Elliott Gould has had one legendary career and he phoned Movie Fanatic for an exclusive chat about his lifelong excellence onscreen both big and small and why Dorfman in Love was exactly what he was looking for in a next picture.
Gould has appeared in some of the most storied films in Hollywood history. From MASH, The Muppet Movie and the Ocean's 11 movies. Many of our generation will also recall the actor for his work as Ross and Monica's father on Friends.
The actor dishes what it was about Dorfman in Love that he felt compelled to join the cast, the joy of his co-star Sara Rue and how it is impossible for him to choose one moment out of his highly successful career that is "the best." Oh, and he even dishes to us some advice he gave to a newly minted Oscar winner for Argo, Ben Affleck.
Movie Fanatic: What was it about the Dorfman story that appealed to you?
Elliott Gould: The relationship of the daughter and her father and the evolution of their relationship. And what appealed to me also was the script that Wendy Kout wrote and their desire for me to do the picture and I usually respond to enthusiasm like that.
Movie Fanatic: How was it working with Sara Rue?
Elliott Gould: Sara is very talented. I needed to meet with her to see what kind of chemistry there was between us, being that I’m the father of a daughter, a grown daughter. Sara and I met at the farmers market and Sara wanted to buy me breakfast but I wouldn’t let her. I think that Sara is, in her own way, a little like Jennifer Lawrence. She’s very new, quite gifted, very attractive and intelligent. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to work with her.
Movie Fanatic: The script was so refreshing. Can you talk about Wendy’s skill as a writer?
Elliott Gould: Wendy is just about as enthusiastic as anyone I’ve ever met. The idea of people of a certain age group, different age groups, but in families who find themselves in one another in ruts and stuck in a value system and stuck within being loyal to things that perhaps no longer exist. So the challenge of it for the characters was appealing to me as well. Wendy is a very talented, passionate, and loving writer.
Movie Fanatic: At this point in your esteemed career, what does a script have to say to you in order for you to say yes?
Elliott Gould: First of all, I love to work. So if I’m available and a project seems to be worthy and the script makes sense, then I have to meet the people just to make sure that we are on the same page -- such as Brad Leong, the young Chinese-American director, and Len Hill, the producer and financier I think of the project. Things have to align. It’s not brain surgery but it’s a very crucial part of the process.
Movie Fanatic: What are some of your stand-out career moments?
Elliott Gould: I don’t have favorites. I have quite a keen recall. And I enjoy and am serious about not distorting, about having things in focus and in order. Also, I feel rather blessed and privileged to have been able to work through these ages and to still be working. One of the things that I’ve said which I can share with you is that I’ve made a great many films -- some are better and some aren’t. My audience laughs then because they don’t want to take anything too seriously. But I can look at anyone if not everyone and find a reason for participating since I’ve lived through all of this and I’m still working, which is the key.
Movie Fanatic: Are there other filmmakers out there that you’d like to work with?
Elliott Gould: Of course! Not only the filmmakers but the crew, the workers, the gaffers. If people invest themselves, because the work is my life. There’s no one that’s more important than any other one. I recall when I had the great privilege of meeting John Wooden, Coach John Wooden, and he told me that he’d been an English teacher in Indiana. Then he said to me the most important word in the English language is love. The second most important word is balance. And that’s kind of what we’re talking about.
As a matter of fact, I recently met with Ben Affleck -- I’m friendly with Casey (Affleck) because we’ve done the Ocean movies together -- and I’m impressed with Ben’s craft. I’ve seen the three pictures that he’s directed. Matt Damon had told me how smart Ben is and we hadn’t connected. So I went to a cocktail party that George Clooney was having for Ben and the cast of Argo and we were able to talk. I think he was pleased when I told him that I’m impressed because I don’t like to be impressed. That makes me conscious. I don’t ever want to be pretentious. I’m not a judge and I’m not a critic. And then, Ben Affleck asked me if I had ever done anything that I was sorry I did, in this field, in this business. I took a moment and I said no. I said no -- to have done something and then be sorry I did it. There are so many people dependent on our work for their livelihood. There’s no one project that’s more important than another project. As far as the results of a project, sometimes things click, sometimes they don’t. But it’s all about the work. And to have done something and then be sorry I did it? I would be being so disloyal to the people I work with.