Having won the Oscar for the fantastic documentary feature 20 Feet From Stardom, filmmaker Morgan Neville returns with his latest endeavour, chronicling the life of American TV host, and remarkably nice guy, Fred Rogers. When in London promoting his new film we had the chance to sit down and chat with the esteemed documentarian, as we asked him all about his very favourite movies, and how they have helped to shape his accomplished career.
What’s the first movie you ever fell in love with? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It’s one of the first films I ever remember seeing, and it was both frightening and engrossing, it’s kind of a terrifying children’s movie. It really stuck with me and it’s a film I’ve watched again and again and again over the years, and now with my own children. It’s kind of indelible in that way.
What’s the one film you never get tired of watching? All The President’s Men. I love that movie so much. I started my career as a journalist and I think of journalism as a heroic pursuit, unlike other people in our culture. And it’s a great detective story, at the same time. So that’s a film I cannot stop watching if I come across it.
Your favourite soundtrack? Um… I’m trying to think of something that’s not cliché, and I listen to soundtracks all the time. I’m a big John Carpenter fan and I, as a kid learning piano, just wanted to learn all of the John Carpenter themes, so I loved them, and not only Halloween, but Escape From New York, Assault on Precinct 13, all those early themes. They bring me back to my childhood when I listen to those soundtracks.
What’s your guilty pleasure? I’m definitely a big soft, rom-com fan. So like Jerry Maguire or something. I don’t know if I should feel guilty about that or not.
What’s the one scene that always makes you cry? There’s actually a scene in my film Won’t You Be My Neighbour? which makes me cry every time I watch it. It’s this tiny moment where he’s visiting a college campus and this girl comes up to him and says that she wasn’t able to go to school as a young child and that he was her childhood education, watching his show. It just gets me every time. A lot of tears in that film. But let’s see, what else would mine be… I don’t know, I’m trying to think of a movie I’ve watched more than once that really gets me. Documentaries I often find do it, there are some really touching ones, I just saw one this year called The Distant Barking of Dogs, about these boys in Ukraine in the middle of the war, and it’s just so sad and devastating, that film really got me.
What’s your favourite ever documentary?
I mean there are so many great documentaries. I love films like Crumb or Brother’s Keeper, but in a way the film that maybe impacted me the most was When We Were Kings, the boxing film. It’s the type of film I love, taking these figures you think you know and this event you maybe know and just re-contextualising it in a way that makes you see it all new. The use of music and everything in that film… I saw that film just when I was beginning to make films and I think I’ve watched it so many times, it’s just brilliantly edited.