For Christian Catholics, Holy Week is the most spiritually pregnant moment of the year, even more than Christmastime. But in Italy, this is a time...
I met up with Steve Oedekerk at “O Entertainment,” his studio in San Juan Capistrano. What was once an old bank and still has the vintage vault to prove it, now serves as Steve O’s office, but not for long. Soon enough it will be San Juan’s first boutique hotel, a Kimpton. “San Juan Capistrano is one of the few historic towns without a hotel as part of their downtown landscape, so we’re putting one in!” Steve O said.
Steve wasn’t always a budding hotel developer. You’ve enjoyed his work on the big and little screen for years. An Academy Award nominated director, producer, actor, comedian, and computer animator, Steve Oedekerk has written and directed films that have grossed over $1.9 billion in worldwide box offices, including such blockbusters as Bruce Almighty, the Ace Ventura franchise, The Nutty Professor, and Patch Adams. He received Academy Award nominations for Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, and the CG animated feature and Emmy Award winning TV Series, Barnyard. His talent is multi-faceted and never ending, but just as important is how his family and community value him.
Is Steve Oedekerk Italian? Although you wouldn’t know it by his Dutch name, Steve Oedekerk is mostly of Italian decent with a little Hungarian and Irish thrown in. His mother, Rena Borlandeli, was born in Mignano Italy. She and Steve’s father, and Aunt Margarita immigrated to San Louis Obispo directly from Italy. “Oedekerk” comes from his father’s side and is a very common Dutch name, but Steve said he doesn’t know any of his Dutch family history. It’s his Italian heritage he holds dear to his heart.
I asked Steve, “What movie best describes your life growing up?”
“The movie ‘Avalon’, and ‘Big Fat Greek Wedding’ represents it well,” Steve said. “My Great Aunt and Uncle, Margarita and Rico treated soap operas like they were real for many years.” I could totally relate, being Italian myself.
He loves all things Italian and feels very connected to his Italian culture, which is why he married Antoinette 24 years ago. Antoinette’s parents immigrated from Terrasini, Sicily so they had an immediate connection.
Steve describes “Tonie” as a big presence in their family. Her motto is “Family First.” She’s always supportive and loves what he does, but doesn’t get involved other than to let him bounce ideas off her. They were introduced by Steve’s sister and had a very ordinary beginning to a wonderful marriage. They have managed to stay happily married longer than most Hollywood couples, and raised two beautiful daughters Zoe, 20 and Izzy, 16.
I asked Steve a few more questions:
If he could live inside any TV series from any era, what would it be?
He has always been enamored of the Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry, and sees San Juan Capistrano as a similar town. Everyone knows each other. “There are town festivals and parades where people help each other and work together for the benefit of the town—happy people living a simple life, just like in Mayberry.”
What movies are on his top ten list?
“It’s a Wonderful Life, because it depicts a base and type of movie that could never be approved nowadays in Hollywood,” Steve said. “It’s too saccharin, too candy, too soft.” He loves that it shows the human condition of a guy who wanted a lot more, but realized in the end, he has everything he needs.
“The Godfather, a classic of a different type.”
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail, because it was offbeat and authentic. There was nothing like it at the time,” Steve said. “It really inspired me.”
What writer, producer, director?
Robert Rodriguez is one of his favorites. El Mariachi is a favorite indy movie as Robert did so much with so little. Two guys that inspired him are Woody Allen and Albert Brooks as they were both Comics turned Filmmakers. “These guys had an authentic vision just like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Also George Lucas, who wrote directed and therefore had full control.”
OK Steve, are you the action hero or the heart-throb in a movie?
“Neither. Goofball posing as an actor would describe me.”
Steve describes himself as a “Right brain creative talent vs. left brain logical skills – OCD meets ADD,” which is why he likes to write, direct and produce fulfilling the different parts of his creative personality. Having worked with so many incredible actors like Eddie Murphy in Nutty Professor, Robin Williams in Patch Adams, Morgan Friedman in Evan Almighty and so many others, it’s his friendship with Jim Carrey that stands out.
“I met Jim at the Comedy Store on Sunset in the early 80’s. Jim was an impressionist at the time and was just thinking about bursting into a full comedy act. So when Jim asked me to help him with a script he read called Ace Ventura, I agreed. I was just helping out my friend. I had no idea how popular it would be. Then, When Nature Calls, the sequel, came out, it did even better than Pet Detective.”
In true Italian fashion, spending family time together is most important to Steve. ““We just hang out a lot. TV, movies, tennis, pool. Just being together.” Steve’s a regular guy, living in an ordinary town but making history through his talent. Still, his passion is his family. His eyes brighten as he talks about his daughters. “Zoe is a performer, a big personality, and Izzy is a diverse creative talent and great with a camera. They’re both really fun and funny.”
Don’t leave us hangin’ Steve O, we want more! Steve has a few things on the horizon that we’re hoping to see soon. A reboot of his THUMB parody films, a possible sequel to Kung Pow, and he’s just completed a screenplay for a new comedy feature film.
Steve is open to shooting a film in Italy, and is currently working with Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss on creating an Italian cartoon baker character where they will have a digital book series, an app and a movie. Watch for it, and much more to come from Steve Oedekerk.