Kevin is joined by Andy Marx, an award-winning writer and photographer, to share stories about old Hollywood, writing for Variety, and tales from growing up with Hollywood royalty.
Andy Marx is a writer, producer, composer, musician, and an extraordinary artist & photographer. He is the grandson of famed television and film actor Groucho Marx of the Marx Brothers, and songwriter Gus Kahn whose hits include It Had to be You, Dream a Little Dream, and Makin’ Whoopee. Andy's work has appeared in Variety, The Los Angeles Times, and Entertainment Weekly, among others. He is also the co-founder of the comedy website, Hollywood & Swine, and author of the book, Royalties, a multi-generational, historical romance is based on the lives of his grandfathers, Groucho Marx and Gus Kahn.
The start of audience testing and research from the perspective of a young journalist (3:46)
Andy shares his fascination with audience testing, and the fascination with early box office returns in the 1980s among journalists and publicists. Andy and Kevin also touch on the earliest type of audience screening where stars like Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd would take comedic sequences to Hollywood Boulevard to test them with audiences.
Growing up with Groucho (7:52)
Andy discusses his childhood and his relationship with his grandfather, Groucho Marx. He shares inside stories about how he became, with a nudge from Jack Nicholson, the head archivist for Groucho’s hit show, You Bet Your Life.
Audience test screening in early Hollywood (15:47)
The Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera is one of the Marx Brothers’ all-time classic comedies. Andy tells an amazing story about how it had a terrible initial screening, but due to some brilliant behind the scenes maneuvering and a quick change of venue, the screening was saved. Andy and Kevin discuss the timeless lesson of the importance of screening with the right audience.
Creative vision and the testing process (22:42)
Kevin and Andy discuss how the Director’s creative vision can either hurt or help the audience testing process. They delve into the difference between modern-day movie blockbuster projects and how those differ from the old Hollywood studio system.
Hollywood and Swine (36:36)
Andy and his writing partner, Will McArdle, were responsible for the anonymous website, Hollywood and Swine, where they lampooned Hollywood with articles like Starbucks Bans Screenwriters From All 19,435 Locations Worldwide; Writers Guild of America Vows to Fight the Decision. Andy shares stories from writing parody, and how he doesn’t think he could get away with it today.
It Had to be You (41:54)
Andy sings and plays ukulele as he takes us out with one of his Grandfather Gus Kahn’s hits, It Had to be You.
Join Kevin and his guest, Andy Marx, and learn about the history of Hollywood and audience research, and enjoy some insider stories on Kevin's podcast, Don't Kill the Messenger!
Host: Kevin Goetz
Guest: Andy Marx
Producer: Kari Campano
For more information about Andy's upcoming projects:
Royalties Book: https://www.amazon.com/Royalties-Andy-Marx-ebook/dp/B08DC2RFHN/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0
For more information about Kevin Goetz:
Audienceology Book: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Audience-ology/Kevin-Goetz/9781982186678
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @KevinGoetz360
Linked In @Kevin Goetz
Screen Engine/ASI Website: www.ScreenEngineASI.com
Podcast: Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz
Guest: Award-Winning Writer/Photgrapher Andy Marx
There's a little-known part of Hollywood that most people are not aware of known as the audience test preview. The recently released book, Audienceology, reveals this for the first time. Our podcast series, Don't Kill the Messenger, brings this book to life, taking a peek behind the curtain. And now, join author and entertainment research expert, Kevin Goetz.
Kevin Goetz (00:23):
Who remembers It Had to be You, Wonderful You, or Dream a Little Dream of Me? How about My Buddy, or Makin’ Whoopie? These are just some of the songs written by Gus Kahn, who is my next guest's maternal grandfather. His paternal grandpa was Groucho Marx. Imagine growing up with those two grandfathers who came from the golden age of Hollywood, sharing their stories. Well, Andy's here today to tell us stories from the inside. Andy himself is an accomplished Renaissance man. He's a writer, he's a producer, he's a composer and musician. He's an extraordinary artist and photographer. He kind of does it all and he's a great raconteur and I'm so excited to have him here today. He's a dear friend and we are going to have some fun. Please welcome Andy Marx. Hey buddy.
Andy Marx (01:26):
Well, thank you, sir. When you said My Buddy, you mentioned another great Gus Kahn song, My Buddy.
Kevin Goetz (01:32):
<singing> My Buddy, that one, my buddy, my buddy, right? Yeah, My Buddy. Andy, It is so good to have you here.
Andy Marx (01:39):
Well, I'm delighted. Everything you say about me I say about you because you're really the multi-hyphenated man who basically does everything.
Kevin Goetz (01:47):
You do everything well. <laugh>
Andy Marx (01:51):
Well, I don't know about that, but so do you.
Kevin Goetz (01:53):
Well, thank you.
Andy Marx (01:54):
Yeah, I hear you're doing another thing. It's like yeah, of course he is.
Kevin Goetz (01:57):
Well, Andy, you're not the guest that I would normally have come on to a podcast to talk about movie screenings because it's not typically what you do. But over our scotch and cigars and other things, you have shared with me so many wonderful stories that were passed down to you from your grandpa, from your dad. And of course, you're married to another great friend of mine, someone who I consider one of, if not the best marketing executive in the movie business, entertainment business, Terry Press. And the idea that you have been affected by test screenings is unquestionable. I want to remind our listeners that test screenings began in the earliest days of Hollywood when people like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd would take their comedic sequences up to Hollywood Boulevard and test them out with audiences just to see how they played, how they landed.
Kevin Goetz (03:05):
And it's funny because I think about how they did that and the way they did that often was they would piggyback their sequences after a feature played in a movie theater. They would go to the manager and say, hey, can you leave the audience here while I just stand in the back and listen and that's what they did. And it was great, great early learning. And so, in that time period, the Marx Brothers, who I guess were very big in vaudeville, entered the movie scene. And I know that you have a few stories to share with very similar kinds of outcomes with gaining this audience feedback. Can you share some of those with us?
Andy Marx (03:46):
Yes, and, although you say I'm not quite in the ballpark of the Audienceology people that would be coming on, I did grow up in Hollywood. So, I was a publicist for many years, and I was a journalist for many years. So, especially when I was a journalist, we were all fascinated by the whole research thing. And that was when I was working at Variety in the nineties was kind of about the time that you were making your mark and it was such a secret thing. So, I remember growing up and going to previews and things.
Kevin Goetz (04:20):
You mean sneaking into previews?
Andy Marx (04:22):
I never did the sneaking. I never did the Jeff Wells thing. I think he was the one that was sneaking in. I never did that.
Kevin Goetz (04:29):
Because you were in the industry, you're not supposed to have anyone. We don't allow people in the industry to actually attend test screenings.
Andy Marx (04:35):
All of a sudden in the nineties when I was working at Variety there became this incredible fascination with early box office. That's in the eighties. And then the whole thing about the screening thing, that became the complete object of fascination for reporters, and it also grew as a whole methodology of what you guys did. It grew and it turned you into a whole thing. But regarding Marx Brothers, I will tell you two great stories. So, you talk about Chaplin and Keaton. I wasn't aware that Chaplin did it, but I know Keaton and some others.
Kevin Goetz (05:18):
And Lloyd. Howard Lloyd did that sequence in The Navigator where he directed a school of fish underwater. Right, and it was so innovative and it didn't get laughs. Because people were so blown away by the fact that he did this thing that no one had ever seen on film. And so he cut it.
Andy Marx (05:38):
Yeah. Well, the Marx Brothers actually, of course they did test screenings, which I'll get to that in a minute, but they did something that actually almost wound up what the other ones did was when they got dropped at Paramount, their last movie had been Duck Soup.
Kevin Goetz (05:54):
How do you drop the Marx Brothers after Duck Soup, by the way?
Andy Marx (05:57):
Yeah. The movies, you know, a lot of people they're sort of mistaken information where people think that Duck Soup was a huge flop, which it was not a flop.
Kevin Goetz (06:07):
No, I thought it was a hit.
Andy Marx (06:09):
No, it was not a hit. Remember Animal Crackers and Coconuts were based on well-known Broadway. Then they did Horse Feathers, Monkey Business, and Duck Soup. And the grosses were starting to go down and they got dropped. So, after Duck Soup, they got dropped, which is ironic that Duck Soup is now, by many people, considered to be the greatest Marx Brothers movie.
Kevin Goetz (06:34):
Exactly. That's where I was going. But so funny, it's almost like that Van Gough story of not selling paintings in his lifetime, you know?
Andy Marx (06:40):
Exactly. So anyway, they got dropped by Paramount and luckily, they ended up...Chico Marx who was a gambler and a bridge player and a card player used to play in a card game with Irving Thalberg, who was running a division of MGM under Louis B. Mayer. And Thalberg saw potential in the Marx Brothers, and he convinced the boys to come over to MGM and make a movie. And actually, between Paramount and MGM, Zeppo Marx left the act. And here's a funny story -- when they were negotiating the new contract at MGM, Thalberg said, Hey, well you guys are only three brothers now instead of four, I really feel that I should be paying you less since there’s one less brother.
Kevin Goetz (07:27):
Andy Marx (07:28):
And Groucho said, are you kidding without Zeppo, we are worth more <laugh>. So, anyway, although Groucho often said that Zeppo was actually the funniest Marx Brother. Although you never saw it on stage, he apparently had the best wit of anybody.
Kevin Goetz (07:42):
By the way, before you go on with that story, Andy, I have to ask you something. Was your grandfather funny to you, like in life or was he a different guy?
Andy Marx (07:52):
He was both, but again he sometimes would be grumpy and grouchy. I mean, I can remember times when I wanted to do a bunch of Marx Brothers bits that I had memorized from movies, and he got very mad at me. He said, I don't want, you know, this was in the late sixties when the Marx thing was coming back and he said, that's all in the past. I don't want to talk about that, and blah, blah, blah. Another time when I was a student at UCSB, I wanted to do a paper on the Marx Brothers. So, I interviewed Groucho and I brought a tape recorder and he said to me, I don't let Life Magazine tape record me. I'm certainly not going to let you do it. So, you know, he could be that way. And he was serious. He could be sort of grumpy and grouchy, but he also would say funny things, and I think he had the typical...I don't think Steve Martin is probably rip-roaring funny when he is just out and about. A lot of these guys have that sort of dark personality.
Kevin Goetz (08:45):
Was he affectionate to you?
Andy Marx (08:47):
Yeah, he actually was. He was, I had a really, really great relationship with him. During the last couple of years of his life, I got myself a job basically archiving all the You Bet Your Life shows.
Kevin Goetz (09:00):
Andy Marx (09:01):
Well, so you don't know that whole story about how…
Kevin Goetz (09:04):
Andy Marx (09:05):
If you just Google how Andy Marx and Groucho saved You Bet Your Life, you'll find the article. And so, what happened was we were up at lunch one day. I graduated from college, so this was, well, we won't say a year, but, sometime in the seventies. I guess it was 73. I graduated from UCLA. So, I was up at the house having lunch. At the lunch were Elliot Gould, Jack Nicholson, and the great French mime Marcel Marceau.
Kevin Goetz (09:35):
Oh my Lord.
Andy Marx (09:35):
And I remember the other guys were drinking wine and Jack Nicholson or somebody said, Hey, let's do a toast. And then Marcel Marceau said, well I don't drink, but I'll mime the wine. And he mimed drinking wine. Can you imagine Marcel Marceau is doing mime?
Kevin Goetz (09:52):
And Elliot Gould at that time was one of the biggest box office draws.
Andy Marx (09:56):
Right, with Groucho and so was, I mean, Nicholson was just kind of starting his rise. I think. What was the movie he was in? I’m always confused.
Kevin Goetz (10:04):
Andy Marx (10:04):
The Last Detail or Cinderella Liberty, both of them were Navy movies and he was in one of them, but his career was just coming up. So they were there for lunch, the phone rings and I run to pick it up. Groucho said, go get the phone. And it's somebody from like NBC calling from like Englewood, New Jersey. And he goes, Hi, is Mr. Marx there? And I go no, this is his grandson. He told me to take the call. They said, oh, well, we just wanted to tell you that we've got a warehouse full of You Bet Your Life episodes. At this point, I think it was actually called the Best of Groucho, because it had been syndicated and they said, we have a whole warehouse of this and we're going to destroy them all unless you'd like them. So I run into the room and their group is there and I go, Hey Grandpa Groucho, NBC's on the line. They're going to destroy the films unless we take them. And then Groucho goes, I don't want them, who cares? But then Nicholson said, no, you’ve got to take them. So we all agreed to take them.
Kevin Goetz (11:02):
Oh my Lord.
Andy Marx (11:03):
I run back to the phone, and say to the guy, okay, send them all out here. And I don't really know how much stuff is coming. He goes, okay, well UPS them. They'll be there next week.
Kevin Goetz (11:14):
Andy Marx (11:14):
The next week shows up and literally seven UPS trucks pull up into Groucho’s driveway with literally I would say probably a hundred boxes of film cans of You Bet Your Life. And literally in every closet, room, the housekeeper's room, the whole thing piled up to the ceiling of these episodes. So now we're going what are we going to do? At that point, there was a producer of the original show, a guy named John Goodell. And I said, Hey, we have all these films. I'm going to hire myself as the archivist. So he actually hired me to archive all the films and then we went and we made a deal at KTLA to start screening them. And then they became syndicated.
Kevin Goetz (12:01):
Andy Marx (12:02):
It was kind of a hot thing in the early seventies. So now I had a job which was kind of cool. And my job was going up to grandpa Groucho’s every day because he had a 60-millimeter screening room and literally going through every reel of film that had been delivered. And I would just sit and watch these shows. And then Groucho would come out of his room and have lunch. And this is during the period when the whole Groucho mania started. I'm literally at the house every day for lunch. And then we would watch a few episodes. But at those lunches, Alice Cooper would come for lunch and Queen and you know…
Kevin Goetz (12:39):
Alice Cooper and Queen?
Andy Marx (12:41):
Well not on the same day.
Kevin Goetz (12:42):
No, no, no. I mean that it just doesn't seem like that would be, are you kidding?
Andy Marx (12:48):
Queen came for lunch and gave Groucho two platinum records from their two albums, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, because those were two albums that they named after Marx Brothers movies.
Kevin Goetz (13:00):
Oh my gosh, that's right.
Andy Marx (13:03):
The reason they called it A Night at the Opera was because it had Bohemian Rhapsody on it and that was very operatic. And then the next one they just said, oh, well call it A Day at the Races.
Kevin Goetz (13:11):
Do you have those? Do you have that stuff?
Andy Marx (13:13):
No, I don't know where those are. I think they're probably in the Smithsonian or something. I have no idea where they are.
Kevin Goetz (13:18):
All right, wait, let me bring you back to MGM, to Groucho at Thalberg saying we…
Andy Marx (13:27):
So, they're sitting around and they commissioned Georges Kauffman, the great playwright.
Kevin Goetz (13:34):
The great playwright. Yeah.
Andy Marx (13:36):
A guy named McGuiness had written a story for A Night at the Opera and a couple of different people worked on it. So then Irving Thalberg came up with the genius idea. This is why he was called the boy genius. He came up with the idea, which again as far as I'm concerned, I don't believe this was ever done. He said, we're going to take the comedy scenes from A Night at the Opera, which include the world-famous State Room scene. It also includes the very famous contract scene and some other scenes, and we're going to take them out on the road and you're going to perform them in front of live audiences so we can see what works. So that actually precedes taking a piece of film and showing it to a movie audience. They took actual scenes and performed them in front of audiences.
Kevin Goetz (14:27):
You know, Andy, we have a product that my company Screen Engine ASI, where it's called test drive. And what we do is we bring in professional actors and they do a live table read, essentially.
Andy Marx (14:38):
Right. I know, I know about that, which is incredible. But can you imagine
Kevin Goetz (14:41):
Andy Marx (14:42):
You’re living in Seattle and you're going and you're going to go see a performance by the Marx Brothers of them doing a bunch of scenes.
Kevin Goetz (14:48):
Unbelievable. But doesn't it make all the sense in the world because before you shoot a frame of film, you have all this intel and you know what it hearkens back to? It harkens back to Harold Lloyd, and Chaplin, and Keaton.
Andy Marx (15:01):
But this actually did it one better. It did one more thing, which is, think about it, when you do a comedy, if it's not done just right and there are a lot of laughs, you missed dialogue. So, what they did was they learned the timing.
Kevin Goetz (15:20):
Ah-huh the cadence, the timing.
Andy Marx (15:22):
Yeah, of when to not go to that line yet because there's going to be a huge audience laugh. And when you go to see A Night at the Opera with an audience, you don't miss almost a word of any jokes or anything because it was shot exactly to that thing.
Kevin Goetz (15:40):
Oh wow. Did they test that movie?
Andy Marx (15:43):
Yes, they did test the story, and here's a good story, which I know
Kevin Goetz (15:46):
The movie. Yeah.
Andy Marx (15:47):
Which I know you'll appreciate. So again, a little backstory, Louis B. Mayer and Groucho hated each other. And of course, Louis B. Mayer was running MGM at the time and Irving Thalberg had his own division at MGM, so he could kind of do whatever he wanted to. And that's why he was able to sign the Marx Brothers because Mayer didn't like them, but Thalberg said, you’ve got to trust me. This is going to be great. And they're going to be good. And you know, Mayer did not like, and really hated Groucho. So anyway, they got the movie all done and they decided to have a screening in Long Beach. And they went to Long Beach, and they screened the movie, A Night at the Opera, and it did not test well at all. And basically, standing around outside were all the executives. Thalberg, Mayer, everybody, and Mayer was kind of gleeful.
Andy Marx (16:43):
He was kind of lording it over everybody. “I told you that these guys stink, and this movie is going to be a flop and Thalberg, you were wrong.” And the whole thing and Thalberg notices that across the street is another movie theater which is playing, I believe Abbot and Costello stuff. So Thalberg goes over to the other theater, convinces the manager to run A Night at the Opera right then and the guy agrees. They all troop over there. And they had the audience in there for, you know, there was already a comedy audience in there and they said, Hey, we're going to screen this new Marx Brothers movie. And they did it, and it was a huge, it went over huge. So you had one theater saying the people didn't like it. You had the other theater where they loved it. And, as it turned out, the movie was much beloved and other than Duck Soup, is considered the greatest Marx Brothers movie ever made.
Kevin Goetz (17:37):
It does speak to recruiting the right audience. You want to get an audience that are predisposed to not rejecting a movie initially. And of course, you had a comedy audience across the street that was absolutely predisposed. And so that was a very, very smart thing that Thalberg did.
Andy Marx (17:55):
Yeah, amazing. I mean, can you imagine if they had had some really depressing movie? That worked, so the second audience was right because it is one of the most beloved comedies of all time.
Kevin Goetz (18:07):
Did they ever see eye to eye, Groucho and Louis B. Mayer or…?
Andy Marx (18:11):
I don't think so.
Kevin Goetz (18:12):
How long were they there at…?
Andy Marx (18:16):
They were there, well, what happened was their protector was Irving Thalberg, which was fabulous. So they made…
Kevin Goetz (18:22):
Then he died.
Andy Marx (18:23):
Right. So, the next movie that they made was A Day at the Races and in the middle of A Day at the Races, Thalberg died.
Kevin Goetz (18:29):
Andy Marx (18:30):
So, if A Night at the Opera is a 10, I would say A Day at the Races is an 8. Now, one thing I do love about A Day at the Races though, is that my other grandfather who you mentioned earlier, Gus Kahn, wrote songs for A Day at the Races, including one of the all-time great jazz standards, All God's Chillun Got Rhythm. And he wrote that with Bronisław Kaper who wrote another standard.
Kevin Goetz (18:56):
And you have a piano there.
Andy Marx (18:58):
I do. But I mean, not really this one.
Kevin Goetz (19:03):
Oh, I was wondering if you could play a little, can you play it on the ukulele?
Andy Marx (19:07):
<singing> All god’s chillun got rhythm, all God's…go listen to the Tony Bennett version or something.
Kevin Goetz (19:13):
I'm going to get you to play ukulele.
Andy Marx (19:16):
I’m going to play. I'll play something else. I just don't happen to know that one.
Kevin Goetz (19:18):
I'm going to take a break and you and I are going to discuss on the break exactly what you, <laugh> what you're going to play. We'll be back in just a moment. Stay with us.
Get a glimpse into a secret part of Hollywood that few are aware of, and that filmmakers rarely talk about in the new book, Audienceology, by Kevin Goetz. Each chapter is filled with never before revealed inside stories and interviews from famous studio chiefs, directors, producers, and movie stars, bringing the art and science of Audienceology into focus. Audienceology: How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love from Tiller Press at Simon and Schuster available.
Kevin Goetz (20:04):
Now we're here with Andy Marx, my buddy, my friend, my buddy, my friend, and just the most talented photographer, pianist, musician, and writer extraordinaire. He's truly one of those Renaissance men, and I adore him for that. And we just have a ton of fun when we get together. Andy, you were down in my place in Palm Springs during the holidays. He started playing the piano. My piano was owned by Herman Hupfeld who wrote the original As Time Goes By on that piano.
Andy Marx (20:39):
Yes, now I'm going to scold you though. You need to get that piano worked on. You have one of the most…
Kevin Goetz (20:43):
I know you can only do so much. You can only do so much with it.
Andy Marx (20:50):
You need to get somebody down there. That whole piano could be whatever. I mean, what a great, I know
Kevin Goetz (20:54):
Andy Marx (20:55):
And I take good care of it.
Kevin Goetz (20:58):
Well, I take good care of mine, but it's the desert weather. But Andy, we had a ton of fun, and sang, and played, and all of that.
Andy Marx (21:07):
That was so fun.
Kevin Goetz (21:08):
Andy, as a writer, I'm curious to know, go back to that time when you were starting out at Rogers and Cowan and working as a unit publicist on so many movies. Were test screenings part of the conversation? Now, you know, you mentioned it was a sort of, it was a secret thing, and everyone wanted to get intel and information. Were you ever informed as a journalist or as a publicist from a test screening? Do you remember any of that?
Andy Marx (21:35):
Well, I mean, I worked at Warner Brothers. I was there when Richard Del Belso was there.
Kevin Goetz (21:40):
Richard Del Belso was one of the people that I think came from Gray Advertising. Is that right?
Andy Marx (21:45):
Yeah. When I, it was funny, because when I started as a junior publicist at Warner Brothers it was in the early eighties and it was Joel Gray, and Sandy Reisenbach.
Kevin Goetz (21:55):
No, Joel Wayne.
Andy Marx (21:56):
I mean Joel Wayne.
Kevin Goetz (21:58):
Joel Gray. Yeah, after his Oscar, he decided to go into marketing. <laugh> But wait a minute. It was, it was Sandy Reisenbach that brought everyone. Right.
Andy Marx (22:07):
Right. And, and so Richard Del Belso was there. So of course, you know, that was probably the first time I ever knew. Although I do remember Rogers and Cowan’s Paul Bloch who is no longer with us.
Kevin Goetz (22:21):
Andy Marx (22:21):
But he hired me. I remember that Elliot Gould was a client. And I remember, I don't remember what the movie was, but I remember going, I believe it was a Western, and we went. I remember going to some kind of a screening for this Elliot Gould movie, but again, it was so different then.
Kevin Goetz (22:42):
You know you and I share something as artists. We're both from creative backgrounds and it's where we sort of come together as friends. What amazes me, and I'd like your take on this, are directors, particularly directors who resist the screening process and who claim that it kind of impedes their vision, their creative vision. And I'd like to know how you stand on that issue, because I have a very particular opinion about it myself.
Andy Marx (23:14):
I mean I can probably guess your opinion and I, believe it or not, I would side with you because…
Kevin Goetz (23:20):
I do believe it, but why, why do you side with me?
Andy Marx (23:23):
Well, because I think if the director wants to go off and shoot a movie on his iPhone, you know, and everybody makes a movie for $20,000, when you're talking about huge sums of money, $50 million and adding. Unfortunately, and I don't care what you say about movies, it's a product and you can be as artistic and whatever as you want, when you're in the game here, and at your level, it's a product. And I remember once I was in a meeting when I got hired to be the unit publicist on Above the Law, which was the first Steven Segal movie. And I remember we all got summoned to a meeting at Warner Brothers and Rob Friedman was there. I think at that point, I guess Sandy was still there, but anyway, Rob was there, and this was kind of Rob's thing. And Steven Segal was there, and Paul Bloch was there. And I always remember Rob Friedman saying movies do not have a particularly long shelf life. If they don't catch on in the first weekend… He was sort of explaining this to Steven Segal who was new, this was his first movie, never done anything. He was Michael Ovitz's karate teacher. He got this role in this movie, and he was sort of like, oh, well can't we just let it play out for a while? Rob said, no, you literally have a weekend for a thing to catch on and that's it. But I've always kind of remembered that. And you know, it's true. It's not like a fine wine that ages.
Kevin Goetz (24:55):
I like to tell directors who are cynical or any person who is cynical to embark on a test screening process is: audiences will help you to actualize or bring your vision into better clarity than not having it. You know? And as a result of people sometimes not testing, I've noticed a real indulgence. If the audience doesn't have a voice at the table, I'm not saying that you dumb anything down. I'm saying that what you set out to communicate may not actually be what was communicated. So the audience is in fact saying, I'm really disappointed by this ending. It doesn't have to be a happy ending, but you had me on the edge of my seat for two hours, and then you just suck the air out of the room, essentially. Right? And that was a bummer.
Andy Marx (25:46):
You’ve got Fatal Attraction.
Kevin Goetz (25:47):
Well, that's one of many, I mean, ending stories.
Andy Marx (25:50):
You have to remember that creative people, they don't like anybody telling them, because they think what they're doing is the greatest thing. Everybody who is creative thinks whatever they're doing is the greatest thing they've ever done, and it's great, and it doesn't need any work, and they don't like anybody telling them that it could be better.
Kevin Goetz (26:08):
Well, to your point, the art form, our art form in movies is not just about the director and/or producer's vision, right? It also could not be possible without many artists contributing. It's a different kind of art form. So, you have…
Andy Marx (26:24):
And all that money.
Kevin Goetz (26:26):
Well, I didn't go there yet, but you have a production designer, editor, cinematographer, and art director. All of those very key people, even the casting directors are integral to the success of a movie. And so to think of it like a painting, if you don't like your painting, you put it in the back of your closet, You know, if you write a novel and you don't like the novel, put it in the back of your drawer, but not in a movie. And then you have the financial component and somebody else financing your movie. Yeah, they get a voice if they hand you $50 million to make the most commercial product, but it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice integrity or the vision. I actually think it could make it more realized. And that's my whole pitch whenever I speak to people who are cynical. I think you're right. You keep saying those creatives, those creatives. Well, as creatives, you and I, if we had a movie, we would welcome the fact that we would have some audience feedback to guide it, not to make final decisions, not to be the end all be all, but to inform. I mean, what's a screening except information gathering, right? You're getting information and then you can choose to act on it or not.
Andy Marx (27:40):
Absolutely. Although I do think, because you use us as an example, maybe to get to the point of somebody like Michael Bay or to be those people, maybe you just have to have the giantist ego of all time. And obviously, if somebody handed me, let's say I wrote a script and somebody said, Hey, this is great. I would love you to direct it. I would welcome anything that would help make the movie better. And again, to be Michael Bay, Jim Cameron, you probably have to be in a completely different mindset where you're going I don't need anybody to tell me, you know what.
Kevin Goetz (28:17):
Yes, but Michael Bay, Jim Cameron, Marty Scorsese, they really embrace audience feedback. And I think the great filmmakers do. And if you go back to what we talked about earlier in the old MGM days from Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch, and William Wilder and John Ford, they all tested their pictures. They all sought audience feedback. I think it's an arrogance by some sort of holdover of the auteur of the seventies that thinks that audiences will somehow damage their movie. But I think that it's the opposite.
Andy Marx (29:00):
I think the other thing that's kind of different now than then. When you talk about people like John Ford and those people, think of the output that those people did. You know, now when somebody, again, take anybody, Scorsese or anybody. It's like four years, or it's years between each project when that system existed. John Ford made a movie, and he was onto the next one, you know? And that's not to say that he didn't take an interest, but he wasn't just laser-focused on this one. He was also getting ready to prep the other one and do that. And he was gone. He would probably make one of those westerns, be done, and then be off somewhere else making another one fairly quickly.
Kevin Goetz (29:42):
You're absolutely right. When you look at the filmography of some of the old directors who were under contract, they churn them out and they had bodies of work as a result. And they also had, like, when we talked about the Marx Brothers, they had some great movies in their canon and some that were not as good, but they had the chance to keep working at their craft over and over again.
Andy Marx (30:07):
You're probably familiar with this because you just mentioned Casa Blanca and your piano, the great director, Michael Curtiz, who not only directed Casa Blanca, he actually directed the Gus Kahn biopic, I'll See You in My Dreams. You know, Casa Blanca, the sort of romantic wartime thing. He did a biopic, Gus Kahn, he did The Common Sheriffs, an incredible Western. I mean, his filmography is unbelievable, but again, part of it was probably that the studios probably had them do certain kinds of stuff, and again, like Billy Wilder. Billy Wilder was smart that he didn't just say, I'm only going to do comedies.
Kevin Goetz (30:45):
Andy Marx (30:46):
Like compare his career. Because if you look at, if you look at all the great careers of comedy people, the careers lasted about 10 years. Compare the career of Preston Sturgis and the career of Billy Wilder. Okay, Preston Sturgis made to me, what is one of the finest movies ever made, Sullivan's Travels, amongst others. He made like one movie that wasn't a comedy.
Kevin Goetz (31:13):
I think the best comparison would be a Ron Howard or a Steven Spielberg who have great bodies of work in multiple genres, stretching themselves. That was Billy Wilder.
Andy Marx (31:25):
He did Some Like it Hot, and he did Sunset Boulevard.
Kevin Goetz (31:27):
I know it's extraordinary.
Andy Marx (31:29):
You don't see that so much kind of today, although you do see it is funny because I think it's, it's partly to do with the cancel culture and the me too thing and everything, and I think I've read, I guess it's Todd Phillips was saying, Todd Phillips, all he made were like wacky comedies that had all kinds of offensive humor and everything. And Todd Phillips has basically said you can't make those movies anymore. So, then he made The Joker.
Kevin Goetz (31:59):
And well that shows you what a terrific filmmaker he is.
Andy Marx (32:03):
He is. But if that whole thing hadn't happened, he…
Kevin Goetz (32:06):
I agree with you, you get stuck in a certain kind of success warp, right?
Andy Marx (32:11):
Right. And the same with his partner, Craig, I mean they wrote some scripts together. Craig Mazin, I think they both wrote Wedding Crashers, didn't they? Or he directed it.
Kevin Goetz (32:21):
Right. I don't, I don't know.
Andy Marx (32:24):
Craig Mazin, I think might have written or been one of the writers and there were a few writers, but then Craig Mazin wrote Chernobyl. So, I mean, he went from doing these kind of offensive…
Kevin Goetz (32:35):
Isn't that something I did not know that. That's really interesting. And you know, that to me is about the craft. It's so interesting stars today. If we have a conversation about movie stars, the lack of movie stars today. Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio are sort of the last of a breed of big movie stars because they have a bunch of movies that have been important movies, but we are not honing and creating talent that can work ongoing and multiple. There are of course people like the wonderful Andrew Garfield. I mean, if you look at him in Eyes of Tammy Faye, and then you look at him in Tick Tick Boom, which I think is one of, if not the best movie of the year, you get a good sense of just what I'm talking about, but we need to do more of that if we're going to hope to sort of have a new crop of movie stars.
Andy Marx (33:36):
Do you think part of that because Terry and I have talked about this, do you think part of the allure, the movie star, is one of the reasons it's little bit dead? I mean, it kind of goes through the same thing about the Academy Awards that in the old days, movie stars were a little more mysterious. You know, you didn't see them. That's why the Academy Awards now doesn't quite work so much anymore because in the old days, that was the only time that you would actually see real live movie stars going to the Academy. Now, they have Instagram accounts, they're everywhere and I'm wondering that it doesn't have anything to do with the talent, but there's no mystery other than, you know, George Clooney and, and I, I don't, I mean, I don't know is Leonardo de Caprio even on social media? I never hear anything, you know, so again, they have that little bit of a veil around them.
Kevin Goetz (34:26):
Well, I think that there's a definite truth in creating a mystique around a star, but now that movies and television have often become interchangeable, it has allowed people of extraordinarily lesser talent, from YouTube stars and stuff like that, to emerge as celebrities. So the word celebrity is where your mystique comes in. There's no sense of mystique by and large anymore. Everyone's dirty laundry is out and ripe for the telling. But I will say that I think a strong reason is just consumer behavior. I think consumers are just changing and I have a lot of data to back up my claim. Gen Zs and half of millennials just don't care about watching live events. They don't care about awards the way we do, they don't care about movies in the same way that you and I do. We can lament. We could say how sad it is and talk about how the demise of…, and there is, we have to accept the fact that it's not an indictment on the Oscars. It's not an indictment on the Academy Awards. It's an indictment of consumer behaviors and how they're changing and shifting. Hey, before we break, because we could talk for six hours easily and have done so.
Andy Marx (35:51):
I think you and I just need to do a show together.
Kevin Goetz (35:53):
We've talked about it, and I think that's in our cards, but I want to go to…
Andy Marx (35:58):
And if we do that, we're going to have a piano and everything. We're going to do a whole, like, it'll be like a Tonight Show, and I'll accompany you.
Kevin Goetz (36:05):
I love that. I love that. Well, I did promise that I would touch on Hollywood and Swine. I have to just say that when you wrote that ongoing lampoon and you were actually anonymous for quite a while, no one knew who you were. I was beside myself. It was so well written, so clever, so funny. And I wish that you picked it up again. I'm wondering though, if without the anonymity, can it still have the bite that it has and that's where…
Andy Marx (36:36):
Definitely have the bite, but here's one of the things that my, I have to give some credit to my partner Will McArdle who was my writing partner, and we came up with that and the guy is absolutely hysterically funny. I mean, between the two of us, it was great. But I will tell you a lot has changed in the media land. You know, we were doing that in 2012, okay. And it was parody, and you really can't do parody anymore on the internet. I mean, because the only place that can really still do parody is The Onion because they started doing it at the beginning of the internet and they were like the first there. And you know, the most famous story that we did was the, and we'd only been doing Hollywood and Swine for about a week, and it was the story about how Starbucks was banning all screenwriters from all 50,000 locations around the world because it just said screenwriters, you know, just basically do nothing but sit in there all day and take up everybody else's space. So anyways, a very <crosstalk> and it went totally viral, okay. But the way that we were able to do that was, and it didn't work for every story, but for some reason that one caught on, I guess, because it was so in the pocket and people thought, yeah, it's about time that they ban them because you go into Starbucks, and everybody is in there writing the screenplay no matter where you are. And so, you can't do that. Like in other words, I could go on my Facebook thing and I could post that story and I'd go, Hey, did you see this? But they really cracked down now because unfortunately, parody falls into fake information now.
Kevin Goetz (38:18):
Andy Marx (38:18):
You really just can't you know, and we were a little ahead of the game.
Kevin Goetz (38:23):
You know who has taken that mantle, I think, is Richard Rushfield.
Andy Marx (38:28):
Yeah. Is he doing parody?
Kevin Goetz (38:30):
Well, no, but he writes with such an acerbic and witty style. I'm crazy about him.
Andy Marx (38:38):
Oh no, no he's great. But he's like a smart guy, but really right. We were just lampooning.
Kevin Goetz (38:42):
Yeah. No, no, but you're smart too, but I'm saying his is, it's not parody certainly, but it's biting and it's entertaining, I guess.
Andy Marx (38:50):
I'd like to go work for the Ankler. I could, I could do that, trust me. I had that column at Variety that I wrote called Trademarx.
Kevin Goetz (38:59):
Oh, I love it.
Andy Marx (39:01):
You know, I actually wanted to call, it's funny because Hollywood and Swine was much later than when I worked at Variety, but I went to Peter Bart. He said I'm going to let you do a humor column. I go, okay great. And he goes, what do you want to call it? And I said Hollywood and Swine. He goes, no, no, no, we can't do that. We'll have to do something like, so he wouldn't let me. So, if they had gotten Hollywood and Swine, I wouldn't have been able to do it on my own. So thank Peter Bart.
Kevin Goetz (39:27):
<laugh> Thank you, Peter.
Andy Marx (39:29):
I don't know if we should mention this since it might hit too close to home. Jay Penske actually kind of, they didn't buy Hollywood and Swine, but they made a deal with us that we were actually in Variety. We were on the back page of Variety, which was incredible. But we, we did write a story. We don't have to mention it, but we did write a story that unfortunately Yahoo News thought was a real story and it literally went viral and everybody thought it was real. So…
Kevin Goetz (40:00):
Let's not mention it. It's too close to my home.
Andy Marx (40:04):
<laugh> I know it is, so that's why we won't mention, <laugh> and then Nikki Finke outed us. You know, she found out who…
Kevin Goetz (40:12):
Oh, is that who outed you? It was Nikki?
Andy Marx (40:14):
It sort of killed the whole thing, but it was a fun project.
Kevin Goetz (40:19):
Well, Andy, again, before we break. Music is such a big part of your life. We mentioned the marriage of Gus and Groucho working together.
Andy Marx (40:29):
I’m writing a non-fiction book about growing up with all these people.
Kevin Goetz (40:30):
Andy Marx (40:31):
My title is Groucho Gus, Grace, and Me. So, it's Groucho Marx, Gus Kahn, Grace Kahn, and me.
Kevin Goetz (40:39):
Who is Grace? Why Grace Kahn,
Andy Marx (40:41):
Because Grace was the wife of Gus Kahn who basically raised me and taught me everything know.
Kevin Goetz (40:46):
But what about Groucho's wife?
Andy Marx (40:48):
No, no, no. She was the original Auntie Mame.
Kevin Goetz (40:50):
Well, that's why I'm asking the question. I didn't mean who's Grace, but I get it. I thought…
Andy Marx (40:55):
No, because you have to remember, Gus Kahn died in 1941 and you mentioned my book, Royalties. I actually wrote a novel, but it's all very loosely based on Groucho, Gus, and Grace, who I always suspected was in the middle of the…I always thought that maybe the two of them were both in love with her, but GU God. Oh, because well read the book, Royalties. It's available everywhere and
Kevin Goetz (41:22):
Well, I was just going to say, Andy, what's your website because people can learn about your book, they can learn about your photography?
Andy Marx (41:28):
Kevin Goetz (41:30):
M A R X. AndyMarx.com.
Andy Marx (41:34):
Unless it's Neil who thinks it's M A R K S.
Kevin Goetz (41:37):
Do me a favor, Andy, can you take us out with a little ukulele, but it has to be Gus Kahn, something Gus Kahn.
Andy Marx (41:42):
It’s going to be Gus Kahn. Who else is it going to be, Sammy Kahn? I mean, what do you want?
Kevin Goetz (41:45):
I love it.
Andy Marx (41:46):
Okay. How about a little? You going to join me?
Kevin Goetz (41:50):
I'm going to just listen.
Andy Marx (41:54):
<singing> Oh, it had to be you. Oh, I wander around then finally found that somebody who could make me be true, could make me be true. Could make me be blue, make me be blue and even laugh. Just to be sad.
Kevin Goetz (42:20):
<singing> Thinking of you.
Andy Marx (42:24):
<singing> Some others I've seen, never be me. Try to be also, ever cross, but they wouldn't do, No they would do.
Kevin Goetz (42:39):
Andy Marx (42:41):
<singing> Nobody else gave me a thrill with all your faults I love you still
Kevin Goetz (42:49):
<singing> Had to be you wonderful you, it had to be you.
Andy Marx (43:06):
<singing> Had to, it had to be you. It had to be you, you.
Kevin Goetz (43:27):
Ah, and Andy, I cannot thank you enough for this time together. It's been wonderful. It's been wonderful. Of course you're coming back. And before we do our own show, if you would like to learn more about my book and these types of stories, please do pick up a copy of Audienceology. It's available on Amazon or wherever books are sold. There's also an audio version. And if you want to check out a trailer, you can always go to KevinGoetz360.com and check it out. Next time on our podcast, Don't Kill the Messenger, we'll welcome. David Leitch and Kelly McCormick, the husband and wife director and producer team who are billion-dollar filmmakers working on such pictures as John Wick, Atomic Blonde Deadpool2, Hobbs and Shaw, and the upcoming Bullet Train starring Brad Pitt. Until then, I'm Kevin Goetz, and to you, our listeners, I appreciate you being part of the moviemaking process. Your opinions matter. See you soon.
Host: Kevin Goetz
Guest: Andy Marx
Producer: Kari Campano