Barry Levinson caps off two decades of film directing with ‘Bandits’

By on November 1, 2001

In lieu of the recent events in New York City, the east coast premiere of Barry Levinson’s latest directing endeavor “Bandits” was postponed several weeks. On Sept. 27, I was able to see an advanced screening of the film at Showcase Cinemas of Orange, Conn. I have a several minute interview with the director.
“Bandits” stars Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton as Joe and Terry, two escaped convicts who become the most successful bank robbers in history by robbing banks in a very unorthodox way.
Joe and Terry would follow the bank manager home after closing and knock on the manager’s door. Then they would tell them that they were going to rob the bank and they would spend the night with the manager and his or her family. The next morning the bank manager and his or her family would accompany Joe and Terry to the bank before it opened and unlock the safe giving them the money.
This plan works very well for the two of them until Kate (Cate Blanchett), a woman just wanting an end to her pitiful marriage and rut in life, walked into their lives.
Levinson was available for questioning by audience and press members after the show. They jumped at the chance to ask not only about “Bandits” but many of his past movies and also Levinson’s opinions of the current Hollywood industry today.
“Hollywood bores me. There are too many sequels and they’re always in a hurry to put something else out,” said Levinson.
Nearing the age of 60, the director referred to Hollywood as a “fast food” producer rather than a producer of fine films. Truly a man who has worked from the bottom up, Barry Levinson has seen many facets of the entertainment industry.
Growing up in Baltimore, MD, Levinson started his career as a broadcast journalist and then moved into the entertainment industry by controlling hand puppets on children’s shows. Soon after he decided to study theater and soon began working on the Carol Burnett Show set in 1967 as a writer. This job would later award him two Emmy Awards in 1974 and 1975 for his comedic writing.
Since his humble beginnings Levinson has worked with Mel Brooks and has now directed 17 films and also produced three television series. His directing won an Oscar for 1988’s “Rain Man” and for Best Picture that year, as well as an award from the Directors Guild of America.
Many of his films have been nominated for Oscars as well. These include, “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Bugsy,” and “Diner.” In the past few years he has produced or written for films such as “The Perfect Storm,” “Wag the Dog,” “Donnie Brasco” and “Sphere.”
On television he wrote for the series “Homicide: Life on the Streets” from 1993 to 1999. He has also published two books that detail his success as a screenwriter and director. When asked how he managed to be such a successful director Levinson says he directs by following his instincts, and by asking himself what he would like to see on the screen. After his long journey throughout the entertainment industry Levinson still thinks that his biggest feat is that today he is not working at his father’s appliance store like he did in his younger days.


About Chris Negrini- Entertainment R