Steve Martin learned a lot from Carl Reiner about comedy and making movies, but the best lesson was about how to be a human. In a New York Times op-ed about Reiner, who died last week at 98, Martin reflects on a five-year span in which he and Reiner made four films together, beginning with The Jerk in 1979. Reiner taught Martin much about the logistics of moviemaking, as when he changed all the night shoots in that first script to day shoots to ease the burden on the actors and crew. But his main contribution was gradually shifting the barely there romance in early drafts to the forefront of the movie. "Carl's most valuable contribution to the movie was its emotional center, and I suspect it was those heart tugs that made the film a success."
At that stage in his life, Martin was ending his exhausting stand-up career and rebuilding his personal and professional worlds, and Reiner helped him in ways big and small. Reiner drove a Civic? Martin got one. Reiner drank seltzer water and had it delivered? Martin started doing the same. "I've heard several people say Carl was like a father to them," writes Martin. "But, to me, Carl was not fatherly. He was exemplar." Reiner's "interaction with people gave me a template of how to be better, nicer, how to lead with kindness." Martin raises a figurative glass of seltzer in the final paragraph, adding, "For me, one of your qualities stands out that is not often cited in the legacies of the famous: decency. All along, it was your decency that infused and invigorated your incredible gifts." Read the full column. (Read more Carl Reiner stories.)