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Alan Arkin Talks Ageism at ‘Going in Style’ Premiere: ‘We Shove Older People Off to the Corners’

Variety logo Variety 3/31/2017 Jason Pham
© Provided by Variety

Age is just a number — at least for many of the stars of Warner Bros. Pictures’ newest action-comedy, “Going in Style,” which held its world premiere on Thursday night at the SVA Theatre in New York City.

Starring Oscar winners Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin, as well as two-time nominee Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd, and Joey King, the film follows three men over 70 who enact an intricate bank heist after their jobs of 30 years are moved overseas and they lose their pensions.

“Going in Style,” written by Theodore Melfi (“Hidden Figures”), is adapted from Martin Brest’s darker, 1979 film of the same title. Though, with the current political landscape concerning corporate greed, director Zach Braff wanted to make sure his version was a reimagining rather than a mere remake.

“We were trying to see what’s the 2017 version of this,” Braff said. “There’s a lot of senior social issues in it, but we wanted to make it not too heavy so we told it with comedy and action.”

Producer Donald De Line echoed, “It deals with a lot of different themes — one of them being ageism and one of them being people in our society getting taken advantage of, working their whole lives and having nothing to show for it.”

But not everyone thought the film was meant to be so political. “This has a social depth, but it doesn’t play on it,” Caine said. “We’re not making a political message. It’s just their financial situation. The situation coincided with today quite accidentally. We didn’t make it because of some social reason.”

Another hot topic of the night was ageism in Hollywood which, with the success of films like “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”— another comedy starring actors predominantly over 70 — the actors agreed is getting better. Though the cast also stressed that there’s still a long way to go.

“It’s another prejudice. We’re just people like anybody else. When we’re together, we don’t talk about how old we are. We talk about the things anybody on the planet talks about,” Arkin said. “In other cultures, they don’t do what we do. We shove older people off to the corners.”

Ann-Margret, who plays a sultry grandmother who seduces Arkin, sees her role as an example of the positive direction for how older women are portrayed on screen.

“There’s a whole, huge chunk of people who are our ages and I think they have felt left out with a lot of movies. This one, they can definitely identify with — the good parts and the bad parts,” Ann-Margret said. “Life does not stop when we hit a certain age.”

The nearly 40-year age difference didn’t stop Braff and Freeman from getting into a playful rivalry on set. As a result of losing a bet over what day Freeman would wrap shooting, Freeman, who’s known for his iconic film voice, ended up recording Braff’s voicemail.

“I go, ‘Morgan, I’m the director. I know when it’s your last shot. It’s your last shot.’ He’s like, ‘I don’t believe it.’ I said, ‘I’ll make you a bet,’” Braff said. “He lost the bet, because it was his last shot, so he had to do my outgoing voicemail message. It says, ‘Hello. This is Morgan Freeman. You have reached Zach Braff. He can’t come to the phone right now. Please leave a message.’”

“Going in Style” opens April 7.

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