Jon Voight’s Long-Lost Hal Ashby Comedy

Jon Voight’s Long-Lost Hal Ashby Comedy (photo)

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While journalist Nick Dawson was researching his new biography, “Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel,” his interviews with Jon Voight (who won an Oscar for Ashby’s “Coming Home”) revealed that a director’s cut of a long-lost Ashby/Voight collaboration still existed under everybody’s noses. 1982’s “Lookin’ to Get Out,” which had its world premiere last week at the Sarasota Film Festival as part of an Ashby retrospective tied to Dawson’s book, will finally be available to audiences when it hits DVD on June 30th. Voight and Burt Young co-star as Alex and Jerry, a couple of small-time New York gamblers — lovable losers, both — who escape to Vegas when their debts come knocking at their door. Pretending to be a casino owner’s close friends while he’s out of town, the two foolishly exploit their free comps to try to win back their losses, much to the chagrin of the returning tycoon, the thugs on their trail, and a former prostitute (Ann-Margret) who’s the mother of the child Alex never knew he had (six-year-old Angelina Jolie, in her screen debut).

Voight, who also co-produced and co-wrote the film, has mixed a wildly hilarious cocktail that’s three parts “California Split” and one part “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” The day after its premiere, I sat down with the legendary actor during Dawson’s book signing to discuss the long, strange road leading up to this definitive version of “Lookin’ To Get Out,” the sexiness of Hal Ashby, Angelina Jolie’s unexpected debut — and because I enjoy speaking with people of strong opinions, the provocative political op-ed he wrote last summer.

What makes this long-lost director’s cut of “Lookin’ to Get Out” so special?

When the film was first released, there was some difficulty in the final process. The studio and Hal were having problems, Hal left the picture at one point, and the editing suffered greatly. They wanted 15 minutes taken out, we tried to patch it up, but you can’t just do that with a film. So it came out in a crippled state, and never really had a proper showing. All of us were very deeply hurt by it, and hurt for Hal. But you find a way to go on, lick your wounds and keep going, right?

Shortly after that, in ’88, Hal passed away. He was sick for the last year and a half of his life, and in the last seven months, Al Schwartz, the primary writer of the film, wound up being his nurse, his best friend. During that time, Al was trying to keep him distracted from the suffering. At one point, they were watching a film, and out of the blue, Hal turned to Al and said, “You know, ‘Lookin’ To Get Out’ is a better film than you think it is.” Al had told me about it at that time, and it was some clue. It was a mysterious statement. What did it mean?

04102009_LookingToGetOut3.jpgA year and a half ago, I get a call from this young man from Scotland, Nick Dawson. He’s writing a book about Hal Ashby, and would love to interview me. He calls me a couple months later and says, “I’m coming down next week. I’d like to bring Hal Ashby’s daughter [Leigh McManus] with me.” I said, “Really? He had a daughter?” I didn’t know that. They never got together in his life. Hal made arrangements at different times, but never followed through. Hal’s dad committed suicide when he was 12, so fatherhood was a big trauma to him, and I can understand him at those times when he almost knocked on her door and turned away. It’s not much different than when you see in “Lookin’ to Get Out.” It’s the story of Hal and his daughter, in that sense. This only became clear at that time when I put two and two together.

They came down, and it was like being with [Hal] again — surrounded by his memories, telling jokes and stories about him. And both of them, Leigh and Nick, said to me, “‘Lookin’ to Get Out’ is our favorite film.” Leigh saw it in the first version, and it was okay for her: “I feel I’m the daughter, Angelina Jolie. I’m that child that Angie played.” I said, “That makes sense. That’s probably true.” I remember we were thinking about casting a boy, and Hal said, “No, it should be a girl.”

I asked Nick, “Where’d you see it?” He said, “I saw the version that Hal left to UCLA. It’s a version that he did quietly before he died.” The first thing I said was, “Describe the opening.” He described it, and I knew it was a cut I hadn’t seen, because I knew all the cuts. So I got Al Schwartz, and we went down to see it. We put the first reel up, and it was indeed another cut, and it was terrific. I said, “Let’s put up another reel.” We put up one more reel, and that, too, was perfect. Then I was like, “Before we damage this film at all, let’s have a showing of it in a theater. Let’s call my friends at Warner Home Video,” who were the best at releasing this, because they had done “Superman” and “Deliverance” and Fred Astaire’s stuff. It just happened — it was a bit of a miracle — that Warner Bros. now owned the film! It was a wonderful cut, and you could tell it was Hal’s. When Hal first did it, he had other people cutting it. This one he edited. Hal was an editor. He got into directing through his editing, and he won an Academy Award for “In the Heat of the Night,” and now we had the great editor doing his work. It was so satisfying. They decided on that day that they were going to release it.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.