it was a wonderful chance to do something quite totally different,” she said.
Ruta Lee, Dana Delaney, and Eva Marie Saint all in one photo. No big deal.
Jacqueline Stewart, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago
My question: Can you talk about what upcoming series you’re working on with TCM?
Stewart couldn’t divulge much on that front, but as she recently sat on a panel about LGBTQ representation at South by Southwest, she was quick to commend the network for their inclusivity: “It’s just really wonderful to see that TCM is really thinking about these questions of diversity in lots of ways, and when you look at the programming you really see that – ways to honor people who come from marginalized groups, to honor women filmmakers; it’s something that I think will just continue.”
Claude Jarman Jr., Actor and Author
My question: What was your favorite character to play?
Jarman answered John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara’s son in Rio Grande (1950). Of course, I had to follow-up with a question about working with them, and he said it was a great experience.
If you squint, you can see Dennis Miller to the left of Eddie Muller.
Dennis Miller, Comedian
My question: I was surprised to read that you are introducing Them! (1954) and Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D (1954). Am I to assume you’re a sci-fi fan?
“What’s up kiddo, I’m Dennis.”
Yes, that was how Dennis Miller greeted us. And yes, he’s a sci-fi fan; in fact, he collects sci-fi VHS tapes. He explained: “When I was a little kid, they were the first thing that felt hip to me, watching sci-fi films.” When I asked if he collected any other items having to do with the genre, he answered no, just the VHS tapes. Ironically, he rarely watches them! “I just look at them and think, ‘Well I could watch them if I felt the need to.’”
Malcolm Mays, FilmStruck Host and Actor
My question: What are some of your favorite series on FilmStruck?
Mays, who I found out briefly attended Fairfax High, a school whose morning announcements I can hear from my apartment, was very energetic. “This is so much fun, let’s do this,” he low-key exclaimed. Mays was also a great promoter of FilmStruck: “You should watch FilmStruck because you won’t ever run out of movies to watch – ever.” As for series he particularly enjoyed, he named several: Coming of Age around the World, the World of Bertolucci, and Hong Kong Cinema, for starters. He also counts director series among his favorites, “because you get to see the body of work represented.”
Another obligatory red carpet photo.
Ben Burtt, Sound Designer
My question: How do you and Craig Barron come up with the movies you’ll present next?
First, a note: Ben Burtt graduated from my tiny, tiny northwestern Pennsylvania college, Allegheny, so I was on the lookout for him all night. (Special thanks to TCM's Marya for flagging him down for me.) To my surprise, I was the second person from Allegheny to speak to him that day!
But back to the question. Burtt recalled: “It’s always been pretty much something like, 'Craig what movie do you want to see?' 'Ben, I’d like to see this.'” Rarely, they are given a title to research; usually, they suggest one. After they pick a film they both enjoy, generally a personal favorite from childhood or a title that features great visual and/or sound effects, they investigate to see if there’s enough of a new story in its “archaeological record” to create a presentation. As their lectures are tech-focused and we now live in a digital world, Burtt mentioned that “people get surprised by how they used to solve creative problems, challenges, old school kind of specs. We’re like antique dealers now!”
Burtt said this is the 5th year he and Barron have appeared at the festival, and he praised the experience: “This is terrific – the nice thing about TCM has been, of course, they have a great library of things we can choose from, and they’ve been amazingly cooperative in letting us come in and do our act and support us and providing us sometimes with materials… it’s been great.” As I try to attend all of Burtt and Barron's shows, I pointed out how popular the duo has become over the years with the TCMFF crowd, a fact that still surprised him. “We do meet fans, yeah that’s true. That's nice for two kind of non he-man – you know, we’re celebrities,” he laughed.
Sara Karloff and Leonard Maltin. Hiding behind Karloff is Mark Bridges.
Leonard Maltin, Film Critic and Author
My question: You're introducing Windjammer: The Story of the Christian Radich (1958). Can you tell me a little bit about this screening?
"I expect it to be very special," Maltin remarked. He explained that there are very few theaters left that are equipped to show Cinerama or Cinemiracle on a deeply curved screen, which in part makes this presentation unique. Aside from seeing such a spectacular image, he also said the film boasts incredible sound, too - and this was before we had what we now call surround sound!
Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey.
Olivia Hussey, Actress and Leonard Whiting, Actor, aka Romeo and Juliet
My question: Shakespeare can be hard for teenagers to understand; what was it like performing it when you were so young?
I found it enchanting that Hussey and Whiting walked the carpet together. Not to mention, they were absolutely adorable together. If you need proof of that, please see the below reply to my question:
Hussey: It was actually quite easy!
Whiting: I think it was because we were lucky enough to have such a great director. If you didn’t know what was going on, he could probably play everybody’s part.
Hussey: Yes, he could – and he tried!
Whiting: And he’s a very, very fine English speaker too, so he understood all the nuances, you know?
Hussey: But do you know? It’s shown in high schools all over the world – our version. They say that kids who are having a hard time with Shakespeare understand everything we’re saying and it makes them really learn to appreciate Shakespeare and the writing. We get that all the time – we get messages from 15 year-olds… even today on Twitter I get fans who say, "You helped me love Shakespeare, I love Shakespeare now!"
And to add to their endearment, Whiting apologized for keeping us too long, as he and Hussey were the last guests to walk down the carpet. They seemed unsure when I said that others wanted to speak with them, if they had the time, and sure enough, Kristen was right there waiting to chat with them!
I hope you enjoyed my coverage of the TCMFF 2018 red carpet. I'll be posting more content from the festival Q&As and special presentations soon.
PS. Thanks to Jessica for sharing her Ruta Lee interview audio with me after my phone failed to record.
(All photos save for the first one taken by Kim Luperi.)