When I think of the late James Lipton, I think of a knowledgable film maven and a seasoned old-school academic who was very proficient at sophisticated flattery. Dapper and genteel and a Serious Movie Catholic, Lipton reliably secreted that unctuous sauce that brand-name actors live for when they go before the public without a role to play or makeup to wear. His Inside The Actors Studio interviews (’94 to ’18, when Lipton stepped down due to illness) were always subdued love fests, and “talent” loved him for that.
Q: “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”
A: “After a lifetime of uncertainty and scratching your head, you finally understand that I am everything and nothing and everything within that nothingness, and that we’re just transitioning from one form of matter to another, and great art — music and movies especially — is the only thing that really lasts, and you knew that when you were mortal and hopefully allowed as much great, lip-smacking art into your soul as possible. Now you’ve passed that stage, of course. In a twinkling of an eye you’ll be a baby again, but unless you’re an ESP type you won’t remember a damn thing.”