For almost a decade Ty Burrell was stuck playing bit parts as assholes, idiots and the occasional zombie. Then he cracked the big time as a lovable dad on Modern Family.
I’ve been very lucky with The Feed. I get to interview some of the most fascinating people in popular culture, technology and media.
This year William Shatner opened up about losing his wife, Jeffrey Tambor spoke about his alcoholism, the girls from Orange is the New Black just mocked me, bearded Eurovision icon Conchita Wurst spoke powerfully about coming out, and electronic artist Porter Robinson taught me how to make music with Japanese robots. M Night Shyamalan wanted to end the perception of him as the 'surprise twist guy'. Rachel Taylor opened up about violence against women.
We challenged the director of The West Wing to a walk-and talk-interview, and Hugh Jackman was uncommonly political about the proposed shut-down of remote indigenous communities. Chris Pratt just straight-up flirted. Yes, that’s how I am choosing to interpret it.
These are a few of my favourite experiences this year. I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I enjoyed meeting them.
From Japanese internment camps as a child to becoming the iconic Mr Sulu on Star Trek to coming out as a gay man in his 60s: George Takei is a master of reinvention and he is more than happy to call William Shatner on his bullshit. In fact, it's worth it for that alone. This is my favourite interview of the year.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK CAST
Yael Stone & Uzo Aduba are crazy fun. We talk representation of women on screen and it turns out that they both thought they were going to get fired off OITNB, like, every single day.
Jeffrey Tambor has been involved in 3 of the most groundbreaking American comedies of recent history. The Larry Sanders Show pre-empted the rise of HBO & cable television, Arrested Development pushed American network narrative comedy further than it's ever gone before and Transparent has lead a wave of transgender representation on our screens in 2015. Tambor himself is one of the most generous, sensitive and articulate people I've come across.
The original Captain Kirk has certainly lived long and prospered but Shatner's personal & professional life has been far from smooth sailing. At one point he was living out of a truck despite being a household name from Star Trek. He opens up about losing his wife Nerine to alcoholism.
Somehow in the space of a year Chris Pratt has gone from being an adorable side character in Parks and Recreation to anchoring the 2nd biggest movie/nostalgia-fest of the year (Jurassic World) and the best Marvel movie (Guardians of the Galaxy) But what is so striking about this interview is that you hear an actor talking about actually making a conscious choice to *become* a movie star. Many times in the past I’ve asked actors to explain their career choices but this is the first time I felt like an actor was honest about it. Also you can enjoy the fact that Pratt dances like a sexpest, falls over repeatedly and simply cannot whistle.
JOHANN HARI: WHY THE WAR ON DRUGS IS FAILING
Most people don't make a comeback with drug addiction. But Johann Hari is an exception to the rule. He was an award winning young journalist - and then 2011 it all came crashing down. He was outed as plagiarising his interview quotes from old articles. He quit. Handed back the prizes. And went away to travel the world, meeting drug dealers, mob hitmen and doctors, all to explore how our war on drugs is failing. Badly.
The YouTube star turned musician and actor talks beautifully about coming out of the closet in the age of social media and the power of the internet with a new generation. Sweet, articulate and very talented
To many people ‘Racism’ is a sort of abstract concept. To the legendary preacher, activist and thinker Cornel West it is a lived experience that has coloured the way he sees the world. That’s not to suggest that he’s bitter. He’s not. But a life-long experience of bigotry has given him a view of politics, 9/11, Barack Obama that is fundamentally different from most people.
GEORGE MILLER: MAD MAX FURY ROAD
This is the man that invented the Australian Blockbuster. The original Mad Max trilogy was a modern action movie franchise that WE exported TO America. Not the other way round. The process of making the original nearly wrecked George Miller, and indeed his best friend Byron Kennedy passed along the way.
EUROVISION WINNER CONCHITA WURST
The Bearded Lady is the Eurovision Winner to rule them all. There’s a fascinating origin story behind the character of Conchita Wurst and the family that gave birth to her.
Handcuffs, Hilary, Mental Health, and why you want John Hamm on hand when you give birth.
WALKING & TALKING WITH THE WEST WING DIRECTOR
Thomas Schlamme discusses Mike Myers, a blowjob and the surprise visit to The White House which changed the course of the career from one of the most prolific directors of our time.
Kristen Wiig made her have sex with a dolphin. In an audition. IN AN AUDITION. Melissa McCarthy is forthright, funny and fierce.
JIM MORRIS: PRESIDENT OF PIXAR
It's so rare to hear a business person speak with this amount of honesty about failure & frustrations. Disney Pixar are the most successful studio in the world. So what happens when you have to scrap everything halfway through and start again?
Amy Schumer's hit film Trainwreck got a lot of attention this year as did Schumer herself but it was her co-star that was the real pleasure to talk to.
GRAHAM BURK: AUSTRALIA'S BIGGEST ANTI-PIRACY CAMPAIGNER
Village Roadshow's Graham Burke wants to sue you if you pirate movies. And he's very happy to say so.
ADAM HARRIS: AUSTRALIA'S ULTIMATE STAR WARS FAN
What would you do if you found out who had an inoperable brain tumor? For Star Wars fanatic Adam Harris, it was to fulfil a lifelong dream of travelling to a convention in the USA.
So, that's my list. Who would you like to see interviewed in 2016? Lemme know in the comments down below.
Pixar is the world's most successful movie studio, but that doesn't mean they don't have near-misses.
Pixar Animation Studios have an incredible strike rate when it comes to hit movies. They've made over $6.2 billion at the box office and have an average review rating of 93 per cent.
So what happens when it all goes wrong?
That's what faced Pixar Animation Studios president Jim Morris on the new film The Good Dinosaur. Originally due out last year, they had to stop production, fired almost the entire cast and completely rework the story.
We started on The Good Dinosaur a long time ago and we had a basic pitch we all liked very much. We worked on it for a long time, and it took us a while to figure out that there were some basic things in the story idea we were trying to tell that we couldn't fix, and weren't going to work out.
We were fairly far down the path; we were three years plus into the making of the film and we just realised that it wasn't going to be good enough. Everything we tried to do to fix it just felt like we were overplotting or bolting something on that didn't feel organic. So we made the hard decision to stop working on that film and do a reboot.
There were still things about the world and the characters we liked a lot, but the story just wasn't working. All that is survived is some of the design of the two key characters. Everything else - about the story, what it's about, even the look of it - has changed.
Thank God Disney trusted us, and said, 'if that's what you guys think you need to do'; because otherwise we'd all have been fired for incompetency.
When you do make that decision to reboot and you've got an army of people working on a film, what does that do to the building? How does that news reverberate?
It can be fairly traumatic when we make a big change to a movie that's been cooking along. We've had we've had great luck, and great misfortune. I've had a lot of my career in different films I’ve worked on. Some have gone through the roof, and others just haven't landed in the same way. We take solace in the leadership ranks.
The point is to not put a bad movie out, and get the best possible movie. But it’s a little disturbing to people working on the project. It's a disturbance in the force.
There's lots of talk about the quality control that goes into Pixar movies. When do you know it's working?
We never know for sure that it's working…
Opening week box office is how you know?
That's how we know if it's connecting, and you hope it does. It takes a long time to feel like it’s working. We do a lot of screenings with different people; six or eight times we’ll project the rough version and watch it. They’re usually pretty ragged the first few times but there’s some core we keep working on, and getting at.
You eventually feel a time when it turns a corner, when it falls in to place. We’re more palaeontologists than anything else. We find a nice dinosaur bone, and then we find another, and another, and we put them together, and we think we’re making a nice brontosaurus, and then it turns out to be a stegosaurus. It turns out to be something completely different, but it’s gotten there in this naturally organic way out of the work of everybody. You discover what you’re making along the path sometimes.
You were the producer of John Carter in 2012, a film that I really love, but didn’t necessarily get the sort of respect it might have deserved. When articles and numbers start to come through… what goes through your head when you’ve experienced how much work it takes to get a film like that made?
You question yourself; what could I have done better, what did we miss here, what were the things that went wrong? You try to take everything in your stride; you don’t pat yourself on the back, and when something doesn’t do well, you don’t shoot yourself. You live to fight another day.
There have been a lot of creative risks that have paid off for Pixar over the years. What was the one that made you the most nervous?
WALL-E probably made me the most nervous. I thought for sure we would be the ones to screw up Pixar’s success. It just seemed like, 'oh, this may not work'. The audience might look at this and go, 'what is this?'
WALL-E is such a ground-breaking film in so many ways, specifically that you’ve got the first 40 minutes of the film with no dialogue. Was there internal reticence at Pixar about that?
There was less reticence at Pixar, but some of our Disney executive friends were very curious about how that was supposed to work.
“Curious” is a good word...
Well, when you do the pitch, you say, 'here it is: we've got broken down trash compactor who is living on a post-apocalyptic earth compacting trash'. It does not sound like a great idea for a film offhand.
I think it would be safe to say that every producer, every director there has felt that. They’ve felt, 'we’re trying to make something good here, but what if it doesn’t work?'
Even Inside Out, which has turned out to really connect with audiences, but was an unusual idea. We all loved it, but at some point you go, 'I don’t know if this is going to work'. You work on these things, but you just don’t know.
I think a Pixar film is one that uses animation to try to get at basic human truths and emotions. They’re not things that we decide to be themes and then work into the movies; they rise up organically from different filmmakers and storytellers, but I think there’s a like-mindedness at all films at Pixar. They have that within.
Sony released their new VR headset today at Paris Games Week. I take it for a spin. Much embarrassment ensues.
If you've ever seen A Bugs Life, The Incredibles or Ratatouille then you'll want to meet Andrew Gordon. He's an Animation Director with Pixar. He has worked on some of their most iconic productions including their latest film Monsters University.