In "Last Vegas," a group of best friends get together to celebrate the impending nuptials of one of the dudes. An age-old story, right, and one that we’ve seen a few times over the past few years, mostly in bawdy R-rated comedies like "The Hangover" trilogy. The twist with "Last Vegas," of course, is that all of these dudes are, well, much older.
Instead of nubile, CW-approved stars, the movie is stocked with five seasoned Oscar winners — Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, and Mary Steenburgen. The actors are clearly having a ball, and the movie is just as fun to watch, full of nifty little gags and a kind of warm-hearted optimism. Unlike "The Hangover" movies, there isn’t a nasty bone in this movie’s body.
We were fortunate enough to get to talk to "Last Vegas" director Jon Turteltaub, who is coming off of three incredibly elaborate movies for producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney (two "National Treasure" movies and "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice"), who just so happened to be sitting in a Las Vegas hotel room with Douglas, who is just coming off of winning an Emmy for his profound work as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh’s supposed swan song, "Behind the Candelabra."
The two talked about the potential conflicts of various comedic styles, how many fake breasts were really on display in the movie, and being compared to the "Hangover" trilogy.
Moviefone: Before we begin on "Last Vegas," Michael, I just wanted to congratulate you on the Emmy and was wondering if you could talk about what that whole "Behind the Candelabra" experience was like.
Michael Douglas: It was wonderful, considering I was coming out of Stage IV cancer and radiation and chemo. The script was handed to me, and it was really well written and Matt had already committed to playing the other part. And I had worked with Steven before. So it was kind of the experience that you dream about. Oh, Mary Steenburgen is coming in to give me a kiss…
[Mary Steenburgen comes into the room.] Sorry, Drew!
So just to wrap it up, it was everything you could hope for. Great script, great cast. Matt and I looked at each other and we both said, ‘We both read the script right?’ And we said, ‘Yep.’ And it was like — let’s go. To be able to follow that with "Last Vegas," a situation with four other spectacular actors, a great director and this, f*ck, this screenwriter is just 26 years old and he pisses me off because he’s able to write about aging and all of that even though he’s so young. So, even being able to look back with perspective, I haven’t had a twofer like this in a long, long time.
Well, and this is to both of you, what drew you to "Last Vegas"?
MD: Well, for me, at first it was the script because I was the first guy involved. And Jon; having seen Jon’s pictures and his success factor with this type of project. So then we threw a line out to Bobby and he expressed interest and then Morgan, and I’m not even sure if he read it. He said, ‘De Niro? Douglas? I’m there.’ And it got progressively better with a couple of rewrites that Jon oversaw. So it became a great project — strong director, great actors, and it kind of took the pressure off of you because you could spread the weight around a little bit.
Jon Turteltaub: For me, it was totally the script. And it wasn’t just ‘Oh, that’s a nice script.’ No, it was a phenomenal script. It’s very rare that you read a comedy where the comedy is also telling you the story and telling you who the characters are. So often they’re separated, and that’s what makes it not funny or not dramatic or not good. But the comedy made everything so real. And after having finished three very big movies with Jerry Bruckheimer, it was a chance to go back and do a very small, character-driven comedy, which I haven’t done since "While You Were Sleeping."
Was it hard for you to be in Las Vegas and not think about all the possibilities for another "National Treasure?"
JT: Yeah, there’s a pyramid and all sorts of stuff. "National Treasure 3" is always out there. But the problem in doing a "National Treasure" in Vegas is that there’s more money in Vegas than in any treasure you could find.
You hear these horror stories of actors with different comedic styles coming together and not working out. Was there ever a clash on set?
MD: One of the strengths is that none of the actors were outwardly known for their comedies. Bobby with "Meet the Parents" and me with "Wonderboys." But we’re not known as comedians. When you have a really good script you try not to be funny and let the script take care of itself. We meshed extremely fast. We’d been around long enough to know that this is a love fest. There were pleasant surprises. Bobby is a pussycat, he loves to hug and kiss in the morning. Morgan, I’d known for a long time. And Kevin’s a gentleman. So there weren’t any d*ckheads. Which is always a big plus. And then Jon has a very self-effacing sense of humor, playing the awkward guy who makes you want to help him out. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was scary easy. In the history of movies, where we all have a good time, don’t necessarily turn out so well. But this one did.
JT: You only have to wrangle actors who are difficult. When one is always late and the other one wants to stay in their dressing room until the last minute and watch porn. That’s when it becomes tricky to wrangle an actor. These guys were so professional and so there for each other and me and for the movie. What I was wrangling was my own excitement and trying to make them think I was this sweet innocent guy when I was in fact this terrified guy, but I also had a job to do. If you’re so enamored with these Oscar winners then you’re useless to these Oscar winners.
The unsung hero of the cast is obviously Mary Steenburgen, who just walked in. She seems to be more attractive than any young woman in the movie, which, by the way, it seemed like every young woman extra had breast implants.
MD: We didn’t take a poll.
JT: I didn’t check. I would have, if somebody offered.
MD: No, there were a lot of nice-looking ladies. It was a combo.
JT: Well, that’s a big part of the scene here. And especially by the pool or at night. It’s part of the character of Las Vegas.
This movie seems to be something of a riff on the "Hangover" movies. Was there ever an inclination to push things further and have it be even more outrageous?
JT: More the opposite, actually. You say it’s a riff on the "Hangover" movies more than we do. I say it’s a movie about friends who love each other over the long test of time and all the stuff you battle as friends.
MD: Four guys, coming to Las Vegas…
JT: It’s going to be compared to it…
MD: Yeah, it’s on a much deeper level, but I understand it.
JT: Listen, being compared to "The Hangover" was great because "The Hangover" was great. It’s always bad when someone says, "Oh, it reminds me of ‘Ernie’s Trip to the Market.’" Then you think, Oy, this is bad.
"Last Vegas" opens November 1.