Marty Callner isn’t a name that rolls right out of your head when you think of people in Hollywood, but the body of work speaks for itself. First of all, he created HBO’s Hard Knocks, and he should have received like 5,000 Emmys for that, but he also directed this video from Twisted Sister, this Aerosmith Video, among many others. He also directed the HBO specials for Jerry Seinfeld and Robin Williams, and got Emmy noms for those. I recently had the privilege of sitting with Marty for a phone interview, where we discussed his body of work, his involvement with HBO’s Hard Knocks, and lots of other sports.
Josh Zerkle, WithLeather.com: Would you like to do a “Hard Knocks” with a different sport?
Marty Callner: We’ve talked about that a lot. You really can’t do it with basketball…The only other possible sport it could work for…maybe baseball in the minor leagues. In football, the stakes are so high and it’s such a short amount of time before they make those cuts. I think that’s the only sport where that format really works. Well, it could work for car racing.
JZ: Car racing? That would be interesting.
MC: I wouldn’t mind doing a show for that. It might be nice to see Danica Patrick walking around in her underwear.
JZ: That wouldn’t be terrible.
MC: I also wouldn’t mind seeing this tennis chick you have on your site right now. She’s really piqued my interest.
JZ: Oh yeah?
MC: She looks different in her modeling pictures than she does in her action shots. She doesn’t doll up too much to play, but boy, when she models…if I was doing another music video right now, I would call her. Just based on that picture. I could try and make her a star.
JZ: Wow, just like that?
MC: That’s how I used to do it. I found Liv Tyler in a Pantene commerical. I saw Alicia Silverstone in a movie called The Crush. I saw one shot of her skating with her sunglasses on and said, “She’s the one.” Tawny Kitaen? She walked through my house one day, and I said, “You wanna be in a music video?” That was so much fun. You had so much power. The bands would just send over the songs…and you’d make the video. The bands didn’t have much to do with the concepts.
JZ: So you just did whatever the hell you wanted?
MC: So Aerosmith sends over “Crazy.” They send over the song.
MC: They said, “We’d like you to direct the video.” Here’s your budget, here’s what you got…I think we had eight hundred thousand dollars. Something like that. That’s what those cost then…
JZ: Sure. [Like I would know –Ed.]
MC: And then we wrote the video. I said, “Okay, it’s two girls. They’re skipping school. They have a little teenage fantasy.”
JZ: Yeah, they pick up some guy [at the end of the video].
MC: Or…each other. If you look at the video closely…
JZ: Oh, well, yeah, of course. Yes.
MC: You’d see that what it’s about. I remember Liv said to me, “Are there any lesbian undertones in this?” And I said, “How about some overtones?”
MC: Those years, oh my god, they were fun. They’d just shoot up to No. 1 and MTV would play them over and over and over again. We always tried to be right on the edge, you know. Be as sexy as we could be without being overly sexual. Although I pissed off a lot of women. Teachers. There’s a class at Santa Monica College about how misogynistic they thought I was, but I don’t give a shit. They can think what they want.
JZ: I want to ask you about the Emmy nominations. Because you’ve been nominated seven times.
JZ: The question is, is it truly a pleasure just to be nominated? Or is that just bullshit?
MC: Total bullshit.
MC: It’s not a pleasure to be nominated. It sucks when you win. It sucks when you lose. I’ve won all kinds of awards. I won Video Of The Year. I’ve won about 15 MTV Video Awards, been nominated for about 50. I just hate the awards show. I hate everything about it. I hate the competition. I don’t like the idea that five people go in winners and four come out losers. I don’t think art should ever be reduced to a competition. You wanna ask me what I really hate, it’s the Emmys.
MC: I think they’re fucking stupid. I think the whole thing is just some event made for money and ego. Like I told the New York Times a few years ago, it’s a good party for a night. That’s about it.
MC: You get a great seat if you’re nominated. I got to see the Rolling Stones up close. And I said, “I hope someday that I shoot them,” and I wound up shooting them seven times.
JZ: That’s my dad’s favorite band. We saw them live in ’94. Great fucking show.
MC: Tell you dad I did this thing called “Four Flicks” that’s out now. It’s a set of three live Stones concerts and a documentary. One was in Madison Square Garden that was live on HBO. One was in Paris, and one from England, which was great. I shot them a couple years ago in front of two million people in Rio.
MC: Being with the Stones was amazing. Amazing.
JZ: Do they just get f*cked up every night?
MC: Actually, they don’t. But they’re not teatottlers, either. Except for Mick.
MC: They don’t…I never saw them do anything but liquor. Never saw any of them doing blow or smoke pot. They may have, but I never saw it. Besides, they’re too old to get fucked up every night. Mick Jagger’s like a health freak and Keith Richards…he’s just a freak of nature.
JZ: That guy’s amazing. I wish I had his liver.
MC: And I took to contention that when I shot them, that while Mick may have been the brains of that outfit, Keith was the balls. So I concentrated on both of them.
JZ: Isn’t that typical of a rock group, though? Where there’s two different, almost competing energies?
MC: Yes, yes. Unfortunately, many people who’ve shot the Stones have just concentrated on Mick. When I write a book, it’s gonna be called Keith Sent Me Flowers, because after the Madison Square Garden show, he actually sent me flowers. And said “Thank you.”
JZ: Holy sh*t.
MC: That was the highlight of my career for me, because of who it was. Because he’s such a hard guy and such a cynical guy. That was such a big moment for me.
JZ: That’s a hell of an award, right there.