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Dennis Hopper

Talking Pictures #11: Joshua Michael Stern, Director/Writer of SWING VOTE

Today’s guest is director and screenwriter Joshua Michael Stern, best known for his 2013 biopic of Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher, and his 2016 TV series GRAVES starring Nick Nolte as a former president of the United States. In our conversation, we focus on Stern’s 2008 movie SWING VOTE which stars Kevin Costner as a working-class man who suddenly finds himself in a very curious position: through several circumstances, the outcome of the current presidential election will depend on his vote – and so both political parties try to win him over by tailoring their campaigns to what they think will appeal to this one individual person.

A satirical movie about the election process, SWING VOTE emphasizes the importance of voting and engaging with politics – and so our discussion of the film quickly opened up to include many of the issues of the political reality of today’s America. The conversation was recorded at the end of September 2020, and when we mention “yesterday’s debate”, we are referring to the first TV debate of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Joshua talks about the necessity of being involved, the ideas of democracy and the challenges it’s currently facing, the impact of social media, the themes of his work, and much more.

The interview was conducted in connection with our German-language companion podcast Lichtspielplatz. If you speak German, go to www.lichtspielplatz.at , where you’ll find an in-depth discussion of SWING VOTE in episode #44.

So here’s Talking Pictures with Joshua Michael Stern!

The mp3 file can be downloaded HERE.

Photo (C) Joshua Michael Stern.
Special thanks to Dr. Wily, my Lichtspielplatz podcasting partner for audio editing. The music was created by Clark Kent.

Talking Pictures #3: Rocky Morton, Director of SUPER MARIO BROS. and Creator of MAX HEADROOM

For today’s episode, I spoke to British director Rocky Morton – the co-director, together with his then-wife Annabel Jankel, of the infamous SUPER MARIO BROS. movie. Released in 1993, this very first video game adaptation was plagued by endless rewrites and heavy studio meddling, so it became almost a cautionary tale – even though the film has a lot more to offer than its reputation would suggest. Before SUPER MARIO BROS., Rocky and Annabel were also the creators of MAX HEADROOM, the world’s first virtual TV host, who became a cult figure with his own music video show, a series, commercials, and even a computer game. They shot music videos for the likes of Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, Rush, the Tom Tom Club and even Miles Davis, and they were also known for their cutting-edge commercials and TV title sequences. Due to the failure of SUPER MARIO BROS., Rocky hasn’t directed another feature film since, but he remains very active in the field of commercials.

In this Talking Pictures episode, Rocky discusses the process of adapting a video game without a story into a huge Hollywood movie, he talks about many of the problems he and Annabel ran into while making the film – like receiving a completely rewritten script just a few days before principal photography, or getting locked out of the editing room. Rocky also shares memories of his early career, like getting thrown off the crew of the movie adaptation of Pink Floyd’s THE WALL, one of his first gigs as an animator, or developing the cyberpunk world of MAX HEADROOM, or creating particularly subversive music videos, including one for the Sex Pistols.

This interview is part of a series on video game adaptations, so be sure to also check out the Talking Pictures episodes with DOUBLE DRAGON director Jim Yukich, with STREET FIGHTER writer/director Steven de Souza, and with MORTAL KOMBAT and WING COMMANDER screenwriter Kevin Droney.

If you speak German, there’s also episode #38 of our Lichtspielplatz podcast with in-depth discussions of all these movies.

So here’s Talking Pictures with director Rocky Morton!

The mp3 file can be downloaded HERE.
The Talking Pictures podcast can be found on iTunes: HERE.

Photo of Rocky Morton (C) Rocky Morton.
Special thanks to Dr. Wily, my Lichtspielplatz podcasting partner for audio editing. The music was created by Clark Kent.

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