A Dream Come True -- I Met Alan Arkin at the San Diego Film Festival

I wrote about the latest San Diego Film Festival for Fox 5 San Diego (feel free to go there and check out my movie reviews). I thought for autograph collectors, I’d shorten it significantly and talk about the autograph aspects of it.

Film festivals are a great place to score autographs, but as I’ve told the collectors before, these actors think a lot of people are just autograph dealers that will immediately throw this stuff on eBay. Therefore, bring one or two DVDs. Don’t go crazy with the items, or they’ll just sign one anyway, or refuse you all together. This is good advice for anybody you’re trying to get – whether it’s a band after a concert, or an actor on the red carpet.

The 13th annual San Diego Film Festival impressed me with the celebrities they got. The last few years, since Dale and Tony took over, they’ve really booked some big names.

One night Josh Duhamel was there to promote his movie You’re Not You (with Hilary Swank). I was at a different movie that night, although I did want to catch his Q&A with the audience. It’s always a blast listening to people ask questions. Some of them are good, some bad, and there’s always that fan that asks for a kiss or an autograph (and they usually get it).Duhamel has done a number of cheesy comedies, and to some, he’s probably more well know for being married to a Black Eyed Pea – Fergie. She was nowhere near the festival, but it’s not uncommon for people to bring spouses or girlfriends.

One woman told me Duhamel signed a program for her, and also took a selfie with her. She said there was a decent sized crowd waiting to meet him, and he was nice with everyone.

Tom Berenger was there on all four nights of the Film Festival. He had a new movie (Bad Country with Matt Dillon and Willem Dafoe), and was giving a speech for the films director/producer – Chris Brinker. He passed away a few years ago, and was a San Diego resident. It was a moving speech.

I brought my girlfriends copy of Major League II for him to autograph (the first Major League was all black, and I hate getting signatures with paint pens…too many disasters over the years). I was glad I went with this DVD. He signed it right over his face, with the blue sky in the background, and a perfect signature. He’s standing next to Charlie Sheen, so….maybe at a party one day I’ll get him to sign it as well.

Security was a little tough with a few autograph hounds on the red carpet, for one reason. A guy with a shaved head and baseball bat freaked them out a bit. It turns out, he just wanted the star of Major League to sign the bat. Another guy had 10 baseballs, and security was asking him to just get one signed. He kept sticking balls out there, and Berenger said, “It’s okay, I’ll sign them.”

The guy was asking him to write “JP” on them. Not sure if that was his character name, or this guys initials. One of the people standing nearby said, “I bet he’s going to turn around and sell them all.”

As he and I walked inside, I mentioned the autograph hounds. I said, “I think of that scene in The Big Chill where a little kid asked for your autograph at a funeral [his character in the movie played a famous TV actor]. You lectured him on how it was inappropriate that was. Well, where’s the weirdest place you’ve been asked to sign an autograph?”

“Actually, it was at a funeral,” the actor tells me.

“It was right after the movie, and it was the husband of a relative. They wanted to take a picture with me and get an autograph, and I said I didn’t think it was the appropriate time for that.”

Later, when we were having a glass of wine in the VIP area, I heard a person go up and praise his body of work. The person said, “I just loved ‘Eddie and the Cruisers.” He thanked him, so I yelled “When was the last time you listened to the soundtrack of that?”

Berenger smiled and said, “Not for awhile. I did recently watch the movie though, about a year ago.”

“What did ya think? Did it hold up?”

He said, “Yeah, it did. I liked it.”

I told him as a fan of The Doors, I liked the whole mysterious idea that this guy could’ve faked his own death, the way people would speculate about Jim Morrison doing the same thing.

Here’s another thing autograph hounds don’t realize. Aside from celebrities being bothered everywhere they go, they also have a job to do. These stars walk the red carpet and talk to reporters about their movies. And in the case of Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys, Masters of Sex), there was a friend of mine named Glen Shimada waiting to meet him. I found that odd, since Glen is a cameraman on his show The Miller’s. Yet he explained to me, “Hey, it’s here in San Diego where I live, so I thought I’d drop by and say hello.”

Bridges told me later he was thrilled to see him. And that’s what autograph fans don’t realize. Often times, friends and colleagues are waiting to say hello, not just the people wanting an 8x10 signed.

One woman was thrilled as she saw Bridges walk up. I sarcastically said, “Don’t make the mistake I made. I went up to him and said ‘Are you ‘the dudes’ brother?’”

She laughed, realizing I probably didn’t make a reference to his more famous brother Jeff Bridges.

Saginaw Grant, an American Indian actor and activist, was walking around with his posse. He’s been so many movies over the years (the last thing I saw him in was The Lone Ranger). Beau Bridges was talking to him for awhile, and when Bridges was walking away, I said “Can I ask you a basketball question?” He smiled and said, “Sure.”

Most people don’t realize that the 5’10” actor was a star basketball player in high school. He went to play for UCLA. I said, “Everyone asks you about shows like ‘Masters and Sex’ and ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’. Well, I’m a basketball player. I want to hear your best basketball story.”

He laughed and said, “Well, I sat the bench at UCLA, so I don’t have a great story.”

“Who was on your team that I might know?”

“Gail Goodrich.”

“Wow, future Lakers star. And having Coach Wooden.”

He then talked a lot about the Wooden’s famous pyramid, and asked me if I was familiar with it. I said, “Yeah. We have Bill Walton living down here. He’ll tell anybody that will listen about that, and about how great a man Wooden was.”

I mentioned the movie The Descendants and his role in that. I said, “Those screenwriters…they’re just great [they won an Oscar for that screenplay]. I loved ‘The Way, Way Back’ and Descendants, and loved that you didn’t go over the top with that character. Another actor would’ve tried to really scream at George Clooney when he wasn’t doing what the family wanted. You were subtle, but still powerful.

Bridges replied, “Hey, thanks man. Yeah, those guys are great writers.”

When I went for my second drink in the VIP lounge, actress Alison Pill walked in. I told her how much I loved Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. She thanked me. I asked her why she thought it didn’t do better at the box office. I thought it was the perfect blend of a fun action picture, video game, and highly entertaining. She said, “I really don’t know what it takes for a movie to do well at the box office or how they market it, or any of that stuff.”

It wasn’t until she walked away that I realized she was in Midnight in Paris. I could’ve asked her a Woody Allen question (D’oh!). I knew she was in The Newsroom, but I think that’s an overrated show. It wasn’t until I saw the clip of her movies later in the evening that I remembered her in the interesting sci-fi flick Snowpiercer…and another Woody Allen movie.

Now, when Michelle Monaghan showed up, another critic was thrilled to meet her. I loved her work in the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and a few other films I couldn’t recall. But just like with Allison Pill, I had nothing for her to sign and not much to say to her, so I left her alone.

Movie critic Jeffrey Lyons and his son Ben were hosting the weekend festivities. Last year I had great movie conversations with Ben, but Jeffrey didn’t seem to engage in the conversation. I didn’t talk to either this year.

It wasn’t until I heard that Alan Arkin had shown up, that I ran out of the VIP lounge and back to the red carpet. He, along with Jack Lemmon, are my two favorite comedic actors of all-time. The chance to meet him was a thrill for me. I was more excited about this, then meeting Paul McCartney (but then, Sir Paul did yell at me when we met, so…).

I listened as a few other reporters asked him about winning the Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine.

I was able to stand on the other side of the velvet rope and have a great conversation with him when he finished with the other reporters. The people running the film festival knew how much I wanted to meet him, and they were really accommodating. Now, it helps that I’m a movie critic in town, but for any of you that want to meet actors you may never have a chance for – spend the money and go to one of these film festivals. You’ll get to mingle with them and see some great movies.

I was wearing a shirt from The In-Laws, one of my favorite comedies of all-time. We talked about that, and a little about Catch-22. I’ve read in interviews that he didn’t like the movie much, but I told him I did, because of his portrayal of Yossarian.

The weirder moment with him came when an older, well-dressed woman had earlier been talking my ear off about how excited she was to meet Arkin. She said, “I’m a singer and actress, and he’s the one who inspired me to get into this business.”

When she said she’s been in lots of movies, I asked her what she’s been in and she rattled off an impressive list. When she said ‘Wall Street’ I asked who she played. She paused for a second and said, “Oh, well…most of my scenes were cut out.”

Yeah, right.

She interrupted to shake Arkin’s hand and as she grabbed his other arm she gushed. She said “I loved you in King of Hearts. Your performance in that is what inspired me to pursue a career in acting.”

He smiled and said, “That’s very kind of you, but…I wasn’t in that. I think you’re confusing me with Alan Bates.”

I said something equally dopey. I said, “Everyone raves about those big movies like ‘Argo’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine.’ Yeah, yeah, they’re great, but…I love the little pictures you do, too. You’re so damn funny in So I Married an Axe Murderer.”

He thanked me, and as I said, “It’s a movie nobody saw, but is so….”

He interrupts to say, “What do you mean ‘Nobody saw it’? People saw it.”

I saw a few people snapping photos, and thought about asking him about a few other movies I loved – Last of the Red Hot Lovers

I said, “I was going to draw a hand on my face and have it talked to you [there’s a scene where Richard Libertini plays an evil dictator and does that to him with his hand]. Scott talked me out of it. He said you probably get that all the time. You don’t though, do you?”

He smiled and said, “Oh yeah, I do. People come up to me all the time and do that.” Scott says, “See!”

We took a photo together, and he did the hand in front of my face (if anybody has a picture of that, send it ASAP!).

Later, listening to these stars get on stage and talk about various things from their career, was just incredible.

After that two hour event, they’re again mingling around. My friend Selena, who is fighting a rare, terminal lung disease called LAM, wanted to meet horror film director/actor Eli Roth. She said, “I wish I would’ve thought to bring DVDs like you did.”

I glanced down at the City Island DVD I had Arkin sign (right next to the Andy Garcia signature, which he signed at a previous film festival). I asked her why she didn’t bring any if she was such a fan of Roth. She said, “It didn’t occur to me.”

I told her it would be cool to have Roth sign a knife. So, I was about to go across the street and offer to buy a knife from a restaurant, when I saw the caterers setting up desserts. I asked around and finally found one that had a knife. I told him the story of Serena, and he handed it over. He did make a comment that “It’s my 10 dollar, good knife.”

I handed him a $20 bill and my business card, telling him if he ever needed free movie tickets, to call me and let me know.

I handed the knife to Serena and she got it signed. Roth was laughing as he signed the handle and she thanked me.

I was looking for Arkin, because I thought it would be cool to talk to him again. I also had a second DVD I wanted signed, I just didn’t want to spring two things on him during our first meeting. Somebody said, “He split, dude. I saw him get into a limo with his wife. But I’ll sign your DVD if you want.”

Ah, autograph humor. Always annoying.

When I grabbed a dessert (free food…always welcome), a friend asked where I would rank meeting Alan Arkin next to meeting Paul McCartney. I said, “Meeting Alan Arkin was the greatest thrill of my life. Well…that and the birth of my daughter, but…I’m leaning a bit towards Arkin over her birth.”

A few nights later on a Sunday, the festival was coming to a close. Paul McCartney was having a concert here in San Diego – his first time here since 1976. My friend called with free tickets. I instead opted to see the last few films at the San Diego Film Festival. I’m sure I had a much better time there than I would’ve at the McCartney show (although, I’m guessing McCartney wouldn’t have been able to yell at me from the stage).

Views: 308

Tags: Alan Arkin, Alison Pill, Beau Bridges, Eli Roth, John Wooden, Lam, Paul McCartney, San Diego Film Festival

Comment by Christopher Williams on October 10, 2014 at 6:18pm

Josh, awesome read.  Thanks for sharing.

Two of my favorite Alan Arkin movies are Freebie & The Bean and The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming.

Comment by Brian Burger on October 10, 2014 at 8:28pm

Great story Josh! Film festivals are very cool! Met Susan Sarandon last year here if Florida at one! It is nice to just talk sometimes to these actors and find out about them.

Comment by Sidney Fields on October 10, 2014 at 10:28pm

Nice story, Josh...but would have been the greatest story ever if you'd have walked up to Alan Arkin and said, "Serpentine."

And then walked away.

Comment by Josh Board on October 11, 2014 at 6:15pm

Sidney -- another thing I said to him during the Q&A with the audience was that The In Laws was one of the best comedies ever, and how did he keep a straight face during those scenes? He said, "I didn't! My legs were black and blue from knocking them together so I wouldn't laugh. Libertini, who I had done 10 or 12 movies with, knew just how to get me. He'd stick that damn hand in my face and I'd laugh every time!" He then continued saying that he asked the writer for a movie he could do with Falk, where Falk irritates him the entire time. That was the script. Falk was saying he wanted the "serpentine" scene out of there, and that he didn't think it was funny. I grabbed Falk by the collar and said 'Shut up! That scene is funny! It is staying in there." He then said everywhere he goes, people yell out to him "Serpentine, serpentine!"   

And on another autograph note, I did get Bridges to sign The Descendants DVD, too.

Comment by Robert Babb on October 20, 2014 at 1:39am

awesome as always josh!

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