Rob Reiner’s new film, And So It Goes, is now playing at Boston-area theaters.
For Part 1 of our interview with Mr. Reiner, please click here.
STEPHEN SLAUGHTER HEAD: Is there anything in the film that perhaps you could say, “This is you”? Like perhaps elements of Michael Douglas’s character? Is there something of you there?
REINER: Well, there’s something of me in all of the things I do, in that these are things I think about. I mean the whole idea for this film was based on the experience I had when I made The Bucket List. When we did it we had the press check it and everybody asked what’s on your bucket list? And whenever they asked Jack Nicholson he said, “One more great romance.” So I thought that’s a great idea for a movie – two people who were basically finding each other later in life. So that became the basis of this film. Then we hired Mark Anders to come in and write it. When I turned 60 all these things that you kind of think about intellectually “you” start internalizing, which is that your life isn’t going to be forever and that it is precious and that you have to make the most of every little moment. And when I turned 60 that started hitting me, you know I was like very … I realized I was like a very very young old person. You know what I mean, so I started thinking about that stuff and that’s what gave birth to this. You don’t know how long you’re going to live and you want to be able to embrace life as best you can, as long as you can.
MICHEL: You mentioned that the germ of the idea came while doing The Bucket List. Did you ever consider using Jack for this film?
REINER: Well Jack had quit acting.
REINER: He quit acting. He said he doesn’t want to act anymore. I mean, obviously if he wanted to be in the movie I would’ve. (he laughs)
MICHEL: I mean, but did you try?
REINER: Well no. I mean, with Jack it’s like, he makes up his mind. You go where he goes, you know?
MICHEL: Do you really think he’s done?
REINER: I hope not, boy. I really hope. I mean the guy is one of the greats.
MICHEL: And Gene Hackman.
REINER: And Gene Hackman. He said that’s it for me. But Jack is one of the great film actors of all time. I hope he wants to do more.
HEAD: How did Diane Keaton get involved? The way that Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton relate to each other in the film is very comfortable, we worried about this chemistry.
REINER: It’s amazing.
REINER: Sure you are because they’ve never worked together and that’s unusual because you’ve got these two Academy award-winning iconic actors and they always wanted to work together and they haven’t. They have very different styles. Michael is very, you know, he’s got his craft. He’s learned his craft from doing The Streets of San Francisco all the way through and he’s like out there on the set, he’s a guy that knows the drill. He knows how to help you make today. Diane is a completely distinctive actress and she’s actually more like the way I am. She actually said before we started shooting, that she doesn’t act. She said, “I don’t act. I just am what I am and I just do it,” and I said that’s great, whatever it is, it’s great what you do. She takes the dialogue and she makes it her own and then that’s what she does. This is the way I worked in my life from being an improvisational actor and she’s very much that way. So it was great for me to work with her and Michael. It’s such a solid rock that you know, it’s like he’s is the rock in the water and things are falling around him, and he can plow through and it doesn’t matter. You can throw anything at him and he’ll be fine.
HEAD: Can I ask you a fun question? As a kid did you get to visit some of the sets that he (Carl Reiner) worked on like It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World or in his other things?
REINER: Yeah, as a kid, when I was 14, 15, 16 years-old, and I was in school when summer came around, they were shooting The Dick Van Dyke Show. I went every single day, all day, for my entire summer vacation. I spent it with them watching my dad work with the actors and the writers and seeing how the directors stage the actors and how to use the cameras and so forth. I was totally taking all that in, you know, when I was young. So I thought I saw a lot.
HEAD: Nothing scarring?
REINER: No, no. [He laughs] The only thing that was scarring was … I’m not telling tales out of school, because Mary Tyler Moore has this in her book. And that is, I did grab her by the ass when I was 14 years-old. I didn’t know what came over me, but I remember she was so pretty and she wore these Capri pants. She was 24 you know, and she was wearing these Capri pants, tight and everything, and I don’t know what possessed me, but I grabbed her and she told my dad on me. Then my dad called me in the office and said, “Let me ask you something.” He said, “Did you grab Mary Tyler Moore’s ass?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, with a big smile on his face, “Don’t ever do that again!” You know, and then she did talk about it. She said it on The David Letterman Show, so I’m not making that up.
HEAD: So it was flattering. She was flattered?
REINER: I don’t think she was flattered, but I don’t think she was flattered at the time, although this is a great thing. Years later they do reunion show of The Dick Van Dyke Show and my dad was producing and I’ve already become a star from All In The Family. I was visiting the set and Dick was in a tuxedo and Mary was in an evening gown and they were coming back from some formal thing. And they’re standing on the set and they just finished talking so I told the camera guy to just keep rolling. So I walk out onto the thing and I’m standing there and I said, “Mary, I’ve just got to tell you, I want to apologize. You know it’s old after all these years. I never said I’m sorry for what I did when I was 14, but I couldn’t help myself. I was young and you were so beautiful. And I said, not that you’re not beautiful now … I mean, if you were in … I’m in. I would, and she bends over and I grabbed her by the ass, and she goes, “Oh Rob!” like this. Which was what she did on The Dick Van Dyke Show. So I thought it was a great payoff. It was a payoff from something like 30 years later.
JOURNALIST: Have you ever thought about directing yourself in a starring role?
REINER: Not the starring role, I’ve been in Spinal Tap, and this thing, and I was in The Story of Us. I’ve done little bits of things but I don’t like it because it gets confusing I guess. I don’t like it, I mean I like acting in other people’s movies. That’s fun.
MICHEL: Did you improvise much when you were doing Wolf of Wall Street?
REINER: Yeah, I was completely … I mean they had a script and it was good, but then we went off and Marty (Scorsese) always let us just go in and it works. It works if you have people who can do it. I mean like when we did Spinal Tap, the whole thing is improvised, but you have actors who feel so comfortable in that. With Jonah Hill it’s easy – with someone like that – and Leo was great at it. But it doesn’t always work. Some actors don’t like doing that. If you don’t have actors who are like that, then it’s not good. But if you have actors who are willing to try it, then it’s great.
JOURNALIST: Which kind of actors do you prefer to work with?
REINER: Both. I’ve worked with the ones who were buttoned-down and I’ve worked with the ones who like to improvise, and it works. I mean with Morgan Freeman I couldn’t have had a better experience. He likes to do (improve). I mean he’ll do whatever you want to do. He’ll do what’s there so you know, whatever, either way.
HEAD: Why Bridgeport, Connecticut?
REINER: Tax breaks actually were all over Connecticut. We were in Greenwich, Bridgeport, Southport, Bristol.
MICHEL: You never really identify the location in the film.
REINER: But it was not supposed to be anything but Connecticut, and then Tex-Mex.
MICHEL: So it’s really tough to get your financing.
REINER: It’s really really hard.
HEAD: If you had your preference you really would stay with California?
REINER: Sure it’s my home, so I’m near family. Absolutely.
HEAD: I’m curious of some of the reactions you got from my girlfriend Sarah, she cried. Maybe it was Judy Collins?
REINER: It was a great story about that too, because we recorded Both Sides Now for the film and she sang and her voice is still incredible. She’s in her 70s and she had sung it so many times. It was a big big hit so she sings it at every concert … a thousand times … so she’s now found ways of making it more fun for herself. I said, “No Judy, I want it to sound like that iconic thing that we always heard” … So actually I’m sitting there singing it to her, and she said, “Yeah, okay, I’ll do it that way.” She could do whatever you want.