Entertainment Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief Matt Bean is most definitely king when it comes to all things of the pop culture persuasion. Turns out though that Bean – who came onto the EW scene in January – has a number of other interests (including food, dirt-bikes and playing bass). We caught up with Matt on the silver screen, your television screen and personal grooming tips…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
I’d start with a Greek yogurt and some fresh granola, and maybe an Aeropress coffee if I’m feeling industrious. Then it’s off to Prospect Park for a few laps on the bike, followed by a slow roll on down the hill to an iced coffee at Café Regular (best in Park Slope, I’ve tried them all) and a croissant at Runner and Stone.
Our office is in midtown, and if I’m stuck there I can’t get enough of Pure Thai’s crab ratchaburri and spicy beef salad for lunch. If I can sneak out of the office, I’ll head into MOMA for a work lunch at the Terrace 5 Café overlooking the sculpture garden and a quick exhibit drive-by on the way out. Afternoon coffee means a ritualistic march to the Blue Bottle in Rock Center, and then I’m usually back downtown or to Brooklyn or Queens for drinks and dinner.
Lately I’ve loved the Mission Chinese pop-up at Frankies on Court Street; Milkflower in Astoria; Other Half Brewing in Gowanus for beers; and Attaboy for cocktails late night. I love the Junglebird. Sorry, you said an ideal day, right?
What is your personal definition of good content?
I think it’s easy to confuse “good” with “fast” or “sharable” these days. Good—to me, anyways—means that someone put in the legwork to deliver a truly compelling take on a topic or to show you a sliver of the world you might not otherwise arrive at on your own. They’re broadening your view of things, instead of just reinforcing it, scratching the itches you’ve come to consider familiar. Maybe it’s a reporter inserting themselves into a situation that provokes them—as my friends at Roads&Kingdoms do every day. Or it’s just a point of view that provokes, an opinion that—whether you agree or not—is thoughtfully put together, well-reasoned, etc. At Sports Illustrated we launched a significant Longform platform, and while we all know that’s a buzzword for a kind of content that has existed for a long, long time, I was proud of what we had put together, and inspired by others in that space. But putting aside the podium for a second, my personal measure is simple: Do I feel compelled to print it out? Would I tear it out of the magazine? Would I put it on my fridge? Would I circulate it to my friends? I’m paranoid of losing ideas—both my own, and those of others—and so I’ve become a hoarder of ideas, in a way. And as much as Evernote and everything else in the digital space promises to maintain one’s life, I never feel quite comforted without something physical in my hands, or in a box somewhere.
What inspires you weekly?
It’s not hard to find inspiration at a place like Entertainment Weekly—focus, here, is the limited quantity—but the crew is all of the inspiration I need. They’re loaded with fresh thinking, new ideas, and—more than anything – recommendations. I always need new music. A transcendent album—right now it’s the new Ariel Pink album, “Pom Pom”—is fuel for everything else that it accompanies. A new movie (I don’t get to see many, but I’ve seen Birdman twice) or a compelling TV series can keep me thinking about it for days on end. And our books department is nonpareil: Tina Jordan, who heads up EW’s book department, is the queen of the industry, and her recommendations have consistently blown me away. The arc of the past six amazing months here at Entertainment Weekly can be traced by the books I’ve read at her behest, sometimes begged her for: The Martian, The Southern Reach Trilogy, Fourth of July Creek, and now, Station 11.
How does social media affect the entertainment news you’re reporting every week?
Social is our early warning system for the ‘Next Big Thing’, but it’s also a source of content. Actors, directors and producers aren’t exactly gun-shy when it comes to uploading their personal lives, casting information, opinions, that kind of thing. If you’re not careful social can become the news. It’s useful, and it’s part of the overall picture, but it’s no substitute for picking up the phone or piecing together your reporting the old fashioned way.
This was a bad summer for movies. Why do you think that is?
It may have been a bad summer for certain movies, sure – and I understand the allure of adding up the bulk of the box office as a whole and declaring the summer dead on arrival. But I’d like to think it was a phenomenal one for new thinking, new ideas. Snowpiercer as the most original movie of the early summer? Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy as the biggest star of the year? In a franchise without recognizable heroes, Vin Diesel as a talking tree and Bradley Cooper as a wily Racoon-thing? That’s a victory for all of us. Sequel fatigue set in, to be sure, but I think multi-picture franchises won’t go away any time soon with the overseas box office booming as it has been.
How does TV streaming affect what you do every day?
It has radically simplified the task of being an editor in the TV space, I’ll tell you that much. But it has also dramatically changed the appetite of our readership—everything’s available, and often all at once, with a click. And true to form, our most popular new section is called Binge. We’ve got grand plans for that sub-brand, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
If you could make a prediction on where media is headed, what would it be?
I always say we’re a nation of niches—that no one comes to EW because they like “entertainment” or to Sports Illustrated because they’re interested in the diffuse category of “sports.” No, you have teams you love, players you hate, actors you’d get tattooed on your hip, directors whose work you follow no matter how far off it may be. When it comes to entertainment, the easier it becomes for all of us to hone in on those niches, the more successful those projects will be. Look at Orphan Black —a BBC show with an unknown star, Tatiana Maslany, who is one of the finest actors on TV today. We championed it, sure, but our cover alone couldn’t have been responsible for the insane lines of fans at Comic-Con awaiting entry to the Orphan Black experience. Tatiana and her character(s) really connect with audiences, and they’ll seek out that connection no matter how hard it might be to find.
Your personal favorite old movies…
I could go on forever, but Bladerunner hits the sweet spot in the Venn diagram of weird and post-apocalyptic and Harrison Ford. Groundhog Day was filmed in my hometown, so that one has a special place on the shelf as well. Beetlejuice kind of blew my mind as a kid, and I’m fascinated by most of what Tim Burton has put out. Hayao Miyazaki, same. Dario Argento (Suspiria) is an insane Italian horror director and his films are worth a watch. What do you consider old? Alien? Akira? Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back? Dr. Strangelove? Or the ancient stillness of Metropolis? Full Metal Jacket? The Knife in the Water? Apocalypse Now? Sorry. I can’t stop.
The new book we have to read…
Argh! So many…I mentioned a few above, but if you want to get the jump on a movie that’ll be coming in 2016, try The Martian by Andy Weir. Matt Damon will play an astronaut stranded on Mars, and Kate Mara will play one of the astronauts tasked with recovering him. Great cast, and it was fast-tracked in development, which says something. Weir self-published the book, and it quickly became a ‘Big Thing’. Now Matt Damon’s in the movie. How crazy is that? And how perfectly does that illustrate entertainment in our era?