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Letter: Alan Arkin obituary

Photograph: Photo 12/Alamy

Photograph: Photo 12/Alamy© Provided by The Guardian

Over lunch one day at Pinewood Studios in the mid-1970s – where he was playing Sigmund Freud in the all-star comedy-thriller The Seven-Per-Cent Solution – Alan Arkin told me, in that familiar nasal deadpan, he found acting “difficult. It makes me nervous and jumpy.” Directing instead was, for him, usually a “release”, especially in the theatre. However, he only ever directed two features, the first of which Little Murders (1971), was, for me, a neglected gem of violent urban decay.

The problem was that in this case, to make the jet black comedy more bankable, he was also required to take on the key role of a ranting New York cop. “Directing myself in the film? It was murder. I went to the producer with a list of 20 actors to play the part instead of me. I couldn’t learn the lines and had no idea how to play the part.

“The night before I started, I walked around the block very fast saying the lines and found the only way I could get them out was by stammering and having fits of not being able to speak. By Christ, I thought, that’s the way to play it!”

Story by Quentin Falk: The Guardian 

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