Interview With Michael Stuhlbarg
Arnold Rothstein and Margaret have an uncomfortable encounter at the brokerage office. What does he think about making a deal with the ex-wife of his rival and sometimes business partner?
Nucky and Arnold are not on the best of terms when he bumps into Margaret. Once he realizes that she is nervous about being discovered, Arnold handles it in a delicate way—and tries to take advantage. He thinks, "Well, I have a little bit of power over her at the moment so perhaps I can use this." That's usually his goal—if he finds an opportunity he tries to take advantage of it.
It's interesting to see their paths cross.
If memory serves, the only time they were together was the New Year's party at the beginning of Season 3 and they didn't interact at all.
Why does Arnold feel it's necessary to hide his identity?
He was very famous at that time for being a gambler of notoriety and success. If the head of a brokerage firm finds out he has Arnold Rothstein in his office, I think there's going to be some kind of ramification.
Even though Margaret fumbles her lines, Arnold invests in the Anaconda Realty Trust. Is he aware that there's a scheme going on?
He invests everywhere and believes there's a possibility of making money here. And when he realizes he has a little bit of power over Margaret, he thinks she might be able to help him out with where the stock will go.
He's already a step ahead.
He thinks extremely quickly, although he may not give that away. He sees the situation as a possible benefit. To him, $50,000 is something but not an awful lot. He takes a lot of chances when investing his money.
Do you think Arnold follows some sort of code?
Yeah. I think he's an equal opportunity employer; he'll work with anybody. His code is "Money is money." Also, while he's known as a gambler, he doesn't gamble with his gambling. He was a very informed player. Whether it was horses or poker, if he decided to plunk some money down, he knew 90 percent of the time which direction his gambling would go—into his pocket.
Does that confidence contribute to his poker game with Nucky going awry?
No. I think he let his emotions get the better of him. Arnold wants so badly to get back at Nucky, he misreads him. Nucky plays it very close to his chest during that hand; he's a very cool customer. Arnold, in a rare occasion, let his impatience get the best of him.
In that episode (40), Nucky tells Meyer Lansky, "I can't rely on a man so blinded by his obsession with winning." Do you agree with that assessment?
I would think that yes, he'd much rather succeed, and win rather than lose. Historically he was a very bad loser. He had a temper on him; he just tended not to show it unless he thought he was being cheated.
Do you think he wanted in on the Florida plan? Or if he'd won, would he have turned it down?
It's a very similar situation to the first time we met Arnold at the very beginning of the show. Arnold needed booze for a wedding and told Nucky he'd be glad to pay for it. He gets set up at the gambling club Nucky has a share in, and wins so big, Nucky ends up owing him. In this situation, he was probably hoping he could win the half million dollars that Nucky wanted for Florida at the poker table, maybe even from Nucky himself.
Arnold is typically so even-keeled—unlike any other gangster on the show. We've never even seen him fire a gun.
That's right, though historically he did. He was once in a poker game where there was pounding on the door, guys trying to break in. What he thought at the moment—at least it's recorded as such—was that they were going to get robbed by some thugs. He pulled out his gun and shot through the door. It turned out the men on the other side were policemen. None of them were seriously hurt and when they came in, nobody gave him up. A gun was found outside, but it was never proven to be his. Arnold tends to cover his tracks. He had quick reflexes—in the blink of an eye, he could be across a room.