NOTE: If cursing and innuendo offend you, these Howard Stern interviews are not for you.
Most people have an opinion on Howard Stern interviews:
“He’s a loudmouth. He’s vulgar. He’s a genius. He’s a provocateur.”
One thing is undeniable: Howard Stern is one of the greatest interviewers in media history. For the about 40 years, interviewees have entered his studios knowing no subject is off limits—he refuses to interview anyone who objects.
Whether guests discuss their craft, pay-grade, or relationship history, there’s an unparalleled transparency on Stern’s show.
Howard Stern interviews with filmmakers, actors, and industry personalities provide some of the best, open-doored insights into the industry’s inner-workings.
This collection of over 16 hours of audio and/or video can be considered a series of film industry lectures. From legendary directors, to actors, and TV personalities, these sessions opened my eyes to varied elements within the entertainment art, and business.
I’ve embedded each Howard Stern interview, with short synopsis and some highlights or things to listen for.
1. QUENTIN TARANTINO (1hr 17min)
How does he approach the script-to-screen process? What’s his pay structure? How’s his relationship with his father? These questions are answered in this interview with Quentin Tarantino.
Here, you get it all in his own words. Most interesting to me was the discussion of his salary and revenue split; I walked away with a greater understanding of what a monolithic filmmaker actually gets paid, and what they’re willing to sacrifice for the bigger vision!
2. FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA (40min)
Stern approaches Coppola as a true master, calling him the greatest filmmaker to ever live. They dive deep into Coppola’s dedication, the tumultuousness of certain productions, working with Brando, discovering Pacino, and how he’s built an entrepreneurial empire so he never has to rely on his art for money.
I found his explanation of why he insists upon self-financing his films fascinating. Amidst criticism, he recounts the artistic merits afforded to a filmmaker who doesn’t view their films as monetary endeavors.
However you feel about this notion, it’s certainly fascinating to hear from a man who’s made it work for so long!
3. HARVEY WEINSTEIN (1hr 6min)
One of the most revered and hated men in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein is known as a bullish taste-maker. He became a legend for banking on great filmmakers, and positioning himself as an advocate to artists by repping films harder than any other studio.
However, many filmmakers have accused him of mafioso tactics, bullying, and taking control of final edits.
This Howard Stern interview with Weinstein is likely the most comprehensive of his career. His business acumen is clear, as he charismatically works Howard, but Howard pushes hard for answers, while buddying up to get interesting details and perspectives.
It’s particularly fascinating hearing controversial “Harvey stories” from his own perspective, and observing the mentality of a man who did re-popularize auteur filmmaking for a whole new generation.
BONUS: If you’re interested in Weinstein after this Howard Stern interview, I highly recommend Peter Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film. It’s a detailed chronicle of a fascinating time in cinema, and I’d call it essential reading for filmmakers.
4. CONAN O’BRIEN (1hr 7min)
Now a staple of late night television, Conan regails Howard with the struggles of entering that arena young, unknown, and up against intense hatred from late night fans.
He eventually garnered huge support during his “trouble” period with Jay Leno, and has managed to repeatedly resurrect himself.
No one works harder than Conan O’Brien, evidenced in this Howard Stern interview, and the illuminating documentary, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, which I also highly recommend.
Here, Howard steers us through the details of Conan’s career trajectory, starting in high school, moving through Harvard, and working his way up from the bottom of an unforgiving comedy scene
They discuss process, discovery, personal demons, and the power of manifesting your personal vision!
6. LOUIE CK (1hr 32min)
J.J. Abrams has made a significant mark on modern tentpole cinema by reinjecting heart, wit, and a reverence to the past that parallels the earlier works of Steven Spielberg. This Howard Stern interview is packed full of fascinating insights and stories.
Howard Stern loves commercial films and we truly get a sense that he respects Abrams, as they discuss TV show development, casting, visual effects, and rebooting classic franchises.
This is one of the more informative and dense Howard Sten interviews between Howard and an established filmmaker.
7. JON STEWART & ROGER EBERT (1hr 9min)
This Howard Stern interview transpired just before Stewart hosted the Academy Awards. The goldmine here isn’t a discussion of awards season, but the midway look at Stewart’s monolithic career, punctuated by Roger Ebert joining the talk about halfway through.
Stewart possesses a quality that’s almost nonexistent in show business: humility. This is on full display, as he chronicles his calm and selfless approach to his work, which he obviously views as a job he’s lucky to have
He remembers his roots, is open about his struggles, and outlines his approach to creating great comedy.
8. JERRY SEINFELD (1hr 33min)
For a comedian whose entire shtick is founded on overanalyzing life’s minutiae, Jerry Seinfeld may be the most relaxed man in entertainment.
Here, you get an unprecedented view of his disposition and how it fuels his approach to comedy, art, and business. No doubt Seinfeld is a hard worker, but he seems incapable of getting mixed up in the exhaustive hustle and bustle.
A bonus in this interview is the opening few minutes, wherein Jerry and Larry King are together in the green room. We see them discuss publicity, moviemaking, and writing. It’s like two Howard Stern interviews in one!
We can all learn something from Jerry’s approach to the work. This is by far one of my favorites!
9. DARREN ARONOFSKY (21min)
His imprint on cinema and culture is magnificent, and his continual reinvention of his craft is something to marvel at.
This Howard Stern interview with Aronofsky happened at the time of his second major reinvention: The Wrestler.
Though it’s short, we get quite a bit of information on the process of casting Mickey Rourke in his defining performance, replacing Nicholas Cage, and working within the confines of a much lower budget than anyone was particularly comfortable with.
It’s also worth noting that Aronofsky seems like a pretty normal guy—the kind of person you could sit next to at a bar and strike up a conversation with.
10. JAMES CAMERON (47min)
This Howard Stern interview from just before Titanic’s release was very eye-opening. He discusses sacrificing up-front salary and much of his back-end pay to bring his vision to the screen, and how he went from being a truck driver to one of the most bankable directors in Hollywood history.
Want to see what it took to give yourself a filmmaking education before the internet? Or, how one can make a dream come true amidst the demands of adulthood? listen closely.
My respect for Cameron grew significantly after listening to this!
11. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (58min)
Irrelevant of your personal feelings on this celebrity, the guy undeniably sustained one of the biggest turn-arounds in Hollywood history: from media bad-boy, to the A-List, after 40.
Robert Downey Jr. has always been a respected actor, playing significant roles in films like Chaplin, Short Cuts, my favorite Christmas movie, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and of course, the Iron Man and Avengers franchises.
In this Howard Stern interview he covers the gambit: from his early party-boy exploits, to his relationship with his legendary filmmaker father, Robert Downey Sr., and his love of telling stories, improvisation, and working with highly talented people.
In the wake of newfound super-stardom, Downey took his career into his own hands as an involved producer.
This is a career spanning investigation, spurred on by Stern’s undying fascination with how an individual can fall so far, and grow so much in a single lifetime.
12. BRADLEY COOPER (47min)
Cooper was not someone I paid much attention to until I saw Silver Linings Playbook, and he’s wowed me ever since.
It’s easy to paint him as simply a leading man, but he’s certainly taken great care in letting the world know he’s got serious acting chops.
This conversation starts with his childhood in Philadelphia and leads us through his transition from acting student at the famed Actor’s Studio, living the life of a broke actor, to his early break-out roles.
If ever you were curious about dedicating oneself to a dream for the long-haul, this is a great place to hear that story. The span of time it took to break-out seems to have given Cooper a level head, in the face of becoming a seemingly apprehensive sex symbol.
13. BILL MURRAY (1hr 18min)
Bill Murray doesn’t do interviews; he’s as enigmatic as they come.
But Howard managed to get him in the studio, and to press him on the many stories, myths, and legends that precede him.
They talk about his past life in the formative years of Saturday Night Live, his transition to movie stardom, and his enormous success as a dramatic actor, later in life. He divulges what provokes him to take roles, how he approaches the craft of acting, and what keeps him fresh.
Based on some of the filmmakers he’s worked with—from Sofia Coppola, to Jim Jarmusch, and Harold Ramis—it would appear Murray has a great respect for the art of cinema. Get to know him a bit more with this rare look inside his head.
14. JAMES CAAN (45min)
What can you say about a Hollywood legend? He’s been around, he’s opinionated, he’s an old fashioned guy, and he’s a treasure trove of stories from a golden age of Hollywood.
With a career spanning from the early 1960s to now, James Caan has made a definite imprint in the annals of screen acting, and his stories of making that history are priceless: breaking a co-star’s ribs on The Godfather, turning down Apocalypse Now, friendship with Brando, and being the only male actor willing to take his role in Misery, letting Kathy Bates have the show.
These are just a few topics covered. If nothing else, it’s hard not to be entertained by Caan’s wiseguy antics.
15. JONAH HILL (1hr 6min)
Jonah Hill has pulled off something incredible: he’s known as a goofy and witty comedic performer, while simultaneously garnering multiple Oscar nominations as a dramatic actor.
In this lively conversation, we learn that this career trajectory was very much by design. On the brink of his breakout dramatic role in Moneyball, he discusses his aspirations to be taken both lightly and seriously, his admiration for great filmmakers and their masterpieces, and what it was like waking up one morning to instant superstardom, with your face on billboards.
Fun fact: while some actors prepare in their trailers, Hill always requests a car with Sirius Radio so he can listen to Howard Stern between shoots.