“Real Life”

A film by Albert Brooks

Episode Air Date: March 23, 1979

Podcast Date: 2016.09.11



A pushy, narcissistic filmmaker persuades a Phoenix family to let him and his crew film their everyday lives, in the manner of the ground-breaking PBS series "An American Family". However, instead of remaining unobtrusive and letting the family be themselves, he can't keep himself from trying to control every facet of their lives "for the good of the show".

- Written by


Clip 1:

Begin:10:32 "hello

End: 11:25 "let's go inside."

Clip 2:

Begin: 15:01 " while the testing continued"

End: 17:09 we have four of those"

Clip 3:

Begin: 1:02:11 "I'd like to get back to something ann said.."

End: 1:04:33 "where's Nicholson!"


To marvel at the prescience of Albert Brooks to predict the reality tV craze we “Enjoy” today.

Calls into question why we film anything? The mete-filming (the filming of that filmin) always struck me as a joke at the expense of film in general.

I love when actors play themselves...not sure why, but this always makes me smile a little’s a fourth wall break but somehow enhances the reality being created.


One of the reasons Albert Brooks wanted to cast Charles Grodin as the father was because of Grodin's work on Candid Camera (1972). Brooks felt that Grodin would look like he wasn't acting, because on the TV show he had to fool ordinary people into believing that he wasn't acting.

In the first production meeting scene, producer Martin Brand rattles off some possible big-name stars that could be recruited to star in the reality movie: "Where the hell's Paul Newman? Where's [Robert Redford]? Where's [Jack Nicholson]? . . . " He then suggests that the movie would make more money with Neil Diamond as the "star". A producer actually suggested Diamond for the Travis Bickle role in Taxi Driver (1976) (in which Albert Brooks had a supporting role).

The final scene took three days to film due to constant noise from planes flying overhead. The soundstage was near the Van Nuys Airport.

Albert Brooks was under a great deal of pressure to finish the film on-budget, because he would have been personally responsible for any extra costs. During one particularly difficult filming day, he sat feeling totally dejected. Charles Grodin walked up to him and said, "I have to leave at 4." This totally ridiculous request was sufficient to cheer Brooks up.

Charles H. Reid, who plays the assistant surgeon, was a real veterinarian who provided the horse that appears in the film.

The film is based on An American Family (1973).

The role-reversal family is played by the real family of Clifford Einstein, the older brother of 'Albert Brooks (I)'.


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.




Cast overview, first billed only:


Dick Haymes


Councilman Harris


Albert Brooks


Albert Brooks


Matthew Tobin


Dr. Howard Hill


J.A. Preston


Dr. Ted Cleary


Joseph Schaffler


Paul Lowell


Phyllis Quinn


Donna Stanley


James Ritz


Jack from Cincinnati


Clifford Einstein


Role Reversal Family Member


Harry Einstein


Role Reversal Family Member


Mandy Einstein


Role Reversal Family Member


Karen Einstein


Role Reversal Family Member


James L. Brooks


Driving Evaluator


Zeke Manners




Charles Grodin


Warren Yeager


Frances Lee McCain


Jeannette Yeager



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