Magazine article The New Yorker

Life with Father

Magazine article The New Yorker

Life with Father

Article excerpt


In 2006, Rob Reiner almost ran for governor of California. Deep down, the star of "All in the Family" and the director of "The American President" was a liberal policy wonk. Over breakfast at Cafe Cluny, in the West Village, Reiner recalled what scuttled his potential campaign against Arnold Schwarzenegger: "We sat down as a family to discuss it, the five of us. Nick"--his middle child, then twelve--"was friends with Patrick Schwarzenegger, and he saw all the security detail around, and he said, 'No, Dad! We won't be able to go bike riding!' So we voted on me running, and I got forty per cent. I couldn't even carry my own family!" (Nick Reiner, reached by phone later, said, "I don't remember it as such a movie scene.")

The new film "Being Charlie," which Reiner directed and Nick Reiner co-wrote, tells a version of the family tale since then. An eighteen-year-old rich kid with drug problems named Charlie (Nick Robinson) butts heads with his father (Cary Elwes)--a famous actor running for governor of California, who parks Charlie in rehab, in part to keep him out of the public eye.

Rob Reiner, trim and affable in charcoal-gray leisurewear that set off his more-salt-than-pepper beard, eyed the menu's caloric delights before ordering oatmeal and berries. Then, murmuring in the nearly empty cafe, he said that Nick had been in and out of rehab from ages fifteen to nineteen, in institutions from Montana to New Jersey. "The experts told us to send him away, to do the tough-love thing. It went against every one of my instincts, but I played that role--even though Nick kept saying, 'These programs don't work for me!' "

Nick met his co-writer, Matt Elisofon, in rehab, and the two began taking notes on their experience. "Then they wrote a half-hour rehab comedy for TV," Reiner said. "I read it and I said, 'Fellas . . .' So they made it an hour comedic drama." The networks read it and said, "Fellas . . ." Reiner continued, "All along, I, for lack of a better way of coping, had been asking myself, 'What can I do to make art of this?' Now that Nick was doing better, I told them, 'Maybe we can make it a movie.' "

The thorny tale doesn't feel like a traditional Rob Reiner film, particularly when a cocky character O. …

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