So it wasn't a tough sell to get the 80-year-old director of classics like “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon” to be the subject of the inaugural season of Turner Classic Movies' podcast “ The Plot Thickens." The first episode is available now and new installments will be released weekly.
Host Ben Mankiewicz said Bogdanovich was a natural choice since he is a “living link to classic Hollywood" and also a great storyteller. “Peter’s willingness to share the entire arc of his life, good and bad, success and failure, highs and lows, that’s what makes it work,” Mankiewicz said.
In the first episodes, they reflect on his beginnings in the industry, whereby luck, confidence and a lot of knowledge helped Bogdanovich meet, interview and form friendships with his cinema idols, from Orson Welles to Howard Hawks.
“I knew about their pictures,” he said. “Jack Ford was 70 when I met him and I thought that was old! I always thought if somebody came up to me now at the age of 23, let’s say, and obviously knew a lot about my movies, I’d like him too.”
It might be surprising to hear that, for the most part, young filmmakers have not attempted the same thing with him, although he does count Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig among his younger filmmaker friends. But it's those early interviews with some of the masters of filmmaking that helped Bogdanovich find his way as a director.
“I’ve gotten some very important one sentence clues like when Howard Hawks turned to me and said ‘Always cut on the movement and no one will notice the cut,’” he said. “It was a very simple sentence but it profoundly effected everything I’ve done.”
Now that he’s near the age of many of the directors he met as a young man, he’s reflecting on those conversations in a different way. One with Allan Dwan, a pioneer of early cinema, stands out. “I said to him, ‘How does it feel to be 93?’ He said, ‘It’s no different than when I was a kid ... in my mind I think the same way, I’m the same as I was as a kid. I just look older,’” Bogdanovich said. “And I said, ‘That’s kind of depressing Allan.’ And he said, ‘It may be depressing but that’s how it is.’”
Bogdanovich, at 80, has found Dwan’s comments to be mostly true, although he hopes he’s gained some wisdom over the years. He’s trying to stay fit and exercise, but he’s found himself on hold for the moment, like everyone else.
“I haven’t been out that much. I stay inside. When I go out I wear a mask and gloves,” he said. “Boring but necessary.” Bogdanovich, who lives in Los Angeles with his ex-wife, Louise Stratten, and her mother, said he doesn’t watch nearly as many films as he used to. He laughed that he and Louise will often turn one on for about 20 minutes and then go do something else.
But Bogdanovich does have a half dozen projects in the works: A detective series, one based on his book “The Killing of the Unicorn,” which he wrote about the murder of Dorothy Stratten. (“Tough stuff,” he said.) He’s got two features too, a “comedy drama” called “Unlucky Moon” and another one called “Wait For Me,” which he said is his favorite.
“I just keep going, you know. Television is not dead yet,” he said with a laugh. “But movies may have a problem.” He also plans to do some audiobooks based on his actor and director books and is looking forward to doing the impressions. And he even has a few tapes of his talks with Hitchcock and Hawks that he’d like to release in some format.
If there are any regrets, it might be that for as long as he was a public figure, his personal life was public too, from his affair with Cybill Shepherd during his marriage to Polly Platt, to his relationship with Playboy magazine model Dorothy Stratten, who was murdered in 1980, and subsequent marriage almost a decade later to her younger sister Louise.
“The whole thing about my personal life got in the way of people’s understanding of the movies,” Bogdanovich said. “That’s something that has plagued me since the first couple of pictures.” Does he wish his personal life had not been so public?
“It would have been better but what can you do?” he said.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr