10 Questions with Ernie Malik

July 31, 2020
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Ernie Malik has been a working publicist for more than 37 years. A winner of the Les Mason Award and The Maxwell Weinberg  Award for Motion Picture Campaign from the ICG Publicists Awards, he’s overseen publicity for Oscar-nominated movies like The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Saving Mr. Banks, as well as classic franchises like Home Alone (1, 2, 3) and superhero epics like Aquaman, and THOR: Ragnarok. Malik says he’s thoroughly enjoying this stay-at-home in Chicago, which has provided time to concentrate on his other major passion (besides moviemaking, of course) – fine wine.

Has being able to connect with friends/family in distant locations via Zoom revealed new aspects to those relationships?
Other than the assorted Zoom Union meetings, I participated in just one Zoom gathering – a small, select group of unit pubs, unit stills, and EPK friends/colleagues who meet weekly to chew the fat, assess the future of the industry, recommend streaming titles worth watching, share a few chuckles and, most importantly, suggest a “quarantine vino” for the forthcoming weekend. I may be old-fashioned, but I still revel in hearing another person’s voice without seeing his or her face.

How have you kept those isolating with you (or yourself) engaged and active?
Once I figured out how to access my SIRIUSXM phone app, I now have satellite radio in my car (which doesn’t have a satellite radio) – genius! My wife of 43 years and I are empty nesters. So, her “honey-do” list is extensive enough to keep me busy – and out of her hair. I’ve also just registered to be certified (via online classes) with WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust), which will take up some of my time this July.

What hobby or skills have you resurrected?
I dabble in joke writing – maybe I was a failed stand-up comic in my previous life. That said, I feel humor sustains the intellect and soul, much like chicken soup soothes those with the flu. Comic relief has existed for centuries, going back to Elizabethan writers like Shakespeare. It helps many of us navigate this sci-fi scenario in which we all find ourselves. My latest? “Marvel has just announced their very first pandemic superhero movie – it’s about an ordinary guy who tries to rid the world of toilet paper hoarders – it’s called FLUSH GORDON!”

Have you had a chance to improve your cooking skills?
I usually do all the cooking when I’m home. So much so that folks are curious if my wife misses me when I’m working on a distant location. I always say she does as soon as she looks at the stove and realizes she has to turn it on. Cooking is therapeutic. Having extra time on my hands allows me to research new recipes and improve on my repertoire of the standards I have been cooking for years. My “go-to” cuisine is Italian, and I have several favorite recipes here that include eggplant parmesan, pasta carbonara, and risotto, the latter is something I often cook for crew parties I’ve hosted on location over the years. I also make a killer panini made with Gruyere, apples, sautéed onions, and sage.

Has your streaming diet been inspiring, scary, weepy, or just pure escapism?
Having just bought my first color TV, I’m still figuring out how to work the remote (laughs). I’ve been streaming a range of movies and have had quite a few surprises. Brittany Runs a Marathon is an indie film that surprised me on many levels. Late Night, with Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, was predictable and not as funny as I expected. The Bookstore, which is a 2017 English feature I first saw in Australia, was a delight. Working Man, a low-budget VOD that filmed here in Chicago in 2018, is a simple portrait of a 40-year factory lifer who continues to report to work after his workplace shuts its doors – quite timely considering the current environment. DA 5 Bloods – Spike Lee’s newest epic – is next on the list.

Any old film classics on the TV? Favorites for cinematography?
To say I’m addicted to Turner Classic Movies is like asking does a bear movie shoot in the woods? Recent favorites: A Hard Day’s Night, Casablanca, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Great Escape. TCM’s “Noir Alley” which airs every Saturday at Midnight and is hosted by Eddie Muller. Film noir is probably my favorite genre.

What charities have you become involved in? And why did you choose?
I do find myself gifting a lot more – including ICG 600’s Hardship Fund, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Fund, Chicago Food Depository, assorted Go Fund Me campaigns, including one posted by a fellow Local 600 cameraperson in Atlanta, Cat Leatherwood, to whom I contributed for her mask-making efforts.

Have you been catching up on your reading?
I’m more of a non-fiction fan and read quite a lot of books about wine, baseball, and Hollywood. Recently, I’ve read She Said about Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement; Pride of the Yankees, about the making of the great 1942 biopic of Lou Gehrig, written by Richard Sandomir, who is an obituary writer at The New York Times; Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, which is Peter Biskind’s terrific chronicle of the advent of Hollywood’s young directors of the 1970s, and A Long Finish, which is a detective novel set in Italy’s Piedmont wine region. There has to be a wine book among my reads. [Laughs.]

What is the one thing you miss most about being on a film/tv set?
The comradery that exists in our world is unique in that it’s for a short, finite period. Reporting to a production set for me is familiar and familial. I was on a very interesting Apple TV+ series, Servant when the pandemic hit on Friday, March 13. That show has been a fulfilling experience, both artistically and logistically. I look forward to returning once production resumes.

How do you think your outlook on life will change post-COVID?
I’ll never take TP for granted again! And, I’ll never lick my lips at a corn cob ever again. Finally, as we try to catch our collective breaths during this unprecedented time, I turn to George Carlin, who so eloquently said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.” What has happened to our world these past several months has taken our breath away, both literally  – for those unfortunate victims of the virus – and metaphorically. We all hope that what lies beyond the “new normal” will be breathtaking in the truest sense of Carlin’s words.

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