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Mickey Rooney – Night Watchman

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs star in "Night At the Museum."

Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs star in Night At the Museum.

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Mickey Rooney

Night Watchman

by Jay S. Jacobs

It is not every day in which you get to speak with a living legend.  Just don’t tell Mickey Rooney that he is legendary.  He simply considers himself a guy who had the good fortune to work regularly for his whole life.

However, consider this: Mickey Rooney debuted in the movies in 1926 and quickly became a child star in a series of “Mickey McGuire” shorts.  He had actually first appeared on the vaudeville stage with his show-biz parents several years before that.  Since then, Rooney has worked in movies, television and stage consistently for over eighty years.

Rooney has starred in some of the biggest films in Hollywood history.  He became a household name in the Andy Hardy series.  He later appeared in classic movies like A Midsummer’s Night Dream, The Black Stallion, National Velvet, Breakfast at Tiffanys, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Captains Courageous and Requiem for a Heavyweight.  His most recent appearance was as a security guard in the extremely popular movie Night at the Museum.  The fantasy film – co-starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams and Dick Van Dyke – is now being released on DVD.

Rooney was nice enough to give us a call from Hollywood to discuss the release of the film on disk.

You have been acting literally since you were a toddler.  What is it like spending an entire life in show biz?

I just always said, “Put me in…”  So that’s an answer to that.

What was it about Night at the Museum that attracted you to the project?

I was cast to play in it.  And they accepted me, you know?  I was happy to be acting, because I was lucky enough to be in a picture I’ve enjoyed… I’ve never enjoyed a picture I’ve been in more than Night at the Museum.

You don’t usually play bad guys in the movies – was that fun?

Well, that’s just a part.  That has nothing to do with what or who I am.

You and Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs had really nice chemistry.  What was working with them like?  Had you worked with them before?

Yes.  Well, we’re good friends.  It was a nice set.  Ben Stiller is such a wonderful friend of mine.

How did you know Ben?

His mother and father.  We’ve known them for years.  [Jerry] Stiller and [Anne] Meara.

Yes, I’m a big fan of both of them…  Your character called Stiller’s character all sorts of names like “lunchbox” and “hot dog.”  Were those scripted or were you able to ad lib some?

We went for several names.

Night at a Museum is such a technical movie, with lots of special effects.  

Yes, it is, but it has to.  That’s how all the things come alive.

Was working like that interesting for you?

Oh, it certainly was.

Wouldn’t life be easier if it came with an instruction manual like you guys gave Larry?

There is an instruction manual.  It’s The Bible.

Laurence Olivier and James Mason called you the best actor ever.  Judy Garland took it one step further, calling you the greatest entertainer.  How gratifying is it that such amazing talents respected your word so much?

Well, you can imagine…  That’s their opinion, thank God.  (laughs)  I’m happy about it, but it’s embarrassing.

You have been acting on film, stage and television regularly for over eighty years now – you’ve had quite possibly the longest career in show biz.

Yes, I do have. It’s in the Book of Records.

Have you ever had the urge to slow down?

No. No. No. Anthony Hopkins is a very dear friend of mine. My wife, Jan, sang at his wedding to his wife, Stella. [He says] It’s all part of just living.

Being in the movies for so many years, what do you think of the current state of movies?

I don’t want to be quoted about that. I’m only talking about things that I am part of. I don’t talk about others.

Okay, I understand that. That’s no problem. Early on in your career you became known for the Andy Hardy series. Since then you have been in some of the greatest films ever – A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Black Stallion, National Velvet, Breakfast at Tiffanys, Requiem for a Heavyweight – looking back, how would you like for people to see your career?

I never look back. I look forward. It’s called – "Next…"

Obviously you were born into show business, but if you hadn’t an actor, what do you think you’d have done with your life?

I don’t know. I have no idea. I went to the University of Southern California. I didn’t graduate from there – I had to go back to work – but, I think that show business has been in my blood and it’s in my wife Jan’s blood, too.

What is something about you that would surprise most people?

That I’m just a person.

Are there any misconceptions out there you’d like to clear up?

Everybody has a misconception. How are they going to find out unless they are really me?

Well, Mickey – thanks so much for doing the interview. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Well, listen, incidentally, thank you very much for withstanding the fact that we called late.

That was quite all right…

Thank you for being so nice. Don’t forget to tell them about getting the DVD. And about the fun of it.

Copyright ©2007 All rights reserved. Posted: April 27, 2007.

Photo Credit:#1 © 2007 Fox Home Video. All rights reserved.


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