Actress Illeana Douglas Shows Love to New Milford in New Book About CT Films
Illeana Douglas is no stranger to a film set, she's been making big-budget Hollywood film since the 1980's.
Douglas is best known for her roles in Goodfellas, Cape Fear and Picture Perfect but now she has a new title to add to her resume, author. Douglas has just released a book called "Connecticut in the Movies: From Dream Houses to Dark Suburbia."
This was a passion project for Douglas who grew up in Old Saybrook and believes the Nutmeg State is highly misunderstood. We spoke with Illeana on the Monday (10/23/23) edition of the I-95 Morning Show and learned that New Milford, Connecticut played a starring role in the book.
Dave: Illeana, I'm from Waterbury, Ethan is from New Fairfield and Lou lives in Danbury. It seems you've visited every one of our towns in preparation for this book.
Illeana: "I have it's been really fun, growing up where I did, along the shoreline I love Connecticut. I didn't even know how to drive so half of these places I had never actually been or maybe I'd driven by Waterbury on my way to New York. It was actually when I started writing about Stanley & Iris which was the second film I started writing about that I said OK, there really is a book here because it's not just about Stanley & Iris. It's about Waterbury, the heyday of Waterbury, it's about the decline of Waterbury and that, to me is very interesting because as with all these states in America, Connecticut tells a story"
Lou: It's funny, if you don't live here, the national reputation is not great. They think that we're a lot of rich people, a lot of snobs and it just really doesn't capture, I don't think the nation knows the identity of this state.
Illeana: "No and that's what the book is about perception and how the perception changed from this idyllic kind of Christmas in Connecticut to dark suburbia to oh, it's just Darien. When you say you're from Connecticut people think you're from Darien or Greenwich because the place now, currently, that TV and movies will use and they use it to say something about the character. If the character lives in Connecticut they're usually a bad guy."
Lou: I've always found that, if you use a place that looks this idyllic, a Connecticut town becomes a character in the movie itself. I will watch movies because I love the environment.
Illeana: "Yes exactly and when you live here, that was part of the challenge of the book, how do you describe this Brigadoon-like quality? We live here and we know it but the world doesn't seem to know it. Then, that is why I decided to go all the way back to the beginning, even when they were doing silent films here. So, the book is for people who love all these movies but it's also to discuss all the great, you know stories that have come out of Connecticut but it's somewhat unheralded."
The publishing company sent us a copy of the book in advance of our interview so the guys and I had a few days to flip through. In that time, we learned Illeana went deep, capturing a very complete picture of the history of films made in the Constitution State. She dove into all film eras and explored so many communities like Waterbury, Westport, Danbury and New Milford.
This was my opportunity to plead my case for New Milford. I've always believed that New Milford is the perfect movie set for all genres and I wanted to convince Illeana of that, while suggesting she shoot her next film here.
Lou: I personally want to beg you to do your next film here in New Milford, CT. I believe it is the most beautiful small town, I really do.
Illeana: "Yeah it's funny you mention that and there is so many to pick out. It was interesting for me, I saved my little road trips like little presents to myself, you know. I was so nervous about going to New Milford because it's such a cornerstone of the book. It's where the author Eric Hodgins wrote Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, it's where his original house is. If your listeners don't know, he was an author who wrote a book about buying a house and going into reconstruction and it went so over budget he ended up having to sell the house. Then, they made a movie about it and then the original owners wouldn't sell him the house back so it's kind of a comic/sad story of home building. But, as I drove into New Milford I really hoped that there would still be that charm that I had described in the book because at a certain era it was the place that a lot of authors and creative people chose to live and it still retains that kind of quality. It's a really cool town."
While we were graced with Illeana's company I had to take the chance to ask her about her many years in Hollywood movie-making. I wasn't sure how far she could go on the topic because the SAG-AFTRA actor's strike but I would have been upset with myself if I did not ask.
Lou: It is killing me, are we allowed to ask about your acting? We don't know because of the strike and everything.
Illeana: "I mean from the new rules I don't think I really can but if there is, you can ask me about maybe another actor or director, something like that."
Lou: What actor or actress that you acted with, gave you the chills? Who did you work with and said to yourself I can't believe this is real?
Illeana: "Well I'd have to say Robert Mitchum right off the bat. I can't believe it even when I'm looking at it, when I'm looking at a scene I'm like wait a minute, how is this possible? I mean he comes from another era and I got to work with Robert Mitchum. That was pretty cool just being in a film with him, the fact that my grandfather had worked with Robert Mitchum and now I was in a scene with him was pretty cool. I got to ask him film questions as much as I could. I would say the more current actor, one of the people I learned the most from is probably Nick Nolte. That is why I wanted to write about Everybody Wins and his experience working in Norwich. He took me under his wing early on and was very, very helpful. I just think he's a great actor and a person that everybody sort of looks up to and admires when they meet him, and very authentic."
You can listen to the complete I-95 interview with Illeana Douglas below. If you choose to, you'll learn what method Douglas uses to memorize her lines and why she felt she needed to leave Adam Sandler's adaptation of Mr. Deeds out of the book.
P.S. In the middle of the interview, Ethan Carey of the Ethan, Lou and Large Dave Show was waving a note pad in my face. While we were talking to Illeana, Ethan learned (Google) that Illeana used to have a romantic relationship with Martin Scorsese. I gave him several non-verbal cues with my face. With the first face I expressed to him that I knew that, the second face was to tell him not to bring it up. And people call me a child, huh!
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