Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin: From “Sunshine” to “Thin Ice”

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Greg KInnear and Alan Arkin had such a good time on “Little Miss Sunshine,” they decided to step onto some thin ice together.

The two Academy Award-nominated actors, who co-starred in the 2006 indie darling which delivered Arkin’s Oscar, appear together anew in the comedically tinged crime caper “Thin Ice,” with Kinnear playing a desperate and not-so-scrupulous Wisconsin insurance agent who schemes and scams to swipe a valuable violin in the position of Arkin’s elderly eccentric. PopcornBiz found the actors enjoying a warm reunion, despite their frigid working conditions.

What is it about pairing of the two of you that brought you back together for "Thin Ice"?

Kinnear: Alan loves me. He has said repeatedly that other actors are interesting in their own way – and I'm paraphrasing – but no one aspires to the artistic greatness of Greg. And through searching for it. I shall just attach myself to it and it will be easier. Is it something like that?

Arkin: I did say that, but I don't think that was about you.

Kinnear: Oh, that's right it was about Steve Carrel. Alan sent me the script of 'Thin Ice.' He was good enough to send me the script and said, 'Hey, this is an interesting little piece and the guy, as you see, is somewhat despicable.' I don't know what Alan sees in me that necessarily conjured me up for the role, but I was quite taken with it. I thought that it was a really interesting story and fun and a chance, obviously, for us to work together again. We had fun in spite of the cold. If you have fun on a movie in this kind of temperature you're having a hell of a time.

Have you two developed an acting shorthand now?

Arkin: Well, I think it took a little more time than just two movies, but certainly my idea of heaven is working with people again, because you get through the first arc of an experience and then you start to know somebody. So we could take more liberties with each other the second time. The first time you work with somebody, you have your hat in your hand and you say, 'Do you mind? Are you comfortable with this?' With Greg on this, and then the other times that I've worked with people a second or a third time, you can say 'Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we…blah, blah, blah?' You can just take more liberties.

What was brand new or what did you not know about each other that you learned on this film?

Arkin: Well, I learned the extent of the punishment that Greg could take without complaining. I mean, I had an inkling of it with 'Little Miss Sunshine.’ We'd be locked in that damn bus six hours at a time in a 110 degree heat with no air conditioning and it was rough, but nobody every complained. So we were all in that together. In this I saw Greg come out of two nights work where he was working in 20-below weather with no thermal underwear or anything like that, just a thin suit on. He never complained, and I said, 'Man, he's even more dedicated than I thought.' I knew he was dedicated, but this was more…so, I knew that I could beat him up a lot.

Kinnear: I may have had thermal underwear on, just so you know. This rumor about me not having thermal underwear on…

Greg, you graduated as a journalism major. Did you ever take formal acting classes and how did your background help you as an actor?

Kinnear: Not really any formal training to speak of. I started in college as a drama major and I had a few drama classes, but no, most of it has been real-time experience. That makes it sound better! And then on the other side, yes, I spent quite a few years hosting different shows and stuff, and I guess there was some comfortable element around the camera. I do think that helped a lot, the idea of that experience. Most of my experience as a host was looking directly at the camera and talking right to it, so I keep looking for a movie where I get to talk to the camera and I've never gotten one. I got one line in one movie years ago where I got to say something to the camera. But it's a learning process still for me. I think I just basically steal from great actors like Alan and take everything I can, load it up in my little leather satchel and head on to the next one.

Do you ever want to do interviews again?

Kinnear: Sure, yeah. I would. I guess the right format and the right venue, but oh, yeah, I still find myself painfully jealous of Charlie Rose.

You've both been a part of the Oscars and award seasons, campaigning for films. What was the unexpectedly enjoyable part of that process, and what was the part that you could've lived without?

Kinnear: The whole thing is great. It really is. I think when you do movies and certainly any of them and that they find themselves percolating in that spot where they get noticed and talked about, it's fun and it feels rewarding. The great thing is that it turns in to one great big party who usually when you finish a movie it's like, 'See you,' and that's the end of that. But it does kind of keep the group together through that process. And did you ask what's bad about it? You gain weight. How many dinners can you sit in? 'I'll take the beef chops, please. What's that? Pie ala mode first.'

Arkin: Last night I thought about it. It was three years ago and I was just sitting and musing about it, like, 'What if any of this has really been enjoyable?' I thought and I thought and I thought about it – and I think maybe it's trite and maybe you won't believe me, but I swear it's true: the only real joy that I've ever gotten out of any of it was the moment of nomination. That's a moment of sheer delight and surprise and feeling like you're a part of something and part of a group of people, most of whom you admire if not all of them, but at least most of them. And the rest I think is nonsense, because the rest…that makes you a part of something. The rest of it is isolating and I don't believe that isolation is real. If you win you think you're special and that lasts for about ten minutes.

Kinnear: You were unbearable for those ten minutes.

Arkin: And if you lose you think you're a failure which is madness. So the moment of nomination is really, really…no, that's not true. Also, the phone calls that I got from people afterwards, people I hadn't spoken to or thought about sometimes in years and years and years. I have a hard time, it's my own issue, but I have a hard time accepting people's caring about me. That's something that I tend to carry and I could not avoid it, recognizing that there were people who cared that I had won. It was such a barrage that I was very moved for a long time by that. That was the high for me.

Greg, there was so much turmoil surrounding 'The Kennedys' before it got on the air. How gratifying was it to you to see not only how well the show was received by the public, but all of the subsequent acclaim and the accolades?

Kinnear: [Alan and I had] talked about it and I was struggling with whether or not to do it because I was overwhelmed at the idea of taking on a role like that. Doing it and working with Barry [Pepper] and Tom Wilkinson and Katie [Holmes] and a really good group of actors, I had a great experience doing that and I was glad ultimately that I did it. I was shocked with what happened, and I think the crew, like a 150 people, really, really worked hard on the movie to tell the best story that we all could. We're all big Reelz Channel fans now. We're a little disheartened, but I don't really know what happened. I still to this day get asked, well, what did happen and there's been some interesting stories written about it, but what took place or who the characters were behind what took place…I keep waiting for the quintessential great article to come out and say, 'Here's what happened.' 'People' magazine said it was the second biggest television story of last year, and yet nobody has done this incredible, I think incredible story to tell exactly what happened and why a show of that size would've been moved and lost it's channel space, but I look forward to that.


"Thin Ice" opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, February 17th

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