Live Read At LACMA: The Cast Of 'The League' Does 'Diner'
Levinson's dramedy about a group of guys struggling with burgeoning adulthood in 1959 Baltimore helped launch the careers of some of today's more recognizable actors. If you haven't seen the original film—which, surprisingly, a lot of people in the audience had not, when asked by Reitman—the cast includes Kevin Bacon, Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin and Paul Reiser.
The plot revolves around the friends coming together for the holidays, a wedding and their shared love of the Baltimore Colts (before they moved to Indianapolis). As per his modus operandi, Reitman slowly reveals the cast on Twitter the week of the Live Read. This time around, he couldn't have picked a more perfect group to embody a group of friends who like to talk about random things and then football: the cast of FX Network's The League (all except Jon Lajoie, who plays Taco).
Stepping into the Diner roles were: Nick Kroll (as Fenwick, originally played by Bacon); Jason Mantzoukas (Modell, originally played by Reiser); Paul Scheer (as Shrevie, Stern's character); Mark Duplass taking on Rourke's original Boogie; Steve Rannazzisi as Guttenberg's Eddie; Katie Aselton (as Beth, originally played by Barkin); Nadine Velazquez (as Barbara, originally played by Kathryn Dowling) and Rob Huebel as Billy, taking on Daly's character.
Unlike other Live Read events, when Reitman brought together some performers who’d never even met before, this cast was comfortable with the reading from the start—knowing each other’s comedic timings, beats and dramatic pauses from the get-go. The actors brought life to the classic script, and of course, emphasized its more comedic moments to the audience’s delight (especially Mantzoukas, who plays scene-stealer Rafi on The League).
Though there's no rehearsals for these Live Reads—which can be both challenging and dangerous simultaneously—Reitman had to do extra prep in addition to casting roles. Since Levinson encouraged improvisation on the film shoot to foster camaraderie, the original script at times doesn't correspond to what appears on the screen. In fact, Reitman had to type out Diner's famous improvised roast beef scene, which proved to be one of the night's highlights. That, along with the reading of the infamous popcorn scene, earned the most laughs (of course).
While the night was light-hearted, Reitman started things off on a more serious note, acknowledging the late director Mike Nichols and his extensive body of work. Reitman took time to note the director's staggeringly good first four feature films: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge. "Tonight is for Mike Nichols," he said. And The League cast lived up to the evening's dedication.
The last Live Read installment of the year is The Empire Strikes Back on Dec. 18 at 7:30 pm. Tickets ($25) go on sale on Dec. 2 for Film Independent, LACMA Film Club and The New York Times Film Club members. Tickets ($35) for LACMA members, students with valid ID, and seniors (62+) and $50 for the general public go on sale on Dec. 4.