Chicago International Film Festival founder Michael Kutza shares how he brought Hollywood – and the world – to Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) — The Chicago International Film Festival has just opened and it was Michael Kutza who started it all when he was only 22 years old.

His new book is called “Starstruck: How I Magically Turned Chicago into Hollywood for Over Fifty Years.”

Michael comes from a family full of doctors – his Polish and Italian parents, an uncle, cousins ​​- but he had none of that. Saturday’s double features sealed its fate, bringing Hollywood to Chicago!

“I’m just a West Side kid who wanted to make Chicago a bigger, more exciting place,” Kutza said. “I thought I would bring the world here.”

Kutza’s lifelong passion is cinema, and he is still bound to share it in his hometown.

“Remember when I did Chicago, there was no Sundance, or Toronto, or Telluride, or Tribeca, or any of that,” Kutza said. “It’s the only game there is and people wanted to be in it, I was very lucky that way. I was able to get the best movies, get good reviews. Roger Ebert was brand new and he believed in the organization. He helped, we helped each other. He was a great friend. Now, Gene Siskel, I never got along.

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Roger Ebert once said of the Chicago International Film Festival, “It’s my hometown festival and I’ve been going there for 37 years, and I have a lot of great memories.”

“1967, had a young guy named Martin Scorsese, he showed us a new movie, and Roger saw it and said, ‘Wow, that’s an important person,'” Kutza recalled. “Victor Skrebneski, the photographer, helped me collect the photographs that made us famous.”

He added: “From the first moment I knew that I couldn’t get people to see my new Hungarian film, or my new Italian or French film, unless there was a hook. Open wide and encourage your audience to see the most complicated, the most difficult films –

then they get addicted.”

And while his new book is called ‘Starstruck’, Kutza said, “I’m not Starstruck. I respect these people and when they come to town they’re just normal people. Their agents are the tough people who say ‘no.’ Tom Cruise is a perfect example of that. It’s a pleasure to work with him, he will always say ‘yes’. Sophia Loren, yes, being Italian and everything, Sophia, we have become good friends and the are still. He was a very special person in my life.”

There is already interest in turning the book into a film.

“Who’s gonna play me? Brad Pitt’s busy,” Kutza laughed. “He and Leonardo, they’re all busy!”

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Darcy J. Skinner