Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America”

Angels in America is the iconic dramatization of the American AIDS crisis. It was written and performed by committed members of a theater community that had been decimated by the epidemic. The play first appeared in San Francisco in 1991 after a tumultuous pre-production phase that included the decision to split the seven hours of material into two plays. It would win the Pulitzer Prize and dominate the Tony Awards for two years running. Its star-studded 2003 HBO adaptation won ten Emmys, including awards for Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Mary-Louise Parker, and director Mike Nichols. Slate produced one of the best oral histories of 2016 to mark the 25th anniversary of one of the most important American productions of all time.

Angels in America: The Complete Oral History, 12.18.17

“Good Burger”

On the millennial Mount Rushmore of childhood programming is Good Burger, a send up of the fast-food industry courtesy of a couple good-hearted pranksters. Good Burger started as a comedy sketch on Nickelodeon’s All That and did so well that Paramount decided to option it for a movie.  Besides stars Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell the production roped in a bunch of guest stars included Abe Vigoda, George Clinton, Carmen Electra and Sinbad. Although critics didn’t love the admittedly silly movie, Paramount certainly liked grossing $24M on a $9M budget. Complex revisits a 90’s classic.

The Oral History of Nickelodeon’s ‘Good Burger’, 7.25.17

“Trainspotting” (1996)

The Trainspotting phenomenon started with the Irvine Welsh’s semi-autobiographical novel, part of the 90’s trend of over-the-top gutter punk storytelling. The book was a huge hit in Britain and led to a successful play, then BBC’s edgy Channel 4 agreed to finance fledgling director Danny Boyle’s movie production. Boyle fully realized Welsh’s in-your-face depiction of young, uninhibited heroin addicts, headlined in a star-making role by Ewan McGregor. The film, despite a paltry $3.5M budget, proved just as successful, even in America during its dreadful “family values” years. The Hollywood Reporter gathers the core crew for a look back.

‘Trainspotting’ Oral History: Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor Reflect on Cult ’90s Brit Hit, 2.9.17



Michael Bay Blows Up Hollywood

Michael Bay does not make artistic films. He is unapologetic about this. He makes entertainment, and he’s done it more successfully than any other director this century. Film snobs decry his reliance on overdone pyrotechnics, and kindergarten dialogue, while his actors moan about his abrasive personality, but he gets it done. Bad Boys, Armageddon, Transformers, his list of hits is impressive. GQ provides a wonderfully entertaining overview of the polarizing Bay.

An Oral History of Michael Bay, the Most Explosive Director of All Time, 6.27.11

The Wild Rejected Plotlines for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979)

The original Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, but the cultural phenomenon continued to grow with wildly successful reruns and a burgeoning convention scene. Paramount knew it had a successful property on their hands and tried multiple ways to capitalize, including a short-lived animated series. They then decided on a movie and cast their net wide for potential screenplays. Series creator Gene Roddenberry pitched an ambitious good-versus-evil story that featured Kirk fighting a shape-shifting Jesus character on the Enterprise‘s bridge. Another had the gang stopping the Kennedy association. Still another had Scotty transported back to 1937. The final product was considerably more tame, but The Hollywood Reporter does their typically fantastic job of telling the story of how that film came to be.

‘Star Trek’ Oral History: When Captain Kirk Fought Jesus, 6.27.16


“Badlands”: Terrence Malick’s Debut Masterpiece

Terrence Malick has a well-deserved reputation as the J.D. Salinger of film, a genius recluse who produces art on his timetable alone. His first picture, Badlands (1973), had a notoriously awful production that included most of the crew quitting and the special effects guy getting badly burned. Malick shot enough film for five movies. But the actors, including stars Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, swear that the quiet, meditative director is the best they ever worked under. Their faith was rewarded as Badlands debuted to rave reviews as the opening film of the New York Film Festival. Described as a timeless, European-style film that showed the humanity and raw ambition of its murderous lovers, the movie established Malick as an original voice in American cinema.

Badlands: An Oral History, 5.26.11

The Unknown Michael Moore Takes on General Motors in “Roger & Me”

Michael Moore watched as General Motors systemically pulled out of Flint, Michigan, his hometown, and left the city to rot. A journalist who founded the Flint Voice, later the Michigan Voice, an aggressive counter-culture newspaper, Moore was not going to take it lying down. So he went to a press conference and asked GM’s president how many jobs would be ultimately be lost and what the company’s plans were for Flint. The resulting corporate doubletalk would be juxtaposed against a narrative of corporate responsibility in Roger & Me. While Flint led the nation in unemployment in 1987 and was second in violent crime, by 1989, when the documentary debuted, the city was in the midst of a remarkable turnaround, with unemployment halved, crime down, and GM actually contributing to redevelopment. The film’s narrative was a blessing and curse at that point, helping shine international light on a city still struggling to find a future, and, more importantly, a dialogue about what Rust Belt companies owe their factory towns when the boom days end. However, the national perception of Flint went in the tank. Roger & Me turned Moore into a superstar and he has gone on to have one of the most successful documentarian careers of all time, always with his trademark anti-authority stance.

Flint: An oral history of ‘Roger & Me’ after 25 years, 12.3.14

“Steel Magnolias”: Southern Grit

Steel Magnolias comes from a place of anger and hurt: the playwright and screenwriter (Robert Harling) lost his strong sister to the debilitating effects of diabetes, but the story he crafted is one of the resilience and wit of Southern women. After a successful run as a play in New York, the movie had an equally successful run across the nation, garnering the then-unknown Julia Roberts a supporting-actress Academy Award nomination for playing the sister. Roberts was surrounded by arguably the greatest female ensemble cast of the 1980s: Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, and Dolly Parton. The piece has the classic mix of drama and comedy that leaves audiences laughing through the tears.

Thirty Years of Steel Magnolias, 3.22.17

“Nightmare on Elm Street”: Horror Comes Alive

Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street helped spawn the horror movie subgenre with its trademark mix of creaky suspense and effects-driven gore. Major studios balked at the film, which featured deadbeat parents, disaffected teens, and the soon-to-be-iconic Freddy Krueger. New Line Cinema signed on and would ride the success to newfound relevancy. The production was notoriously problematic, but that just makes the stories more interesting! Vulture revisits the madness.

Freddy Lives: An Oral History of A Nightmare on Elm Street, 10.20.14

Smashing, Baby! An Oral History of “Austin Powers” (1997)

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was a loving send-up of the British spy movies of the 60s and 70s that Mike Myers grew up watching. He was at the height of his comedic powers and although the movie made money from almost from the beginning, it wasn’t a smashing success in the theaters. The movie benefited greatly from DVD sales and being shown on heavy rotation on cable TV and by the end of the century its innumerable catch phrases were part of the popular lexicon. The Hollywood Reporter gathers the principals for an insightful and hilarious oral history.

‘Austin Powers’ at 20: Mike Myers, Jay Roach, More Spill Secrets in Shagadelic Oral History, 4.27.17

“Caddyshack” (1980)

Easily the funniest and most quoted sports movie of all time, Caddyshack was created by the young comedic geniuses of National Lampoon, who had just scored their first hit with Animal House. The film starred two Saturday Night Live stars (Chevy Chase, Bill Murray) as well as antithetical veteran actors Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield. The result was a comedy masterpiece full of memorable scenes and one-liners loosely based around country club shenanigans. Sports Illustrated provides a predictably hilarious retrospective with input from all the major players.

Caddyshack, 8.2.10

An Ode to Streetball: “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992)

Playground basketball is an meritocratic society: If you can play, you’re good. If you can’t play, God help you, because you’re going to hear all about it. Director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) was a lifelong hoopster who understood the inherent kinetic drama of streetball would make for a good movie. The result, White Men Can’t Jump, follows two scuzzy hustlers (Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrellson) as they try to pull off the big heist. Rosie Perez turns in a predictably engaging performance as Woody’s girlfriend. Grantland revisits the funniest basketball movie ever made.

You Either Smoke or You Get Smoked, 8.21.12

“GoodFellas” (1990): Mobsters Say It’s Like Watching a Home Movie

Martin Scorcese’s GoodFellas is in the Mt. Rushmore of mob movies, along with The Godfather, Casino, The Departed, and others. Based on real-life mobster Henry Hill, the film chronicles the implosion of a mob family in intimate detail. With career-defining performances by Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci, alongside acting greats Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco, and Paul Sorvino, the movie is an American classic. GQ interviews over 60 members of the cast and crew for a look back on the film’s 20th anniversary.

Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas: A Complete Oral History, 9.20.10

Reality Bites (1994)

Reality Bites, Ben Stiller’s directorial debut, is an engrossing character study of a group of friends in the early 20s as they struggle to find their footing in the adult world. Often called a portrait of Generation X, much to the dismay of the people who made it, the film instead focuses on the fertile ground of early adulthood, a subject examined by literally thousands of movies. Winona Ryder gives a luminous performance alongside a brooding Ethan Hawke, an endearing sarcastic Janeane Garofalo, and the cinematic debut of the goofy Steve Zahn. Uproxx catches up the cast and crew for a 2oth-anniversary retrospective.

20 years later: An oral history of ‘Reality Bites’, 2.18.14

Airborne Cowboys Get Their Due: “The Right Stuff” (1983)

Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff humanized the space race and the challenges of building a space program in an original way. It was a runaway bestseller and, since its dynamics were clearly cinematic, Hollywood came calling. Universal Studios wanted the rights in order to make an Airplane!-like farce. Thankfully, Philip Kaufmann secured the rights and went on to write and direct the film that won four Academy Awards and was nominated for seven others. The casting was inspired as well, as they found some Hollywood cowboys to play the space cowboys: Ed Harris, Sam Shepherd, Dennis Quaid, etc. Wired does it up right.

An Oral History of the Epic Space Film The Right Stuff, 11.19.14

“Robocop” (1987)

Everyone’s favorite robotic corporate cop with a heart of gold, Robocop burst on the scene in 1987 with appropriately cartoonish explosions. Although marketed and enjoyed as an action film, Paul Verhoeven’s film achieved iconic status due to its underlying satire and timeless themes of identity. The over-the-top violence famously caused an X rating initially but more than enough made it past the cutting room floor.

RoboCop: The Oral History, 2.12.14

“An Inconvenient Truth” (2006)

Al Gore’s famous slide show on climate change started in the 1980s when he was still the junior senator from Tennessee. Director Davis Guggenheim saw the updated presentation in 2004 and immediately knew it had to be made into a film. No one believed him, including Gore, but his persistence paid off as the $1.1M documentary made over $50M, won the Oscar for best feature documentary, and brought the alarming scientific data in front of millions of eyes.

‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ 10 Years Later: Al Gore, Jeff Skoll and More Dish in THR’s Oral History, 5.19.16

The “Jackass” Boys Blow Up

Jackass grew out of the daredevil ethos of the skater community of the early 90s, prior to the internet the boys tried to one-up each other with gnarly tricks and stunts. A group of L.A. skater punks (Wee Man, Steve-O, Chris Pontius) hooked up with some insane dudes from West Chester, PA (Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn) to create a sketch show centered on outrageous stunts and pranks. They found their ringleader in the charismatic and fearless Johnny Knoxville. Maxim revisits this pop-culture rocket ship, and touches on some of the bad vibes that followed due to alcohol and drug abuse.

Jackass: An Oral History, 10.26.10

Richard Linklater’s 70’s Masterpiece: “Dazed and Confused” (1993)

Director Richard Linklater made a name for himself with 1991’s Slacker and Dazed and Confused was his first major studio film. Working with iconic casting director Don Phillips they chose a group of charismatic group of unknowns to star in the movie, including future stars Ben Affleck, Adam Goldberg and Joey Lauren Adams. And then there’s Matthew McConaughey, who talked himself into the movie one night at an Austin bar, and then worked himself out of a bit role in the ensemble into the breakout star of the movie. The film didn’t immediately succeed at the box office but has since become one of the iconic depictions of 70’s high school kids and the 1970s in general.

An Oral History of “Dazed and Confused”, 12.26.13

“Heathers” (1989)

Heathers long ago cemented itself as the definitive portrayal of teen angst gone wild. The 16-year-old Winona Ryder was striking as Veronica, a popular girl who murders on the side with her boyfriend, the wonderfully wicked Christian Slater. Ryder says she’s watched the movie over 50 times and is the prime advocate for a proposed sequel where Veronica would assassinate the president. Entertainment Weekly gathers cast for a retrospective and unearths some tasty nuggets, including how some people behind the scenes thought Shannon Doherty wanted to play all the parts.

‘Heathers’: An oral history, 4.4.14