Today we are joined by the author of the James Bond Movie Encyclopedia, Steve Rubin!
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Steve Ruben Video Interview
[00:00:00] Jeff: Hello listeners, a spoiler country today on the show, we had the fantastic guest, Mr. Steve Rubin and
Steve Ruben: Steve, this nature. Jeff, I’m really happy to be here today. Very pleasure
Jeff: to meet you. I actually almost said, sir, again, and was able to stop myself at the very last second,
Steve Ruben: Steve, or sir, or, Hey, you works,
Jeff: but we’ll we’ll we’ll, we’ll go with the more, the very formal master Rubin.
Steve Ruben: So.
Jeff: As the writer of both the James Bond and Twilight zone encyclopedias. Do you remember your earliest memories of the franchises and what got you inspired
Steve Ruben: by them? Sure, sure. I’ll start with the Twilight zone. I was eight years old. At that time I was watching mostly cartoons and maybe some westerns.
And one night I kind of wandered into the living room. My parents had on the Twilight zone and it was an episode called the silence where this club guy, [00:01:00] you know, they’re member of one of these posh clubs, private clubs. He doesn’t like this motor mouth who just constantly talks, talks, talks, talks, talks.
So he bets the guy a half, a million dollars that he can’t shut up for a year. They put them in this glass cage in the basement and they monitor his every movement. And that’s so freak me out as a kid, the thought of, you know, the thought of just Not being able to speak for a year that I just, I said, no way, am I watching this?
So I didn’t come back to the twilight’s on until I went into reruns probably about 10 years later. So that was my first brush with with the Twilight zone with James Bond, my dad would go on business trips and he would bring back generally westerns paperbacks. And I had no interest in reading about westerns.
I was watching plenty of them on TV. But one day I was 12 years old and he dropped a paperback called gold finger on my desk. Now this is one of the signature colorful [00:02:00] paperbacks with a nude woman on the cover. She was tastefully covering her privates because she was all dressed in gold or draped in gold or however.
Painted in gold, but I, I said, what is that? And I started Goldfinger and, you know, for an impressionable, only child, relat relat, relatively conservatively raised a reading. Goldfinger was kind of like a watershed moment. And that being 1964, that Christmas, low and behold Goldfinger, the movie is released.
And probably that movie had more of an impact on me than most movies I’d ever seen in my life. And kind of cool that I had already read the book and it was such a, such an experience seeing that movie. We didn’t, we living in Southern California, we didn’t generally go to the Chinese theater in Hollywood.
We, it was kind of a little bit out of our turf, but for this movie, we decided to go up to Hollywood Boulevard and see it on the big screen. So you can [00:03:00] imagine. Goldfinger on the big screen at the fable Chinese theater boy, what an experience. It, it,
Jeff: it really is amazing. Just how much of an impact something like film and television can have, especially when we’re impressionable and young.
It, you know, it’s easy to stay that kind of any kind of TV show went on is just entertainment, but it does kind of impact you. It stays with you forever.
Steve Ruben: Doesn’t it? It does you know, I often I often think about Shakespearean scholars who kind of analyze the plays of Shakespeare for decades, covering every word, every phrase.
And movies are kind of like are Shakespeare. I mean, for me, they are they’re definitely. Some things I study over and over again. I’ve always been fascinated by the way movies are made. I studied history in college. I was a reporter for the UCLA daily Bruin. I kind of got into doing [00:04:00] research. So when I got out of college, I started writing my first book, which was on, I was called combat films, American realism, 1945 to 1970.
I started interviewing the filmmakers who made some of the great war films of the forties, fifties, and sixties, up to 1970 when patent was released. And I just, the more I learned about how movies are made, the more I was fascinated by the business. And at that same time, I started writing for a Chicago film journal called Seanna.
Fantastic. Which was one of the first film magazines to cover the behind the scenes world of science fiction, fantasy and horror films. And I got a lot of recognition for my work. My first cover story was on. Let’s see, that was on the day the earth stood still. I spent six months, six months piecing together the history of the original 1951 classic.
Jeff: Oh, [00:05:00] that is amazing. I, I did notice that you went to the universe UCLA, correct? For history and journalism major. Now, why did you choose those majors, but what was it about them that you thought had that, that just kind of captured your attention saying I want to be that.
Steve Ruben: Well, I was always a history student.
I think it’s funny because movies about history fed my interest in history and vice versa. So it was natural for me to be a history major. UCLA did not have a formal formal journalism department. And it had been disbanded by that time. But I started writing for the daily Bruin and being a feature reporter, you know, kind of doing news.
I was kind of a beat reporter. I just enjoyed that whole process. I guess it’s a little bit of vanity. Once you see your name in print by Steve Rubin, it kind of captured me and led me down the path to becoming a writer.
Jeff: So it really is kind of magical when you have [00:06:00] your name. In print. I mean, it does, is it because, and maybe helps that you’re also had interest in history that you do feel like at that moment, you are, you, you are in mortal at the moment, something you’re in Prentice, the moment it can be pointing to beyond your life and say, this is something.
You contributed, you are forever immortalized. Was that part of the Pascha? Was it something else about seeing your name in print and having that feeling?
Steve Ruben: It was just fun. It was just fun to be walking past a student, reading the newspaper and reading my article and realizing they were reading something that I wrote.
It was just kind of a cool feeling. I was much to him in tour to be thinking about immortality. At that point, I was more interested in Just writing stories that people would find fun and interesting. And I had, I had a lot of fun at the Bruin. I wrote about, probably about 70 stories over my two years there.
And it just got me interested in the whole concept of again, doing research and, [00:07:00] you know, writing extended pieces. Then when I got out of UCLA I for, I toyed with the idea of going into television news, kind of that arena, but I found it a little too exploitive. I couldn’t picture myself shoving microphones in people’s faces who didn’t want to talk.
So I gravitated towards writing that combat films book and continuing writing for some film magazines. But I learned early on that I couldn’t make any money doing any of this. I mean, this is all really nice stuff to be a writer and call yourself a writer and write magazine articles and, you know, right.
Book film books, but they didn’t really produce much money. So what happened was, so I came back from a Europe trip in 1977, after I had done the research for my first James Bond book. And I got a job working in a public relations agency. I was told that because of my work in magazine writing and just my comfort in the industry that I might be useful as a staff writer at a PR agency.
Now you, you tell me [00:08:00] PR agency in 1970, Seven. I had no idea what a PR agency was. I really had no clue but I came back and I got the job and I got hired by United artists. At that time, they were doing the remake of invasion of the body snatchers, the Donald Sutherland Leonard Nimoy remake. And they needed somebody to go to science fiction conventions to basically set up a table and promote the movie all around the country.
And I had been going to conventions for a few years because those magazine articles I’ve been writing for Seanna. Fantastic. They didn’t pay me any money. They gave me magazines to sell it conventions, and I got to keep the money I made from the magazines. So, I knew the circuit Jor Phil Kaufman, who directed the movie, he was very friendly with George Lucas.
And what had happened is before star Wars came out in the summer of 77, they sent a gentleman named Charlie Lippincott around the country for a year to promote [00:09:00] star Wars at science fiction convention. So Phil wanted to do the same thing for body snatchers, and I became his guy. So
Jeff: as a publicist in the, in the seventies, What were your expectations?
Cause nowadays I’m, I imagine with media being basically at everyone’s fingertips, back in the seventies, it was a different world. How, how, what, what were you tasked to do? In that field to make sure that what you were being paid to do was reaching
Steve Ruben: people’s attention. Well, first I started at what they call an advanced man or advanced publicists.
This body snatchers gig basically sent me out with the. With the materials to promote the movie, essentially a big display case, big photographic and large moments of the movie, some audio from Leonard Nimoy and then a slide presentation, which I would give to a group. After I finished that assignment I actually went into a formal agency and became a staff [00:10:00] writer at a PR agency.
And that was after the body snatchers tour. And then I realized. There was a position in Hollywood that seemed very interesting to me, which was called unit publicist. A unit publicist is the publicist is actually attached to the crew of a film that is shooting. And in 1981, I was hired to go to Wyoming for two months to work on an Allen Rudolph.
Thriller called endangered species with Jo Beth Williams and Robert Urich. And basically as an assigned publicist on a film set, my job is to I’m the first PR person associated with the film. So I write what they call the press kit. Which includes all the biographies of the various people involved in the synopsis of the film and any interesting behind the scenes stories.
And then I try to encourage some journalists to come to set, not a ton but a few because we’re shooting in rural Wyoming. It’s not like they can just hop over to the film set. So I did that and I did that kind of off and [00:11:00] on probably from 1981 to 1993. Three. So for about 12 years, and I worked on a lot of interesting films.
I worked on John Hughes, pretty in pink. I worked on the sequel to a weekend at Bernie’s. I worked on the sequel to Porky’s. I worked on the cul to Eddie and the cruisers and honey, I shrunk the kids. And then I went to work for Showtime in 92 and 93, and then I became more of a staff. Director of the production publicity side.
So I was hiring the unit publicist and that’s where I made my producing debut. In 2001, I was able to convince the head of programming at Showtime to do a baseball comedy called Bleacher bombs about the fans who follow the Chicago Cubs from Chicago to Wrigley field. And that was my producing debut.
We PR we filmed that. In Toronto, Canada, about six months before nine 11. So I did that. And then after I did that, I [00:12:00] also was able to sell a movie to the hallmark channel called silent night, which was a world war two, a true story of a truce in the are Dan in on Christmas Eve, 1944 when American and German combat troops were able to meet break bread and left as friends in the morning.
Quite an interesting story.
Jeff: Well, I’m going to back up just a little bit to try to get some clarification, something that you, that you said. Okay, go ahead. You mentioned that while you’re doing publicity for conventions, you had audio of Leonard Nimoy. Was that some that you, you actually met Leonard anymore and spoke to him at these conventions?
Or was there.
Steve Ruben: I w I would have loved to have met Leonard Nimoy, but they gave that to me as one of my tools for my promotional kit. Interestingly, the year after I did the body snatchers tour, I was hired by Leonard Nimoy. I was hired to be the advanced man for his one man theater show called Vincent.
It was a story of Vincent van [00:13:00] Gogh’s brother’s relationship with Vincent van Gogh. And I, we went to Omaha and Nebraska and, or Aurora, Illinois, and I was the advanced man on that theater production. So I got to kind of hang with Leonard, which was a great thrill. Holy crap
Jeff: that, you know, there’s millions of people in the world right now who are utterly jealous and probably a little bit of hate you for having had an opportunity to just friendly, hate, but just a little bit of a jealous hatred.
Steve Ruben: He was a fun guy. It’s so funny because being a Trekkie and being interested in the whole film world, we would sit at dinner with the whole crew because he had a whole crew with him. You his. His play producer and the people who were associated with the play. And the minute I was started asking him about star Trek and movies, Leonard would look at me and say, Steve, we’re working on a theater project.
We all discussed theater.
Jeff: Just be so used to doing that to people like stop. I’m not [00:14:00] interested. Like, it, you think people who have those deep backgrounds do get sick of talking about that over time. I mean, I imagine at some point And anyone would get tired of St. Talking, saying the same things over and over again.
There’ll be so many things you can say.
Steve Ruben: It was a blast. And I had a lot of fun on that project. I always have fun with the actors. You know, 99% of them are just terrific people that are fun to be with. And there’s occasionally, occasionally, occasionally a few stick in the mud. Who drive you a little bit crazy, but it’s part of the turf and I enjoyed my whole career doing publicity.
I did it for God. I guess I did it for about 25 years. And then I graduated to full-time producing and writing in the early two thousands.
Jeff: What do you prefer, do you prefer producing? Did enjoy being a unit publicist the most, do you prefer writing
Steve Ruben: the most? Well. I really enjoy taking a project like I did with silent night and I, and Bleacher bombs [00:15:00] basically creating it from scratch, you know, bringing it to the marketplace, making the movie.
I love being on a film set. That’s my favorite place to be. And being a producer is just the ultimate you know, thrill for me. I’m but I’m also. Very active as a writer now. Uh, Not only my books, but I’m writing screenplays almost. Full-time I mean, basically I have two different partners. One, I write animation with the other one I write comedy with, and then I’m also writing some stuff entirely on my own.
But I’m very active in writing. You know, I’m kind of, it’s a little late in life for me. I’m not exactly 22 anymore by a far, but I have a lot of ambition to get some of our stories out there, particularly what I call fun movies, movies that you we we’d call popcorn movies in the day where you just go to the movies, have fun and feel good afterwards.
Jeff: So speaking of writing partners, Who is Billy Rybeck
Steve Ruben: Billy Reback. Billy rebound. Sorry about that. The name wrong. [00:16:00] No, that’s completely fine. Billy Reback, arguably is one of the funniest men in America. He, he was a former stand-up comic. He was the one of the early writer producers on the home improvement TV series that Tim Allen series.
He wrote for a lot of the Disney channel shows. He, he and I have known each other for 35 years. We’ve written scripts together on numerous occasions. We’re very much tied to bringing back fun comedy to the masses. Now we’ve written 17 spec scripts in the last five years, and we’re out there everyday trying to sell them.
Jeff: When, when you think about comedy, that seems to be some controversy now and again about whether or not. Comedy is still comedy. And by that, I mean, do you find that what is funny and what works maybe five, 10, 20 years ago is still universally accepted as funny. I mean, this funny, that’s something that is universal or do you find that changes
Steve Ruben: with the time.
Oh, it’s definitely changing the time. I think our comedy has become way, way harder edged. I think [00:17:00] there’s a lot of graphic language. Now the raunchy comedy seems to be the one that the studios like to do kind of inspired by the success of hangover. I, I just don’t write that kind of comedy. We’re we’re more are inspired.
Projects are the projects we are, we do are inspired by films like Ghostbusters back to the future a night at the museum, even, even the wizard of Oz, we just, we just love fun comedies that make you feel good.
Jeff: And it’s because, like I said, those come down to make you feel good. But, you know, they are, you found that more of an escape than harder edge comedy.
Do you think it, when you add that extra edginess, do you think you lose that kind of, maybe it was mental relaxation that you would get from just enjoying a good comedy movie or.
Steve Ruben: TV. Well, I think the big thing is that you lose a wider audience. I think when you stand on the street corner with your 85 year old grandmother and your eight year old and your [00:18:00] wife, and you’re just signing what to see, there really, aren’t a lot of choices for a family audience to see anymore.
I mean, you know, our kids allowed to grow up anymore. I mean, you smack them right off the bat with raunchy comedy. It doesn’t give them much time. I think that our goal is to make movies. That you just have fun with and you don’t offend anybody with, I mean, it’s just we’ve kind of lost something in this country.
I think we’ve lost maybe a loss of innocence or whatever you call it, but I think you can still do a fun comedy. The movies that I laughed at 50 years ago, I still laugh at you put on a Marx brothers, comedy or Abbott and Costello, or Mel Brooks or Monte Python. Those movies are still funny today, a 40 or 50 years later.
I don’t find a lot of the comedies that get released today. That funny thing, you know, frankly,
Jeff: And I think the other thing that’s kind of interesting is that. I think more than ever before, we’re an extremely stratified society. And I think the issue with that, at least in my opinion [00:19:00] issue with that is that you do lose that shared experience.
Like, like you mentioned being able to watch a movie with your grandmother or, you know, your parent, if you’re a child, I don’t think that’s as happens as often anymore because everyone, because there’s so many streaming services, so many TV shows that reaches a very niche. Interest. I don’t think we do share Common experience, especially with cinema.
And I think that is something that is lost don’t
Steve Ruben: you? Absolutely. I, you know, they, they talk about the death of the movie theater, which I believe will not die. I think movie theaters is starting to come back strongly, but when you have a fun comedy and you’re sitting in a room with 500 people and everybody’s laughing, that is a, that is a a terrific experience.
It’s a visceral experience. You feel the pulse of the movie through all the laughter. I can’t tell you how many times in the past. I’ve sat in a movie theater, laughing my head off and just enjoying, just enjoying the fun of being in a large group. And we’re all having fun now. Conversely, I’ve also been in, I went to see the Exorcist the first month [00:20:00] it was open and the terror in that audience was palpable as well.
In fact, there was a scene where it was so scary. People started laughing afterwards only because they were too scared to, you know, they had to do something
Jeff: well. And I think another thing that you said is very interesting when you come up to like the universal Allity of a great film that you say, like the Marx brothers listening to it back when it first came out to now, funny is funny.
And I think it’s very interesting that there are certain films that hold up forever, and I think there are going to be in their own. Let’s use another word I use earlier in mortal. You directed a documentary called return to the greatest scape.
Steve Ruben: I did.
Jeff: It was a a phenomenal movie. I I remember great escape.
Once again, I mean, it was well before my time, but what would probably is a lie, but my father who loved the movie sat me down and I watched a movie with him and I was amazed just once again, just how good it is. I will say that the ending, I don’t ruin it for anybody was such a downer that maybe hard to watch it the second time.
But I did find it [00:21:00] to be an amazingly well done movie. So what was, so what was it about that movie that made you want to do a
Steve Ruben: documentary about it? Well, interesting. Like I said earlier, when I read gold finger, it was exciting to see the movie Goldfinger that year. The previous year I had read the book, the greatest scape by Paul brick Hill.
So when the great escape movie came out, it was a thrill as well. The great escape is what I call my desert Island movie. Everybody has one movie. That if they could only take one movie to a desert Island, that would be it. Well, the greatest scape is my desert Island movie. I’ve I’ve loved that movie ever since I’ve seen it.
I’ve probably seen it two or 300 times. I had an extensive in my combat films book. I had an extensive sit-down interview with John Sturgis who directed it. I once gave Steve McQueen directions in Culver city, California, which was one of my favorite celebrity encounters. I did the commentary track when they released the movie in a special, a DVD in 2004.
And I was nominated that year for best [00:22:00] classic commentary. I’ve done another documentary just recently called the coolest guy movie ever, which is currently available on Amazon. Again covering the greatest scape. I hooked up with a French filmmaker who was taking a camera crew to all the sites where the film was made and comparing them to how they look today.
And just a lot of mines, a lot of fun. Chris Espinan was the filmmaker. I printed up producing the film with him. It was released by Virgil films and entertainment. Every, I just loved the great escape. I mean, it’s one of those movies that if you, they really captured lightning in a bottle with that story and that cast.
Jeff: Now kind of going back a little bit to what we are taught early and kind of connected to what we talked about now. Having gone to UCLA, which is a very prestigious high college and w studying journalism and history, which is so important to the training of compiling information, focus details. Did that help you when [00:23:00] putting together a documentary for something like the greatest scape where you kind of, you had that training to kind of hone, hone, hone in on information, know where to look, how to.
Organize. That was, that was, that kind of, was that training back then would help you
Steve Ruben: later now. Well, my training as a journalist where I had to yeah. Interview people, transcribed the tapes, pull out the appropriate quotes was all good background for me. And then on my history papers, you know, reading reading great books on the history of a certain subject, and then calling that material to put your papers together was very.
Useful as background all carefully footnoted so that you weren’t stealing work, you were honoring work. Sure, sure. All of that comes in handy when you’re putting a film together, whether it’s a documentary or a narrative film, you just, all that comes in very handy.
Jeff: So, what did you in doing the research for the greatest Gabe?
What did you think? Fine. That kind of [00:24:00] shocked you about it. And was there anything that in doing that research and make your document come short, document the documentary? You can’t make a 10 hour long documentary or 20 hours long down because you know, you have to keep it within a certain confine. Was there anything that you wish that you could have been putting in that could’ve been fit into it?
They just had a cutout for let’s say time issues. So I guess both
Steve Ruben: questions. Well, the, the return to the great escape documentary was released by Showtime in 93, on the 30th anniversary of the film. It only, I think it only runs 24 minutes. I mean, frankly given the opportunity, I could have done a full hour on the greatest scape.
We could have gotten into some of the history a little bit more. In terms of shocking. I mean, I learned in my research that Steve McQueen was actually fired from that movie because he was on that. He was unhappy with his character and he actually walked off the set one day and refused to come back until his character was rewritten.
So he didn’t shoot for six weeks. So [00:25:00] that was. Shocking to me, fortunately, they were able to work things out cause he was he was actually fired at one point James Garner, who was playing Henley, the air, the, the the scrounger and the story he was going to take over some of Steve McQueen’s duties on it.
But yeah. Yeah, it was a, there was a lot of material there. There’s a lot of interesting information on the making of that movie. Most of which I put in my book, combat zones. God, that would have
Jeff: been a totally different movie. It’s even the queen. It was kept out of that movie,
Steve Ruben: right? I actually, yeah, I really enjoyed the bit in Quentin Tarantino’s recent film the once upon a time in Hollywood because I thought it was funny that Leo DiCaprio did that whole thing where he talks about how he was almost up for the role and they actually put him in the scene where Steve McQueen’s in the great escape.
It was great. Oh,
Jeff: that is awesome. So total. How much time was spent researching for this documentary?
Steve Ruben: Not a lot because I had, I had done all the research primarily for my book the [00:26:00] combat films book. So it was just, most of my work was in tracking down the people I’d already interviewed for the book and getting them on camera.
And then my partner on the return to the greatest scape, Debra Goodwin, she went over to France to interview Donald Pleasants. And then we met in Munich and then we took the camera crew around Germany to film on some of those locations for the 93 documentary.
Jeff: So the that documentary actually got nominated for a DVD exclusive award.
Is that correct? For
Steve Ruben: best audio commentary, then not the documentary, but my audio commentary for that disc. They actually, when they, that, that documentary I think was was used at one point on the DVD release. But in 2004, they came out with a special DVD and I was able to do the commentary track.
And that was nominated for. That’s classic commentary. I ended up losing to Peter Jackson for Lord of the rings. Well, God damn Peter
Jeff: Jackson. Well, I [00:27:00] mean, I honestly think it’s going to lose a, somebody. It might as well be someone like Peter Jackson.
Steve Ruben: Exactly.
Jeff: So what did that nomination mean to you? Like, is there a validation in the nomination or.
Was that kind of just like a pleasant thing? Or did you feel that that kinda made everything you did? Kind of just, not just maybe just not the right word, but did validate all that work
Steve Ruben: put into those, just Jeff. It was just fun. It was just fun. I mean, I got a call January 1st that year and a friend of mine calls me up and said, What do you have in common with Peter Jackson, Julie Andrews, Matt groaning.
And I can forget the other nominee. I said, what are you talking about? I says, you’ve been nominated for best class to commentary. And it was, it was a thrill for me. I mean, at anytime anybody recognizes your work, especially on a movie that I consider my desert Island movies. So it was fun.
Jeff: And once again, talking about being mobilized, you are now forever going to be connected to the greatest gate.
Which I guess is if you’re going to be connected to one movie, that’s definitely one of ’em to be
[00:28:00] Steve Ruben: remembered with. I am totally fine with that.
Jeff: So later on, you would write two encyclopedias. You wrote the Twilight zone, I’m excited, the pedia and the James Bond encyclopedia. Those are two franchises that in some form have been around for decades.
How daunting is it to compile. Data and information for franchise I’ve been around on and off for now. I guess it’s almost 70 years in at least one case of Twilight
Steve Ruben: zone. Well, the, the, the let’s talk about the Twilight zone, the Twilight zone came on the air in 1959, ran for five years, 156 episodes.
Rod Serling wrote 92 of them. A terrific series. One of the greatest series of all time, probably the best cast television series of all time. A book was written in 1982 by Mark Scott secrete called the Twilight zone companion, which was a very well received book. Was I, I enjoyed it very much. And so the first time I saw all 156 episodes in a [00:29:00] book, but I felt that That the, the series could also benefit from the approach of an encyclopedia.
Cause I really wanted to fill in the gaps about the people who were involved in this series, particularly the actors, there were hundreds of actors involved in the Twilight zone, many of whom we’ve forgotten today. And they were character actors, and I wanted to devote some time to them, put their picture in the book, get some biographical information out there so that if you’re watching an episode of the Twilight zone and it mentions an actor like Jack Klugman, you can go to my listing and find out a little bit more about Jack Klugman or Burgess Meredith or James Whitmore.
Or William Reynolds or you know, not only the Robert Redford’s and Burt Reynolds, who obviously we know who they are, but some of the minor character actors who got their shot to be leads on the Twilight zone was really kind of an ambition of mine. So the Twilight zone encyclopedia came together.
Because I really wanted to do service to the people who made this series [00:30:00] successful. You know, the producer, buck, Houghton obviously rod Serling himself. Everybody I could, the directors, the writers, Richard Matheson. Charles Beaumont, people like that. George Clayton Johnson, these are the classic writers that worked with Serling.
There was a lot of information and also I find the encyclopedia idea, kind of a fun book, more of a tribute book that you can just pop in and out of. You don’t have to read it, cover to cover. I had had success with the first edition of my James Bond encyclopedia. Which we’ll talk about in a minute, cause I’ve now, I’ve now released the fourth edition.
So I’ve discovered that people like the encyclopedia format, cause they can browse around and have fun. Now
Jeff: going back to the toilet zone, the Twilight zone has. Was it three iterations or four iterations. Does your encyclopedic carry each iteration, including the Jordan Peele version of the Twilight zone?
Or are you maintaining what the original?
Steve Ruben: I am a total black and white snob. The book is only [00:31:00] that first five seasons of black and white episodes. I will say today. I’ve said it before you put the Twilight zone in color, you lose half of your atmosphere. So I’m dealing with the classic original Twilight zone.
Jeff: was there any point in compiling once they had these, this massive encyclopedia that you thought, God damn, this is such a daunting task. Like you want to think to yourself how crazy you might even be attempting this or did you always, was it something that you just loved anyway and you knew you’re just gonna plow forward or did you at any point think, yeah, I might have dug too deep.
I’m trying to do all this.
Steve Ruben: It was a daunting task. I mean, there’s a lot of work to do but I really loved the fact that I could dive into this type of thing. As a film producer, you can sit there literally for a decade and have no movie to show for all your efforts, whether you’re writing or developing a material, acquiring rights.
For a number of reasons [00:32:00] you’re not selling. And I kind of felt like I’d been on the sidelines too long. I got to get back riding and getting something into the marketplace. So the Twilight zone served a big purpose for me that it got me back into the marketplace of pop culture, where I could share my love of something.
You know, I still have all my movies I’m developing, but you know, it takes, it literally can take years, decades, whatever. I mean, For, for a time there all the time there for 20 years. Yeah. I tried to get a movie made on the TV series combat, and that was another show that I really love back in the 1960s.
And I acquired the film rights from ABC to make the series actually sold it to to paramount, but they decided to make saving private Ryan instead. So combat never got made. So there was 20 years. Where I had no movie to show for it, even though I made a little money. That was the good part. But you know, these books serve a big purpose for me.
They keep me kind of [00:33:00] flowing out into the marketplace to share my love of film.
Jeff: And is there, I mean, did you, did you find anything in researching for your twice on cyclopedia that really kind of shocked you.
Steve Ruben: Well, there are a lot of stories about the zone that are interesting. I’ll tell you actually a funny story.
I don’t know if this is so much a shock, but it’s an odd story. Very Twilight zone story. I wanted to know a little bit more about how rod wrote, you know, what was his methodology? What were his inspirations motivations? So I’ve become very friendly with Carol Serling, his widow, and I would go up to her her house and she would let me look at the original contracts.
She gave me a ton of photographs. She was normally helpful in compiling my book with me, but she said, you should read this book. The, especially the opening preface. And she handed me a bound book. It was published back in the back in the [00:34:00] day of Rod’s live television plays before he got into the zone, you know, plays like patterns and rec Requiem for a heavyweight, the comedian.
And there was a very long preface where he talked about his inspirations and motivations. So I brought the book home, I put it on my desk and then I was called as some kind of activity. I think my wife and I had to go to a dinner that night. I was eager to read that preface. So I came back. And the book disappeared.
Oh, shit was sitting on the, now it was sitting on my desk. Now nobody broke into our house. There was absolutely no reason for it not to be there. I look for that book for three days. I practically tore my office apart because first of all, she’s giving me Rod’s personal copy of his. Of his bound TV scripts.
Now I was able to purchase another copy of it on eBay, you know, for a hundred dollars. So at least I got her, the book back a book back, thankfully it wasn’t autograph. But to this day, [00:35:00] I don’t know where that book went. I think I went into the Twilight song.
Jeff: The goals of rod Serling was like, I’m taking this damn book back.
Steve Ruben: You go get that my book, then here’s a, here’s another one for you. Jeff. I went to Binghamton New York where they Where they were doing a symposium on the zone. They do it every few years there. And a wonderful writer took me to Rod’s home, where he grew up and we stood in front of the house and the lady came out of the house and offered to take a picture of me with my friend.
And here’s the funny thing is she, I hand her my iPhone. She takes the picture. I look at the picture. It’s in black and white. How is that possible? I handed her the phone and they’re there. You have to set it for black and white for it to be black and white. So there’s another dude.
Jeff: Once again, it’s, it’s, it’s it’s rod Serling with looking down and go, you know, you know, if you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it.
Right. [00:36:00] So, in, in doing that research, Did you get a deeper understanding of why the toy zone has survived as well as it has for all these decades?
Steve Ruben: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Just, just learning about the reaction to these morality plays, you know, broad was very, very. Upset with network television. At that time, this was the live television era.
They were doing a lot of his dramas on TV, but they didn’t want to do anything controversial. He really wanted to tell the story of the the Amatil murder, where a young black man whistled at a white woman. I think it was in Mississippi and he was hung for doing that. And he I’ll network executive actually told rod Serling, we can do the story.
But you’ve got to turn them into a Mexican and rod was outraged and just so upset with something like that, that he just said, I’m getting out of here. So he fortunately was the end of the live [00:37:00] TV era. Everything was moving to California for film. So the Twilight zone was a perfect, perfectly time story that he, our series that he could tell his morality plays, but disguise them as Senate science fiction and fantasy.
Jeff: So with a lot of your research did you, were you able to get a lot of. Firsthand accounts of what happened during the Twilight zone. Did you, or do you have a find either actors, director stage hands who could give you maybe an insight that was not readily available
Steve Ruben: elsewhere? Yes. Yes. I talked to almost everybody who was alive, a lot of young people who were now in their fifties and sixties.
I got insights from actors. From some behind the scenes people, some directors and then there was a lot of research material online that I could find. I had some great, great research materials from some of the previous documentaries on the show that were done with people who were living at the time, like buck Houghton, the producer, [00:38:00] and you know, and then of course there’s some commentary from rod himself in various things that I found.
Jeff: that, I mean, it must have been fantastic to know that you’re. Really are helping to increase the knowledge base of something so deeply
Steve Ruben: love. Yes, yes, no. I’ve got wonderful reviews of my book. And then with my new book, which is the fourth edition of the James Bond movie encyclopedia, I’ve had a lot of fun with it.
Cause this was the first time I was able to do a James Bond, encyclopedia of film encyclopedia with color photos, my new book. Which came out in November, 2020 is over 400 pages and we have over 400 photos in the book and many of them are in color.
Jeff: And w with James Bond, did you, I mean, is it like, what do you do the Twilight zone when you focus on just one iteration or is the James Bond cyclopedia covering all?
Was it 22 movies now, or the
Steve Ruben: franchise. Well, there’s actually [00:39:00] 27 movies, 25 official and two unofficial, never say never. Again was the unofficial remake of Thunderball done by Warners. And then Columbia released the spoof of casino Royale in 1967. With Woody Allen, David Nivon and Peter Sellers. I include both of those.
Yeah, no, it covers all the bonds, including the T V bond. Barry Nelson, who portrayed him in a live TV show in 1954, also based on the casino Royale book. So I cover every aspect of bonds, movie, world.
Jeff: So every time a new bond movie comes out or you’re like son of a bitch, I got now extended this many hours.
I didn’t do it. It’s like Peter you’re like, or are you like, all right, I get to enjoy another James Bond movie and dive into the cycle. Pedia. One more time for volume five or Virgin five.
Steve Ruben: Well, it is an interesting quandary. I mean, this last edition was the first time I had updated the books since 2003.
So I had eight, 18 years worth of bond movies to catch up [00:40:00] on all the dime Daniel Craig’s. So that was kind of fun to just dive into those movies, but it is an organic book. You know, the bond movies. I always say that there are three things, certain in life, there are a death taxes and James Bond movies.
There will be James Bond movies forever. I believe that.
Jeff: Well, I mean, I guess in many ways, James Bond, I kind of look at James Bond similar to how I would look at. If you look at comics, be Batman or Superman. I mean, it’s things that are, have become our mythology that now last forever and will be told by many different people, many different generations in many different ways.
And I guess in a very real way, each generation is, or you’re at least you’re going to see the voice of that generation in that movie. I mean, the D Daniel Craig is so much different than Paris Brosnan, which is different than Sean Connery. And I guess it’s probably best that it is different.
Steve Ruben: You know, you, you love the mood, the bond you grow up with.
I grew up with Sean Connery. So Sean Connery robot always be my favorite bond, [00:41:00] but I absolutely love Daniel Craig’s performance. I think he’s brought up a tough edginess to the character that is perfectly in tune with what we have today. I don’t think Roger Moore’s style of bond movies, the more light.
Kind of semi comic approach to bond would work today, I think because of the Bourne movies, because of mission possible you know, all the different gritty shows right now, I think you have to have a hard-edged bond because the world has become a much harder, harder edge place. So Daniel Craig has been the perfect bond for the last 15 years.
Jeff: Well, when you are watching a bond movie, can you enjoy it? It’s just a fan. Or do you find yourself analyzing it as an author of an
Steve Ruben: encyclopedia? I am a total fan. I, I sit back in my chair and I remember the first time I saw the movie and I just go with it. I’m not an over an analytic person when it comes to the movie.
Certainly there are [00:42:00] moments in the bond series, which I don’t particularly care for. You know, when Roger Moore jumps the. Ty claw, you know, the little stream and the Thailand, and that’s a 360 degree jump, which is one of the greatest stunts ever featured on film. And they put that little slide whistle.
Music effect over it, which kind of ruins the moment. I really I, I kind of wind sit that a lot of my least favorite moments were in Roger move for more films. But I have to say that Roger raise the standard of bond in the seventies to a very high level and it kept on building. So by the time he did his last James Bond movie of you to kill the series was even more popular than ever.
So, you can’t knock Roger’s impact on the film world. His style was just a little bit, you know, it wasn’t really what I wanted. I wanted less comic references and more drama, and there are dramatic moments. My favorite bond movie with Roger Octopussy and there are some great moments [00:43:00] in Octopussy.
Jeff: there one James Bond move that you’d say best exemplifies the series to someone who may not have seen one
Steve Ruben: before. First movie I saw, which is gold finger Goldfinger to me plays perfectly today as it would play at it, we played let’s see, it would be 51 51. Let’s see, 1964. So let’s see. That’s 36 and 21.
58 years ago 57 years ago, I’d say it’s hard to believe that Goldfinger is 57 years old, but it is. And it plays well today
Jeff: that, that, you know, that is really amazing. I mean, James Bond really has, has some wonderful movies. I mean, and as you and you’re you’re right, it’s a little bit like a doctor who has well where the first one is your favorite.
And I. I think my first time I really paid attention to bond was when Daniel Craig came back and came into the series because it felt, I think a little more serious. I think I said moments of the pairs bras in one, but to [00:44:00] me, pre pairs, Broughton felt like watching our cartoon version of James of an action movie.
While Daniel Craig felt like you were seeing an actual. Guide doing it. If that
Steve Ruben: makes any sense. I hear ya. I hear ya. Dan, when Daniel Craig got the role of James Bond, a lot of us were kind of a bit disparaging of him, you know, the blonde bond and who is this guy? Never heard of him. He’s done some movies, but.
And then I watched casino Royale, and my jaw literally dropped after that first chase scene where he’s chasing that par core expert on the construction crane, into that building just stunning. And Greg Craig has physically. He may have been the most physical bond ever because he gets beaten up regularly.
He gets, I mean, he’s actually hurt himself on the series. He think he cracked his ankle on this last movie note, time to die. I think he knocked his teeth out and casino. I Al I mean, he’s really put his body and soul in and his character and we’ve [00:45:00] appreciated it.
Jeff: It is one of the, is there an issue with A franchise or any franchise, because each movie feels a need to try a topping the previous one.
Do you find that it’s kind of an issue with in a James Bond movie where they feel like they must opt themselves instead of focusing on maybe. The internal parts of the story. There’s a, there’s a need to try to make it bigger than what came before it. And is that problematic?
Steve Ruben: One of my very first book before I wrote the encyclopedia is on bond.
I did the James Bond films, a behind the scenes history. And I remember, I think one of my chapter titles was called the Harry Houdini syndrome. And what I meant by that is that it’s the whole idea that you have to keep topping yourself. You’ve got to give the. The audience, a bigger trick, a bigger trick.
And I think that with the bond movies, when they first started out in the 1960s, they had the turf all to themselves. You know, there was no competition. And now today you have all these other series, like I mentioned [00:46:00] earlier, born and. May mission impossible even fast. And the furious has done something with car chases that is very competitive.
So yes, there is a, there is a sense of, can you top this, can you top this? How far can you go? And I give the producers credit because they’ve really kept the bar very high over the years, even though some of the movies I didn’t really care for in terms of being great bond movies, the production values were always very high.
You, when you. Go to see a James Bond movie as a family audience, and this is a big key to their success. You know, you’re going to get a great entertainment value, but you’re not going to be offended by either nudity or bad language. And I think that’s something that has kept the PG 13 rating, pretty much standard for the series.
Jeff: Well, how do you feel about how. CGI has affected something like the bond franchise, because the bottom franchise, one positive that it’s, [00:47:00] I mean, obviously fictional obviously is fantasy, but there’s still a very real feel to what’s being done and a very. And usually it’s, it seems to center on practical effects.
Do you think what people are able to see now with CGI effects, expectations in watching a movie like James Bond?
Steve Ruben: I don’t think so, because I think CGI has become so seamless. I would dare some people to even tell me which are CGI sequences. I mean, obviously they exist certainly in watching some of the old James Bond movies long, long before CGI, you see some of the.
The bad process work. I mean, when Sean Connery’s driving his little Alpine sports car, he’s being chased by that hearse in the first James Bond movie. Dr. No, he’s on a process screen, you know, he’s on a process stage. I mean, there’s a, they’re running the film behind them and, and, but you still love it.
I mean, I love it, even though it’s a kind of, you know, it’s not really a great shot, but today I don’t really think again, like I said earlier, when I was thinking of that chair, I’m [00:48:00] not analyzing whether it’s CGI or real, I just want to enjoy it.
Jeff: And, and, and I think, I mean, I totally agree with you. I do like being able to sit back and just enjoy it.
I do. I will say though, I do miss the fact that. Especially right now with COVID you do lose the theater experience, which is definitely an
Steve Ruben: unfortunate, well, we’re gonna, we’re gonna get theaters back and they’re going to come back and they’re going to come back strongly. Nothing is going to keep the American movie theater out of action forever because Americans actually Americans everybody on the planet.
To go to the movies. I mean, particularly teenagers. And I’ve always said that you can never knock out theaters completely because teenagers need a place to go. That’s not under the supervision of their parents. And there’s nothing like the old fashioned movie theater experience.
Jeff: Did you find the James Bond encyclopedia harder to compile then Twilight zone because of the sheer amount of movies that have existed over and over that long
[00:49:00] Steve Ruben: period of time?
Well, they’re both challenging. I mean, the Twilight zone I had to do literally entries on 156 TV episodes. The bond movies is 27, actually 28 movies if you include the TV movie. So, there was a lot of work I had to do. I had not updated the book in 18 years and I had to update every entry. I wanted to give more biographical information on the, on the people.
So even though this is the fourth edition of my encyclopedia, it’s almost entirely rewritten. So if you bought the first three additions, I think you’re going to enjoy this edition because there’s a lot more information.
Jeff: Is there any other encyclopedias you’re planning on working on? I’m thinking I want to obsess lovely document every moment of this
Steve Ruben: franchise.
Not at the moment, Jeff, I’ve actually thought about if there was another arena. I mean, I’m a big star Wars fan, but they’ve already done star Wars science, like the PDs. I, I like Harry Potter. They’ve done that. I like star Trek. They’ve done [00:50:00] that. I’ve liked game of Thrones. I mean, I think that I’m pretty much.
Focused on my movie writing now, just getting some movies made and into the marketplace. I’ve got a lot of properties, not only my properties, but I have friends properties I’m trying to get going. In fact, I’ve started a literary management division of my production company. It’s called good humor, literary management to help sell those properties as well.
Good humor being a good operative word these days because we really want to laugh more. So,
Jeff: what do you have in the pipelines? Incoming?
Steve Ruben: You think that nothing. Book-wise. I think that the next thing I hope to have in the pipeline is a movie.
Jeff: Are you able
Steve Ruben: to share which movie that is? I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ve got, I, I’ve got a lot of things I’m percolating with, but nothing imminent. That’s going to happen right away. And,
Jeff: and when you’re saying a movie you’re talking about [00:51:00] closer to the great escape document star documentary, or are you talking about something fictional something more non-fiction
Steve Ruben: history writing, primarily fictional narrative film.
Right now we’re writing comedies. I’ve got a science fiction TV series that I’ve written the pilot for. I’ve got some dramas. I’ve got some animated things. We with a different writing partner, David Miller, I wrote a children’s picture book two years ago that came out after Twilight zone.
It’s called the cat who lived with Anne Frank. That’s a children’s picture book that tells the story of the attic in 1942 Amsterdam. But from the real cat’s point of view, there is a real cat living with the Frank and van Pells family in that Amsterdam Backhouse.
Jeff: Well, that sounds absolutely awesome.
I really hope as things come out and you come back in the show and help promote them, it was a great pleasure to talk to you. And I think what you’ve done with those encyclopedias are tremendous. I got a chance to look through them. I saw you, you [00:52:00] sent over, I think, or your assistance over some links to me.
It, it was so well detailed. So well organized. I was really
Steve Ruben: tremendously impressed. Thank you, Jeff. If any of the fans want to reach out to me, I have several places on Facebook. I have three different sites. I have Steve Rubin, R U B I N. I’ve got the G the James Bond movie encyclopedia side.
I also do something called Steve Rubin Saturday night at the movies where I do reviews of classic films. And I’m also on LinkedIn. I’m also on Instagram, under fast carrier, which is the name of my production company. Well,
Jeff: thank you so much. Steve likes to come back any time. I had a great pleasure.
Thanks, Jeff. All right. I have a
Steve Ruben: very good night, sir. Thank you, sir. [00:54:00] [00:53:00]