Larry David talks about 'Whatever Works'

Larry David likes being the curmudgeon. He works at it, pushes that grumpy image. A reporter is calling him from Orlando?

"Lakers in five!" he tactlessly chortles.

His big beef with the world these days?

"People who make left turns and who don't go to the middle of the intersection so the car behind them can also make a turn."

Yeah, he's that Larry David, star of his own cable series Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which he plays a crankier version of himself.

But he laughs easily. He may preface a remark with "I don't like to say nice things about people as a rule," but then positively gushes over his Curb co-star, Cheryl Hines. Might Larry David, deep down, be a pussycat?

Woody Allen has said that he didn't write David's role in the new comedy Whatever Works for David, that he wrote the misanthropic lead character Boris thinking he'd play Boris. David took him at his word, even though when Allen offered him a role in the film, he was shocked it was the lead.

"I figured he needed a day or two, tops," David, who turns 62 July 2, says laughing. He'd had bit parts in a couple of Woody films in the '90s and figured the famed filmmaker had him in mind for another bit, "an afternoon of work. But this guy was going to be a lot of work. And I don't enjoy challenges."

OK, how much of a challenge could playing an aging, talkative crank who hates most of the human race be for a guy who is famous for being just that?

"This guy, I have to say, wasn't the stretch I thought he was going to be. I got back in that [arrogant] New York frame of mind quickly. And he's cranky. I do cranky. Boris has much more disdain for his fellow man than I do, which is saying something. I am a better dresser, by all accounts. Unlike Boris, I enjoy sex. I want love and romance. Boris doesn't seem to have any interest in this, which I don't understand.

Boris, his character, is a retired physics professor who makes a little cash teaching children chess, children he insults as "microbes" and worse.

"Checkmate, you little potzer!"

David laughs at the memory.

"My note from Woody Allen in that scene? After the first take? You're being too nice."

Maybe David, who co-created Seinfeld, a show that reflects many of his phobias, manias and dislikes, isn't as irritable as all that. Unless, of course, he reads reviews. Whatever Works hasn't been one of Allen's best-received films, and David is suffering for it. "He's not really an actor," Lou Lumernick complained in The New York Post. David's TV show is largely improvised, but working for Allen, performers are reluctant to deviate from the maestro's script, even if it is, most critics' agree, not one of his best.

"People don't say 'No' to Woody Allen," David says. "I don't, anyway."

Besides, Woody Allen movies are no more than a hobby for David. (Remember the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer is cast as an extra on a Woody movie?) He's got Curb Your Enthusiasm returning to HBO this September "and there's a lot of editing" yet to do on it, he says.

"I can't say much about it. But Seinfeld's on it, Richard Lewis, lots of guest stars. It'll be funny. And cranky."