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Jeff Garlin signed on to ‘Laggies’ sight unseen

When a sleepy Jeff Garlin phoned the other morning from his home in Los Angeles, I asked the Chicago native his favorite things to do in Our Town. “I always rank napping No. 1. I sleep better in Chicago than I do in California,” he said.

Of course we quickly turned to his latest film “Laggies” (now in theaters), in which Garlin plays the father of Keira Knightley’s character. The actor quipped, “I really spent every minute on that set making the crew laugh. I saw that as my job, but between the jokes, [the film’s director] Lynn [Shelton] got a performance out of me that she needed.”

Asked why he elected to take the role of Ed in “Laggies,” Garlin was very direct. While he loved working with Knightley and the rest of the cast, Garlin said, “The big thing for me and the reason I did the movie was to work with Lynn,” the actress who has also directed such films as “Humpday,” “Your Sister’s Sister” and “Touchy Feely.”

“She has the touch. She is a great filmmaker in my opinion. So that’s why I did it. Very simple.”

In fact, Garlin is such a fan that he immediately agreed to make the movie as soon as Shelton called to offer him the part. “She just called and asked me, and I said yes. It was before I even saw a script. Actually, wait a minute. She HAD sent me a script, but I hadn’t even read it. I didn’t care. It was going to be a Lynn Shelton movie. That was all I cared about.

“Then, when I read it, I realized I had made a good decision,” added Garlin with a big laugh.

“Laggies” is about 28-year-old Megan, who is very well educated and adored by the guy she has dated since high school, but she’s also unemployed and lacking any drive to figure out what she should do with her life. When the boyfriend proposes at a mutual friend’s wedding, Megan freaks out — and then discovers her dad in a compromising situation, which makes things even worse. After meeting a teenager named Annika (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), Megan ends up hiding out at her house for a week, much to the confusion and initial consternation of Annika’s single dad, played by Sam Rockwell.

In talking about this film, Garlin pointed to the unusual plot points as good examples of “how Lynn has never made the same film twice. She’s always doing something different and usually quirky, but in such a good, creative way.”

Asked about Knightley and whether he’d like to actually be the beautiful British actress’ father in real life, Garlin couldn’t resist making a joke (or I THINK he was making a joke): “That’s true. I also wouldn’t mind being married to her.”

When I noted Knightley did a good job adopting a believable American accent,” Garlin concurred. “Yes, she did a great job with that. I was very curious how that would work out for her, but she was pretty great with that.”

Since Garlin is a Chicagoan and still keeps a place here, I asked him if he was following the upcoming mayoral election or the just-completed midterm elections.

“I do follow the mayoral stuff,” said Garlin. “But let me say this about politics. I don’t know anything. By that, I mean, people are always saying they know this or they know that. Or he’s doing this or he’s doing that.

“To be honest, I haven’t spent much time in City Hall. I haven’t spent much time in the White House. I don’t know what’s really going on. I don’t know what they’re up against, so I don’t make judgments that quickly.”

On another Chicago topic, the lifelong Cubs fan said he was thrilled Joe Maddon was hired to helm the team. “I couldn’t be more exicited about that. I’ve always said, ‘It would be great if Maddon managed the Cubs.’ And now he will.”

Asked if plans to again jump behind the camera and direct something, as he did with the Chicago-made “I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With,” Garlin said he does want to do more of that. “Actually, I am writing my next movie right now. So, stay tuned!”