Alan Alda sings the praises of his “Marriage Story” writer-director Noah Baumbach. Like Larry Gelbart, Woody Allen and Neil Simon, whose scripts have provided the actor with memorable roles before, Baumbach is someone who “can be funny and devastatingly serious at the same time. To me, that’s what life is like, and I love writing that explores that same ambivalence. If you step back from a tragedy far enough, there are things about it that are funny,” even though “it doesn’t always seem that way in the moment.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Alda above.
This Netflix release certainly finds some humor in tragedy, charting the disintegration of a marriage between theater director Charlie (Adam Driver) and actress Nicole (Scarlett Johansson). Alda co-stars as Bert Spitz, a well-intentioned but dubiously qualified lawyer representing Charlie. “He’s a sincere person with good values,” he says of his character, before adding with a laugh that “he’s also a little incompetent.”
Alda understood Bert as soon as he stepped into Bert’s office. “Sometimes I understand who the character is by the clothes he’s wearing,” he explains, “and at other times I get big, fat clues from the set. When I went in and saw the set, they were real offices in a shabby neighborhood,” and “his office seemed so crappy to me that I got the impression this guy’s heart is in the right place but he’s not doing very well, and I wonder if there’s a reason for that.”
“Marriage Story” could return Alda to the Best Supporting Actor Oscar race for the first time since 2004, when he competed for Martin Scorsese‘s “The Aviator.” Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989) brought him a Best Supporting Actor bid at the BAFTAs. He was also a Golden Globe nominee for “Same Time, Next Year” (Best Film Comedy/Musical Actor in 1978) and “The Four Seasons” (Best Film Comedy/Musical Actor and Best Film Screenplay in 1981), the latter of which he also directed.
Of course, Alda is also famous for his TV work, most notably his role as Hawkeye Pierce on “M*A*S*H,” which brought him 25 Emmy nominations and five victories (three for acting, one for directing and one for writing). He won an additional Emmy for his supporting turn on “The West Wing” in 2006. On top of all that, he was a Tony nominee for the musical “The Apple Tree” (1967) and the plays “Jake’s Women” (1992) and “Glengarry Glen Ross” (2005). He was also a Grammy contender in 2008 for the spoken word album “Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself.” He received the Screen Actors Guild life achievement award earlier this year.
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