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 Craigâ€™s upcoming teen comedy The Edge of Seventeen (and weâ€™ll have more on that later), theyâ€™re both better known as the coda on Foxâ€™s long-running animated series, The Simpsons.
LRM had a chance to talk with Brooks about finding and producing Craigâ€™s directorial debut, but we also asked about how things were going with The Simpsons. This is what he told us:
â€œIâ€™m very involved, and itâ€™s a particular exciting year for us. Weâ€™re doing our first hour special, and we did a small virtual reality thingâ€”weâ€™re the first television show to do that. That was labor-intensive, and it meant learning a lot. Itâ€™s just been great. Again, you serve a movie thatâ€™s bigger than you, and it doesnâ€™t get bigger than The Simpsons. A lot of us have been together forever. Thatâ€™s my day job.â€
Of course, we were also wondering whether we might see another movie since 2007â€™s The Simpsons Movie was an enormous global hit, grossing more than $500 million in the United States and abroad.
â€œFox very much wants us to do another one, and maybe we will and maybe we wonâ€™tâ€”thatâ€™s where it is,â€ he explained. â€œHow 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.â€
When asked whether he foresees any sort of end game for the The Simpsons as a television show, he responded with:
â€œAround eight years inâ€”I swear to God this is the truth. Itâ€™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 â€˜Where are we going to get another story?â€™ 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 donâ€™t know why. I donâ€™t know how to explain that. I donâ€™t think weâ€™re repeating ourselves. Thereâ€™s always Al Jean, whoâ€™s our showrunner. He has a massive brain, and he knows everything weâ€™ve done, and heâ€™s always in the room who says, â€˜Canâ€™t, weâ€™ve done that,â€™ and we go on and veer to the right when he says that. Itâ€™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 weâ€™re not ending now–I know that. I donâ€™t know when we will.â€
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.
â€œWeâ€™re very happy that it made cult,â€ he said, but didnâ€™t quite believe us when we mentioned how many people quote the show to us when we mention our occupation. â€œItâ€™s interesting. We love the show, and Lovitz is a trip to work with, so Iâ€™m going to talk to people about what you just said.â€
In the meantime, Brooks is working hard writinganother film screenplay for himself to direct, and while we didnâ€™t want to press for more information at this stage, one expects that weâ€™ll see another movie from him soon.
Look for LRMâ€™s full interview sometime before the release of The Edge of Seventeen on November 18.