Let's Talk - Movies

Interview - Dabney Coleman (Actor - 9 to 5, Tootsie, WarGames)

January 07, 2022 Just Curious Media Episode 12
Let's Talk - Movies
Interview - Dabney Coleman (Actor - 9 to 5, Tootsie, WarGames)
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Show Notes Transcript

Let's Talk - Movies
Episode 12: Interview - Dabney Coleman (Actor - 9 to 5, Tootsie, WarGames)

Jason Connell shares an archived interview with actor Dabney Coleman (9 to 5, Tootsie, WarGames) in which they discuss his various roles in some classic movies from the '80s and much more. The interview would lead to producing a documentary entitled Not Such a Bad Guy: Conversations with Dabney Coleman.

Original Episode: S01E12

Recorded:  01-07-22 & 02-04-14
Studio: Just Curious Media
https://www.JustCuriousMedia.com/

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Host:
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Jason Connell:

Welcome to Just curious media. This is let's talk movies. And I'm Jason Connell, on the show today. I'm talking about something very exciting, because it's like an interview I did a decade ago. It's been archived on ice and I wanted to dust it off and give it a new life. So back in 2011, I honored two industry heavyweights with lifetime achievement awards, I should say, at the Los Angeles United Film Festival. Now I started the United film festivals in 2002 and ran them in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, and my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is where I started in the first place. So I was lucky enough to honor legendary actor Dabney Coleman, you may know him or you should know him from movies like nine to five Tootsie WarGames, so many more. Well, Dabney turned 90 years old, just a few days ago, January 3 2022. But again, this happened a decade ago. And we also honored Director Mark ryedale, who's currently 92 Coming up on 93 in March, and he was nominated for an Oscar for directing On Golden Pond and directed many more things also acted and things. So I had them both there that night, at the VISTA theater, let me just say, Now, you may have read about it recently, because it was purchased by Quentin Tarantino. Yes, the famous director, one of my favorite of all times, but he always loved the theater. And I actually knew the team that owned the theater and I ran the festival there for many years there. There are other theater down the street, which is the Los Felice three Theater, which they still own. But Quinton during the pandemic made him a good offer. He owns it now. Very cool, but this is back in the day. And so they do hand prints in front of the theater. And I was lucky enough to do many I would recruit, you know, like Carl Gottlieb who wrote jaws and we would have him out and play jaws on the 35 millimeter big screen before they went digital. You know, I had Vilmos Zsigmond out who was the DP of movies like deliverance, The Deer Hunter, Close Encounters played Close Encounters Rest in peace, Mr. Zygmunt, he was amazing to meet such a great cinematographer. And then John Landis after that, but I'll save that for another time, I guess. So had them out. But their hands and cement gave him lifetime achievement awards. Super fun night, really over the moon for a fanboy like myself. Well, this led to sitting down with Dabney at his home and interviewing him having a conversation for the United films podcast, the shortly lived United films podcast, but we recorded it on a video camera and a shotgun mic, because we were going to film it and he's like, no, no, just audio only. So we're just kind of sitting side by side and I think I was just like ping ponging the, the mic in my hand back to him. The interview has not been altered. I did edit this released it again, not for very long. Has movie clip transitions, which is kind of fun. I wouldn't do that now. But again, this is thinking back then I thought, okay, we set up a new movie we segue in with a movie clip. So all of that is intact. And I also when I got to know Dabney, I love the fact that he was a Washington Redskins fan as has been myself since I was a wee lad, I was a skin's fan name changed a couple of years ago to Washington football team. And the name is about to change. Again, they're gonna announce the new name in February of 2022. So who knows? It's crazy. But we have that in common. And we got along famously, when I went back and listen to this interview, it's hilarious, because I just sound so much younger, younger, inexperienced, but I have passion, and I'm excited to be there. And it's really fun. And I do reference the United films podcast. So I left that in, you're gonna hear it, it's no longer a thing. Because we did two episodes. We did. Dabney Coleman, and then John capillus, which will save that we're gonna pull that out of the archives, and have it come and be a part of Let's Talk movies as well what kind of do something like this a setup play the interview. But the reason it ended is because I closed ended the film festivals in 2014, after 12 years, glorious years traveling to all those cities. It was great, but 12 years was a long haul in the film festival biz. Now, it's kind of funny, I was destined to become a podcaster. I just didn't know it. I was way ahead of my time, I guess but here we are giving it a second life but it wasn't a total wash at the time because I got to know Dabney better. And what happened was that interview and then meeting him at the festival and honoring him, led to producing a documentary about Dabney Coleman. Not such a bad guy. I'm conversations with Dabney Coleman. And it's on Amazon Prime video, you can check it out. I highly recommend it if you're a fan of Dabney Coleman's as I am. So that's really it. It says the setup for anybody on YouTube Live, you're going to have to unfortunately, download or stream the episode, the podcast episode to hear the interview because I couldn't insert it here. So this is more of a setup for the YouTube Live, but I hope you do. It's worth the time. And thanks for coming back and supporting let's talk movies. This is the United films podcast. We're sitting here with Dabney Coleman, and we're gonna kind of reflect on some of these great movies from the 80s with Dabney and kind of pick his brain on some classics and lead it all the way up to even Boardwalk Empire, which he was on for the first two seasons playing the Commodore. So Dabney, first off, it's great to meet you and have you on our show. Good to be here. All right, Dabney. So you got a huge career and I've been a big fan for a long time. And no one you're a Redskins fan is bonded me even more to you. But we're not going to cover your whole career today. But we're just going to jump in and talk about some of these films from the 80s. And just kind of maybe talk about some you know, some things about the experience, your thoughts of the movie, and so on and so forth. So one that stood out right at the beginning of 1989 to five,

Media:

Judy, you got to help me AdMob is going crazy that they're trying to kill me. Why would they want to do a nasty thing like that? I don't know. I'm not such a bad guy. Or a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot. So I have a few faults.

Jason Connell:

You had such an incredible role in that film. Maybe you could give us a little insight. I mean, I know I saw it a million times as a kid, that's the theme song was even a hit. But what was that experience like going through? And did you even know it was going to be as popular as it became?

Dabney Coleman:

We did not really tell you truth have a clue as to the amount of success it would it would have? And especially that it ultimately did have, which I don't think for a lot 20 or 30 years. I don't think you could run into anybody who had not seen that film. And most of them twice, which I'm not saying that's the quality of the film so much is that for some reason? I think one reason it was the first movie, by the way, silly and funny is it was it was the first movie about women in the workplace. And it by the way, had a tremendous effect, I think subconsciously, ultimately a tremendous effect on women in the workplace. So people forget about that. And coincidentally, so did Tootsie wanted a follow up, you know, write up that both of them had that effect. Fortunately, it was a great experience. Those three ladies were all at that time. stars in their own right, I had just come off of Mary Hartman. So I had a little bit of a name, but that was a television series with Louise Lasser. And it really probably sprung me most significantly in my career, nine to five kind of gave me a name and filmed and so it was pretty significant to me.

Media:

He does have a family to support and I don't what does that got to do with anything? Look, my hands are tied here. The company needs a man in this position. Clients would rather deal with men when it comes to figures.

Jason Connell:

It seemed to have a knack and these 80s movies to kind of be the stern smarmy kind of boss that you liked he had you know, you had that charisma but you didn't quite trust and you kind of carried that character into a lot of other roles. That seems into war game. We'll get to some of these other ones may have Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin Jane Fonda, is that a role that you had to fight for? Was there other guys like that were close to landing that role or getting recollection of that

Unknown:

actually, kinda kind of type of character that you're describing, was born in that series very heartening character named Merle Jeter. That was about 80% of where that character came from in nine to five. Fortunately, Colin Higgins, a writer, director had seen that and so had Lily Tomlin when I went on the interview. I'm not the most confident of guys coming out of interviews, and I do an interview and I forget it until they say you have it or you don't and then I'll go my way. But I don't meditate on it for a long period of time, nor do I come out with any degree of confidence. But having known that they had seen that the director Colin Higgins said, This is mine. I'm getting this far period. This is not even close. And I really, really felt that and I just don't feel that way in parts. Usually, when I said that, whether it was competition, I have no idea whether it was close. I also have no idea. All I know is that Lily Tomlin who had Collins respect already. The director, she said, Get Dabney Coleman. He's funny and he's sexy. And so Lily threw that in and I know that didn't hurt. I think it probably was the coup de gras. He just said That's my man. How confident was a US? I had a part in Private Benjamin To the colonel, I told my agent don't accept the offer. He said, I'm going to do it. And remember, I didn't have any name yet. And I didn't make anybody any money yet. But I said, we can't do this. It was it was a good part, Robert Weber ended up doing it, and was a good player. But it couldn't compare to the nine to five. And I said to these guys, once again, I'm going to get this part. I'm going to get this part. And if I don't, it's worth it to roll the dice. But I'm going to get this part because the other part is good as it is best part I would have had at the time in the movie, not worth the gamble of losing nine to five.

Media:

DOORLY I'm serious, don't you understand? I am crazy about you. You're all I ever think about Mr. Hart. I've told you before. I'm a married woman. And I'm a married man. That's what makes it so perfect.

Jason Connell:

1981 a much more subtle role, a great film of which we planted our festival two years ago On Golden Pond, just a wonderfully beautiful film in every way. And you played a great role in it. And it was a very different role than the nine to five character. So maybe we'll just talk about how that kind of came about

Unknown:

Ironically. I've had one bad review in my life. And that was out of Dallas, my home state for God's sake. Some gun rights. Everything was wonderful, except how could Jane Fonda fall in love with the wimp like Dabney Coleman is? Oh, and by the way, I agreed he was he was kind of a wimpy guy. So it wasn't quite the same. But I've never related to the sexy part man anyway, but that was a rude awakening coming from home state, by the way, but what a great experience. That was the night we wrapped. Nine to five, Billy came up and said, Well, I guess you'll be working with Jane again soon. A. And I said, what Nancy says, oh my god, I shouldn't have said that. Nevermind, nevermind. Okay, so following Monday, I get a call from Jane, saying, you're gonna get something of FedEx over to you. Will you read it? And let me know if you'd be interested in doing it happened to be On Golden Pond did read it immediately teared up three or four different times in scenes that I wasn't even in and called back and said, Are you kidding? Of course I'll do it. And then shinjang says, Well, you have to understand it. I'm just doing this for my father. And no one's getting any money. But I have a feeling that it might give my dad a shot and an Oscar, which for some reason he never won at age 74. Which is incredible to me. And so I said, okay, just just I'll do your little film.

Media:

You're not planning on doing something unusual? No, no, no, no, no, just just doesn't seem too offensive. Long as you're quiet. Thank you. She'll see Oh, sleeping the same bed with her husband? Yeah, I'm sure Apple and I do you know, we stick to government doing for years.

Dabney Coleman:

Lo and behold outcomes. So finished product On Golden Pond, which is not only a great film, but I think it's great forever. It has legs forever. And it's for all ages, little 12 year olds in you know, middle aged people and old people. So very special movie, and always will be. And just happened to have those three Giants won the Academy Award for January. I think Katherine one one if I'm not mistaken, multi multiple nominations, a classic film.

Jason Connell:

era. So right about all ages, I watched it with my parents and my grandparents and I was a kid at the time. And we were all affected. And we played it two years ago to a big crowd and it still works. It's about relationships and family much like nine to five dealt with women in the workplace. They're still relevant. And these movies are you made some great choices along the way. Were you kind of steering that like after nine to five? What was it you find in these other roles? Or no, I

Unknown:

don't think I've ever been in a position to steer my career. Very, very, very few people are in that position, in my opinion. I think you can count them on at most two hands, you know, dinero in real estate and people like that is 10. Maybe they can do that. I just got lucky. I think they just came along. And it was my good fortune to be there.

Jason Connell:

I'm going to skip over modern problems, which is a bizarre little movie that I enjoyed as a kid but maybe to get to a much bigger, you know, notch on the belt was 1980 two's Tootsie

Media:

Dorothy? I never promised Julie I'd be exclusive. I never said I wouldn't see other women. It's just that I know she doesn't want me to see other women so I lie to her to keep from hurting her. It's very convenient.

Unknown:

I was doing a very underrated movie that I did called young doctors in love, which happened to be Garry Marshalls first directorial film. Good funny movie makes me laugh.

Media:

Is this working? Good morning. I am Dr. Joseph. rang Chief of Staff Chief of Surgery chief of busting balls.

Unknown:

no one saw it. But I was doing it at the time. And I was way out on location in Gardena or somewhere. And Sydney, who is my acting teacher, and my good friend for many, many years was Sydney Pollack, he wanted me to do the part that he ultimately did have the agent. And I'm coming home from this location from young doctors in love, exhausted, dropped by his house. And he says, You got to do this. Got to do this, this part of this agent. And I say to Sydney, I read the script. And I don't think it's funny. You know, this is only Larry Gelbart, you know, one of the great comedy writers of the 20th century. And I've said, I just don't think it's funny. And so Sydney did what he used to do when we when I first came out here, and we'd have dinner virtually every Friday night at his house, which he would cook because he featured himself a great cook, which he didn't come close to paying. But he thought he was, and he enjoyed cooking. Anyway, we went over there every Friday night. And he would read us the script of the next TV shows playing all the parts, and it would be interesting, it would not be done. He's just a great reader. He's a great actor. And I Sydney up, read the script, said you can read it if you want. And I know you do a great job, but I still don't think it's funny. He said, Well, come on, do it. I do it for you. And he would. And he just didn't he didn't say thanks. He didn't mean and I thought about that. And I said yeah, he would do that for me. He would do that from such that alright, I'll do it two weeks or so go by and he gives me causes Well, you're not going to do the part of the agent because Dustin wants me Sydney to do the park because they'd rehearsed it in New York. So we've done and Dustin says, I want you Sydney Pollack to tell me you'll never act in his talent again as that character. He's that will scare me that moves as an actor that will help me realize or contemplate the fact that I may never work again as an actor. That's going to scare me. So she said Sydney flower saint, please be my agent. Dorothy. dozen roses from Dorothy, the character to Dustin played finally, Sydney relinquished and says, so now you got to play the director.

Media:

Gosh, I'm afraid you're not right for this role. I'm sorry. Thanks for coming by. To what camera one or two on that camera to until artifact? Why am I not right, Mr. Cole, Ohio. Well, I'm just trying to make a certain statement here. And I'm looking for a very specific physical type of Mr. Cole. I'm an actress. I'm a character actress. I can play this at any point you want. I'm sure that you're just if you're a little bit too soft and Genteel. You're not threatening and threatening enough. How's this? You take your hands off me? Give me your balls right through the roof. Your man. He's had enough of a scrape. Start.

Unknown:

We're shooting the movie. No one thinks it's funny. by that. I mean, you get a sense, you know, when you're doing stuff, whether it's funny or not to the actors, the crew, the director, whatever. Nobody thought this was funny. We just Sydney said everybody's okay. Check the gate. It says Okay, let's move on. And we'd look at each other and said, well, Christ, where's the funny? There's no funny? No, do you wanna make it funny? No, let's go. Let's move on. We go on through this to the point. And it was like that to the point that the last day I was there. I was here about seven weeks in New York. And I said to Jessica, Jesus, Jesse, I don't feel like I'm making a movie. Something's wrong here. I don't get it. I don't feel like I'm, I don't know. There's no rehearsal. We're not. No one's laughing. No one's having any fun. It's just, I don't get it. And Jessica says to me, thank God, quote, no one will see this piece of shit, unquote. Well, she won the Academy Award for that. And within six weeks at scored about 50 million, which at that time was a lot of dope. And another huge, a huge success. But point being that it was not funny when we shot it. It just wasn't Sydney being this great method teacher in the Neighborhood Playhouse where he taught me and others that you would recognize it that were in my class. I said, Well, what did you do, Sydney says, and Sydney's not the funniest guy on Earth. So he says, I just, I just made up my mind after a couple of weeks, that I'm just going to shoot. I'm just going to make a Mac but I was taught that and that is everyone's going to be honest. When I saw the premiere, I laughed 11 times. To the point and this is my very good friend. I said, shouldn't you have to know I'm not kissing your ass? I said, but those those laughs were genuine. He said, I heard you. I heard you. I was listening and I know you're laughing. He says I was counting them. I don't laugh out loud often at all. But that made me laugh out loud and a lot of people

Media:

and strong enough To be the woman, that was the best part of my manhood the best part of myself. That is one nutty hospital.

Jason Connell:

Commercial. And this is one of my favorite movies growing up, and I think they're actually working on a reboot of this movie. 1983 is war games.

Media:

Such blips are not real missiles, the Phantom Jack, there's nothing to indicate a simulation at all. Everything's working perfectly.

Jason Connell:

At that time, people were probably scared a machine and man, the Cold War era. And I don't know what your thoughts were of the script initially, but it almost feels like that role was written for you.

Unknown:

Marty breast originally was going to direct that. In fact, he did direct it for two or three weeks Great guy, and a great director. They fired him heard of John Batum, who did a hell of a job on it. Great job on Saturday Night Fever, you know, terrific director.

Jason Connell:

I thought you just nailed that role. You were the bad guy, you know, to the tee. And it was kind of coming out from Matthew Broderick at the time, and I don't know what they did at the box office because I was too young to know box office, but I know it touched our generation. Did you think it was going to be the hit that it was?

Dabney Coleman:

Probably but I don't know why people thought it was a bad guy. By that time she they became a customer. I'm going to be the bad guy. I don't call a guy trying to save the universe being a bad guy, do you? I don't call someone allowing a teenager take over a machine. It can dictate whether or not we go to world war three, a bad guy. I call him right up there with Jesus of Nazareth. I mean, that's just coming from me. I thought he was a pretty good guy, but he was something. I know what you're saying. I'm not being coy. It's something unlikable about him. And what it was was he didn't like the kid. He's such a likable guy, especially this is first major movie. Think he's 18 or something that just this cute little teenage guy so likable, that anyone who had any differences with him is going to be the villain. Well, that just happened to fall on me. So that's the reality of that I was trying to save the universe if that's okay with everybody.

Media:

The machine is locked us out. It's sending random numbers to the silos. Code to launch the missiles just unplugged the thing. That won't work General. interpret a shutdown, it's a destruction of NORAD.

Jason Connell:

The man was one red shoe 1985 Is Tom Hanks film, your character from WarGames kind of reminded me of the guy the man with one red shirt. I watched it actually just recently on Netflix and it's still held up.

Dabney Coleman:

The studio did not get promotion wise. I think they got a lot of criticism from the government because it made the CIA look rather ridiculous. But I saw it again to those good movie. Very good movie we do want to do is find out who he is and what he knows. Yes, sir. Now then, anybody? Why the one red shoe

Jason Connell:

1980 fours Muppets Take Manhattan.

Media:

I'd be proud to produce your show. You're gonna be on Broadway. Thanks a lot, Mr. Price. But I really would like you to read the script because there's still something missing. I think we fix all those things in the previews. Okay, look, I got a million things to do. I got a call to papers, rent a theater, and all I need from you is $300 $300. A piece.

Jason Connell:

I mean, Muppets irrelevant. Again, in my opinion, they've always been relevant. I don't know if you have any fond memories, any recollection on that film.

Unknown:

I remember one time something happened to the light. And on the break, I'm smoking something like this. And all of the puppet stayed in character. All we're doing this, which is they were looking up at the light problem up toward the ceiling, and their mouths as you would naturally do. would open like this. As they looked up and looking at each other and 10 minutes. They were like this and they never ever came out of character. And Kermit said, Me, family, your smoke too much. We Ever think about that? You know, and it affected me. Maybe I am smoking too much. Because you came from Kermit. But it was just the cutest thing to see them come and really just couldn't be put on talking to each other. I think it's over there. No, no. Well, maybe on SF is adorable and professional and true artistry.

Jason Connell:

I had an office at the crossroads of the world for a few years. And they were shooting the first Muppet Movie of the reboot. And in my office where I sat could peek right down and see this chest and it was open for about five minutes. I looked down in there and there was Kermit and Miss Piggy hanging there. And I swear I was like looking at a rockstar there they are behind the scenes. They didn't have their puppet tears, but it just really impacted me. So we're going to skip ahead now we're going to bring it all the way to almost present with the one of the greatest shows, I'd say on television, Boardwalk Empire.

Unknown:

They're calling this the second golden age of television. I'd like to know when the first Golden Age was and I'm dead serious. There's nothing even close. What's been going on? never even asked her name. Just pointed to the one he wanted. The rest was understood. Hey, you started on that give me originally supposed to do six shows and get killed off poisoned by my maid. So I'm back for show six of season one. And we didn't get scripts. We only got our scenes to learn our lines from us. I know I'm getting killed us here, but I don't see anywhere in here. I'm getting killed. He says, Well, we've been meaning to tell you that we're going to build you up next year, you're going to try to take over, or at least have a confrontation with shimmy with Nucky. Next year, I think they are power. Soon it will see when real power is. All of a sudden, much to my surprise is you know, well, we've decided to kill off the Commodore. And the next week, his son,

Jason Connell:

I think they offered you far too soon. I think you had a lot more in the tank. And I would have liked to see your character, you know, be involved more in that 8085 period we were talking about and you were just having these great scripts and having these great experiences. What was a typical day in the life of Dabney Coleman.

Unknown:

Well, it had to include tennis because I was playing a lot and when I say play tennis, I play tennis and everything that went along with conditioning, and was one of the first people that I know, to really hit the gym and understand the benefits of it. And that was a part of every day that was an hour in the gym two hours on the court. So that was a big part of it. And then just had a lot of fun. Those are great, great fun days. You know, think times I'll never forget traveling a lot to New York to Europe, watching Wimbledon did whatever I want to it was like winning the lottery, except for the work that goes into doing the park which is real world. It's a vague answer. But what was I doing my days I was think ing about what I was doing. That's what I was doing.

Jason Connell:

Any last thoughts on your career?

Unknown:

Yeah, no, I know that I'm equipped to do better work now than I've ever done. That's my hunch. There's certainly no problem with memory or or anything like that at all. I have a passion desire to get back and to do a couple of very good things again, to just work no but to do something very, very good would be icing on the cake.

Jason Connell:

So thank you so much for listening and please be sure to subscribe to the let's talk movies podcast as well as the let's talk movies YouTube Live Channel. You can also really help us by giving the show a five star rating on Apple podcast. And for all your listeners that enjoy sharing your thoughts you can leave us a review on Apple podcast, send us a direct message or post a comment on any let's talk movies social media platform. We also highly recommend checking out our other podcast and visiting just curious media.com

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