Producer's Notebook: Even in person, Leonard a storyteller
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By Roger Ross Williams
(CNN) -- The day before my scheduled on-camera interview with Elmore Leonard, he invited me to stop by his beautiful mansion in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit to "chat." As I settled on the couch in his large tastefully decorated den, his pre-teen granddaughter sat down right next to me eager to listen in as her grandfather entertained the stranger with his stories.
Leonard told me how he took his two dozen grandkids to the set of "Out Of Sight" to hang out with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez when they shot the movie on location downtown. I imagined what it must be like having such a cool grandfather. He told me how thrilled the kids were when he invited the band Aerosmith over one afternoon. I imagined them sitting around the pool watching their grandfather play tennis with Steven Tyler.
Leonard, known as "The Dickens of Detroit," has seldom left the Motor City in the last 50 years, and why should he? People (myself included) come to him. Hollywood has been coming for years. Even though he doesn't look the part, within 10 seconds of meeting Leonard you realize why he's worshiped by directors like Quentin Tarantino, Barry Sonnenfeld and the Cohen brothers. He's laid-back and confident, with an aura of sophistication and a beatnik sensibility.
Leonard likes to talk and from the moment I entered his house he didn't stop. I was instantly immersed in Leonard's world, a world filled with quirky details and set in smoky jazz clubs and seedy bars of 1970s and '60s Detroit. Tales of his brushes with bail bondsman, convicts.
Suddenly three or four hours later, I snapped back into reality and the world around me seemed richer, fuller and funnier. Sitting there in front of this chain-smoking, terminally hip grandfather, the world also seemed a lot more ironic.
Roger Williams is a producer for NewsStand: CNN and Entertainment Weekly. He was on location and produced the profile on author Elmore Leonard. The story will air this Thursday, June 3 on Newsstand, 8 p.m. ET/PT on CNN.
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