Mike Fleming

midnight_run_1988-535x300In the latest Midnight Run sequel development, Charles Grodin is being courted to return. When Universal Pictures and Tribeca Productions hired Tim Dowling to write the sequel to the 1988 classic, the plan at the time was to only bring back the bounty hunter character played by Robert De Niro (who’s producing). He would chase the son of Grodin’s character, but there were no plans to bring back Grodin, whose mob accountant character  was last seen slipping away at the airport in Los Angeles. They also want to involve Marty Brest  and original writer George Gallo. Sounds like it’s probably as producers, but sources close to Brest said no approach has yet been made.

Said Grodin: “I’ve been led to believe by someone I won’t name that they will ask me and I will consider it.”

This could actually be the kickoff of a movie comeback for Grodin. He’s shown up in a couple films but for the most part halted a thriving movie career in 1993 when his son Nick was entering first grade.  Grodin called his agent, Jim Griffin, and told him he was quitting because he was determined not to be an absentee parent. That son is now a young movie actor himself, and Grodin’s ready to work again–as long as the jobs allow him to be home in Connecticut by nightfall. That severely limits his options, but Grodin isn’t letting that stop him. He’s even had exploratory conversations with the Nederlanders and Jujamcyn about matinee-only runs that Grodin feels will not only appeal to him but thesps like Alan Alda and Carol Burnett.

“I just turned down the new Muppet movie,” Grodin told me Tuesday. “I was in The Great Muppet Caper and I think they are bringing back those of us still alive for a reprise. Jim Henson was dear to me but I’m not flying 6000 miles to Los Angeles to work one day.” He’s nixed recent overtures by Brett Ratner and Adam Sandler because their films also required cross country travel.

When Grodin stopped acting after Beethoven 2, Griffin–who mostly reps broadcasters–helped his client become a TV and news radio pundit. This led to the pursuit that takes up most of Grodin’s time–volunteer advocate for poor, first-time offenders hit with impossible prison sentences because of mandatory sentencing laws. His first exposure came while still acting, helping Elaine Bartlett—a mother of four sentenced to 16 years in a first offense coke selling conviction–whose case was the catalyst for repealing the Rockefeller drug laws. Grodin now takes on cases all over the county, giving hope to prisoners and using his celebrity to cut through bureaucracy. Current cases includes an L.A. youth who got in a drunken brawl and got a life sentence through a felony murder rule, even though he wasn’t convicted of the murder; and a Florida youth who got life for lending his car to a roommate who allegedly used it in the commission of a violent crime. Said Grodin: “This guy was home asleep in bed, but gets life with no chance of parole because the prosecutors says, ‘no car, no murder.’ That’s the main one I’m dealing with now, trying to get this felony murder law ruled unconstitutional.” He recently helped get a clemency ruling for a mother of three children, who, after rejecting a 6-to-12-year plea for pawning stolen jewelry, drew 27-55 years because the man who gave her the jewelry allegedly got it while committing rape. “I don’t deal with cases that are highly debatable, because there are too many that aren’t,” said Grodin.

That’s why Grodin–who rarely sees films or watches TV–wasn’t sad when a Midnight Run return wasn’t initially offered. “I always assumed they’d go with a young actor,” Grodin told me.  He’s proud of the original, but said, “What I remember is there were 18 locations, including New Zealand, and for me, it isn’t so much the acting as it is the travel and the waiting. I started in movies in 1963 and the first big one was Rosemary’s Baby in 1967. While you don’t notice it right away, it finally dawns on you that 80% of the time, you’re doing nothing. Where I am right now, trying to get people out of prison and get laws changed, it is a funny twist that Bob De Niro’s once again trying to put an innocent man in prison, while I am trying to get them out.”