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Rob Reiner on ‘the Greatest Single Performance’ in U.S. Cinema

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Rob Reiner was well aware that the Christian nationalist movement had achieved considerable political clout.

But he didn’t realize just how much until he started producing the documentary “God & Country.”

Inspired by Katherine Stewart’s book “The Power Worshippers,” the film gives voice to prominent Christian leaders concerned about not only what the movement is doing to the United States, but also to Christianity itself.

“We saw the success that they had in being able to overturn Roe v. Wade in promoting very conservative judges that got onto the Supreme Court,” said Reiner, 76, who is adamant that the film is not meant to be an attack on Christian communities in any way.

In a video call from Los Angeles, Reiner, who will begin shooting a sequel to “This Is Spinal Tap” in March, reminisced about his movies “Stand by Me” and “The Princess Bride,” and spoke about why he can never get too much of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” blues guitarists and Marlon Brando. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

1

That’s the most important to me. There’s that joke, “Nobody on their death bed ever said, ‘I should have spent more time at the office.’” Nobody says that.

2

I was lucky to have a man in my life who conducted his career in a way that was very honorable and decent. I saw how he treated other people, and I saw how he handled his fame. People have always asked me, “Did he sit down and give you advice?” And I said, “No, he never gave me any advice. He just lived a certain way, and that was the best advice I could have gotten.”

3

He showed me how you could not only do the best work you could possibly do, but also use your celebrity, your fame in promoting political ideas that you thought were valuable and valued. My father lived to 98, Norman lived to 101. I was lucky to have two men like that in my life that I could look up to as role models.

4

As I’ve gotten older, it’s taken on more and more meaning. You start to appreciate what you have and how you’ve touched people. It’s one of the most life-affirming films of all. Plus the fact that it’s beautifully acted, beautifully shot. I’ve seen it, I don’t know, 30, 40 times.

5

I was a huge William Goldman fan. Then when I started making films, I said, “Wait a minute. They make movies out of books, don’t they?” François Truffaut had it for a while. Robert Redford had it for a while. Norman Jewison, they all tried to do it. I read one of the screenplays, and I thought, “Gee, they didn’t capture the book.” So I met with William Goldman at his house, and he basically opened the door and says to me, “‘The Princess Bride’ is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. I want it on my tombstone. What are you planning to do with it?”

6

The movie was based on a novella by Stephen King called “The Body.” I didn’t want people to think it was a horror movie, so I changed the title to “Stand by Me,” which was my favorite song. It was the first time I was making a film that was very different from anything my father would’ve made. It married drama and comedy and nostalgia and melancholy and was more representative of an extension of myself. The fact that it became accepted and liked, that was very meaningful to me.

7

What it says to me is important because it talks about us all being one, and that there is no division of countries and religions. That we’re all part of this family of man.

8

They’re the most brilliant comedy records ever done. It’s my father and Mel Brooks. When I was about 16, I think the second album, “2000 and One,” came out. I would put that record on every day when I came home from school. You could tell whether or not you were going to be friends with somebody if they understood and dug those albums.

9

I love Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield and Robert Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The list goes on. B.B. King, Albert King, Buddy Guy. If I could just have one thing to listen to, it would be great blues guitar riffs.

10

That to me is the greatest single performance in American cinema. To this day I don’t know that there’s as good a performance as that. I love Elia Kazan’s body of work. He did “A Face in the Crowd,” “Viva Zapata!” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” — all these wonderful films. But Brando gives the ultimate performance.

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