At the movies

‘At Middleton’ star Andy Garcia: I proposed to my wife the night I met her

Rob Kim / Getty Images

Andy Garcia hasn’t had too many opportunities to flex his comedic chops. We’ve come to expect him to play dead-serious ( Godfather III, Modigliani, When A Man Loves A Woman, A Dark Truth) and he’s been a cop probably more times than he can count (e.g., Jennifer Eight, The Untouchables, The Mean Season, Internal Affairs).

But don’t count Garcia out; he can play funny and does in his latest, At Middleton, out Friday. He’s George, a straight-laced cardiologist with marital woes who goes on a college tour with his son only to meet and fall in love with another parent ( Vera Farmiga). Along the way, George smokes pot in a dorm, gets lost in the school library, improvs (oh so convincingly) in acting class. Not one tempter tantrum or brow-furrowing a la casino owner Terry Benedict from Ocean’s 11 here.

We chatted to the longtime local, 57, who came to South Florida as a kid and graduated from Miami Beach Senior High and FIU, and still keeps a place in Key Biscayne. Why should he ever leave? Some of Garcia’s greatest memories were made right here.

Did you ever go on a campus tour like this? Did it take you back?

I never did a tour myself, but I’ve taken my three daughters to schools and toured their dorms and apartments, so yes, it did remind me of that.

How would you describe your character?

I tried to live in his shoes and create this person who kind of had that childlike quality but still was a structured, conservative, upright guy. George got awakened by this woman and the fact that he could make Edith laugh. I thought it was very beautiful that he would consider reinventing himself for her.

How do you like being in comedies?

I’m interested in behaviors, and I like human comedies — not like Anchorman, though I’m a fan of that genre. I’d like to do more. Either you have to create a project yourself and hopefully people will think of you and give you a great piece of material.

“At Middleton” is really a love story, too.

What I’ve experienced so far at screenings and festivals and junkets, people who have seen the movie are genuinely moved by this couple and how they lose themselves in that experience. They really want them to be together, and it affects them when they are presented with the outcome. They’re enjoying the ride. The point I think is that once you declare your love for someone you have to make a decision about what to do. That’s the power of the film.

What a great bit of casting: Peter Riegert from “Animal House” as the campus DJ.

Yes! We were very fortunate he came on board. It’s kind of like telling you where his character Donald ended up. Plus we had Tom Skerritt, who lived close to where we shot in Seattle.

Do you think lives really can change in a day?

Absolutely. This has happened to me many times, including with my wife [nee Marivi Lorido], who I proposed to the same day I met her. We were out in Coconut Grove at a nightclub-cabaret-disco kind of place called Honey for the Bears. I knew her sister and had heard a lot about her. It was like that scene out of The Godfather when Michael Corleone saw that Sicilian girl.

Did she say yes right away?

She just challenged me when I asked her. She said I probably had said that to several women that evening. So I had to prove her theory wrong. Let’s do the math, we’ve been married 32 years. You know instantly if the chemistry is there.

Madeleine Marr

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