With a career in film and television that now dates back fifty years, the name James L. Brooks and his Gracie Films logo have become a comfortable thing to see whenever they appear. While it will actually grace the front of Kelly Fremon Craig’s upcoming teen comedy The Edge of Seventeen (and we’ll have more on that later), they’re both better known as the coda on Fox’s long-running animated series, The Simpsons.
LRM had a chance to talk with Brooks about finding and producing Craig’s directorial debut, but we also asked about how things were going with The Simpsons. This is what he told us:
“I’m very involved, and it’s a particular exciting year for us. We’re doing our first hour special, and we did a small virtual reality thing—we’re the first television show to do that. That was labor-intensive, and it meant learning a lot. It’s just been great. Again, you serve a movie that’s bigger than you, and it doesn’t get bigger than The Simpsons. A lot of us have been together forever. That’s my day job.”
Of course, we were also wondering whether we might see another movie since 2007’s The Simpsons Movie was an enormous global hit, grossing more than $500 million in the United States and abroad.
“Fox very much wants us to do another one, and maybe we will and maybe we won’t—that’s where it is,” he explained. “How do we divide our labors, and do we believe in the idea we have? We may go into a more active exploration of a second movie soon.”
When asked whether he foresees any sort of end game for the The Simpsons as a television show, he responded with:
“Around eight years in—I swear to God this is the truth. It’s an impossible truth to believe, so I say it with that caveat--but the truth is for me, about eight years in, we were going ‘Where are we going to get another story?’ and then we broke through that and never looked back. For some reason, coming up with stories stopped being hard and are not hard for us. I don’t know why. I don’t know how to explain that. I don’t think we’re repeating ourselves. There’s always Al Jean, who’s our showrunner. He has a massive brain, and he knows everything we’ve done, and he’s always in the room who says, ‘Can’t, we’ve done that,’ and we go on and veer to the right when he says that. It’s just very alive and novel. Just the form itself allows us to do that. We had very rigid rules about what we do at the beginning, and every once in a while, we throw out a rule. All I know is that we’re not ending now--I know that. I don’t know when we will.”
Maybe for obvious reasons, this writer and many of his friends and colleagues are fans of the Brooks-produced animated series The Critic, featuring the voice of Jon Lovitz. It ran for two short seasons between 1994 and 1995, and then came back with a series of short webisodes in 2000. The DVD collection was a huge seller, and 20 years later, it still holds a fond place in the hearts of its fans.
“We’re very happy that it made cult,” he said, but didn’t quite believe us when we mentioned how many people quote the show to us when we mention our occupation. “It’s interesting. We love the show, and Lovitz is a trip to work with, so I’m going to talk to people about what you just said.”
In the meantime, Brooks is working hard writing another film screenplay for himself to direct, and while we didn’t want to press for more information at this stage, one expects that we’ll see another movie from him soon.
Look for LRM’s full interview sometime before the release of The Edge of Seventeen on November 18.