Wiseguys Walken and Pacino on how it might end

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Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin

"Stand-up Guys" actors Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin in Chicago in October. (Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune / October 10, 2012)

At times it felt like an exit interview — the ultimate exit interview.

The details are still so surreal that when I tell people who was there, the words sound as though someone else had dreamed them: Al Pacino walked into the room. Then Christopher Walken walked in. Then we sat, had coffee, talked. About their lives, friendship, acting. Though mostly, we talked about age.

They agreed to do this, of course, because, one, they were in Chicago (in the fall, attending the Chicago International Film Festival) and two, they had a movie coming out, "Stand Up Guys," which opens nationally this week. Directed by Chicago native Fisher Stevens, it's something of an elegy to a generation of realism-minded actors who rose to fame in the early 1970s. It tells the story of a pair of aging wiseguys (Pacino and Walken) who decide to roar one last time. And to be honest, it's pretty terrible, almost a parody of its well-meaning intentions: "You look like (expletive)," Pacino says to Walken, who deadpans: "You look worse."

On the plus side, it does bring together for the first time two of the most familiar cadences in movie history. Three, if you count Alan Arkin, who has a small role. He was also in town for the festival. He was supposed to come with them, but when I arrived at the Peninsula Hotel, a publicist took me aside to apologize: "Alan is an old man and he's tired. Like, his friends? They have, like, walkers."

For the record: Arkin is 78. Walken is 69. And Pacino is 72. He arrived first, wearing sunglasses, a white T-shirt beneath a loose-fitting fall coat, most of his head swaddled by a large dark scarf. He curled into the corner of a couch and picked up his coffee cup and watched Walken make slow strides across the room — Walken is as lanky as Pacino is compact — sit, splay his arms along the rests of his chair and smile.

"Alan's not coming," Pacino said.

"Why?" Walken asked, surprised.

"Alan quit."

"He quit?"

Pacino shrugged.

"How's your back?" Walken asked.

"Pretty good if I do the exercises," Pacino said.

"You know Woody Harrelson?"

"Yeah."

"He does yoga. I told him I have trouble."

"I got a treadmill."

"Does it help?"

"I haven't gotten on it yet."

"But you just walk, Al. You walk slowly and watch TV."

They spoke in voices — vaguely bewildered (Walken), a growling sing-song (Pacino) — you can hear playing in your head. After a few moments, the door clicked and Fisher Stevens walked in and said hello.

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