Director Henry Jaglom is a true independent filmmaker. Working outside of the studio system, he has directed 19 feature films. Jaglom owns The Rainbow Film Company which both produces and distributes many of his films. His latest outing is “The M Word”; a comedy starring Tanna Frederick, Michael Imperioli of the hit HBO series “The Sopranos”, and Corey Feldman. The three leads are entangled in a love triangle as a local public broadcasting channel crumbles and its employees deal with paranoia, jealousy, and worst of all menopause.
On The Road to Cinema Podcast, Henry Jaglom walks us through his early days in show business. This includes how he and a young Jack Nicholson edited down a 4 and a half hour version of “Easy Rider” into the taut hour and a half classic we know today. We also learn how Jaglom helped friend and producer Bert Schneider bring the incredible Oscar winning Vietnam war documentary “Hearts and Minds” to theatres around the world. Later in the podcast, we delve into Jaglom’s friendship with legendary actor and filmmaker Orson Welles.
“Easy Rider” was directed by Dennis Hopper. The film starred Hopper and Peter Fonda as two bikers exploring America and bumping into some madcap characters including an alcoholic lawyer played by a young Jack Nicholson. Made for a few hundred thousand dollars, the film made millions at the box office and became a cultural phenomenon. The film’s champion and producer Bert Schnedier, a life long friend of Jaglom, maintained a string of box office successes for his home studio Columbia Pictures. These films included the Peter Bogdanovich masterpiece “The Last Picture Show” and the Bob Rafelson directed “Five Easy Pieces” which made Jack Nichoslson a leading man.
Criterion’s BBS DVD/Blu-Ray collection which includes the films produced by Bert Schneider and his colleagues Bob Rafelson and Steve Blauner under their exclusive deal with Columbia Pictures which ran from 1968 to 1973. BBS Productions was named for the company’s principals — BERT, BOB, and STEVE.
Despite his illustrious track record for Columbia, Bert Schnedier could not get one particular film through the studio gates. The film was “Hearts and Minds”; a documentary chronicling the brutal reality of the Vietnam war. The trailer for the Oscar winning Vietnam war documentary “Hearts and Minds”.
Directed by Peter Davis, “Hearts and Minds” is affecting on a visceral level of humanity and horror. We see the atrocities of a meaningless military involvement in Vietnam along with disabled veterans and the anti-war protests taking place back in the United States. The price of free speech was personified through producer Bert Schneider. Under his deal with Columbia Pictures, as long as he kept a cap on the budget, Schneider had free reign to make any film he desired with Columbia waiting in the wings to distribute. This was not the case for “Hearts and Minds”. Columbia flat out refused to abide by their contract to distribute and instead kept the film under lock and key. This meant that the only way Schneider could retain his film and show it to the world was by purchasing the film from Columbia and selling it to another distributor. We’ll hear on the podcast how Schneider’s lifelong friend Henry Jaglom and producer Zack Norman helped raise the money to purchase “Hearts and Minds” from Columbia and make a distribution deal with another studio to send out the documentary’s powerful anti-war message to the world. When the film won an Oscar for “Best Documentary” at the 1975 Academy Awards ceremony, Schneider in his speech stated, “It’s ironic that we’re here at a time just before Vietnam is about to be liberated.” Schneider then read a telegram from Ambassador Dinh Ba Thi of the Viet Cong government thanking the anti-war movement for their contribution to peace. Frank Sinatra followed Bert Schneider’s speech with a reactionary letter from Bob Hope claiming the Academy was not responsible for Schneider’s political references. A divisive Academy crowd both booed and cheered at Schneider and Sinatra’s individual speeches. This moment is considered one of the most controversial Oscar acceptance speeches in Academy Awards history.
Producer Bert Schneider on-stage with director Peter Davis winning “Best Documentary” Oscars for “Hearts and Minds”.
Henry Jaglom’s friendship with Orson Welles began on Jaglom’s feature directorial debut “A Safe Place” which was also under producer Bert Schnedier’s producing deal at Columbia Pictures. Welles taught Jaglom a great lesson about dealing with a crew who may not necessarily understand a director’s ambitious ideas. “Tell ’em it’s a dream sequence,” said Welles. “Why?”, said Jaglom. Welles explained that the crew, including the cinematographer, are bound by rules. The only place where they are liberated is in their dreams. It worked and Jaglom had the crew in the palm of his hand, willing to do whatever it took to make the young director’s “dreams” come to life.
The duo remained close over the course of the 1970s and early 1980s. On the podcast, Jaglom discusses his friendship with the iconic Oscar winning screenwriter and director of “Citizen Kane”. Welles asked Jaglom to record their lunch conversations for what was eventually to become a biography written by Welles. Unfortunately, the biography never came to fruition due to Welles’ untimely death in 1985. Jaglom held onto the audio tapes, keeping them in a box and never listening to them. Last year, these audio tapes culminated in the book “My Lunches with Orson”. The book is an incredible read that is casual, candid, and sometimes shocking, making the reader feel as if you were eavesdropping on Orson having a meal with his buddy Henry. These are verbatim transcripts of lunch conversations between Welles and Jaglom that were compiled by Peter Biskind author of “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls”. Jaglom and I discuss the impact of his close friendship with Welles along with what surprised Jaglom in the wake of the book’s release.
Outtakes of Orson Welles from director Henry Jaglom’s debut feature film “A Safe Place”.
Orson Welles made his final screen appearance in director Henry Jaglom’s film “Someone to Love” released in 1987. Welles imbued his performance with his own philosophical streak. Check out the trailer below!
Enjoy this great conversation with director Henry Jaglom to not only learn about Orson Welles and 1970s Hollywood but how an independent filmmaker continues to churn out a film, year after year.
Listen to Episode #7 of The Road to Cinema Podcast with director Henry Jaglom!
Check out the trailer for director Henry Jaglom’s latest film “The M Word”. CLICK HERE! to learn more about Henry Jaglom’s new play “Train to Zakopane” premiering October 24th at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica, CA.