Kevin Kline and Israel Horovitz discuss My Old Lady and Self-Examination
Kevin Kline commands a room. He begins the interview by asking each person who they are, and where they were born. He opens the proceedings by taking the notepad in front of him, and writing “My Old Lady” in big block letters, and then underlining it, as if to underscore the seriousness of the interview, but also bucking the form, playing with convention.
He later draws a little doodle underneath My Old Lady, both of a recognizable form, but somehow unrecognizable, and seemingly absent-mindedly, and without drawing attention to it, but acutely attuned to the attention that it does or does not receive.
Israel Horovitz, the writer-director of My Old Lady, adapted the script from one of his own plays, but quickly recognizes the difficulty in discussing his work, saying that “(Samuel) Beckett once said to me, ‘a writer who explains his plays is very much like a snail explaining his shell’, and I am sure that this is true”.
Horovitz, sitting next to Kline for the interview, attempts to provide the backstory, “When I first wrote the play, in 2001, I wanted to write a love letter to Paris”, and that “I went to Kevin, first of all, who was famously known as ‘Kevin de-Kline’”.
Asked to clarify if what Horovitz says about him was true, Kline coyly replies “I was jok-ing”, but then goes on to say, in a way that is recognizably relatable, says that “This character, more than most…examines his life a little more closely, and scrutinizes, perhaps, and has never quite reconciles the damage that he feels has been done to him, by life, genetics, and his parents…but he retains enough intelligence, and sense of humour, to be ultimately, potentially, redeemable”.
Asked a question as to whether the complexity of My Old Lady brought him on board, Kline replies, “Yeah, I mean it was, (here he gives off a little whoop), there was something very real, very true in the character. I mean, they weren’t superheroes, or super-anything”.
Horovitz and Kline then offer a concession by walking over to the My Old Lady poster, and Kline affects an expression which, while it is difficult to say exactly how he feels, it is clear that he is emoting, ever emoting. There is archness to his expression. Noticing that he has taken the piece of paper from the table with him when posing for the photo, we ask whether he wants to leave the doodle. He asks for clarification a couple of times, “My what?”, and then says “Oh” in an exaggerated manner as he is tuned in. “No, I didn’t want it to get into the wrong…Hands”.
A beat or two later, when it informed that is was previously “Bill Murray Day”, he surveys the room, inquiring “Do I look like Bill Murray?” When we reply that he could be Bill Murray’s stunt double, he replies “hmmm”, and turns away, continuing to mumble about Murray.
Horovitz then turns to Kline, saying “Hey, did you ever hear the story of…”, and it’s clear that a connection exists between the men, a certain rapport was struck during the course of the film, and that we bear witness to deep-seated interchanges between almost psychic companions. Horovitz may be the outwardly friendlier of the two, the storyteller, the playwright, first-time director at the age of seventy-five. But Kline, like his character of Jim / Mathias in My Old Lady, has a twofold nature to him, not speaking as much as Horovitz, but perhaps revealing even more.