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Publisher's Summary

Film and television director Barry Sonnenfeld's outrageous and hilarious memoir traces his idiosyncratic upbringing in New York City, his breaking into film as a cinematographer with the Coen brothers, and his unexpected career as the director behind such huge film franchises as The Addams Family and Men in Black, and beloved work like Get Shorty, Pushing Daises, and A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Barry Sonnenfeld's philosophy is, "Regret the Past. Fear the Present. Dread the Future." Told in his unmistakable voice, Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother is a laugh-out-loud memoir about coming of age. Constantly threatened with suicide by his over-protective mother, disillusioned by the father he worshiped, and abused by a demonic relative, Sonnenfeld somehow went on to become one of Hollywood's most successful producers and directors.

Written with poignant insight and real-life irony, the book follows Sonnenfeld from childhood as a French horn player through graduate film school at NYU, where he developed his talent for cinematography. His first job after graduating was shooting nine feature length pornos in nine days. From that humble entrée, he went on to form a friendship with the Coen Brothers, launching his career shooting their first three films.

Though Sonnenfeld had no ambition to direct, Scott Rudin convinced him to be the director of The Addams Family. It was a successful career move. He went on to direct many more films and television shows. Will Smith once joked that he wanted to take Sonnenfeld to Philadelphia public schools and say, "If this guy could end up as a successful film director on big budget films, anyone can." This book is a fascinating and hilarious roadmap for anyone who thinks they can't succeed in life because of a rough beginning.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Barry Sonnenfeld (P)2020 Hachette Books

Critic Reviews

"If I went to prison, and I saw that Barry Sonnenfeld was going to be my cellmate, I would think, 'Oh, this will be a breeze.'" (Jerry Seinfeld)

"Anyone who has encountered Barry for any length of time has wondered how he came to be the way he is. The answer is hilariously, poignantly, and forthrightly told through various stories that resulted in me feeling nauseous, laughing out loud, blushing, and repeatedly saying under my breath, 'Oh my God, Barry.' Sometimes all of those things at once." (Allison Williams)

"Barry's memoir is amazingly honest and brazenly hilarious. Now excuse me, I need to take a shower and try to get some of those images out of my head." (Cheryl Hines)

Editor's Pick

From french horn to Hollywood
"This title really speaks to me. Not only because Barry Sonnenfeld has directed some of the biggest comedies of the 90s and 2000s (The Addams Family, the Men in Black trilogy, and Get Shorty), but because I myself can recall at least half a dozen times in my childhood when an announcement came over a speaker system for me to call my mother followed by a deafening laughter from my peers that knocked me down a few spots in the social standings. There was this one time when it was raining at camp and I didn’t have any boots so—you know what, this isn’t about me. My point is, even though Barry Sonnenfeld has a legendary career in film and has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, his story is proof that all of the embarrassing or terrifying or downright heartbreaking moments of our lives are what get us to where we’re supposed to be. Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother is exactly everything a good memoir should be."—Aaron S., Audible Editor

What listeners say about Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother

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The Kosher Cowboy Rides Again

What a fun read! As a fellow Jewish person, I felt like I was listening to stories told to me by a cool uncle. Barry Sonnenfeld has been involved in so many of my favorite films and television shows that I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to learn more about the stories behind the scenes. If you want to take a peek into Hollywood’s backstage through a neurotic and witty lens, this is the book for you.

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good memoir, not crazy about the narrator

good memoir, not crazy about the narrator, turns out the narrator is the author. very flat somewhat slow delivery. stories are great though.

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Great, entertaining and funnier than I expected

This was an enjoyable read (or listen rather). It’s hard to make me laugh out loud but I did.

1 person found this helpful

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Quirky, Funny and Annoying!

Quirky -- Barry is neurotic to a fault and capitalizes on this in the book. Mother and father also fit neatly in to the stereotypical Jewish parents.

Funny -- so many funny stories and what a ride through his telling of encounters with many celebrities.

Annoying -- at times but still funny!

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Honest, witty and raw. I couldn't put it down.

I encouraged others to get this book from the moment I finished the first chapter.

I experienced a multitude of emotions throughout the chapters. One moment I would laugh outloud, the next I grimaced, followed by tearing up and then found myself laughing unexpectedly again.

I loved his viewpoint on life's unexpected situations and all of his hilarious and often thought-provoking spontaneous retorts

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A Personal Catharsis Story (and Hollywood Stuff)

This book has two story-lines. First, and dominant, is of a severely abused boy, both emotionally and sexually. Second, a bit of Hollywood behind-the-scenes of a Director of some iconic, groundbreaking movies. Sonnenfeld's success is remarkable, stunningly remarkable, given his childhood being raised by two people who never should have been married much less parents, and a relative who was a pedophile. Perhaps it was this wildly unhealthy environment that helped make him successful in Hollywood--but Sonnenfeld never explores this. Instead we are given what amounts to an endless retelling of various vignettes of his bizarre (at best) and often horrific upbringing. It's as if he wrote this as a cathartic exercise to resolve these childhood traumas. In the 10+ hour retelling, which is a story well-told--the guy is a master storyteller after all--easily 2/3rds of the book is about his miserable childhood. We feel like a fly on his therapist's wall--or is it stuck on the fly paper? It gets tiresome after a while. Your mother was a manipulative, lying, nutjob. We get it. Your father was all those things too, plus he was a serial philanderer. We get it. You had a cousin who was a pedophile who molested you. Shocking and terrifyingly told in graphic detail. We are horrified and sympathetic. But did we need hour after hour of this? No, we do not. We would have preferred a more balanced book that explores your success as a Director and creative talent. Yes, the porno episode and Hollywood behind-the-scenes stories are funny and gossipy. Who doesn't like the Hollywood tinsel talk? But if he tied the two together, showed how he either rose from this childhood misery or used it to excel in the equally crazy world of show, that'd be interesting. But as it stands, the book is two stories. Had they been commingled, the entire project would have been more successful.

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The Mt. Everest of neuroses

In the first part of the book, you get an emotional salad with every conceivable ingredient, in large part due to his psychopath mother and criminally clueless father. The second part is quirky, safer and funnier. This is where you explore his budding career making one amazing movie after another. The whole book is told perfectly by the one person who could ever do it justice.

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Nasty

Tasteless, what has happened to us? This is disgusting, save your money and spend it on some culture.

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Laugh out loud

Barry more neurotic than Larry? I’m in. I could have skipped the chapter about shooting pornos but otherwise I enjoyed his stories — some of which made me LOL.

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Terrific showbiz memoir of a very singular artist.

One of my favorite film directors has written a wonderful, painful, improbable and very, very funny memoir. Moving at a brisk pace with as many hair-raising twists and turns as his best movies, Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother is filled with rich details (and, in the case of the hilarious/cringeworthy porno chapter, too many details) about his childhood and his film career. As written, you feel like the whole book was written with a perfectly center framed wide angle lens, and Sonnenfeld himself reads his own words with his inimitable voice and his trademark dry, matter-of-fact wit. A must for fans of film and Hollywood lore, and particularly of Barry Sonnenfeld‘s work.