NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 05: Filmmaker Barry Levinson attends at the grand opening of The SAG-AFTRA Foundation Robin Williams Center on October 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
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HFPA in Conversation: Barry Levinson on Working With The Greats

HFPA journalist Tina Jøhnk Christensen met filmmaker, screenwriter, actor and three-time Golden Globe nominee Barry Levinson in Beverly Hills.  They talked about his new HBO biopic, Paterno, the story of college football titan Joe Paterno, which Al Pacino brought to his longtime collaborator Levinson.  Both were fascinated with Joe Paterno’s life: few people have fallen as fast as he did. Two weeks after he earned his record-setting 409th victory, he was fired amid a child sex abuse scandal and died two months later of lung cancer.

Pacino and Levinson previously worked together on projects like The Humbling, Phil Spector and You Don’t Know Jack. “Can I just say it is literally fun because we can try things and experiment and see where else it goes,” Levinson explains about their chemistry.

Levinson, who has directed classic films like Diner, Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man and Bugsy, describes himself as naïve.  He didn’t notice the romance between Annette Bening and Warren Beatty on the set of Bugsy.  “I thought gee there’s good chemistry here.  You know they really have an affection for one another and so I thought well that’s working out well and I don’t know if I just completely missed it.”

He talks about his memories of the late Robin Williams, who worked with him on several movies like Good Morning, Vietnam, and Toys.  And what surprised him during the filming Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise.

For a man who grew up in Baltimore, life has been full of pleasant surprises.  “I always say that my great ambition in life was not to work in my father’s appliance store.  So the fact that I was able to travel cross country, come to Los Angeles, study theater, get involved in improv, work clubs, started to do writing…They were all these things that I enjoy, and one thing just led to another and so I feel fortunate that I had fun doing something that continues to surprise me and challenge me.”

Listen to the conversation here or, for immediate access to all of our podcasts, subscribe to HFPA in Conversation on iTunes.