James Spader mourns the legacy of film: ‘The era of classic films has ended’

James Spader

James Spader did an interview with the Guardian to promote the second season of The Blacklist. I’ve caught a few episodes, but the show hasn’t grabbed me. Spader plays Red, an ex-government agent who turns into one of the FBI’s Most Wanted. He cuts a deal to help the agency catch really bad guys. The show is immensely popular and a solid hit for NBC. What’s even better is that the audience skews young, which is unexpected. Spader has always appealed to children of the 1980s, who loved watching him play the bad boy Pretty in Pink. Now he appeals to a new generation, who will also flock to see him as the biggest baddie in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

I once fell in adoration with Spader after watching him as a yuppie douchebag, a dirtbag lawyer, and a guy who loves to spank women. Somwhere along the line, he lost his luster for me. Maybe it’s the newfound fedora and scarf fixation? Not sure. He still has some interesting things to say in this interview:

On the death of cinema: “There is no legacy in film any more. I am not so sure that even classic films really live on now — and that means ultimately that maybe film is really an entertainment, or a provocation, just for a specific time. People don’t have access to classic films, but it is worse than that. A few channels on television still play classic films, but with the closure of revival picture houses and the closure of video stores with classic film sections, there is no film heritage. The era of classic films has ended.”

His film education: “I grew up on a boarding school campus and there was a guy there who ran a film club that was available to students on campus and to faculty children of a certain age. Every other week he would rent a print of a film and screen it. So I was able to watch a broad spectrum of films from different eras, from an English film like Hobson’s Choice to a western like Hud. It was fantastic and completely informed my film-watching experience.”

His villainous typecasting: “When I was first finding my way there was a spate of coming-of-age films, but I had already come of age. I didn’t find a place in them, except to play the antagonist or the one character in the film who felt like he wasn’t an innocent.”

Red of The Blacklist: “He is either a good guy who is capable of very bad things or a bad guy who is capable of good things, and that depends on the day.”

Violence in The Blacklist: “There are times that I have suggested a level of ruthlessness, or a certain form of decisive action that might be jarring, because I feel that is the world in which this show exists, but there are times when we change something because we feel it is gratuitous. We are very aware that it is extreme at times but, in for a penny … That is the show. That is the world we are depicting. That is this guy.”

[From The Guardian]

Is Spader telling the internet to get off his lawn with his talk of classic movies? He laments the loss of video rental stores and revival theaters. I understand missing the revival theater experience, but AMC theaters often schedule matinee screenings of classics. The internet certainly hasn’t killed classic cinema either. Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming services have helped many people watch classics they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. Even without a subscription streaming service, the Turner Classic Movies website recycles plenty of classics for free. If anything, the internet has helped extend “the era of classic films.” Now if we could only get Michael Bay to stop polluting our multiplexes, cinema could be grand again. Maybe.

Here’s Spader on the set of The Blacklist yesterday.

James Spader

James Spader

Photos courtesy of WENN

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68 Responses to “James Spader mourns the legacy of film: ‘The era of classic films has ended’”

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  1. Virgilia Coriolanus says:

    More for me–James Spader is sexy, sexy.

    And I love the Blacklist.

    • AG-UK says:

      +1 I love the show as well, watched all of Season 1 on demand so now on to Season 2.

      • Gea says:

        Blacklist season 2 is very good so far. I have watch two episodes and it is just getting better. James Spader voice , expression ,mannerism is something to remember in Secretary.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Ooh, I’ll have to watch it. He IS sexy. It’s always been about his brain for me, never his looks, so he’s still sexy to me. That sounded like an insult, but I meant it as a compliment.

      • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

        GoodNames, for me it’s always been his voice and his expressions. Not necessarily his looks–I think he’s an averagely handsome looking guy. But when he gets that glint in his eye, the way he moves his mouth….his voice….pure. sex. It doesn’t matter how much weight he gains or how much of his hair he loses–he’ll never lose that.

        I remember my mom telling me about this guy who she referred to as the ‘hundred year old playboy’….someone she took care of in the nursing home. He was a massive ladies man back in his day–you could tell because he was deaf and blind unless he was trying to sweet talk some of the ladies in the home. He told my mom that if he could do it all over again, he’d do it with a black woman–that old herbert.

      • Diana B says:

        That. Voice.

        That’s all I’m gonna say.

      • I Choose Me says:

        I know exactly what you mean. Some men just have that vibe, that attitude, that aura of sexy that does not depend on looks.

        Yeah, I still would.

    • Brasileira says:

      So freaking sexy! Love him. So love him.

    • Irishserra says:

      Yes. Yes.

    • joan says:

      He makes that show. It’s well done but the plotting just doesn’t grab me. Would love a different show where he’s the star, though. A human drama with the same kind of intensity.

  2. Gina says:

    Oh James what time does to us. He was always the snobbish rich boy in the Molly Ringwald era. Then he was just everything in White Palace with Susan Sarandan when he made out with her on the restaurant table at the end of the movie. So anyway, time is a friend to no one. At least he has keeps it real and didn’t go the Courteney Cox way of never turning 40. So, good for you James……but not me because I didn’t even comment on the article, just James.

    • PunkyMomma says:

      @Gina – White Palace has to be my fav Spader movie. Just James here, too.

      • Gina says:

        Wasn’t it great. I haven’t seen it in awhile but I loved it. It was kind of the anti-the-usual-Susan movie and he was perfect as the sad, lost widower. Eileen Brennan who played Susan’s sister almost ran away with the film…perfect casting. Hope it comes on Encore soon! #JustJames

  3. Crocuta says:

    Man I had a major crush on him when Stargate came out.

    He’s still hot.

  4. Jules says:

    Love love love this man……………….hubba

  5. original kay says:

    BedHead- the first half of season was was terrific. it’s gone downhill since, so you’re not missing much.

    He’s fantastic as Red. The rest of the cast are ok, excepting the main female lead, Lizzie. It’s the writing, I think, and how they portray her (not the actress). She has got to be the worst female lead on TV right now, she goes off doing whatever she wants, they had her cut out of work for a day to chase her husband(in the middle of a kidnapping case!), she screws up and Red bails her out and she says things like “get us out of this”.
    Spoiler: The worst worst ever was the scene where she gets her hair cut, in the 1st episode of season 2, and walks into the FBI special task for building, where people STOP to look at her and talk as she walks by, her head high, swinging her new hair cut.
    preposterous.

    They could dump her off and the show would be the task force and Red, and it would be really amazing TV.

    • Loopy says:

      Have not seen the new season yet,but she had such awful wigs in the first one.

    • Bedhead says:

      Thanks! Now I don’t feel so bad for ditching the show.

    • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

      Yeah–I facilitate between apathy and extreme hate for the chick who plays as Elizabeth Keen. If I’m being nice, then I’d say that she has no charisma, is nothing special in the role. A million other actresses could’ve played the role just as good or better. I still love the show (because of the Spader, he completely saves it), but I laugh every once in a while while I’m watching it–I remember the first episode when she said that her coworkers called her ‘sir’…..lol, she doesn’t come off as amazing or super talented at her job. She’s only special because of Red.

      The Anslo Garrick episodes were the best….”I want that, one more time”.

      • BendyWindy says:

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who can’t stand Keen’s character. I dislike the actress, because her face is wooden and she seems to have only one expression…stupefied. But the character is so unlikeable to me as well.

    • mia girl says:

      I gave up precisely because I couldn’t stand the female lead- her character or the actress.

  6. Miss M says:

    I was devastated when I visited my family recently and discovered the rental store was closed. I used to rent movies there since I was a child. I knew the employees for decades… *sigh*

    At least, I live near an awesome movie theater that shows classics, silent movies, etc.

    • Chris says:

      Yes. They’re closing down everywhere. My local Blockbuster is now a Salvation Army op shop. Other video shops are just empty. It’s kinda sad.

      • Chris2 says:

        Yes!! I live in such a bubble ,(no tv) relying on charity shops for access to any dvds now, because rental has simply disappeared and I can’t pay 20 quid to watch a film one-off: the old video rental places have turned into betting shops round my way
        :( .

      • Hautie says:

        There is still a certain part of the population, that enjoys the trip to go rent DVD’s.

        Locally there is a large rental DVD store in my town. And it has a brisk business. Very busy on the weekends. And it was built maybe 6-7 years ago. (family owned store)

        Makes one wonder, had Blockbuster not been so hell bent on killing off all competition. Would there still be choices for renting DVD’s with ease.

        Maybe the market will recover a bit. I bet the movie studio’s pray it does. Since there is significant income to be made off of renting DVD’s. Plus all the sales they are missing by not stocking brick and mortar stores.

      • Miss M says:

        It is very sad indeed…I used to ask them for suggestions based on the movies I was interested in seeing and the other costumers’s feedback. I don’t enjoy netflix suggesting me stuff that I don’t care and has nothing to do with my taste… I hope the employees got good jobs.

        A bit off topic: I am also seeing a trend where big stores like best buy are closing everywhere because people buy more online these days. I still want to go to the store and ask the employee his/her opinion when it comes to electronics, not just read some “review” from a buyer online.

  7. lower-case deb says:

    i think when 50 Shades of Grey comes out, they should do a rerun of The Secretary in the theater across it. i know which one i’ll choose to watch.

    • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

      I LOVE Secretary. Seriously–that was the first sexually explicit movie I had ever watched…..I was 15 or 16…whenever Crazy Heart came out (because I googled Maggie Gyllenhaal after that). James was so freaking neurotic in that movie…..I just loved his facial expressions whenever he would talk/interact with Maggie.

      I think my favorite scene has to be when E. Edward Grey saw Lee on a date with Peter….and when he got back into his car he was very flustered/jealous, and he pulled out that red pen…..that’s when the magic happened.

      • starrywonder says:

        Yeah. That movie. I was 16 I think when that came out and I was like what is this while fanning myself.

    • Eleonor says:

      Agreed.
      That man can spank me anytime he wants.

  8. Nene says:

    The era of classics have ended indeed.
    Although a ’90 kid am totally aware of that and the ever sucessful comical blockbusters won’t change this fact.
    Am yet to watch a movie of the past 15 years that am completely certain i’d love to watch time and again in the next few decades.
    There are no more movies like The Godfather, A Streetcar Named Desire, Untouchables, Live and let Die, The Sting, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Scarface, Goldfinger,etc.
    These days movies are all about money,content not that much.
    Just a select few like The Dark Knight series with Christian Bale and Heath Ledger ; The Joker is still one of the few most memorable characters of the last 20 years.

    • Christin says:

      I enjoy sifting through TCM’s upcoming listings and setting the DVR for a few select movies filmed anywhere from 1930 through the 1960s. I enjoy finding a ‘new’ film to appreciate or underrated actor/actress.

      Occasionally there are obscure jewels of film that are described as having been mostly ignored upon release. Yet those films enjoy a new audience years later via being shown at certain festivals, etc.

      I want to say that few current well-known films will be considered classics. Then again, maybe some obscure current movies will be rediscovered in the future.

  9. Anniefannie says:

    He is the king of playing sinister, layered douche bags with an underlining playfulness that makes the characters somehow likable. He has a gift without the usual preening, self indulgent
    age denial of most actors of his generation.

    • Chris2 says:

      Jolly good description. Until not long ago I thought he was British……must have got tangled up in JG Ballard and Crash. (He had that English/Eton beauty/decadence about him in his young days)

  10. Lindy79 says:

    I used to love my weekly trips to the video store with my dad, and on holidays they would do all the themed movies that matched at 50p per night so I get where he’s coming from but yes times change.

    I forget how many movies I’ve seen him in over the years, it’s way more than you think.
    One of my guilty favs is Richards in Mannequin, mainly because he doesn’t exactly look like James Spader, and his face when the car they’re in gets stuck in an alley still makes me laugh.

  11. epiphany says:

    I like Spader – he’s sexy and odd, at the same time. I don’t know if the problem is film viewers today don’t have access to classic films – I see them on TV all the time. I think we’ve had a dearth of really good film making for so long that the current generation thinks that’s the way it should be done. They watch 5 minutes of a classic film and think, ‘ what, no explosions? – and change the channel. The majority of the films being released today are silly and adolescent – most of them are about comic characters. While there always has been and always will be a market for those kinds of movies, at least in the past they were aimed at kids – now they’re presented as wide release films for adults. The few that are character driven receive little publicity and limited release. I’m afraid the groundbreaking work produced years ago – Taxi Driver, The Godfather, A Clockwork Orange, One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Apocalypse Now, All the President’s Men, Annie Hall – will never be matched in our lifetime.

    • Esmom says:

      Your comment about “what, no explosions” reminds me of the first time I showed my kids the Wizard of Oz. I was nervous that they would think the production was lacking — it really jumped out at me as “quaint” compared to the modern stuff they’d been watching — but thankfully they were captivated by the story. As they get older I’m excited to show them some of the classics you’ve mentioned.

    • Chris2 says:

      Eloquently put Epiphany
      Those great, heavyweight films were a swan song to the preceding 40 yrs or so weren’t they?
      Everything had exploded into tiny bitlets by the mid 80s, I reckon…..there was unlimited choice and possibility, and this is not the first time I’ve wondered about the beneficial effect of limited resources and choices. It’s not that grit or strength died off, but that torque had to fight it out amidst new opulence on screen (or in the recording studio, the design atelier, the architect’s office)
      I did have a point but, as so often, have lorst it. ;)

    • Betty says:

      I once dated someone who was taken aback that I liked watching black-and-white films. I knew our relationship was doomed from that point on. The guy also didn’t know who Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were, so game over.

      • Joan says:

        Betty, as a classic film lover (guess my fav actress from my handle), I can honestly say you made the right choice! :-D

  12. Jayna says:

    I loved the chemistry between Jame Spader’s character and William Shatner’s character on Boston Legal. Their scenes together on the balcony were always perfection.

  13. shix says:

    I love him!!! One of the few actors I love because of his great acting not becaus eof looks, age, past acting ec. He makes me forget anyone else he ever depicted and draws me into his current role. I think other characters are made dull so he can shine which he does so well!

  14. Ag says:

    i like him a lot. he’s right about the legacy of classic films (to a point, of course). video stores are closed or closing, i assume film noir is not THE thing on netflix (although i watch plenty of oldies there), people don’t rent VHS tapes of classics at the library, and michael bay and his ilk are just spreading their punch-you-in-the-face-and-ears-simultaneously “cinema” everywhere. maybe it’s because i’m old, maybe it’s because i hate loud everything, but i don’t go to the movies anymore, unless for the screenings of old films. i love the slower-paced, more quiet classics.

  15. OTHER RENEE says:

    I loved him in Boston Legal. He’s not just an actor for kids of the 80s. He is my 20 year old daughter’s favorite actor and Black List is her favorite show. In fact, it’s a weekly “must see” ritual for her and her college apartment mates.

  16. Esmom says:

    Our town has a sizeable contingent of older folks who love classic films. Our library runs a series that is wildly popular, as is the classic film section in the library itself. Interestingly the host is a young guy and he seems to draw in a fair number of younger film buffs. I gotta believe that even if the video stores and art houses are dwindling that there are more groups like our town’s keeping classic films alive for the next generation.

    I used to be repelled yet attracted to Spader starting with his Pretty in Pink role. Now not so much. I do think the scarves and fedoras did help extinguish the mystique, lol!

  17. Size Does Matter says:

    It’s his shorn head that throws me off on Blacklist. He needs to bring back the floppy cut from Sixteen Candles. Gah, was he hot back in the day!

  18. Kiddo says:

    “Somwhere along the line, he lost his luster for me. ”

    I think it was the point where he turned into William Shatner, a sort of hammy acting and no deviation from camp.

  19. Thunderthighs says:

    Sigh. Let me go do my drooling in private. Loved this guy since I first saw him in The Secretary then The Practice and Boston Legal. His character and William Shatner’s character totally saved the show. I miss Danny and Allan smoking cigars and sipping whisky on the balcony. I watch The Blacklist specifically because of James Spader. Sigh.

  20. Someonestolemyname says:

    Love him.will always remember him in Less a than Zero so gorgeous. I’m still drooling over him watchingThe Secretary ,which they rerun about once a month where I am living.

    P.s. Did the network make home wear a toupee on the Boston Legal to show he did with Shatner? I’m just curious because suddenly his hair seemed to go so fast?
    He’s still quite beautiful even now, he’s s sexy. Love him.
    I love that like Jude Law he reveals his natural hair and doesn’t wear pieces.

    Also wasn’t he married for decades to the same woman? Not sure if he’s still married but, I like that ,not much is known about his personal life. He seems like a class act all the way.

  21. Delta Juliet says:

    I am watching the first season of BlackList on Netflix and it’s pretty great. Funny thing is, I was never into him when he was younger, but as an older, quirky man he just fascinates me.

  22. Jay says:

    The first I ever saw of him was his role on The Office as Robert California… just cannot take him serious after that

    • K says:

      Goodness, Jay. You are missing out on a treasure trove of great characters:

      Pretty in Pink* comedy gold
      Less than Zero* drama gold
      Sex, Lies, and Videotape* sexy gold
      Secretary* sexy gold
      The Practice
      Boston Legal

      to name a few!

  23. Irishserra says:

    I don’t know, Bedhead; I think I’d have to respectfully disagree with you. I think there are still a few who respect the classic films and work to keep them relevant, but I subscribe to Amazon, Netflix and Hulu and am frustrated by how much of the good classics they’ve taken down over the past couple of years. I’ve even considered subscribing to cable again just to have TCM, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price.

  24. Triple Cardinal says:

    People, I have four words to say to you: “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” From 1989, miss this gem at your own peril.

    A few odds and ends: I saw the latest Blacklist and must agree with you: whenever Red is offscreen, the heat drops off. I do wish they’d focus more on Spader’s work on each episode. My interest level has decreased since last season. But I’ll stay with it just to watch Spader.

    There was a long discussion about film that I caught on another website. One poster said something that was striking: adult-oriented films–not p0rn–have been replaced by the summer blockbuster aimed at kids and teens. It started with Star Wars and continues unabated. Now we’re loaded with films about androids and avatars and CGI-whatevers. Instead of really fine, serious films aimed at older audiences.

    Anyway. I (heart) James Spader and always catch White Palace so he can banter with Kathy Bates and love Susan Sarandon! Ah, life is good…

    • Chris2 says:

      Cardinal
      Re the nature of contemporary films…..what you say is so true, everything is now configured to attract extremely young audiences…or those who have infantilised demands and minuscule attention spans. Same with the built environment….shops are all pop music, loud/neon colours, declamatory advertising. For every double espresso sold from international chains tgere are 5 liquid Mars Bars sold, in small buckets for the young consumer on the go.
      (Yikes…..grumpy old bat rides again). :(

    • Joan says:

      Thank you!! Spader’s performance in “S, L, & V” as Graham is utterly amazing, if not somewhat haunting. He is such a versatile actor … I love how low-key he has always been in regard to his career and talent.

  25. Triple Cardinal says:

    Delete double post.

  26. Crack Fox says:

    Spank me, Red Reddington.

  27. Ice Queen says:

    He’s one of the rare great ones.

  28. Eleonor says:

    I think the cinematographic industry is not courageous anymore, in this years we’ve seen tons biopic (please just STOP) and blockbusters franchises, beautiful indie movies but not great classic. He’s right. But I think tv-series have taken that place.
    And God bless internet because it’s through this channel younger generations are discovering gread directors like Sergio Leone.

  29. Maria of MD says:

    There is something to what he says about people not having access to classic cinema. No video rental joints, so you gotta hope your library has a decent stock going. Not everyone has access to cable or to such things as Netflix, so that cuts them out of discovering new, old movies. If you are among the many in our country who are underprivileged due to location or finances, then you don’t have the options I mentioned above, or much of anything really, which is sad.

  30. Lola says:

    I have never found him attractive, but I have liked the roles that he plays. I love The Blacklist. The character that I can’t stand is Lizzie, and of course, it has nothing to do with the actor playing the role, but the way the character is portrait in the series. She seems like a whining little girl, and for me that contradicts the whole I work for the FBI thing.
    The era of classic film ended? You now have the DVD machines with a no big selection, and the Netflix, ect. (and not everyone can afford to subscribe to Netflix or has an internet connection at home) but as long as people are more interested in making films (and I am talking about big productions) of things that have been done over and over again, and let’s be honest, they get made because people go to see them or wanting to re do what has been done prior (successfully), sure. I see it. I would also add that you can miss good foreign films because of the lack of rental stores, not just learning about the classic era of film.

  31. allheavens says:

    I love James Spader. Some of my favorites are:
    Pretty in Pink
    Less Than Zero
    Jack’s Back
    Sex Lies and Video Tape (just so, so effortlessly sexy)
    Dream Lover
    Secretary
    Crash ( the other one not that crap that won the Oscar)
    Stargate
    Lincoln ( so deliciously slimy)
    Boston legal was good too.

    He is one actor who never traded on his looks. I remember an interviewer asking about his weight gain ( I think this was during Boston Legal) and what would he do if he gained more? Spader’s reply was, “Buy bigger pants.”

    I started taking my son to classic movie viewings when he was 10. He is very much a child of his generation, but he is much more discriminating in what he watches, buys or rents. He still calls to get my thoughts on films and TV shows.

    It is a shame what as happened to filmmaker, once corporations bought the major studios I knew it was over. But TV in a way has filled the void because of premium stations, basic cable stepped up their game and has produced some classic TV. Now network TV has to bring it up a few notches or face a steep decline. The millennials have to much access, in too many ways to get entertainment and in the future it will even more so.