Elliot Gould: “it’s all of us together, or none of us”

Enjoyable interview, it’s very easy to hear and see him in your head as you read it. He’s got a distinctive voice and mannerism.

The best review ever received by Elliott Gould – renowned actor and star of M*A*S*H and The Long Goodbye; not to mention, Ross and Monica’s dad on Friends – was from Groucho Marx. The two of them had become close in the comedian’s latter years – so close, Gould says, “he used to let me shave him”. One day Marx asked Gould to change a lightbulb in his bedroom. Gould took off his shoes, stood on the bed and replaced the broken bulb. Marx told him: “That was the best acting I’ve ever seen you do.”

Gould, now 81, has been telling the story for decades – but it is clear even in our pixelated video call that it still delights him. “Isn’t that great?” he says, his distinctive nasal, New York baritone now deepened with age. As we speak he is sitting at a computer at a friend’s house in Los Angeles, relaxed in a blue hoodie, with a seemingly bottomless mug of coffee before him. In isolation on either side of the Atlantic, neither of us has anywhere to be. And after more than half a century in Hollywood, in which he went from leading man to exile and, eventually, fixture – Gould could fill days, not just hours, with his stories.