Bogdanovich brings taste of Hollywood to New Orleans

Students impressed by speaker's achievements.

By jberner | Section: Jan 29th, 2010 Issues, January 29th 2010 Print, News

Award-winning director Peter Bogdanovich spoke 7 p.m. Wednesday in Freeman Auditorium about his work and career in Hollywood. After his talk, Bogdanovich met with audience members and signed copies of his book, “Who the Devil Made It.”

Bogdanovich is best known for the 1971 film “The Last Picture Show” and for 1973’s “Paper Moon.” He has also worked as an actor, screenwriter, author and critic.

It’s amazing to see someone who’s such an icon of the ’70s in person,” sophomore Katie McGinnis said. “It’s remarkable that he made ‘The Last Picture Show’ when he was only 31 [years old].”

Bogdanovich’s talk was based on his book, composed of interviews with some of the top film directors in Hollywood history and anecdotes from a 40-year entertainment career. He focused on the personalities of actors and directors with whom he has worked during his lengthy time in Hollywood and performed several of his famed impersonations.

“He does a great Cary Grant impression,” sophomore Elizabeth Furey said. “It was funnier than I expected.”
As part of his visit to Tulane, Bogdanovich also visited professor Paula Morris’s advanced fiction writing class Wednesday afternoon to speak about his life and career, and answer students’ questions.

Bogdanovich began his talk by discussing the beginning of his career, when he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York. He then began working in summer stock theater programs in Michigan. He started taking acting lessons under legendary teacher Stella Adler when he was 16 years old, lying about his age to do so.

“She was an amazing woman,” Bogdanovich said. “Very theatrical, very grand. She was the only person to work with [Konstantin] Stanislavski [creator of the system, an acting technique] in Paris.”

After some time in Adler’s classes, Bogdanovich suddenly decided to direct.

“I don’t know why I said it… But one day, I said, ‘Why don’t I direct you guys in a scene?’ ” he said.

Bogdanovich was soon working as a director, helming the off-Broadway production of “Big Knife” at just 19 years old.

“It established me as a director,” Bogdanovich said.

When the play’s run ended, Bogdanovich spent time as an art director in summer theater productions, worked for the Museum of Modern Art in New York and wrote for Esquire magazine. He decided to move to California to get closer to the film industry because he said he eventually wanted to work in movies. He met director Roger Corman, who asked him to rewrite a screenplay for a film. Corman was impressed and offered Bogdanovich the chance to direct. Bogdanovich’s first film was “Targets,” with aging “Frankenstein” star Boris Karloff.

Bogdanovich soon bought the rights to the Larry McMurtry novel “The Last Picture Show,” which ended up being his most famous film, telling the story of small-town Texas high school students in the ’50s.

“It was clear sailing for a while [after ‘Last Picture Show’],” Bogdanovich said.

During the class discussion, Bogdanovich talked about working with stars like Barbra Streisand, Cher and John Ritter.

“My favorite film was ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ [in 1972 with Streisand and Ryan O’Neal], the only picture I ever made on a dare,” Bogdonavich said. “We had a lot of fun.”

Bogdanovich also talked about his take on current films, naming Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach as his favorite contemporary directors.

“Everything’s gotten worse,” Bogdonavich said. “There was better writing in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s than any time later. Sorry to be so negative… But there are better writers than directors, a lot of good actors but not an abundance of talent [today].”

Bogdanovich concluded his discussion by offering his advice on living as an artist of any kind.

“You have to be resilient,” Bogdonavich said. “It’s not easy. Success is harder than failure. You have to really want it and sustain yourself through dark periods. Success comes out of nowhere. You can’t half-want it — you have to really want it.”

The Department of English’s Creative Writing Fund, the Office of Cocurricular Programs, the Duren Professorship Program, the Honors Program and the Department of Communication sponsored Bogdanovich’s visit.

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