Peter Bogdanovich: The man, the myth, the legend, the movies ‘ and now the blog

by Mark Burger

It’s been more than a year since Peter Bogdanovich joined the School of Filmmaking faculty at the UNC School of the Arts in Winston- Salem.

For the Oscarnominated filmmaker whose credits include the triumphant trifecta of The Last Picture Show (1971), What’s Up, Doc? (1972) and Paper Moon (1973), it meant a change of scenery, a career shift and an opportunity to share his experience and expertise with the next generation of Hollywood filmmakers.

And now, thanks to the internet, Bogdanovich is sharing his experience and expertise with anyone, thanks to his latest “production”: BLOGdanovich, his personal blog about film history. Each week, he expounds upon a different film; recent examples have included The Return of the Pink Panther, Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata and the 1972 version of The Heartbreak Kid, which starred his one-time lady love, Cybill Shepherd.

Bogdanovich recalled exactly his reaction when it was first suggested he write a blog: “What’s that?” “I was computer-illiterate at the time,” he admitted wryly. “But I’m better now; I can actually use one.”

Bogdanovich liked the idea from the start, and even more so when Todd McCarthy, the esteemed former film critic for Variety, suggested he do it for IndieWire, one of the premier film-related websites. Rather than launch BLOGdanovich solo, he had a built-in audience and was part of a website he both respected and frequented.

“So far, I’ve had very good response,” he said. “The comments and remarks I get are very interesting.”

Meanwhile, Bogdanovich has hardly forsaken his career as a filmmaker. He and Burt Reynolds, with whom he worked in the 1970s in At Long Last Love and Nickelodeon, hope to reunite on a lighthearted latter-day Western, and Jerry Lewis recently talked with him about playing a role in his next project — a psychiatrist, not unlike the role he played on HBO’s “The Sopranos.”

And there’s also Orson Welles’ final, more or-less unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind, starring John Huston, which began filming in the mid-’70s and in which Bogdanovich plays a supporting role as a hotshot filmmaker (who could’ve guessed?). The film has taken on the mystical aura of Hollywood lore. Whether or not it is a “lost masterpiece” remains to be seen, but Bogdanovich, who befriended Welles, hopes that, in the end, the film will be seen. “Knock on wood,” said he. “With a little luck… let’s hope so.”

This last semester at the School of Filmmaking, he taught courses on director Howard Hawks and the fundamentals of filmmaking (encompassing six films). His freshman class, he marveled, numbered almost 80 students. That’s 80 term papers, 80 final exams, 80 grades….

It’s hard work, for sure, but he’s having fun, too. This is a man who writes about films, talks about films, makes films (more than two dozen, at this point), teaches films, lives films — “and now I blog about them.”

Coming to the School of Filmmaking, he said, has been a surprising, even unexpected, extension of his life-long passion.

“I like the students a lot,” he said. “They’re so enthusiastic, full of questions… and the other faculty members have been very welcoming. Everyone’s been very nice.”

With the fall semester behind him, like a lot of other people, Bogdanovich plans to spend the holidays with family and friends. He has a younger sister, there’s a lady in his life and he has two grandchildren, one by each of his daughters, Antonia and Sashy.

“They live on opposite ends of the country, so it’s hard,” he sighed, “but I enjoy the time I spend with them enormously.”

His granddaughter, he said, “is very introspective, very thoughtful, a very sweet child… I’m crazy about her,” but his grandson is a bit more brash. “He loves telling people what’s on his mind, bossing ’em around, telling them what to do.”

Almost like a budding director. One wonders where he inherited it from.

“That’s exactly what my daughter says,” he smiled, with a hint of pride.

Has the boy started wearing an ascot, as his grandfather favors?

“No, not yet,” Papa Bogdanovich laughed.

“When that happens, we’re all in trouble!”

The official link to “BLOGdanovich”