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Jim Ferguson: The Tucson icon who can seriously name-drop Hollywood stars

KGUN9 looks at his prolific movie critic career
Posted at 5:59 PM, Jul 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 17:54:46-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — He's been an iconic figure in Tucson for decades. His face seen all over the country on television and more recently the big screen.

We're talking about movie critic and entertainment reporter Jim Ferguson -- a man who can seriously name drop.

His journey began in the 1970's. Jim Ferguson launched his career as a talk show host -- impressing the Tucson audience with an amazing array of movie, television and music stars. "We found our biggest ratings at KGUN on my show, the Jim Ferguson show, is when we had stars."

One of his most memorable moments was when he introduced one of the biggest Hollywood legends -- Bob Hope. Ferguson said, "That was a special day at KGUN9. He was going to do 6 minutes, but he stayed for 30 minute - half the Jim Ferguson show.

The Jim Ferguson Show continued for 11 years at KGUN. An achievement, he says, he's proud of.

And it never would have happened if Jim didn't take a leap of faith and say goodbye to a 20 year career in teaching. To make ends meet as an educator and coach, he spent summers working as an extra in film shot at Old Tucson. He also took as many film classes that he could at the University of Arizona.

Ferguson said, "I always felt if I could talk to 5 classes of Santa Rita High School students a day, I could talk to anybody."

Like any good interviewer Jim comes in prepared, but he learned a valuable lesson early on during an interview with legendary actress Amanda Blake. Ferguson came in - armed with a clipboard full of questions.

He said, "Amanda took my clipboard and she threw it. She said you don't need that. You have a nice smile. Let's just talk.

That smile and disarming personality have made countless stars feel comfortable. "I just love what I do and if I'm not invited to a film I take it personally. I go after it," he said.

His perseverance has served him well as he transitioned to movie critic and entertainment reporter. "I would say I've interviewed every star going back for the last 20 years," he said. And he has a recordings of every one of them.

"I have about 5 to 7 thousand interviews," he said. All of them kept on shelves in chronological order.

Equally impressive is his Hall of Hollywood stars. Dozens of pictures of the legends he's interviewed spanning his entire career -- some of them autographed. Nick Nolte wrote: The years go by.

Cavazos: What does that mean to you - when he says the years go by.
Ferguson: That we've talked a lot of times.
Cavazos: You've got your arm around Steven Spielberg.
Ferguson: Yeah - laugh.
Cavazos: is he a friend of yours? Ferguson: Yes.
Cavazos: You're the person who could name drop. You can name drop every day with every star.
Ferguson: Sometimes when I do that I'll say I'm sounding like I'm name dropping but I'm really not.

Out of all the legends spanning decades, his all time favorite celebrity to interview might surprise you - it's Drew Barrymore. "She's intelligent, she gives you great answers, just a lovely young lady to talk with," he said.

Ferguson, of course, has seen thousands of movies. One movie released 3 years ago inspired him to take another leap of faith -- this time stepping into the other side of the business.

Jim's written a screenplay titled "Bounce The Moon" - inspired by the Oscar winning movie "La La Land". "Because I was so impressed with that film, I woke up one night, here in the house at 3am, went in my office and start typing my idea," he said.

Bounce the Moon is set - not in LA - but in Manhattan and the two main characters are pursuing careers in television - sports and news. The screenplay took two years to write.

Despite his countless "star" connections, Jim didn't quite expect the response from Hollywood friends when he began knocking on their doors - looking for a way in. "Oh I can't tell you how many doors we've had slammed. You get "no" very fast because everybody has a script. Even guys we worked with have scripts. It's one of the most difficult thing I've ever had to do."

But Ferguson has made some progress. He said, "I'm happy to say, right now, it's being read by Damien Chazelle, the Oscar winner and write of La La Land. So keep your fingers crossed," he said.

With a good dose of drive,Ferguson shows no signs of slowing down. Retirement is not in his plans any time soon. "Yeah, I don't think so. It's not going to happen as long as I feel good and I look okay on can," he said.