Peter Bogdanovich Says It Only Took ‘One Good Idea’ to Make His Buster Keaton Doc ‘The Great Buster’
Almost half a century after he made a documentary about director John Ford, Peter Bodganovich is back with his second look at a classic filmmaker. “The Great Buster: A Celebration,” in which the director of “The Last Picture Show” and “What’s Up, Doc?” follows the life and career of pioneering silent comic and peerless stuntman Buster Keaton, opens on Friday at the Nuart in Los Angeles.
Featuring abundant Keaton footage, from the classic boulder chase in “Seven Chances” to television commercials he made near the end of his life, “The Great Buster” also finds Bogdanovich talking about Keaton with a potpourri of fans that includes Quentin Tarantino, Mel Brooks, Werner Herzog and Johnny Knoxville.
The film is structured chronologically, with one big exception: When it gets to 1923, when Keaton began a string of 10 landmark features that included “The General” and “Steamboat Bill, Jr.,” it jumps forward six years and saves the best stuff for last.
Bogdanovich, who was also instrumental in Netflix’s recent completion of the early ’70s Orson Welles movie “The Other Side of Midnight,” spoke to TheWrap about Keaton, old movies and why he’s not worried about the demise of the video store.
You haven’t done a documentary on a filmmaker since “Directed by John Ford” in 1971, have you?
So why do one on Buster Keaton?
Did you pass up chances to meet them?
I definitely had a chance to meet Noel Coward, and it was sort of stupid of me. I was in Vevey in Switzerland, shooting “Daisy Miller,” and he was just up the mountain there. I thought, “Well, he’s not going to want to meet some young American director, why should I bother him?”
But he died about a year later, and about a year after that I met his executor, Graham Payn, because Audrey Hepburn and I were talking about doing “Private Lives” on Broadway. And Graham said, “You know, one of the last films that Noel saw was ‘Paper Moon,’ and he loved it.”
And I thought, “S—.” I would like to have heard him say that.
Do you remember your first exposure to Keaton?
I loved Keaton. In fact, when I made the chase sequence in “What’s Up, Doc,” I said, “This is a Buster Keaton chase.” There were only a couple of jokes we stole from Keaton, I think, but the idea was sort of Keaton-esque.
I assume you started the film with a pretty good idea of the story that you’re going to tell. Did it change much in the making?
Luckily, the Venice Film Festival had celebrated him a year before he died, so I could use that in the plot to bring the features back.
It’s tricky, though, when you’re going through the chronology and then you get to the great features and say, “We’ll come back to these later.”
You have to trust that the audience will say, “OK, you can skip the good stuff.”
We’ve all seen the classic Keaton sequences, and you can never watch that boulder chase from “Seven Chances” enough. But were you conscious of trying to create a mixture of stuff that Keaton fans would have seen with stuff they wouldn’t have seen?
But you also have things that aren’t familiar, like the TV commercials he did late in his life. Was there footage you found that surprised you?
So making this film sounds like a pretty smooth process.
We’re in an era now where if you want to see an old Buster Keaton movie, you can probably do it with a few clicks. With the rise of Netflix and Amazon and all, more old movies are available immediately than ever before. But if you can’t find it online, the video stores that would actually have stuff like that are…
Is that troubling to you?
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Discovery and the PGA Tour have struck a massive $2 billion deal for tournament rights outside of the United States through 2030. That’s a lot of green — and we’re not just talking about the putting surfaces.
The pricey (and lengthy) alliance, which tees off next year, will result in about 2,000 hours of content annually and nearly 150 tournaments, including The Players Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs, and the Presidents Cup. It will grant Discovery the exclusive non-U.S. television and multiplatform rights to all PGA Tour golf events by 2024 — here is a timetable for implementation:
About those multiplatform rights: Together, Discovery and the PGA Tour will develop a new PGA Tour-branded OTT video streaming service to serve 220 markets and territories.
“Today is a fantastic day for golf fans around the world as Discovery proudly partners with the PGA Tour to create something that has never been done before,” David Zaslav, president and CEO, Discovery, said. “The long-term partnership between the PGA Tour and Discovery will create the new global Home of Golf, including delivering over 2000 hours of live content year-round and this prestigious sport’s greatest moments, stories and athletes. Following our successful first Olympic Games in PyeongChang, Discovery will contribute its strong global distribution and promotional infrastructure, in-market relationships, global sports expertise with direct-to-consumer platforms and brands to create a valuable new long-term Home of Golf offering in every market outside the U.S.”
“This is an exciting next step for the PGA Tour, which presents a tremendous opportunity to accelerate and expand our media business outside the United States, better service our international broadcast partners, and drive fan growth with a deeply experienced strategic global partner,” added Jay Monahan, commissioner, PGA Tour. “This partnership aligns very well with the opening of PGA Tour offices in London, Tokyo and Beijing in recent years and will support our long-term objectives of growing the game of golf. It also will deliver more value to our sponsors as it presents a tremendous opportunity to engage new and diverse audiences around the world.”
The partnership will be led by Discovery’s Alex Kaplan, who is president and general manager of the new Discovery and PGA Tour venture. His management team will include the PGA Tour’s Thierry Pascal as head of distribution.
Kaplan previously was an executive vice president at Eurosport Digital, where he helped grow the Eurosport D2C business to over 1 million subscribers. Prior to joining Discovery, Kaplan was a senior vice president of global media distribution for the NBA.
“I am incredibly excited to work with David Zaslav and JB Perrette to take international coverage of PGA Tour golf to the next level,” Kaplan said. “We can’t wait to get started and build a world-class global platform and long-term distribution strategy to turn the vision of this partnership into a reality. By joining forces with the outstanding PGA Tour team, led by Jay Monahan and Rick Anderson, we have a unique opportunity to build an amazing product that will serve the fans with the golf content they love on every screen.”
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