Larry David's new HBO movie, “Clear History,” reminds us again that in art, as in life, he likes to make it up as he goes.
The fact that he doesn’t overplan or overorganize is also the reason, he says, that he doesn’t know whether he’ll do another season of his HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Asked by TV critics at a Beverly Hills panel recently if he expects to return to “Curb,” he said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know. Ask me in six months.”
All that’s sure now is that he finished “Clear History,” which debuted Saturday and will air Thursday at 10:45 a.m. and 9 p.m. on HBO2, then Sunday at 1:45 p.m. and 1 a.m. on HBO.
It’s a comedy that was literally written as it was filmed. The dialogue, say David and director Greg Mottola, was all improvised.
“There’s a 35-page treatment that had all the scenes and what was going to happen in the scenes,” says Mottola. “But none of the dialogue.”
So the cast, which includes Jon Hamm, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, JB Smoove and an uncredited Liev Schreiber, came up with pretty much everything they said.
That’s not the way actors usually work. Hamm has spent the last several years on “Mad Men,” where every word is painstakingly crafted. But David said “Clear History” wasn’t a stretch.
“Ninety percent of actors love to improvise,” says David. “Everybody just took to it so easily. Jon was great.”
David said he decided to do “Clear History” instead of another season of “Curb” for a pretty simple reason.
“I was thinking about ‘Curb’ or thinking about doing a movie,” he said, “and I thought perhaps it’s time I tried something else.”
While the movie has “Curb”-style elements, David said he didn’t convert a potential “Curb” script into a movie.
He did, however, still write about something he knows: in this case, Martha’s Vineyard, where he’s had a house for years.
As with all of David’s work, much of the humor in “Clear History” comes from microdramas rooted in absurd conversations and characters’ neuroses. Should a waitress put the silverware on the table or on the napkin?
One of its larger plot points, however, stems from a gag that captures the spirit of the Vineyard much more faithfully than, say, most of this summer’s ABC Family reality show “The Vineyard.” (Without spoiling anything, the gag involves the attitude of the locals toward very rich people who build very big houses.)
David understands the big picture. It’s the smaller stuff that takes up his time.
“I’m just an indecisive fellow,” he told the TV writers. “You should see me at a restaurant.”
(“Clear History” will also run Aug. 22, 24, 27, 28 and 31 on HBO and Aug. 25 on HBO2.)