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Kevin Kline Talks 'Last Vegas' And The Missing Nuances Of 'Wild Wild West'

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KEVIN KLINE LAST VEGAS
CBS Films

In real life, Kevin Kline's comedic timing is as impeccable as it is in the movies, including the movie in which he won an Academy Award for his comedic timing. He's an expert storyteller who knows how to hit the beats, as he did in a recent interview by recounting a story about President Obama's commenting on Kline's 1993 presidential movie "Dave" and the absurd studio notes he was privy to while filming 1999 box office disaster "Wild Wild West." In other words: Kevin Kline is a national treasure.

Kline is co-starring with Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Robert De Niro in this weekend's new comedy offering, "Last Vegas." Kline plays Sam, a man whose marriage is in so much jeopardy that he's been given a "free pass" from his wife for his weekend in Vegas to celebrate his friend Billy's (Douglas) bachelor party. "Last Vegas" is a surprisingly sweet (and surprisingly raunchy) comedy that doesn't hit the obvious tropes that one might expect. And, to be honest, Kline's involvement here should be enough proof that "Last Vegas" isn't your expected "The Hangover" meets "Grumpy Old Men" mash-up.

You've been my go-to answer for "Who are famous people from St. Louis?" for a long time.
Really? Are you from St. Louis?

Yes.
Have we met before?

No.
Ah, OK. Maybe I've seen your name.

I have to admit, I also add "Jon Hamm" to that answer these days. I still say you first.
Oh, thanks.

He's also a Mizzou guy.
Oh, he went to Mizzou?

He did a commercial for them.
You can do commercials for Mizzou?

They air during football games.
Oh, really?

You should do one for Indiana.
They've never asked.

That's a shame.
Well, you know, I guess they respect me too much [laughs]. They did offer me an honorary doctorate.

See, that's a nice honor, too.
The only hitch was that I had to make the big speech -- the graduation speech. Also, they wouldn't pay my airfare. And I said, "Well, I'm not going to fly myself in." Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

The Cardinals are in the World Series.
I just heard that! No, I have not been following them for quite a while. But, I used to. I saw Stan Musial play. I saw Bob Gibson [strike out 18 batters] in the sixth game of the 1968 World Series. But, I've sort of lost my sportive thing. I watch football occasionally, but rarely. And I'm a Knicks fan and I go to the Knicks games.

I know "Last Vegas" director Jon Turteltaub has been concerned that people think this movie is "The Hangover" meets '"Grumpy Old Men." He's right, it's not that...
No, I know. This movie is like "The Hangover" the way "Gone with the Wind" is like "Mississippi Burning."

That's a very specific comparison.
[Laughs] Well, I just mean it's apples and oranges. There's really no comparison. Except there are "guys," but it's more of a "old-fish-way-out-of-the-water" kind of movie. But, I guess it's a buddy movie, too. I don't know. I hope it defies simple genrefication -- there's a word for you.

It's a little raunchier than I expected.
Yes. I guess that it shares with "The Hangover." I only saw part one.

That's the good one.
Oh, really?

You don't need to see any of the others.
OK, good. Then I'm up to speed with "The Hangover" craze.

I laughed out loud at quite a few of your lines in this movie.
Really?

When you gave yourself a mob nickname of "The Stove" because "you cook the books," that had me rolling...
Oh thanks! That was an ad-lib.

It was nice to see you in a straightforward comedy again.
Yeah, I guess it's been awhile. I guess "The Extra Man" was kind of a comedy role. I don't know if anybody saw it, though -- but it seemed funny to me. It's very quirky. It's a very funny book that Jonathan Ames wrote -- I don't know if you were a fan of that HBO series he did, "Bored to Death." If you want to laugh on just about every page, check out "The Extra Man." It's very funny. [Coughs] Did you hear that cough? I'm getting over a cold.

I did. I'm not sure how to transcribe that, but I'll try.
[Laughs] COUGH!

Did you take special pride that you won an Oscar for comedy? Which is rare...
It was at the time. I didn't realize. It was pointed out to me that only Lee Marvin for "Cat Ballou" had won in a comedic role until then. But I don't know if that's accurate, somebody mentioned that. But, yeah, comedy tends to be overlooked come Oscar time. But, I think that's changed -- not that I could quote any [laughs]. I just don't follow it that closely. Can you remember who won Best Actor last year?

Daniel Day-Lewis for "Lincoln."
Very good. And so much for my theory that people forget the next day.

I didn't mean to ruin your theory.
You can never go wrong by just saying "Daniel Day-Lewis" and you'll be right.

To be fair, it's my job to know that and it's not most people's jobs to know that.
That's true. And most people are like, "Oh, yeah. What was that movie? I can't even remember." But, you've got to tune in -- you've got to see the parade. You've got to watch the Oscars. You know, I've actually missed it the last couple of years. Once, I was out of the country and another time... well, I don't want to say. I was about to say, "I just didn't care" [laughs] -- no, I don't know. I had something else to do.

I don't think anyone is going to blame you for not watching the Oscars.
I mean, look, it's a great celebration of the year in film. And it's completely unfair, being a member of this esteemed Academy, I have to say, unless you've seen every movie that's come out, how can you vote in good conscience? Do you know what I mean? It depends how popular the movie is and all that sort of thing.

I think if you were nominated and you came out and said, "I'm not going to watch this," people might think that's sour grapes. But if you're not nominated, I'm not sure people care if you watch or not.
[Laughs] I've always said, the Oscars are meaningless, unless I'm nominated. In which case, it's a very prestigious award.

Speaking of comedy, I find it remarkable that your first role was in "Sophie's Choice." It doesn't get more grim than that.
No, I know. I didn't get cast in many comedies after that first film. God bless him, John Cleese said, " I want to write a role for you in this comedy that I'm thinking of doing." And I said, "great." And that was "A Fish Called Wanda." Like I said, it was the first sort of blatantly comic role.

I love the perseverance that the movie "Dave" has had over the years. People still talk about it...
I know! And I'm very proud of that movie. I'm very happy when people say "I love 'Dave.' I own it. I watch it." Even President Obama told me that he watched it, and that was nice.

Really?
Oh, he was very sweet. He said, "You made it look so easy being president." [Laughs] I said, "Yeah, I know it isn't."

That's kind of awesome.
I mean, he said that to me privately. Are you allowed to quote the president?

I see no problem with it. I think if he told you that he was going to attack a country tomorrow, he might mind if you told someone.
Oh, right. Well, he did mention that as well, but I'm not going to share that. You'll have to guess which country it is.

After "Wild Wild West" you did a string of smaller movies. Was that intentional after a movie like that?
[Laughing] Um, no.

I really have always wondered that.
You know, unconsciously I might have. Well, actually, it's funny that you mention "Wild Wild West" because the director of that film, Barry Sonnenfeld, told me one of the funniest stories about studio executives. Someone said to somebody that the budget of this movie is way too high for characters this "complex." And there you go. So, the higher the budget, usually in order to break even -- or, God forbid, actually make money -- the movie better not be too terribly complicated. Do you know what I mean? There are notable exceptions, but I thought that was one of the funnier ones. Another studio executive said, "Could you take out the nuances?"

For "Wild Wild West?"
[Laughs] I mean, it's like you couldn't write that kind of line! But it was actually said! "Could you take out the nuances?" and "This budget is too big for characters this complex."

I like that story a lot.
Yeah, it made me laugh. And it's one of the few stories about studio executives that I remember.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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