Alan Arkin is an extremely versatile character actor who has made a lengthy career out of roles in both drama and comedy. During a recent interview, the 75-year-old New Yorker revealed that he just completed a role opposite Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. in the 2010 comedy Due Date (directed by Todd Phillips), about a high-strung father-to-be who is forced to hitch a ride with a college slacker on a road trip, in order to make it to his child’s birth on time. After the jump, read what he had to say about that experience, as well as what he now looks for in a role:
Question: Have you filmed anything recently?
Alan: I did a piece in a Robert Downey, Jr. movie, earlier this month. In February, I have another project that I’m not signed for yet, so I can’t say anything about that. It’s still in the last stages of negotiation, but it’s a terrific project.
What did you work on with Robert Downey?
Alan: It’s called Due Date. I play his father in that. We did a lot of improvising and restructuring the stuff I was in.
How was it to work with him?
Alan: He’s got a very, very fast mind. He thinks about every aspect of the production. He knows exactly what he needs and what the scene needs, and he’s very quick to be able to play around with the structure, within all those things that are going on. He’s a very, very smart young man.
Why was there so much room for improvisation in this particular project?
Alan: It’s a road movie. I play his father, who he hasn’t seen in 25 years. It’s a comedy.
What do you look for these days, when you’re evaluating projects?
Alan: What I look for these days is that I don’t have long speeches, the characters gets to sit down a lot, I don’t have to learn any foreign languages, and it doesn’t shoot in Minneapolis in February. That’s mainly what I look for.
Having had such a long lasting career, what advice would you give young people who are looking to be actors?
Alan: The first question I ask them is, “Do you want to be an actor, or do you want to be a movie star?” Usually, they want to be movie stars and they don’t admit it. So, then it becomes a topic for a long discussion on what the difference is and what the likelihood of it happening is. If you want to be an actor and you love acting, you can do it whether you’re doing something else or not. You can be connected with community theater or make your own little movies. But, if you want to be a movie star, you’ve got a tough road ahead of you.