The Fretts on Film Interview: Jerry Stiller (The Outtakes)
Continuing my unofficial nicest-guys-in-showbiz series, I chatted with Jerry Stiller, who plays a group-therapy patient in the indie romantic comedy Excuse Me for Living, opening tomorrow. You can read my interview with him in today’s New York Daily News. And if you want another piece of him, here’s more.
How did you get involved in Excuse Me for Living?
That’s always the magical question. I got a couple of phone calls from a man named Ric Klass who said he’d like to meet me at the Harvard Club–what’s that all about? I didn’t go to Harvard. I hope he did! Anyway, he arranged this meeting and I arrived at the Harvard Club and he had a table. I had never met him before. And then he started talking to me about his life, which was fascinating because he came from the Bronx and taught high school and evolved into a financial wizard, and he was moving on with his life in terms of his fulfillment. He wrote a screenplay, and he wanted me to be one of the characters. He named a couple of other actors, and it turns out Wayne Knight was involved and Christopher Lloyd—so if he was getting them on board, that’s the way this business works—you ask ‘Who else is in it?’
What do you make of the title Excuse Me For Living? Is it a phrase you use?
No, I don’t remember it ever coming up in the movie. But I only read my part.
You have a scene with Christopher Lloyd. Had you worked with him before?
No, but it was one of the greatest scenes I’ve ever taken a crack at. Christopher Lloyd is an amazingly eclectic actor who doesn’t let anything get in his way emotionally, and he played the role so completely.
You’ve lived in NYC your entire life. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen?
There are more people, but less Jewish guys and women—they moved either up to Westchester or to Florida. There are more Hispanic and African American people. But they are more like Jews than anyone else. We all speak the same language. We’re all New Yorkers.
Your former TV son-in-law, Kevin James, is becoming a big movie star. Are you proud of him?
I’m glad for him because Kevin is one of the most incredibly talented guys I’ve ever worked with. Physically he is as agile as Buster Keaton with all that weight. He’s so bright, he writes his own stuff and he’s lovable. There isn’t a mean bone in his body. That the nicest thing you could say about with a guy you worked with for so many years. I’m on the same fiber optic with him.
How does it feel to have brought joy to so many people for so many years?
It makes you feel good when somebody says, ‘You made us laugh.’ It’s as good as a thing as you can get as an actor, for me anyway.
What’s your favorite Jerry Stiller role? Post a comment!