Look for this chapter below in Carl Reiner's latest memoir "Too Busy To Die" explaining how he got the role as Saul Bloom.
One of the exciting things about being in show business is that, at any time, and usually when you are least expecting it, something will drop from nowhere, and offer a challenge that you’d be a fool not to take. The something that dropped from nowhere was really a someone, Jerry Weintraub, a persuasive, dogged, charming, soft spoken, master of benign bullshit and one helluva producer.
Until Jerry rang my doorbell on this Saturday night at 11:45 PM, and disturbed an interesting discussion that my wife and I were having with our friends, I had not seen Jerry Weintraub since “Oh, God!”, the film he produced and I directed twenty years earlier. My first thought was that his car had stalled and he needed a phone, but it turned out that all he needed was me. His new film, “Ocean’s 11,” was going into production and he was searching for someone to play “Saul Bloom,” one of the gang of eleven.
Jerry, being as honest as he needs to be in order to function successfully, did not say that he had come to me because I was the perfect actor for the role. He told me that he had found the perfect actor, Alan Arkin, but Alan had a conflict. Alan had gone to the hospital to undergo minor surgery to repair something that needed repairing. If Jerry could have delayed the film’s start, he would not have dropped by. Ever the gentleman, Jerry stayed only long enough to hand me a script, recite the names of the extraordinary cast and director, and apologize for the intrusion.
Many things about the offer pleased me and first among the many was Alan Arkin being cast. Alan and I share a pleasant history that started with his playing a fictionalized version of me in the play “Enter Laughing,” and continued with our playing roles in “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”, and in the recent past, playing his older brother in “The Slums of Beverly Hills.” As an added connection, my wife, in her night club act, sings Alan Arkin’s romantically-humorous love song, “I Like You.” The words and music of“I Like You” are:
The things that pleased me most about the projected remake of “Ocean’s 11” was the quality of the script, the juiciness of my role and the actors with whom I’d be working. They were not only talented, but genuine stars who attracted huge crowds whenever they dared to go out in public, and who, I soon learned, were all funsters.
The film was to be shot in Las Vegas and, for one month, I’d be required to live in a suite at the Bellagio and would be paid a salary generous enough to make me feel wanted. George, who played Danny Oceans, the leader of the pack of thieves, was also a major force in convincing all of his star friends that the fun and excitement of working with him, each other and director Steven Soderberg, made it worth accepting less money than they ordinarily would be paid.
During the course of the first few work days, I had the opportunity to perform with, lunch with, and chat with:
I did not include Julia Roberts in the impressive list of stars I met, because we never did meet or were even introduced. She didn’t work in any of the scenes I was in and unfortunately our paths never crossed, although they came close to crossing when she came out of an elevator in the lobby of the Bellagio to play a scene with Andy Garcia. However, on my way to lunch I did meet her and siezed the opportunity to tell her how absolutely magnificent she was in the film portraying Erin Brockovich.
Being twice as old as every member in the company except Elliot Gould, of whom I was only a third older, I didn’t get to hang with the guys. They all possessed superhuman ability to get up early, shoot all day, play hard-driving basketball between takes, and be up for long evenings of partying. I used most of my energy to eat, learn my lines, and go to bed. Luckily, I had enough energy to pose for this treasured cast photograph.
One of the lovely things about being in a good movie with good people is the residual good feelings that remain long after the movie’s on DVD. I love reading about and rooting for all of their individual successes in films, marriages, love affairs and in aiding good causes. In the case of“Ocean’s 11,” which was a huge hit, there is also the positive feedback you get from young people, who might not be old enough to have seen you do your thing when it was easier for you to do your thing.