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What was it like to work with so-and-so? No, really?

I just can't get my mind off of Jason Reitman's pie chart. It rings such a bell. The director of "Up in the Air" has been keeping record of the standard questions he's been asked over and over again during his current national publicity tour.

Apparently there are only so many questions, and so many answers. One of the most universal is, "What was it like it work with so-and-so?" We all know the standard reply by heart: "So-and-so is a great professional and a real human being. People have no idea…yada, yada, yada."

Young Jason, there once was a time--I know you will find this hard to believe--when subjects provided honest answers to such questions. Why, it was within the lifetime of many now living…

Q. Lee Marvin, how are things between you and Michelle Triola, your girl friend?

A. She's been eating nothing but anchovies for the past day and a half. You know why she likes anchovies so much all of a sudden? She's knocked up. She's gonna have a little Lee Marvin. Put it down: Michelle's knocked up. If you make it good enough, they'll never print it. It used to be, we'd check into a hotel, it was Mr. Marvin and Miss Triola. So she changed her name to Marvin, to save all that embarrassment. Now it's Mr. Marvin and Miss Marvin.

Q. Otto Preminger, is it true There have been reports that Dyan Cannon is furious with you because of a nude photograph in "Such Good Friends?" showing Dyan from the neck up and an anonymous model from the neck down?

A. Furious? But she saw the photo on the set! What has she to be furious about? Doesn't she approve of the model we employed? The model was a very good model, a wonderful girl. I should know. My son Eric is living with the lower half of Dyan Cannon's body in the photo.

Q. Kirk Douglas, what hasn't gone right in your recent career?

A. I let myself be pushed into "A Lovely Way to Die," and what a load of s**t that was. And "The War Wagon." Well, "The War Wagon" wasn't bad. It was entertainment. I rather enjoyed it. But that woman, Pauline Kael--did you see that piece she wrote about it? If Pauline Kael were sitting here right now, I'd tell her, you're a bright dame, but you're full of s**t. Don't crucify me because of what your idea of a movie star is. I didn't start out to be a movie star. I started out to be an actor. You people out in the East have no idea what goes on out here. No awareness or knowledge whatsoever. You lose track of the human being behind the image of the movie star.

Q. Charles Bronson, what did you think about Jay Cocks' review of your new movie in Time magazine?

A.  First it was a novel, then it was a screenplay, and there was a cinematographer involved and a lot of other people. That makes it personal when he picks on just me, and that gets me mad. One way or another, sooner or later, l'll get that man. Not physically, but I'll get him.

Q. Mr. Bronson, you have quite a reputation as a ladies' man.

A. I've been trying to make it with girls for as long as I can remember. My first time. I was five and a half years old, and she was six. This was in 1928 or 1929. This was at a Fourth of July picnic, and there was this girl, six years old. I gave her some strawberry pop. I gave her the pop because I didn't want it; I had taken up chewing tobacco and I liked that better. I didn't start smoking until I was nine. But I gave her the pop, and then we--hell, I never lost my virginity. I never had any virginity.

Q. Robert Mitchum, what was it like working with Joseph Losey on "Secret Ceremony?"

A. Joe Losey has an architectural fetish. Sometimes you think he'd be happy to clear the actors out altogether and just photograph the rooms. He never says a word. Not one word. He walks into a room and engineers and choreographs and the actors go through it. Then he prints it, and that's that. I think he has dyspepsia.

Q. Mitch, what was it like working with Robert Parrish on "Wonderful Country?"

A. Parrish is essentially a cutter, not a director. There are several of those. Bobby Wise, for example, couldn't find his way out of a field without a choreographer. Bobby even times a kiss with a stopwatch. He marks out the floor at seven o'clock in the morning, before anybody gets there. Lays it all out with a tape measure. True. It's very difficult to work that way. I worked with him and Shirley MacLaine and Shirley said, "Why doesn't he go home? He's just in the way."

I never saw Wise's "The Sand Pebbles." Of course that was a problem picture out in front, with Steve McQueen in it. You've got to realize a Steve McQueen performance just naturally lends itself to monotony. Steve doesn't bring too much to the party.

Q. Mitch, what does it take to make a movie star?

A. Somebody asked my wife once, what's your idea of  your husband? And she answered: He's a masturbation image.  Well, that's what we all are. Up there on the screen, our goddamn eyeball is six feet high, the poor bastards who buy tickets think you really amount to something.

Q. Lee Marvin, what was it like making  your new movie? "Hell in the Pacific?"

A. I think it'll be a failure. If you say it'll be a success, who listens? Say it's a failure, they listen -- because it sounds as if you're saying something. Interviews like this, after awhile you try to get beneath them. Things happening on all kinds of levels. See what I mean? Tunnel under the situation, come up behind the guards, and -- Pow! It's the only way to do an interview. Hit them straight on, and the sons of bitches will clobber you every time.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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