Robert Altman’s freewheeling LA-set mystery “The Long Goodbye” arrived in 1973 like a cigarette in the eye of detective-story conventions. Based on Raymond Chandler’s pulp novel, the film also announced the leading-man status of the idiosyncratic Elliott Gould, who plays world-weary, boozy, chain-smoking gumshoe Philip Marlowe. Gould previously starred in Robert Altman’s 1970 Palme d’Or winner “MASH” and earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for 1969’s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.”
During a wide-ranging Q&A following a 35mm screening of “The Long Goodbye” at Los Angeles’ genre film festival Beyond Fest at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Gould discussed his many iconic collaborations — from Altman to Ingmar Bergman (1971’s “The Touch”) and Steven Soderbergh, for whom Gould starred in the “Ocean’s” films as well as “Contagion.”
While no formal sequel to “The Long Goodbye” has ever been announced, Gould thinks Soderbergh would make the ideal match for the material. “I left a text message, and I don’t text much because I am not terribly technologically inclined, for Steven Soderbergh, who’s done quite a bit of work with me, to say, ‘Let’s talk about the sequel to ‘The Long Goodbye,’ if you’re so inclined,” Gould said. No word yet on what Soderbergh had to say, but Gould isn’t ruling out a future collaboration.
Gould added that while working with Soderbergh on the set of “Ocean’s Eleven,” Soderbergh approached him and said, “The ink on your face — was that an improvisation?” Gould thought, “What the fuck are you talking about?” before realizing that Soderbergh was asking about the police interrogation scene in “The Long Goodbye” where Gould’s Marlowe smears ink all over his face. It was, indeed, an improvisation.
With regards to “The Long Goodbye,” Gould said that Robert Altman approached him while the New Hollywood maverick director was putting the finishing touches on his 1972 psychological horror film “Images.” Gould told Altman, “I always wanted to play this guy, and Altman said, ‘You are this guy,'” putting his faith in the actor even when United Artists felt Gould was “too new.”
Gould admitted that his “mind is ‘going’ pretty fast now,” but he also recalled an encounter with Alfred Hitchcock in 1977, three years before the master of suspense died in 1980. While the two never formally teamed up, Gould did meet Hitch in his dressing room, as the director was preparing to collect an award.
“Oh my god, Alfred Hitchcock. Let’s see,” Gould began. “I was doing a network primetime presentation on NBC called ‘The Photoplay Awards,’ and I was co-hosting with Angie Dickinson. After our rehearsals, management came up to me and said ‘Alfred Hitchcock has bad knees, and it’s difficult for him to move. Can he sit in your room?’ I came back to the room and there was Alfred Hitchcock with a minder, and I said ‘Are you going to make another film?'” Hitchcock leaned in close and said, ominously, “I’m toying with one now.” It’s too bad they never worked together, but they did end up having lunch in Hitchcock’s office at Universal.
After the Q&A, Gould said he was headed to have dinner with Norman Lloyd, the 104-year-old collaborator of Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock.