Ever since Fox’s watershed comedy Arrested Development prematurely left the air, its cast members cannot promote a project without being asked about the rumored movie. Some, like David Cross, are sick of it. Others, like Alia Shawkat, answer to the best of their knowledge. And then there’s Jeffrey Tambor, who’s probably been asked about this movie so many times, he can sense the question coming before it does.
Tambor is promoting his new film Meeting Spencer, a Broadway-set farce where he plays a director trying to resurrect a career after a series of Hollywood failures by directing a play in New York. As you’ll see in the interview below, not only does Tambor ease us into our AD line of questioning, but the man absolutely loves talking about it. Here he is on his new film, the birth of Oscar Bluth, and why the Arrested Development movie is not as far away as you might think.
How did you get connected with the film? Well, to be blunt, they asked me. I really loved the material, I thought it was very different, very simple. I knew of the director and I’m just crazy about him, and I read it and heard who was in it, and I said, Let’s give it a go.
Did you relate to your character? I think as a human being I could relate to him. There’s an old adage in theater, and you probably know it: You’re stuck with the character and the character is stuck with you. At first glance, he looks like some arrogant guy, but actually he’s a guy that’s really trying to recover the shock of what happened out there in Hollywood as Arthur Miller said, “Trying to get his name back.” And that could either be tragic or funny, and in this instance it seems to be funny, but when you play comedy you play for keeps, right?
Since the film takes place in one space, did it remind you of doing a play? I’ll tell you when it did feel like that, was when we sat down and read the script for the first day, and it came alive in the room. I find table reads always remind me of the theatre, no matter if it’s a 30 minute sitcom or a film, there’s that first blush of it, and it always reminds me of that first read in the theater. That’s where you always hold your breath and just say, “Is it going to work?”
You’ve had such a long, varied career, but the one thing that people are still obsessing over is Arrested Development. I know your question. I’m ahead of you.
I mean, everyone talks about the movie. Here’s what I know and it’s the truth, rather than any hype, and I’m pleased to say it. The script is being written even as we speak, and it may even be completed. I think all systems are go, and I think it’s very possible that you and I could be talking about the making of this film or even it being made by this time next year. It’s all going forward and we have a better opening now, it’s the perfect opening. I think it would be foolish not to take advantage. We have a better fan base now than we did then.
I guess people just didn’t appreciate it until it was over. It got appreciated by the critics, but once it went to DVD, it got an afterlife. We had a shot at it, it was really fun. I’m very lucky that I’ve been in three very special venues in television, between this, Larry Sanders and Max Headroom, but you’re much too young to know what that is.
Was it fun being able to play George and Oscar Bluth? Oh, I loved it. There’s a story about that. I had a terrible wig for George when they did the younger George, so we were trying on wigs one day, and we had it real long, and all of a sudden, I think somehow I walked out of the makeup trailer and Mitch Hurwitz was there, and he said, “Hold it, don’t move.” And he called the writers over, and right there the brother was born. Oscar wasn’t even conceived until then. And that was the thing about Mitch and the series, it had a very serendipitous nature. It was tightly written, it wasn’t all improve, but I mean the fact that a character could just be born just like that…
I’m actually studying Arrested Development in one of my classes. My mouth just flew open. Well boy, do you have something to say in class. That’s great, that’s wonderful.
It’s clearly made a serious mark already. I knew when I was doing the pilot, and I was just a guest on the pilot, I hadn’t been signed up to do the whole thing yet, I knew at the top on that shipboard, I went, Oh this going to be something. I knew it. I’m glad for our success.