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IFH 384: From Adult Films to Directing Men in Black with Barry Sonnenfeld

I can’t tell you how excited I am for today’s episode. I had the pleasure to speak to the legendary director Barry Sonnenfeld. We discuss his idiosyncratic upbringing in New York City, his breaking into film as a cinematographer with the Coen brothers, and his unexpected career as the director behind such huge film franchises as The Addams Family and Men in Black, and beloved work like Get Shorty, Pushing Daises, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. We also chat about the time he shot nine porno films in nine days. That story alone is worth the price of admission.

In his new book Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker  shares his laugh-out-loud memoir about coming of age. Constantly threatened with suicide by his over-protective mother, disillusioned by the father he worshiped, and abused by a demonic relative, Sonnenfeld somehow went on to become one of Hollywood’s most successful producers and directors.

His book is written with poignant insight and real-life irony, the book follows Sonnenfeld from childhood as a French horn player through graduate film school at NYU, where he developed his talent for cinematography. His first job after graduating was shooting nine feature-length pornos in nine days. From that humble entrée, he went on to form a friendship with the Coen Brothers, launching his career shooting their first three films.

Though Sonnenfeld had no ambition to direct, Scott Rudin convinced him to be the director of The Addams Family. It was a successful career move. He went on to direct many more films and television shows. Will Smith once joked that he wanted to take Sonnenfeld to Philadelphia public schools and say,

“If this guy could end up as a successful film director on big-budget films, anyone can.”


His book is a fascinating and hilarious road map for anyone who thinks they can’t succeed in life because of a rough beginning.

Barry Sonnenfeld’s philosophy is,

“Regret the Past. Fear the Present. Dread the Future.”

This EPIC conversation is almost two hours and had me on the floor laughing one minute and in absolute shock the next. This is by far one of my favorite interviews I have ever done on the show.

So sit back, grab a drink and enjoy my conversation with Barry Sonnenfeld.

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