In Conversation: Peter Bogdanovich; The director on his films, marriage and infidelity, and the deaths he didn’t mourn.

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Peter Bogdanovich is often held up as a cautionary tale of Hollywood arrogance, Icarus with big frames and a neckerchief. In a hurry since adolescence, at 16 he talked his way into acting classes with Stella Adler; at 20, he persuaded Clifford Odets to let him direct one of his plays Off Broadway; and he went on to befriend and write about the golden-age movie directors he idolized, like Orson Welles and John Ford. As soon as Bogdanovich became a director in his own right, his self-assurance didn’t endear him to some of the town’s young auteurs or old legends. “I don’t judge myself on the basis of my contemporaries,” he told the New York Times in 1971. “I judge myself against the directors I admire — Hawks, Lubitsch, Buster Keaton, Welles, Ford, Renoir, Hitchcock. I certainly don’t think I’m anywhere near as good as they are, but I think I’m pretty good.” And so, as the story goes, Bogdanovich directed two arguably perfect films, The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, along with the hit screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc?, only to see his career run aground after a series of flops. But contrary to the legend, Bogdanovich never disappeared or stewed in defeat for long, and he has enjoyed no fewer than three critically hailed comebacks with Saint Jack (1979), Mask (1985), and Cat’s Meow (2002), as well as significant late-career success as a documentarian, as with 2007’s Tom Petty documentary, Runnin’ Down a Dream. Bogdanovich has also shown himself to be a surprisingly supple actor in such roles as The Sopranos’ shrink-to-the-shrink, Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, and Netflix recently released a completed version of Welles’s long-unfinished The Other Side of the Wind, in which Bogdanovich, in the thick of his ’70s success, played a version of himself named Brooks Otterlake, a role Welles wrote to explore the fraught Oedipal themes of their own relationship….

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