Director-producer Rob Reiner

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Oscar-nominated filmmaker and activist weighs in on the war in Iraq and California’s midterm election and explains the setting of his new film.



Tavis: Pleased to welcome Rob Reiner back to this program. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker is, of course, a very successful actor, writer and producer, as well as a long-time political activist. His latest project is the romantic comedy, “Flipped.” Here now, a scene from “Flipped.”
Tavis: We’ll get back to Juli and Bryce here in just a second. Good to have you on the program.
Rob Reiner: Thanks for having me, Tavis.
Tavis: Good to see you again.
Reiner: Nice to see you.
Tavis: I know you’re such a political guy, and before I get to Juli and Bryce in the film here, “Flipped,” so you saw the conversation with Wesley Clark?
Reiner: I did.
Tavis: What did you make of – and I say this respectfully – but his reticence to just say this was an absolute abject failure, which is what many Americans believe. Not all, of course, but many.
Reiner: Yeah, I think he’s a military man and I think it’s hard for him – people were given orders to go over there and fight and they did their jobs, and so he’s not going to besmirch our military, and he shouldn’t. But from a policy standpoint it was a disaster, and when you think about the economy now and what’s going on with this terrible recession that we can’t dig ourselves out of, I believe it might have been blunted a little bit had we not poured hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars into that.
That might have been used here to stimulate job growth and to perhaps invest in new technologies and green jobs and certain things. But to me, it was an absolute disaster from every standpoint, I think.
Tavis: How to progressives in Hollywood or anywhere else, for that matter, progressives like you, who for the most part largely support President Obama, how do they juxtapose his keeping his campaign promise to pull out of Iraq but increasing our forces in Afghanistan?
Reiner: Well, Afghanistan is – that’s a very tricky place. That’s a very tricky situation, because yes, they did – they were the breeding ground for the group that bombed us on September 11th, so we had to respond in some way. However, that’s a sinkhole there. We’ve seen great societies go down and go down past –
Tavis: Empires have died.
Reiner: Yes.
Tavis: What’s the line? “The cemetery of empires?”
Reiner: Yes.
Tavis: “The graveyard of empires?”
Reiner: The graveyard of empires, and it is. So I feel like yes, we have to try to see if we can make – because it is such an unstable part of the world with Pakistan with nuclear weapons, India has nuclear weapons. We’ve got to make sure that those nuclear weapons don’t fall into the hands of people who want to do us harm.
So I understand why we’re there and I guess we need to still be there, but in terms of ever winning there, I don’t know that that’s a possibility.
Tavis: Finally on the politics front, before I flip it back to the movie –
Reiner: Flip it, there you go. (Laughter) See, that transition, that’s why you’re a success, Tavis.
Tavis: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Reiner: You have those smooth transitions.
Tavis: Yeah. (Laughs) Before we go back to the movie, since we’re talking politics, the whole world is watching, the whole country is watching California. We’ve got some interesting races here, whether it’s Boxer and Fiorina, Whitman and the second coming of Jerry Brown –
Reiner: Whitman and Jerry Brown. Jerry Brown, yeah.
Tavis: – and all the other issues that are on the ballot here. Your sense of where California’s going in this November election? Because as the old saying goes, California casts either a long shadow or a long sunbeam on the country.
Reiner: Well, I think unfortunately whenever you have unemployment at the level at it’s at, the economy struggling the way it is, people tend to want to throw the people who are in power out of power. That’s just a natural thing. They think that somehow that’s magically going to change things. It never does, but you think it will.
Tavis: Yeah. (Laughs) That’s how Arnold got there.
Reiner: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Now in terms of the governor’s race, unfortunately we live in a state that is virtually ungovernable. We have a two-thirds majority necessary to clear a budget, to pass a budget. It makes it impossible to govern here, so whoever gets elected, they’re going to have a real hard time digging us out of the mess. The country’s in a mess and California’s an even bigger mess.
Tavis: You think it’s likely that Meg Whitman will be the governor?
Reiner: She might, she might, but like I say, whether it’s Meg Whitman or Jerry Brown – I’m supporting Jerry Brown, obviously – but they’re both going to have trouble. I think Jerry Brown has a better chance of maybe digging us out. He at least understands the governance structure, and to me, the only way to make California work is to change the governance structure.
Tavis: If these two Republican women – and if I’ve read one I’ve read a thousand articles about what it would say about California if these two Republican women from the business community, Fiorina and Meg Whitman, could win in California – what would that say to the nation about what’s happening here in California, if anything?
Reiner: I think all it says is what we were saying earlier, is that people are just unhappy. But I do believe Barbara Boxer’s going to pull it out. I really do. Barbara Boxer has been a great senator for this state, she has experience and obviously I’m supporting her, but I believe she will, at the end of the day – she always is hanging by a thread every election.
Tavis: Always. (Laughs) But she always pulls it out, yeah.
Reiner: I think she’ll pull it out again.
Tavis: All right, so you ready to flip it?
Reiner: Okay, let’s flip it to “Flipped.”
Tavis: Okay. (Laughs) So the first thing about the movie that got my attention was, for those who know the book, the book is set in present day and you flipped this thing back to the ’50s and ’60s.
Reiner: Right, because that’s when I came of age. This is like a companion to “Stand By Me” in a way. It takes place in that same time period and it also focuses on the same time in life – that 12 going on 13, that time when it’s so confusing and so overwhelming, and that’s when I came of age, so that’s why I put it in that time period.
Tavis: The cast – these two kids. I call them kids, but –
Reiner: Well, you saw the two little ones.
Tavis: Exactly.
Reiner: Most of the picture takes place in the early ’60s when those kids are about six years older, so they’re 12 going on 13. Those are the little – yeah, there’s a picture of the two of them as they get older.
Tavis: Exactly.
Reiner: What’s nice about this story is that it literally flips back and forth between the boy’s point of view and the girl’s point of view, so what you showed, that little clip that you showed earlier is her point of view talking about he looked into my eyes, and those eyes – you see at one point he’s kind of smiling at her.
Then when you see his point of view, he’s terrified. (Laughter) He’s basically horrified, because as we know, boys and girls see things very different from early on and throughout life.
Tavis: Right. So how much of the Rob Reiner story in terms of Rob Reiner’s coming of age did you sneak into this thing?
Reiner: Well, a lot. I fell in love, my first love was 12 going on 13, same time period, and so it brought back for me all those feelings that I had at that time.
Tavis: Did you get the kiss?
Reiner: Well, it’s interesting that you ask this, because (laughter) her name was Cathy Shrillo (sp?) and I went steady with her, we exchanged ID bracelets. She looked a lot like Haley Mills from the old “Parent Trap.” She had kinda blonde, curly hair, she was athletic. I went to kiss her, I went to kiss her, and she hit me with a hairbrush. (Laughter)
See, that’s when I knew, though, that it was true love (laughter) because I was willing to endure pain in order to get a kiss.
Tavis: This is really inside baseball, but I’ve been fascinated to ask you this, which is how do you know, again, given the state of the business right now, that a film like this, this kind of coming of age, ’50s, ’60s setting, works in today’s environment at the movies?
Reiner: Well, the movie definitely works. You don’t know. That old Bill Goldman great line, which is, “Nobody knows anything,” you don’t know. The film does work. We’ve played it for audiences, they go crazy. The tough part we’re having is to get them into the theater. It’s a very tough marketing sell to say we’re making a story about two 13-year-olds that are unknowns and it’s a sweet, romantic comedy.
It’s very insightful and it’s funny, but people are not – it’s tough for them to get – once they’re in the theater they have a great time. They have a fabulous time.
Tavis: You know what you should have done to solve this problem?
Reiner: I should have blown somebody up. (Laughter) I should have blown one of those kids up.
Tavis: Either that or put it in 3D.
Reiner: Yeah, there you go. (Laughter) Maybe both. Have one of them come at you 3D, and then blow him up. But nobody blows up, nobody’s blue in this picture. As I say, I make movies about human beings that live on Earth, and people don’t seem to be interested in that. But maybe they would.
Tavis: What attracts you, to your point now, Rob, to those kinds of storylines?
Reiner: Well, because they’re human. To me, I like to make stories about people, the human experience. These are things that I have experienced, and when we play it for audiences they all feel those same things. They all go back to that.
Nobody forgets their first love. That’s something that you never, ever forget. I bet you remember the first person you had a crush on. You don’t forget it.
Tavis: You got the hairbrush, I got the straight fist.
Reiner: Really? Wow. She’s tough.
Tavis: In Indiana, I’m about the same age, 12 or 13, I lean over to try to get the kiss, and we’re standing outside waiting for the bus. Indiana, there’s snow everywhere, snow and ice, and she hit me with a roundhouse (laughter), down in the snow, down on the ice I go. It was ugly. It was very ugly.
Reiner: We had a screening in Indianapolis. We won the Heartland Film Festival Truly Moving Picture award and I had a great time there. I love being there.
Tavis: To your point about the heartland, how much of the success of the stuff that you do has to do with the fact that it does, in fact, play well in the heartland?
Reiner: It does. “Bucket List,” which I did a couple of years ago, was a big success in the heartland. As I’ve gotten older, and I made “Bucket List” when I had just turned 60, you start feeling the preciousness of life. You realize it’s finite and you start just cherishing it more.
So I want to make movies that embrace the life experience, that celebrate the life experience and are uplifting. So “Bucket List,” even though it’s about two older guys that are facing cancer, it’s also very uplifting because they’re embracing life, even to the end.
The same thing with “Flipped” and a couple of pictures that I’m working on now – I just like to celebrate that life experience and we see less and less of it, unfortunately.
Tavis: As we get older, we all – as my friend says, as we start doing that dance with mortality we focus more on our bucket lists. So how’s Rob Reiner doing on his bucket list?
Reiner: Well, okay. It’s interesting, when I made the movie they went to Africa and they went to the Serengeti and all that, which I always wanted to do and never did it. So I got to go this summer. I went to Africa and we went to the Serengeti and the Masai Mara and we went to Uganda, we hiked in the mountains to see the gorillas – it was pretty exciting. So I get to check that off my list.
Tavis: Speaking of Africa right quick, Anthony Edwards in this film is doing some great work in Africa.
Reiner: Yes, yes.
Tavis: I love Anthony Edwards.
Reiner: Anthony is a terrific guy. He’s the sweetest guy in the world. You see them in this movie; he plays a guy who’s angry, which is unlike Anthony. If you know Anthony, he’s the sweetest guy in the world, and he was great to work with.
Tavis: The movie is “Flipped,” from Rob Reiner. Rob, good to have you on the program.
Reiner: Nice. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Tavis: My pleasure, any time.
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Last modified: June 2, 2014 at 5:58 pm