‘All in the Family’: Rob Reiner Said Time Spent Acting on Show Laid Groundwork for His Directing Style

by Joe Rutland

Rob Reiner wasn’t spending all his time on “All in the Family” studying his lines. He watched how characters played a role in its success.

His work behind the camera, as well as in front, helped Reiner, who played Michael Stivic on “All in the Family,” earn the Chaplain Award in 2014.

Reiner also has directed movies like “This Is Spinal Tap,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Princess Bride,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Film Linc interviewed Reiner ahead of the Chaplin Award ceremony. One of the areas which the interview touches upon is Reiner’s approach to directing and how it relates to his acting career.

‘All in the Family’ Actor Picks Character-Driven Pieces To Direct

“Without question. I approach everything from that (point of view) when I put a movie together,” Reiner said. “Most of the movies I do are character-driven pieces and so I know actors are going to inhabit those characters and I make sure there’s something they can (inhabit).”

On “All in the Family,” there seemed to be a sense of ownership between actors and their characters. Carroll O’Connor embodied Archie Bunker in front of the camera. The same goes for Jean Stapleton as Edith, Reiner as Stivic, and Sally Struthers as Gloria.

Reiner said that he’d never ask an actor to do something he couldn’t do himself. “Not that I’m the best actor in the world,” he said. “But if I can do it, then I know that anyone I hire can do these things.”

Reiner Points Out Number Of Directors Who Also Were Performers

He clearly points out that the performances in his movies “are critical.” Reiner also said that “if you look at some of the great filmmakers of all time,” then they started out as performers.

In the interview, Reiner mentions Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Francois Truffaut, and Mike Nichols by name.

Through being a performer, Reiner learned the nuances actors must go through in front of the camera. He developed an understanding of that which he carried into being a director. That was learned while being on the set of “All in the Family” for a number of seasons.

Now Reiner also had a show business bloodline with his father, actor-director Carl Reiner, and mother, actress Estelle Reiner. His mom, before her death in 2008, had a memorable cameo in “When Harry Met Sally.” After Meg Ryan loudly fakes having an orgasm, the camera cuts to an older woman looking to place an order in the restaurant where the scene happens.

Estelle Reiner looks up to the waiter and says, “I’ll have what she’s having.”