Legendary Hollywood producer Felix Bergmann will be receiving Oscar gold at the upcoming Academy Awards in the form of an honorary statue for “stereotypical 1970s batshit contributions to the industry.”
I had the misfortune of being assigned the task of interviewing Bergmann at his Beverley Hills bungalow, where he now mostly putters around in isolation and complains about athletes taking a knee.
With pink-lensed glasses taking up his entire face and a cigar stuffed inside his mouth, Mr. Bergmann brought me to his office – a shrine to commemorate his long-gone Hollywood heyday. There, you’ll find relics like the paper moon from Paper Moon. There’s a lock of Ali McGraw’s hair kept under glass.
After he downs half a bottle of unlabeled brown alcohol, we’re ready to get down to business.
Interviewer: Mr. Bergmann, you haven’t made a movie in twenty-four years. What have you been doing?
Bergmann: Oh, you know. Life kind of just got in the way, I suppose. Sitting in box seats at my Mighty Ducks games and painting little army figurines take up most of my time now.
Interviewer: You grew up in Nebraska City, Kansas – the sugar beet capital of the Midwest. Tell me about your childhood.
Bergmann: Great depression. Dog named Lucky. Tragically dead sibling. Beat with leather strap. Escape to movie theatres. Loss of virginity in a car. Discovery of cheating high-school girlfriend shapes rest of life.
Interviewer: When did you know you wanted to get into the movie business?
Bergmann: I defiantly left town in 1956 by hopping on a train. It went west to Los Angeles. I walked the streets day and night looking for work, and just my luck, Golden Apple Pictures was in the market for a new elevator boy.
Interviewer: Excuse the pun, but how did you move up from there?
*Note: It took four hours for Mr. Bergmann to excuse the pun and agree to continue.
Bergmann: Moe Martin would ride my elevator; he was the president of Golden Apple then. I’d joke every morning that I wouldn’t let him out of the elevator unless he let me make a movie. We would laugh and laugh. Then one day, I did it. We had an eight-day stand-off, but the next thing I knew, I was producing Doris Day in the 1961 comedy classic Slap Her Silly.
Interviewer: You do have a history of using threats and violence. It is true you once pulled the pin off of a grenade to make Warren Beatty agree to star in Don’t Walk Now?
Bergmann: Pure hogwash. I’ve never even seen a grenade in my whole life. It was a thermal detonator.
Interviewer: So…… where did you get your inspiration?
Bergmann: Well, most of the projects that came my way at that time were formulaic candyfloss. Musicals like Toot! Toot! Toot! Toot! Toot! or Help! I’m Dancing Too Fast. I did a few of those beach pictures. No inspiration required. Tragically, and when I say tragically, I mean luckily, Moe Martin mysteriously died in 1967, and I was named the new head of the studio.
Interviewer: So, I take it Sexy Gogo Twist Machine was your idea?
Bergmann: I did come up with that one, yes! I turned down a “Story By” credit, I might add. But it really managed to tap into the zeitgeist and usher the studio into a new era.
Interviewer: Exactly how much cocaine did you do in the 1970s?
*Note: Bergmann stands up, proceeds to get a ladder, and climbs to the second to last step on the ladder, so he can hold out his hand and give an accurate representation regarding the height of a mass cocaine mountain.
Interviewer: There’s no arguing that you had some seminal hits like Crooked Cop Against the Law in 1971 and Marguerite, the Sweaty Feminist in 1973, but how do you respond to critics of yours who felt your work became repetitive – even plagiarized from other movies?
Bergmann: Completely preposterous.
Interviewer: Some have said that Cleveland was just a rock n’ roll rip-off of Nashville.
Bergmann: No way.
Interviewer: How do you explain a boxing movie called Sandy coming out months after Rocky?
*Note: Bergmann proceeds to shrug like Steve Urkel.
Interviewer: Okay… Eight wives, huh? We can save ourselves some time and just assume infidelity, cocaine, and work ruined them all?
*Note: Steve Urkel shrug again.
Interviewer: In 1978, you began production on your magnum opus, The Last Chicken. Why did you find it necessary to bring a film crew to the middle of the Himalayas and build a fully functioning KFC?
Bergmann: Realism. I needed to say something about the impossible determination of capitalism and how no place can escape its maddening reach.
Interviewer: You filmed there for two years and lost 80 million dollars. Six members of the production crew died. Actress Barbara Hershey claims you went insane. How do you justify all that?
Bergmann: I mean, you have to look at it from my point of view…
Interviewer: Okay, so, after that, you were pretty much banished from Hollywood and spent much of the 1980s in the softcore adult film industry?
Bergmann: Acting… not producing.
Interviewer: Following that well-publicized scandal at the airport involving the parrots, two-by-fours, and two per cent milk, many have argued that was your lowest point? Was it?
Bergmann: Well, not exactly. I did produce Bridges of Madison Country and went on to serve as Matthew McConaughey’s personal advisor from 1998 to 2010.
Interviewer: What turned your life around?
Bergmann: Acai berries.
Interviewer: Are awards and recognition important to you?
Bergmann: Yes! Obviously. But can you print that I said no?
Interviewer: Where is the film industry headed, you think?
*Note: Bergmann foams at the mouth as he utters obscenities in-between the words “superhero trash.”
Interviewer: Ultimately, what do you think Felix Bergmann’s legacy will be?
*Note: Bergmann’s housecoat falls open, and he does not show the slightest inkling to cover up as he searches for an answer.
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Ryan Uytdewilligen is a writer, known for the novels Tractor and Akela, the Will Rogers Medallion-winning novella The Cattle Driver, and the non-fiction film history KIlling John Wayne: The Making of The Conqueror. He has written sketch comedy for the stage and is based in Toronto, Ontario.