Stephen Tobolowsky ('Tobolowsky's Birthday')
'Still Celebrating Life!'
Veteran character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, best known for his portrayal of Ned Ryerson, the annoying insurance salesman in “Groundhog Day,” has made his headlining debut in Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party, arriving on DVD beginning Tuesday, May 30, 2006.
The release date of May 30 celebrates not only the release of the innovative film on DVD, but marks the Tobolowsky’s real-life 55th birthday celebration. The feature documents Tobolowsky on the day of his previous birthday, as he prepares for a party and later entertains his guests, all the while telling stories about his experiences in front and behind the scenes of Hollywood movies. Guests at the party include Mena Suvari (Beauty Shop, American Beauty), Amy Adams (Junebug, Catch Me If You Can), and Mrs. Tobolowsky, actress Ann Hearn (Lorenzo’s Oil, The Accused).
Stephen Tobolowsky was born in Dallas, Texas, on May 30, 1951, at Methodist Hospital. His Mother, June, had been a registered nurse and his father, Dave, a pediatrician. It should be noted that Edwin Tobolowsky, infamous producer of “Mars Needs Women”, was not Stephen’s father nor was he Stephen’s leg up into entertainment industry as has been hinted
on certain web sites. It should also be noted that Edwin is a good guy and a lawyer in Dallas.
Stephen grew up in a rather uncivilized area of South Dallas called Oak Cliff and spent large amounts of time catching snakes and spiders.
Stephen went to school at: Mrs. William’s Nursery School, Jeff Davis Elementary (which ironically is in the black section of Oak Cliff – it has since been renamed Barbara Jordan Elementary), Carpenter Elementary, Brown Jr. High, Kimball High, SMU, and the University of Illinois. Stephen was a high school debater and winner of many high school debate awards and was named Most Likely to Succeed.
Though he has supported others in over 150 films and his face is undoubtedly familiar to most movie-goers, Tobolowsky’s name is not as well known, a fact this DVD is trying to change.
Chatting recently with Stephen, and noting that this new documentary was
being released on May 30th - which was the exact same date as his very own 55th birthday - I first wondered if this was a case for Mulder and Scully or did something less sinister cause this phenomenon?! "Less sinister. When you climb Everest you take it one little step at a time. We decided to do this movie. We paid for it, got a crew together, performed and edited the thing. At a point you look for little handholds to keep going."
"A few months ago we decided to release the DVD ourselves. Off in the distance we saw a date ... my REAL birthday!! Hey let's go for it. We will have a party! We will have a web site! Lord, sounds more like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland everyday!"
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying this new DVD 'Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party,' how would you yourself describe what they should expect to witness?! "What I would say to any Average or Not So Average Joe who may wonder why he or she should look at this DVD is that the reason for watching any movie is
that it should entertain. That is what this film has done at the Aspen
Comedy Fest where it premiered and now at festivals around the world
including screenings in London, New York, Dallas, Austin, San Francisco and
recently in Spanish in Buenos Aires. The movie is amusing. Just a few
absolutely true stories from my life both on and off the screen. Tales of
sex, drugs, and rock and roll mixed gently with tales of love and loss."
It also seems that the choice of this film title was not only extremely 'all about you' but also included your hard-to-pronounce last name! Did it ever cross your mind to change your last name just for the release of this DVD to give the art director more room to work with on the front cover?! "Yes. I thought about calling the film "Cameron Diaz, the Naked Years." But then I thought about the all of lawsuits and the disappointed audiences. So we just settled on celebration. Truthfully, the one lie we had in the film is that it was not shot on my birthday. And as for the Art Director he managed to get most of my bare head on the front and back of the DVD case. I shudder to think what he would have done with more room!"
And although it will be released on your 55th birthday, it doesn't feature that celebration! So, for those readers interested enough to sit down and take this DVD into their hearts, what birthday were you indeed celebrating ... and what was the best present that you were given that day and from whom?! "Oops. I already answered this one. Not my birthday during the shoot. However if sixty is "the new forty" you can say that we shot the film when I was the "new 36 and a half." The greatest gift I ever got was all of those friends of mine coming over and listening to those stories and eating cake. Most of them were actors who were content NOT to speak all evening. THOSE are friends!"
If there was one moment captured on this new film of yours that was
your own personal highlight, which one would it be ... and why? "The high point for me had to be the morning we started the shoot. I
was standing on a beach telling a story about a miraculous dolphin appearing before me and low and behold a REAL DOLPHIN swims up behind me in the shot!!! In a Universe of Probability, what are the odds!! Talk about good omens."
Noting that the back of the DVD mentions (with pride) a slew of movies that you've been in, was it honestly necessary to leave 'Garfield' on there?! "Hey, be nice about "Garfield". Did you know that every five year old in the world has seen that movie a million times? Which means their parents have seen that film a half a million times sober. True story: My wife and I got lost in Reykievik, Iceland. We were stranded on the docks where the big ocean freighters come in. There were no cabs, no phones, and we didn't sprechen ze Icelanic. A security guard approached us. He stopped, blushed, and pointed at me with his big flashlight. He screamed, "Ah Garfield! Garfield!" He became my best friend and called us a cab. I gave him a signed picture of me as Happy Chapman (My character in that film). So there!"
As for your prestigious acting career, please just tell us a little snippet of behind-the-scenes gossip (things that we can look out for when
we come to watch them again!) that happened (or not!) whilst on these movie sets:
'Groundhog Day' - "Bill Murray refused to shoot the big final scene with Andie MacDowell because he did not know how he would be dressed. Harold Ramis say "What?" Bill wanted to know ... clothes or no clothes. Fully dressed or PJ's. Bill was right. In other words - did they do it??" Harold Ramis thought about it and decided to take a vote. He went around the room, cast and crew, each person had a vote. Clothes or no clothes. The vote was a tie. It came down to an assistant set dresser. She spoke up "They are definitely dressed. They did not do it." Harold nodded and said, "Right, Bill you're dressed." They shot it that way."
'Thelma and Louise' - "'Thelma and Louise' featured the appearance of some guy that was rumored to be a non actor. A kind of male model type guy named Brad Pitt. I felt sorry for him as I did for all male models. He kept giving me his chair and offering to fetch me tea. He kept calling me "Sir". I never felt so old and ugly in my life. And then he goes and steals the movie. What can you do?"
'Failure To Launch' - "'Failure to Launch' had been finished for about a year when they called me to shoot a scene in it. They had tested the film and the results were that the audience wanted a scene that used the phase "failure to launch" in it. I got to do a scene with my girl friend Kathy Bates. We went to college together and I think she is sweeter than watermelon and about the best actress on the face of the earth. I also got to act with Terry Bradshaw. As a Cowboy fan I had never forgiven him for the Superbowl victory he stole from us. I confronted him as any Cowboy fan would have. Terry looked at me
with compassion that bordered on pity and he said, "Stephen, buddy, you got
to move on. It's over." I think I have grown!"
Can we expect to see you in any new and upcoming movies sometime soon, perhaps? "Upcoming I am in shows 9, 10, and 11 in 'Deadwood.' That delicious show. I am in Tim Allen's new movie "Wild Hogs" that starts shooting in June in New Mexico. I am also going to film festivals to do publicity for a new film I am in called 'Pope Dreams.' Wonderful and different movie."
If you could sing any song from the '80s at a worldwide Karaoke charity event, which song would you choose ... and why?! "Karaoke? It would have to be "We Gotta Get out of this Place" by The Animals. I know it is pre 80's but I have never been a hair band guy. I would pick it because the audience would be soooo into the chorus don't'cha know."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "You're anthropomorphizing again. You have to watch that. You're in Hollywood now. There are penguins and there are penguins. My favorite penguin story is that they are almost blind. So the male courts his lady with a song. If she sings it back to him they are "married" and can have wild "penguin sex". The beauty of the three months when the males watch the egg while the females take a break is in the scene where the males sing to the returning females hoping to hear their song returned (sounds like me in high school) and the tragedy of the male who sings and has no song returned. Because his lady was eaten by some horrible sea creature."
"Dammit you got me crying again. Curse you, Russell!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Stephen's brand new DVD, just answer this easy question: In which unaired pilot episode - to what would become a HUGE hit of a TV show - did Stephen play the character 'Principal Flutie'?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED DVDs! Just send us an e:mail here before July 15th with your answer and the subject title 'STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY SIGNED DVDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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