Alan Arkin On His Comic Turn For Going In Style -- Interview

– by Edward Douglas

Actor Alan Arkin has had a successful third act in his career ever since he won an Oscar for his role in the Sundance favorite, Little Miss Sunshine. A few years later, he was nominated for another Oscar for Ben Affleck’s thriller Argo, again playing a comedic role in a more serious thriller.

For the upcoming remake of the 1979 crime-comedy Going in Style, Arkin is teamed with another popular Oscar-winning octogenarian in Michael Caine, and the slightly younger Morgan Freeman. They play three friends having a difficult time financially, who decide to plot an elaborate bank robbery.  Not only does Arkin get to work with two of his contemporaries, but he also gets a love interest in the movie in none other than Ann-Margret, who hasn’t been seen on the big screen in anything high profile in quite some time.

LRM got on the phone with Arkin last week for the following brief interview:

LRM: It’s amazing to have a movie like this with the three of you, Christopher Lloyd and even Ann-Margret. How did they pitch the movie to you to play Al?

Alan Arkin: They sent me the script. No one does that anymore that I’m aware of; they sent me the script.

LRM: Had either of the other two guys come onto it already?

Alan Arkin:  I don’t really know, I’m not sure. Morgan says I got it first, but I don’t know if it’s true.

LRM: Had you seen the original movie with George Burns?

 Arkin: Yes. Ours is better.

LRM: It’s not a very well known movie, but what was your interest in playing Al? Did you have a choice of characters?

Alan Arkin: No, that was the part they offered me and I was happy to take it. I liked the fact that he was a jazz musician. I like the fact that he has a relationship with Ann-Margret. I just like being a part of the event. I don’t even care what the character is, but if I can be connected with an event that the movie embodies, then that’s fine with me.

LRM: I loved seeing Ann-Margret in this movie, and you have great scenes with her. Did you know her beforehand?

Alan Arkin: We’d worked together before, and I’ve been crazy about her since the first time we worked together.

LRM: At what point did you know she was going to play the other role?

Alan Arkin: I think it was suggested, and they asked me how I feel about Ann-Margret playing “Annie” and I just said, “ I would be thrilled,” and that was it.

LRM: How do you feel about remakes in general? I know your movie “The In-Laws” was remade. Do you have any thoughts on old movies being remade?

Alan Arkin: Not in general, but most of the time, I feel like people don’t have a new way of doing it. It’s just a remake with no particular intelligence gone into it. I feel like with this one, it was not a remake, it’s a reimagining. The event is the same, but the reasons for everything is completely different. The motivations for the characters are completely different than the first one. There was no real motivation in the first one for anything. It was just a caper for the caper’s sake, and I don’t think it had any particular necessity behind it.

LRM: Had you worked with Morgan, or Michael, before this or was it the first time?

Alan Arkin: No, I never worked with either of them. 

LRM: What did you guys talk about during downtime? Did you get a lot of chances to talk about stuff?

Alan Arkin: We didn’t.  If you’re working 12 hour days, and you’re in your late 70s and 80s, you spend your time resting for the next scene. Working with these guys was like trying to keep up with a whirlwind, but in order to do that and be up to snuff when “Action” is said, we’re in a position where we have to conserve our energies between shots and between scenes, and we were all busy doing that. We’ve gotten a lot closer on the press junket, Morgan and Michael and I, then we did when we were working, because we have time to hang out now. Then, we didn’t.

LRM: That makes sense. What about having Zach Braff directing you He’s relatively young compared to everyone else in the cast.

Alan Arkin: He did a terrific job.

LRM: Is there anything different or unique about his directing style?

Alan Arkin: No, he was very respectful of our contribution and our creativity, and it was just fine.

LRM: I’m curious about your approach to comedy, because I feel like you’ve done a lot more comedy in recent years. Is it always about the material and script?

Alan Arkin: Yeah, it has to be. I’m not one of those people who can just be funny. It’s gotta work in the script and make me laugh. If I’m not laughing when I read the script, I can’t be connected with it.

LRM: That makes sense. Do you generally look at characters you can bring more to? When you have a character like Al, do you feel like you can bring something more to the character?

Alan Arkin: Yeah, right. Yeah.

LRM: What would you say you brought to Al that wasn’t in the script to make him funnier?

Alan Arkin: I don’t usually bring anything. If you’re usually bringing something to a script you might as well be a bus driver. I hope I can bring something new to each thing I do. I hope that every character I do makes its own statement, that there’s some difference between them. That’s my hope.

LRM: You’re in your 70s now, so what keeps you going to do two or more movies a year?

Alan Arkin:  What keeps me going? My accountant keeps me going.

LRM: Well, that’s an honest answer. Do you have anything else you’ve done since making this movie?

Alan Arkin:  I haven’t done anything, that’s it.

LRM: Have you not found the right material?

Alan Arkin: No, I’ve been offered a bunch of things, but nothing I wanted to do.

LRM:  You also directed for a while, so do you have any interest in doing that again?

Alan Arkin: I’m happy just acting now, just living as quiet a life as possible until something exciting comes along that I want to be in, and that’s fine with me.

Going in Style opens nationwide on Friday, April 7.

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