Matt LeBlanc produces a photo of his cattle ranch north of Santa Barbara. There are cows grazing picturesquely among rolling Californian hills. ‘I love cattle,’ he confesses. ‘I have branded cattle, castrated cattle, tackled cattle, had my way with cattle…’
He pauses for full effect and instantly it’s as if Joey Tribbiani, the character he made so famous in Friends, is sitting at the table. Funny, wisecracking and familiar. But although the outward appearance is roughly the same, the voice still deep and magnificent, and the jokes never far away, the real Matt LeBlanc is a little too quiet to really be Joey. He is, by his own admission, much more reserved.
‘Joey was very high energy, high key. I’m not really like that,’ he explains, neatening the cutlery at the table where we are about to eat lunch in The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. ‘I’m a lot more low key.’
Getting to know the real Matt LeBlanc has become something of a media challenge of late. Not because he is especially elusive, although it has been nearly five years since he last worked, but because he stars in a new comedy series this January in which he plays himself.
Except that it’s not really himself. It’s Matt LeBlanc, but a fake Matt LeBlanc. Confused? You will be. ‘None of it’s me. Even the parts that are me, are not me,’ he adds, rather less than helpfully.
Episodes follows a British husband and wife screenwriting team, played by Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig, who have a hit television show in Britain about a boarding school with an old-fashioned headmaster, played by Richard Griffiths. The show is so successful it is bought by an American television network, who butcher it in customary Hollywood remake style. How about replacing the headmaster with Matt LeBlanc? How about having LeBlanc as a hockey coach? How about changing the show’s name?
LeBlanc, not being English, 62 years old, fat, or in any way old-fashioned headmaster material, is an absurd choice – and therein lies the humour. ‘I am just so ridiculously wrong for the part, it’s hilarious,’ LeBlanc says.
Written by David Crane, one of the Friends co-writers, and Jeffrey Klarik, who wrote Mad About You, another long-running US sitcom, the show is uncomfortably real in parts, side-splittingly funny in others and will certainly find fans if only because everyone likes mocking Hollywood.
It also breaks new ground in television history because it is a joint US and British venture, which will air simultaneously on both the BBC and Showtime, presumably leaving no option for the Hollywood remake.
But as a comeback vehicle for LeBlanc, it is brave, since the show portrays him as a boorish, self-obsessed celebrity, who likes his money and his private jet, and strokes his own ego as much as his iPhone, which he often uses to send texts at lunch meetings. ‘My phone is off and in my pocket, by the way,’ he assures me. ‘I would never be that rude.’
Does he consider himself brave for accepting the role? ‘People have told me it was brave, but I would not have done it had it not been writers that I trusted. When there’s writing that you really trust, it’s very freeing as an artist. But it was also an opportunity to make fun of myself, to take the p—, if you will.’
He smiles, pleased that he’s managed to slip in a phrase he says he’s picked up while filming the show in Britain, and admits that part of the fun has been creating something of a mystery about himself. ‘All I can tell you is the Matt LeBlanc in the show is not me,’ he says. ‘The only way I could possibly get through this role sanely was to emotionally disconnect myself from me, and say: “This is a character.” I had to disconnect from thinking: “People are not going to like me if I say this.”
‘What was important was that the character was fully fleshed out and well rounded. And I think we achieved that. But there are lots of differences between him and me. In the show I own a restaurant. I don’t own a restaurant. I would never want to own a restaurant. I also have a jet. I don’t really have a jet. Although I wish I had a jet. I also have a huge penis.’
He pauses, a master in the art of punchline-delivery. ‘Have you heard about my giant d—?’ he says, his face completely straight. ‘On the show it’s referred to as something out of Jules Verne that could attack a city.’
A waitress appears to deliver a lobster salad and LeBlanc stops. ‘But to set the record straight,’ he adds after her disappearance, ‘I have very human proportions and that’s all I am going to say about that. We’re eating.’
Despite this rather frank discussion of his anatomy, LeBlanc is convivial and well-mannered and doesn’t appear to be the kind of self-interested celebrity that Hollywood is famous for – the kind he plays in the show. And he enjoys humour. ‘I like to laugh,’ he says matter-of-factly. ‘I’ve been like this my whole life. I have funny bones. If there’s ever any kind of tension, I’ll always be the one to try and be funny to loosen things up.’
He turned 43 last birthday. His hair has turned a salt-and-pepper grey and there are a few lines mapped out on his face now. He looks older, but also a little more careworn. For all the humour, his dark brown eyes are less twinkly. His smile less cheeky.
‘The Square’ Interview with Ruben Östlund, Claes Bang and Elisabeth Moss
Director Ruben Östlund is an adventurer of Swedish film and a hard man to satiate. It is seen in his Oscar-nominated film – The Square that has received much attention. Here is an excerpt from the interview with The Playlist as actors Claes Bang and Elisabeth Moss share their experience with the movie and the director.
Claes Bang: Can I tell you a funny story from Cannes?
Elisabeth Moss: Yeah.
Claes Bang: When we were [at Cannes] there was this Screen International journalist, Wendy Mitchell, and she saw the film, she loved it, and she started [rooting] for me as best actor. She put on her Facebook page she put “The Daily Bang” and posted a new photo of me every day. Invented the hashtag #BangforBond.
Elisabeth Moss: So good!
Claes Bang : At the end of the festival, all these predictions come out, right? My agents were fanning me. “It says in Variety now that you’re gonna win. It says in the Daily Telegraph you’re gonna win. It says in The Guardian.” It said everywhere and I started fucking believing the hype. I did. I started believing the hype, because everybody was saying, “It’s an amazing film. It’s so fucking good, but you’re not gonna win the big thing because it’s too funny.” So when we got that phone call on Sunday…
The Playlist: And they told Ruben to come, too, it wasn’t just…
Claes Bang: No, no. They invite the entire crew that is there. So they said to come and I was like, “Fuck, I’m gonna get [an] award.” So when they said, “And the award for Best Actor goes to,” I was almost fucking getting my ass out of the seat and then they said, “Joaquin Phoenix.” I was like, “Okay, I’ll stay put.” Then the next prize went, the next prize went, the next prize went and there was just one left. I leaned over to Rupert and I said, “Unless they’re really fucking with us, we’re gonna get the big one.” We got the big one and I was like, really, really so fucking happy about it, and he was, and everything was exploding, and then five minutes later I was like, “Wait a fucking second. What the fuck was that? He stole my award,that fucking Swedish wanker.” (Laughs.) So what happened is that all the people that get the awards, they go off to a press conference.
Elisbeth Moss: Yeah.
The Playlist: Yeah, I was at the press conferences.
Claes Bang: There’s an amazing party that starts out on the top of the Palais overlooking this harbor with all the boats and everything. Then you go down to the beach where there’s a department of a French restaurant that’s just the most amazing food, champagne, people in tuxes. I mean, amazing. I started to get a little bit pissed. I got quite drunk and then Ruben came back from the press conference and I saw him over there, and I was like, “I’m fucking gonna hurt him now. I’m fucking gonna go over there and kick his ass.”
The Playlist: Really?
Claes Bang: I was so mad. I was really … and I have done really, really stupid stuff when I’m drunk. So, I said to my wife, “We need to leave now.” So we left.
Elisabeth Moss: That’s the danger of believing the hype! That’s why after eight nominations I will never convince me of anything else other than that I’m gonna lose.
Claes Bang: And Ruben texted me something at [1 AM asking] “Where the fuck are you? I mean, we won and everybody’s asking for you.” I mean, everybody there had seen that film and unless you know Ruben, you don’t know that he is the guy, but everybody knew that I was sort of the lead of the film. And I was just…
Elisabeth Moss: Gone.
Claes Bang: I was gone.
The Playlist: But when you woke up the next morning with the hangover were you at least excited?
Claes Bang: I had to get up like, fuck dead early the next morning. That was one of the things. I had a show in Edinburgh that next night.
The Playlist: But when you were going to the airport, on the plane, you must have been thinking “Holy cow!” because when you make a movie you don’t necessarily think it’s going to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Claes Bang: No, and my wife, she was so fucking mad with me. She said, “We’re leaving the party of our lives. There’s boom boom boom and they all want to talk to you, and now we’re leaving.” “Yes,” I said, “This is not where I’m gonna kill a director or try and break the Palme d’Or in half to say ‘This is mine’ or something.”
Elisabeth Moss: But how Ruben Ostlund would that have been if the lead actor and the director got into a fight?
Claes Bang: Exactly.
The Playlist: Yes!
Claes Bang: When I told him this story, because I’ve told him and I’ve told the press and everything now, he was just like, “This is the best story of the whole shoot.”
Elisabeth Moss: Yeah, it’s the greatest!
The Playlist: He’s gonna put this in a movie now. You realize this, right?
Claes Bang: It’s cool. It’s fine. It’s no problem. Listen, what I actually find quite funny is that when you think about it, it’s like, “Oh my God, no. Did I do that?” But when I tell the story people are like, “Finally, someone is coming out and saying I was really, really disappointed not to win.”
Elisabeth Moss: Right. Totally, yes.
Claes Bang: It was literally something like five or six places where it said, “He’s gonna win it.” I fucking believed it.
Elisabeth Moss: Of course. It’s dangerous!
The Playlist: By the way, I’m one of those people that do the stuff that say “these people are going to win.”
Elisabeth Moss: Right, exactly!
The Playlist: So, I guess I apologize?
Elisabeth Moss: No, by all means. It’s your job, but it’s like…
Claes Bang: I have this thing also that was like, “Okay, they really invited a rookie to Cannes. Now we’re gonna fuck with him.”
The Playlist: It’s not personal!
Claes Bang: “We’re gonna build him up, we’re gonna make him believe, and then-”
Elisabeth Moss: “We’re gonna take it away. Just to teach him a lesson.”
The Playlist: Elisabeth, you weren’t at the ceremony. Were you there for the premiere and then you left?
Elisabeth Moss: I went to Antibes which is like 45 minutes, a half an hour away or something. Nobody asked me to go to the Palme d’Or Ceremony.
The Playlist: Oh, they didn’t call and tell you? I thought they gave everyone 24 hours notice.
Claes Bang: No. For instance, if you’re in Japan and you’ve gone back to Japan and you’re getting an award, they will let you know in time so you can get on a plane.
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CHRISTO TALKS: “IT’S NOT A PROFESSION, IT’S EXISTENCE”
Christo, you and your wife Jeanne-Claude were born on the exact same day in 1935, but in completely different countries. Do you believe in destiny?
Jeanne-Claude always said, “There are a million people born on the same day.” But it happened that we met, that’s all. That is something not unusual. But there are many things that are not destiny. You make your own destiny.
You worked together for nearly 50 years. Would you have become the same artist without her?
It’s the same question to ask, “What would happen if I were Chinese?” (Laughs) We cannot discuss these things – if, if, if – there are no ifs. After living for 80 years, there are no ifs. I can only say one if and it was that I was rather lucky to escape in 1957 to the West. I had never been outside of Bulgaria until 1956 and if I didn’t go to the West, things would have probably been different.
The Soviets had a very strict policy against modern art so you might have not made art at all.
I was drawing all the time as a little boy, like 5 or 6 years old, and it was at this age that I decided to be an artist. There was never a thought about anything else. But it’s true, in the late ’40s and early ’50s most modern art was not permitted to be seen in the Soviet Bloc countries. There were some very bad reproductions and old books… I desperately tried to go beyond Bulgaria and the Soviet Bloc, but even going to other communist countries was very difficult. Fortunately my aunt and my uncle were living in Prague and finally I succeeded in finding a way to visit them. And I was totally flabbergasted by Prague!
It was the most Western country. Even before the chance to fully escape came into view, I had already decided that I was never going to go back to Bulgaria! I was going to stay in Prague. I was young, like 21 years old, and when you’re young and you discover the relatively small freedom of the Western art in Czechoslovakia and Prague in the late ’50s, suddenly you dream of going to Paris! And this is how the stage was set for me to go to Paris.
And that made all the difference after all. It was there that you met Jeanne-Claude and you were together until her death in 2009. How has your life changed since she passed away?
We are missing her all the time, you know? You should understand that living with one person for over 50 years, we miss many, many things. Probably one of the greatest things was that she was always very critical of anything we tried to put together. You can see in many of the films the Maysles brothers made about our work how vigorously we argued with each other – almost fighting each other! This is the thing I miss the most because it is so important to the process of what we are doing, to have this critical attitude all the time, not bending, not compromising. But there are many, many things. Many, many things.
Is it true that you always flew in separate planes so that in case one crashed the other could continue the work?
Exactly, because we are always working on two or three projects and at least one should finish the project that was very much advanced. That was the story. I remember often we would take different planes, then on the way to the connecting flight we would kiss each other and take another plane.
Was it natural for you to continue making work alone after her death?
To be a visual artist is not a profession – it is existence. In the Maysles’ film The Gates, she is in a car and a journalist is asking, “You’re very advanced in age, will you retire?” And Jeanne-Claude says, “Artists do not retire, they simply die.” It’s not a profession, it’s existence, you know? You exist through art. You cannot even compare it to other professions, in the office and things like that.
Source: The Talks
THE ANA ROŠ TALK: “IT HAS TO DO WITH OUR OWN PERSONALITY”
Ms. Roš, what are the main challenges in Slovenian cuisine today?
I think Slovenia is slowly, slowly stepping on the world gastronomic map. But my generation of chefs needs to fight for every single step, and every decision is opening a new door. If you work in Italy or Germany, and you cook well, sooner or later you will get the recognition that you need — there is the Michelin Guide, there is Gault Millau, there is the L’Espresso Guide. While in Slovenia, you can be really good, but up to the moment when the international community acknowledges you, you are actually no one.
You have been the head chef of Hiša Franko in Kobarid for almost 20 years — and it wasn’t until this year that you were recognized as the number one female chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants academy.
Right, it’s a very, very slow process. Everybody travels for food to Copenhagen, London, or Paris, but who knows where Kobarid is? So it has been a long, long struggle and fight. It doesn’t have only to do with the quality of the restaurant; you have to prove that you are worth certain awards three times more than in developed countries.
“Creativity is something that does not come only from our childhood — it has a lot to do with our own personality.”
I guess the former Yugoslavia doesn’t necessarily come to mind as a haven for creativity in fine dining. What was it like growing up there in the 1990s?
Well, my mother was actually a brilliant cook. She was a journalist and a very creative person, so our meals at home were very colorful and never repeated. But if I think of the food from my childhood, I think of a simple pasta dish with homemade tomato sauce. It really was a super flavorful meal, with a drop of olive oil on the top and with no cheese. That was the most loved meal when I was a child! That is what they call, “happy food.” You know, my children would kill for it.
My parents lived through the communist regime and told me they used to get so excited over simple things like bananas because they were so rare.
Yes but you know, Yugoslavia never had a very strict organization of the country — the borders were open and we could travel. Tito was a “bon vivant” and he was letting his people have a pretty free life. So Yugoslavia had a lot of good things as well. I think Yugoslavia was a place with a lot of creative people; culture was super strong, especially in Zagreb and Belgrade. But I think that creativity is something that either is in a person or is not. Let’s say I have two children and they are both raised in the same way. The girl is super creative and totally irrational, while the boy is totally rational and not creative at all. I think it is something that does not come only from our childhood or from our upbringing or from the regime in which we lived in — it has a lot to do with our own personality.
Do you feel more creative and irrational, or the other way around?
Oh, I’m too instinctive sometimes! You see, my problem — and sometimes it is also a good thing — is that I don’t question a lot. I actually just jump in the water and swim and I am a kind of personality that is never happy with average results. At Hiša Franko, I never questioned myself about how it is going to be like, especially because I never had any prior experience of seeing how a restaurant really works and I’m completely self-taught so it was like a total experiment and we are still making corrections.
Source: The Talk
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