Most of Larry David’s career has been behind-the-scenes, writing for such successful shows as Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld, which he co-created with Jerry Seinfeld. As an actor he’s best known for his TV series Curb Your Enthusiasm, but has appeared in small roles in two Woody Allen movies, Radio Days and New York Stories. No cameos for him in Allen’s latest movie, Whatever Works. He stars as Boris Yellnikoff, as crotchety misanthrope who finds a young homeless runaway from the south, Melody (Evan Rachel Wood) on his doorstep one night, and reluctantly allows her to stay with him.
I read that you were very reticent about doing this movie.
First of all, I’m reticent about everything so it’s not unusual for me to be reticent. But, yes, I was reticent because it was something unusual for me. I hadn’t done anything like that before, playing a character, memorizing a lot of material. I have a lot of self-doubt and negative feelings, and I thought that I should communicate that to Woody, which I did.
What did Woody say?
He said, ‘You’ll be fine.’
The first scene you have is a three-page monologue in which you talk to the audience. Did that frighten you?
That was a very daunting prospect. I did have to memorize it. When I first saw it I was thinking, ‘Maybe there’ll be a teleprompter.’ No, I had to memorize it. But after I memorized it, I found it easier to talk into the camera than I did to talk to the actors.
Did you feel you were channeling Woody in the movie?
I know it’s a concern. People would say to me, are you going to be doing him? And I’d think they were out of their minds. No, I’m going to try not to do him. It didn’t occur to me to want to do him. He didn’t call me and say, ‘I want you to do me. Have you ever seen me? Can you talk like me?’ No. It wasn’t an issue for me at all.
How different and similar are you to Boris?
We’re different in that I’m way more normal than he is. I enjoy life. I play golf. I like having sex. I have normal wants and needs. He’s insane. He’s really on the edge. And there are probably some similarities. We both have some disdain for the human race.
What was Woody like to work with?
I was waiting to get fired. I was expecting it for a couple of days. I would go to the set like, ‘I can’t believe I’m still here.’ If you’re doing something wrong, he lets you know about it. So I liked it if I did something and he didn’t say anything to me, than it was okay. Woody likes to do a lot of master shots. He likes to get the whole thing in one take and so you could be going along doing a scene and then the next to last line, all of a sudden, you stumble and you go back to first base. That was very challenging.
How different is Boris from the Larry you play on Curb your Enthusiasm?
The character in Curb is normal compared to this guy. This guy wears short! Never would the character on Curb wear shorts or would the person who is talking to you right now wear shorts. I think that’s a very disturbing thing!