Turner Classic Movies
Lemmon, Chris
Written by Diana Saenger   



A producer, actor, and screenwriter, Chris Lemmon added the word author to his bio when he wrote and had published A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father in 2006. A husband (to actress   Gina Raymond) and father of three (Sydney Noel, Chris, Jr., Jonathan), Lemmon admits his biggest role in life is often seen as Jack Lemmon's son.

a_twist_of_lemon250.jpgChris Lemmon was born in June 22, 1954 to actress Cynthia Stone and dad-chris_lemon.jpgactor Jack Lemmon. He was an accomplished piano player - often joining in with dad on the ivories at home - and studied at the California Institute of the Arts. Lemmon began acting in 1976 and starred in such films as, Seems Like Old Times (1979), The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980) and Cannonball Run II (1984). Among many TV roles Lemmon appeared in are; Thunder in Paradise (1993-95), Duet (1987) and Open House (1989). Lemmon's movies with his father include That's Life! (1986) and Dad (1989).

It was a pleasure to interview Chris about his book. Not only does he have an occasional resemblance to his famous dad, every once in while his voice will break at the right moment or reflect a slight chuckle that sounds like Jack Lemmon. Chris lost his father to cancer in 2001. In his book and the interview, Chris Lemmon is brilliantly funny - wonder where he got that from - touchingly honest and full of wonderful memories about life with Dad.

Writing a celebrity tribute, especially one about a family member is extremely difficult to pull off, but you did it marvelously.

Chris Lemmon: Thank you. It was a labor of love. I write screenplays, and this was my first book, and it was a struggle from the bottom up. As I was sitting and holding his hand in those last days, I realized I was losing Pop, but also my best friend. It was then I decided to write book.

How difficult was that journey?

Chris & Jack at Goldwyn Studios
Chris Lemmon: You think you know everything about someone you're close to, but you don't. And, especially, regarding a son's request for approval from his father, and in turn that quiet hand on the son's shoulder €˜saying don't go down that direction' or reassuring him that it's the right direction, brought back a lot of memories. The writing was extremely cathartic. As I wrote memories, more and more turned up; it was a very personal experience. This was part autobiography and part memoir for me and my kids so they could know the side of him that nobody else knew but me. My daughter, who against our advice, (he chuckles) is insisting on being an actress, and remarked that the world knew her grandfather better than she did. So know this will help my kids know who their grandfather really was.

Did you uncover anything surprising while writing?

Chris Lemmon: Yes. As I continued to uncover and investigate the father/son relationship in more detail, I thought maybe this is something that needed to be published for all of those people who adored Pop because he was an "everyman."  I felt I owed it to him. There was one piece of advice my dear wife, Gina, offered about publishing this book when I gave her the sentimental reasons why I wanted to do this. She shook her head and said, €˜Make it funny' because he was so funny.

How did you perceive your father?

Chris Lemmon: He was so delicious off screen, maybe even more than on.  He was a fine person, full of humility and really, really fun to be with.

What has this book meant to you?

Chris Lemmon: I'm so thankful to Applause and Algonguin (the hard cover) because for the last two years I've had so many people across the country who have read it come up to me and say, €˜you changed my life, or €˜you've helped me correct my life with my parents' or €˜you've given me some comfort because I miss my father so much.' My father once said to me, €˜If you touch just one person, you've done your job.' And every time someone would come up to me it was almost like that hand that was missing was back again. It's been a very rewarding experience.

Jack Lemmon was warm, funny, and so enduring to his movie audience. Did you see those same qualities in him?

Chris Lemmon: He was magical, and he spread it wherever he went jackchrislemmontrees200.jpgbecause he was one of the most emotionally generous people I ever knew as well. So when you were with him, it was magic. These wonderful jaunts that he used to take and star in to cure the riff of divorce, it was just magic. He was so funny, which is part of the Lemmon legacy thing I talk about in the book, and that along with me, was ten-fold. We also abided by the rule, "laughter is the best medicine."

What was so unique about him as an actor?

Chris Lemmon: He could find those aspects of his personality that fit each character almost perfectly. There was so much of Jack Lemmon in every performance he ever gave.

Do you have a favorite chapter in the book?

Chris Lemmon: Yes. The American legacy in Paris, which is a complete factual accounting of what happened to us that night. This is stuff that just wouldn't happen to most people.

How has the business changed from your father's earlier days until now?

Chris Lemmon: It's not Samuel Goldwyn and Louie B. Mayer anymore; it's Sony, Pepsi and Cocoa Cola running the show. It was always big business, but at the top of that business was creative people running the show. And nothing against them, but we're seeing a lot more of Spiderman, Hulk and Mission Impossible 14, and it's very formulaic versus people taking chances. There was something marvelous about those days then when the studio would take a chance.

But there are exceptions to the rule, and you can't blame them (the studios); they can't afford to gamble. That's why I'm so enamored with independent films. And there are some great pictures the studios do take a chance on, like last year's There Will Be Blood. I had just finished doing a show in Germany. On the way back I started watching it on my iPhone. I was enraptured, staring at this iPhone watching a movie of all things, (he laughs). When we landed they made me shut it off in the last five minutes with the bowling alley scene. I'm dying to see the end! So I'm riding in a limo, and turn the phone back on and when it's over I look up to find out we're heading in the wrong direction and now I'm five hours away from my house!

And what are you doing these days?

Chris Lemmon: I have a film I'm working on and hoping to get investors. It's called Publicity Stunt. I wrote it and am starring in it. I adore it, and we had worked on it with Pop and he liked it very much. It has that Some Like It Hot type comedy. Joel Zwick is attached as a director. He did Big Fat Greek Wedding and this has a lot of Big Fat Greek Wedding type stuff in it. We were actually in production when the funding fell out. But Joel's hanging in there with me; he's really fun guy. I'm also doing other things and writing.

Lately I've been working with Sony for A TWIST OF LEMMON, a collection of Pop's films to be released Father's Day, 2009. One of those movies might be Bell Book Candle.

For more information about A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father or what Chris Lemmon is up to visit -

Read a book review of A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father

Images © Applause Theatre and Cinema Books/Chris Lemmon




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