Action Heroes

26 people who make films happen in Chicago—plus three newcomers making their mark

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Regardless of Chicago’s ebbs and flows in the film industry, a dedicated core of locals continue to make, preserve, and celebrate movies. Thanks to the success of The Dark Knight—and the recent passage of a film tax credit—things are looking up for these 29 talented people, all of whom are united by one thing: a love of film.

HAROLD RAMIS
Director/producer/screenwriter/actor, 64

As he talks about his upcoming movie, The Year One, Ramis (above) sounds more like a theology professor than the guy who co-wrote Animal House. “The source of so much conflict in the world is deeply held religious beliefs,” says the Glencoe resident, who based the story on a 1970s sketch he created for a National Lampoon show with Bill Murray as a Cro-Magnon meeting John Belushi as a Neanderthal. “My mother always said: ‘It’s been that way since the year one.’” But then Ramis emphasizes the comedy at the heart of the movie, which stars Jack Black and Michael Cera as Paleolithic hunter-gatherers who stumble into the Old Testament. “Oh, it’s as silly as can be,” he says. “My goofiest comedies have deep philosophical underpinnings.”

A few years back, Ramis saw an article in which Judd Apatow, the director of Knocked Up, said, “We’re all the spawn of Harold Ramis,” and decided he had to meet the guy. Now Apatow is the executive producer of The Year One, which brings Ramis full circle. His script came out of “table reads” with Apatow, Lee Eisenberg (a writer for The Office), and Gene Stupnitsky (a Deerfield native and Ramis’s former intern). Ramis hadn’t done anything like it since his SCTV days in the seventies.

In his future: a possible third Ghostbusters film, written by Stupnitsky and Eisenberg—which would mark the first time Ramis and Murray had worked together in ages. The two have barely spoken since Groundhog Day in 1993. “I have no idea why,” Ramis says. “It’ll be one of the great mysteries in my life, and I’m sure that’s how he wants it.”

 

DAVID DRAZIN
Silent-movie pianist, 52

How much work can a silent-movie pianist find in the 21st century? More than you might think. Drazin improvises as many as 12 live scores a month at the Gene Siskel Film Center and other venues, and his music appears on several DVDs. So when Buster Keaton does something involving, say, a ticking time bomb, Drazin provides the soundtrack. “People who love silent movies are having a heyday because stuff’s coming out on discs and it’s being shown,” says the Evanstonian. Drazin blends ragtime, jazz, and themes redolent of Stravinsky. It may not exactly reproduce the 1920s movie scores. “I have a pretty good idea of what people played [in those days],” he says, “but you can’t really know.”

 

RICHARD MOSKAL
Director, Chicago Film Office, 50

Moskal bridges the gap between filmmakers and government, two disparate groups that need each other. With background in both fields, the Loyola grad had his hand in virtually every Chicago production in the past decade—not only luring it to town, but getting things done once it’s here. You can’t just decide one day to explode a truck on LaSalle Street, as they did in 2007 with The Dark Knight. You need access. Permits. The goodwill of neighbors. Moskal’s staff of three provides solutions. “We had a mayor’s press conference with [Dark Knight’s star] Christian Bale and [director] Chris Nolan to tell people, ‘Hey, it’s going to be loud; it’s going to be complicated,’” he says of the four-month shoot. Since Moskal became director in 1996, his office has brought in 800-plus film and television productions and just over $1 billion in revenue.

 

ANDY and LARRY WACHOWSKI
Directors, producers, screenwriters, 41 and 43

Most mentions of the Wachowskis these days revolve around two things, neither of which pertains to their insanely popular movies such as The Matrix. One: They have purposely stayed out of the public eye for a decade, even as they made Matrix sequels and Speed Racer. And two: Stories continue to swirl online that Larry, the older of the two brothers, has undergone a sex change operation and become Lana, a notion that insiders continue to deny. What we know for sure is that the former house painters from Beverly built their own state-of-the-art postproduction studio in Ravenswood. Within those walls, they’re currently working on Ninja Assassin, which is slated to come out later this year.

 

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