Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Kevin Pollak and Jason Reitman

I've enjoyed Kevin Pollak's work for a long time -- from his standup years to his character-actor work in movies ("Avalon," "A Few Good Men," "The Usual Suspects," and many others) to his unbelievably-good impression of Albert Brooks.

For the last few months, Pollak has been doing a weekly web-only Chat Show, where he sits down with guests one-on-one over a Charlie Rose-like table and talks with them about their careers. The interviews are similar to those James Lipton does on "Inside The Actor's Studio," except that these run about 90 minutes, are uninterrupted by commercials, and the host is genuinely funny.

Pollak includes questions from viewers as they watch the live stream each Sunday at 5:30pm CT (if you miss one, they're all archived on his site), and via Twitter, then has each guest play The Larry King Game, in which they must do a bad impression of the CNN host as they reveal something inappropriate about themselves (as Larry) and then go to a phone call, preferably from a town with a funny name (I'd use Wissahickon, Pennsylvania).

Pollak has done so many movies and other projects that he jokes he doesn't need six degrees to connect to anyone in Hollywood a la Kevin Bacon, but can often do it in one or two steps. Those associations are apparent in his discussions with guests, and help him pull interesting anecdotes out of each one.

I am fascinated by process -- how and why did they do this or that? -- so I was completely drawn in by Pollak's recent conversation with Jason Reitman, whose directing career began with "Thank You For Smoking," continued with the mega-hit "Juno," and now includes all sorts of nominations for "Up In The Air." Reitman is a terrific storyteller both on-screen and off -- his story of visiting George Clooney at his giant home in Italy to try to convince him to star in "Up In The Air" is amazing -- and he's also very good at explaining the machinations of Hollywood that he learned from an early age by shadowing his father, Ivan Reitman (director of "Ghostbusters," "Twins," "Stripes," "Dave," and more).

This runs a little over an hour and a half, but it's worth it...