Is there anyone in Hollywood that Ed Begley Jr. doesn’t know?
“I think there’s a publicist at Paramount I need to have lunch with soon, and there’s a dolly grip at Fox,” he quipped. “I’m going to clear that up by the week’s end.”
Readers of Begley’s new memoir, “To the Temple of Tranquility … and Step on It!,” might suspect that even that list is stretching it. In the book, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Marlon Brando, Christopher Guest, Cass Elliot, John Belushi, Tom Waits, the Beatles and even Charles Manson make appearances. As do memories from his work on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “St. Elsewhere,” “A Mighty Wind” and “She-Devil.”
Begley, 74, had been considering writing a memoir for a year or two when his younger daughter, Hayden, asked him to spill his stories into her smartphone. His wild 20s, when he drank a quart of vodka a day, took pills and did cocaine. His transformation into an outspoken advocate for sustainable living. The Parkinson’s diagnosis he received in 2016.
He took about 45 pages of notes, ostensibly for a ghostwriter, but realized he was enjoying the process. “I don’t want any ghostwriter touching it,” he recalled thinking. “This is too much fun.”
In a video interview from his Los Angeles home, Begley spoke about practicing what he preaches and gave some much-needed love to the city’s Metro system. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the high point of my 8th year was getting a bicycle. A beautiful blue Schwinn. Later to be replaced by a white Peugeot, then a brown Nishiki, then a titanium Klein, and finally by a fat-tire American Flyer with electric assist — a compromise that my age and physical condition dictate, but I’m still riding!
This is one of those perfect films. There’s not one misstep in the whole two hours and six minutes. Bob De Niro is great, as always, and though Charles Grodin is no longer with us, he was, and remains, a national treasure. It’s a brilliant script by George Gallo and flawlessly directed by Martin Brest. I would argue that it is one of the three best comedies of all time. The other two being “Bridesmaids” and “The In-Laws” — a self-serving selection, admittedly, but true nonetheless.
My LEED Platinum Home
Twelve-inch-thick walls, passive solar design, a 10,000-gallon rainwater tank, a gray-water system for the fruit trees, steel construction to avoid taking down trees to build a home. Not to mention the fire hazard when building homes out of sticks. Six raised beds and four compost bins allow me to grow a good deal of my own food. All of it proving that living more sustainably is certainly possible.
‘Loves of a Blonde’
Milos Forman certainly made a good many fine films, several of them big hits like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus.” But there is an extraordinary early film of his, made [in Czechoslovakia] in 1965. If you haven’t seen it, please try to find it somewhere. It is a gem.
The L.A. Metro
I know what you’ve heard, and most of it’s true. Things fell apart during Covid, and we haven’t been able to fix a good many serious problems that got worse during 2020. But I’m not giving up my senior pass, and I’m not giving up on public transportation in Los Angeles! Given the future that we’re facing with climate change, we must get people out of their polluting cars. And public transportation offers people a cost-effective way to do so.
Fryman Canyon Park
There’s a precious tract of open space, a miniature Griffith Park, right in the middle of Studio City. It’s called Fryman Canyon. I’ve been in the valley my whole life and in Studio City since 1971, and I’ve been enjoying hiking this trail for over half a century. And I’m not done.
Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’
I’ve seen her perform countless times, and it never ceases to bring me amazement and pure joy. It is certainly humbling to watch her work a crowd, but my more immediate problem is often catastrophic respiratory failure. I have more than once laughed so hard that I thought it would be the end of me. But what a way to go!
H.O.P. E. Healthy Organic Positive Eating
A vegan restaurant in Studio City that is my go-to dining experience. It is a Thai restaurant, family-owned and delicious. One of the biggest contributions we can make to reducing the threat of climate change is to eat more plant-based food.
‘The Heart of Saturday Night’
Though Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan have put out countless brilliant albums like “Mule Variations” and “Bad as Me,” “The Heart of Saturday Night” is the soundtrack for my life in the ’70s, and I always like paying a visit there.