Alan Alda – Tinseltown’s masterful jack-of-all-trades – By William Wolf (San Bernardino Sun, 1986)

  • San Bernardino Sun, 15 May 1986
  • Alan Alda – Tinseltown’s masterful jack-of-all-trades
  • By William Wolf Gannett News Service

Alan Alda is still working hard at becoming Hollywood’s Renaissance Man. The latest evidence is his new comedy, “Sweet Liberty.” Alda wrote the movie, directed it, and starred in it, just as he did for various episodes of the phenomenal TV series “MASH.” The film, an affectionate but often uproarious look at the production process, was a particularly complicated challenge. “It was very difficult logistically and there were a lot of people in it,” said Alda of the project, which was produced by Martin Bregman and is being distributed by Universal. “There was also the problem of the weather, which kept changing every few minutes “I wanted to have fun making this movie, so I designed a lot of complicated shots.” The action of the film takes place in North Carolina, where a movie company is filming a Revolutionary War story based on a book written by a professor. Alda plays the professor, whose book is being mangled. Intertwined is his romance with another professor. For the cast he lined up Michael Caine, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lise Hilboldt. Bob Hoskins, Saul Rubinek, and Lois Childes and pursued Lillian Gish. “Miss Gish turned us down four times,” he said.

“She kept saying she wasn’t funny enough. I had one of the best times I ever had acting with her and directing her. She’s a walking history of movies. Yet she comes on the set and says, ‘What do you want me to do?’ And she’ll try anything “In order to avoid people on the set asking me a lot of questions, I planned everything out in greater detail than I ever have before. I wrote a description for every shot and camera movement.” The film is partly about how the professor tries to turn the tables on those ruining the historical accuracy of his book. To this end, which culminates in a funny revolutionary battle scene, Alda not only used 15 stunt men, but 300 members of the Brigade of the American Revolution, a group that tries to keep alive the history of the period. “The people came from the South, New England, and all over the Eastern seaboard,” he said. “Some of them actually pattern their lives after historical people.”

The comic battle sequence includes a key gag that spoofs movie nudity. “I asked for volunteers of people who wanted to show their behinds,” Alda reports. “You’d be surprised at how many raised their hands.” Alda had considerable commercial success with his earlier film “Four Seasons,” another project he wrote, directed, and starred in Would he do another TV series? Alda is skeptical. “I remember saying at the beginning of M A’S’H that we could be in trouble it might run five years. It ran 11.

Alan Alda, Miss Lillian Gish and Michael Caine

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