Rob Reiner dishes on ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ ‘Shock and Awe’

This might give America a moment of pause: “When Harry Met Sally” turns 30 years old next year. No one is more shocked than director Rob Reiner, who ups the surprise factor with a big reveal.

“In the original ending, I didn’t have them get together,” he said. “Then I met my wife, Michele, and had to change the ending. All of a sudden, I had a relationship I could see going farther — and next year we will be married 30 years, same as Harry and Sally.”

Where are they now?

“Oh, I think Harry and Sally are still together. They had kids. I don’t think it’s 100 percent happily ever after. One or the other had a little affair that they weathered, but a lot of pain was extracted,” he riffs. Wait, what? “Hey, I’m just making this stuff up as we go along.”

He didn’t have to make up any drama in his new, critically acclaimed film, “Shock and Awe,” in its opening weekend and available on DirecTV. The movie starring Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Jessica Biel and Reiner centers on a group of journalists covering the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The reporters are skeptical of the claim that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Reiner’s also developing a TV series about the Supreme Court.

Review-Journal: What defines a great Sunday for you?

Reiner: I like to not do much. I love to read or maybe I’ll do a crossword puzzle and then (go) out to lunch with the family. For dinner, my wife and I make something at home. There is such great stuff on TV these days that’s it’s hard to find the time to binge it all, but we try.

How did “Shock and Awe” become your current project?

I wanted to tell the story of how we got into Iraq in 2003. I was of draft age during the Vietnam War. I couldn’t believe with Iraq that we were going to war again based on lies. I felt like a parent whose kid is running into the street and you can’t save him from being hit by the truck. I wanted to tell that story and initially thought I’d do it as a satire, but I couldn’t get a script that I liked. Then I tried to do it as a dramatic film about the war. It wasn’t working. When I saw this documentary about four journalists who got it right, I knew I could break through with the story.

Another part of the film is a very personal story of a young soldier.

I saw a documentary about this young guy from a military family. He signed up and went to Afghanistan. Before he knew it, he was being sent to Iraq. Within a week, he was blown up and lost the use of his legs. There is a line in the film that’s really true. Tommy Lee Jones says, “When the government (expletive) up, the soldiers pay the price.”

Your film shows the power of the press.

It’s so important for the press to hold power accountable. When the government says something, you only have to ask one thing: Is it true? There was never any hard proof that there were weapons of mass destruction. These four journalists asked if it was true or not … and it wasn’t true. I find this message resonates with what’s going on now. The press is under attack. There are no alternative facts. There are just facts.

What is your take on our country being so divided?

We have been divided for a long, long time. It’s really scary. What hangs in the balance is democracy.

Are you hopeful about the future?

I’m very scared, but I also believe in this country and believe there are institutions that will hold. I also believe in the goodness of people and know that will emerge.

On a much lighter note, you’ve been in show business your entire life. Your travels must have included Vegas, yes?

I spent a lot of time in Vegas — from the time I was 16 and trying to sneak into casinos to play. I’ve seen so many great acts and performances on those Vegas stages. As for my favorite memory of Vegas, one time many years ago, a guy was sitting next to me at one of the tables. He won $10,000 and left. I said to the pit boss, “That’s great.” He said, “That money is going to cost him a lot of money.” I asked why. He replied, “Because now he thinks he can win.”

Let’s talk about some of your film classics. “The American President” starring Michael Douglas is on every single day. Favorite line?

I love when Michael J. Fox says, “People want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it, they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”

“Stand By Me” is on so many lists of the best movies ever made.

That movie means more to me than any other movie I’ve made. It was the first time in my creative career that I was doing something that was an extension of my personality by directing it. You had Stephen King, who is a brilliant writer with great characters, amazing stories and great dialogue. What’s really nice is when you make a movie with some lasting power like “Stand By Me” or “Princess Bride,” people come up to me and say, “I saw ‘Stand by Me’ at age 8 or 9 and now I shared it with my kids.’ There is no bigger compliment.

You starred as Michael “Meathead” Stivic on “All in the Family,” a groundbreaking show that’s still cable. Why does it still resonate in 2018?

We were divided then. We’re divided now. We always made fun of Archie who was a bigot and racist, but we never let him get away with it on the show. We called him out on it and made him look foolish. Now, we have real racism in our faces again and need to speak out.

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