Montclair Film Festival Day 3: In Conversation with Rob Reiner

Montclair Film Festival Day 3: In Conversation with Rob Reiner

Wednesday, 04 May 2016

Written by: Julia Siegel

After the In Conversation with Patrick Wilson event, there was a short break before the next event started. The sold-out event was bound to be one of the biggest highlights of the festival, and it didn’t disappoint. Legendary director/actor/producer Rob Reiner made his Montclair Film Festival debut on Sunday, May 1 with three appearances. His first event of the day at the Audible Lounge in downtown Montclair went a little overtime, which caused him and moderator Stephen Colbert to arrive late at the Montclair Kimberly Academy. Unfortunately, the late arrivals meant the event would start late, leaving no time for press interviews. I quickly got over my disappointment as the event started.

Little did I know, Colbert was not the only comedian on the stage. Reiner is very funny and got very into the conversation, making the audience roar with laughter numerous times. Reiner’s microphone kept cutting out during the event. The first time it cut out, he yelled “Balls!” very loudly as the mic turned back on, leaving the audience in stitches. Each consequent time the mic failed, Reiner yelled the same phrase. To little avail, Colbert attempted to keep the conversation scripted with his topic points on his standard blue notecards. Reiner initially stuck to the questions he was asked, but frequently went slightly off-topic with stories from his career.

The conversation was basically a chronology of Reiner’s career. Colbert started off by asking Reiner about his start in show biz, which was influenced by his legendary father, Carl Reiner. Rob Reiner grew up in the entertainment industry, so it wasn’t a surprise that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Reiner told the audience that he attended UCLA for three years then dropped out to get his comedy career off the ground. Reiner was in two comedy groups and did his own stand-up routines. After some minor roles on TV shows, he was tapped to be on the classic sitcom All in the Family for eight seasons.

Reiner wanted to make the transition from TV to film after All in the Family, but he said this wasn’t an easy journey. He explained that back in the 1970’s, TV actors were seen as “second-class citizens” in comparison to film actors. He said that it was rare for a TV actor to ever become a film actor. He worked hard to find his foothold in the film industry, which he gained his big break with his directorial debut in 1984 with This Is Spinal Tap.

One thing that Reiner mentioned about his cult classic that I didn’t know was that the entire film was improvised, meaning there wasn’t a script. He single-handedly started a new film genre of the rock mockumentary. Reiner told the audience about a scene that was cut from the final theatrical version of the film and discussed how people originally didn’t understand the concept of the film. He said that they couldn’t get their target demographic, college students, to see the film because no one understood that it was a joke and was supposed to be funny. He went on to say that one person asked him why the film was about an unknown, terrible rock band, which was basically the concept of the film. Making a new genre seemed to take its toll on the final product at the time, but now, This Is Spinal Tap is a fan favorite.

Reiner briefly touched on some of his other classics, including Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, and The American President. Colbert used these films to segway into discussing a number of famous one-liners that have come from Reiner’s films. Reiner says that he constantly hears people quoting his films. Colbert also asked Reiner about his two upcoming films, Being Charlie and LBJ. Reiner gave some insight on what it was like to work with his son, Nick, on Being Charlie. The script was co-written by Nick Reiner and is loosely based on his personal struggles with drug addiction. The film screened later that night at the MFF, which I attended. Nick and Rob Reiner also made an appearance after their film.

LBJ was also discussed, but Reiner didn’t give a lot of details on his new drama. Reiner offered a brief synopsis of the film by saying that the film centers on a brief sliver of President Johnson’s life. It starts with Johnson as Vice President to John F. Kennedy. Most of the film will focus on the struggles Johnson faced after the assassination of President Kennedy and being thrust into the role of President. Woody Harrelson stars as Johnson, which I thought was an interesting choice. Harrelson is known for his comedic side and isn’t usually thought of when it comes to dramas. LBJ is currently in post-production, but Reiner did not specify a release date.

Another thing that I learned about Reiner is that he is very political. He mentioned politics several times throughout his conversation with Colbert. He is very liberal, hates Ted Cruz, and thinks Hillary Clinton will definitely get the Democratic nomination. I noticed that Reiner is very passionate for politics based on the way he talked about it. Reiner’s conversation also ended with an audience Q&A. Most questions were about his classic films.

I noticed that Colbert was very relaxed during the whole event. He acted a lot different than he does on The Late Show. He was very laid back and enjoyed the conversation. Reiner cracked him up several times, and Colbert couldn’t contain his laughter. It was cool to see how Colbert’s attitude changes depending on his surroundings. Both Colbert and Reiner were extremely funny, which made the event a huge hit.