I recently got the chance to talk to Bob Glouberman about his role in ‘The Artist’. Here, Bob talks about how he got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Hey Bob. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘The Artist’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The general plotline surrounding ‘The Artist’ is that of an unlikely romance between an established silent star, George Valentin and an up and coming star of the new “talking films” Peppy Miller. What makes the story frustrating is George’s pride. As his silent star sets, Peppy’s talking star rises. George can’t take the rapid descent of his fame and fortune and can’t accept the help or the advances of the obviously smitten Peppy.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a director of Peppy and George’s ultimate star vehicle, a musical talkie film. The character I play is not as interesting as the positioning of my character in the film. I have the first word spoken in the film which has been completely silent up until this point. Moreover, as there are only three lines in the film and I have two of them, I have a full 66.6666% of the film’s spoken dialogue. This sets me up quite nicely to be the answer for a trivial pursuit question one day.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I have been a character actor in Los Angeles for 16 years. I have a very unique face which is perhaps what attracted casting director Heidi Levitt to me. However, there is an additional story to tell. In addition to being an actor (which in Hollywood these days is as dicey a proposition as ever), I have a “day job” as the creator of the AMAZING LOS ANGELES RACE, a unique high-tech scavenger hunt in and around Los Angeles. I also run several of the daily races. Heidi Levitt randomly did the race with her children for her son’s birthday. (She has subsequently done all three of our races in Los Angeles and Santa Monica). She was so taken by the race and by me that she immediately called me in for an audition for this new black and white, silent film she was casting. And the rest as they say is history.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
What makes the film so unique is that it is completely filmed in black and white and it is constructed to perfectly mimic a silent film. The fact that it succeeds is extraordinary and puts it on the short list for best picture at this year’s Oscars. No other silent film has won best picture since ‘Wings’ did over fifty years ago.
The film stars Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and Missi Pyle – with Michel Hazanavicius onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
My work was with John Goodman. As much of the crew was French and spoke almost exclusively in French, many of the American actors bonded. I spoke with John Goodman for quite a bit. He has been a hero of mine for some time and I adored his onscreen work in ‘Raising Arizona’, ‘The Big Lebowski’, ‘Barton Fink’ and many other non-Cohen brother movies. I asked him if he ever knew that a film like ‘The Big Lebowski’ would reach such cult status whereas a film like ‘Blues Brothers 2000’ would not. He said that he did not. He said he always picked his films based on the scripts and that the dialogue in any Cohen brothers movie is always so rich but he had no idea how audiences would react to it and how ‘Lebowski’ would turn into the cult film that it is today.
Also, in the dance number, actress Berenice Bejo slipped on the shiny, well-buffed floor and nearly crashed into the camera. She had a good laugh about it and was thankfully uninjured.
Let’s talk a bit about you Bob. What made you want to get into the world of film in the first place?
I started my Los Angeles career as an attorney. I graduated from Stanford University in 1990 and came to Los Angeles to study law. I entered UCLA Law School and found to my horror that cinema and television had lied to me about what being a lawyer was like. Far from glamorous, it was as tedious as copying a phone book (those still exist, right?). I desperately while still in law school tried to find anything else to interest me. I worked as a producer’s assistant reading scripts, I reviewed films for a local magazine, I tutored high school students for the SAT, I wrote screenplays of my own, I attempted standup comedy (bad idea).
It wasn’t until casting director Allison Jones saw me on a public access television channel attempting bad standup comedy that my fortunes changed. I was clerking for the 9th circuit court of appeals when Allison Jones called me up and asked me in for an audition for a pilot she was casting. I hung up on her. She called back, insisting this was not a joke. I am a practical joker and so many of my friends would love to get back at me with something like this. I finally gave in and met her for the audition. She loved me and kept calling me in for television and film roles. At the time I was working for a law firm so I had to sneak out on the side during lunch hours to attend auditions.
Occasionally secretaries would swear that they saw me on television shows that aired the night before and I would deny this vehemently. There came a point when I could not do both jobs simultaneously and I ditched the law for what I truly loved. Acting has brought me such happiness (and occasional frustration) that I have never looked back. It also brought me my wife, as a fellow ‘Murphy Brow’ co-star introduced me to my future spouse several weeks after meeting me on-set.
You’ve been in a number of different TV series and films – who have been your favourite actors/actresses to work with so far? Any good stories to tell?
Favourite actors and actresses to work with are many. Calista Flockheart on ‘Ally McBeal’ was so sweet and was such a genuine nice person to me. As was ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David. The great story about Larry David is that what you see on ‘Curb’ is what you get in real life. Larry David has that same loveable and abrasive personality. At the wrap party for the season I was on, I brought my wife Stefanie up to meet David. I said, “Larry, this is my wife Stefanie”. Stefanie was holding a drink and she wiped off her hand to shake Larry David’s hand. Larry looked at her hand and without proffering, he said, “Thanks for the wipe”. Stefanie stammered and said “My hand was wet” and Larry said, “Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s why I said thanks for the wipe”. There was an awkward silence and then Stefanie said, “You just worked with Bob in your last episode”. And Larry then said, “Yeah, yeah, I know who he is. He was great. But I hired him so I know who he is.” Another silence ensued and then Stefanie said it was nice to meet him and we walked away. But he wasn’t being a jerk. He was merely stating the facts. And that’s Larry David for ya.
If you could invite three guests to dinner – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
I would invite Stanley Kubrick, a past life rememberer, and Natassia Kinski. Kubrick is my favourite director and I would love to get inside that brilliant mind and find out – “Why the monolith?”. “Why the picture at the end of ‘The Shining’?. Why the two act structure of ‘Full Metal Jacket’?.
My second guest would be any person who claims they remember a past life. There have been many documented cases of past life rememberers. A child who flawlessly remembers a life in Hollywood. Another child who remembers a life in India and can remember certain Hindi words. Death horrifies me and has horrified me since I was very young. I would want to grill these people (or this person) and see for myself if they are credible. I would so love there to be any kind of afterlife. The idea of nothingness terrifies me.
And I would like to stare at Nastassia Kinski for some time.
What is your favourite holiday destination and why?
My favourite holiday destination is Disneyland. I go several times a year. I love being immersed in an experience (which is why I love movies so much). Nobody does virtual experience better than Disney. From ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ (the ride, not so much the movie), to the Indiana Jones ride to the Haunted Mansion, nobody does virtual experience better than Disneyland.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
My I-Pod currently has Green Day on it, the Beatles, the Book of Mormon soundtrack, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and no Lady Gaga.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
The great thing about being an actor is that you never know what the next week holds. Every day is another chance to be a musical director or a mob boss or a serial killer…perhaps I can parlay ‘The Artist’ into another silent film or at least a good radio play…..then again, I suppose there’s always the law to go back to….kidding!!
Thanks for the interview!