March 6, 1947– Rob Reiner:
“Everybody talks about wanting to change things and help and fix, but ultimately all you can do is fix yourself. And that’s a lot. Because if you can fix yourself, it has a ripple effect.”
On a Seattle summer day in 1992, I survived my fifth callback for the role of Jay in a new film titled Sleepless In Seattle. I began to have that feeling that I always fought hard against in my acting days: I wanted this role. I wanted it something terrible. I could taste it. I visualized my name as the credits rolled. By this final callback, I was dizzy with the possibility. Jay was a small, yet showy role, well-written and very funny. I had been able to keep Writer/Director Nora Ephron, the casting director, and assorted producers laughing with each read.
Leaving callback number five, I found myself passing multi-hyphenate Rob Reiner in a hallway at the production office. After I tossed an “I love your work” to Reiner, I thought to myself:
“I really admire Rob Reiner. I wonder what his connection is with Sleepless? Hmmm… he would be so cool to chat with. Maybe he will notice me as Jay & use me in one of his projects!”
When I returned home, my agent had already called to let me know that Ephron and Co. thought I was “splendidly funny and waggish” and they wished to thank me for sticking through all the auditions, but they had decided to go with Reiner as Jay in Sleepless In Seattle.
Ephron is my one of my top writing inspirations, but I didn’t much care for Sleepless In Seattle when I finally got around to seeing it years later on VHS, watched on a boat floating on Lake Union not far from the film’s actual location. My reaction to the the film had little to do with my not being cast (how was I supposed to compete against Rob Reiner?), but I found it rather treacley and twee, plus I felt that the filmmakers got Seattle all wrong. Everyone else in the world seems to loves it. Maybe I should watch it again.
Reiner is easily admirable. He created an iconic TV character, Michael “Meathead” Stivic, son-in-law of Archie and Edith Bunker, on All In The Family (1971-79). He won 2 Emmy Awards for the role.
His list of films as a director and/or writer: This Is Spinal Tap (1984), The Sure Thing (1985), Stand By Me (1986), When Harry Met Sally (1989), A Few Good Men (1992). A really nice run of hits that also includes a favorite at this house, The Princess Bride (1987), and just a few nights ago, I caught Misery (1990) on TCM & I was surprised at how well this Stephen King adaptation held together as a thriller, funny and suspenseful, with an Oscar winning performance for its leading lady.
Reiner’s newest film, Being Charlie (2015), a thinly disguised story of Reiner and his wife’s struggle with their son Nick’s addiction to heroin and his years of rotating in and out of rehab facilities. Directed by Reiner and written by his son and fellow addict Matt Elisofon, Being Charlie features Cary Elwes, reuniting with his Princess Bride director, as a successful screen actor with political ambitions. Charlie, his son, is a privileged child who has lost himself to a life of drugs. The film is making the rounds at the world’s film festivals now.
My acting nemesis Reiner was one of the founders of the American Foundation For Equal Rights, which formed to challenge California’s Proposition 8 in the courts. Four years ago, Reiner presented the star-studded West Coast premiere of “8”, a play by Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black about the 2010 federal court fight against Proposition 8, the gay-marriage ban that California voters approved in 2008. The piece starred Martin Sheen, my boo George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Jane Lynch, Kevin Bacon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christine Lahti, gay hero George Takei, John C. Reilly, Chris Colfer, Matthew Morrison and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. It raised more than $2 million for Marriage Equality.
Reiner had a cameo in The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013) along with two other prominent directors in acting roles: Spike Jonze and Jon Favreau.
Quite a guy, Reiner, and did I mention that he has famous parents? He is one cuddly Daddy Bear of a Left Coast Liberal Elitist.
“I was raised in a political family. Civil rights issues were talked about around my kitchen table. People say, ‘Do you remember where you were when President Kennedy died?’ Well, I remember where I was when Medgar Evers died. This was something I was raised in. Gay rights is an extension of the civil rights movement. There are basic civil rights denied to people.”