CS Interview: Karen Allen Talks Scrooged and Indy 5!
Paramount Pictures provided ComingSoon.net the opportunity to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the high-spirited Christmas classic Scrooged by chatting with Bill Murray’s co-star, the lovely Karen Allen (Indiana Jones films, Animal House, Starman). We also got to ask her about the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones movie, and you can check out her interview below!
Comedy legend Bill Murray stars in Scrooged, an uproarious take on Charles Dickens’ classic tale, which has become a perennial favorite during the holidays. The film also features an all-star cast including Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, and Alfre Woodard. Frank Cross (Murray) is an uncaring, and unforgiving television executive whose live production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ is more important than any true meaning of Christmas. Before the night is over, he’ll take a hilarious journey through his past and into the future to find redemption and put a little love in his heart.
ComingSoon.net: It’s really exciting to be talking to you for the 30th anniversary of this movie. I guess to start off with, what is your biggest memory that sticks out to you of making it?
Karen Allen: You know what? I think it had to do with working with Dick Donner, who I thoroughly enjoyed. And working with Bill, who was a little horse of a different color for me, to work with somebody who is a pure comedian and has a different way of working than an actor like myself, who came out of the theater. In the theater you say one word that isn’t in the script and you have to get the provision of the playwright. So I kind of grew up into the theater and then into film with a very strict connection to the word on the page. Bill is an improviser extraordinaire who really gets all of his energy from using the script as a springboard. It was this extraordinary freedom that I had never really had working on a film. Obviously all actors train in improvisation, but then you’re hardworking professionally and nobody wants you to improvise, if you’re an actor who works more in the theater than in film. For me it was this beautiful opportunity to come into a film and work with someone like Bill Murray, who is an extraordinary improviser and yet also very much respected the script that was there. We were trying to find that fine line of working with the script, and yet for Bill it’s always very important to keep it fresh and alive.
CS: This is an interesting movie in Bill’s career because he had this tremendous success with “Ghostbusters” and then instead of capitalizing on that he took four years off. He went to Paris and did experimental theater, and “Scrooged” was his first big starring role after that success. Was there a sense of anticipation, or that this was a big deal?
Allen: You know, it’s funny. I did not know any of that, what you’re just telling me about Bill. I didn’t know he’d gone to Paris and done experimental theater. I didn’t know any of those things. I had met him a couple of years before “Scrooged.” I used to work with a theater called Shakespeare & Company that’s in Lennox, Massachusetts. He came to Lennox to work with them briefly, and had thought about doing some Shakespearean roles with them. I met him during that period of time because he was working with some people that I knew really well. But no, I didn’t realize he had been away from film for four years before we did “Scrooged.” He certainly hadn’t lost his touch.
CS: Right. He gives an amazing performance in the movie and so do you. You guys are really good together. It feels very natural. Was part of casting you the National Lampoon connection because Bill had been involved with the radio show and Michael O’Donoghue had been involved with the magazine, and they were sort of re-teaming? Was there any sort of sense that that kind of helped you land the role?
Allen: You know, I honestly don’t know. I just came in to audition, and as I said Bill and I had met maybe a year or so before. I’d actually had dinner with him one night with this woman who was a big part of the theater company. So we had kind of gotten to know each other a little bit. I just came in as one of probably many women that auditioned for the role. For the most part we just did improvisations in an office. I think Dick Donner was there. We kind of played around. I think Bill was just looking for somebody that he could be fun and easy with, and I think it probably came down to the fact that we felt really comfortable with each other. I don’t even know who else they met for the role, but I just thought it would be a lot of fun to work with him, and to work with Dick as well.
CS: Richard Donner had such an amazing career because his filmography is so varied. There’s so many different kinds of movies on there, from “Superman” to “The Omen” to “Lethal Weapon” to “Goonies.” “Scrooged” was his most overt, pure comedy. How do you think he settled into Bill’s tempo and working with a very irreverent script?
Allen: That would be a better question for Dick Donner than for me, but it seemed he settled into it really well. He got a huge kick out of doing something as irreverent as this. He’s a very open-hearted, very gregarious guy, so I’m surprised that he hasn’t done a lot more comedies than he has. But no, I think he was a great captain to this particular very unwieldy ship that was the making of “Scrooged,” because there were a lot of things going on, a big cast, a lot of big set pieces and a lot of interesting and diverse actors. He seemed to take it in stride, but you’d have to ask him. He could have been having a nervous breakdown for all I know, but I don’t think so.
CS: I’m a huge fan of Michael O’Donoghue and this is probably the biggest movie script he ever actually got made. Can you talk a little bit about him and your impressions of him from the set?
Allen: Well, honestly, Michael wasn’t around that much when we were doing “Scrooged.” One of my funniest Michael O’Donoghue stories is when we first started shooting the film we were shooting in New York City and we were shooting in Central Park or possibly in Union Square. We were in a park. It was just a small scene between Bill and I, but we got there at six o’clock in the morning and we’re in the makeup trailer and Bill, for some reason, was not happy with the scene. We were reading through it in the makeup trailer and he just felt like it wasn’t quite working, it wasn’t clicking. This little vibration left the makeup trailer and went out into the ether. And all of a sudden, Michael O’Donoghue shows up in his slippers and his pajamas like somebody had made a quick phone call and got Michael. I think we were at Union Square because Michael lived in the Village, and I think literally somebody had called Michael and he literally woke up. It was freezing outside. He had a big puffy coat on over his pajamas and came to the set in his slippers, just trying to help us work it out.
CS: That’s so funny. Yeah, I remember reading in a biography of Michael about Bill’s big speech at the end of the film, where he’s talking about “You have to give” and all this stuff, and he’s opening his heart on national television. Supposedly after the scene was over, everybody clapped and cheered except for Michael, who just went like, “What the hell was that?” Because it wasn’t what was in the script. So I guess my question is, in your mind, how did the script change, given all the improvisation that was going on?
Allen: Well, with somebody like Bill… I haven’t worked with a lot of pure comedians. I mean, I think there are comedians and there are comedian actors and I would put Bill more in that category. I think that for Bill, coming from the background he’s come from, he’s constantly searching for the way to make it the most funny, the most alive, the most spontaneous. For him to step into a script that has been written, whether it’s by Michael O’Donoghue or someone else, I think you’re always going to have to find that medium ground where he can be allowed to use what you’ve written as a springboard. I remember the shooting of that scene at the end. I don’t remember what was written or how different it was from what we ended up with, but it had a sense of him just completely improvising. He did it again and again and again, and it went off in different directions every time. And I can imagine the writers with their jaw dropped, just not knowing where he was going with it. It’s the ending of the film, so I know writers put so much into what they’re doing and they give it so much thought and so much of their passion and write and rewrite. It must be a very tricky thing to deal with, when you’re working with somebody as brilliant as he is. I guess the whole process for a writer in that situation is often kind of letting go. Michael would be very interesting to talk to about it, if he was still with us.
CS: It’s been 10 years since “Crystal Skull” and Marion and Indiana Jones have been married. In your mind, what have the last 10 years of marriage with Indiana Jones been like?
Allen: Well, that’s a very interesting question. You know, I actually haven’t really gone there. I haven’t really given it a lot of thought. I hope it’s been great. You know, the two of them certainly waited long enough to succumb to being together. They have a very troubled son, I have to say that. So that must’ve caused them some issues, if you know what I mean. (laughs)
CS: Oh yes.
Allen: But I don’t know. I’m a romantic, so I’m hoping that they’ve just had a really great 10 years and they finally resolved something that started when she was 16, he was maybe in his 20’s. I love those kinds of stories, where people come back together 40 years later in their life.
CS: Absolutely. And of course, I’m hoping to see you again in a few years, when they do the next one.
Allen: Hopefully. You know, I’m hoping. I’m very hopeful about that. I don’t know anything. I know they’ve been working very hard on the script, and they keep the story and the casting and everything like that so close to the vest until they really know what they’re doing. So I’m waiting patiently. It keeps getting delayed, and I guess they finally settled on about a year from this spring or something. But I probably won’t know whether I’m in the film or not until much, much later on down the line.