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In Tower Heist, Alan Alda plays Arthur Shaw, the financial highflyer whose greedy scheme costs lots of little people their life savings a total contrast to Alda the man. Alda talks about the film as it is released in Australia on DVD.

Q: It's interesting to watch you play this character because your personal politics are different than those of Arthur Shaw. How do you separate your feelings from a character like that, in terms of how you might perceive him as opposed to how he might be in reality?
A: He seems to have real disdain for people lower down the social scale. He just thinks they're chess pieces to be manipulated.

Q: I think the Wall Street types lean on the conservative side in a majority of cases. His character doesn't seem like he cares about the little guy at all.
A: I think he cultivates them like a farmer with chickens.

Q: You play him with a certain charm and suaveness. He knows how to talk to people and make them feel good about themselves, when they're around him.
A: Yeah. Well, that's his farm. They're his animals. He's got to treat them well and let them not be scared when he takes them to slaughter. He's a little sociopathic, I think.

Q: You don't see it right away. He's usually very calm and never gets enraged.
A: We wanted to see how far we could go, even after he got arrested, to see if the audience would have any doubt that he didn't really do it. But finally, in the scene at the end with the wagon, he makes it clear how he feels about them because the jig is up for good then.

Q: What did you think of this script when you first read it? You've done a wide range of films and this is a big Hollywood blockbuster, but one which has a little bit of a social concern underneath.
A: The thing that I really liked about it was that it was funny, and I thought, "This is really nice to be in a funny movie that has a non-dumb basis of reality". It's not just total absurdity. There are people who do this to other people, and those people hurt, so the fun then is to see how they go about getting retribution when they have no ability to do that. They're terrible crooks. So that's funny.

Q: There are some comic moments that are very realistic too, like when the maid tries giving the drugged chocolate cake to the FBI agent who is allergic to chocolate.
A: Yeah, it is. But when they find out that they've been robbed, that's a terrific scene. The movie rests on that scene, when they're down in the basement and he tells them that Shaw has taken their money. They don't take it lightly. They really react the way people would who've lost everything. From then, you can believe that all the other craziness happens.

Q: It's chance that this film is coming out at the time of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Do you think that will bring more interest to the film and will it resonate with more people?
A: I don't know if people will find the movie more interesting because of it or if they'll even make the connection. The awful thing is you could have made this movie at any time and an accident like this would have had a fair chance of happening, some situation where people were treated unfairly.

Q: It does invoke the spirit of the Sixties. It's the first time since then where we're seeing this big grassroots movement. Does this take you back at all to that time period? Do you think we're seeing a return to the social activism we had in the Sixties?
A: I had thought lately of 1968, when people went into the street all over the world - Greece, Paris and the cities of America - and they weren't always saying the same things, but they were expressing themselves the same way. In a way, it went viral.

Published April 26, 2012

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Alan Alda

Tower Heist releases on DVD on April 25, 2012

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