Rob Reiner says his new movie was inspired by Jack Nicholson. When they were talking to the press about their film, The Bucket List, Nicholson was asked what he wanted to be sure he did before he died. He said he wanted one more great love in his life. Reiner went to As Good as it Gets screenwriter Mark Andrus to write a story about a couple with a chance for one last great romance. That film is And So it Goes, with Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton. He plays an irascible realtor who has alienated just about everyone he knows. She plays a singer who is still mourning her late husband.
In an interview, Reiner said that there are only three kinds of films that get financed by Hollywood studios these days:
... big superhero tent-pole franchise movies, animated films and R-rated raunchy comedies. There's not one film that I've ever made that could get made today by a studio, not one, even A Few Good Men because it's an adult courtroom drama and studios do not make them any more. And so every movie that I make, have made and will make is always going be independently financed. And the reason they don't make movies for adults and for people which are the largest bulge of the population is because they are not usually going to the movie the first weekend. They take a while to learn about it, probably word of mouth. It takes a lot of money to release a picture. They want to get the money right away and so they want to make blockbuster-type movies. But there is a lot of money to be made if you give that audience something that they want to see and hopefully with Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas the first time they've ever been together, they'll be interested to see that.
The last time Reiner directed Michael Douglas, he was playing a close-to-perfect character in The American President. This time his character, Oren Little, is a bitter man who wants nothing to do with anyone, including his son and granddaughter. Reiner keeps the audience on Oren's side by showing us "the evolution which happens in the character as he progresses through the film."
Here's a guy who may have had this rough side to begin with but it is exacerbated by the fact that his son had drug problems and he's been estranged from his son. His wife passed away and he's basically ready to check out and get out of there. He meets this woman who lives next door in this fourplex and finds out that he has a 10-year-old granddaughter that he didn't even know he had. It's through the relationship with them that a softer side of him starts to come out and I think you then ultimately come to like him. But it takes a while.
Reiner described the estrangement between Oren and his son.
Oren's a lot of bigger-than-life kind of character. He talks about how he has the biggest real estate deals and he has his face on the bus bench. And I think for kids sometimes growing up if your father has a larger-than-life character you can feel diminished. And if you are person who is shy and doesn't have an outgoing personality you can feel like you're a failure or like you don't live up to him, and so I think there was an insecurity with that young guy and he started using drugs as a way to feel better. And then he got into a bad place and maybe the father wasn't as available as he might have been in those early years. I think of that generation, when the parents were more hooked into each other than they were to the children. I think that in our generation we dote on our children more than our parents did to us.
Both of the lead characters are struggling with grief and loss. But the contrast between their responses is one of the ways we learn about the different ways they approach life and relationships.
I think you have two people that have shut down a part of themselves because of loss. She is trying to reconnect with life by launching this singing career at age 65, but the part of her that thinks of herself as a sexual being is kind of tucked away. He's thinking, "I'm gonna go away and just live in Vermont and go fishing." They kind of do this dance around each other for a while until they start to feel like these feelings are reawakened inside of them. But then just like when you're a young person feeling that, it's scary. When you're a young person you're nervous because you don't know what you're doing and you're kind of fumbling around, but when you get to become an adult you've had wives and husbands and you've been through it and you know what it's like to have a loss and how painful it is to have a loss. You're a little tentative about being with that person for those reasons so the dance looks the same but what at stake is slightly different.
This is Reiner's third consecutive film featuring a character who is a young girl. Sterling Jerins plays Oren's granddaughter.
Sterling is really gifted. She came in to read for me and I was like, 'Whoa, who is this person?' She was nine years old at the time and she had done a part in World War Z. She played Brad Pitt's daughter. She had a little experience and she just stuck to it. She wasn't intimidated at all. That's a good thing about kids -- you don't know anything to know that you should be intimidated. You can always tell if a kid is going to be good if you look at their parents. Her mother was great and you knew that she was going to be okay. The ones that are troubled you can tell where it's coming from.
Reiner says he never got any advice directly from his father, the legendary writer/director/actor Carl Reiner, but he learned a great deal from watching him.
When I was 14, 15, 16 during the summer when I was off from school, I would go every single day with him to The Dick Van Dyke Show and watch him. I watched him work with the actors, work with the writers. I saw the stage, the performances and where they put the cameras and all that. So that's how I learned. It wasn't so much from him sitting down, "Well, son, this is how you do it."
He also learned a great deal when he was a young actor on All in the Family, playing the son-in-law of Archie Bunker.
We did over 200 shows in front of a live audience. So I learned a lot about what audiences like, what they don't like, how stories are structured. I would spend a lot of time in the writing room and I actually wrote some scripts. And from Carroll O'Connor I learned a lot about how you perform and how important the script and story are for the actors. So the actor doesn't have to push things. You can let the story and the dialogue support you if it's good. I had great people around me and I took from all the people that was around.
He compared Oren to Archie Bunker.
Carroll O'Connor brought his humanity to the character even though he had these abhorrent views. He's still a feeling, human being. He loved his wife even though he acted the way he did, and he loved his daughter. Those things come out. I don't think anybody's all good or all bad.