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Famed ’70/80s director Randal Kleiser on “Getting It Right” and giving up on big-budget Hollywood films

Famed ’70/80s director Randal Kleiser on “Getting It Right” and giving up on big-budget Hollywood films (photo)

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With the possible exception of Steven Spielberg, no 1980s filmmaker was responsible for more watershed Generation X films than Randal Kleiser: starting with “Grease” in 1978, Kleiser created a seemingly neverending series of coming-of-age films, including “Summer Lovers,” “The Blue Lagoon,” “Flight of the Navigator” and “Big Top Pee Wee,” that continue to entertain and resonate with audiences. Recently, MGM’s DVD-on-demand service released “Getting It Right,” another of the director’s films from that era, and although it was set in London and featured decidedly more R-rated content than its predecessors, it too was another tale of a young person finding his footing in an adult world.

IFC caught with Kleiser to talk about the release of “Getting It Right”; additionally, the accomplished filmmaker offered some insights into how he managed to make so many terrific, iconic ’80s films, and reflected on his history as one of Hollywood’s great purveyors of films about growing up.


This film came right after “Big Top Pee-Wee” and before “Honey I Blew Up the Kid.” Was this an especially personal film, or how did you end up doing something sort of out of left field like this?

Well, once I did “Grease,” everyone was offering me studio pictures in a similar vein – you know, popcorn movie. But when I was in USC film school in the ’60s, I saw a whole bunch of these great films from England, like Morgan, Darling, Alfie, The Knack, and they all had the same kind of feel. They were all about sort of quirky people and their relationships in swinging London, and when I read this book, “Getting It Right,” it just felt like those films. So I got this obsession of wanting to go to England and make this movie in the style of those films I’d seen in college, and I was able to get the money up and go and do it. So it was really kind of a labor of love, dream-come-true type of thing, because it was generated from something I really wanted to do and not an assignment that was given to me. And then I got this fantastic cast and it was just a great experience.

Watching it now, it feels like a predecessor to “The 40 Year Old Virgin” – maybe “The 31-Year-Old Virgin.” What did you see as the core story of the film, or what did you connect with?

Well, I’d done several coming of age stories, but the interesting thing was that guy was I think 30 in the book, and this idea that he’s trapped in his adolescence because he’s at home living with his mother who’s pushy and his father is very weak, and he goes to work every day, and he’s never had any luck with women because he’s such a nerd. It was just the idea that the way it was written, it was very funny, and I was charmed by the writing, and I just thought, wow, if I can get this on film and in the style of the ’60s movies, it will be great. Because it’s a story everyone can relate to, and everyone goes through something like this when they’re going through their adolescence, and this guy was quite delayed – and that was one reason why I thought it was funny.

This film has a real time-capsule kind of feel to it. How tough was it to faithfully capture both the feeling of the ’60s films that inspired you and the current era in which the story takes place?

I hired a production designer who had done lots of movies and knew this whole world and these characters and how they would live and what kind of props they would have in their house, decorations, and what kind of clothes they wear. I had really great people – I just hired people that knew their stuff and were English, and then I had all of the English actors who knew all of the subtleties.

For instance, Sir John Gielgud, when I worked with him that one day, he said, “this is a lower-class guy who’s trying to be upper class, right?” I said yeah, absolutely, so he said, “good – I’ve developed a little bit of an accent that shows that,” and I was just amazed to see how he threw in these little, wrong pronunciations of words to show that the guy was not as posh as he’s trying to be. So just drawing upon people, the cast and crew, and just guiding it through using my interest in this wonderful book, it was not difficult at all.

Having done many coming of age stories through your career, you’ve made many films that are now seminal to people of a certain generation. How much in retrospect is that just happenstance, and how much did those opportunities come because of the success of Grease, or even something that you had a specific affinity for?

Well, yeah, I had an affinity for that; yes, adolescence is a big time in anyone’s life, and I understood that pretty well. But because of “Grease,” these doors opened for these kinds of movies pretty easily for me. But if I wanted to do like a thriller, it would not have been easy, or a western; I was interested in all kinds of movies, but those were the ones that I could get off the ground at the time. So that’s where my career led, and the only time I went off on my own and did my own thing were “Getting It Right” and “It’s My Party” – those two films, I generated. Although I did generate “Summer Lovers,” although that was a coming of age story too.

Did you think at the time with any of them that they were going to have the longevity they do now?

No, never – I never really thought any of them were going to last. It was just that I was hoping they would make money so I could keep working – that’s all. Like I said I’d been offered studio pictures, and I came to a crossroads one time when I was doing a lot of Disney films and I wanted to break free and do something serious, and Jeff Katzenberg promised I could do one if I did “Honey, I Blew Up The Kid,” but then when I finished doing that he had left the studio, so I didn’t have a chance to do that next serious movie.

Then I was offered “George of the Jungle” and I decided that I had to make a switch, and that’s when I broke away and I did “It’s My Party” for a very, very low budget, and gave up the high budget studio films. And I’m glad I did it – it’s been great to just be independent, although it’s been much more difficult than just saying yes to studio films.

Do you have a favorite Randal Kleiser film? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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