Combustible friends bring chemistry to ‘Love’

Lithgow, Molina get to work together in new film

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PARK CITY, Utah — After being friends for more than 20 years, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are finally sharing the screen, and a bed.

The two actors play longtime lovers in “Love Is Strange,” a film directed and co-written by Ira Sachs that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Molina, 60, called the pairing “brilliant.” Lithgow, 68, said it was “sensational.”

“You don’t usually put two combustible chemical elements together like that, and that’s what’s so exciting about this,” Lithgow said. “We’re brothers in arms when it comes to acting.”

In “Love Is Strange,” the veterans of the stage and screen portray a couple who marry after 39 years together. The two are shown in all the intimate settings befitting a longtime pair.

“Somehow, us embracing and cuddling in a bed and kissing each other — it was far more, in a curious way, we were less self-conscious doing that than I would have been playing the part with a woman, perhaps,” Lithgow said. “It just has so much to do with the friendship and the ease, for some reason, that we have with each other. And I think with the enormous backlog of work that we’ve done. We’ve been acting and acting and acting and acting — both of us — for decades. And usually there’s only room in a film or a play for one of us. We’re both larger-than-life character men.”

Molina described them as “scenery chewers.”

“Because when we started working on the film, we were already linked and together and involved,” he said. “We had some investment in each other.”

Sachs knew Molina and Lithgow were friends, but he couldn’t have anticipated their on-screen chemistry.

“You try to set up an environment in which there’s a certain kind of performance and you hope that the other actors raise the bar for everyone around them,” he said. “And (they) really did.”

The two men so enjoyed working together that they joked about a possible romantic future.

“We’ve decided to leave our two wives and run off and make a life together,” Lithgow said.

Added Molina: “When this interview is over, we’re going shopping for furniture.”