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Jeff Daniels Has All the Answers

Jeff Daniels Has All the Answers (photo)

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You mentioned Michigan, which is where I was born. How did you end up in the Great Lake State?

It’s home. I grew up in Chelsea, my wife Kathleen grew up in Chelsea. After ten years in New York, we had a kid, and we wanted to raise them in a place that we understood. She’s surrounded by family on both sides, so when I’m using the airport to go to work, she’s got a place where she can raise the kids that is outside the industry.

That was the reason we went there, and it worked in ways that we didn’t know back then. The kids have seen the world, but from outside the industry looking into it. They went to London when we shot “101 Dalmatians,” and they got to meet Jim Carrey on the set of “Dumb and Dumber.” It’s been a great ride for them, but then they’re in the Midwest, where nobody’s famous. They understand. We did it family first, career second — a close second. It keeps you sane. You end up taking movies for the right reasons, instead of “I’m not famous enough this year. I need to do something that makes me more famous. I need to marry somebody who is famous.”

You must be a hometown hero.

I think, whether it’s Chelsea or it’s Michigan, they pull for me. I’m like the Detroit Tigers. They want me to win. The support is great.

What do you do when you’re not working on a movie?

I play a lot of guitar. I’ve been doing a lot of gigs the last seven or eight years. I did them initially to raise money for my theater company, but I really enjoy just walking out with a guitar, plugging it in front of 200 to 1000 people. I’m always working on improving the show and writing new songs. I just wrote a play for my theater company. And then I play golf, with friends of mine or my boys.

What instigated your relationship to music?

When I moved to New York in ’76, I was 21, and I bought a guitar just because I knew I’d be sitting around. I needed something to fill my time, and I wanted to learn how to play. I did a lot of musicals, and I still wanted music to be a part of my life.

I picked up the tab books of Stefan Grossman and Doc Watson, guys like that, and really started to understand how to fingerpick. Later on came the blues and the Delta blues. I went down to Clarksdale, Mississippi, made the pilgrimage to the crossroads, and Robert Johnson’s grave. I never kept a diary, but I would write these songs, and a lot of them are just godawful, but they went into the notebook. Nobody was going to see them. They were just for me.

Now, I write for that audience that’s going to be sitting there that night. I don’t write for Billboard or to sell songs to some country and western guy. I’m observational, then I try to turn it into something that the person sitting there can relate to. That’s where you get songs about road rage called “Have a Good Life (Then Die),” and dealing with the 800-pound gorilla in the room, “If William Shatner Can, I Can Too.” And getting shot and killed by Clint Eastwood, I drop some Hollywood stories in there and try to make it musical with “The Dirty Harry Blues.”


You directed two movies, “Super Sucker” and the Michigan-themed “Escanaba in da Moonlight.” Is this a hat you’d like to wear again?

Nah, I didn’t like it. I’ve always been attracted to writing. I was interested in why Woody Allen was rewriting a scene in the middle of “The Purple Rose of Cairo” [and] Jim Brooks would rewrite little lines in “Terms [of Endearment].” I couldn’t care less about the camera or what kind of lens was on there: “What do you got on there, a 75? Why is that?” As I look back, I’ve always been interested in story structure, how to write well. Guys like Shelby Foote [or] Lanford Wilson. That’s been the driving force.

“The Answer Man” opens in limited release on July 24th.

[Additional photos: Lou Taylor Pucci and Jeff Daniels in “The Answer Man,” Magnolia Pictures, 2009; Jeff Daniels on the set of “Escanaba in da Moonlight,” Purple Rose Films, 2001]


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…