In a New Yorker Festival conversation after a screening of his film LBJ, director Rob Reiner talked a bit about Lyndon Johnson, but also hit on on an array of other issues, from President Trump to the Russia investigation to the legacy of All in the Family.
During the audience Q&A, Reiner was asked how his “community” (meaning the film business) should respond to the wave of allegations (and admissions) currently washing over Harvey Weinstein.
“It’s not just our community–this is happening in every workplace in America. It’s disgusting,” Reiner said. “Harvey Weinstein funded the movie The Hunting Ground. How do you do that?! We have to create a safe atmosphere where women are able to tell their stories.” At the same time, Reiner continued, “He’s one schmuck who did what he did. But there are a lot of great people in Hollywood who don’t do stuff like that.”
Session moderator Lawrence Wright, the New Yorker writer also known for books like Going Clear and The Looming Tower, guided the conversation through other parts of Reiner’s career. Archie Bunker in All of the Family, in which Reiner acted, is in many ways the archetypal Donald Trump voter.
Reiner recalled his one in-person meeting with Trump, on a visit to an Atlantic City casino with friend Billy Crystal. Asked by Wright what impression he got sitting with the now-president, Reiner agreed with the oft-repeated observation that Trump doesn’t laugh. “He can’t laugh because he’s not listening to you. He doesn’t pay attention. It’s about him. There’s a big hole there. Every actor I know is insecure. They’re drawn to it because they get approval. … It’s just astounding how hard it is for him to feel good about himself.”
Prompted by audience questions, the session returned to the subject of the film LBJ, which is finally getting a release in November after premiering at the 2016 Toronto Intl. Film Festival. Reiner said Woody Harrelson, who plays Johnson, in some respects wasn’t an obvious choice. But he fit the bill in many areas.
“I wanted somebody from Texas, who understood that,” Reiner said. “And I wanted someone to give him humanity, the sensitivity and the humor. I knew Woody was the one who could do that.”