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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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