Four grown men – four major, A-list movie stars – are arm-in-arm singing Kumbaya. Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline must be best friends.
Nope. It’s their hammed-up response to the reporter’s idea of a story about the importance of friendship later in life. “I don’t know nothing ’bout that,” jokes Freeman, 76, and the eldest of the bunch.
While these actors have known each other for decades and share the common experience of being showbiz superstars, they would not exactly call one another BFFs.It’s not that they don’t like one another. It’s just that Last Vegas, the new movie in which they play childhood chums, is the first time they’ve all worked together.
The magic of the movie rests in the camaraderie and chemistry of the men. Their characters were boyhood buddies but have had a falling out. Now, they’re reuniting for one last hurrah, a bachelor party in Vegas, as one of them is about to get married.
The friendship comes back, emerging slowly but surely. Have De Niro, 70, Douglas, 69, Freeman, 76, and Kline, 65, found friendships become more important the older you get? Silence.
“I think it’s hard to discuss friendship,” Freeman says. “You have friends. I have friends. But you move on.”
Douglas adds: “Once you start having a family and children you don’t see your friends as often.”
Freeman adds: “Or you get new friends.”
“You’ll find another couple,” Douglas says. “And you’ll say to your wife ‘I like them and . . .'”
“Your wife hates them,” Kline says. “Or she hates some of your oldest friends: ‘He’s just coming over for dinner . . .'”
“He had his hands on my butt,” Freeman adds, mimicking the “wife”.
Studies have shown friendships become “particularly relevant” later in life. “People yearn for this connection as they age,” says Irene Levine, New York University professor, psychiatrist and friendship expert.
After all, we live in a world where “friending” is a verb and your worth is boosted whenever someone “likes” you on Facebook.
“My best friends are all women,” says Freeman, who adds he has never pondered why that’s true. “Women have always stepped up for me. And I step up for them.”
Douglas, who has separated from wife Catherine Zeta-Jones after 12 years of marriage, though they are reported to be trying to reconcile, says: “I don’t have a lot of female friends. It’s always slightly awkward. I have some female friends who have given great advice. But I don’t hang out with girl friends. Most cases, it doesn’t go over well.”
Kline says he has “a best friend who’s a woman”.
They all acknowledge it can be hard to find trustworthy friends, especially in show business. And they aren’t sure when they’ll ever see one another again.
“We may not talk again after the premiere (of Last Vegas) for years,” Freeman says. “It’s not like I’m going to call up Michael, Robert or Kevin and say ‘Hey, just checking to see how you’re doing?’ They’ll say ‘Hey, I’m busy’.”
It’s not a big deal. “After this, each time we see each other we’ll smile. It’ll bring back good memories, good times,” Douglas says.
Childhood friends, such as the characters in Last Vegas, are the ones who really know you best. “Those friendships are irreplaceable,” Levine says. “The childhood friends knew our parents, knew where we grew up and knew our first girlfriends. They are markers for their lives.”
So, who are your friends in real life when you’re rich and famous?
“I’ve got college friends,” says Douglas, an alumnus of the University of California-Santa Barbara.
“One of my best friends from junior high visited the (Last Vegas) set,” Kline says.
De Niro pipes up: “I have best friends but, like Michael says, when you have a family, you get busy with kids and this and that, so it’s a little more difficult to keep in touch. But your very dear friends, which I have very few of, we manage to get together when we can and do. We can talk about things you can’t talk about with other people.”
“I remember my father, the best thing he ever said to me was ‘If you can count your best friends on one hand, you’re lucky’,” says Douglas, referring to his famous dad, Kirk Douglas, 96.
Freeman says: “There’s only so much of you to go around.”
Sitting with the four stars means a sentence is rarely finished by any one of them. They joke and egg one another on. They’re amiable but guarded.
“By and large, male friendships are said to be side by side, where women are face to face,” Levine says. “For men, that means parallel play. They do things together. Go to games, sporting events.
“The other thing that strikes me with these men is they are still actively involved with their careers. These are high-achieving men and for them it’s sometimes hard to let down and relate to friends.”
One scene they all remember well revolved around a pool party. It was their favourite day on the set. It’s easy to see why. They sat by a Vegas pool rating young scantily clad women who danced by as drinks were served and music blared in a contest.
Guys getting together for a “last” bachelor blowout in Vegas has the ring of another successful movie, The Hangover. Last Vegas is already being described as “The Hangover meets The Bucket List”.
Freeman, who starred in The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson, disagrees. “I don’t think this has anything to do with hangovers.”
But Douglas recalls that the film was pitched that way to him. “I think somebody said ‘Let’s make a Hangover’. I think what I never anticipated was the heart, the soul of the film – the thing about them being friends earlier in life really kind of paid off, and that seems to be what the audience is latching on to.”
For Kline, it didn’t resemble The Hangover as much as it did one of the biggest films of his career. “It reminds me of The Big Chill. We thought no one would see it,” he says of the 1983 film that became a classic.
“Then we thought it would be something only for baby boomers.” But it became a bigger hit. “That movie was about friendship, too. That’s a universal thing.”
By the way, there’s no tiger in Last Vegas, as in The Hangover. Kline says: “Didn’t need it.”