Peter Bogdanovich was part of the wave of “New Hollywood” directors, which included William Friedkin, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Michael Cimino and Francis Ford Coppola. His most critically acclaimed film is THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971).
After spending most of his teens studying acting with the legendary Stella Adler, and working as an actor in live TV and various theaters around the country—including the New York and the American Shakespeare Festivals—Bogdanovich, at age 20, began directing plays off-Broadway and in New York summer theater. He also wrote a series of three monographs for the Museum of Modern Art on Orson Welles, Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock; the first retrospective studies of these directors in America. Bogdanovich also began writing a classic series of feature articles and profiles for Esquire such as the groundbreaking Humphrey Bogart tribute, as well as definitive pieces on James Stewart, Jerry Lewis and John Ford among others.
In 1966, he began working in movies, first as Roger Corman’s assistant on the hit The Wild Angels; Bogdanovich, without credit, re-wrote most of the script and directed the second unit. Within a year, Corman financed Bogdanovich’s first film as director-writer-producer-actor, the cult classic Targets (1968), starring Boris Karloff in his last great film role virtually playing himself. In 1971, Bogdanovich commanded the approving attention of both critics and public with THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, a brilliant look at small-town Texan-American life in the early 1950s starring then unknowns Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman and other newcomers. The film won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay (which Bogdanovich co-wrote with novelist Larry McMurtry), the British Academy Award for Best Screenplay and received a total of eight Academy Award nominations, including three for Bogdanovich; Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman won for Best Supporting Actor and Actress. A couple of years ago, the Library of Congress designated the film as a National Treasure.
An unapologetic popularizer of the classic Hollywood era of great movie makers, Bogdanovich had a second huge success in 1972 with WHAT’S UP, DOC?, a madcap romantic farce starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal made in the style of ‘30s screwball comedy. It won The Writers’ Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay, on which Bogdanovich had worked with Buck Henry, David Newman and Bob Benton. One year later, he recreated a memorable vision of rural ‘30s America with Paper Moon (1973), a Depression Era tale about a pair of unlikely con artists, which received four Academy Award nominations and nabbed a Supporting Actress Oscar for 9-year-old Tatum O’Neal in her screen debut, the youngest performer ever to win an Academy Award. The film also earned the Silver Shell at The San Sebastian Film Festival.
Bogdanovich followed this up with his critically acclaimed version of Henry James’ classic Daisy Miller (1974), for which he was named Best Director at the Brussels Film Festival. Another highly praised drama followed with Bogdanovich’s version of the Paul Theroux novel Saint Jack (1979) starring Ben Gazzara and Denholm Elliot, which told the story of an amiable and ambitious American pimp living in Singapore. Shot entirely on location, the picture received the coveted Critics Prize at the Venice Film Festival. After directing Audrey Hepburn in her last starring picture—the bittersweet romantic comedy They All Laughed (1981) co-starring Gazzara, John Ritter and Dorothy Stratten, and filmed in New York—Bogdanovich scored another major triumph with 1985’s Mask, starring Cher and Eric Stoltz in the true story of a boy whose face is terribly disfigured by a rare disease and his mother who has instilled a sense of confidence and love in her son. The film earned an Academy Award and Cher won the Best Actress Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Before guiding Michael Frayn’s classic theater comedy Noises Off… (1992) to the screen for Steven Spielberg’s company, with an all-star cast including Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve and Carol Burnett, Bogdanovich directed the well-received sequel to THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, based on Larry McMurtry’s best seller, Texasville (1990). In 2001, Bogdanovich again received critical praise and commercial success with The Cat’s Meow. This suspenseful and entertaining satirical drama tells the true story of a mysterious 1924 death on board the yacht of William Randolph Hearst and stars Kirsten Dunst (as Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies), Eddie Izzard (as Charlie Chaplin), Edward Herrmann (as Hearst) and Jennifer Tilly (as Louella Parsons), all of whom garnered glowing notices.
Having published over 12 books on various aspects of film and filmmaking, Bogdanovich currently has four of his works in print: the bestselling Who the Devil Made It (1997), which includes interviews with 16 legendary directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, George Cukor and Howard Hawks (five printings in hardcover; currently 4th paperback printing). It also received a Special Citation from the Los Angeles Film Critics’ Association, as well as the coveted Barbari Award from the Italian Film Critics’ Association; Peter Bogdanovich’s Movie of the Week (1999), a collection of pieces on 52 film recommendations for a year of classics (in its 3rd printing); This is Orson Welles (revised and expanded edition 1998) comprised of his conversations over a period of five years with the nearly mythological co-author Orson Welles (in its 5th printing, already translated into five foreign languages); and his classic interview book, John Ford, which has been continuously in print since its first edition in 1967.
In 2004, the premiere of Bogdanovich’s 3-hour ABC special The Mystery of Natalie Wood aired, as well as his hard-hitting docudrama about the infamous ballplayer Pete Rose called Hustle. At the end of the year, Knopf published Bogdanovich’s latest book, Who the Hell’s in It, which features chapters on 25 stars he knew and worked with including Cary Grant, James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, James Cagney, Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. Also shown was the episode he directed, “Sentimental Education,” for the 5th season of the award-winning HBO series The Sopranos, in which he had the recurring role of the shrink’s (Lorraine Bracco’s) shrink for four seasons.
In 2007, he directed the four-hour documentary Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Runnin’ Down a Dream about Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, which chronicled the history of the band from its inception as Mudcrutch right up to the 30th anniversary concert in Petty’s hometown of Gainesville, FL. The movie features interviews with George Harrison, Eddie Vedder, Stevie Nicks, Dave Grohl, Jeff Lynne, Rick Rubin, Johnny Depp, Jackson Browne and more. Petty’s solo career is also touched on as is his time with The Traveling Wilburys. The film was awarded the 2009 Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video.
The year 2015 saw the wide release of Bogdanovich’s latest film, a screwball comedy called She’s Funny That Way. It starred Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and a terrific ensemble cast. Shot in New York, it had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival where it was warmly received with a 10-minute standing ovation. It was subsequently shown at festivals in Tokyo, Monte Carlo and Palm Springs: reactions always the same—huge laughs, sustained applause.
Bogdanovich is currently working on a long-term cherished project, preparing a final cut of Orson Welles’ last film The Other Side of the Wind, which completed shooting in the late 70s but has yet to be edited in its entirety. Bogdanovich co-stars in the picture with John Huston, and has been trying to complete the film since Welles’ death in 1985. He is also preparing his next picture, an elaborate comedy-drama/fantasy (involving six ghosts) called Wait for Me, which will be shot entirely in Europe and is produced by Brett Ratner and Axel Kuschevatzky (2009 Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Film The Secret in Their Eyes).
In 2016, Ratpac and Warner Home Video released the Bill Teck directed documentary, One Day Since Yesterday, covering much of Bogdanovich’s career but focusing on the making of They All Laughed and the tragedy that followed with the murder of his fiancée, the actress Dorothy Stratten.
Bogdanovich is also in the process of finishing his next book for Knopf, an intimate memoir titled But What I Really Want to Do is Direct: My First Picture Shows 1965-1971 based on the candid diaries he kept during those years.