Last month I was invited to participate in a roundtable interview with Academy Award winning actor Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) to discuss his upcoming film The Extra Man. Kline stars as an eccentric (and unsuccessful) playwright who rents the spare room in his New York City apartment out to an aspiring journalist (Paul Dano) who is new to the city. As they develop a relationship, Kline teaches Dano how to be an “extra man” – getting paid to accompany elderly widows to social events. Kline is hilarious in the role and was just as funny in person.
In our interview, Kline talked about how he became involved with the project, his notoriously bad driving, running into Jeremy Irons during shooting, public urination, working with his family, and his upcoming role in Robert Redford’s the Conspirator. To see what Kline had to say, continue reading. The Extra Man hits theaters this Friday, July 30.
On his notoriously less-than-stellar driving:
Kline: Did I crash? Is the car in one piece? Not that it matters. It was a complete wreck…Well the fact is, the movie was done so inexpensively, notice I didn’t say cheaply, on a very tight budget, so usually when you’re doing a driving scene you have a police escort or you “own” the street and it’s all filled with extras and all the cars you see in it, they’re all driven by stunt men – but not us. We’re out in a street and it’s rush hour and everybody’s moving about five miles an hour stop and start and I’m supposed to be racing around and [Paul Dano is] supposed to be saying “slow down!” so I just did the best I could…The guy in the back with the camera thought he was gonna die…but he didn’t. I just drove as, you know, did a lot of swerving and stuff…”
About running into Jeremy Irons during the driving scene:
Kline: “Jeremy! Hi! Shooting right now. Nice to see you.”…I haven’t seen him since. He might have seen the guy with the camera in the back and put two and two together but maybe not.
On his character, Henry Harrison, in The Extra Man:
Kline: He’s at the bottom. He’s just desperately poor. But he lives this delusional grandiose existence because he has a self-image which is full of grandiosity and self esteem and that’s why I loved him when I read it. He’s his own man. He’s living life the way he wants to live it and if it doesn’t come up to his standards, he scorns it. He’s a poor snob. He’s in no position to be as snobbish as he is but that doesn’t stop him.
On his character’s and his own fascination with public urination:
Kline: It’s not that hard. It was the last scene we shot…It’s all pretty simple even though [my character] says it’s an art…Listen, it’s a low budget film and…“are we about to role? Cause I have to pee. Twenty minutes to go back to the trailer, whatever the nearest men’s room…so, well hey its research! It’s late at night, it’s a dark night, works fine.” I went discretely, I wasn’t doing it in front of the crew or anything to see if anyone would notice. Yeah I tried it once or twice. It works!
On the possibility of working in film with his family (his wife is actress Phoebe Cates and his son Owen was one of the stars of The Squid And The Whale)
Kline: At the moment none of them is interested in acting. Not at all. My son’s going to art school next year, he just graduated school. He might be a filmmaker but he says at the moment he’s more interested in being behind the camera. That could change. That could change. I didn’t know what I wanted, I went to college to study music. How did I end up here?
On the possibility of working with his Fish Called Wanda “family” again:
Kline: I would love to do something with John, he tells me he’s writing a musical of A Fish Called Wanda so maybe I’ll play Otto’s father in the musical on Broadway if it gets finished.
On his next film The Conspirator directed by Robert Redford:
Kline: It’s not a comedy…Mary Surratt ran the boarding house where the conspirators [who planned Abraham Lincoln’s assassination] met and was implicated because she was in her house and because her son was sort of involved. He was involved in a conspiracy to kidnap Lincoln and hold him hostage in return for Confederate prisoners which was aborted. But then because the plot was hatched in her house, she was implicated, they had not a civil trial, no habeas corpus…the movie is really about the suspension of Constitutional rights happens when there is a panic and there was a panic at the end of that war that the South would rise again and there were still rebel armies in the field even though the treaty had been signed at Appomattox and so there was this fervor to summarily and quickly and ruthlessly try and hang the conspirators and she was the first woman to hang…I play Lincoln’s Secretary of War who kind of insisted on it being a military tribunal and wanted swift harsh justice…There’s some very interesting twists and turns. And the obvious relevancy to Gitmo and just, its just how political and social climate during war when you’ve been attacked or when there’s a revolution or there’s a civil war, people don’t always think so kindly.
On his reaction to hearing John C. Reilly’s fake high voice that he employed for the film:
Kline: I thought it was great…If he just finished a scene he’d go (fake high voice) “Can somebody bring me a coffee please!” He might’ve done that but I don’t know, I just got used to it. I don’t think he, no we did go out for dinner one night and no, he ordered that way (high voice) “I’ll have the spaghetti please” but then we just talked. I’m kidding.