Just about everybody recognizes Arkin as a fine actor with a propensity for delivering lines in a way that makes them endlessly quotable. (Two personal favorites: “F*** a lot of women. I have no reason to lie to you,” from Little Miss Sunshine, and “That place was a s***hole,” from past FFF feature Slums of Beverly Hills.)
But fewer folks know what a simply inspiring interview subject Arkin is. Back in the early ’90s, he sat for a Q&A for a film class I was taking at New York’s New School for Social Research. The class itself was a real dog – dishy, sub-Inside the Actors’ Studio stuff tailor-made for Long Island housewives. But Arkin’s appearance was miles above. He was composed, serious, dignified, and able to discuss his life and profession in a non-sensationalistic way that really resonated with me. Avoiding hyperbole and idle gossip, he appeared quite content with the degree to which his experiences in therapy had enabled him to put his entire existence into perspective.
In the gentlest possible manner, he explained that making movies is a good job, but nonetheless a job like any other – and thus no substitute for personal health and fulfillment.
At the end of the semester, the professor took an informal poll to find out which of his weekly guests had been the most popular with the class. To my shock and dismay, Arkin placed near the bottom of the list -- for all of the reasons I’ve just enumerated. They had preferred the funny, show-bizzy visitors. Like Garry Marshall, whose then-current Pretty Woman was a big hit with them. Like Rockapella, who had showed up one week to sing when no even remotely film-related guest could be found.
Like Mandy goddamn Patinkin.
No, there’s no accounting for taste. (Which you’re proving, I guess, simply by reading this blog.) So if you want to spend an hour in the company of some brassy raconteur who’s terminally impressed by his exalted position amongst the music makers and the dreamers of dreams, Arkin’s FFF session might not be for you. But if you value being spoken to as a human being by someone who recognizes you as a fellow traveler in the search for meaning, get ready for something special.
And in the meantime, f*** a lot of women.