- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival will unfold virtually on the Turner Classic Movies Channel and HBO Max, with more than 100 films and a tribute to comedian Martin Short — featuring an interview with TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz and screenings of the Short films Innerspace and Clifford. Short, a 71-year-old Canadian Saturday Night Live alumnus and star of films like Three Amigos and Father of the Bride, talked with THR about what’s lost when comedies don’t play in theaters, making his new Hulu series with Selena Gomez and Steve Martin, and finding comfort during the pandemic in the glamour of classic film.
What makes a film a classic?
You never know when you’re making something if it’s going to work. You don’t have a clue. That’s why the wise ones always save 20 percent of their budget for a reshoot. Unless you’re Hitchcock and you can visualize the whole thing before you start. It’s a precarious situation, but what becomes a classic is not because the budget was $800 million, no, it was because the audience responded emotionally to it and wanted to see it again throughout their lifetime.
They’re showing Innerspace and Clifford on HBO Max as part of a tribute to you. People didn’t think of those films as classics at the time.
Innerspace received the reviews that we would write ourselves. It won an Academy Award for special effects. The issue was never the film. It was expected to be a big hit, and it wasn’t. Because for some reason, it’s always about what was released that weekend, how was the poster, what was the perception. The audience didn’t care about the three of us. They didn’t know Meg Ryan. They didn’t know me. And Dennis [Quaid] hadn’t been in movies for a while. Clifford was a little film that was made on an eccentric idea. Then, Orion went bankrupt. And so it was on a shelf for four years. When it was released, it had that tinge of, “It’s been on the shelf for four years. Why?” And, it was odd. For many, it was too weird for the room. And then through the years, it got hipper.
Nowadays, you’re not seeing as many comedies get a theatrical release. This started well before the pandemic. Do you think we’re missing something by sending most comedies straight to streaming or home entertainment?
The only drag of that is when you are alone and you watch a comedy, it’s not the same experience as if you’re in a crowded movie theater and everyone’s watching the movie and laughing together. Laughter is contagious.
You recently finished shooting a Hulu series you’re doing with Steve Martin and Selena Gomez, Only Murders in the Building. Can you tell me anything about it?
We finished it just last week. It’s three people that live in a building, one of those upper-scale, Upper West Side buildings in New York, and meet in an elevator. And then a fourth person comes on, and then the fourth person dies, and then we try to solve it. We’re all obsessed with true crime. But Steve’s thing is, because he’s 75, he’ll solve murders but only if they happen in the building.
Do you still watch SNL?
What do you make of Elon Musk hosting?
They do select the host based on that we will talk about it. That’s the ideal casting with a host. You know, obviously, if it’s Eddie Murphy, that’s an event. He’s a creative genius. If it’s Musk, he certainly has the charisma and the name. You know, it’s a sketch show, [and] the host is as active or not active [in sketches] as he chooses to be.
Did you watch a lot of TCM during the pandemic?
I did. I think during the pandemic, the classic films became even more important because they represented a time when people were crowded in restaurants and also an elegance of an era that wasn’t existing anymore. No one is getting on a plane in bad cutoffs on TCM.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the May 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day