DATE : 8TH OF NOVEMBER 2020
Hey, there The Movie Culture Readers. We are back with an exciting new Interview and an exciting guest. Keeping in mind the Friends Reunion is taking place we reached out to Mr. Larry Hankin and he agreed to have a chat about his career and his famous turn as Mr. Heckles in Friends.
Factual information about Larry Hankin is that, Hankin is an American character actor, performer, director, comedian and producer. He is known for his major film roles as Charley Butts in Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Ace in Running Scared (1986), and Carl Alphonse in Billy Madison (1995).
He had smaller roles as Doobie in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Sergeant Balzak in Home Alone, Mr. Heckles in Friends, and Joe in Breaking Bad. Following is the Interview we were so blessed to have conducted with Mr. Larry Hankin.
Greetings Mr. Hankin, we at The Movie Culture are thrilled to have you. We certainly hope that during times like these you and your family are doing well.
Q. To start this interview we have to ask you we to ask you about you Decade running career and what’s the secret behind it that’s keeping you at it?
Larry Hankin: I don’t want to die stupid. I’ve never wanted to die stupid. Show Business seemed to be the easiest way for me to get paid money for doing something I was really interested in learning about, seemed useful, I could do it good enough, it made making friends easier, and it was my prominent focus out of nowhere. I just wanted to be part of what they were doing that I was watching. Performing attracted me as a cool, fun, easy way to pay my rent. The easiest – for me – because I connected to it totally. There was definitely a connection from the beginning because, “No Response” or “Boos” didn’t deter me – I interpreted it as a semi-hemi-demi-teachable moment – in the beginning, it somehow just made me think, “I bet I can do it better next time if I work on it.”
What I was literally doing is holding out my own carrot on my own stick ten feet in front of myself. And I started noticing that if I just worked on it, it actually got a bit better response or a less negative response and no boos at all from the audiences. It kept me focused and interested and it seems to work. So, that’s what I just keep on doing. An old guy once told me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
My parents hated that I opted for showbusiness. They wanted a Doctor or a lawyer. Since I. didn’t know what I wanted to do, I agreed to go to Syracuse University and major in Industrial Design. My parents were proud.
As soon as I got my degree I got an offer of a high paying job designing futuristic cars for General Motors. I turned it down and went straight from Syracuse to Greenwich Village in New York City and became a stand-up comedian. I starved, but was in Show Business and I was hooked.
My parents tried to talk me out of it. Wow, did they. They wanted something else – somebody else – so there were some hard choices I had to make. Luckily, my Desire made the Hard Choices a lot Easier. I was making a living, i.e: my rent and starving – but I was surviving on my own in Show business. The Secret Sauce was – is still, I liked doing stand-up more than all the Boos, Don’ts, and Missed Meals. The Secret Sauce was, I was hooked on a cool train ride if I could just hold on for a little longer.
See, I’m also a Dyslexic. So, my interest in storytelling and performance actually was helping counter-act the imbalance. They still keep me focused. I look at myself as mainly a stand-up storyteller that’s able to also play parts in movies and on TV.
At heart and mind, I’m a stand-up storyteller. That’s all. Anything else, for me really is extra. A gift.
Q. You have been working in the industry for a long as stated, is there a Change from back when you started to now, aka the world of internet?
Larry Hankin: Yes and no. It’s changed its way of getting to its customers and fans and audience, but it hasn’t changed the craft of storytelling or entertainment in general. It’s just the delivery systems take you out of your comfort zone to learn a new way of Access. But once you get the hang of digital Hollywood Pandemic-Style- the business is still the same – just a lot more competition on All Levels. Acting, Producing, writing, etc….
But imagination, curiosity wonder, craft and humans are the same. For now, anyway. So at least there’s that.
As a teenager, I used to tell scary stories to campers in front of a bonfire out in the woods for two summer, and they got just as scared as a good 3D Vampire movie could get them. We’re story-oriented mammals. Our ancestors went to The Spring Solstice Fest at Stone Henge just like our grandparents went a “Beatles Concert” in Shea Stadium: stories & entertainments remain the same. And I’ve always wanted to be involved in just those two things.
Learning to adapt to the digital world and the new/audition/business system plus the Corona Virus all at the same time is a bit wearisome. Because of my dyslexia, I’m a slow learner of linear information (ideas? I’m there). But in Hollywood it’s them right not for everyone, Extras, Stars, Character Actors, Directors, Writers. People and scripts from all over the planet Earth come to be stars not extras but access is the big hurdle for everyone. Now. I kind of have taken a step back. I just do my painting and writing and stay out of trouble around now and throw in my two cents in now and again until my next idea is ready to walk by itself.
Adapt or not, Hollywood still needs writers, creators, tech magicians, translators, actors, and directors (even digital actors need directors). However, Access in The Entertainment Business has always been difficult for everyone forever. That’s still the same. What’s also the same is, Desire, Doing it, Believing in Yourself (Tenacity), Doing it, Timing, Who You Know, and Luck. The Modern Age has just digitized and expanded The Process. Unfortunately, at the expense of Access. Some people figure it out, and some people chase money and stardom.
Q. You recently starred in Barry, as Stovka and when you showed up, we couldn’t have been more Happy and at the same time laughed so hard. What was that like and how was Bill Hader to work with?
Larry Hankin: It happened real fast. I just got a call at my home and they asked me to do it and could I do a Russian accent. I said yes even tho’ I didn’t really know if I could do a real Russian accent. Then they asked if I would mind if there was a Russian coach present on set, and I said I wouldn’t mind, in fact that would be great. I really wanted to work with Bill Hader who, I think he is a fine actor, writer, director, and smart funny guy, and to have someone help with the accent would ease my nerves.
So, I got the part. But when I got there, I couldn’t find The Russian Coach and nobody knew who it was, and suddenly Bill was ready to shoot my scene. The Coach was nowhere. Too late. So, not wanting to seem like an amateur and say something, I decided, I’ll make up my basic, Second City, The Committee, Impov, All-Purpose Russian Accent. Bill calls “Action!” Bill Hader, my director-hero never said a word to me as an actor on camera the whole shoot.
Afterwards, I was introduced to the Russian Coach, who’d watched the scene and she said my accent was fine. Where was she when I needed her? Because the shoot all I thought about was, “Is my accent okay?”, “Is Russian accent good enough?” Bill never gave me any direction and it was freaking me out, so afterwards I asked him why. He said, his partner and he hadn’t written the part the way I was playing Stovka at all, and didn’t know where I was going with it, but he said his writing partner (who was on the set that day), and he thought it was working really great so he didn’t want to butt-in on my “process” and left me alone. But my “process” was simply worrying about my accent. I thought that was a pretty cool move on both their parts, whatever. Working with Bill is easy and cool and you want to do your best. He really knows what he’s doing as an actor-writer-director.
Q. Seinfeld, Friends, Breaking Bad. 3 major network shows with long running seasons as legacy and you are part of all three. How does it feel to have that achievement?
Larry Hankin: It’s nice. But that’s not how I think about legacies & achievements as an actor.
It’s certainly a nice step in a process and journey I’m on, but it was never a goal or desire to be in three hit sitcoms – or even one. What it feels like is what it feels like doing other sitcoms that are not legacies & achievements. In the sitcom and movie world I’m not an architect. I’m a carpenter. A mason. A craftsman. There is a story to be told. It’s not my story. It’s my character’s story and all the other people who are involved in telling that story in an interesting and involving way. To me, it’s the luck of the draw. You get a job, you do your job as well as you can. I like the craft of acting. It’s like playing any musical instrument. There’s a huge, psychological freedom in doing it – acting, performing. It’s a craft that makes great use of imagination, among other things. I do it the best a can.
To me “achievements” are steps you plan, and go for, and achieve. And achievements aren’t goals. They’re steps on the way. But with those three (as with all the other sit-coms I’ve done), to me it’s, “I did a good audition, I did a good job, and years later I lucked out on that one. Or not.” The legacy/achievement part comes years later through and by other people, and I had not much to do with that part; and when it did happen, I was into a whole other life. I never put the “big 3” together; I like to think in terms of “bodies of work”. Those three are a slice of mine.
What you’re asking about is something I never planned or paid attention to – that’s not what acting is to me. Acting for me is, One: a necessity; and two: a process. A craft. A topless sky of ways to fly. So, the simple answer is: It’s nice. I was lucky.
If you do as many different sitcoms as I’ve done, you’re going to hit something that goes big. Luck of the draw. Nice. It certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s not my focus, but it’s a nice thought.
Q. Breaking Bad is living a different life through Better Call Saul and El Camino, latter of which you also appeared in. Do you wish to be working more in that Universe?
Larry Hankin: Maybe. If it really had something to say, or I did, or I needed food or rent money, but, again, that’s not what attracts my interest or how I make decisions about what I do next. Lately, I’m really interested in working on my own films and monologues. I’m starting a podcast soon, to get into that mix and see if I can go somewhere with it to it or on it. And I’m sure I’ll make some discoveries. New ways to do the same old stuff.
Cool. Nothing wrong with old stuff as long as it’s new.
Sometimes something just draws me in. A Hook. A word, a face, a loophole, The Thing That Grabs Me. Could even be I have to pay the rent mortgage. But
Something has to connect me with or to the story and the character that makes me want to be a part of it. . A good reason to leave my comfort zone because my interests are turning towards my own voice and I’m starting to write and do my own things: A book, a podcast, my own movies: self-created projects. That’s where my focus is being drawn – it’s an inside thing. I listen.
Q. Very few people might know this but you are Director and Oscar Nominated none the less. Could you tell us about Solly’s Diner and it’s making?
Larry Hankin: The Short Version: Basically Anna, a friend came to me and said I should write a film short so her husband Harry could be the cinematographer. He was a camera operator and needed a short for his reel to get into the Cinematographers Union. I knew nothing about filmmaking at all. I was a stand-up comic and stage actor). I wrote a funny little homeless kind of Chaplin based storyline: “Homeless Hero Saves The Waitress from The Robber”, shot in one spot with me and two other actor-friends.
It took me 6 months to save enough money to shoot it and edit it (Harry had his crew work four nights in a row – it was a night shoot – I hadn’t thought about the burden on the actors and crew by writing a night shoot – but Harry read the script so he had to have known). They all had families and other film work during the day.
It was hard editing with Harry, the cinematographer, because he knew about “film” and I was new to it all – I was a stand-up comedian and a stage actor at the time.
Basically, Harry wanted shots for his reel and I wanted shots for the laughs and the story. We worked it out. At the time I thought it turned out “just okay” for my little, experimental character-study but Harry entered it into the Oscar race against my wishes (I was the producer and I didn’t think it was good enough) but, it turned out, it was (I’m a poor judge of my own work. Seems, I like what I like, but not what I do.
So, Harry and Anna and Landa (my lady) and I got to go the Amazing Academy Awards. For FREE! So, Harry and I chipped in for the limosine and two really cool rented tuxedos, and I bought a new dress for Landa, and we went to the Oscars.
It was too strange for me. And we didn’t win The Short Film Oscar. We were Nominated. It’s Not The Same. I figured, as long as we’re in it, we’ll win it (even tho’ I didn’t think it was good enough in the first place, that didn’t matter when I was actually there. at the Oscars. Suddenly, I wanted to win. Out of nowhere. Never happened. I wanted to leave. Everybody was out in the hall drinking in the tiered, carpeted, Hallway-Bar-Lounges from the first floor to the balcony.
No one seated in the Oscar Broadcast Auditorium rear seats or balcony were actually sitting in their seats. They were all out in the hall at the huge carpeted Hall- Lounge-Bars schmoozing like their mortgages were on the line. If you weren’t specifically told you were going to be within light and camera vision (Actually On Camera), you were out in the Hall-Bar-Lounge drinking because you could because a chauffeur was driving you home (what will drinking be like when cars won’t need drivers at all?).
Anyway, when we didn’t win The Film Short Oscar, I took it completely personally.
I had gotten “involved”. That was the lesson I learned – My ‘Take-Away”: Don’t get involved. It’s too expensive. On to the next whatever – film, monologue, etc…, that’s all.
The whole adventure was a surprise to me because without Anna’s asking and Harry and his crew jumping in, we could never have dreamed up that adventure beforehand in a million years. I look at ”Solly’s Diner” today and I think it’s great. Brilliant. I’m surprised – we pulled off a story and got nominated – that’s an achievement: we dreamt up something and we did it and we did a good job. That’s an achievement. But it was never my goal. The goal was Harry’s. I just wanted to do a film short where I played a homeless character. At the time, that was it. The rest mostly blew my mind.
Yet, I did realize the true value I gathered from the writing of it, working for the money, saving it, spending all of it doing it, working as a team, arguing, banking it, saving more money, un-banking it, finishing it and being rewarded – that whole process did blow my mind.
Creating and then doing/building, against the odds, knowing what you’re up against, preparing, and it still turns out worse for the unseen problems and reality; yet you somehow get there. And it works. It flies by itself. It plays. Cool. And on to the next one. Against (again) what seemed like huge odds. Dreaming it up and pulling it off. Planning on capturing lightning in a bottle and pulling it off and on to the next one. Or, something completely different.
Q. Do you at this point in your career seek out roles or they just come to you?
Larry Hankin: Sometimes people tell me about something or sometimes they just call me. But with Covid19, making movies and TV is a very, very involved process now. The process is way different now because of safety concern but at bottom, exactly the same
Q. As an Actor, do you want to do more Dramas? Or have you been always inclined to Comedy?
Larry Hankin: I’m drawn to a character who does both in the same story and in between. Possibly a bit more of a comic character, but deeper, not wider.
Q. You have had a very long career, so have you felt scared to being Typecast in roles? Have you ever fought back?
Larry Hankin: It never occurred to me that I was being type cast except (in my youth), when I’d dress a certain way when auditioning, to tip the scales towards a character that I wanted to be type-cast as just to see “my idea” for a character on the TV or in the movie house so I could write about it on my own. When I started, Hollywood was a big University where, if I was a good-enough actor, I could learn about films right where they were being made plus, they’d pay me instead of me paying a Film School.
Hollywood was a Cinema/Film University to me. And I somehow, through luck and timing – but not by planning – I earned a ticket in. To me, my parts in sit-coms and movies were simply parts in other students’ or professors’ or graduate-students’ film school projects (that way of looking at it also totally relaxed me because of these incredibly talented people I was walking among and that were mostly very cool. I felt welcome. I felt I was okay.
So, the answer to your question is, no I’ve never thought that I was typecast except when I chose to typecast myself, which was two times for a year or so at two different times. I’ll tell you one time:
I love acting, but auditioning is really hard – not the actual audition – the process of getting an audition: the agent, the call ,the rejection, the unions, the waiting, the production, and all you wanna do is get in front of a camera and do your thing for a few minutes during 8 or 9 hours of standing around. All the while knowing this, too, will end, and you’ll have to start all over again from the beginning soon. Again.
So, I made up a game within The Acting System’s Audition Game ( to keep me from going nuts: I would typecast myself.
For a while I wanted to see what I could do with a beard. So, I grew a beard and type-cast myself as an old bearded guy and played old bearded guys for a year or more. It finally got me to play God on one TV show (Joan of Arcadia), around 2004.
Several years later, I wrote, played and filmed three bearded character shorts (The Outlaw Emmett Deemus series).
To reach a point where I actually played An Old Testament God in an hour-long TV episode, to me, was the equivalent of me playing King Lear on Broadway. To my mind, I’d explored Grey-Bearded Old Guys literally to the heavens. The three film shorts I wrote each one festival awards. So, my little type-casting game had worked in a way. That was cool; hat you’d call, an “achievement”. Next. Onward.
But that was on purpose, and easy because I’ve never had an Acting Career Mantra. I’ve always had a storyteller, performer, entertainer mantra. A craftsman. An independent contractor for entertainment purposes. I consider what I do a bottomless well of creativity. So much so that I pretty much got fired or quit all other jobs I’ve attempted – usual (consciously or subconsciously) always by my own hand. To me, I was going to my own Film School University on each Hollywood gig. Where I was, was where I was supposed to be and that was okay for a little more than a while.
Q. If we may, we wanted to segway into Fan Service by asking; what was it like playing Heckles and that Stardom of having Starred in Friends?
Larry Hankin: Mr. Heckles: Mr. Heckles dropped out of the sky one day onto me as all the other characters I’ve done. Every character I’ve done was a trip. A gift that keeps on giving: residuals. Who is this next role guy going to wake up in me. When you’re in a scene it’s just like playing music in a band. Or improvising in The Committee. It’s really cool fun. The fans have nothing to do with the work. The job, the craft, the actual scene being filmed for a “take”. The doing it.
Stardom has nothing to do with that. Stardom is Hype and Hype doesn’t turn me on. Stardom is a fog defined by everyone as totally different so I don’t bother with it.
Fans blow me away and I’m filled with wonder about how and why. But I know there are no stars and no such thing as stardom. Stardom is just another job which, (again: to me) is a very hard job to keep doing because there’s no day off from stardom. The daily demands of stardom just aren’t worth the trouble and time. It’s a full-time job and I have other things to do, like, laundry, riding my bike, and being treated like a normal, real human being. Stardom intimates Power and Riches, but what I’ve seen of it, It’s a very cruel, costly, egotistical, time-consuming mistress. If that’s your goal, beware, is all I can pass on. Learning the accordion seems to be a much better use of your time.
And Mr. Heckles blows my mind. He’s a character written by The Friends Writers and I just showed up and they hired me to play what they wrote. That’s all. I was hired to say those words and make Mr. Heckles funny and walk a very thin line of being dis- likeably likeable and I think I did my job. That’s it. I believe that attitude of his was on the page. At least how I read it. It was role like all the rest – albeit, better-written than most, but no guarantees in Showbiz. You say your words, picks up your check, get some rest, and start trolling for the next bite. No one knows what’s going to be a hit.
It’s like predicting what’s going to go Viral. I just go on with my stories and acting and my life and don’t look back much at all – learn and I move on. I never followed Mr.
Heckles or the other characters I’ve played. There are too many. Mr. Heckles became popular. that’s great. How? Why? Beats me. But I didn’t create his fame. The audience; fans, others did it. I never touched the wheel. “I just got here, officer. I don’t know how it happened.” I come from a long line of master carpenters and tailors.
People who did jobs well and looked for the next one. So that’s what I do. Keeps me out of trouble.
Q. Is there a cast member from the shows you have worked on (Friends, Seinfeld, Breaking Bad) with while you bonded well, maybe BFF status? Given that you constantly kept seeing each other at work?
Larry Hankin: John Candy was a good friend, but I only met him shortly before he passed away, so it was a too-short friendship. But he’s exactly what you see: a great, funny human being. In the movie & TV industry, I moved from job to job so many times it’s hard to keep up, but sometimes I’d recognize someone from some bygone job, but in-between it’s mostly people in the neighborhood where I live who are my friends – people I see regularly in the neighborhood.
Q. Given you have acted in Films and TV Shows prominently throughout your career. Have you found a difference how to each of those sets work?
Larry Hankin: To me acting is a job – a job of craft. A great job that I love. Acting to me is a place where I can use a craft I learned well-enough to earn a living doing. So, once you’re in The Game, all the jobs are the same in some way, no matter what your salary is. Like, a carpenter may build a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but to a carpenter, it’s simply blueprints, nails and 2 X 4 lumber. Every Job. I just want to do my job well. That’s been forever.
Q. The roles you have played have achieved success in their own right, spawning various Fan Sites and groups. Did you expect fame or that sorts? Or you are just used to it now?
Larry Hankin: Never. It blows my mind. Every time someone mentions it, or I see it, it blows my mind
Q. Speaking of Fame, how do you deal with it and do you think Fame and Success are the same entity for an Actor?
Larry Hankin: I don’t pay it any attention. I’m not the person Fame makes me out to be. Maybe I’m famous to you, or her, or him, or them. But not to me. The Poison Bite of Fame is Expectations. Expectations: The Bearer or Disappointment. I’m not famous. I’m me. Fame is another person born of Hype and Expectation. Fame has it’s own rules, rails, and demands I’ve never been able to follow or get along with. But that’s just me.
Q. Speaking of acting, in your days as an upcoming actor is there any actor who you looked up to as an idol? Was there a favorite movie which you saw and that made you fell in love with the artform?
Larry Hankin: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Alec Guinness, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Dustin Hoffman, Peter Sellers, Alan Arkin, Lucille Ball, Bryan Cranston. Those were the actors I watched intently when I grew up, but I never wanted to be an actor. Never. But when I had the opportunity and I thought I could do it, those were the actors I pulled up in my memory or watched on film to learn from.
Q. Given you wear many caps, Actor, Writer, Director is there a stuff you like more than the other?
Larry Hankin: Writing, directing and producing my own films. I’ve made 30 or 40 very short films and some regular short film. They been shown and won awards around the world. Some of them are on my website – thereallarryhankin.com. Along with my Paintings and T-Shirt Designs.
Q. Do you wanna direct more stuff rather than Just acting?
Larry Hankin: Yes. My own films
Q. The Movie Culture is situated in India and we being fans of your work, we’d like to know whether you are aware of Bollywood? If yes, is there an actor you admire or a film?
Larry Hankin: I know of Bollywood and I’ve only viewed their elaborate and amazing dance and musical sequences, but I’ve never followed their movies, so, I don’t know any of their stars except for the director Satyajit Ray and one or two of his early movies. However, I wonder if they would be interested in producing an American, low-budget vampire comedy feature screenplay I just finished writing – with me in it.
Q. We hope you are doing well in this Pandemic, and we have to ask is there a binge watch party you have done with your family or friends? If yes, which show or movie Franchise?
Larry Hankin: I don’t watch TV except for the news and NOVA (a science program), Stand-Up Comedians on HBO Comedy Specials, Netflix, and, or Amazon. My next set of movie watching is going to be great movies. I haven’t made the list yet.
Q. Do you have any future projects lined up which you’d like to share with us and your fans ?
Larry Hankin: Yes. I’m creating a Podcast for myself based on the things that have happened to me on all the TV and Movie sets I’ve been on over the years. They’re pretty funny and revealing. Plus, I’ll talk about how and where I grew up. It turns out I’ve lived a pretty interesting life: totally unplanned, dangerous, and funny. I’m also going to be busy figuring out how to get my feature film made and distributed.
Q. There’s a Friends Reunion of sorts happening, will you come back? Flashback no less?
Larry Hankin: It’s all up to Friends. If they call, I will certainly show up.
Q. Being a great actor such as yourself, is there a key advice which you give to actors and actresses trying to make it big? Given the vast competition in the media field, how does one cope with rejection, any words?
Larry Hankin: I don’t have any advice on making it big. That was never on my dance card. I’ve always wanted to support myself, play with the big boys and girls and adults on a stage as a stand-up comedian or an actor (I’ve always believed where I belonged was on a stage making people laugh). I was funny in high school and college, so I was convinced I was good at it. Proof was when I started getting paid to make people laugh.
And, if your serious about what you want to do, somewhere along the way, one figures out that one was right all along.
There comes a point where you finally know the difference between where you want to go, how to get there, and where you’re really heading. There’s a big difference. In a business that deals in Approval as well as Talent, you’ve got to be sure of yourself within yourself. As The Great American Bard sings, “I know my song well before I start singing”. And then, just go for it.
With this we would like to wrap up with the interview questions.
The Movie Culture would indeed like to thank Mr. Larry Hankin for agreeing to this wonderful interview.
The Movie Culture Synopsis
The Movie Culture would indeed like to Thank Mr. Larry Hankin for taking out his time and agreeing to do Interview with us.
Mr. Larry Hankin is coming out with a biographical book and has plans on starting his own podcast surrounding his career, so be on the look out for that as it’ll be great.
Visit, Thereallarryhankin.com to view the movies that he has directed over the years.