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Conversations With Sven Gustafson

This is Detroit’s dinner party conversation, with multiple segments with local tastemakers, artists and entrepreneurs. They don’t call it the Paris of the Midwest for nothing! Host Sven Gustafson is a former journalist and bartender, and a fan of tasty food and drink — and Swedish pancakes. He hosts a smart and engaging conversation about Detroit’s fast-changing restaurant, arts and entertainment scene each week with a variety of fascinating guests and quick-hit segments. Join us as we explore the city through a fun and insightful lens.
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Mar 30, 2018

Detroit has gone Tinseltown … sort of. “The Leisure Seeker,” the new movie starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland that opened in theaters earlier this month, is based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Michael Zadoorian, who lives in Ferndale.

Zadoorian stopped by the Daily Detroit Happy Hour podcast to talk about the film, how it differs from his novel, and his forthcoming book “Beautiful Music,” due May 1.

“The Leisure Seeker” focuses on two long-married retirees named Ella and John Spencer who climb aboard their old Winnebago camper and travel across the country from their home in suburban Detroit to Disneyland in California. Their bodies are failing them — Ella suffers from an unspecified cancer, while John has dementia — and their adult children are in a panic about their ill-advised stunt, yet the book is a mostly uplifting look at life, love and letting go.

The film, directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Virzi as his first English-language feature, takes a number of liberties with Zadoorian’s tale, and it has generated some rather lukewarm reviews, despite accolades for the performances of Mirren and Sutherland.

In this episode, Zadoorian talks candidly about it all, including how he reacted when he first read the screenplay (he didn’t write any of it), how he got to meet Mirren at a film premier, and the role Detroit plays in his writing muse. And he gives us a preview of “Beautiful Music,” his third novel which is set in the early ‘70s in Detroit.

“She was so gracious, she was super nice,” he says of his initial meeting of Mirren. “The director introduced us. And she said, ‘Do you have any thoughts for the character, or anything like that?’ I knew they were sort of hesitant to even have me there on the set, just because they all had a script, and they were sticking with the script. And I said, ‘You know, I bet there’s not anyone in this room who wants to hear what I have to say.’ And the conversation ended shortly after that.”

The film is currently showing at the Maple Art Theater in Bloomfield Hills.

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