In this weekend’s ridiculously entertaining "Last Vegas," a group of elder statesmen take a trip to Las Vegas after one of them proposes to a young honey. The four old coots at the center of "Last Vegas" also happen to be classy, Oscar-winning actors (Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline), and it’s wonderful to watch them bumble around the neon-drenched, scantily clad Las Vegas of today.
And while everyone (including the female lead, played by Mary Steenburgen) is an absolute hoot, if there had to be an MVP designated (for the sheer amount of giggles provided), it would probably be Kline. As a man who is living in the retirement hell of Florida and stuck in a marriage that has lost the physical spark, he goes to Vegas looking for a fresh start (and a good lay — his girlfriend gives him a "free pass" and a single blue pill). Also: he gets all the best lines.
We got to talk to Kline about what made this movie so much fun to shoot, his pre-"Last Vegas" status as a Las Vegas virgin, and what movies of his are most fondly remembered.
Moviefone: Where was your casting in the line-up of cast?
Kevin Kline: I was the last.
So, you knew all of these guys were already signed? Was that a deciding factor?
It’s always a driving force — who you’re working with. Either you know up front, if you’re the last one cast, and if you’re the first one cast, you get to approve various casting. There’s some consultation. They just can’t cast someone without running it by you if it’s a significant.
But you hadn’t worked with any of these guys before…
None of us had worked with anyone else. It was fun.
Were you guys all on the same page when it came to the comedic style and tone of the movie?
I think that’s the work of a good director who casts well, knows that this particular mix will not be a clash but will, somehow mesh. And having different styles is not a bad thing. If you’re well cast as the character, then it’s appropriate. And in this case, when you’re playing old friends, you can work for weeks and weeks and create that kind of ensemble but you can also just show up on the first day and go, if it’s cast well. If no one is difficult you can create the sense of a long and lasting friendship.
You shot a little bit in Las Vegas. How did that add to the experience?
Being there gave it a sense of verite of what the Las Vegas experience was. And considering it was my first time in Las Vegas it certainly added to the fish out of water genre, since the film is that genre as much as any other genre, I felt, well, this is different.
That was the first time you’d been to Vegas?
And what’d you think?
Oh, I thought many things… It’s not where I’d think of going if I want to get away for a relaxing weekend. Part of the charm of the movie is that it’s these older gentlemen suddenly thrown into a youth-driven, illusion-riddled, it’s all smoke and mirrors and fun. It’s like Gymboree or Disney World. The constant throbbing music that just never stops. I only saw pieces from it and I didn’t go to the clubs. I’m told that the club scene has really taken off there, where in the old days it didn’t exist.
You’ve had an amazing body of work. Are there movies that people bring up to you?
It’s usually "Oh, I loved ‘Dave.’" Or "I loved ‘Fish Called Wanda.’" Those are the two that are the most obvious ones. If someone comes up to me, I can sort of anticipate that. But I’m also surprised many times. A lot of people love "I Love You to Death," which six people saw when it came out but thanks to DVD and the like, people say, "Oh, I loved that movie where you were the pizza guy." Nobody can remember the title because it’s a terrible title. "In & Out," sometimes. But sometimes people will say, "Oh, ‘Grand Canyon,’ masterpiece." Or "Big Chill." People will come up to me and say, "Oh, we have ‘Big Chill’ parties!" It has quite a following.
"Last Vegas" is sort of about looking back on your life. How does it make you feel that people are still watching these things you’ve done?
It feels good knowing that something you’ve done holds up. We just had our 30th anniversary "Big Chill" screening at the Toronto Film Festival and not only was the audience enthusiastic but all of those of us that went, how enthusiastic we were to see how well it held up. And to see it on a big screen, as opposed to how most people have seen it over the years on a television screen. It just holds up. It’s still a good movie.
You famously contributed a voice to "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Do little kids recognize you?
No. I look different now.
Right. You shaved off the goatee.
There are people who I have met who come up to me and talk about the film because they watched in their youth. More "Road to El Dorado," though, because it was slightly more popular…
Yeah but ‘Hunchback’ will have its day.
You think so?
I do. I think it’s as good as "Beauty & the Beast."
I do! And you know who loved the movie? Michael Eisner.
Yeah he staged a huge, Broadway-style show based on the movie, in Germany.
That’s right! I heard about that! Well, it’s an incredible story. But what’s funny is that it takes about five years, because they are constantly changing things, and it’s a long process. And somewhere in there, I went to a Woody Allen movie, and as a joke [in the movie] someone said, "I’m working on a musical of ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame.’" And it is funny if you think about it. It’s like saying, "I’m doing a musical of ‘Death of a Salesman.’" But it seems like it worked.
"Last Vegas" is in theaters now.