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LAFF-ing Out Loud with Shirley MacLaine & Jack Black on "Do You Know Who I Am?"

"Do You Know Who I Am," is the Los Angeles Film Festival panel moderated by Leonard Maltin that was supposed to have a "game show format," whereby Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black answered questions about their acting careers.

But when Shirley and Jack, who star together in the coming release BERNIE in which Jack Black plays a fastidiously dressed funeral director, get in a room together anything goes. And no more "of that TROPIC THUNDER bullshit," MacLaine lovingly admonished Black.

"I love my Jack's. This is my third Jack," she added. "There was (Jack) Lemmon, (Jack) Nicholson, and now Black."

Leonard Maltin for some reason decided to play Stump the Legends with both actors, drawing them into early career questions that had Jack Black admit that the age of 13 he wanted to be "the face of Activision!"

"Yes, I was named for Shirley Temple," MacLaine said, "and my mother was Canadian, and I am from Richmond, Virginia."

"Shirley Temple BLACK," Jack interjected with a Sherlock-Holmes-ian flourish.

During the hour and half stretch at LAFF, Hermosa Beach, California-born native reenacted his NACHO LIBRE accent, zinged Maltin -- "you are reaching into the obscure here! That's a trick question! That pilot was never release where I played the Golden Labrador!" -- and even sang a few bars from Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On."

That musical interlude was a snippet from the closing scene of Black's career-making turn as a gifted music-store flunky in HIGH FIDELITY, with John Cusack, and directed by Stephen Frears.

"The first take was awful on that. Stephen Frears was yelling at everyone in the audience... but I knew he was secretly yelling at me. So I had to step it up."

When Shirley MacLaine was plucked out of the chorus line to be in the movies, she got to work with the late great Alfred Hitchock right out of the gate. "Hitch told me, 'You have the guts of a bank robber.'"

"He would say things to me like 'Genuine Chopper," which if you translate from the Cockney word-play slang, means 'real ax,' or relax. "He would also say 'Dog's Feet," meaning 'pause' in the action.

"I ate lunch with Hitch every day, sitting across the table. Can you imagine eating lunch with Hitchcock? I gained 15 lbs." Wardrobe complained.

MacLaine also paid homage to "the great Edith Head," one of the iconic costume designers of the glamorous big-studio picture era. "Once I went to Big Bear (CA) and lost weight, to impress Edith. I lost two inches from my waist and hips... then I collapsed and binged, so that didn't last long."

As Maltin did his best to trip up MacLaine on his first line from Billy Wilder's 1960 classic THE APARTMENT, the veteran actress stared him down gracefully.

"What I remember from all the movies I've worked on is how much I weighed and who I loved," she said. "It was the living part."

"I'll tell you a story about THE APARTMENT," MacLaine hummed. "Opening night there was this blonde in a white fur coat by the bar. She called me over. She said (breathlessly) 'I love you in your movie.' It was Marilyn. She opened her coat -- she had nothing on under it. That was what I remember!"

"Did she really talk like that?," Jack asked, referring to Marilyn Monroe's signature breathless baby-talk voice."Yes -- I mean, I knew her a little bit."

"That must have been who she was" -- "NO," the actress shot back, "she didn't know who she was."

"She was scared. Marilyn would arrive on the set at 6 am, but she would not get out of her trailer until afternoon. She was scared all the time... and Billy Wilder wasn't great with women. He would scare her."

MacLaine continued, "Jack, we were talking about confidence and balance as actors, getting your balance, having that confidence -- well, Billy Wilder would shake that balance. He was cruel... I don't mean that. He was from Austria."

Richard Linklater's BERNIE shows the clear emotional chemistry brewing between MacLaine and Black, and hearing them speak about their lives in the business was one of the moments for the record.

Shirley MacLaine is touring a one-woman show "where I have a remote control, show clips, pause, and tell stories about my life" in show business. "But people always come up afterward and ask me questions about metaphysics, their lives."

KUNG-FU PANDA in 3D, whereby Jack Black's roly-poly alter ego must battle a psychotic peacock armed with crocodile-themed canons, is in theaters.

But the Harold & Maude-like bond between current legend, Shirley MacLaine, and future legend Jack Black -- as people and entertainers -- will probably see these two re-team on another movie soon.

Watch for BERNIE, and more as the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival winds to a close
By Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent
The Dailies from Los Angeles Film Festival on fest21.com

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