"Saturday Night Live” funnyman Bill Hader is known for his crazy characters, such as Stefon, Weekend Update's flamboyant New York City correspondent. He also does uncanny impressions of Vincent Price, Alan Alda, Clint Eastwood and other Hollywood personalities. So it's little surprise to find that he is a serious film fan.
Last summer, he hosted TCM's 13-week series "Essentials, Jr.” which featured classic films that appeal to families. And now he’s back for his second stint beginning this Sunday with Sidney Lumet’s 1957 drama “12 Angry Men.”
Other films the series will be screening this summer include 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz”; Howard Hawks’ 1959 Western epic “Rio Bravo” and his 1941 comedy “Ball of Fire”; the 1933 musical “42nd Street”; James Whale’s 1933 horror film “The Invisible Man”; and the 1943 boy-and-his-dog classic “Lassie Come Home.”
During a break last month from rehearsing the season finale of “SNL,” Hader talked about his love of film and why “Essentials, Jr.” appeals to him.
Q: How did you become a film buff?
A: It comes from my parents. They watched a lot of movies, and watching movies became kind of our No.1 family activity. It kind of drew me to wanting to host this because I related to it.
Q: Did you have a say in what films would be programmed over the 13 weeks or does TCM just make the decision?
A: They give you a list of 20 movies and say we can do 13 of these and what do you think? I would say this will be great, but I would really like to do a W.C. Fields movie. And they would say that’s great how about ["The Bank Dick"]? I said I would like to do a Powell-Pressburger movie and they said "Thief of Bagdad." You just kind of mix and match a little bit. There were a couple of films I saw for "Essentials, Jr." like "Lassie Come Home" I hadn’t seen. They said we really want to do "Lassie Come Home" and I said, great, can you send me a copy?
Q: I haven’t seen the introductions you’ve taped. Are they geared for children?
A: It is more like if I was a kid it would be the kind of information that I would want. It is not like talking down to anyone. I lay it out for you, give you a sense of the time and give you some cool little tidbits and then after comment on some of the stuff in the movie.
Q: It would be great if "Essentials, Jr." gets families to watch movies like "12 Angry Men" and "Ball of Fire" rather than the latest "Transformers."
A: There is nothing wrong with watching "Transformers." You should watch everything. But you should get a bigger view. I don’t want these movies to go away and be unnoticed. You want a generation of people to appreciate it and also know they are good -- they are not, like, boring. The pace is not "Transformers" and what they are used to -- the pace is a little slower -- but I feel like the storytelling in these old films is so clean and so nice. It is it geared to: What’s the story? There are still great movies like that now that tell a great story. But I was never motivated to watch movies because a specific actor was in or a specific person was in the movie, it was more like: What’s the idea? What’s the story behind it?
Q: Do you think Stefon will be tuning in and watching any of these?
A: No. He’s probably asleep behind a dumpster some place.
For a list of the movies, click here.
-- Susan King
Photo: Bill Hader, left, with Seth Rogen in "Superbad," hosts TCM's "Essentials Jr." Credit: Melissa Moseley / Sony Pictures