Hollywood Dreams with SIT producer Stephen Simon
Stephen Simon is one of those Six Degrees of Separation trump cards. His step-father was on Leopold and Loeb's hit list, but went home from school another way that day. His birth father basically got Sinatra the role of Maggio, making Frank his godfather. He grew up with and then worked with the Old and New Hollywood greats. And he produced "Somewhere In Time" ... plus a few other pictures you might have heard of, like "All the Right Moves" and "What Dreams May Come." He tells these stories in Bringing Back the Old Hollywood.
Simon had big life and career ups and big downs, and just when he thought he had it all worked out, the love of his life, his wife Lauren, died suddenly in 2018. But he co-wrote his new book, What Dreams Have Come: Loving Through the Veil, with her. Give the interview a listen, and it all makes sense. "There are more things and Heaven and Earth," as someone once said.
I hope you enjoy our interview; I managed to ask Stephen a number of questions he'd never been asked before, which shed light on our favorite movie, and just how to live in this crazy world.
PS: Are you an aspiring movie-maker, and Stephen seems like the perfect connection? He's set up a mentoring program to help you get your picture made. It's not cheap, but neither is failure.
Photo Courtesy Stephen Simon
Below find a very rough but exceedingly affordable robot transcription of our interview.
Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hi, everybody. Welcome back to call back yesterday. My name's John Raby. I was going to start with a long apology, but maybe I can cut it short because y'all know what I'm talking about. Um, I was hoping to get these episodes out every couple of weeks, but for some weird reason, I don't feel like doing anything. I feel depressed. I feel like the world's coming to an end. You know what I mean? So I'm going to try harder. It makes me feel good when I do these. And uh, I hope that you are finding something that you love to do that keeps your mind off the craziness out there. That's pretty short. That's pretty good. Now I am excited to bring you, uh, the next episode of call back yesterday. And this is with the guy who got somewhere in time made. This is an interview with a man who now is known as Stephen Simon.
Speaker 0 00:00:51 When he produced somewhere in time, he was known as Stephen Deutsch because his stepfather was Armando. She was a big time Hollywood producer. Oh. And by the way, Armando was the original target of Leopold and Loeb. Yeah. But along the way, Stephen Deutsch decided to change his name back to Steven Simon to honor his birth father who was S Sylvan, Simon, who was one of the most famous, uh, directors and producers you've never heard of, he died. And this is probably why he died at only 41 in 1951. And he is the one who got Frank Sinatra. The role in from here to eternity, which is why Sinatra was our guest, Stephen Simon's godfather. This is a story he tells really well in a book called bringing back the old Hollywood wild times and life lessons with Sinatra, cruise re Madonna and more in which he tells all about his career. And he's got a brand new book called what dreams have come loving through the veil, which he co-wrote with his wife who passed away in 2018. And we're going to talk about that too. So sit back and enjoy this interview as it unfolds. I think you're going to like it.
Speaker 0 00:02:21 Hey John. Good morning. Good morning. How are you? I'm good. How are you? I'm very good. Is this still a good time to talk for a little bit? Absolutely. You bet. Excellent. May I have your, before we do any,
Speaker 1 00:02:30 May I have your permission to tape record a phone conversation for broadcast?
Speaker 0 00:02:34 And I wanted to stress
Speaker 1 00:02:36 That, uh, I'm not looking for like a DVD commentary blow by blow on the making of the movie. Um, so don't feel compelled to tell me, uh, you know, the whole, the whole story. Like when I was talking with, uh, Gino, he was like, no, let me tell you from the beginning. So I've, I've got a lot of stuff on the making of, I, and I do have some questions about the making of, but it doesn't have to be the typical, the typical stuff I'm looking to go just a little bit more deeper in the meaning and stuff like that. And, and your personal story. This is really, this podcast is really a way to talk with interesting people about life and about loss and memory and making stuff, you know, creativity, uh, parents, all that kind of stuff with somewhere in time, just as kind of the jumping off point. Does that make sense?
Speaker 2 00:03:23 Cool. All right. And
Speaker 1 00:03:24 We have a good level from you and I'm recording now. Um, first, why don't you introduce yourself and explain what the heck a producer does on a movie?
Speaker 2 00:03:33 So, um, a producer is the, usually the one person who is in the project from day one to the last day, which means meaning and using of time is an example. I read the book I got in touch with Richard Matheson. I made a deal with Richard on the book for us to develop that I then also brought in Genoese work as the director. I supervised everything with Juno that did not happen in front of the camera. I was at all of the auditions when we brought actors in, I supervise what's going on on the set, but not what's going on in front of the camera. That's the director, but there are a lot of things that happen during a film. And the producer is the one person on the show on the set that doesn't have. I don't have to look at the camera and figure out what the camera angles are. I have an overall supervisory duty. The film ends, the director does his cut or her cut. They get a chance to do that. Then the producer gets involved, the studio gets involved. You supervise the advertising, the marketing and the distribution of the film. So it's really kind of the one person on the show that literally is there from soup to nuts.
Speaker 1 00:04:54 And I think you bear more of the responsibility if it fails, or if it succeeds, right?
Speaker 2 00:05:01 If it succeeds, the director gets all the credit. If it fails, the producer gets all the blame.
Speaker 1 00:05:08 So let's, let's go to Mackinac Island 1979. Please answer this candidly. I ha I have, I have a very healthy ego and it could sustain a blow. Uh, I was like 12. I was 13. Do you remember me,
Speaker 2 00:05:22 John? I vaguely remember your dad having a son. Okay. I was, I was wearing, I can't say that. I do so forgive me, but again now almost 74. That was almost, that was more than 40 years ago.
Speaker 1 00:05:36 And I kind of vaguely remember meeting you, uh, briefly, but again, it was, yeah, it was 40 years ago. Um, what do you remember of my father?
Speaker 2 00:05:44 Not a lot. Not a lot. To be honest with you. I don't, I remember him being a really wonderful man. Um, we had some terrific conversations, but I, beyond that, I really have to tell you, John don't remember a lot. Do you remember the white hat? I sure do the beard now. I do, but you know, going back 40 years, no.
Speaker 1 00:06:06 Oh, he did publicity for grand hotel and you gave him a great gift. I assume that he thanked you, but I would like to thank you because you know, this is, this is the best thing that ever happened to Mackinaw
Speaker 2 00:06:17 Better than the invention of fudge. Yeah. Maybe. Wow. Well, you know, Dan Musser who, um, owned a hotel when we were shooting there and it was really the one person on the Island who was responsible for getting us the permission to shoot on the Island, which as you know, is not an easy task. Yeah. At one point at one of the summer in time weekends, I asked Dan, so what kind of business do you think you, the hotel is done now? This is maybe five years ago, five, six years ago that he answered this question. He says, Steven, we have no way of knowing, but I've always felt that it's at least $30 million in business. We've gotten that we would not have gotten if it wasn't for the movie. Wow. And I'm thrilled to hear that
Speaker 1 00:07:04 That's more than the gross of the movie, isn't it?
Speaker 2 00:07:06 Oh God. Yes. You really know how to hurt a guy, John.
Speaker 1 00:07:13 It was uh, I'm sorry. That was
Speaker 2 00:07:17 No, no, no, no, I'm kidding. That's you're absolutely right. It's a great question.
Speaker 1 00:07:21 Uh, and well, it's just, and, and the, the, the, uh, you know, as I think about it, the, the, the hotel too was also, it was like, it was a CoStar, the movie.
Speaker 2 00:07:31 Well, that's exactly when I called, when we were looking for a place to shoot and we realized that we had to have as much of a 1912 atmosphere as we could. And then our associate producer, Steve <inaudible> found a book about makin Island and the grand, and he brought it to me and I said, this looks great. And then I found out that one person owned it, not a corporation. And I thought, this is great. And I called him, I called Dan and I said, we've got this movie, Christopher Reeve is going to be in it. We need to shoot in your hotel in the middle of summer. And you guys will be a major star of the film. I promise you that. And he said, can I read the script? And I say, you sure can. I got it to him. And he called me back and he said, I'm in, this is going to be a challenge, but I'm in, we're going to do this. Wow. And my goodness, what Dan did for us, what he did for us, he had a full hotel, right. A completely full hotel. And he would close off the lobby, close off the dining room. I mean, he was a magician for us,
Speaker 1 00:08:36 But he knew that, uh, the guests would get a kick out of being there being part of holiday.
Speaker 2 00:08:43 Yes, he did. And that was a major part of it. And I said, Hey, look, you, everybody can watch what we're doing. You know? And, uh, you know, and I both had talks with the actors and said, you know, when we're in the hotel, we're going to have a lot of onlookers, but we need to, because, you know, it's, they're paying a lot of money to stay in a hotel. And every, everything was great. There were no glitches about that at all.
Speaker 1 00:09:02 You know, there is a rumor I forget who told it to me that, that, uh, universal called and said, uh, we need, and it may be, you know, maybe the idea is that it was you who said this, we need 200 rooms in the middle of the summer. Uh, did that ever happen?
Speaker 2 00:09:15 No, first of all, we've never had 200 rooms or a hundred rooms or whatever. It would be like some huge amount of room. No, it never happened because of Dan made it very clear to me from day one that he was booked already and could not, you know, fro a lot of people out of their bookings because of how long we were going to need to be there. And he said on top of that, Steven, you and I gave you a great deal. You can't afford this hotel. And he was right. So, I mean, but he was the one that introduced us to the people that owned, uh, the in, on Mackinaw, whatever it's called now, but that's what it was called then. And so we didn't get to stay at the grand. We got to stay in an, in an old college dormitory, which is really what that, that building was like during that period of time. But it didn't matter because we, we had everything we needed.
Speaker 1 00:10:07 You ever explore the, the MRA pet and the moral rearmament past of Mackinaw college and what it was.
Speaker 2 00:10:15 No, no, no. All I knew when we, when we had taken our, our tour around the Island, um, in the middle of winter on snow mobiles, um, we were about to leave and, you know, and I were talking about, but we can't shoot the rooms in the hotel that it needs to be on a set. There's no place to build a set here, blah, blah, blah. And then Dan Dewey said, well, you may be wrong about that. Come on, let's go show you that building. And he took us into that soundstage. Yeah. And we were just flabbergasted, but I D I knew it was the moral rearmament thing, but I did not look into it in any way.
Speaker 1 00:10:55 So why did the Matheson story bedtime return resonate with a young guy like you?
Speaker 2 00:11:01 Uh, well, it's a great eternal love story. And I was always attracted to movies like the ghost and Mrs. Muir, the great, uh, Frank Capra film, lost horizons, uh, other films that were like that, that ha wouldn't it be wonderful if this were true, if that were true, and I've always wanted to get into the film industry and make a terrific love story. And the greatest obstacle between two lovers is life itself. Right. And that is what makes a great love story. That's why Romeo and Juliet is the classic love story. What's the obstacle? Well, obviously the obstacle is somewhere in time, was these two people separated by several decades. How do they find each other? So it just, I just thought that was it. And spiritually, I think the minute I, that book, I knew that that was going to be why I had to get into the film business. And as soon as I read the book, I went and begged Ray stark for a job and got the job and met Richard Mathison and things proceeded from there.
Speaker 1 00:12:05 Take a little deeper for me though. Tell me why you think that you were always attracted to those kinds of movies.
Speaker 2 00:12:10 Um, okay. Um, I will. That's a great question. No one has ever asked me that question before, and I will give you the answer because I feel very strongly that I came to this life to be a filmmaker and to make movies that would inspire people and touch them. And it's what I was always attracted to. That's just what I wanted to do with my career. And that's what somewhere in time is about. That's what, what dreams may come is about. That's the spiritual cinema circle that I found that that's what that's about conversations with God and Indigo. The other films that I made are all very spiritually oriented. And I felt very strongly when I read bedtime return, that that was going to be my first film, which is what I told Richard Matheson. When I called his agent, asked him for lunch. And I said, Hey, I just started a job in the film industry. I have no clue how to produce a film, none. But if he gives me a couple of years, I promise you I'll make this film when you shake hands with me. And he just laughed. And he said, Oh, yes.
Speaker 2 00:13:14 And this journey started then.
Speaker 1 00:13:16 Yeah. Mathison was an interesting dude. Cause I th my guess would be, you know, he was, he must've been, he was a cool dude. I only met him once, but he just seemed like a, a cool guy who had, who had already had so much success that he didn't need to be parsimonious with the, with the gifts that he gave.
Speaker 2 00:13:33 That's very true. Richard is one of the greatest human beings I've ever met in my entire life. I can't, there's just no words. You know, I got to, I had the, the honor and the pleasure of being able to make two movies based on his books somewhere in time. And what dreams may come. Richard brought me into modern spirituality. He was my mentor. He was my dear friend. He was the father that I patterned my fathering after and my idol. So Richard Matheson was just an incredible human being.
Speaker 1 00:14:10 Um, and, and I'm just, I'm just putting this out there and if it's not true, that's that's cool. Did, do you think that your having your father, your birth father die so early had anything to do with this, this, uh, spirituality, this, uh, romantic take?
Speaker 2 00:14:26 Uh, yes. Oh, without question. Not a great question. Yes. There's no question that it did. There's no question that it did because when my, um, my birth father died right before my fifth birthday, and, um, I re I vividly remember this. Um, I started saying to my mother and my stepfather, there's a man in my wall at night. And they said, what? I said, there's a man in my wallet night, but he doesn't scare me. He's there to protect me, but there's a man. And I really experienced that. I experienced my dad's presence. And that is what started me on that journey.
Speaker 1 00:15:13 You know, you're talking to a guy whose dad died early. My, my mom and dad died when I was like 25, 26. And I have just been, you know, as you grow older, you, you try to figure out ways to connect, to figure out the answers to the questions that you could never ask them. And, you know, like 25 or 26, I didn't even know what questions I had to ask them, you know, cause you're just a dumb kid. Um, so, so this is, this is, this is why I think I'm really, really interested in your story too, because you had this early loss and this just this, like, would you, if you could time travel, would you go back and hang out with him, ask him questions, work with them. Do you know?
Speaker 2 00:15:54 Probably not. Probably not. Um, because who was it that, um, I don't, I don't know if this was a Richard Matheson short story or not, but there was a short story. And I think a film that was based on the fact that people going back in time and they were told you can't touch anything and somebody like ran into a tree or something and knocked it down and it changed the entire future of the world.
Speaker 1 00:16:26 So you're worried about the PR you're worried about the, uh, the, the parrot, the time paradigm.
Speaker 2 00:16:30 Yeah. Uh, and you know, we, we did that in somewhere in time, obviously. I mean, there was a major time paradox in somewhere in time. So I figure I'll leave that for the film, but I, you know, if I could, no, I'm not going to get into that.
Speaker 1 00:16:44 Hey, everybody, it's John Raby back in the studio. Uh, I recorded this back in the summer, so it's been a number of months it's been sitting in the can for far too long. And frankly I had forgotten how open and generous Stephen was being, uh, how good this interview is with him. I mean, I, I asked okay, questions, but he gave really good open answers, but, you know, he just said, uh, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna go there. I'm not going to get into that. He does get into it later on. I just realized what it is that he's talking about. And he will develop that later on. And I think it's going to mean something to you. And I really have to say, you can, you can kind of tell as you listen to this interview, um, that Steven is trying to figure out whether this is just going to be another interview about somewhere in time, whether he can trust me whether we're simpatico or not. And I think you can kind of feel it slowly building. I, I, at least I felt that. So why do you want to hear me talking in the studio? Maybe you don't let's get back to the unit.
Speaker 2 00:17:44 Um, no, the answer is I wouldn't.
Speaker 1 00:17:47 Um, another, uh, another thing I think we have in common is that as I, as I grew up and then as I continued to grow up and someday I'll be there, I think, um, I, I, I look for new, fresh stories about my mom and dad from people who knew them. Uh, and sometimes they're good. Sometimes they're bad. Sometimes they're longer, sometimes they're little snippets, but each time it's like, they're back again, a little tiny bit. Somebody is giving me, you know, a little more time with them because they have this fresh memory. And I think red skeleton kinda did that for you.
Speaker 2 00:18:25 Oh yeah. Well, there are a number of people that did that for me. Red Skelton did that for me and my godfather, Frank Sinatra did that for me and Ray stark who, uh, hired me and brought me into the business, uh, did that for me. Um, so yeah, there's, there's no question. And it was a period of time, you know, look, my dad, I don't know, would probably be 115 today or something like that. Um, so there's nobody around anymore. And hasn't been in a long time that knew him, but because of hid the relationship that those three men that I just mentioned had with my dad, I learned a lot about them.
Speaker 1 00:19:01 What questions would you ask him?
Speaker 2 00:19:04 You know, I don't know if I would, you know, I, I don't know. I've never actually thought about that. You mean asking my father, um, there are some personal family questions that I would ask him that I don't feel comfortable talking about. Okay.
Speaker 1 00:19:19 And I suppose we should, our listeners may not recognize your father's name, but they know his movies.
Speaker 2 00:19:25 Well, Sylvan assignment. I'm not sure they do because, you know, he died in 1951 and the movies that he made in the forties, which was basically, he was, uh, a really highly sought after director and producer. And then he became an executive, uh, at Columbia pictures where I know one of the projects that he bought and supervised was from here to eternity, which is what generated my relationship with Frank Sinatra. He made movies, uh, several movies with red Skelton, uh, the fuller brush man. He made the fuller brush girl with Lucille ball. He made movies with Abbott and Costello. And we had Sundays at my, at our house. And I don't remember a lot of this, but my sister does because my sister is eight years older than I am. But he would say all of the great comics where your dad or dad's friends and on Sundays we'd have Milton Berle, Rue Abbott, bud Costello, at least a couple of the Marx brothers, red skeleton, who was dad's best friend. And they would be at the house on Sundays. And I said, Oh, that must've been the funniest. She said, there is no way to describe how funny those Sundays were.
Speaker 1 00:20:34 Yeah. That sounds marvelous. I want to read you just a couple paragraphs from your book, bringing back the old Hollywood, wild times and life lessons with Sinatra, cruise, Reeve, Madonna, and more, uh, you have just run into red skeleton and, and, and I think you're in your twenties or your thirties. And, uh, he says for the next hour or so often with choked up voice and tears running down his cheeks, red scout and talked to me about my dad, how much he loved dad, how much he depended on him to direct his films. And most importantly, how much he loved him as a man over and over, he explained how warm and friendly dad was to everyone. How much he'd love people, how easily he laughed and how much he loved both my sister and me. I will never forget that evening with red, because more than any other conversation I have ever had with anyone before or since he made my dad come alive for me.
Speaker 2 00:21:21 Yeah. It's very true because he was my dad's closest, closest friend. There was many, a few between red and my mother, I think because I remember red being around, um, up, up until I was about six, seven, eight, nine years old, which is a few times, a few years after my father died, but then I didn't see him. And that moment, any Palm Springs about my dad, um, I hadn't seen red in 15 years. So there was, and I was a kid when I saw him. And so there wouldn't be no way for him to recognize me. And I'm sure I, uh, this is in the book as well, but I went up to him. I saw him at a theater in Palm Springs. I was actually down there visiting Sinatra and I saw him and I walked up to him and I said, excuse me, Mr. Skelton. He took one look at me. And he said, my God, your silver rings boy. So he really, really recognized me. And he really loved my dad. And yeah, he did tell me all the things about how actors and actresses loved him and how kind he was to everybody and how much fun he was to work with. And it always felt very good.
Speaker 1 00:22:29 So the last, the last instance I have of something like that happening with me and my dad and my mom, uh, my husband and I were on Makena Island in October. So this was just, uh, you know, uh, nine months ago or whatever. Uh, we had, we were on the, uh, somewhere in time weekend, I was there with my tape recorder. I didn't record this part though. And I walked into a little shop that grand hotel keeps, uh, to sell stuff at the hotel is no longer using like, uh wastebaskets and, or you could buy like cocktail napkins, stuff like that, uh, sweatshirts t-shirts discontinued stuff. And the woman behind the counter, when I introduced myself, like the first words out of her mouth were, Oh, I don't know how your mom put up with your dad.
Speaker 2 00:23:22 Yeah, no, that must have, uh, that must have made your eyes pop open a little bit.
Speaker 1 00:23:30 It was, it was actually great. It's like getting, you know, if you happen to be sitting at a, in a theater watching one of your movies and somebody next to you makes a comment that's really it's accurate and pointed, and it might not be exactly what you wanted to hear. It's, you know, it's, it's, it's criticism. You can't get anywhere else because everybody else is always nice to the producer, right. Or, you know, in the public anyway. Nope, no funding. Um, and, and she quickly corrected herself and said, you know, he was, he was a good guy and everything, but he was, he was really, uh, a very kind of bombastic imperious kind of guy. And if he was focused on something, he would just follow through and knock people over on the way to getting there. And one of the things he would always do, very typical bill Raby was to commandeer any office, any phone, any typewriter, so that he could get his story out. And so I'm sure that he went into that office at some point and said, I got to use your phone, you know, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, and did that. And my mom was there and she knew her. And so she was like, Oh my God, how do you, how do you deal with this all the time?
Speaker 2 00:24:35 You got to take the good with the bad you do. You do. That's true.
Speaker 1 00:24:39 I'll read you another quote. This is from Paul Auster is memoir hand to mouth. And it's something that I've found has been guiding my life for the last, uh, 20 years now. Uh, he's talking about, um, John Lennon, who he worked with, uh, I think Rob Robert Motherwell and other people, Jerzy, Kosinski, uh, all of them passing away and he writes, reach a certain moment in your life. And you discover that your days are spent as much with the dead as they are with the living.
Speaker 2 00:25:12 Yeah. Well, I think as we get older, there's a lot, there's a lot of truth in that. Uh, I can certainly tell you at this time in my life is certainly the truth for me. Um, my wife, who was, is, and always will be the love of my life, um, died suddenly, uh, two years ago. And, um, I'm constantly, um, connecting with her because I feel that's something we can do. And so I hear what you're saying. I hear what you're saying. I'm actually, she and I have actually written a book together and, uh, it'll be out this summer.
Speaker 1 00:25:53 Yeah, no, there's a, there's a connection. It does. And I don't think it's, I don't think it's. Woo, woo. I think it's, you know, it's, it's the real deal.
Speaker 2 00:26:02 It is the real deal. Yeah. It is the real deal. I know it is. And it definitely is. It is the real deal.
Speaker 1 00:26:09 Uh, you had another father guy named Armand Deutsche and I'm holding in my hand, a book called me and bogey. It's the hard cover. It's the first edition. And, uh, somewhere there's a woman named Lisa who, uh, perhaps she passed on or perhaps she didn't like the book cause I have it now. And he signed it to her, uh, Lisa, uh, with warm, with warm something. Oh, with Warren best wishes, read and enjoy Armand Dwight. So I'm touching something right now that your stepfather held in his hand. You bet. He was an interesting
Speaker 2 00:26:44 Dude as well. Yeah. Oh my goodness. Well, let's go back to his childhood. All right. Because he was the grandson at that time. I hope I have the generations, right. Either grandson or great grandson, but I think he was the grandson, the grandson of Julius Rosenwald who found his Sears Roebuck. And he was born into an extremely wealthy family and, um, the horrible people who kidnapped,
Speaker 1 00:27:19 Right, right. May, 1924, it was Leopold and Loeb who kidnapped little Bobby Franks and then killed him.
Speaker 2 00:27:27 And he went home from school a different way that day, unbeknownst to anybody else. And they went and took another child. So that's how we started in life. And his mother's two closest friends, Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller. Wow. I actually remember meeting Helen Keller because of my father's mother. So yeah, he did have a very interesting life. And then, you know, he became a film producer as well and made movies with Grace Kelly and Robert Taylor, John Cassavetes, apparently a good stepdad. Right. He was very much so. Yes, very much. So
Speaker 1 00:27:59 I tried to find people who were working at HBO back in the day when they picked up somewhere in time and started running it. And I could not, uh, you know, nobody there's, there's not much institutional memory there. I think so. Could you, how the heck. So what happened? Uh, the reason that somewhere in time became a big cult hit was that it was picked up by, uh, uh, cable channel called Z channel, which was run by an idiosyncratic very interesting guy. But then it was all, then it was picked up by HBO and that's when it really exploded. Right. Do I have that chronology, right?
Speaker 2 00:28:33 You sure do. And boy, Johnny, you have done your homework. Jerry Harvey, Jerry Harvey was the one that was the, the person who programmed the Z channel, which was the first paid movie kennel in Los Angeles. And I don't know if in the country, but in Los Angeles it was the first one Z channel was on and they had two runnings, one at eight o'clock at night and one at 10 o'clock at night or 10 30, depending on the length of the film, Jerry was in love with somewhere in time. Not only did he run it, sometimes he ran it twice in the same night that started the ball that right there started the ball and then HBO in their early, early days, they were not buying blockbusters because they couldn't afford it. And HBO, nobody at that time was, you know, in the very beginning was really interested in selling HBO big blockbusters.
Speaker 2 00:29:30 So what did HBO program movies that hadn't worked that well at the box office, but showing somewhere in time and they got a fabulous response. And I don't remember the exact moment, but, and you may have this note someplace and Billy Shepherd, please forgive me for not remembering the date, but it was right around in that time when Richard got a call from Richard Mattson and got a call from a guy named bill shepherd who worked at Hughes aircraft. Right. And Hey, I want to start up a fan club for somewhere in time and a newsletter. And it's going to be called the international network of summer and time enthusiasts. Are you okay with that? And Richard was, yeah, I got to check with the producer, but yeah, I'm fine with it. He called me and I said, heck yes. Why not? Let's see. And all of those things together, if there's one person in this world who I think is responsible, more responsible for somewhere in time surviving and then becoming the cult film that it has become because it, that is what it is. There are people who absolutely are passionate about it. The most responsible person for that is bill shepherd. Oh, and boy, is he ever this summer in time? Wizard? I that's why I call him Mr. Wizard. Anything about somewhere in time? Most of the things I've forgotten, bill remembers, I interviewed George wins. Oh, did you? Yeah,
Speaker 1 00:30:55 Because this was, this was one of his first films and George told me the whole story about how he, you know, he was on the Island and he was very excited for the release of the movie. Then he takes all his family and friends, like a dozen people to the first screening he can, and there they sit down and he's not in the movie. And, uh, he was crestfallen, but, you know, luckily he, he managed to have a teeny tiny hit later on in, uh, in cheers. And he was actually in my bodyguard that year in a bigger role. And that was a more successful film. So okay. On that end. But he thought he was out of the picture and I went back and listened to that opening montage where it's just people kind of just people talking. And I thought, well, maybe he's in here. And I sent him the MP3 of that, uh, of that montage, the sound, just the sound recording. And I said, look, you and, uh, his wife burned it out. Why don't you listen to this and see if you can hear your voice in there. And immediately they, they wrote back and they're like, yes, I can hear myself saying, you know, a couple sentences. So he's, he's in the movie with audio.
Speaker 2 00:31:59 Oh, that's cool. This is great. John I'm learning stuff. I had no idea that I did not know that. I knew that. Unfortunately, George didn't make it onto the screen. Aha,
Speaker 1 00:32:09 Wait, wait, wait. So then I sent that audio to, to, uh, bill shepherd and he sent back a photo, uh, two photos. One was a casual shot of the, of the, uh, the scene in which George went was going to be in. And there he is. And you can tell it's George and he's wearing a particular coat. And then, and then he, uh, bill sent me, uh, a screenshot and there is George. You can see his back on screen. So he's in the movie.
Speaker 2 00:32:37 Oh, that's way. Cool. You, and that's the same scene that bill Macy's into.
Speaker 1 00:32:42 Oh yeah. You can definitely tell him. You can see him and hear him too. Uh, John Hewlett is also in those opening scenes with lots of hair.
Speaker 2 00:32:51 Well, we all had lots of air back then I look at my air and I think, Oh my God, why didn't I figure out a way to preserve that? So yeah, we all had a lot of hair back then.
Speaker 1 00:33:03 Memory of the shoot is that it was very happy every time I didn't, I didn't witness any big fights or anything like that. Uh, was it in fact that happy of a shoot,
Speaker 2 00:33:12 It sure was. You know, um, it was, uh, extraordinary, uh, to the point that we're about halfway through the shoot. Now, you know, that's was my first film as a producer. So I had no nothing to compare it to. And I remember so vividly Marianne Bittle, who was the set decorator on the film, Maryanne had lunch with me one day and we were talking about various things and she said, Steven, this is your first film. I've never been on a set like this. I've never seen everybody so enthusiastic about the project that they're making. Everybody loves each other. We are one big happy family. It's like, we skipped to dailies. And if he said, I'll tell you something, there's a good chance. You will never experience this again. And she was 100%, right? So sorry, but it was magic. It was just magic. There was no conflict. There was nothing. And everything went basically according to plan, basically, according to plan,
Speaker 1 00:34:21 Right. All the way up until they, until they release the picture,
Speaker 2 00:34:24 The film coming out, that was a whole different story.
Speaker 1 00:34:27 I'd like to fast forward to 2004, when you started a thing called the spiritual cinema circle,
Speaker 2 00:34:33 Spiritual cinema circle is it was one of the most fun experiences that I've ever had. So I wanted to, you know, on the heels of summer and time and, and what dreams may come, I always wanted to make, um, figure out a way to distribute spiritual films in theaters, to have more spiritually oriented movies made. And a dear friend of mine, uh, named gay Hendricks, uh, who is an extraordinary author. He and his wife, Katie have written a lot of big best-selling books and Gaye and I became friends and he said, Hey, do you think there's enough of those movies out there to start like a Columbia record club, but to do it like for films. And I was like, yeah, you know, it's like actually asking an actor, can you ride a horse? Actors always say yes, even if they can't. Right. So my answer was, hell yes, I think we can do this.
Speaker 2 00:35:30 And so that's how the spiritual cinema circle started. It was right around the time you, Netflix was still just doing DVD rentals, you know, you'd rent a DVD and send, you know, they send it to you and send it back to, to, uh, Netflix. Right. And we started at it really, it was a Nick business and it became successful right away, um, in our spiritual niche. And it just closed in April after 16 years. Um, our business plan did not survive the digital age. I think that's the best way to put it, but we had great. We had a great, great 16 years and we distributed over 700 films to our subscribers.
Speaker 1 00:36:16 And this ties into your whole idea of, of a new Hollywood that is, uh, much more like the old Hollywood, where there are films, uh, that, you know, that are not just dark or not just, uh, superhero movies or whatever, but films that are, uh, for the whole family that can actually be enriching. Um, you know, movies that speak to people better than the, the current crop.
Speaker 2 00:36:40 Yes, correct. Yeah. And that always had an element of, you know, one of our criteria for choosing movies for the circle. And we would send out three shorts and a feature to our subscribers every month and they got to keep them. So people who are with us from day one have a library of about 700 movies at home. But our, our, our benchmark was always, does the movie make you ultimately feel better about being a human being? Does it show who we can be as human beings when we operate at our very best, that was our criteria. And, um, I think we succeeded in that
Speaker 1 00:37:16 You wrote your book back in 2010. A lot of things have changed since then. And a lot of things have changed just in the last four months. And, and you talk about, uh, you know, building this, this, this new kind of Hollywood, I'm wondering what you think about what Corona virus has done to, uh, to your thesis.
Speaker 2 00:37:35 Um, uh, there were a lot of theses in that, but which pieces are you talking?
Speaker 1 00:37:39 Um, well, so here's one idea I had, uh, coronavirus means that people are spending a lot more time at home. I think that possibly families are spending a lot more time together. Therefore it would make sense to make family fair, which would then include more of this spiritual kind of a movie that you're talking about. So a tiny silver lining might be a return to movies that everybody can, like,
Speaker 2 00:38:05 I would have to say now, because if you remember the, the, the prologue to the book is set place and it's set in 2024, when a, um, a person in their twenties asks her grandparents, what was it like in those days when they made new movies for theaters? Yeah. And, um, I think that may wind up being prosthetic, but not for the reason that I originally thought, because what's happened now with character based films that, um, that uplift you, that challenge you, that aren't just animated films, superhero films, big action films, or broad comedies. Those films are really not made for theaters anymore. The only, and even before Corona virus, they weren't, those films were really only coming out in October, November and December for, um, Academy award consideration. And honestly, Netflix and Amazon and HBO and Showtime have become the destinations for those kinds of films.
Speaker 2 00:39:17 And they are getting made and they're getting made with terrific actors and actresses sometimes unknowns. I do not think those theaters, those movies are going to make a comeback in theaters. And I'm really wondering, really wondering how the movie business is as it was constituted before the Corona virus is going to come back, because there were a lot of problems before the Corona virus, you know, the expensive films going to a movie, the expense of the concessions, the fact that there were so many films that people didn't really know which ones to choose from. Um, now I'm really sure that people are going to be really looking to jump back into a movie theater when they think that there'll be able to get that film on, on Netflix or on cable, or at least pay-per-view in two or three months. What they don't understand is that the theatrical has been a very important part of the, the, the financing of films. And if people don't go see them in theaters box office, gross goes away. It makes a big dent in how much money can be spent. So it will be very interesting for me to see how they come back.
Speaker 1 00:40:35 And my last question, and this is what I'm asking everybody, and it's, you've, you've touched on it, but I think I asked it in a, uh, too limiting of a way, um, if you could get into a time machine and go back or forward anywhere, and okay, we'll build in that, there will be no time paradox stuff, you know? Uh, where would you go and what would you do?
Speaker 2 00:40:57 Oh, no question. In my mind, John, I would go back to the night I met my wife.
Speaker 1 00:41:00 Oh,
Speaker 2 00:41:04 I'd love to meet my wife again all over again. I would definitely go to go back to the night, November 11 to 2003. When I met my wife, when you find the love of your life, it's not something that, uh, when that changes, as people know grief, grief is just horrible. Grief is really, really just horrible as most adults know, because most adults have gone through grief at least once or twice, or maybe even more than that. And grief is a dreadful really dreadful experience. And what I love to go back and meet Lauren all over again. You bet I would.
Speaker 0 00:41:45 That's a wonderful choice. And thank you for sharing it with us.
Speaker 2 00:41:47 You're more than welcome you. I have to say, John, you, you had some fascinating questions. Most of which I have not been asked before, and it's really fun for me. Thank you. Because you obviously did your homework here and I'm grateful to you for that. Cause this has really been fun for me as well. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much, John. It was fun.
Speaker 0 00:42:09 Bye-bye not a compliment at the end. There made me feel almost as good as the time after I interviewed Jimmy Carter. He turned to me and said, you read the book. I didn't say this for thought. Of course I read the book. You're the fricking former president anyway. Yeah. If you're going to do an interview, try to read the book, but you know, Larry King, he did great. Anyway, that was Stephen Simon author of bringing back the old Hollywood and the new book, which he co-wrote with his late wife. What dreams have come loving through the veil. And I'm going to have a link to both of these on my website, call back yesterday.com callback yesterday.com. I highly recommend both of these books. Call back yesterday is produced, written, recorded, and directed by me. John Raby. Our theme music is performed by the van Dyke parks and our logo was made by Michael Yulan caught additional support from Bermudez projects in Los Angeles and SGV weekly hosted by Chris Greenspun join me soon for the next episode of call back yesterday. And thanks for listening.