Zach, how difficult was it to direct these guys, who’ve all been working longer than you’ve been alive, and did they listen to you?
Zach Braff: I was very nervous at first…
Ann-Margret: You were not!
Michael Caine: Yeah, he was.
Alan Arkin: Can we please get along!
ZB: Yeah, but as you’ll see, they’re a very funny group, and very welcoming, and we just started laughing and getting along right away, so my nerves went away, and they couldn’t have been nicer to me, so… it became very easy.
Morgan Freeman: That wasn’t the plan.
Did they ever say no?
ZB: Morgan liked to play jokes on me, he’d come in and I’d have a whole elaborate shot worked out, and I’d go, “and then you go here, and the camera’s going to crane down”, and I’d been lighting and setting it up, and he’d go, “my character would never do that”. And I’d go, “oh my God, that’s going to be a huge change,” and he’d hold his face and go, “I’m just kidding, I’ll go wherever you want me to go”.
There’s a line repeated in the film, “it’s a society’s duty to take care of its elderly”. Could you if you think our society is taking care of its elderly, or not?
ZB: I think, included in Ted Melfi’s script was some social commentary on how the elderly in this country are treated. It is problematic that when corporations are sold overseas, people are legitimately losing their pensions, and that if you get very sick you can go broke in this country, something that I know in a lot of other countries is not a problem. Michael’s character has a line where he says, “you know, worst case scenario, I’ll have a bed, three meals a day, and better health care than I have now if I’m in jail”, which I think was one of the themes of the whole movie. It’s a comedy first and foremost, but underneath it is this attitude of I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. And these guys do it, the most noble way they can, “we don’t want anyone else’s money, we want our money. The banks screwed us over, and we don’t want a penny more than our pension, if we get a penny more, we’re going to give it to charity, we’re going to pay it forward.” That underlying social commentary is in the film.
MC: Well, I’m from Britain, and we have a very heavy National Health Service, so you are taken care of when you’re old.
MF: You’re taken care of, period. I was there making a movie, I got hit in the head with a sword, they took me to the hospital, got me sewn up, I didn’t even have to sign a paper.
MC: Yeah, if you have an accident in America, come to England.
There is a version of Going In Style made in 1979, and it had a much sadder ending, can you comment on that?
ZB: I think that back in the development stage, the idea was really to make it more inspired by; we’re not trying to remake Martin Brest’s wonderful film. In 2017, if you want to make a big family comedy, like we wanted to do, we didn’t really want the end with them going to jail, dying, it wasn’t really the kind of movie we were making. In 2017, that might be the sort of indie art version of the film, but that’s not what Warner Bros, and we, set out to make. I think [writer] Ted Melfi took it as inspiration and we kind of leapt from there.
MF: It’s not a remake, it’s a re-imagining.
ZB: I think the name and the three friends who are in dire straits and rob a bank, and it takes place in Brooklyn, there’s not much more.
AA: I get slightly crazed when I hear people want to hear what the message of anything is. I don’t know what the message of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is, but when I listen to it, it changes my life. If I come out of a movie theatre thinking about what the message of the film is, I’ve missed the emotional point of the movie. The point of an artistic experience in any media as far as I’m concerned is the emotional impact of the film, either it impacts you or not. If it impacts you, then you’ll want to spend some time figuring out what it was about that moved you so much, other than that I think it’s just an exercise in daytime television, ‘oh, the message, the last thirty seconds of the film will tell you all. We were bad, but now we’re good because we fixed this thing’, that to me is the point of a message, for a half an hour sitcom, whenever they get straightened out. I have the illusion that film to me is still an art form once in a while, and that means moving people and being moved.
MF: Or not.
AA: Or not, yeah.
MF: And the other answer to that, is that an artist doesn’t tell you what to think, or what to feel, when you experience, that’s up to you.
AA: It just feels beside the point to talk about message. Whatever the message is for you, that’s the message of the film. I don’t mean to speak for anybody else, but I feel very strongly…
MF: Well you just did.
AA: Yes, but I didn’t mean to.
AM: I’ve never heard him speak this much.
What was your experience working with Alan on set, because you two have such great chemistry?
AM: He’s weird! First time I met him, I did a film with him a few year ago, and I worked with him, and he’s very weird.
AA: She’s madly in love with me and she’s embarrassed about it.
AM: He talks weird, when he talks, I really have never heard him speak as much as this. He walks weird.
Michael, Morgan and Alan had great onscreen chemistry, what did you do to build this relationship beforehand, or during the shoot?
AA: We bought a chemistry set.
MC: No, it was just there. Just there.
AA: That either happens or it doesn’t. If you work with somebody you’ve never worked with before, you can think it’s going to happen, sometimes it doesn’t, you’re lucky if it does happen.
MC: We’ve been very lucky.
AM: It’s wonderful when it happens, my goodness.
AA: It’s everything.
AM: The boys here are so incredible.
MC: No, but you’re an actor. If you get a part to be a murderer, you don’t go out and murder someone. You just play what you think is how a murderer feels, so if we didn’t get on, we would’ve all played it as if we were best friends, and then hated each other on the way home.
Speaking of comedy remakes and re-imaginings, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is reportedly being remade with Rebel Wilson. Michael, have you got an opinion on it?
MC: Yeah, I can’t really say anything about Dirty Rotten Scoundrels being remade, because that was a remake of a picture with Marlon Brando and David Niven [Bedtime Story], which wasn’t very successful, but Steve Martin re-wrote it, and wrote that script with another guy, and it just stood on its own. Each movie has to stand on its own, it doesn’t matter where it came from. Because ours wasn’t a bit like the other one, and this isn’t a bit like the other one either, like we’re all saying. It’s not a remake, it’s a re-imagining, or a re-development, or whatever.
You did a great Australian accent in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
MF: It’s not a big jump.
MC: Australian is 17th century cockney! It’s how convicts talk.
I wanted to ask you guys, since you have been working for so many years, if acting has been something that has made you become better people? If you feel like you have dealt with issues in your life better because you have played different characters throughout your life?
MF: If you have an aspiration, and that aspiration isn’t met, you are likely to become disillusioned, and disillusionment can lead to anger, and angry people have few friends. However, if your aspirations are met, then the disillusionment doesn’t happen, so you don’t become an angry person. So, having been able to make a living, it has literally changed us into real people.
MC: For me, my life because of acting, has been paradise. It is exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t become an actor to become a film star, or make money, or be rich or famous, because I knew I couldn’t be that, because I was from a working class background in the ‘50s in England. I was always going to play small parts, the butler, or the policeman who comes in at the end and takes the criminal away. But I was very, very happy to do that, and the idea that I made any living at all – I was an amateur actor, in my youth club there was an amateur dramatics society, and I was on my way up to the stairs to basketball, and there was a window in the doors to the amateur dramatics society, and I was leaning on the door because it was full of pretty girls. I was fourteen. And I fell in the door, and the man said, “come in”. And I didn’t have the heart to say I was going to basketball, so that’s how I became an actor. I was fourteen, I was trying to get laid, and I never made it. I made it in the theatre, but I never made it in the drama class.
What about your retirement?
MF: No no no no no no no.
MC: The movies retire you.
MF: The movies retire you, most people do not retire from the movies. I know one, at least, Gene Hackman, he’s retired. His agent can’t get him to come back for anything. But most of us, we keep going until the parts dry up –
MC: Until you can’t remember the lines!
Going in Style is in cinemas April 20, 2017