A Q&A With Harry Knowles
Some of us spend our whole lives searching for a passion. But for Harry Knowles, it was much simpler. His raison d’être came crashing right into him. Literally, Knowles was struck by a dolly loaded with 1,200 pounds of movie memorabilia. The accident left him paralyzed for six months, and during his recovery, he dedicated his life to film. He developed Ain’t-It-Cool-News.com, a Web site that discusses cinema and gives the inside scoop on Hollywood. The site has created a stir and turned Harry Knowles into somewhat of a celebrity. Now, he has written a book, Ain’t It Cool? Hollywood’s Redheaded Stepchild Speaks Out. Here, the self-proclaimed geek shares his story.
texasmonthly.com: Why did you create your site?
Harry Knowles: While I was recovering, I decided to focus my energies on something positive that I loved, which was talking about film, movies, cinema, and flicks. I grew up with Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland along with a plethora of movie tomes and wanted to write about film with a sense of personality, passion, and humor.
texasmonthly.com: Why do you think it has become so popular?
HK: I think one of the reasons the site has become successful is that it feels like a work of passion; it feels put together by individuals as opposed to a corporation. The more obvious reasons for its popularity are that we get news before the other outlets, and we get types of news that they don’t cover like script reviews, test screenings, and extremely early behind-the-scenes looks at movies, film festivals, and whatnot.
texasmonthly.com: You say that you have inside sources who leak information to you. How did you find these people? Do you compensate them for their help?
HK: Ain’t It Cool News (AICN) has cultivated a large amount of sources simply by existing. Over the past six and a half years, we have developed relationships with insiders, fans, and readers who have provided information and peeks into the world of film. AICN does not pay for tips or stories, however its regular editors and writers do get paid.
texasmonthly.com: Critics say that your information is unreliable. How do you respond to that?
HK: Critics can point to around 15 to 30 stories since our creation that have had some wrong information, which was corrected when pointed out. However, over that same period of time, we’ve had more than 14,000 stories posted. For an undermanned, understaffed news and views site, we do the best we can. It isn’t like we called an election early . . . right?
texasmonthly.com: You have been called “the most feared man in Hollywood.” In your opinion, how much influence do you and your Web site really have?
HK: That entirely depends upon the situation. Sometimes the Web site has had cases of very definite cause and effect, but other times people in the media or the business inflate it. I tend not to focus on the power aspects of AICN because the second you believe you have power, that power goes away. I am nothing without the readers, sources, and media that cover AICN.
texasmonthly.com: You’re new book, Ain’t It Cool? Hollywood’s Redheaded Stepchild Speaks Out, is being featured at the Texas Book Festival. Why did you write this book?
HK: I wrote Ain’t It Cool? Hollywood’s Redheaded Stepchild Speaks Out because in doing hundreds and hundreds of interviews over the past six and a half years, I was tired of the story being half told or a third told or erroneously told. The book was my chance to lay out, as clearly as my foggy brain could recall, the nuts and bolts about the creation of AICN and the world of Hollywood that I found myself in.
texasmonthly.com: You refer to yourself as a geek. What defines geekiness?
HK: Geekiness is that feeling of overwhelming passion for that thing in life that you focus on. Whether it be a nephew’s first few steps or the timbre in one’s voice when discussing the latest Cohen brothers film. It is that feeling you get when nothing else in the world matters, but the momentary elation that you’re experiencing and the self-awareness that goes with that. It is that celebration of sated joy for something being passionately held and observed.
texasmonthly.com: How has your life changed since all this began?
HK: Well, now some people suffer under the delusion that I’m actually cool enough to sign a piece of paper for them or pose for a picture. I suppose that’s the biggest change. That and the fact that I’ve now traveled to every continent on the globe, talked to all my idols, created a purpose for being I never would have thought possible before—and I love the life I have.
texasmonthly.com: Any thoughts of getting into the movie business yourself?
HK: Um, no comment.
texasmonthly.com: What do you think people can learn from your success?
HK: That I’m the luckiest bastard that has ever lived. And that luck comes from believing in one’s self and working seventeen-hour days, 365 days a year doing the thing I love most . . . sharing my love of film. Might not work for another soul on the planet, but it did for me.