American Masters (2013 Season) – Philip Roth: Unmasked
Air date: 03/29/2013

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Presents Philip Roth: Unmasked, the First Film Biography of the Acclaimed Novelist in Honor of His 80th Birthday

World Theatrical Premiere March 13-19 at Film Forum, NYC

Premieres nationwide Friday, March 29 on PBS

 

Connect with other cultural icons at pbs.org/americanmasters

 

American Masters explores the life and career of Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth (b. March 19, 1933), often referred to as the greatest living American writer. Reclusive and diffident, Roth grants very few interviews, but for the first time, allowed a journalist to spend 10 days interviewing him on camera, both at his Upper West Side apartment in New York City and his 18th-century farmhouse in rural Connecticut. The result is American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked, a 90-minute documentary that features Roth freely discussing very intimate aspects of his life and art as he has never done before. The film has its world theatrical premiere March 13-19 for one week only at Film Forum in New York City and premieres nationally Friday, March 29 at 9 pm (ET) on PBS (check local listings) in honor of Roth’s 80th birthday.

 

In the film, Roth is candid about his unliterary upbringing in Newark, New Jersey, his writing process, his psychoanalysis, and the inspiration behind his most famous characters — Nathan Zuckerman, David Kepesh, Alexander Portnoy, and Mickey Sabbath — and his historical novels such as I Married a Communist (1998) and The Plot Against America (2004). Set against the backdrop of his times, American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked shares scenes from Roth’s daily routine, using images from his personal archives. Interviews include some of Roth’s oldest friends — Mia Farrow, who inspired part of his last novel Nemesis (2010), high school friend Dr. Bob Heyman, college friend Jane Brown Maas, and army comrade Martin Garbus — as well as The New Yorker’s literary critic and staff writer Claudia Roth Pierpont, and younger American writers Jonathan Franzen, Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander.

 

“Just before Roth publicly declared he had stopped writing, we filmed him at home and at work, in the streets of New York and in the countryside. But mostly, we let him talk. He spoke of his family, his fantasies, his obsessions, Jewish humor, the many controversies he stirred, the turmoil of sex, love, the writers he admired, fame, depression, old age, illness and death — all the while reading to us from his own books and enjoying the natural flow of the conversation,” says literary journalist Livia Manera, who co-directed and co-wrote American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked with filmmaker William Karel.

 

“Ten days with Philip Roth, 12 hours of interviews: an opportunity that you seldom encounter twice in a lifetime. He was brilliant, funny, moving, lucid, and surprising,” says William Karel.

 

“The making of the documentary was made completely painless for me by William and Livia. Astonishingly, I actually enjoyed it and I don’t think I emerge as an entirely ridiculous figure,” admits Roth.

 

Goodbye, Columbus (1959), his collection of short stories, put the 26-year-old author on the map. Ten years later, Roth’s hilarious, ribald bestseller Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) propelled him into an international scandalous spotlight: the first of many controversies in which Judaism, sex, the role of women, and the parent-child relationship would take center stage. Yet, he steadily earned his reputation as a man of letters, commanding ownership of the Jewish-American novel and making Newark a literary destination. Practically inventing the genre of factual-fictional autobiography, Roth’s thinly veiled Zuckerman books follow the protagonist’s path from aspiring young writer to compromised celebrity and, most recently, older man facing death. Roth’s career was considered declining by 1990 and then exploded with a dozen bestsellers in the past two decades, including Sabbath’s Theater (1995), American Pastoral (1997) and The Human Stain (2000). With 31 books to his credit, Roth has won every possible literary award, short of the Nobel Prize.

 

“It is so gratifying and appropriate for American Masters to celebrate one of our greatest writers in tandem with his 80th birthday. Roth’s work, from the then-shocking Portnoy’s Complaint to the Zuckerman novels, defined a literary world for generations of readers. Hearing his own perspective about his craft is an extraordinary, and quite beautiful, experience,” says Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of American Masters.

 

Since its 1986 premiere, American Masters has earned 24 Emmy Awards — including eight for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special —

12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, and two Producers Guild Awards. Now in its 27th season on PBS, the series is a production of THIRTEEN. WNET is the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations, and operator of NJTV. For 50 years, THIRTEEN has been making the most of the rich resources and passionate people of New York and the world, reaching millions of people with on-air and online programming that celebrates arts and culture, offers insightful commentary on the news of the day, explores the worlds of science and nature, and invites students of all ages to have fun while learning.

 

To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion website (http://pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, interviews, essays, photographs, outtakes, and other resources.

 

American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked is a co-production of Cinétévé and American Masters for THIRTEEN. William Karel and Livia Manera are writers and directors. Fabienne Servan Schreiber and Lucie Pastor are producers. Marlène Vanthuyne is production manager. Stéphanie Mahet is editor, François Reumont is director of photography and Theo Caris is sound. Susan Lacy is American Masters series creator and executive producer.

 

American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, Anne Ray Charitable Trust, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers.

 

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About Cinétévé

Cinétévé is a multi-award-winning production company, specializing in high-quality drama and documentary for film and television. Fabienne Servan Schreiber founded the company in 1982 and has produced more than 700 hours of engaging and entertaining programs. From an ambitious six-part documentary series, Shadow Fighters, showing the strength of resistance against Nazism across Europe, to Catherine Deneuve, a beautiful portrait of an icon, Cinétévé has always aimed at producing meaningful, challenging, yet delightful programs. Fatou the Malian, a social drama; Signature, a six-part tense thriller; and Pompadour, a six-part historical drama, testify that Cinétévé has also been entertaining its audience thanks to its groundbreaking and highly enjoyable dramas. Cinétévé is proud of its dynamic team that brings its experience to constantly innovate and entertain through meaningful and creative programs.

 

About WNET

In 2013, WNET is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THIRTEEN, New York’s flagship public media provider. As the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region.

Photos
For editorial use in North America only in conjunction with the direct publicity or promotion of AMERICAN MASTERS. No other rights are granted. All rights reserved. Downloading this image constitutes agreement to these terms.
Philip Roth 1_(c)FrancoisReumont

Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth being interviewed in his Manhattan apartment for American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked. Photo Credit: ©François Reumont

Philip Roth 4_(c)FrancoisReumont

Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth in the garden of his Connecticut home during filming for American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked. Photo Credit: ©François Reumont

Philip Roth3_(c)FrancoisReumont

Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth in his Manhattan apartment during filming for American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked. Photo Credit: ©François Reumont

Author Philip Roth poses in New York

Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth poses in New York, September 15, 2010 (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: ©Reuters / Eric Thayer

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: Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: Courtesy of Philip Roth

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Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: Courtesy of Philip Roth

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Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: ©Naomi Savage

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Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: Courtesy of Philip Roth

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Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: Courtesy of Philip Roth

Philip Roth

Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth revisiting areas where he grew up in Newark, New Jersey (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: Photo by Bob Peterson / Time & Life Pictures / ©Getty Images

Philip Roth

: Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth drinking a glass of beer as he pauses during work on a manuscript (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: Photo by Bob Peterson / Time & Life Pictures / ©Getty Images

Philip Roth

Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth at Yaddo artist’s retreat (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: Photo by Bob Peterson / Time & Life Pictures / ©Getty Images

Franz Kafka [Misc.];Philip Roth

Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth posing next to a photo of author Franz Kafka, whom he resembles in appearance and whom he owes much in the way of inspiration as a writer (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: Photo by Bob Peterson / Time & Life Pictures / ©Getty Images

Philip Roth

: Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth standing near a Jewish center and Hebrew school (archival photo seen in American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked). Photo Credit: Photo by Bob Peterson / Time & Life Pictures / ©Getty Images

PR4_(c)François Reumont

Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist during filming for American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked. Photo Credit: ©François Reumont

Mia Farrow_(c)FrancoisReumont

Mia Farrow being interviewed for American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked in her house in Connecticut. Photo Credit: ©François Reumont

PR and LM 2_(c)Livia Manera

: Pulitizer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist and co-director and co-writer Livia Manera during filming for American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked. Photo Credit: ©Livia Manera

PR shooting_(c)FrancoisReumont

Author Philip Roth in his Manhattan apartment during filming for American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked with co-directors and co-writers William Karel and Livia Manera. Photo Credit: ©François Reumont

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Literary journalist Livia Manera, co-director and co-writer of American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked William Karel. Photo Credit: ©Costantino Di Sambuy

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Filmmaker William Karel, co-director and co-writer of American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked. Photo Credit: None

_DSC2681

During PBS’ AMERICAN MASTERS “Philip Roth: Unmasked” session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013, series creator and executive producer Susan Lacy and Philip Roth (via satellite) discuss the film exploring the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist. (Premieres Friday, March 29, 2013, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET). Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rahoul Ghose/PBS

_DSC2686

During PBS’ AMERICAN MASTERS “Philip Roth: Unmasked” session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013, series creator and executive producer Susan Lacy and Philip Roth (via satellite) discuss the film exploring the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist. (Premieres Friday, March 29, 2013, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET). Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rahoul Ghose/PBS

_DSC2703

During PBS’ AMERICAN MASTERS “Philip Roth: Unmasked” session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013, series creator and executive producer Susan Lacy and Philip Roth (via satellite) discuss the film exploring the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist. (Premieres Friday, March 29, 2013, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET). Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rahoul Ghose/PBS

_DSC2717

During PBS’ AMERICAN MASTERS “Philip Roth: Unmasked” session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013, series creator and executive producer Susan Lacy and Philip Roth (via satellite) discuss the film exploring the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist. (Premieres Friday, March 29, 2013, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET). Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rahoul Ghose/PBS

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