The comedy film “Last Vegas” (directed by Job Turteltaub) tells the story of four longtime best friends — Billy (played by Michael Douglas), Paddy (played by Robert De Niro), Archie (played by Morgan Freeman) and Sam (played by Kevin Kline) — who decide to escape retirement and throw the ultimate Las Vegas bachelor party for Billy, the last unmarried member of their group. While in Vegas, the group meets a sassy lounge singer named Diana (played by Mary Steenburgen), who ends up triggering an old rivalry between two of the friends.
“Last Vegas” is a rare movie in which all of the lead actors (Douglas, De Niro, Freeman, Kline and Steenbergen) are Oscar winners. The film is also a celebration of Las Vegas and an unofficial commercial for the Aria Resort and Casino, where much of “Last Vegas” was filmed. Here is what Douglas, De Niro, Freeman, Kline and Steenbergen said in interviews at the Las Vegas press junket for “Last Vegas” the day after the movie had its world premiere in Vegas.
Interview with Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline
Can you give a brief description of your “Last Vegas” characters?
Douglas: Billy has never been married in his life. Don’t ask me why. After the death of his law partner at the funeral, he finds it a good moment to ask his girlfriend, who is one-third his age, to get married.
His best buddies — he comes from Flatbush [in New York] — these gentlemen, he gives them a call, tells them he’s getting married, and they meet in Las Vegas. We [Billy and Paddy] have a couple of issues that are unresolved. But otherwise, we have a hell of a good time.
Freeman: Archie is a retired policeman. He’s had a mild stroke. He has sort of an over-leaning son. He’s over-protective. He restricts his activities.
So when Billy calls and says he’s getting married, he has to use subterfuge to get out of the house. And he wins quite a lot of money in Vegas, so he’s the financier of the big party.
De Niro: I’m Paddy. We’re old friends from Flatbush. The Flatbush Four. As Michael says, we have a couple of unresolved issues over women and stuff in the past — not to give it away. We resolve it when we’re there, more or less.
I’m grieving because my wife just died, and they trick me into going to Vegas. I’m mad at [Billy], Michael’s character, so I don’t really want to run into him. I see him at the airport, and we go anyway. We meet Mary Steenburgen’s character, and she says we should stay.
So I stay, and I tell [Billy], “I’m not going to ruin my time here because I know my wife would want me to stay here. Now I’m going to party!” And so we go on to his bachelor party that we create and so on and so forth.
Kline: I play Sam, who is retired and living in a retirement community in Florida. And it’s pretty clear from the get-go that he’s retired prematurely and is bored. His wife of 40 years, when the opportunity arises to see his old, dear friends, she encourages him to go.
And not only that, she encourages him to try to find his spark and sort of gives him a “hall pass.” It doesn’t happen in life, but it does happen in movies. And hilarity ensues. He’s sort of crazy and looking for fun, but he learns some things about himself, and things happen to him.
Douglas: Would you call him a dork?
Kline: He’s dorky, he’s funny, he’s a little goofy, he’s a little lost. But he grows up, and it’s about time, I think. All of four of the characters come away at the end, having come into some reckoning with reality and with who they really are and how important their friendship is.
Can you talk about the friendship bond these guys have and why Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for this movie?
Douglas: The bond they have is their 59-year friendship. You always trust your oldest friends. And Las Vegas, in terms of its image that “anything goes,” seems like an open arena to allow people to express themselves.
What did the “Last Vegas” ensemble mean to you?
Freeman: For me, it’s an opportunity to work with actors I’ve venerated for many years, whose work I actually enjoyed. It’s like, “Oh boy, I actually get to dance with these guys.”
Speaking of dancing, Morgan, you got to hit the dance floor in a memorable scene in “Last Vegas.” What was that like?
Freeman: That was great. The trouble with shooting dance scenes or fight scenes or any action scene is that you don’t get to do it once. You have to keep doing it.
Douglas: Different angles.
What are your three best words to describe Las Vegas?
Freeman: The word that everyone sort of skirts around is “debauchery.”
Douglas: Everybody knows about Las Vegas. It’s a state of mind. Some people want to come with their kids and have a great weekend. Some people want to shop.
Some people want to find hookers. Some people want to eat. Some people just want to gamble. It’s a potpourri of decadence. That’s three words: “potpourri of decadence.”
What kind of director is “Last Vegas” director Jon Turteltaub?
De Niro: He’s very good. He’s got a good sense of humor. He’s a lot of fun. He orchestrated the whole thing.
Douglas: He’s very bright. He’s got a self-deprecating sense of humor, which makes you want to help him — even though he doesn’t need any help — but he puts you on his side. And he’s got some very good comedic ideas. He’s got a good comedic sense.
Kline: And you trust him.
Freeman: And he can take a punch.
Kline: He’s funny and collaborative. He’s not interested in dictating what to do but seeing what the actor wants to do.
What can audiences expect to take from seeing “Last Vegas”?
Kline: Laughter and tears, fun, entertainment and heartwarming, good old American warmth.
Interview With Mary Steenbergen
Can you briefly describe your “Last Vegas” character?
Steenburgen: I play Diana Boyle, a woman who was a tax attorney, and she had a daughter and a lousy husband who took off, so she raised her daughter on her own. And at the moment in her life when she had an empty nest, and she was able to, she looked in the mirror and said, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” And she was brave and became a singer, because that’s what she always wanted to do. So she became a lounge singer in Vegas.
What were your most memorable moments of filming “Last Vegas?”
Steenburgen: I think every moment on set was pretty memorable because I was acting with people I’d always dreamt about acting with, and it was such an honor and a thrill. I loved every second of it.
What are your favorite memories of Vegas overall?
Steenburgen: I actually hadn’t spent much time in Vegas before [making] this movie. And it would be hard for me to come here again without my four guys being here, because I associate them with being in Vegas. But I’ve had such an amazing time here. The city has kind of opened its arms to us. Even though I’m somebody who doesn’t really love crowds, I’ve been amazed at what a great time I’ve had here.
What was it like working with “Last Vegas” director Jon Turteltaub?
Steenburgen: Jon Turteltaub is part wise old soul and part 9-year-old boy. And those two parts together make a great director. You need a little of each to be a great director.
And he just was the perfect person for this material and for this group of people. He took such delight in us and was so open to our ideas — and yet he always knew when to say no. He’s a great pal. I feel like I made a great friend in him.
How would you describe working with Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline?
Steenburgen: When I walked in the room on the very first day, on the very first read-through, they were all legends to me. And about 30 seconds into it, they were my buddies that I was hopefully going to get to make movie magic with for the next six weeks or so. I just couldn’t believe how real or funny or smart and humble and fantastic they all are.
What can audiences expect to take away from seeing “Last Vegas”?
Steenburgen: Having now watched it with a big audience, what’s extraordinary about the film is that it’s very funny. There are lots and lots of big laughs.
And there is also a huge heart to it that I think catches people by surprise, because it really talks about the things that most films don’t want to go near or mention, which is that if we’re lucky, day by day, we’re getting older. It talks about that in a very funny way, but it also talks about it in a way that’s very profound and tender and moving. It’s just one of those amazing films that makes you feel a little of everything.
For more info: "Last Vegas" website