‘M*A*S*H’ Star Alan Alda Explained Why He ‘Didn’t Need’ Research for Role on ‘Marriage Story’

Alan Alda, like Tom Hanks, is considered — rightly or wrongly — as one of Hollywood’s nice guys. But, whereas Hank revels in it and plays with the idea, it irks Alda. He feels it pigeonholes him as a person incapable of a full range of emotions. Or worse, someone you can push around.

But in several interviews for his role in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, Alan Alda enjoyed talking about all the lawsuits he’s filed during his career. Saying in more than one of them: “I love a good lawsuit.”

“I didn’t need to do any research to play a lawyer,” he told the Saturday Evening Post. I’ve been through a lot of lawsuits. I love a good lawsuit. I’ve sued a few of the film studios (but I’m not saying what for). I think some of them thought I was too polite and wouldn’t take them on. You know I’ve always had that nice-guy image, but that’s a bum rap. I get angry like everybody else.”

He held his tongue in the Saturday Evening Post interview, but he explained one of those lawsuits to Vanity Fair.

“Somebody, without even asking, tried to get me into one of those seven-year contracts where they control everything you do. They made the deal with my agent without consulting me, and acted as though I had to fulfill the contract. They were suing me not only to fulfill the contract but to take a cut of the amount of money that I was going to get for fulfilling the contract.”

Alda said he won the case.

“They were really being bas***ds,” he added.

Alan Alda: ‘It’s Fun to Stick Up For Yourself’

Alan Alda’s character in Marriage Story, attorney Bert Spitz, has a lot of our perception of Alda in it. He’s overly kind and caring and not cut out for the vicious world of divorce law. Ultimately — spoiler alert — Adam Driver’s character drops Spitz. He then hires Ray Liotta’s shark-like lawyer, who is cutthroat and willing to do anything to win.

But Alan Alda isn’t Bert Spitz. Nor is he like Liotta’s character either. He wants a fair deal, and he’s willing to fight for it.

“In the beginning I think people thought, Well, he’s not going to complain,” he told Vanity Fair. “He seems like a nice guy. But that’s one of the reasons I’ve always felt that it was fun to have a good lawsuit. People are not entitled to think of you as a pushover just because you’re courteous. … It’s fun to stand up for yourself.”

So, though Alda has a history of litigation that prepared him for the role of a lawyer, he definitely doesn’t have any history with divorce.

He’s been married to his wife, Arlene, for 64 years.

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