'Going in Style' Team Talks "Reimagining" of 1979 Film in Zach Braff-Directed Heist Comedy
The director and veteran actress Ann-Margret share what they hope audiences will take away from the new film with respect to the older generation.
New Line and Village Roadshow's Going in Style is a remake of the 1979 comedy of the same name that starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg as a bored trio of senior citizens who decide to rob a bank.
But those who know the Martin Brest-directed original shouldn't feel as though they've already seen the new version, directed by Zach Braff and starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin as the elderly criminals.
Caine said their version, scripted by Theodore Melfi, should be thought of as a "'reimagining," in which the characters have specific motivations for their crime that provide a bleak form of social commentary.
"We're given very, very sharp reminders of [the elderly characters'] social situation," Caine told The Hollywood Reporter at the Going in Style premiere in New York last week. "And they are stealing because they've lost their pensions — the firm's being taken overseas. I'm stealing because I've lost my mortgage. So we have a motivation other than crime. Also, we only stole the exact amount that we needed, and the rest of it we gave to charity."
Braff concurred that Melfi created his own version of the story.
"He didn't try to copy the Martin Brest movie," Braff told THR. "He kind of took it as an inspiration and made a 2017 version of what was so genius about Martin Brest's film, and I was blown away by it. So it's a testament to him that it all works so well."
But it was Braff who changed the gender of the main character's grandchild to create a role for his Wish I Was Here co-star Joey King.
"Originally [my character in] the story was a little boy; it was a grandson," King explained to THR. "But then Zach pitched to Warner Bros., 'Why don't we just create it as a granddaughter instead?' and make it me and I thought that was so cool of him. So to be able to reboot and do our own thing on the original was so fun."
Going in Style marks a rare directorial gig for Braff that's not a film that he's been involved with since its inception, writing and starring in — as he did with Garden State (2004) and Wish I Was Here (2014).
But Braff didn't seem to have any qualms about being asked to direct Melfi's script and jumped at what he saw as an unbelievable opportunity.
"Ted Melfi is just a fantastic writer and when this came to me, I said, 'This sounds too good to be true.' You know, a heist comedy with Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine," said the helmer.
Producer Donald De Line, meanwhile, was happy to finally have the chance to make a movie with Braff.
"I've been a fan of Zach's and I've known Zach since he did Garden State. And he was just kind of acting for a lot of years since then, and I was always chasing him, trying to get a movie done with him," De Line explained.
He also was impressed by how quickly Braff took on new challenges.
"This is very different, coming onto someone else's movie and a screenplay that already existed, and it had a lot of action — stuff that I had never seen Zach attempt as a filmmaker — and he was like a duck to water," De Line said. "He handled it so great. I mean, I knew he'd be great with performance, being an actor himself, and he knows how to talk to actors and how to come from character. But every aspect of it he handled wonderfully. He was very prepared. He had a whole stylistic idea in his head and visually wanted to create something that comes across onscreen."
While the film centers around elderly individuals, De Line said Braff's understanding of family and the human condition helped him connect to the material.
"I didn't know if he'd relate to it at all, because it is about an older generation and deals with themes of ageism and discrimination and things like that, but he really responded to it," said the producer. "Zach's a family guy, and I think to him growing up, parents, grandparents — it was something that was very important to him, and this film has a lot about family in whatever form it comes in and how those are the people you need to hang onto in life."
While Braff notes that the film features "some social commentary about how our seniors are treated in this day and age," he told THR that he hopes the pre-Easter release appeals to everyone.
"We wanted to make something that's fun for everybody," said Braff. "We wanted to make something that families could all go to together. Everyone's always looking for those things that will interest all ages, and we feel like it really is that. It's got heart. It's got action and some social commentary about how our seniors are treated in this day and age. I think people will laugh their butts off, and hopefully they'll be moved."
Another of the film's veteran stars, Ann-Margret, sees an inspirational message for older women in her role as Arkin's character's love interest.
"She's of a certain age and we all are. Life does not stop at a certain age," the actress told THR of her character. "She was divorced a long time ago, and there is this feeling that is coming from this man, as grumpy as he is and as weird as he is and she thinks, 'Why not?' And she goes after him."