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Interview: Alan Arkin talks ‘Going in Style’

Big screen legend Alan Arkin has without question been one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood over the past 50 years, making indelible impressions in the mid-60s with such classic films as “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” and “Wait Until Dark.” The films signaled an auspicious debut for Arkin in the film industry, paving the way to such hits over the years as “Catch 22,” “Freebie and the Bean,” “The In-Laws,” “The Rocketeer” and “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Of course, Arkin’s career hit overdrive in 2007 with his Best Supporting Actor Oscar win for “Little Miss Sunshine,” which led to plum roles in such films as the 2012 Best Picture Oscar winner “Argo.” In short, Arkin has done it all — that is, with the exception of doing a movie with fellow iconic actors Morgan Freeman and Michael Change. But that’s all changed with “Going in Style,” a poignant comedy new in theaters.

In the film, Arkin, Freeman and Caine play Albert, Willie and Joe, respectively, a trio of lifelong friends who have toiled for decades at a steel mill. Trying their best to enjoy retirement, the friends are shocked to learn from the mill that all company pensions have been dissolved. All broke and with a mortgage foreclosure pending for one of them, Albert, Willie and Joe hatch a plan to rob the bank that’s involved in the pension fiasco to recoup what would be coming to them if they hadn’t been swindled by their company.

LINK: See Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Francis Ford Coppola and more on his new YouTube channel.

A remake of the 1979 comedy of the same name, director Zach Braff’s “Going in Style” is updated to reflect the financial crisis hitting seniors today. It’s a brutally honest reality to confront, but often times great comedy is rooted in truth, Arkin said in a recent phone conversation from New York.

“Even the most outrageous comedy has to be rooted, even subliminally, in some kind of truth or else it has no meaning,” Arkin said. “I was thinking about that connection with the Marx Brothers. Interestingly enough, people don’t analyze the statements — and I don’t mean messages — but emotional statements that exist in comedy. People think having a good time doesn’t warrant examination. But even with the Marx Brothers, even though it’s a much more stylized version of what we’re doing, it’s the same idea: Three kids from the Bowery on the lower east side stickin’ it to the man. That’s what most of the Marx Brothers’ material is about.”

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in “Going in Style.”

“Going in Style” also stars screen great Ann-Margret as Annie, a fiery grocery store clerk who wants to develop a romantic relationship with Albert, a longtime musician who worked in the steel mill to support his passion for music. And while Annie wants to make a different kind of music with Albert, they do at one point in “Going in Style” take to the stage to sing some karaoke.

Funny enough, Arkin, whose first feature film appearance came as a singer and guitarist with his group The Tarriers in the 1957 film “Calypso Heat Wave,” was a bit anxious to take center stage again 60 years later.

“It was a little bit terrifying because we didn’t know what song we were going to sing until the night before we did the scene, and we had no rehearsal whatsoever,” Arkin said with slightly nervous laugh. “They threw us up in the bandstand and I was amazed that anything worked at all.”

And while some actors use fear as a motivating factor in prepping for a scene, the comedy great, 83, said he’d prefer to leave that method of working to somebody else.

“I’ve had enough of that,” Arkin deadpanned. “I prefer these days of not having fear being a motivation for anything.”

Arkin has earned a stellar reputation over the years of being such a natural, and you can definitely feel it through his relatable character in “Going in Style.” Part of the relatability no doubt stems from the actor’s natural gift of improvisation, which he’s used quite often over the years.

“I spent a long time in improvisational theater, so I know how to work with dialogue. When it’s not working, I spend a lot of time changing dialogue,” Arkin said. “If people don’t like it, they can hire somebody else. I don’t spring new dialogue on people, but I change stuff a lot – I’ve done that on at least half the films I’ve worked on. I’m very happy to comply with writing that has texture, dimension and depth.”

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Movie review: Screen icons bring class to ‘Going in Style’

“Going in Style” (PG-13)

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin appear together on the big screen for the very first time in “Going in Style,” a funny and poignant remake of the 1979 comedy heist film of the same name starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strassberg.

The Oscar-winning film luminaries play lifelong friends who have toiled for decades at a steel mill, and upon retirement, they’re shocked to learn their pensions have been dissolved.

All virtually broke and with foreclosure pending for one of them, the trio hatches a plan to rob the bank that’s involved in the pension fiasco to recoup what would be coming to them if they hadn’t been swindled by their company.

Of course, the whole idea of three guys pushing 80 pulling off a heist in “Going in Style” is ridiculous and a lot of the comedy comes from that scenario.

And while the film is predictable, you can’t help but love seeing the actors (including screen icon Ann-Margret) together in one space – especially when you consider how many more opportunities we’ll get to see them in film. Caine’s 84, Arkin is 83 and Freeman will turn 80 in a couple months, so they needed to strike when the iron when it was hot before they make that sad decision that their time in Hollywood is over.

Interview: Ann-Margret talks ‘Going in Style’
LINK: See Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Francis Ford Coppola and more on his new YouTube channel.

The best thing about “Going in Style” is that director Zach Braff (“Scrubs”) didn’t use the actors as punch lines because they’re up in their years. Yes, comedy does arise because of their age, but Braff never loses sight of the very real situation retirees face in today’s volatile financial climate. Overall, it’s a wonderful combination of real characters in outlandish situations that manages to make you laugh without being exploitative.

Lammometer: 7 (out of 10)

Copyright 2017 DirectConversations.com.

Tim Burton Book 2
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Interview: Ann-Margret talks ‘Going in Style’

Big screen icon has Ann-Margret has starred in many classic films over her illustrious 56-year screen career, including a pair of movies about two “Grumpy Old Men” (Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) from Minnesota in 1993 and 1995.

And while scripts containing the flavor of those films undoubtedly landed on the actress’ doorstep for the past two decades, Ann-Margret avoided taking any roles involving more grumpy old men — that is until an opportunity came about to work with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin that was too good to pass up.

In a recent phone conversation from New York City, Ann-Margret said her impressions of the legendary actors were exactly as she hoped they would be.

“I had done a film with Alan Arkin before, so I knew him and we’re friends. But to see these three guys together — ‘the boys,’ I call them — I saw them as teenagers; as 17-year-olds,” Ann-Margret said. “Sometimes when you look at someone and try to imagine what they were like when they were younger, and the boys are still the same.”

untitled-09590.dngAnn-Margret and Alan Arkin in “Going in Style.” (Warner Bros.)

Opening Friday in theaters nationwide, “Going in Style” is a remake of 1979 comedy that starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strassberg, but in director Zach Braff’s version, it’s been updated to reflect the volatile climate retirees face in today’s society.

Caine, Freeman and Arkin play Joe, Willie and Albert, respectfully, a trio of lifelong friends whose pensions become a casualty of corporate America despite devoting their lives to their work. Hard-pressed to keep up with their bills, the retired steelworks hatch a plan to rob the very bank that ripped them off.

Ann-Margret plays Annie, a fiery grocery cashier who takes a liking to Albert, even though he feels his days of romance are far behind him.

“I think it’s cute that she gets a crush on Arkin’s character — this grumpy old man who never looks at her and never smiles,” Ann-Margret said, laughing. “But she gets this vibration from him. She goes after him. She’s been divorced for a long time, but she gets this feeling from him and feels blessed that she’s getting that feeling again.”

Ann-Margret said she felt blessed to work with Arkin again following their pairing as the in-laws of Tim Allen’s St. Nick in “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause” in 2006, and the screen legend said in a separate phone conversation that he feels the exact same way.

“She’s an absolute delight,” Arkin said. “She’s like a kid doing her first movie. She’s game, she’s fun, and she’s got a wonderful sense of humor and will try anything. She’s just a delight.”

Ann-Margret said like the “Grumpy Old Men” movies, she was drawn to the script of “Going in Style” because it doesn’t treat men and women of a certain age as punch lines. Even though the film is a comedy and the characters up in their years, they most definitely are made up of substance,  emotion and in Annie’s case in particular, passion.

“I love the fact that I’m playing this woman who is living, I mean she’s really living her life,” Ann-Marg

ret, 75, enthused. “You’re not dead when you reach a certain age, and you can still have love and passion and everything if you’re lucky enough. You have to keep living and not sit home and watch TV alone. You have to participate.”

LINK: See Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Francis Ford Coppola and more on his new YouTube channel.

Luckily for Ann-Margret, Arkin, Caine and Freeman were more than willing to participate with “Going in Style,” and she can’t even to say how much of a blast it was working with them.

“I had such fun. These guys are adorable,” Ann-Margret said. “They’re mischievous and full of life.”

Tim Burton Book 2
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Tim Lammers creates YouTube channel for interviews

Tim Lammers has created a new YouTube channel to highlight his extensive interview archive. Please click in and subscribe to it today!

Tim has talked with about 2,000 major actors and filmmakers over the years for TV, radio, print and online. New on his YouTube channel are clips from those interviews, including Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Tim Burton, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Mark Hamill, Kathy Bates, Matthew McConaughey and Christopher Nolan, with new interview clips being added daily.

Here are some sample clips: