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Clint chats to the legendary Jonathan Silverman

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Jonathan Silverman says he’s a fan of Moviehole…and I’m just as big, if not a bigger, fan of his. From “Brighton Beach Memoirs”, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, “Weekend at Bernie’s” and TV’s “The Single Guy”, Silvermman, the grandson of famous Conservative Rabbi Morris Silverman, hits it out of the park each and every time. I caught up with Silverman a few days back to discuss – well, his great body of work (plenty of “Weekend at Bernie’s” chatter in here, don’t you worry!) – his latest film, “Conception“.

We had begun our conversation speaking about “Beethoven’s Big Break”, which he had starred in and I’d had something to do with too.

Mike Elliot cast your wife (actress Jennifer Finnigan in the film) in the ”Beethoven” film, alongside you. Jennifer is also playing alongside you in this film, ”Conception” – how did that come about?

Similar story. Josh Stolberg is an old friend, a very dear friend. He basically rounded up all of his pals and wrote a really beautiful script and we all kind of jumped on board. Connie Britton is one of my best friends and Pam Adlon. I grew with Pam Segal as how I remember her being called, but she took her married name. David Arquette is an old friend and Jennifer Jostyn and Leila Charles Leigh and Alan Tudyk. So yeah, it’s like a little party and everyone sort of pitched in. And it’s a lovely film. I want to talk in terms of knowing more about it. I haven’t seen it yet. The premier is actually at a film festival in a few weeks. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the stuff that Jen and I did – that my wife and I did. I hope it turned out great. I know it’s getting a lot of attention and getting accepted into a lot of film festivals across the land. I hope for the good. But basically we have a huge, very big ensemble, 18 of us, 19 really if you count the only member who’s not part of a couple. And it just looks at nine different couples at the moment or even the moment leading up to the conception of their children. We have a teenage couple and a lesbian couple and an older woman, younger boyfriend couple, the long suffering married couple which is where Jen and I come in. And basically the film opens with a little boy asking ‘where do babies come from?’ and we spend the rest of the 90 minutes telling him exactly where our babies came from. And it’s very endearing and very touching and hopefully a lot of people will relate to it in somewhere.

How long of a shoot was it for you?

That’s a… Part of the draw was it wasn’t a major time given on any of our parts. I think the bulk of us, the core 18 or 19, probably each of us had five scenes or six scenes throughout the picture because it’s such an ensemble piece. Like a… I don’t want to compare it at a Short Cuts or Crash but similar in the sense it’s such a large piece and the story is sort of weaved in and out of one to the other. But we’re all able to do our separate parts within a day or two. So it’s hardy a time commitment. There were gruelling days. So much was done in such short amount of time. But it’s exciting that a quality film can be made on such a micro budget and hopefully with great integrity and professionalism. I know everyone I talked to who’s involved, had a terrific time.

Could you relate to the story? Your story within the film?

Well, Jen and I are definitely a couple that has been together for quite sometime and the comparison there probably ends thankfully. But the couple that we played, Brad and Lorie, are a couple who sort of lost that spark. They’re still in love with each other, they still love each other as people too as human beings. But I guess life has sort of gotten into the way and they sort of forgot about what makes them tick as a romantic couple. And lo and behold something happens that spark and ignited and that’s how they were able to conceive.

Obviously, you work with Jen but who else do you work within the film? Is there anyone else you work within the film because…

That’s it. Basically we’re all paired up. It was like a Noah’s Ark kind of a deal. We also jumped on two-by-two which is nice. Our other friends who are couple, they were able to jump on board and some met for the first time. And some of the stuff is pretty graphic. And I know Josh Stolberg’s wife Leila had to do some love scenes with someone who’s not her husband. As did a couple of folks. Jennifer Jostyn had to do a scene with her girlfriend’s actual boyfriend at the time. So it was very incestuous grown up world. But that’s what’s good acting. But thankfully Josh Stolberg has asked Jen and I to come together as a married couple. Actually, at the time he asked us it was very early on in the process and no one else has jumped on board yet. So all the roles, all the couples were basically available at the time. And he said, “Take a pick.” So we just kind of skimmed through it and this couple has to be naked, I don’t really want to do that. This couple has to get a little freaky, I don’t know if we want to get involved in that. Here we go, here’s a nice boring married couple that never has sex, let’s play them. [chuckle] These two people that we played probably had, I don’t want to say the most fun because they were dickering quite a bit but the most open environment for the two of us to improv and play off each other’s chemistry, that thankfully Jen and I have of each other. If we did it, we’d be worried… The time that Mike Elliot runs together for the Beethoven movie was pretty much the first time Jen and I had worked together. And we thought, “Jesus, what if we don’t have chemistry.” What if we stink? That we don’t seem to be an actual couple ? that we don’t come across on screen as a people who are attracted to each other? So thankfully we do, and that for whatever reason people keep throwing gigs and opportunities our way where we do work together. As a matter of fact, right there on time we were doing this for Josh, Conception, my wife Jennifer produced her first film; it’s a short film. And the two of us acted in it as well playing a married couple. And I know we play ourselves on a really fun show in the States. I don’t know if it’s made in Australia. It’s called Head Case. And here in the States it airs on a cable man called Starz. And it involves a psychiatrist to the stars played by Alexandra Wentworth, and basically I jumped on board almost on a curvy enthusiasm type of fashion. Everything sort of adlibbed and improved. Jen is a high player so I played a married couple in that as well. So, I guess we’re being typecast. So be it.


That’s great! That’s great! You guys pull off…

Yes. We have great fun.

Unlike my wife and I, you guys get home at the same time then.

Exactly.

In the house at the same time… wow!

How long have you been married?

I’ve been married since 2004.

We’ve been officially married since ’07.

Yeah?

Living in sin since ’04. But married since ’07.

Yeah. Yeah. I am…

As a matter of fact, I proposed to Jen near Bayou in New Zealand. And the day after she said yes, we went to Australia.

Oh really?

So, Australia has a big part in our past and hopefully our future.

Oh there you go. We spent our honeymoon in America. So, there you go.

Well, maybe your second honeymoon. With the first wife, a second honeymoon.

[chuckle] Our honeymoon was a… Honeymoon/work trip, because one of my scripts got optioned by an outfit out at Warner Brothers in 2006. So it was at the same time that we just said “Oh well, I hope you like Disneyland for your honeymoon,” so… Yeah.

With your career, you grew up with a lot of your comedy’s mainly. Would you say that’s kind of your forte, the comedy?

I suppose. I mean, I don’t want to say it comes easy for me, but I certainly enjoy doing it. Perhaps it comes more difficult for most. So I guess I tend to do more comedies than dramas. I love doing dramas, I, of course love doing stage, but for the most part, one way or another, I get cast in comedies more than anything else. I actually recently worked with the beautiful Aussie named Melissa George. We shot a film in England together playing husband and wife. It’s a picture with Martin Freeman and Mandy Moore which is coming out this summer. It’s called Swinging with the Finkels.

Oh. Mandy is lovely… talked to her over Christmas..

It’s a bit of a romantic comedy, but it pretty much looks at the marriages that are falling apart and what you can do to try and keep them together. But behind that I also did my first horror film a few months ago. So I guess I’m trying to mix it up. I did it with the illustrious Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame. [laughter] That’s a picture called Inkubus. And there was nothing funny about that one. As much as I tried to add some comedy, the director kept saying, “No, you’re in a horror movie”.

My wife would love to hear that. She’s a big fan of Robert Englund and…

Oh great, she’ll love it! I saw a rough cut of it recently. It’s terrifying. It’s terrifying. If she’s a horror fan, she’ll really like that.

Yeah, she’s a horror fan and she flies the flag for Freddy Krueger and all that, except the remake.

Excellent. Excellent. He’s almost Shakespearean in his attack on acting. It’s fascinating. The work…

I bet. I bet. I used to… When you’re walking down the street, are you still recognized for some of your roles?

Yeah. Yeah. You know what I’d like to say I’m able to keep my anonymity as much as possible, but yeah, certainly I do get recognized. As a matter of fact when we were in Australia right after we got engaged, it was a New Year’s week and of course being it was the only three, four days we were planning on spending in Australia. We try to cram it as much as possible, we did a bridge walk, we saw as many sites as possible, we went to Bondi Beach. It was probably four or five PM on New Year’s eve and we didn’t realize, getting there was easy but trying to get a taxi back to the city centre of Sydney was almost impossible because New Year’s eve was approaching and everyone’s was getting on their day and there was no cabs to be had. And we tried and we’re miles and miles away or kilometres and kilometres away and we could not get a taxi. But then this couple driving along recognized us, me from the “Weekend at Bernie’s” which is apparently was a big hit in Australia and my wife from the Bold and the Beautiful, which I believe does quite well in Australia. So thankfully there’s a story where we were saved because we were recognized.

So there you go. There you go. “Weekend at Bernie’s” was a huge hit here. I worked at the drive-in as a teenager and it was on for a couple of weeks there, it was every night “Weekend at Bernie’s”. I still remember the projectionist would come out and he’d go… Was it Terry Kiser that played Bernie?

Terry Kiser right.

Yeah, he would go, “Terry, this guy deserves an academy award for his performance” and he tells me every night…

For playing dead…

For playing the dead guy. He plays the dead guy better than anyone that I’ve ever seen.

Yeah. Exactly. He was brilliant. He did something very clever, he died with a little smirk on face. He made a dead man very lovable.

Oh, that’s for sure. What I always thought with that film was also Andrew McCarthy being cast as the goofball.

Yeah. He sort of played against type.

He did. He did. Do you guys still keep in touch?

As a matter of fact I just did a movie with Andrew. We’re not playing… We’re not having carrying around dead body or anything, but we did just do a movie the other call… It’s a National Lampoon comedy called Snatched. And it was the first time since the to sequel to Bernie’s that we worked together. We run into each other, we get together. He’s a big golfer, we play golf every now and then, but we haven’t work together since the sequel. But we had a terrific time. It’s a very funny movie about a man who goes to donate a kidney to his ill brother-in-law and they make a mistake at the hospital. And they replace and cut-off the wrong organ instead of simply taking on the man’s kidney they gave him a sex change. [chuckle]

Of course.

Andrew plays the man who undergoes the surgery and he spends the rest of the movie trying to get his manhood back. I know it’s very far-fetched but a very, very funny film that I’ve made coming out within the year as well.

Did it give you and Andrew a chance to talk about “Bernies”?

Oh, we sure did. It’s how shocked we were at how… It still holds up to the day how people still enjoy watching it and still talk about it. And what was bizarre was we shot this new movie in New Orleans which is one of my favourite cities in the world. But there’s a particular section, the French Quarter, where people are enjoying themselves to great deal of music and carrying on and rabble rousing and drinking. And I remember one night Andrew and I went to dinner after filming and we just walked from point A to point B but we have to cross the famous Bourbon Street to get there. And here Andrew and I are walking and all this inebriated people are staring at us saying, “Oh my God. Where’s the dead guy!?.” They probably thought they were in some sort of alcohol induced coma.

Wow. [chuckle] Was there ever any talk of a third movie?

There’s been lots of talk about… A matter of fact I remember reading it on your site every now and then, every couple of years it pops up.

Yeah it does.

I come from a school of one was enough. And I think we should have been grateful that we made one and people enjoyed it and let it go. When they finally got around the shooting the second one… And I became very close friends with a lot of the people from the first one the film-makers Victor Drai, Robert Klane, and Ted Kotcheff and they had been taking about making a sequel. It did very well overseas and some Italian financiers wanted to make a second one and I’m like, “Guys, really? What are we supposed to do? It’s about a dead body.” [chuckle]

“What are we possibly going to explore?” And I procrastinated as long as I could and they said, “Listen, we’re shooting this movie. Andrew has jumped on. Terry Kiser has jumped on. We’re going to shoot it with or without you. Do you want to just go ahead and make this movie and have a good time with us and make some money or do you want to spend the next chunk of years explaining to people why you weren’t in the sequel?” So we went ahead and we shot the sequel and we had a great time. It certainly wasn’t near as funny, the final product, as the original as I think a few sequels are. But I sure hope they just leave it at that.

There’s some talk of making a third, but we’ll see. I can easily be tempted at whatever does come around but I hope they don’t bother to.

‘’Caddyshack 2’’ is another sequel of yours to gets a beating… it doesn’t really deserve it, I mean it’s ‘OK’…

Oh, okay. If you say so, Clint [Laughs]

I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it. I do get recognized for that film. People do come up and say how much they enjoyed it. The original Caddyshack, it’s probably one of the 5 or 6 best funniest comedies ever made.

So, when Warner Bros said that they have plans to make a sequel and that they were interested in me I was thrilled. It was maybe the second or third movie I’d done in my career. It was by far the biggest budget and by far the biggest pay check, personally, that I had ever received. But I was thrilled and I think all of us were. There was Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd and Randy Quaid and Jackie Mason, who had a major career revival and just won a Tony Award. And Harold Ramis wrote the script based on the screenplay he wrote years earlier for the original. And Warner Bros threw piles of money into the budget and we were all shooting it, having a terrific time. And we even shot it at the exact same golf course before where they shot the first one. So we assumed it would be at least in the same ballpark as the first one and then, well, lo and behold it came out, the critics slammed after that it wasn’t the funniest of movies. [chuckle] But I can’t remember laughing. But again, I’m glad you like it. I’m glad some other folks liked it and we’ll leave it at that.

Well, look. It’s got good music and I think both…

Kenny Loggins, how about that?

Kenny Loggins, I mean, yeah. And maybe that’s what does it for me. You put some music in a film and every time I’m watching Top Gun, my wife has to say, “I hope you’re enjoying this MTV video clip.” And I’m like, “Top Gun! Come on, this is Top Gun!”

Come on! She doesn’t like the shirtless volleyball scene? Every woman likes that scene.

Oh, she laughs. She just laughs at these classics if that’s on. I even had Tron on the other night, the original Tron. No.

The original Tron, that’s a great one.

Exactly. Exactly. You, do you get to see a lot of flicks?

Yeah, we do. We do. We try and go out and support the cause as much as we can and make it out to the theatre and date nights and all that. We certainly are fans of the Netflix. I’m crazy about that, just watching in the comforts of our own home. But of course, yeah. We try and see as much as possible then maybe just recently all the, with all the award show happenings we were able to get lots of the various screenings.  But yeah, there’s nothing like actually going out to the theatre.

No, there isn’t.

And not seeing it on the big screen.

No, exactly. Exactly. Well, let’s hope that “Conception” gets a bit of a go in the…

I hope so too! Yeah, we’re seeing it. We’re very excited. I think a week from Wednesday is its, or 2 weeks from today.

That’s great.

Yeah, 2 weeks from today is when we’re seeing it at the Beverly Hills Film Festival. So, fingers are crossed.

Do you know, is there a release plan at the moment or is that just a festival kind of run first?

I would assume, yeah. I know Josh Stolberg is in Florida. I think it’s premiering this weekend at the West Palm Beach Festival and then a few days after that at the Boston International Film Festival and there’s another festival at the Newport Beach at the end of the month. So, yeah. I think they’re just making the circuit in hopes that they’ll get a proper distribution deal. And it doesn’t hurt that Julie Bowen and Connie Britton…

Yeah, indeed!

And all these great people they were able to assemble have some big powerful shiny names.

Yeah.

So hopefully, hopefully we’ll get a release. ‘Cause I have, I do have high hopes for it.

That’ll be great.

And I have high hopes for Josh.

As do I. He’s a wonderful filmmaker.

And our DP was lovely too. His name is Noah Rosenthal. And I did a film that his dad directed me and his name is Rick Rosenthal.

Of course, Rick Rosenthal!

And I remembered it’s maybe 10 or 12 years ago and I remember little Noah being 11, 12 years old and hanging out on the set and here he is with all this fancy equipment shoving cameras and He would see me and my wife are getting busy. So, I guess that means I really am old when I’m working with second generation folks [Laughs].

Oh, yes. It is. It’s a scary thought when you seem them all grown up. And time does fly too. It must feel like yesterday you were shooting you know, ‘’Brighton Beach Memoirs” and those films.

It really does. I mean, it really does. And you look back and all the sudden, yeah, 25 years have gone by.

Wow. Well, here’s to another 25 more then, sir.

Clint, thank you. Thank you so much we’re very grateful and I love your site and I’ll keep tuning in.

> Interview with Gregory Smith for “Conception”
> Interview with Tim Griffin for “Conception”

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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