Paul Mazursky, 80, has always been a one-of-a-kind Hollywood filmmaker. He started out as an actor, wrote (often with a partner), directed and produced his films, and he hasn’t stopped. He directed a 2006 documentary about a meeting of Hassidic Jews in the Ukraine (Yippee), directs theater and is prepping a Broadway musical version of Moon Over Parador. The director flourished inside the studio system during the 70s and 80s, a time when execs allowed all sorts of things to happen that they wouldn’t today. Movies didn’t cost as much. A single exec actually in charge of production could greenlight a movie. We talk about this in the flip cam interview below, as well as starting off his film acting career in 1953 on Stanley Kubrick’s first film, Fear and Desire, Mazursky and Julie Taymor’s different takes on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and what’s wrong with Hollywood today, where it’s hard to imagine any studio head greenlighting a film about an old man and his cat.
Over a string of strong movies, many of them hits (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Moscow on the Hudson), Mazursky attacked a wide range of subjects with brio, humor and humanity. He earned four screenplay Oscar nominations and directed six actors to Oscar noms, including the late Jill Clayburgh (A Married Woman) and Art Carney, who won for Harry & Tonto, which screened Thursday at the L.A. County Museum, followed by a Mazursky Q & A. There’s talk of a remake of his iconic comedy Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice in 3-D (he responds here). The director, who hangs with his screenwriter pals at the Farmer’s Market every week and is a pleasure to listen to at any dinner party, met with me at his office in Beverly Hills.