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When Marty calls, even meatheads answer

Rob Reiner relished chance to learn from Scorsese

Posted: 12/31/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Rob Reiner (right, with Jon Favreau, left, and Leonardo DiCaprio) is a respected director in his own right, but he jumped at the chance to work with Martin Scorsese.

MARY CYBULSKI / PARAMOUNT PICTURES Enlarge Image

Rob Reiner (right, with Jon Favreau, left, and Leonardo DiCaprio) is a respected director in his own right, but he jumped at the chance to work with Martin Scorsese.

New YORK -- If Rob Reiner so desired, he could get away with presenting himself as one of Hollywood's elder statesmen.

The man has done it all. In the '60s, the son of legendary comic actor-writer-director Carl Reiner was a writer on the landmark TV series The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Through much of the '70s, he acted on the equally controversial sitcom All in the Family. In the '80s, he made a name for himself as a director, jump-starting the faux-documentary form -- now a comedy staple -- with This Is Spinal Tap.

He consolidated that success by working confidently in an array of genres, including the coming-of-age movie (Stand By Me), the fantasy (The Princess Bride), the rom-com (When Harry Met Sally), horror (Misery) and the prestigious military drama (A Few Good Men).

At the age of 66, the guy is no slouch.

Even so, there is the touch of fanboy enthusiasm about Reiner when he's on the press conference podium alongside fellow director Martin Scorsese.

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Reiner plays the supporting role of "Mad Max" Belfort, the short-fused dad to Leonardo DiCaprio's not-strictly-legit Wall Street hotshot Jordan Belfort.

Asked how he got the role, Reiner is nonplussed.

"I don't know why I was approached. You'd have to ask Marty about that," he says. "But I can tell you that when Martin Scorsese calls to ask you to be in a movie, you just do it."

He says he was flattered to be asked in more ways than one.

"He (wanted) me to play Leonardo DiCaprio's father, so I thought: Well maybe I'm a lot more handsome than I think I am. I took it to mean that."

Mostly, Reiner considered the opportunity to be educational, learning at the feet of the 71-year-old Scorsese.

"You never know as a director what other directors do, because you don't get to see what they do," he says. "Marty does the one thing that every director should always try to do. He sets a tone and he makes a playground where you can do your best work."

Reiner says he was likewise inspired by Scorsese's willingness to depart from formulaic Hollywood narrative.

"He will make the character the story," Reiner says. "He did it with Raging Bull, he did it in Taxi Driver, he did it in The Aviator," Reiner says.

"He's not into the traditional way of constructing stories with plot devices and things like that. I do those. I'm kind of married to those kinds of things, even though I do a lot of character-driven movies.

"He's out there on an edge and that's a good thing," Reiner says.

"In the case of Jordan Belfort, he is the epitome of everything that was bad about deregulated Wall Street," Reiner says. "So in order to let the character be the story, you'd better set a tone that allows the actors to do the best work they can do. We were allowed to improvise, we were allowed to find things, because Marty knows that when an improvised moment comes out of a real situation and it's going to have more life than anything you can imagine.

"And that's how the character can become the story. So I learned to see him do that," he says.

Reiner adds impetuously that he also got the chance to contribute, in his own small way, to the foul-mouthed canon of expletive-laden Scorsese movies such as Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed.

"Hey, I got to say the F-word in a Martin Scorsese picture," Reiner says with a laugh. "So that's always a good thing."

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2013 C3

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