Public Radio Stars Making Mark on the Big Screen

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor with Meryl Streep (center) and Lindsay Lohan (right) on the set of A Prairie Home Companion Noir Productions Inc. hide caption

itoggle caption Noir Productions Inc.
Will Shortz

Will Shortz, puzzle editor for The New York Times. O'Malley Creardon hide caption

itoggle caption O'Malley Creardon
Dusty

Car Talk's Tom and Ray Magliozzi are the voices behind Dusty (above) and Rusty Rust-eze in Cars. Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios. hide caption

itoggle caption Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios.

NPR Producer Kitty Eisele pointed out to me yesterday that right now, there are no fewer than three movies featuring public radio personages in the theaters. Public radio has heat.

First, of course, there's A Prairie Home Companion, starring down-home public radio figures like Lindsey Lohan, as well as teen hottie Garrison Keillor. Har, har. That was a little Prairie Home humor right there.

Then there's the Pixar movie, Cars, in which "Dusty and Rusty Rust-eze" are raucously voiced by Car Talk’s Tom and Ray Magliozzi.

And finally, there's Wordplay. The documentary about New York Times crossword puzzle master Will Shortz has sent NPR into something of a crossbranding tizzy. That's because you can hear Shortz stumping listeners every week on Weekend Edition Sunday with Liane Hansen. Both Hansen and Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan are among the famous cruciverbalists featured in the documentary.

I checked the "Tomatometer" at Rotten Tomatoes to see which of these movies garnered the best write-ups from critics. The winner was Wordplay, with 93 percent positive reviews. One, from a computer magazine, called it "one of the great nerd docs about nerds in recent years."

My boss, Bill Wyman, says he's now inspired to write his own NPR-based screenplay. It'll star a couple of wacky but loveable NPR bloggers named Mara Liasson and Ken Rudin who meet cute and, after a series of misunderstandings involving a pet leopard, a stolen diamond and cross-dressing musicians on the run from the mob, take off on a speedboat and motor off into the sunset. Too bad Billy Wilder can't direct.

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