Rob Reiner has had a long career both behind and in front of the camera. He does both in “And So It Goes,” an autumnal romance in which Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton play widowed people tentatively falling in love. (He has a small role as the pianist who accompanies Keaton, a singer.) The film is also testament to how difficult it is getting small, character-driven films like these made in today’s narrow-minded Hollywood.
You have a small role here, but you only did it because of a last minute casting snafu. Do you still enjoy acting?
I do. It’s fun. There’s no responsibility! Somebody else has all the headaches — unless I’m also directing. I remember years ago I got a call from Ron Howard, who was doing this movie called “EDtv.” He asked if I wanted to be in the movie. I said yeah. He said, “Let me send you the script.” I said, “I don’t have to read the script. If it stinks it’s not my fault.”
You directed theater before you got the “All in the Family” gig. Was it difficult switching back?
I thought we’d be on for 13 weeks, then we’d be off, then I’d go back to what I was doing, which was directing. But it went on for eight years. But I learned a lot. It was s tough transition for me, because I had become successful as an actor. It was tough to be accepted as a director, because in those days television was like the bad stepchild to movies. Movies were the royalty and we on TV were the peons.
It’s much more fluid now.
TV has become great. If you’re a creative person and you want to express yourself, you’re better off going to television than going to movies. They only make three kinds of movies. None of the movies I make could get made there now. Even “A Few Good Men,” a political courtroom drama — they don’t do it. But I love what’s happening on television. People at dinner parties used to talk about what movies they’d seen. Not they talk about television.
You’ve had to work outside of the Hollywood system to make your last few films.
It’s hard. It’s just really hard. Most of the films are financed through foreign pre-sales, which is a weird way to put a movie together. You’re serving too many masters. You want to get the person who’s right for the part, and they have to be available. Now there’s another element, which is they have to be someone they can pre-sell foreign rights to in order to finance the movie. Not often are all those things lined up. You can find somebody who’s good for the part and okay with foreign pre-sales, but maybe they’re not available. It’s a really hard way to put movies together.
Diane Keaton has a history of singing in movies, going back to “Annie Hall” and “Shoot the Moon.” Was making her character a singer her idea?
She wasn’t a singer in the early drafts. She did embroidery. Diane had the idea to make her a singer, which I loved because my mother started singing when she was 65.
Was she reluctant to sing anyway?
She’s a nervous Nellie about everything. But she’s great. She’s so into her world and what she’s doing she blocks out everything else. The scene where she auditions for a club owner, who’s played by Frankie Valli, we had him and Michael in the back of the room, in the dark. She was about to sing the Bonnie Raitt song and I said to her, just trying to joke around, “Diane, you feel a little nervous? You have to sing in front of Frankie Valli.” She had no idea he was in the movie. She said, “Why would you tell me that? You’re making me nervous.” I said, “Don’t feel nervous, I have to play the piano in front of Liberace over here.”
What on earth was the set of “The Wolf of Wall Street” like?
That was the best. [Martin Scorsese] lets you improvise. He makes characters the plot. He lets you do whatever you can do to make that come alive. The only thing I felt bad about was there were all these naked women but not in any of the scenes I’m in. I’m always in the stockbroker’s place or at home.
Or talking to Jonah Hill or Leonardo DiCaprio.
I used to say: What’s more unbelievable: That Leonardo DiCaprio is a Jew or that I’m his father? You decide.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge