Larry Hankin [Interview]


Today’s interview subject is a prime example of why I started this little site in the first place. I love to get to know people, even if it’s simply through a digital means. People who you think you might know on the surface because you have been watching them for so many years on the screen. But, when you actually find the means and ability to ask them a few questions, they become a far more fascinating presence than you could have ever imagined. That is Larry Hankin, Folks!

I have watched Larry in so many different projects over the years and have appreciated his work as an actor for the entire ride. Yet, as it turns out, his acting work is only a side story to his incredible, and even Academy Award nominated, work as a filmmaker and storyteller. This interview is one of those rare occurrences where I wish I could take back a few questions I asked via e-mail, and just do it in person, as I would love to hear even more amazing tales from Larry. But alas, this is what I have, and I still think it is pretty fucking great, and you are going to love the gifts that Larry has given us today! We learn some sad truths about beloved projects, some reiterations of some things we already knew but are wonderful to hear, and some delightful antidotes about the life of an artist as a whole. He is a sweet and genuine man with so much to give the world in so many different capacities, and we are extremely fortunate to have him on the site today!

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the absolutely brilliant story teller, actor, man of the world, the great Larry Hankin!




When did you first realize you wanted to join the world of performance? Was acting an early aspiration you had since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?


I graduated Syracuse University with a friend I met there: Carl Gottlieb (later to write Jaws as well as several other major movies).  We shared an apartment in Greenwich Village – he immediately got a job reviewing movies for local papers, and I got a job scrubbing duckboards behind a bar after closing to pay my part of the rent so I was broke most of the time: I graduated as an Industrial designerer just to please my parents but I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and chose to scrub duckboards at night rather than working in an office 9 to 5.  I was deciding what my Next Move would be by frequenting the coffee houses on open mike night to see a free show for a cup of coffee and watched everybody who was later to become big stars: folk singers and comedians. I was a funny guy in high school so I figured I’d try a couple of open mike nights and weirdly, I was opening for Woody Allen within 6 months. So, that’s how I got into show biz.


What was your very first paid gig as an actor? And do you remember any sort of lessons learned from that project that still impact your work to date?


I auditioned for Second City in New York City and was hired to be in a company that was booked into the Crystal Palace in St. Louis, Missouri for two months and we were held over for 9 more months.  Lesson learned: I worked well with others and I had talent as a professional funny guy in showbusiness.


Beyond the world of on-screen work, you have also written and directed several projects as well, even receiving and Oscar nod for one of your short films. So, what sparked this interest?


Though I was a ‘professional comic actor’ I’ve always thought of myself as a stand-up-comic story-teller and a filmmaker-wanna-be.  I use acting to pay rent, purchase necessities and make films because people hire me as an actor and pay me to remember their words –  which isn’t fun for me, but my rent and films were more important and, lo and behold: I was learning to be an actor, so there was this free benefit. Cool. But at heart I’ll always be a funny story teller.


In 1993, you became the unsuspecting winner of sorts in the classic film from my childhood, the wonderful Billy Madison. As far as personal memories, this is where I believe I saw you first! I still love the film, not only for nostalgic purposes. So with that, I am curious to know how you enjoyed working on this film? Was it as much fun to work on as it was for me to watch both as a 9 year old boy?


Fun? Not in any way shape or manner.  I was a hippie and had hair down to my shoulders. I was running low on cash and my film short was in storage till I got money to finish post. My best friend was directing Billy Madison, but he wouldn’t hire me for the job unless I cut my hair. I cut it. Post-Production takes precedence. Adam Sandler and I had different senses of humor.  I didn’t get him at all (in person-jokes, I mean: mostly deprecating humor and pranks).  Then he fired my friend, the director.  He probably wanted to fire me but he’d have to re-shoot all the scenes I was already in: too expensive.  Not so, the director. Adam and I didn’t click.  He does, however, know what he’s doing. Artistic and comedic differences.  C’est la vie.


Another terrific, yet very different, project that you worked on was the legendary series Breaking Bad. We have had quite a few folks from the show featured here on TWS, as it is an absolute classic. So, same sort of question. How was your experience working in the world of Vince Gilligan?


Total opposite. Vince Gilligan is an amazing writer-director-storyteller.  And, for me, among the best at all.  He cleared the way for everybody on the set to do their best work.  His writing is easy to learn and say and believe and get into.  His sets are focused and creative and helpful.  I had the best time as a paid, serious actor in front of his camera.  Mr. Gilligan is the real deal.



You have done so much amazing works in the world of film, television, the stage, and beyond. With that, I am curious to know what your favorite field to work in is? If you were destined to only work in one field for the rest of your career, which would you prefer?


Visual storyteller: Woody Allen, Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, Cantinflas, Fernandel, etc…. All clowns, all filmmakers, all writer-director-actor-producers – all had something new to say; then to create and control the narrative, the joke: the telling and the timing. Basically, a standup comedian showing the realities of his tale, fleshing out his stories on a screen and the challenge of entertaining a room full of homo sapiens.  When it happens, it’s amazing.


After a varied and absolutely stellar and decade spanning career, I am curious to know what you tend to look back on with the most pride? Not necessarily one project persay, but as a whole?


I come from a very anti-education, anti-art, upbringing.  Extemely reactionary. I look back on making a living doing and making stuff I love to do and make despite that background; to travel and meet people I never would have met any other way.


I look back on my own personal work on stage, my film shorts, standup routines, stories and fables. That journey, which I’m still on, that’s the coolest thing to me.  Who’da’ thought, back then, in high school, I’d be typing this to you?  Not me, or a million monkeys.


What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?


At the end of November, I’ve got a book of funny short stories, fables, political satire, and doggerel poems coming out called The Loopholes Dossier.  It’s how I look at the world through satire and comedy.  It’ll be on Amazon and Kindle and a lot of other outlets -It’s quirky and funny. You got to at least check it out.  Also I’m in this really big-time movie that’s coming out also at the end of November that I can’t discuss it’s so big (I had to sign a Non-Disclosure-Agreement – true). It’s gonna be big and released through Netflix, I believe.  It’s great.  I got a cool part.  You’re gonna want to see it. Right now, I’m in the middle making a series of “Homeless Rants” which I’ll be putting up Youtube along with the whole slew of shorts of mine that are already on there.


What was the last thing that made you smile?


A little 5-year-old girl trying to direct her mother’s eyes to exactly where the bird in the bird’s nest was that she’d discovered in the tree they were standing under.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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