Being a successful actor on one of America’s favorite TV shows of the 1970s, All in the Family, didn’t mean Rob Reiner believed in himself.
In fact, playing the role of Mike Stivic only added stress and self-doubt to the mind of Rob Reiner. Being “Meathead” on All in the Family thrusted him into fame, but it didn’t mean that he still didn’t have mental battles.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune back in August of 1986, Reiner discussed everything from the beloved TV show to Stand By Me. The latter was an instant classic, that blended suspense, nostalgia and joy all in one go.
But before the success of Stand By Me, Reiner had to experience and internalize everything All in the Family caused.
‘The second year was great fun,” Reiner said. “Because we all tasted the joy of success. We were on the covers of every magazine, and it looked like we were going to be making lots of money.
”But the third year, at least for me, that’s when panic set in. I felt trapped. Here I was playing a character who was not like me–I mean I was even more liberal than he was–and I felt as though I might not ever be able to shake the image.”
It’s a classic problem that stars of television have. Considering who Rob Reiner’s father was and the effort he put into his career, being typecasted wasn’t ideal.
”That`s when you start to think about whether you should simply play the same sort of role forever,” Reiner said. “And cash the checks, or whether you should get out while you can.”
Rob Reiner Gets Back on His Feet Thanks to All in the Family Legend
The decision between cashing out or continuing his career as an artist had to be made. Rather than starring in an All in the Family spin-off show, he looked to make movies.
That began with This is Spinal Tap!, the cult classic spoof documentary about a metal band. Reiner essentially began pouring everything he could into making the movie, but that also meant sacrificing a lot.
“Those were tough years, personally and professionally, waiting for that film to get made,” Reiner said. “My marriage had broken up, I was all alone and all of my old self-doubts had come back.”
Self-doubt plagued Reiner. But one man was able to send his passion project across the finish line: All in the Family creator Norman Lear.
”Oddly enough,” Reiner said, ”After (costars) Chris Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and I had put some of our own money into making a demo reel of the film, the man who gave the final go-ahead on the project turned out to be Norman Lear (who had just bought the film company that had an option on Spinal Tap).”
It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Norman Lear put faith in Reiner. It also makes sense that he spotted a diamond in the rough, as he had done so many times before.
Lear went on to fund Reiner’s next two movies, The Sure Thing and Stand By Me. Ever since, Reiner has solidified himself as a member of entertainment royalty.