In Richard Ledes’ new suspenseful thriller, The Caller, legendary actors Frank Langella and Elliott Gould team up to tell the story of two men whose lives turn in strikingly different directions but whose common past brings them back together. Reached on the phone in California, Gould took some time out with us to discuss the film, which opens Friday.
Some of your more recent projects have been satirical and/or comedic, but in The Caller you stray away from that, playing a private detective with a tragic past. What compelled you to play this character?
Mind you, I see almost everything as being funny. Richard Ledes had asked to meet with me and offered me the picture, and I do serious work but I don’t consider the work itself to be serious. I saw that the film was interesting; it was originally a French piece called The Telephone and when we started to work on it, it was being called On the Hook. I wanted it to be called And You’re John Doe.
What other elements of the film attracted you to it?
Richard Ledes told me that he was expecting Terence Stamp to be playing the guy. Then he was not available and they had two suggestions for me: Christopher Walken, whom I’ve known for a very long time, and the other was Frank Langella. And to be able to do it on the streets of New York was very interesting and enticing to me.
What was it like working with Frank Langella?
Oh it was great. He was doing the play Frost/Nixon at the time so I got to go and see him at the time we were working on The Caller. We do very little together in the picture. We had a few scenes together, and it was very good to work with him. He was totally prepared, completely professional, and very good at what he does.
Unbeknownst to your character, Frank Turlotte, Jimmy (Langella) disguises his identity from you and hires you to spy on him. Why didn’t he just reveal who he was to you?
He’s someone who’s probably ashamed of himself, someone who has enormous guilt, someone who went in a totally different direction than me. Also as far as trust, what he knew about me was when we were children–and the character that I play as a child was not afraid of death. He plays a character who knows that he must die. And what he wants is to be delivered at his death, hopefully with someone who would accept him not as what he’s become but what he was. It’s a little contrived, but it was an opportunity for us to do some work. I do find that the metaphor and the parable of it has real significance and meaning in relation to what America is, what the American dream was and is, and where we are right at the moment.
In the ’70s you were called a ‘Star for an Uptight Age’ by TIME Magazine, a reflection of the era’s attraction to leading men who were willing to show a range of depth and complexity to the characters they played. Looking at Hollywood today, do you think that era has come and gone?
It’s still there. One of the realities is that the world is going so fast that we’re missing a lot. Especially living in a world where youth is so worshipped–I think the idea is to evolve. I don’t necessarily know that we’ve lost anything. I think that we may have lost levels of innocence, levels of naïveté, levels of purity in relation to the enormous amount of information that is coming at us every second through media and transmission.
The Caller opens at Quad Cinema on Friday.