Modern American life found one of its wittiest chroniclers in Albert Brooks, who translated the comedic skills he honed in his early career in stand-up to the big screen in a series of landmark films. A work of both effortless charm and biting cultural critique, Brooks’s third feature, 1985’s Lost in America, takes a hard look at the collision of Reagan-era values and counterculture aspirations through the story of a thirtysomething married couple (Brooks and Julie Hagerty) who abandon their stifling yuppie lives in Los Angeles, buy a Winnebago, and hit the open road. As their Easy Rider–inspired search for adventure grows ever more hopeless after they gamble away their “nest egg,” the film’s uproarious antics become a showcase for Brooks’s ability to juggle his brilliant sense of control as a writer and director and his uninhibited persona on-screen.
This week, we welcomed Lost in America as the first Brooks film in our collection. The supplements on our edition offer multiple perspectives on what makes him an essential voice in American cinema. In this excerpt from an interview with Brooks, the director chats with filmmaker Robert Weide about how he arrived at the concept for the film and what led to his decision to star in it.
And in this video, Academy Award winner James L. Brooks shares his insights on the “Albert-esque” talent for creating magic from both behind and in front of the camera.