Elliott Gould on Muppets & the Meaning of Life
By Nick Martin
April 30, 2009
A few weeks ago, I called seventies icon Elliott Gould to discuss his new film The Caller, and it turns out the man is a conversational pirate, boarding and plundering any question asked in order to say whatever was on his mind at the time. I had
admired Gould’s work since I first discovered his collaborations with New Hollywood pioneer Robert Altman, and upon viewing The Caller, I couldn’t help but be reminded of another film in which he played a private eye—Phillip Marlowe in Altman’s The Long Goodbye. We discussed this film and other projects from Gould’s past, and during our conversation, there were instances in which I’d get lost in his philosophical meanderings on the artistic process and nature’s beauty. But, if you follow his logic, some grand truth might just reveal itself.
Have you ever considered a sequel to The Long Goodbye?
Yes. I’ve got a script, I’ve got the story, I’ve got the rights from the Chandler estate to be Phillip Marlowe in the next picture. The name of the short novel that my project is based on is The Curtain, and my concept is it’s always now and it’s always now. Alan Rudolph has written the script and will direct the project, but we can’t find a nickel for it.
If I had money to give you, I would invest in that project.
If you had money to give me, I don’t know if I’d take it.
The Long Goodbye has a lot of humor in it.
You’ve got to have humor. I’ve got crows flying outside of my apartment here. I mean, I’ve never seen an elephant fly. Even if you saw President Obama laugh hysterically on 60 Minutes. People look at things literally. I saw Sidney Poitier, and we hadn’t talked since the mid-sixties when I used to play poker with him at Harry and Julie Belafonte’s. And I said to Sidney, some people sometimes say to me, “Are you serious?” and I could say I don’t have to be so serious any longer, I know I’m honest. Just like any other baby, I would act serious to things that I didn’t even understand
Did you know that you are the only non-Muppet actor to be in two separate Muppet movies?
Is that the truth?
Hard for me to believe, but I had worked with the Muppets on SNL. Also around 1975, I did a primetime special for ABC with the Children’s Television Workshop, and I got to play poker with the Cookie Monster.
Yeah, I was the Cucamonga Kid, and I played poker with the Cookie Monster for all cookies. I insisted that I be in The Muppet Movie, and that’s when I introduced Ms. Piggy to the big screen.
Did you hear there’s talk of a new Muppet movie?
Have you seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall?
Oh, that guy Seth Rogen?
No, Jason Segel. He’s apparently a big fan and is writing a new script. It’d be good if they got you involved.
Oh, wouldn’t that be neat? Thanks for that. That’s so nice of you.
What’s going on with the rumored Friends movie?
I think they should make it already. And I thought they should have made a Sopranos movie.
It’s a great era for television right now. Do you watch Mad Men?
Yeah. Do you ever watch Dancing with the Stars?
Here and there.
Me too. It’s a little narcotic, you know, it draws me in. I used to be a dancer, but you couldn’t catch me dead on that show, I wouldn’t do it.
I was going to say that you should go on it.
You should go on it.
I’d like to.
We could dance together on it. [Wholesome laughter]
Do you think Obama is the right man to lead the country out of this economic crisis?
Did you like Being There?
I subscribe to that mentality. You can find the solution in that point of view, a totally down-to-earth, organic point of view. And until we can embrace our differences and learn how to live together, these things are always going to happen. And to happen at this time in terms of having perpetuated a way of life that is not supportable, a way of life that is so demanding and so hungry, and so obsessively compelled, that nature can’t support it. It concerns me for my grandchildren and my children.
I guess it makes you reflect on what’s really most important in life.
What’s most important in life is love. I’m easily distracted. I look through the blinds now, and I see there’s a breeze. I live in an apartment, but I’ve got trees around. It’s so fascinating to see the breeze go through the trees. I don’t think there’s anything more intelligent. I don’t think anything can be more intelligent than vegetation, because it simply is, and that’s all life is about. Therefore I don’t want to alter my balance. When I go to sleep, I usually find a place almost immediately where I feel positive. Positive to be alive.
That’s excellent. It’s good that you’ve found that.