In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
A mainstay of zany comedy films in the ’80s, Steve Guttenberg made a name for himself as the affable everyman, the guy you could see yourself either palling around with or marrying. Though the well of Police Academy movies has dried up, Guttenberg has stayed busy, even in the fourth decade of his career. He appeared on the most recent season of Ballers and has starring roles in a number of upcoming films, including Chasing The Blues with Jon Lovitz and Miss Arizona with Missi Pyle.
Guttenberg took a break from his strenuous schedule to talk with The A.V. Club about Moses, The Godfather, and his strenuous fitness routine.
1. If you could spend the rest of your life inside one movie or TV show, which would it be, and why?
Steve Guttenberg: The Godfather, because it’s the greatest movie ever made.
AVC: Would you be part of the action? Would you be in the crew?
SG: I’d be the most talked-about part of the movie. Can you guess what that is?
AVC: The cannoli?
SG: Exactly. I would be the cannoli. “Take the gun. Leave the cannoli.”
SG: I’ve been using “holy cheese and crackers” instead of “fuck.” It works.
AVC: Why that? It’s definitely cleaner.
SG: I just heard some kid say it.
SG: With my family in Peoria, Arizona. We just had a terrific, lovely day. A happy day. Great day. Five-thirty a.m. spin class, then coffee with my fiancée, then coffee with my sister, then take the dog for a walk to the park. He made a poop. That’s a big thing for us. Then I got back and had breakfast with my mom and dad, then took a lot of phone calls and emails and kept up on my birthday greetings. And then had lunch at home, played some tennis, played nine holes of golf, and then had a birthday party with my family.
AVC: That’s such a packed day. Lots of coffee.
SG: It really was. Make it count, you know?
SG: “If you were the last person on earth, I would never choose you to be a movie star.”
AVC: That must have been years ago.
SG: I was 17, and a talent agent told me that.
AVC: Why do you think they said that?
SG: Because they believed it.
AVC: Well, hopefully they remembered saying that and now know they were wrong.
SG: Oh, I don’t give a shit, really. But it really proves a certain ideology, which is that whoever is more certain is the person that wins. I was more certain that I was going to make it than he was that I wasn’t. And I won.
SG: I guess I would be an internist. I would like to see people all the time and refer them to specialists. Or I’d be a country doctor. A friend of mine, a wonderful guy that I really admire, just went to the Mayo Clinic, but he was a country doctor. He really had a great time. He really loved being a country doctor. His name is Chuck Menak, and he works at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.
AVC: What’s being a country doctor like?
SG: They lived in a part of Denver, maybe one of the Dakotas, but he was literally paid in chickens. He was paid in pies. When people were really sick, he was able to go there and stay with them for maybe days at a time. He had the time to really care for them. The population was not huge. He was paid in corn. Not often, because he was paid in dollars, too, of course. But often he was given these things, and it seemed like a really meaningful, purposeful profession. And then he decided to move down to Scottsdale. He got a great offer from Mayo.
Yeah, I’d be a country doctor.
SG: That’s easy. Wake up with my fiancée Emily, have coffee and a light breakfast. Then we go to the farmer’s market, spend an hour or two walking around, buying fruits, veggies, flowers, meeting some friends there. Go into town and have a little lunch or coffee, relax. Then come back and read the paper, see a matinee at 2 p.m. Have an early dinner, 5 p.m., something like that, get in our PJs by 7:30 p.m.
SG: I’m a working man, so I’m not snobby. My tastes are not champagne tastes.
What am I snobby about? I know! If I buy a luxury gift for someone I love, it’s got to be perfect. The product has to be in perfect condition from the company. If I’m going to buy a luxury watch or luxury car or clothing for someone I love, it’s got to be perfect, and they’ve got to handle it perfectly. They have to pack it perfectly. I want the people that I love to have that great experience, because you’re paying so much, you should have it perfect.
AVC: That makes sense. You don’t want it to come stuffed in a box. You want it wrapped nicely.
SG: Yeah, if you’re buying something from Chanel, you want it perfect, and delivered on time.
SG: I guess it would be Uta Hagen’s Respect For Acting. I’ve read that 20 times.
AVC: Why that book?
SG: She’s one of the greatest acting teachers on the planet. Her theories about reacting and acting are correct, for me.
SG: I wouldn’t want to talk about it.
AVC: Moses from The Bible?
SG: Moses from The Bible.
AVC: Why Moses?
SG: Can you imagine? First of all your mother has to give you up, and you sail down the river, and that is the iconic leaving your comfortable place, leaving your tribe, and you get picked up by who, but the King Of Egypt. You have this brother and the run of the castle and kingdom and then you realize that you’re a Jew, so you can either stay in this cushy life or fight the power and leave this cushy life. And he did. He left an incredibly luxurious life as the prince of Egypt, and took this group of believers and led them through the desert and had 40 days on Mount Sinai with God and himself.
He came down and had to convince everybody—they were all praying to the golden lamb, you know, and they all believed that he would never come back. They had to pray to something, so they chose this idol, and then he came back with these rules. Ten rules to live by. So he had to convince everybody of those, and then he had to go to everybody, “You see that ocean over there? We’re going to go through that.” He had to convince everybody to walk through that ocean to get to the Promised Land. He’s that guy to me.
SG: Read more. Read. Read. Read. Deeply, widely, read. Learn all kinds of subjects. The smarter you are as an actor, the better an actor you’ll be.
AVC: Did you not read that much when you were younger?
SG: I read, but I would have loved to read twice as much. I would have loved to read five times as much.
AVC: It’s such a nice feeling to read when you’re on vacation, for instance. I always come home saying “I’m going to read much more,” and then I never do.
SG: Yeah, it’s hard. When you have a life and family and kids and friends, and stuff to do and a job, it’s tough to do an hour a day. If you’re up at 5:30 and you’re going until 8:30, that’s 15 hours, and sometimes you don’t have that hour. It really takes half an hour to prepare to read and a half hour to get out of it and go start something else.
Bonus 12th question from Jay Baruchel: What do you dislike most about yourself, in a constructive way? You can’t say that you’re too nice.
SG: The autonomic default thinking that I do.
AVC: Meaning what?
SG: Meaning I’m just thinking all the time. There are times when I don’t really need to think. You know what I mean? If you think about stuff for five hours, you really only need to do like five minutes and the rest of sort of rehashing it and dramatically going over it.
AVC: What would you like to ask the next person, not knowing who you’re asking?
SG: If you could go bowling with three people, who would it be? No, five people. If you could go bowling with five people, who would it be?
AVC: Is there a limitation, living or dead? Can it be anybody?
SG: Oh, anybody. It’s more fun.
AVC: Who would you go bowling with?
SG: Oh, easy. Moses, David, God, my grandmother Kate, and my grandfather Sam.
AVC: You’ve got to assume God would be pretty good at bowling.
SG: No, the best one would be David.
SG: Do you know what skill it takes to throw a rock from a slingshot about 50 yards at a target maybe two inches in diameter?
AVC: That’s true. He wouldn’t even have to roll the ball. He could just throw it.
SG: You’ve seen the statue. You know what I’m talking about.