Frank Langella explains why “Robot & Frank” isn’t your typical buddy movie

robot and frank

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In his new film, veteran actor Frank Langella plays an aging jewel thief whose life is being stolen away from him by the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. When his son buys him a robot butler, his annoyance with his new housemate gradually softens as he learns that the robot could make the perfect parter in crime.

After garnering an award — and quite a bit of positive buzz — at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Robot & Frank” has been building momentum on the festival circuit for its compelling story, its young director Jake Schreier, and its stellar cast, which includes Langella in the lead role, along with Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, and Liv Tyler.

IFC spoke with Langella about the film, which is set in a future not too far from the present day, and showcases the Oscar nominee’s formidable talents as a leading man.

“I couldn’t believe a script about an older man with Alzeihemers dealing with a robot would come my way,” said Langella of what first attracted him to the film. “It was a script that was minus the usual stuffy CEO, head of a corporation, or ‘college professor who doesn’t like the young man dating his daughter’ kind of stuff.”

And even though the robot does a fair share of scene-stealing in the film, it’s Langella’s portrayal of Frank, the former thief, that makes “Robot & Frank” so compelling. It’s a performance made even more impressive by the knowledge that Langella often found himself acting opposite, well… nothing at all.

“[The robot] was in my imagination all the time, so he changed,” he explained, indicating that there were many scenes in which the robot was added well after the scene was shot. “There were different voices at different times, and sometimes there was nobody there — he was sort of mocked-up because we didn’t have any room or it was too hot to put a person inside him. I fashioned a robot in my mind so I could really play opposite whatever sound I heard.”

In the film, Peter Sarsgaard provides the voice of the robot, who helps get Frank’s life back on track and help him find something he can get excited about — in this case, planning a heist with his new mechanical partner. While the robot is a reluctant participant at first, his prime directive to get Frank up and active again supersedes any qualms about the criminal nature of their activities.

But rather than slipping into the conventions of your standard buddy movie, the film takes some unique turns that, in the end, were some of the elements that Langella found most appealing about it.

“It didn’t [feel like a buddy movie],” he explained. “It felt like a movie about alienation and loneliness and sadness, and human beings trying to find each other.”

And possibly most interesting element of all is the darker, underlying theme in “Robot & Frank,” which connects Frank’s return to a more active, cognizant life with a return to his criminal habits.

“No one’s ever mentioned that, but I think it’s true,” he told IFC when asked about that unusual evolution for a character. “In the beginning of the film, he’s disheveled and disoriented and dirty, and there’s food all over his pajamas, and he’s living in a dirty house. And then the robot comes along and reenergizes him, and gives him some validation, gives him some reason. The fact that he decides as he’s coming back to himself to pick up his old habit — which is to be a second-story man — is what I think is so original about the film.

“It doesn’t turn into a sentimental buddy movie at all,” he added. “The guy doesn’t change. He says. ‘Oh, I can teach this robot to steal!'”

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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