Recently, Russ Burlingame of comicbook.com sat down with us to discuss his career as a writer. Additionally, to celebrate his new book “Best Movie Ever: An Oral History of Kaplan and Elfont’s “Josie and the Pussycats”
The contents of that interview are contained below:
So, many probably do not know this, but you just wrote and released a book about the 2001 cult classic film Josie and the Pussycats. Why this movie?
Because Josie and the Pussycats is the best movie ever.
Join the Army.
In all seriousness, I’ve always been a fan of the movie, and as I saw its “cult classic” status beginning to take shape, I realized that there was a story there. I toyed with the idea for a few years, during which time other people had their say, too. Vice writer Emma Garland wrote a short oral history for the liner notes of a vinyl reissue of the movie’s soundtrack, and author and journalist Maria Lewis did the Josie and the Podcats podcast. Each time, I thought, “This is amazing, but it’s not exactly what I want to do.”
So, finally, with a blessing from Maria and the participation of Harry, Deb, and Rachael Leigh Cook, I decided to do “exactly what I wanted to do.”
I came fairly close.
Going off the last question, how did you first discover the movie? You wrote about how many found out about the movie in your book, but could you tell the audience where you first discovered it?
I saw it in theaters. If you were a straight, male college student in 2001, the odds of you having a crush on Rachael Leigh Cook were really damn high. That was really all that led me to watch the movie, but when I saw it, I liked it way more than I had expected to. I bought a VHS around the time it came out, and would periodically pop on the movie for years before it really clicked as one of my all-time favorites.
You interviewed pretty much every major player who had a say in Josie and the Pussycats. Who was your favorite to talk to, and who had the most interesting things to say?
I wish I had gotten every major player! There were plenty of folks I missed out on, and I’m already toying with the idea of trying to get some of those done, and doing a Second Edition in time for the movie’s 25th anniversary in April 2026.
I think my favorite might have been Kay Hanley. There were SO MANY delightful people involved with this movie, but Kay was funny, thoughtful, and always eager to help in any way she could. To thank my crowdfunding backers for all their support, I decided to do a magazine-format ebook in April, taking a few quotes from various interviews I’d done. The night before it dropped, I had the sudden idea that we should do a quickie rapid-fire chat where she shared one thing about each song. I pitched it, but never dreamed she would do it with such short notice. She did, and was absolutely terrific.
In terms of who had the most interesting things to say? That’s a tough one. Harry and Deb obviously had great insights. Tom Butler (Agent Kelly) had GREAT stories. Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds is an all-time great, and told me he would be down for more DuJour. Horror directors Jennifer and Sylvia Soska revealed that their movie American Mary happened as a direct result of their days as background actors in Josie. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
What is the most interesting fact you learned about the movie in your research into it?
Again: so hard to nail one down.
Tim Curry tried out for Alan Cumming’s role, according to Harry and Deb.
The Soskas told me that they ended up writing a movie for Katharine Isabelle after meeting her on the set of Josie.
Kevin Smith told me that the movie’s failure dissuaded him from recording a commentary track for Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
Cinematographer Matthew Libatique told me he took this job because he was angling to shoot an aborted Batman movie for Darren Aronofsky.
There’s so many. I liked the things that I was able to tell people, and shock the people who worked on the actual movie. I caught an inside joke with deep meaning to Alexander Martin, that almost everyone else assumed was just a silly ad-lib by Donald Faison. I learned about one of the long-forgotten deleted scenes featuring the Laughing Girls (Marnie Alton, Katherine Isabelle, and Aeja Goldsmith), and when I ran it by Marnie, she was shocked that anybody remembered it. The directors themselves had forgotten it!
Now for the final question- what’s next for you? Do you have any more books planned, or was Best Movie Ever just a one-off book because you felt the story needed told?
I have a couple of very low-impact projects coming out in the coming weeks and months. I’m finally getting around to compiling, editing, and releasing The Gold Exchange, a collection of about 40 interviews I did with Dan Jurgens, J.M. DeMatteis, Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, and other writers and artists about Booster Gold volume 2 from 2006 until 2011.
I have a similar column that has been running for years at ComicBook, and so I don’t own those installments, but everything prior to 2011 is mine, so there will be a collection of interviews I’ve done with Erik Larsen and others about the long-running indie comic Savage Dragon.
After that…well, I do have a Book 2 in progress. I technically am exclusive to ComicBook/ViacomCBS, and have to get HR approval for any new book. The column collections are kind of a loophole since that’s all old material I’m basically just formatting and selling.
Anyway, my process is, I go to the people who I think the book can’t POSSIBLY be done without, and once those people are on board, I take it to ViacomCBS to try and get permission. After that, I start work, and once there’s enough work done that it feels “real,” I can make an announcement.
Steps 1 and 2 are done with “Book 2,” which I haven’t done a ton of work on yet because I’ve been so bogged down finishing the Josie book. But certainly, by the time the Savage Dragon companion is available in January, expect me to have already made an announcement.