Michael Cieply is the Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times; a longtime reporter, he also spent a period of time producing films for Sony. Before participating in a panel on infotainment and the future of journalism, he talked bop and bowling movies, running and red wine in the Zócalo green room.
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
“Out of Nowhere,” and you’re going to have to look up the particular version of that. There’s a Hank Mobley-Lee Morgan version that’s just absolutely beautiful, kind of hard bop music.
What profession would you like to practice in your next life?
Oh there’s no question I’d do the very same thing. I even left it and came back to journalism. Unfortunately, I’m absolutely programmed for it.
Where do you go to be alone?
I run. Ten miles, four to five days a week, and that is about a two-hour enterprise because I’m old. And that’s alone, up and down from Santa Monica to Venice to Marina del Rey and back.
What was the best movie you made in your nine years in Hollywood?
I never made a good movie in my nine years in Hollywood. It absolutely did not happen and probably the most fun of any of the things I worked on was a tiny little Disney movie called Alley Cats Strike!. It was about kids and bowling, and it was so small an enterprise that you could wrap yourself around it and still make it the way you wanted.
Which of your friends or colleagues tells the best jokes?
I can’t think of a funny friend or colleague at the entire New York Times, not one, because everybody works way, way, way too hard, and the last colleague I had who just absolutely told the best jokes, and you had to know him for 10 years before you could crack him open and get him to do it, was a guy named Jim Bates. He used to be with the Los Angeles Times and is now with Sitrick and Company. By birth or by family he’s an OK type, and once you get on the funny side of Jim you can’t get off of it. So he’s the one.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
A great big long flashlight, and that’s because we live in earthquake country, and it’s one of about eight scattered around the house. After the 1994 ’quake and watching the chimney come down next door, that’s why it’s there.
What’s your go-to movie snack?
I don’t ever, ever, ever eat in a movie theater, not one bite, not ever. Just doesn’t occur to me. At home I’ll eat dark chocolate.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Red wine. Good red wine.
How did you get into trouble as a child?
Hanging around with my older cousins. I don’t know that we did anything that was absolutely terrible, but it was always the kids a year older, two years older. When I was in first grade, I had a cousin in second grade jammed in the same classroom. If he took it into his mind to wait until the nuns weren’t watching and lead the way out the door 30 minutes before recess, I’d follow.
Who do you want on your side when the apocalypse comes?
My wife, and if I can have two I’ll take my son.