Michael Douglas Says His In-Laws Co-Star Albert Brooks Is a Master of Comic Timing

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As maligned family members go, in-laws are second only to wicked stepmothers in the onscreen villainy department. Potential grooms are often nerve-wracked by the fathers of their wives-to-be, as in My Big Fat Greek Wedding or Meet the Parents. But in The In-Laws, it’s the dads of the happy couple who face off. 

In Andrew Fleming’s 2003 remake of the 1979 Arthur Hiller classic, Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks take the title roles. But since each man had a different area of expertise, their approaches were different.

Known almost exclusively for his comedy work (Broadcast News, Lost in America), Brooks was methodical and calculated with his part. In an interview,
Douglas described Brooks’ approach: “Albert is so distinct, so precise
in his timing. He’s a master at finding the right inflection or
expression that makes the difference between getting a smile or a
laugh.” Brooks concurred,
saying “I guess I use the Fred Astaire analogy. Because everyone said
he was just doing it, but God knows, he must have rehearsed. How could
he just do that? …I spend time to
make it comfortable for myself so it could look like it’s just
happening.”

Since Douglas had worked mostly in dramas, with the exception of the lighthearted Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, and the darkly funny The War of the Roses,
he had a different take on the process, which he described as
“(w)hatever hits the wall…whatever I bounce around.” Douglas was also
initially stymied by the lack of an audience — and a response to what
he was doing. “I’ve done some plays in the past,” he said, “and when
you say ‘da da da da,’ there’s a corresponding ‘ha ha ha’ from the
audience and you move forward. Here, you say ‘da da da da’ and there’s
dead silence. It takes some getting used to.”

See how they carried it off. For a complete schedule of The In-Laws on AMC, click here.

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