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Alan Arkin Takes Affleck's 'Argo' Seriously: "It's not a spoof, satire, or parody" (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

by Anne Thompson
October 12, 2012 7:42 AM
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Alan Arkin
Alan Arkin

"Emergency, everybody to get from street!" That line helped to earn Alan Arkin his first Oscar nomination, 45 years ago.

I saw Norman Jewison's "The Russians are Coming The Russians Are Coming" when I was a kid and I have never forgotten Arkin's performance as a wayward Russian submarine commander caught in the middle of the Cold War. That movie made North Americans laugh at a time when the Soviet threat was not funny. As revealed in our conversation below, Arkin takes serious comedy seriously, and that's the secret at the heart of Ben Affleck's "Argo."

"Argo" finds humor in the midst of a true life-and-death CIA extrication in 1980 Tehran. And much of the laughs are delivered by Arkin. Although the movie builds nail-biting edge-of-your seat tension as we wonder just how CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) will rescue six State Department employees who fled the U.S. Embassy during the hostage crisis, back in Los Angeles Arkin's past-his-prime producer and his makeup artist compadre (John Goodman) are eager to play their patriotic part in providing a believable movie within the movie as a cover for the escapees.  Arkin doesn't buy the idea that he and Goodman are participating in a Hollywood parody or spoof or satire. Or even comic relief for that matter.

'Argo': John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck
'Argo': John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck

He says that's the opposite of what they're doing. They're playing it straight. But all you had to do was witness the palpable affection for these two actors at the "Argo" Academy premiere to know that at least one--probably Arkin, who was also nominated for "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and won for "Little Miss Sunshine"--will get an Oscar nomination. The Hollywood insiders in the room applauded and cheered this movie more than once. Which does not happen every day. They welcomed the chance to be patriotic, cheer the Americans, Canadians and their own industry, and the real Tony Mendez, accepting a standing ovation. For once.

Check out Arkin--did you know he's written ten novels and a Broadway play that ran for a year?-- and clips from "Argo" and "The Russians Are Coming" below.


  • NameJAB | November 1, 2012 1:06 AMReply

    Your Comment l Iove Arkin's comment about his discomfort about the "comic" elements in this movie. His work --along with Goodman's-- is very funny, but their character's aims are deadly serious & that, in part, makes this movie so damn enjoyable to watch. . "Argo" pulls off a difficult trick of sustaining a lot of tension while having some fun without making fun of what is going on.

  • bilko | October 13, 2012 12:16 PMReply

    Love Alan Arkin. Love. But John Goodman steals the picture. That being said, the comedy version of this movie was Jeff Nathanson's fantastic and poorly publicized The Last Shot.

    Great article!

  • ag | October 12, 2012 8:04 PMReply

    nice. love that guy. 'spoof' -- please

  • marjorie | October 12, 2012 5:50 PMReply

    Great interview, Anne! Can't wait to see the movie; AA always a favorite.

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