Five Favorite Films with Bob Balaban

Plus, the actor, writer, director and Moonrise Kingdom narrator on working with Wes Anderson, directing kids, and his memories of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters.

Droll, erudite and extremely affable, Bob Balaban is the kind of guy you could spend hours listening to -- which is probably why Wes Anderson cast him as New Penzance's all-purpose meteorologist narrator in his latest hit, Moonrise Kingdom. Balaban's own career as an actor, writer and director goes way back, and via many curious avenues: He made his debut in the classic Midnight Cowboy, has worked with the likes of Woody Allen, Ken Russell and Christopher Guest, and famously appeared as François Truffaut's interpreter in Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He's also directed and produced film and TV, appeared in theater, and been the NBC executive responsible for sinking Seinfeld -- on TV, anyway. With Moonrise Kingdom expanding nationally this week, sat down for a talk with Balaban about the film, his experience working with Wes Anderson, and much more. During the course of the interview, he also talked about five of his favorite films.


La Ronde (Max Ophüls, 1950; 100% Tomatometer)

Well I always have a hard time with this. As we get older or grow or whatever, it's always changing, because you just see more movies, for one thing, so you change. One of my most favorite movies, I think a perennial favorite movie of mine is La Ronde. I don't know how well acquainted you are with it. It's one of my favorite movies. Anton Walbrook is one of the stars, who also the stars of another one of my favorite movies, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. He's the guy who's that German who has the seven-minute monologue with the moving camera that never cuts, and he breaks down during it.




The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1943; 95% Tomatometer)

Those are two favorites of mine.

Colonel Blimp really is something else, isn't it?

Yeah -- and I was surprised. I didn't think I'd love it. I saw pieces of it and I kept avoiding watching it, because it seemed so artificial and I didn't get the acting style, but when I watched the whole movie I just thought it was the most amazing movie. I loved it. And Deborah Kerr was just great. I always liked her, but she was just fantastic in this.




The Palm Beach Story / The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (Preston Sturges, 1942/1944; 100/90% Tomatometer)

I do like... I'm a big Preston Sturges fan. I like all of them, but I especially like, probably Palm Beach Story, and Miracle at Morgan's Creek is one of my favorites. I happen to love it. I think it's maybe one of my favorite... 20 movies, 'cause there's so many great things.




The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel-Donnersmarck, 2006; 93% Tomatometer)

Another foreign film was probably The Lives of Others. I thought that was pretty great.




E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982; 98% Tomatometer)

I love E.T., you know. I think E.T. 's great. Those scenes with the kids are quite amazing.

Some of the greatest direction of kids there, that's for sure.

And that's not an accident. He's been consistent, Steven, in his whole career doing that.



Next, Balaban on working with Wes Anderson on Moonrise Kingdom, directing kids and his memories of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Comments

Josh Mallalieu

Josh Mallalieu

Very interesting choices. Lives of Others is only one I've seen and is great!

Jun 27 - 12:47 PM

Scott Hodnett

Scott Hodnett

You haven't seen E.T.??

Jun 27 - 01:28 PM

Andrew Targaryen

Andrew Targaryen

This poor man has not lived until he has seen E.T.

Jun 30 - 06:18 AM

tgibfo

Matt Ritchey

Bob Balaban is awesome.

Jun 27 - 01:04 PM

Scott Hodnett

Scott Hodnett

You haven't seen E.T.??

Jun 27 - 01:28 PM

Andrew Targaryen

Andrew Targaryen

This poor man has not lived until he has seen E.T.

Jun 30 - 06:18 AM

Michael Paraskevas

Michael Paraskevas

really? thought you would have picked Midnight Cowboy.....

Jun 27 - 01:33 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

He's trying to forget his days of picking up hustlers in restrooms.

Jun 27 - 02:42 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

He's trying to forget his days of picking up hustlers in restrooms.

Jun 27 - 02:42 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Well, I guess I should get around to watching "Colonial Blimp" then. I need to see more Ophuls too, having only seen "Caught" and "House of Pleasure". But I love Sturges, although "Sullivan's Travels" is my favorite, "Lives of Others" might be the best German film of the last decade, and "E.T." is timeless.

And I love little Bob. Great character actor, probably best known now for his roles in Christopher Guest's mocks and "Russell" on Seinfeld. Excellent deadpan comedian. Also had great roles in "Catch 22", "Close Encounters", "2010", "Bob Roberts", and "Gosford Park". Plus he directed the hilarious "Parents", a great little forgotten gem from the 80s.

Jun 27 - 02:54 PM

Christopher Kulik

Christopher Kulik

Hard to believe Balaban's first acting gig was as a student who ends up giving Jon Voight a blowjob in a New York theater, isn't it? Indeed, a fine resume he has.

By the way, I highly recommend both THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... and LOLA MONTES when it comes to prime Ophuls. A truly magnificent director.

Jun 28 - 12:30 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

And then he trys to get Voight to beat him up. That rough trade.

More Ophuls. Too many good movies. I hope he's got some in the public domain. Archives.org is pretty good for old flicks.

Jun 28 - 03:25 PM

celluloid

Bob Good

Don't forget LE PLAISIR! Another wonderful Ophuls film. Especially for all the PTA and Stanley Kubrick fans out there (and I know there are plenty on this site), Ophuls's movies are an absolute must. Huge influence on both of them.

Jun 29 - 02:26 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Thanks!

Jun 30 - 07:45 PM

Epic Barney Funk

Barney Funk

I have only seen ET and it is AWESOME! I guess I have some work to do in seeing the others. Haven't even really heard of them before.

Jun 27 - 03:34 PM

Movie Fail

Soren Hough

After all of the Christopher Guest comedies that Balaban did, a Wes Anderson film seemed like an appropriate fit for him.

Jun 27 - 07:49 PM

Brantastic16

Brandon Williamson

Weird, I just watched La Ronde yesterday. Good movie.

Jun 27 - 11:04 PM

Christopher Kulik

Christopher Kulik

Hard to believe Balaban's first acting gig was as a student who ends up giving Jon Voight a blowjob in a New York theater, isn't it? Indeed, a fine resume he has.

By the way, I highly recommend both THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... and LOLA MONTES when it comes to prime Ophuls. A truly magnificent director.

Jun 28 - 12:30 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

And then he trys to get Voight to beat him up. That rough trade.

More Ophuls. Too many good movies. I hope he's got some in the public domain. Archives.org is pretty good for old flicks.

Jun 28 - 03:25 PM

celluloid

Bob Good

Don't forget LE PLAISIR! Another wonderful Ophuls film. Especially for all the PTA and Stanley Kubrick fans out there (and I know there are plenty on this site), Ophuls's movies are an absolute must. Huge influence on both of them.

Jun 29 - 02:26 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Thanks!

Jun 30 - 07:45 PM

Stefans Zvejnieks

Stefans Zvejnieks

Boring list, aside from The Lives of Others.

Jun 28 - 02:46 AM

Dre M.

Dre M.

Boring how? I've seen 3 out of the 5 films and each has been entertaining. Bob's choices have inspired me to see the other two.

Jun 28 - 02:32 PM

D P.

D P

Agreed. A boring list would be the usual Tarantino//Fincher picks with a token "old" movie thrown in.

Dec 28 - 09:38 PM

Dre M.

Dre M.

Boring how? I've seen 3 out of the 5 films and each has been entertaining. Bob's choices have inspired me to see the other two.

Jun 28 - 02:32 PM

D P.

D P

Agreed. A boring list would be the usual Tarantino//Fincher picks with a token "old" movie thrown in.

Dec 28 - 09:38 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

And then he trys to get Voight to beat him up. That rough trade.

More Ophuls. Too many good movies. I hope he's got some in the public domain. Archives.org is pretty good for old flicks.

Jun 28 - 03:25 PM

Nathan S.

Nathan Sellers

Love this list!

Jun 29 - 12:04 AM

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