Contents of Issue #6 Contents of Issue #6 [Welcome] [Features] [In Focus] [Reviews] [Info]

A Master of His Craft
Eli Wallach
Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4    interview by Paul M. Riordan -- page 4 of 4

Eli Wallach with David Keith and Jack Nicholson
The Two Jakes.

I understand that you prefer working on the stage to doing motion pictures.

I do. A lot of actors do. Well, I go to the theater today, and its curtain -- there is no curtain in this play; the lights go down and go up -- and we start. And I live this character for two hours. There are only two of us in the play. And itís a complete experience. It isnít cut, and then six months, a year later, you have to come on TV programs and do interviews where you say, "Oh yes, Iíve worked on this . . ." Thatís all bullshit.

Did you have fun making Movie Movie (1978) for director Stanley Donen?

Yeah, I loved it. Heís a wonderful director.

What was George C. Scott like to work with?

I liked him. Heís tough. Heíd do a scene, and then heíd go play chess. Did you see Movie Movie? [Thereís] some wonderful stuff in that movie. Larry Gelbart is a brilliant writer.

Did you enjoy working with Jack Nicholson on the Chinatown sequel, The Two Jakes (1990)?

The trouble with that movie is that you had to see Chinatown the day before you saw The Two Jakes.

I love Jack. I think heís a gutsy guy, and heís fun. He took the whole cast on a bus trip to all the locations before we started shooting, and [he was] telling us what he was gonna do, and how he was gonna do it. Itís wonderful.

How is he as a director?

Itís inborn, ingrained in him. He sets up a camera. He knows what he wants. He knows how to make a scene work. Every scene has to have something to embellish the story, to add . . . itís like turning a page. You do a scene, then you turn the page. The scene you just did has to add fuel to the fire for the next scene. He knows how to do that.

Eli Wallach with Robert De Niro in Night and the City.

You worked with Robert De Niro on a couple of films, Mistress (1991) and Night and the City (1992), the remake of the old film noir classic with Richard Widmark.

Well, the first one he did as a favor to a friend of his, Barry Primus. Called Mistress. I thought it was a charming, delightful movie, about the machinations in Hollywood, trying to get a script sold. And each of the money people has a mistress and wants to put his mistress in. I thought it was a good movie.

The second one I just did one dayís work on, as a favor to De Niro. He said, "Oh, come and do it. Itís fun." I said, "How many weeks?" He said, "One day." I said, "Oh, come on." He said, "Oh, yeah, money is no object." I said, "OK, I want a million dollars." He said, "Money is an object." So, that was it.

This country has a complex about age. Itís unbelievable. If youíre over thirty, youíve had it in this country. I mean itís scary now to see the Nicholsons and the Newmans -- all of them -- and Dustin Hoffman and all -- theyíre getting into their late fifties, and theyíre beginning to shake because the Leonardo DiCaprios and Matt Damons and [Matthew] McConaughey -- the young kids -- are pushing them off the mountain. So, Iím happily ensconced on stage.

It is a shame, the obsession with youth in this country.

Well, I was with Paul [Newman] the other night. He and Joanne [Woodward] came to my fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Yes, youíve had one of those rare Hollywood marriages thatís endured.

50 years. Well, you gotta work at it.

page 4 of 4

Go to Eli Wallach filmography.


Paul Riordan has written about film for several magazines, including Monsterscene and Filmfax.

© 1998 Paul Riordan. All rights reserved.


Top Welcome Features In Focus Reviews Info