Wednesday evening was an always special evening for Austin and Alamo Drafthouse, a screening of Ghost World with actress/writer/director Illeana Douglas (who is half Italian, count on her appearing next October). Although she had a supporting role in the movie as the whacky art teacher, Illeana had a great fondness for what turned into Thora Birch’s last big role.
After the movie came a Q&A with the host John (he used to be a quizmaster for Geeks Who Drink) and the audience, which was rather shy. Illeana was there first to promote her new memoir I Blame Dennis Hopper; as I had heard on Fresh Air, it’s her journey from the day when her father quit his job to become a hippie to the career she has now. What does Dennis Hopper have to do with this? Her father’s inspiration was the movie Easy Rider. Good thing he didn’t take after Peter Fonda. Instead of a hippie commune, he could’ve gone into car chase movies or worse, fight the Delos Corporation from Futureworld. If you’ve seen Illeana’s credits via imdb.com, I think she’s a super competent artist in her own right and she would’ve done these great things without her grandfather’s help, two-time Oscar®-winner, Melvyn Douglas. Well, maybe the money element would’ve made the early period more difficult if she were without that assistance. I can relate when it comes to helping me earn my undergraduate degree.
I managed to ask two questions. The first was more of a request Illeana wouldn’t do, a smattering of her Raging Bullwinkle bit she used to do as a struggling comedian. That’s fine, it’s her right and she doesn’t owe me anything. The other was in conjunction with one of the few things I miss about not having cable TV…TCM. She has been a host on the channel I love because it’s like film school without the bullshit. Recently she did a series showing 60 movies directed by women. One painful fact Illeana brought up, all 100 top AFI selections are directed by men. Personally I’m shocked and saddened. Jane Campion’s The Piano isn’t there? Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker hasn’t made a dent yet? Something’s weird. As for my question, I asked if the run was open to all genres so Kathryn Bigelow and Gale Anne (whoops! she doesn’t direct); yes, the series was closed with The Hurt Locker. Cool. Sometimes, when there’s a showcase, Action movies are looked down upon as crass or boorish. I need to hunt down this list. I’d probably be surprised.
My ticket to the movie also included the book so I got it autographed. Illeana was generous enough to have a photo. I forgot to smile, argh! I was thrilled to meet her. I also told her how much I enjoyed Grace of my Heart. I want to state a special thanks to my friend Sonia for originally dragging me to that movie. Way back in 1996, it was her turn to pick the movie and was Grace. Initially I was like, ugh, Allison Anders stuff. I thought Mi Vida Loca was rather formulaic and her segment in Four Rooms was weak. Let me make one thing clear, Allison’s gender wasn’t my complaint, her past two movies were. Besides, I think I dig “chick movies” more than many of the women in my life: The Piano and The Wings of the Dove are personal faves, now Ghost World is getting up there. Grace did appeal to me when it was over too. It has a stellar cast and surrogates: Illeana as a Carole King type, Matt Dillon for Brian Wilson, Bruce Davison, Eric Stoltz, John Turturro, Bridge Fonda (surrogate Dusty Springfield) plus real musician from the Nineties I admired, Chris Isaak, J. Mascis, Shawn Colvin and Brian Reitzell. The film used those contemporaries to remake the songs of the Sixties and early Seventies, namely Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach’s collaboration “God Give me Strength.” I have a copy of the CD too.
Now to go through my complete DVD set of The Larry Sanders Show to see when Illeana joined the cast.