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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January 2005, 13:00 GMT
Peter Bogdanovich - Hollywood survivor
Peter Bogdanovich
Bogdanovich's new book is a series of conversations with great actors
In a HardTalk Extra interview screened on 7 January, Gavin Esler spoke to Peter Bogdanovich about movies, comebacks and his new career as an actor.


Peter Bogdanovich has seen Hollywood at its very best -- and at its very worst.

He was a journalist struggling to make a living in Los Angeles writing about showbusiness when he was offered a job on a film by the legendary producer Roger Corman.

Bogdanovich admits he was a cinema nerd. By the time he came to Hollywood, he had watched more than 5000 movies and had typed up his responses to each on file cards.

His first movie, The Last Picture Show, aimed to use European cinema techniques to tell a classic story of small-town America. It was a huge critical and commercial success.

A dramatic rise ..

On the night that The Last Picture Show was released, Bogdanovich and Cybill Shepherd -- the young actress who had become his girlfriend during the shoot -- sat in a limousine outside the New York Times offices, waiting for the ecstatic review.

Bogdanovich said he was thrown by success and found it confusing: "I didn't understand that the smiles weren't real."

Nobody prepares you for success. One is always prepared for failure, because you fail before you succeed, usually
Peter Bogdanovich
Trying hard to cover his insecurities, many found him arrogant, and his relationship with Shepherd was the subject of much media sniping.

Bogdanovich, a consummate mimic, recalled a phone call he received from Cary Grant at that time: "He said 'Peter, will you stop telling people you're happy? Will you stop telling them you're in love? .. because they're not happy and they're not in love.'

"I said, I thought all the world loves a lover. 'No, don't you believe it. Let me tell you something, Peter, people do not like beautiful people.'"

.. and a dramatic fall

Bogdanovich's fall from grace was remarkable. He made a few more movies that were successful, but also turned down a lot of projects that went on to be big hits: he decided not to direct Chinatown, The Exorcist and The Godfather.

"I didn't even know it was The Godfather. I was so dumb.

"They said, we've bought this book about the Mafia, and I said, oh I'm not interested in the Mafia. And that was the end of that."

He was on the brink of a comeback in 1980 when his girlfriend, Dorothy Stratten, was murdered by her ex-husband.

Bogdanovich's life was turned upside down. Of all his celebrity friends, only Cary Grant called him to give his condolences.
Cary Grant
Bogdanovich writes about his friend Cary Grant in his new book

"One of the difficulties of human existence is that people don't understand unless they go through it themselves. I don't wish it on anybody .. murder is so quick, it's shock, we're not built for that.

He told Gavin Esler that he struggled for more than a decade after Stratten's murder to recapture his love for the movies.

He made a number of what he calls "very bad decisions" -- including suing Universal Studios over changes they made to his 1985 movie, Mask. This made him very unpopular in Hollywood.

Reaching a new audience

He's now winning acclaim in other areas. He's written a book, Who The Hell's In It?, a series of conversations with movie stars of old: Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, among many others. He's also won a new generation of fans with his performance as Dr Elliot Kupferberger in the TV series The Sopranos.

"I love doing it. It's had a tremendous impact on the way people relate to me, which has given me back who I really was. Am."

Bogdanovich jokes that he loves audiences, but hates people.
I found success confusing. I didn't understand that the smiles weren't real
Peter Bogdanovich

"Audiences have a kind of wonderful innocence about them. You can go anywhere you want with an audience if you get them on your wavelength. I rather like audiences."

Among all the highs and all the lows, Bogdanovich remains passionate about film and Hollywood -- and incredibly honest about his long career.

"Nobody prepares you for success. One is always prepared for failure, because you fail before you succeed, usually. It's like Preston Sturgess said, between flops I've had a few hits."

HARDtalk Extra can be seen on Fridays on BBC World at 04:30 GMT, 11:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT, 19:30 GMT and 00:30 GMT.

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30

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