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Charles Grodin on Women Directors, Death, and Being Elected Class President 4 Years in a Row

Charles Grodin on Women Directors, Death, and Being Elected Class President 4 Years in a Row.

by Billy Ingram

In this 1981 interview with Dick Cavett, actor Charles Grodin looks back on his time driving cabs in New York in the 1970s and working with Sir Laurence Olivier.

The talk starts out with Cavett asking about the female directors Grodin worked with early in his motion picture career, Elaine May (The Heartbreak Kid) and Claudia Weill (It’s My Turn). “I don't think they [May and Weill] would have been directing movies of that size, with that kind of money involved, unless somebody thought they were particularly good. Elaine had already directed a picture before I worked with her, and Claudia had as well. Claudia had won the Donatello Award as the outstanding director in the world, this Italian award that they give, and that's off one picture she had directed. So she is... they're very good.

On working with May and Weill in particular, “What they're mostly doing,” Grodin says, “Is they're not coming in and saying, "Okay, you move over there. Don't say it like that. Say it like this." They don't do anything like that. They allow your sensibility to emerge, and they allow whatever it is you have to offer to be offered. And then they'll make some kind of judgment about it eventually, but not right away. And that helps.

Dick Cavett with Charles GrodinDid he enjoy being on television chat shows like Cavett’s? “They'll say to me,” Grodin remarked. “’Gee, Merv Griffin, he really... what a silly question he asked.’ I never think it's silly. I never had a negative feeling about somebody that I'm talking to here. I want to reach out.”

Grodin passed away in 2021, so this comment I found illuminating: “I figure at some point down the line, we're going to die. Just an assumption I'm making. I'm not sure. But based on that assumption, I would like to, before we get to that point where they tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘You've got terminal… whatever,’ I can think, Well, at some point there, I was trying to exchange something with somebody or with the audience. Or, the audience was trying to exchange it back with me, and we made an attempt to say, 'Hey, what's happening here? What's happening here?' And that's why I like to talk to people.”

The thing that Charles Grodin most proud of at that point? “I was the president of the freshmen and the sophomore and the junior and the senior. It was eight elections. And the reason I'm proud of it is that... well, you're elected by people that are with you every day for four years and it must mean that they like you. And it wasn't because I was a football hero.

“I think the reason that happened was sometime around the age of 14, it began to manifest itself that I was actually interested in what people were talking about or what was going on with them. And stunningly enough to me, that's not true of just about most people you're going to meet. And that's what gets you elected. If you're like that, it's just something we need more.”


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Grodin also starred in the hit motion pictures “Beethoven,” “Dave," "The Woman in Red," and "Heaven Can Wait." He starred on Broadway with Ellen Burstyn in the long-running 1970s comedy, "Same Time, Next Year."

Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in Midnight Run

After Grodin’s death, Robert De Niro stated, “Chuck was as good a person as he was an actor. 'Midnight Run' was a great project to work on, and Chuck made it an even better one."

 

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