J. F.: How did this all begin?
Interviewer: Well for me, it was about two years ago -- I found the group of fans of Wizards and Warriors that had a list online.
J. F.: That's what's curious to me, is how did that come about? Because the series was very short lived.
Interviewer: Well, it was a great show. And there's tons of websites for shows like that.
J. F.: Really?
Interviewer: There's a lot of fans who watch "non-reality" shows and unfortunately most of them don't get enough ratings and they get pulled. The web has been a great place for fans.
J. F.: OK, well, terrific. Ask away. As I said, I have no secrets.
Interviewer: Well, first of all, we really do want to thank you [for speaking with us]. I think one of the first questions was how did you get started in show business originally?
J. F.: OK. You should know, by the way, that my relationship with Rob Draper is a creative and personal one that is very, very gratifying. We've worked together, as he's told you I'm sure, quite a number of times and we've always done wonderful work together. So, the fact that you are onto Rob Draper and then Rob somehow led you to me, is just perfect. Because he's a great friend and a brilliant cameraman. And our collaboration always means something that's very special.
Interviewer: Oh, that's cool.
J. F.: I was an actor first. Going to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh to major in drama for a BFA - Bachelor of Fine Arts. [I] went to New York, where I was born and lived, [and] went to the Neighborhood Playhouse [School of the Theatre] to study with Sandy [Sanford] Meisner, then to the Actor's Studio, through Lee Strasburg's private classes. I began acting in New York Off-Broadway and on Broadway, including Becket with Laurence Olivier . . .
J. F.: . . . and Anthony Quinn. I did a musical called Anyone Can Whistle, a Stephen Sondheim musical with Angela Lansbury. Arturo Ui with Christopher Plummer and an improvisational comedy theatre that included a writer named Buck Henry, the actor George Segal, Joan Darling and Ted Flicker. And we were quite successful in New York, much like Second City or Beyond The Fringe. And I began . . . Sydney Pollack, a director, gave me my first camera, and I went to Europe one summer and started taking pictures and I became hooked on photography. Decided to make a short film, which I did. I made a short film with a friend of mine. Black and white, 16 millimeter, which won some awards. [I] came to California as an actor, made another short film, met two young producers who saw me acting in this improvisational group I told you about -- The Premise -- and they gave me my first directing job when I was a kid. And that was a show called The Monkees.
Interviewer: I loved that show!
J. F.: Well, a lot of people did. It was very popular.
Interviewer: And still hugely popular, especially with the online community, too.
J. F.: So I won an Emmy for the first half-hour I directed.
Interviewer: That's pretty darn good right out of the gate.
J. F.: It was too good, actually. I was not prepared for that kind of success that early on.
Interviewer: Was that a little overwhelming?
J. F.: Yeah, it was, a bit. I wasn't ready for it. I was from New York, didn't really understand the Hollywood community. Anyway, I continued working. I did television and features, usually quirky things. I did a movie called The Big Bus, with Stockard Channing. It was kind of a satire of disaster movies. I did a Marxist western with Dennis Hopper called Kid Blue. I kept doing kind of a mix of television at the same time. And, at a certain point, ended up doing Wizards and Warriors. Just because it played into my reputation for being quirky as a director and able to do things that were not simply reality bent.
Interviewer: Well, I think that's one of the things that people like the most about Wizards and Warriors, was that it was really funny. I mean it had some modern humor in it.
J. F.: Oh, it was very funny. After that, I did The Muppet Movie.
Interviewer: Oh, that was wonderful! I watched it the other night.
J. F.: Oh, you did? I'm in that as well.
Interviewer: I rewound it a whole bunch of times . . .
J. F.: (laughs) So you see that there's kind of a line that goes through things like The Big Bus, Wizards and Warriors, The Muppet Movie, where, as a director, I'm comfortable working outside reality. As we know it... (chuckles)
Interviewer: Well, that's to me the whole interesting thing about television or movies or entertainment. Now, the most recent project I saw that you'd done was The Division . . . Heart of the City?
J. F.: That's a new television series that a friend of mine created, Deborah Joy Levine, about women cops. It's on Lifetime. But I just finished my second Fugitive episode with Tim Daly. I did the pilot for Ed. And I did the pilot for Ally McBeal, as you know.
Interviewer: And you were nominated for an Emmy for that, too.
J. F.: That's right. And I did a new show with Mary Stewart Masterson called Kate Brasher. That'll be on February, on CBS. Mary Stewart is an actress I've worked with before. And right now, I'm preparing a new pilot at Warner Brothers for ABC called Thieves, starring John Stamos. Which is about . . . it's again, not exactly reality based... but it's two master thieves, a male and female, who are forced by the government to work together and don't like each other.
Interviewer: (laughs) Those are always the most fun shows. We'll be sure to let people know that's what you're doing now, too. Did you like the acting or directing more? Was your favorite thing the directing because of all the camera work and that type of thing?
J. F.: Yeah, I like to direct. You have a lot more control; you're creating the whole world of a project, although acting is great fun. But you're responsible for acting through a lesser degree, the whole world of the project, what's fun for me is creating everything within the frame.
Interviewer: I think that comes out, too. I know from the pictures I had seen of you and the projects that I've seen, [it] seems like you have a really good sense of humor and could bring that out... that whole quirky thing.
J. F.: (chuckles) I try.
Interviewer: Well, it's more interesting to be unusual, I think, than . . .
J. F.: Than ordinary?
Interviewer: Yes. (laughs)
J. F.: (laughs) I guess so, but I think if you're ordinary, you don't know that you're not unusual.
Interviewer: That's true. OK, I'll go through some Wizards and Warriors questions. Were there any favorite memories you had? I know it was just one episode, but . . .
J. F.: Well, it wasn't an episode. I'm sensitive about that. When a director does the pilot of a new series, he's highly paid and given a royalty. Because he is creating the show . . . establishing a visual style, casting it, designing it, and bringing to it his own personal vision of what he feels that particular show can be. And he does that, of course, in collaboration with the writer/creator. That's different than just doing an episode. Once the show has sold, and is on the air, that director gets a sales bonus and royalties every time the show is on the air. That's different than directing an episode, which is what I think you said originally. I didn't take offense, but I wanted to clarify the difference between directing the pilot and directing an episode. Once the show is on its feet, on the air, in production, a director comes in and is still required to direct it and bring his own sense of reality and style to it, but it's a different... you see, he's basically a gun for hire. And I do that, too. I didn't direct the pilot of the Fugitive so I didn't establish the style the way Michel Solomon did, but I did come in and direct the best Fugitive I could. So, I collaborated with Don Reo on Wizards and Warriors and created the style, the look, the pace of the show.
Interviewer: I wasn't aware of that. I knew that eight episodes had run, but they were shown in a different order. So, The Rescue was actually the pilot?
J. F.: Yeah.
Interviewer: OK, then our list mythology is screwed up. Because the first one that actually did air was The Unicorn of Death and then the second one was The Kidnap and then The Rescue. So, we didn't realize that The Rescue was the pilot. We'll be sure that we make note of that on the site. So you were right there, starting the whole thing.
J. F.: Absolutely. That's what the director of a pilot does. That's what I did on Ally McBeal - David Kelley and I cast Callista Flockheart, chose the cameraman, the production designer, [and] collaborated on the look of the show. But, I mean, that's what the director of a pilot does. With Wizards and Warriors, [the] network and Don Reo may have had some difficulties or misunderstandings as to what they wanted, [and wanted to] as they say, 're-tool' the show. They were possibly afraid that the pilot was too bold. Actually, I don't know. I do know it wasn't on the air very long.
Interviewer: No, eight times, that was it. Do you think if it had been given a little bit more of a chance that it might have gotten a larger audience and taken off? Dungeons and Dragons were hugely popular at that time. Like Xena and Hercules are today.
J. F.: It has everything to do with the network attitude towards the project. Like NBC from the first day of dailies loved what we were doing on the pilot of Ed. And [they] have supported that show, moved it to a better time slot, given it tremendous promotion on air and have given it a great weekly time slot and it kept building and building. And now they've picked it up for a second season. I don't think Wizards and Warriors ever got that kind of support from the network.
Interviewer: That's too bad.
J. F.: I did another show that has a website... I know that people really love... We did 16 episodes of something called Vengeance Unlimited with Michael Madsen. It was very stylish, very dark... that had a faithful audience that watched every week. But it was only nine million; ten million people (chuckles)... so it wasn't considered a hit.
Interviewer: That sounds like a lot to me.
J. F.: So, I'm not sure what happened with Wizards and Warriors, but satire is a very difficult genre to do on television. It's a difficult genre to do anywhere. I mean, you know, The Big Bus was a satire of a genre and Wizards and Warriors was a satire of a genre.
Interviewer: Which is what made it so fun.
J. F.: Yeah, but I think it's also in a way, too smart for the room. I mean, I can't really think of another successful television show that has that kind of satirical approach. It's hard to pull off.
Interviewer: We all think it was great, of course. You mentioned before that you had worked in improv. Was there a lot of improv on the pilot then?
J. F.: There was a certain improvisational feeling to some of the acting that we did, that we had the actors do. But, no, it was pretty well scripted.
Interviewer: Did you have any favorite thing about it?
J. F.: I loved the dueling sequence with the sparking swords.
Interviewer: Did they have them hooked up to arc welders?
J. F.: Yeah, but that's not how they would do that today. I think we were the first ones to use that technique. Today it would be done optically. You know, CGI would do it.
Interviewer: I think Regehr and Conaway had mentioned that they were hooked up [to the arc welders] and that if they held the swords together too long, they'd melt together.
J. F.: Well, that's actors exaggerating.
Interviewer: I watched that [episode] the other night, too. That must've been fun in that great big, huge set with all the stairs.
J. F.: Yeah, I thought we had some wonderful sets.
Interviewer: Was it Peter Wooley who designed those?
J. F.: Yes, yes he did. He was a great designer. And I loved our Jewish American princess. She was wonderful.
Interviewer: Oh, Julia Duffy... yes!
J. F.: And we did the miniature castle. We used miniatures very successfully, you know, when the two knights are riding up to the castle, we pan over. That was a hanging miniature, [it] was actually hanging in the air, so that it looked as if it were on the horizon. All of those illusions are fun for me. That's what I love as a director.
Interviewer: Making the illusion the reality.
J. F.: Right.
Interviewer: Do you have any other favorite memories of the show? It sounds like you really had a good time doing it.
J. F.: I had a great time doing it.
Interviewer: Since you do seem to appear in some movies and shows that you directed, did you end up in The Rescue at all?
J. F.: I don't think I was in that pilot. I don't think so.
Interviewer: Did everybody pretty much get along?
J. F.: Yeah. It was a pretty terrific experience. It really was. I mean, Conaway had a little trouble riding. He had never ridden before. But I think he pulled it off, you know. But no, I loved the romance of it, you know, the hawk, the lightning hawk.
Interviewer: Oh, that was lovely, too.
J. F.: Yeah, there were some really terrific things in it. And it was a very expensive pilot for its day. Warner Brothers loved it, that's where I'm doing this pilot, as a matter of fact. Oh, you know who was really fabulous, actually, was Theadora Van Runkle.
Interviewer: Oh, the costumes were incredible!
J. F.: Well, Theadora and I were old friends, so I got her to do television. She had only done features before that, including Bonnie and Clyde. Her work on Wizards and Warriors garnered her an Emmy nomination and award [for Outstanding Costume Design For A Series in 1983 - for the Dungeon Of Death episode]. Have you looked up her credit?
Interviewer: We found an interview with her on the AMC site and have a link to that, where she talks about all of the awards and different things she's done.
J. F.: She's a personal friend... she was a personal friend before and after. OK, this was a pleasure.
Interviewer: Well, thank you very much.
J. F.: My pleasure.
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