Rob Reiner Honored by Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and More at Chaplin Gala

10:51 PM PST 04/28/2014 by Hilary Lewis
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Rob Reiner

The legendary director was toasted by his famous friends and colleagues at Lincoln Center, and talked to THR about whether the mid-range dramas he's known for would get made today and what other mediums he's developing content for.

Rob Reiner's famous friends, colleagues and co-stars toasted the director of such classics as This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride, Stand By Me and A Few Good Men at Lincoln Center on Monday night.

Reiner was the 41st recipient of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Chaplin Award, named for its first recipient, Charlie Chaplin.

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Billy Crystal, Michael Douglas, Martin Scorsese, James Caan and others paid tribute to the legendary director and actor, sharing the stories behind some of their best-known collaborations in between clips of Reiner's best-known films and exclusive peeks of the upcoming documentary The Case Against 8, about the effort to overturn California's Proposition 8, which Reiner was involved with, and his upcoming film And So It Goes.

Crystal was joined onstage by surprise guest Meg Ryan, and the two reminisced about making When Harry Met Sally and where Harry and Sally would be now.

Ryan and Crystal agreed that Harry would still be a political consultant, working for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, which led Crystal to joke that Harry walked into his office one day and said, "I just stepped in the biggest pile of horseshit. Can you do something about this?"

The allusion to de Blasio's controversial effort to get rid of the horse-drawn carriages in Central Park led to loud laughter from the well-heeled Lincoln Center crowd.

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During their time on stage, Crystal and Ryan recalled shooting the movie's infamous fake-orgasm scene. After multiple takes, Ryan was still struggling to get it right, so Reiner sat down opposite Crystal and demonstrated what she should be doing, ferociously pounding the table, the two recalled, with Crystal joking that it made him a little excited.

Earlier, Crystal told The Hollywood Reporter that many of the other scenes between Harry and Sally in that film were also based on things he and Reiner did, like calling each other up in the middle of the night and telling the other one to watch a movie on a certain TV channel, which is in the movie when Harry and Sally watch Casablanca together.

"That was so personal to us, because many of the things that Harry and Sally did in the movie, Rob and I did as friends, which we just talked about and Nora [Ephron] was able to work into the script," Crystal told THR. "That bonding was very much Rob and I."

Crystal wouldn't take questions about his beloved NBA team the Los Angeles Clippers, but the man who was Jay Leno's first and last guest on the Leno-hosted Tonight Show did share his thoughts about Leno's replacement, Jimmy Fallon.

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"Jimmy's just been wonderfully entertaining," Crystal told THR. "I'm so happy for him. We've known each other a long time, and his energy and his commitment to making that late-night hour different is fantastic to watch."

The comedian also fondly recalled the experience of working on Reiner's feature film directorial debut, This is Spinal Tap, in which he only has a small role, but said he was impressed by how Reiner helmed the project.

"I remember the adventuresome nature of Spinal Tap and how dangerous it felt to do a movie without a script, just an outline," Crystal said. "Just to watch him conduct himself on his first film that way in some dangerous waters for a first-time director to navigate with no script, with an outline and brilliant people with a story to tell, was quite extraordinary."

Indeed, there was no script for Spinal Tap, as star Michael McKean reminded the Lincoln Center crowd during his remarks about Reiner and the film. But this wasn't an oversight.

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"We wanted to improvise the film to achieve the verisimilitude of the documentary form that we were parodying, to capture the milieu, the ambiance, the Sturm und Drang, as Rob kept saying, of a mediocre rock and roll band with the wheels coming off," McKean explained, noting that part of the preparation for the film involved "calling a bunch of our funny friends and telling them the good news that they didn't have to learn any lines this time."

Video messages from Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Mandy Patinkin and Reiner's legendary father, Carl, also popped up in between clips of Reiner's films.

Scorsese presented Reiner with the Chaplin Award, leading Reiner to begin his remarks by reminiscing about his recent acting role in The Wolf of Wall Street.

"He said, you're going to play Leonardo DiCaprio's father," Reiner said of Scorsese explaining his part. "I thought, 'Which is more unbelievable? That Leonardo DiCaprio is a Jew? Or that I'm his father? Maybe I'm a little better looking than I think I am.'"

Reiner said he was delighted to have the opportunity to say the f-word in a Scorsese film but admitted he was disappointed that there were no naked women in his scenes.

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Earlier Reiner suggested to THR that like Wolf, the mid-range dramas he's known for making would likely have to get outside financing to be made now.

"There's not one movie that I've made that could get made today in a studio," Reiner said. "Studios are not interested in character-driven pieces at all. They just make big tentpole pictures, or they make raunchy comedies that are R-rated, or they make animated films. Those are the three types. Even a picture like A Few Good Men could never get made now…they're not interested in doing a courtroom drama."

Reiner noted that pursuing outside financing, like The Wolf of Wall Street did with Red Granite, is one way to get such movies made, but he's also among many film veterans who've been lured to the new golden age of television.

Reiner, who first came to prominence on All in the Family, told THR that he's working on projects for TV now, including one that he submitted to Netflix on Friday.

Inside Lincoln Center, Reiner admitted that it was awkward to accept the award, joking that he thought there was a typo when he saw his name on the list of illustrious honorees, but he was thankful for the honor. He closed by pointing out that the fact that he could celebrate the award with his family -- his wife and their three kids, all of whom were there -- was the best part of the evening.

"The fact that you're here: That means everything," Reiner said, addressing his family. "You know, we love to make movies, but ultimately [family] is more important, and I learned that, along with other things that [my wife] Michele has taught me about how to be a real person."

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