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Ben Vaughn on 'Boots' Maker Lee Hazlewood

Singer-songwriter Ben Vaughn talks with Fresh Air producer Amy Salit about Lee Hazlewood, who died Saturday at age 78. Hazlewood was best known for writing Nancy Sinatra's hit "These Boots are Made For Walkin'," and his songs were recorded by other pop stars including Elvis Presley, Nick Cave and Courtney Love. But he had a recording career of his own as well, and he influenced a generation of rockers. Vaughn is a singer, songwriter, producer and composer who's scored many network TV shows and films, in addition to recording 12 albums of his own. His latest disc is Designs in Music.

06:52

Other segments from the episode on August 10, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 10, 2007: Interview with Florian Henckel von Donnersmark; Review of the film "Stardust"; Interview with David Duchovny; Interview with Ben Vaughn.

Transcript

DATE August 10, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
discusses his film "The Lives of Others," nominated for a Best
Foreign Film Academy Award
DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave DAVIES, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.

While filmmakers in Germany have explored the nation's Nazi past from a
variety of perspectives in recent years, little serious attention has been
paid to the years of communist rule in East Germany, especially the oppressive
surveillance of the Stasi, the German Democratic Republic's secret police.
The Stasi recruited and pressured informants to spy on their friends, family,
and neighbors on a scale unprecedented even in the communist world. Many
citizens had no idea who was informing on them until after the fall of the
Berlin Wall, when Stasi records were open for public review.

The effect of Stasi surveillance on its targets and its spies is the subject
of the film "The Lives of Others," written and directed by our guest Florian
Henckel von Donnersmarck. It won an Oscar this year for Best Foreign Film and
it's now out on DVD. "The Lives of Others" tells the story of a loyal Stasi
captain who begins to question his commitment when he's assigned to spy for
weeks on a playwright and his actress girlfriend. It's von Donnersmarck's
first feature film. I spoke to him in February.

Well, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, welcome to FRESH AIR.

I wonder if you could begin before we talk about how you conceived and made
this film with just a--giving us, our audience a sense of the scale of the
surveillance and brutality of the Stasi, the East German secret service.

Mr. FLORIAN HENCKEL von DONNERSMARCK: Yeah, the Stasi was the vastest, most
extensive secret service in the history of mankind with 300,000 employees
monitoring a population of only 17 million people. That's quite a small
population. That's only just about twice the size of New York, and imagine
300,000 people trying to find out every aspect of people's lives. It was an
organization that defined itself against the Gestapo. You know, very often
people now say, `It was just like the Gestapo.' Well, I mean, they defined
themselves against it, which is why it was not an organization that used much
physical violence. It used psychological violence. You know, while, at the
Gestapo, the Gestapo recruited thugs who could, who would break people's
bones, and the Stasi recruited intelligence psychologists who would break
people's spirits.

Mr. DAVIES: I know that you have an interesting background. I mean, you
spent part of your childhood in New York and then lived for many years in West
Berlin, which is, of course...

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: ...was part of West Germany but surrounded by East German
countryside. What contact did you have with East Germany and East Germans,
and how much awareness did you have of the Stasi as a child?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Well, I had quite a lot of awareness because both of
my parents are from the East, came over before the wall was built, but we had
family and friends in Eastern Germany. Actually, an uncle of my father's was
even chief of protocol for Eli Chanukkah, the communist general secretary's
office, and we often visited the East. And my parents were on special Stasi
lists because they were considered traitors to the communist cause, and so at
the border were--I remember one time when I was about eight years old and my
brother was nine, we drove over with our mother, and my mother was just led
out of the car and disappeared in one of those buildings with these people for
hours then came back all shaky and told us that she'd been strip-searched and
humiliated in all kinds of possible ways. And my brother and I just thought
this was, you know, very strange and somehow amazing that an organization
could have so much power that they would be allowed to, you know, strip our
mother.

Mr. DAVIES: Now, I read that part of the inspiration for this story, and you
wrote and directed this remarkable film, I read that part of the inspiration
for the story was something that you read about Lenin, the Bolshevik
revolutionary...

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: ...listening to a Beethoven sonata. Explain that moment and how
it...

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: ...led to this idea.

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Lenin had few close personal friends, and one of his
closet friends actually was Maxim Gorky, the Russian writer, and after Lenin's
death, Gorky wrote that Lenin had once told him, actually the quote goes
something like this: `The "Appassionata" is my favorite piece of music,'
Lenin says, `but I don't want to listen to it anymore because if I do listen
to it, and when I do listen to it, it makes me want to stroke people's heads
and tell them nice, stupid things. But I have to smash in those heads, bash
them in without mercy in order to finish my revolution.'

And you know, I thought, `Aha, so this is what Lenin feels like. Now, let's
see if I can find a way to force Lenin to listen to the "Appassionata."' And
out of that I constructed this idea of a man just sitting there with earphones
on his head and expecting that through these earphones he's going to hear
words of his ideological enemies, but actually he's hearing music that is so
beautiful that it actually makes him rethink that ideology. That was the
basic idea for the film, and so Lenin changed into a Stasi officer who's
sitting in a surveillance center monitoring people. And so who would be, you
know, playing that kind of beautiful music if not artists? So I kind of knew
that was going to be the basic setting, a Stasi officer monitoring artists and
changing through that close proximity with them.

Mr. DAVIES: And so we have this film, whose central character is a captain
in the Stasi who's conducting surveillance on a playwright and his actress
girlfriend and...

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: ...kind of being very moved by what happens in their lives. He
overhears intimate moments.

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Yeah. Yeah. He just basically becomes part of their
lives. They don't know that he's wiretapped their entire apartment and that
there are bugs everywhere, even in the bathroom, and so they really go on
leading their normal lives, and he takes part in that. And he's a Stasi
captain who's so far been a specialist in interrogations. And, of course, you
know, in an interrogation situation you never have someone just in their
normal lives, so you don't have the opportunity to compare that to your own
life because you're just always seeing them in that very same stress
situation. But here he suddenly has, you know, this daily contrast of seeing
how his life works and how these people's lives works, and I've often intercut
it in that way and, you know, what these artists' work is and what his work
is. So that does make him change and think.

Mr. DAVIES: And the actor who played him, Ulrich Muhe, do I have the name
pronounced?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Yeah, pretty good. I mean, the sound which is in his
last name doesn't actually exist in the English language, so it's actually
Ulrich Muhe.

Mr. DAVIES: All right.

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: It's one of those totally unpronounceable names.

Mr. DAVIES: Well, with apologies to that, I mean, I read that he, because he
was an artist who had grown up in East Germany...

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: ...had actually had some experience of being spied on by the
Stasi, as many artists did, and I wondered if that made making this film an
emotionally difficult experience for him or if it informed his performance in
some way?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Yeah, I think, you know, he, Ulrich Muhe is a really
very courageous man, and he was one of the first people to ask for his Stasi
files. He was not like 90 percent of the GDR population, even of those who
were monitored by the Stasi, that they say, `Look, we don't want to know
what's in the past. We just want to look into the future and not know who of
our neighbors and friends or family betrayed us.' Ulrich Muhe was one
courageous man who went there and said, `Look, I want to know about the past.'
And he did find out some quite painful things. He found out that four members
of his theater group, that are like a family to actors, were actually just
placed there in that theater group as actors to monitor him. He found out
that he was on a special list of people who, in case of any kind of national
emergency, would have been brought to special camps to be isolated from the
rest of the population. He found out that his wife of six years, with whom he
still has had very good relations and a very beautiful daughter, had been
listed as an informer with the Stasi and that there were 500 pages in her
informer file, you know, including constant reminders to the Stasi that he
must know nothing of this because he was an enemy of the Stasi. You know,
these are things that were quite hard for him, but he'd lived through all that
in the '90s.

You know, when I offered this role to him--and I did not know about his past
with the Stasi because he is a very private man--I didn't know these things,
but I somehow suspected from all the knowledge that he had of the Stasi--most
East Germans don't know that much about it--from the way how he knew that
everything that I was telling him in this film was accurate that there must be
something. And then, as we became friends and as time passed, he told me more
and more, and then I even convinced him to speak about these things because I
think that if you keep these kind of things just to yourself, it doesn't do
you any good.

DAVIES: Filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. His film "The Lives of
Others" is now out on DVD.

We'll hear more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

DAVIES: Let's get back to our interview with Florian Henckel von
Donnersmarck, the director of the German film "The Lives of Others." It won an
Oscar this year for Best Foreign Film and is now out on DVD. The film is set
in East Germany in the '80s and early '90s and it's about the secret police
and people they spied on.

Mr. DAVIES: I know that you spent a lot of time researching the book,
talking to ex-Stasi agents and victims of their surveillance. I mean, this
film is fictional, but was there a kind of moment, an experience, a story that
sort of crystalized this, you know, this kind of surveillance, this story that
you think really informed the film?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Mm-hmm. I remember when I spoke to the Stasi
officers, I always had to find a special technique to ask them without having
them feel my judgment. Sometimes I actually felt a hypocritical doing that,
but, at the same time, I knew that I would have the last word because I'd make
that film and that would be my answer. So I didn't have to show any moral
outrage at the things they told me because the film hopefully would show that.
And I remember that, for example, when I had to find out about these odor
samples. The Stasi actually took these odor samples so dogs would be able to
identify who had been in contact with what and then maybe even be able to find
the dissidents. I had to find out how that worked and how people dealt with
that and whether it was something completely normal for them. So, of course,
if I had now asked this person, the Stasi officer, `These odor samples, did
you really take them? Did you really do that?' I think the conversation would
have been over pretty soon so I asked him instead, `You know, these odor
samples, did they really work?' and that got him going. He said, `Yes, yes,
absolutely. Those worked incredibly well.'

Mr. DAVIES: Now, now, you know, I want to clarify for the audience who
hasn't seen the film...

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Yeah.

Mr. DAVIES: ...how did they actually collect an odor sample of someone who
is being questioned?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: There were two methods of collecting odor samples.
The one was, if they didn't want you to notice, there was a so-called
conspiratorial odor sample, which was a cloth that looked like the cushion of
a seat that you sat on while you were interrogated, and you would actually,
you would sweat, of course, while you were interrogated, and then they would
be collected with gloves and put into a jar and locked airtight so the odor
would be kept. Another method, if they didn't have to keep it secret that
they were keeping that odor sample, was that they would actually force you to
take the cloth and wipe it between your legs and put it into the jar yourself.
That was the more common method. And I asked him, `Did this actually work?'
And he said, `Yeah, it worked incredibly well. The dogs could always
identify--oh no, actually--' and then he said, `I remember this one incident
it didn't work. There was a girl that we were interrogating, and she had her
period and there was just one drop of blood on that cloth and the dogs were
completely confused when I handed it to them. Ha ha ha.' And he just suddenly
started laughing, and then he said, `Well, you know, that's really weird, I
hadn't thought of that for like, you know, 20 years almost. No, so you're
right. It didn't always work. You have to be careful of getting blood on
there.'

And, you know, I just thought it was this really weird situation. I was
sitting there in this guy's apartment, you know, a civilized apartment close
to Ochsenhausen. His wife was serving me tea. She, of course, had also been
a Stasi worker because they were only allowed to marry amongst each other from
a certain level onwards, and, you know, on the wall there were framed pictures
of the grandchildren, and that really made me think of that saying about the
"banality of evil." You know, it's one of those things that--and it also shows
you how close barbarism and civilization really are next to each other even in
our countries.

Mr. DAVIES: I'm wondering what you did to capture the look, sound, and feel
of East Germany in 1984, how you approached that?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: That's a good question because it--the question
already implies something which I think is very true, that the Eastern bloc
did look and feel different. I think it had a lot to do with the colors.
These somehow desaturated, washed-out colors that the East had, there was
something very unique about that. I even once spoke to a chemist who
explained to me that there were certain patents that the East did not have,
and, therefore, they couldn't make those bright, neon colors that the West
had. But I didn't simply want to do it by just washing out the colors or
doing some lab trick. So I tried to analyze which colors were the most
shockingly Western, and I actually found that it was red and blue. Those
colors really throw you and seem very loud and extreme. And so I said--so
looking at the pictures and films of Eastern Germany, I really saw that there
wasn't so much blue. There was a little less blue. There was a little less
red. And I went one step further and said, `OK, well, look, let's eliminate
blue and red altogether.' And that's what I did. There's no blue object and
no red object in the entire film, and I think it gives you that special feel.
When we toured through the East for that film, people said, `Wow, this is
exactly what it w as like,' and I think it's one of those cases where, again,
fiction is somehow truer than fact. It doesn't look exactly like it looked
but it looks like we remember it, you know...

Mr. DAVIES: Right.

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: ...because things are made more intense in our memory.

Mr. DAVIES: And what about sound and music?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: And for the film music, I managed to get my very
favorite composer, , Gabriel Yared, who also wrote the music for "The English
Patient" and for "The Talented Mr. Ripley." I managed to convince him to
write the music, and he wrote, I think, a score which really has such a strong
message in it. When he wrote, for example, "The Sonata for a Good Man," I
said to him, "Look, imagine you can travel back to the year 1933 and get to
spend one and a half minutes with Hitler before he's committed his atrocities,
and you somehow--you were not allowed to talk to him. You weren't allowed to
shoot him. You can just spend one and a half minutes playing him a
composition of yours on the piano. What are you going to play? And so he
wrote this beautiful sonata which plays a very central part in the film, and I
think it, somehow, does contain that message.

DAVIES: I know a lot of German films in recent years have re-examined the
Nazi experience from several different perspectives. And I gather this
subject, I mean the oppression and surveillance under the Germany Democratic
Republic, East Germany and the Stasi, really has not been covered by
filmmakers so much. And I wonder why you think that is?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Well, I think you always need some distance from the
things that you are describing. And it's only been--what is it?--17 years now
since fall of the wall. That's quite recent, the whole thing. I mean, think
of how long it took for truly objective films about that time to be made in
Germany. I mean, I don't know if we're making them now, but I do not think
that a film like "The Downfall" would have been possible any earlier
than--what is it?--60 years after 1945.

DAVIES: That was the film about Hitler in the bunker?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Yeah, that is right. It is that film. I mean, it
still caused quite an outrage in Germany, but I don't think that it would have
been possible to make a film like that...

DAVIES: Well, you know, it's interesting because, I mean, I know that the
East German experience, the German Democratic Republic, has not been ignored
in German media, and I gather that there is something of a nostalgia in a lot
of television shows about it.

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: That's true.

DAVIES: What is that people miss about communist rule?

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Yeah, you see, I think the people are actually a
little bit confused, because I don't think they're missing communism. What
they're missing is the fact--is their own youth, in a way. You know,
they--but it's so hard to tell those two things apart because, while there was
communism, they were young, so they think they're wanting communism back, when
actually they want their youth back. I think that's a large part of it.

Another thing is, of course, there was a kind of social stability and
security, or at least people perceived it to be that way. Wolf Biermann, the
East German poet, he once said there's something incredibly attractive about
the security and the stability of the life of a slave and even going so far as
to calling people their slaves. And I completely understand what he means.
You know, it was also the fact that the GDR was living wealth beyond its own
means. You know, the country, when West Germany took over or when the country
was unified, was completely bankrupt.

DAVIES: I'm interested in the reaction you've gotten to the film and whether
the reaction has differed in East Germany--the former East Germany and the
former West Germany.

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: I think in the East the reaction was perhaps more
directly emotional. In the West the people saw it more as an informative
thriller and drama, with political content. In the East, people were, I
think, moved on a deeper level. Very often, after the screenings, when Urlich
Muhe and I toured through the East for about two weeks before the...

DAVIES: He was one of the lead actors, yeah. Mm-hmm.

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Yeah, Urlich Muhe, yeah, he's the actor who plays the
Stasi agent. We toured through the East for two weeks when the film was
released, and people would stay in there for hours afterwards still sobbing
and telling us how it reminded them of the things that they'd lived through.
And very often they told us their own personal stories, and very often they
would add at the end of their stories, `This was the first time that we've
told these stories to anybody.' People have not really been wanting to think
about the things that they suffered over the past 20 years. Often people
would also come up to me and justify themselves for the things that they did.
I say, `Look, you don't have to justify yourself to me. I can't give you
absolution. I'm not a priest. But I'm glad the whole thing made you think.'

DAVIES: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, thanks so much for spending some
time with us.

Mr. von DONNERSMARCK: Thank you very much, Dave.

GROSS: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck directed the German film "The Lives
of Others." It's now out on DVD.

Sadly, the actor who played the Stasi officer, Ulrich Muhe, died last month of
cancer. He was 54.

I'm Dave Davies and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

(Announcements)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Film critic David Edelstein on new film "Stardust"
DAVE DAVIES, host:

The new movie "Stardust" is a fairy tale, sword and sorcery epic based on a
graphic novel. The director is Matthew Vaughn, who made the British crime
thriller "Layer Cake." Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: Several hours after I emerged from the documentary "The
11th Hour," in which Leonardo DiCaprio solemnly explains how human kind is
doomed if our species doesn't work with, instead of against, nature, Brooklyn
was hit by its first tornado since 1888. Then next day I watched Max von
Sydow, a week after the death of Ingmar Bergman, fail to hold his own against
Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in "Rush Hour 2," then get gunned down in the
film by a French taxi driver who'd just discovered his inner American cowboy.
An hour later, I gazed on Robert De Niro in another film under the direction
of Madonna's husband's best man as a closeted pirate captain prancing to the
cancan in a tutu. I haven't checked the Rapture Index, but surely this is a
cosmic convergence. The end might well be nigh.

Apocalypse aside, I had a good time at Madonna's husband's best man's film,
"Stardust," a romantic fantasy that's very loosely based on a book by the
revered graphic novelist Neil Gaiman. It has good and bad princes, a fair
damsel, a wicked witch, a unicorn, a lot of corny romance, and some sick
humor. But if it's overblown in obvious ways, it's disarmingly puckish in
others.

After about five prologues, a star falls from the sky into a walled magic
kingdom nestled somewhere in the English countryside, possibly west of C.S.
Lewis' wardrobe. A young man named Tristan, played by Charlie Cox, goes off
to get hold of that star to impress the beautiful girl that he loves, played
by Sienna Miller. I've left out key details, but the big thing is that even
though the star makes a stadium-sized crater, it's played by Claire Danes.
Now, having to embody a star could in theory put an end to one's stardom and
Claire Danes doesn't have the refined features of Sienna Miller, but she's one
of the few actresses who can bring off guilelessness. Accepting her and not
rolling our eyes when the white light radiates from her being is a kind of
pact we make with the filmmakers.

Tristan gets to her first, but the villains are right behind, chiefly Michelle
Pfeiffer, as an old crone of a witch who wants to cut out the star's heart to
stay young and beauteous. Pfeiffer turns her displeasure on the hilarious
Ricky Gervais, as a scheming, buffoonish black marketeer whose magic
implements she seeks.

(Soundbite of "Stardust")

Ms. MICHELLE PFEIFFER: (As witch) Due west, you say, and you're certain he
had a girl with him?

Mr. RICKY GERVAIS: (As black marketeer) Yeah.

Ms. PFEIFFER: (As witch) You're sure, absolutely sure, sure you're not
lying?

Mr. GERVAIS: (As black marketeer) I'd cross my heart if I had one. Really.

Ms. PFEIFFER: (As witch) You'd better be telling the truth, you two-faced
dog.

Mr. GERVAIS: (As black marketeer) I can get you one of them, actually. Very
good guard dogs. They can watch the back and the front door at the same time.
Get you anything you want.

Ms. PFEIFFER: (As witch) What are the changes of getting a Babylon candle?

Mr. GERVAIS: (As black marketeer) That one's slim. Although I did know a
girl once, if you know what I mean--I'm a ladies' man--who had a sister--I
think it was a woman--oh, she was terrible. Face like the back of a frog,
ugly frogs...

Ms. PFEIFFER: (As witch) Enough.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. EDELSTEIN: Pfeiffer plays the same stereotypical shrew in "Stardust"
that she did in "Hairspray," but this time, her slow burns have great
punchlines. With exquisite annoyance, she flings out an arm and turns a goat
into a man, a laddie into a lassie, and a rival into a flaming torso. When
the script calls for witchy cackles, she does not cackle witchily halfway.
She's also so stunningly, mythically gorgeous that she makes this phony
universe seem real, the magic of cheekbones.

"The Pirates of the Caribbean" people would have stretched this material out
to eight-plus hours, while a visionary genius like Terry Gilliam would have
royally messed it up by putting more emphasis on the worlds, wheels, and
pulleys than the narrative. The model for "Stardust," luckily, is "The
Princess Bride," with a dollop of "Black Adder," and to cut the facetiousness,
nonstop rhapsodic heavenly choirs. Rupert Everett plays a murderous prince,
whose brothers are rivals for the throne. As he kills them off, they turn up
as crabby ghosts who keep him company, their throats still cut or heads bashed
in. As the capering queen of a pirate, De Niro is awful, yes. Yet his
gung-ho spirit wins him brownie points. Maybe his performance isn't a
harbinger of the apocalypse. Maybe we can save the earth and find a good part
for Max von Sydow.

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.

Coming up, David Duchovny has a new TV series called "Californication." We'll
listen back to an interview with the star of "The X-Files."

This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: David Duchovny comments on his career and life
DAVE DAVIES, host:

(Network technical difficulties)...Duchovny, who starred as FBI agent Fox
Mulder for nine years on "The X-Files." He's returning to television, starring
in a new dark comedy on Showtime called "Californication." Duchovny plays Hank
Moody, a novelist suffering from writer's block who indulges in booze, drugs,
and plenty of sex. Let's listen to a scene from the show. Duchovny's
character and his ex-wife, played by Natascha McElhone, are meeting their
12-year-old daughter's teacher.

(Soundbite of "Californication")

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Actor: (As teacher) I'm happy to report that Becca is a
delightful student--smart, inquisitive, full of life...

Mr. DAVID DUCHOVNY: (As Hank Moody) Yet I sense a big hairy "but" lurking
somewhere around the corner.

Ms. NATASCHA McELHONE: (As Hank's wife) This is my life. Can you take those

Actor: (As teacher) No, it's OK. He's right. But, I'm slightly worried
about her emerging sexuality.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As Hank Moody) Oh, thank God! She's a lesbian. Thank God.

Ms. McELHONE: (As Hank's wife) What are you talking about?

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As Hank Moody) I think we can all agree, by and large, that
men are...(censored by station)...holes. I, for one, am happy that she
prefers the fairer sex. It looks like we're the proud parents of a lesbian
daughter. Up high. Celebrate. Come on. Don't leave me hanging. What?
You're ashamed of our gay daughter?

Ms. McELHONE: (As Hank's wife) What happened to your eye?

Actor: (As teacher) OK. Hold on a second here, folks. Becca is not a
lesbian.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As Hank Moody) She's not?

Actor: (As teacher) No. Based on what I've seen, no.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As Hank Moody) Then why are we discussing her sexuality?

Actor: (As teacher) Because it seems she very recently discovered the
attention of boys.

Ms. McELHONE: (As Hank's wife) Well, she's beautiful.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As Hank Moody) She takes after her mother, the makeup and the
slutty clothes.

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: David Duchovny didn't follow a typical route to Hollywood. After
growing up in New York and attending a prep school on a scholarship, he
graduated from Princeton and was getting a PhD in English at Yale before
deciding to move to California and pursue acting. After minor parts in
several movies, Duchovny found stardom on "The X-Files." I spoke to Duchovny
in 2005.

You, of course, are known to most of America as Agent Mulder from "The
X-Files."

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Yeah.

DAVIES: ...which, you know, became, you know, an incredibly successful show.
It was--I think called by one writer in The New York Times `the defining
series of the '90s.' And it developed a cult following of sorts. And I wonder
if you, you know, feared that you might forever be associated with this and
you might become, you know, a Leonard Nimoy, who we always expect to be a
Vulcan with pointed ears somehow.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: I never really did. I mean, I think that--I don't want to
compare us to "Star Trek," but I think what separates the two shows is "Star
Trek" was somewhat campy, I guess. And "The X-Files" always seemed to me kind
of cinematic or filmic and the drama realistic and, therefore, I thought that,
yeah, playing a character is playing a character even though I'm playing him
every day for eight, nine years and then eventually, after the iconic
significance of that character fades away in the public memory, then I'll be
allowed to move on, and if I'm not, it's mostly my fault for not working
harder and for not being more imaginative. And if I'm not there, it's just
testament to the power and the quality of the show.

DAVIES: Well, you know, we looked at--as I was preparing for the interview, I
looked at two "X-Files" episodes which you wrote and directed, and when the
first one popped up, you know, I hadn't seen an "X-Files" episode in a long
time, but I actually remembered this one. I mean, it really stuck in my head.
And it's one--it's about a baseball player in the Negro leagues in New Mexico
in the `40s who could easily be a big-league player but always avoided playing
well before scouts because, it turns out, he's actually an alien who's come to
Earth as part of a plan of conquest but fell in love with the game of baseball
and went native and became a ballplayer because he loved the game of baseball.
Where did that story come from?

Mr. DUCHOVNY: It was the--it was in '98 when McGwire and Sosa were...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: ...having their home run race and baseball was on everybody's
mind, and there was an article in the New York and the LA Times about a
minor-leaguer, and I can't remember his name, but he hit more home runs than
anybody. He hit 70-some home runs for the Nevada something-or-others. So I
thought, `Well, here's a guy in the desert near Area 51, who's hitting all
these homers, and he's unknown, and I just started to kind of meditate on that
idea and then, you know, also Roswell happened...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: ...the same year that Jackie Robinson went to the bigs, so I
thought that was an interesting coincidence to try to play with. And
everything started to fall into place from there, and I liked playing with the
ideas of aliens and alienation from society. And I thought that--I thought it
all kind of worked and came together thematically, and then the plot came.

DAVIES: Yeah, and it worked well because there's actually an alien bounty
hunter trying to track him down and bring him in for having deserted his kind.
I want to listen to a little piece--a clip of that episode. This is early on
when you, Agent Mulder, are with Agent Scully and you're going over records
from newspapers in New Mexico, and she notices that you've actually been
looking at some baseball scores. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of "The X-Files")

Ms. GILLIAN ANDERSON: (As Agent Dana Scully) Mulder, you cheat! I can't
believe that you've been reading about baseball this whole time.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As Agent Fox Mulder) I'm reading the box scores, Scully.
You'd like it. It's like the Pythagorean theorem for jocks. It distills all
the chaos and action of any game in the history of all baseball games into one
tiny, perfect rectangular sequence of numbers. I can look at this box and I
can recreate exactly what happened on some sunny summer day back in 1947.
It's like the numbers talk to me; they comfort me. They tell me that even
though lots of things can change, some things do remain the same. It's...

Ms. ANDERSON: (As Agent Scully) Boring. Mulder, can I ask you a personal
question?

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As Agent Mulder) Of course not.

Ms. ANDERSON: (As Agent Scully) Did your mother ever tell you to go outside
and play?

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: It's a nice little piece of dialogue.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Yeah.

DAVIES: Do you remember that. Do you remember where it came from?

Mr. DUCHOVNY: That came from my heart, really. You know, I love box scores.
I look at them over and over, not so much anymore, because I don't follow
baseball so much, but there was something about the numbers and the box score
and the fact--you know, my wife would say, `You know, how do you read that?
What do all those little notations and numbers mean?' It's really not that
complicated, but it appears to be some kind of mystical, you know, sequence of
numbers and letters, and I always felt it.

DAVIES: What did get you out of academia and into Hollywood?

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Well, when I was getting my PhD, I always had the sneaking
suspicion that I was in the wrong place and that while I could have been, I
think, a good teacher, I would always be a mediocre academic, and I wasn't
ready at the age of 22 or 23 to resign myself to mediocrity. I wanted to try
to find something that I could be better than mediocre at. So that doesn't
sound very ambitious, but I was looking for an out.

DAVIES: And...

Mr. DUCHOVNY: And, as I said, I started writing, and if I thought I would
write stage plays, I thought I should learn how to speak the words that I was
going write.

DAVIES: You've had a series of memorable appearances on a lot of sitcoms. I
mean, "The Simpsons" and "Sex and the City." And there was one that I really
loved on "The Larry Sanders Show" where Garry Shandling has the talk show on
the HBO series, and you play a guy--no, you don't. You play yourself. You
play the celebrity, David Duchovny.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Well, I play a character named David Duchovny.

DAVIES: OK, this character in this case, who has a sexual preference that's,
let's say, open to some speculation.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Yes.

DAVIES: And you just do a wonderful job of making Larry Sanders feel
uncomfortable. Yeah, where'd that come from?

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Well, I had done "The Larry Sanders Show" one time. Through
that, Garry Shandling and I became friends, and this was a year later, and he
and I were talking and I said, `I'd love to come and do the show again.' And
he said, `Sure, you know, come up with an idea and we'll--whatever you want to
do. If I like it, we'll do it.' And I called back sometime later and I said,
`I think it will be great if I had a crush on you but I'm straight and I don't
understand it, and I just--but it's a real crush. I just don't get it, and
you're the only guy that I have a crush on.' And he said, `That does sound
funny. Let's try to do that.' And they wrote it up, and I just thought, my
instinct is always to play it real first and to just, you know, commit to the
reality of the desire. So I thought, you know, it's just going to be really
funny if this--if you're not winking at all. Don't wink at all, you know.
What's funniest is commitment, not winking, to me. So I thought, yeah, just
caress his cheek and, you know, tell him that you're confused.

DAVIES: Let's hear some of this. This is David Duchovny appearing on the HBO
series "The Larry Sanders Show."

(Soundbite of "The Larry Sanders Show")

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As David Duchovny) Hey, could you give Larry and I just a
minute?

Unidentified Woman: Oh, yeah, certainly.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As David Duchovny) Thanks. You're not upset that I'm taking
Carol to the beach, are you?

Mr. GARRY SHANDLING ("The Larry Sanders Show"): Don't be silly. Of course
not. She's a nice girl.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As David Duchovny) Oh, good. Oh, I'm sorry I'm not going to
be on the show with you.

Mr. SHANDLING: What are you talking about?

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As David Duchovny) Because my agent called and said the
network went ballistic and they put me back on with Jon Stewart.

Mr. SHANDLING: Damn it. (Censored)

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As David Duchovny) Wow, you're...

Mr. SHANDLING: They're just not supposed to do that.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As David Duchovny) You're really upset.

Mr. SHANDLING: Damn it!

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As David Duchovny) Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh. God, you're really
upset, aren't you? God, you really care about me, don't you? Are you
uncomfortable?

Mr. SHANDLING: A little bit.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As David Duchovny) OK. We'll see you.

Mr. SHANDLING: See you later.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: (As David Duchovny) Bye.

Mr. SHANDLING: Did you see that?

Unidentified Man: Yeah, next time kick him in the (censored).

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: That was David Duchovny on "The Larry Sanders Show." You know, I have
to say, since you have such a reputation as a Hollywood hunk, was it sort of
fun to play off that as a guy who's struggling with his sexual identity?

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Well, you see, what I thought was so funny was that, I wasn't
really struggling with my sexual identity. This was like a one-time offer,
you know, and it was only for Larry Sanders. That's what I found funny about,
was the confusion--the kind of playing with--playing confused with sexual
confusion, you know, and just kind of reducing it and reducing it. And so
that's what I was attracted to in that kind of a scenario. But in terms of a
Hollywood hunk and all that--I mean, I don't care and I don't ever really
think about it. I, you know, I'm just a, you know, I'm just getting along.

DAVIES: Just a regular guy.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Just getting along. Oh, `I was an ugly duckling in high
school, all that stuff.' No, no. But I don't know. That just seems like it's
on the outside.

DAVIES: Well, you've come a long way from the graduate program in English in
Yale. Not only did you come to Hollywood, not only have you been in a hit
series, but you are actually married to a beautiful actress. Is it true that
you met your wife, Tea Leoni, when you both were auditioning to be on "The
Tonight Show"?

Mr. DUCHOVNY: That's when we first met. My manager had told me, `You should
get on "The Tonight Show,"' and I said, `Well, why would I do that?' And she
said, `Well, it's good. You know, people see you out there and then they
think of you.' And I said, `Well, then I'll go.' And she said, `Well, they
don't really want you.' I said, `Well, what do you mean?' She said, `Well, you
kind of have to--you know, you kind of have to have lunch with them, and
they'll see that you are intelligent and you can speak and perhaps you can
tell a story.' And I said, `I'm auditioning to go on a talk show.' And she
said, `It'll be worth it. Don't worry.' And I said, `All right. I'll go.'

And so I showed up in the valley at this restaurant and I sit down, and now
I'm not the only one auditioning for a talk show. There's actually a woman
there who's auditioning at the same time. This was brutally shocking to me.
I couldn't believe that somebody--that I'd have to audition for a talk show
and next to somebody. And Tea--it was Tea. She was married at the time, and
she was charming and smart and completely dominated the conversation. I
became morose and withdrawn and was not invited on "The Tonight Show," but Tea
was.

DAVIES: God, you failed your lunchtime audition.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Yeah.

DAVIES: Well, David Duchovny, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. DUCHOVNY: Thank you.

DAVIES: David Duchovny from our 2005 interview. His new series on Showtime
is called "Californication."

Coming up, we remember songwriter Lee Hazelwood, who died last week.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

(Announcements)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Profile: Career of singer and songwriter Lee Hazelwood

(Soundbite of music)

DAVE DAVIES, host:

Songwriter Lee Hazelwood died last week. He was 78. Hazelwood was best known
for writing and producing this 1966 hit by Nancy Sinatra.

(Soundbite of "These Boots Are Made for Walking")

Ms. NANCY SINATRA: (Singing)
You keep saying you've got something for me
Something you call love but confess
You've been a-messing where you shouldn't have been a-messing
And now someone else is getting all your best
These boots are made for walking
And that's just what they'll do
One of these days these boots
are going to walk all over you

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Hazelwood made a string of hits with Nancy Sinatra, including "Sugar
Town," "Jackson" and "Something Stupid," that she sang with her father, Frank.
Hazelwood was also instrumental in creating one of the basic building blocks
of rock 'n' roll: Duane Eddy's guitar twang.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We called musician and producer Ben Vaughn, whose music draws heavily
on American roots music from the '50s and '60s. He's part of the cult
following which developed for Lee Hazelwood's music. Vaughn told FRESH AIR's
Amy Salit about Hazelwood's early work with Duane Eddy.

Mr. BEN VAUGHN: If Lee Hazelwood died in 1959, his obit would read, `The man
who put Duane Eddy's guitar amp in a grain barrel.' That may sound like a
weird obit, but it was a very important sonic experiment that he did at that
time that was very successful. He was a deejay in Phoenix, Arizona, and he
started recording people there as a record producer, and he convinced Duane
Eddy to play only the low strings of his guitar, and he put his guitar
amplifier inside of a grain barrel to get a reverb sound that only he heard in
his head. And that sound, of course, gave Duane Eddy over 30 top-10 hits, and
he co-wrote all of those tunes.

AMY SALIT, host:

So you think it was more Lee Hazelwood who heard that sound in his head that
he tried to recreate more so than Duane Eddy.

Mr. VAUGHN: Oh yeah, Duane Eddy was like, I believe, a 17-year-old kid at
the time who was just wanting to be around the studio, and Lee Hazelwood was
an older guy who had already been a deejay in town, served in the Korean War.
You know, he was a man, older than most of the people he worked with, and Phil
Spector actually followed Lee Hazelwood around and took some tips from him.

SALIT: I know that you are a really big fan of his music. Can you tell us
why? What is it about his producing and songs that struck you.

Mr. VAUGHN: Well, what was great about Lee Hazelwood is he was a guy who
started out in the '50s in the rock 'n' roll business when it was brand new,
and had hits with Duane Eddy, and then moved into the '60s. And by the time
the mid-'60s came around, music was becoming more enlightened with Dylan and
The Beatles, and Lee Hazelwood also grew as an artist. And what he did at
that time was phenomenal. It wasn't really recognized by fans of Dylan or the
Beatles as being legitimate, almost novelty music to a lot of people. But if
you listen close to the arrangements and the atmosphere and the poetry of his
lyrics during that period, it's phenomenal music and its really lasting. I
mean, you can listen to those songs now and they sound more adorable than a
lot of the stuff that was considered heavy in the '60s.

SALIT: Can you tell us more about what it is about that music that you love?

Mr. VAUGHN: Well, it's interesting because you have a guy with a deep,
friendly, radio voice, cowboy. You know, he's from Oklahoma. And he's
singing these menacing, mysterious lyrics. His voice has a little bit of
menace in it also. And the arrangements, there's a mood and an atmosphere and
a feel to the string arrangements and horn arrangements on these recordings
that--there's a lot of stuff happening all at once that never really resolves.

SALIT: Is there a particular song that you would like to steer people
towards?

Mr. VAUGHN: Well, I think probably his best example would be "Some Velvet
Morning," which was a duet he did with Nancy Sinatra, I think in 1968. The
song is unbelievable, and it's been covered by a lot of people and mentioned
by everyone from Nick Cave to Sonic Youth and people like that as a
masterpiece, and that song seems to be the best one to sum up the combination
of things that he could put into one piece of music.

(Soundbite of "Some Velvet Morning")

Mr. LEE HAZELWOOD: (Singing)
Some velvet morning when I'm straight
I'm going open up your gate
And maybe tell you about Phaedra
And how she gave me life
And how she made it in
Some velvet morning when I'm straight

Ms. SINATRA: (Singing)
Flowers growing on a hill...

(End of soundbite)

SALIT: Anything else, Ben? Is there just any other thought you've had after
you heard that he passed away?

Mr. VAUGHN: The one thing about Lee Hazelwood that's really great is when
you listen to his music, you know that he was doing exactly what he wanted to
do. I can't imagine him taking suggestions from anyone. There's a real,
formidable vision there behind what he's doing. Even if it seems oblique or
poetically impossible to figure out, you know that he was following his
vision; and I can't imagine anyone talking him out of that path, ever, on
anything I've ever heard by him.

SALIT: Ben Vaughn, thank you.

Mr. VAUGHN: You're welcome.

DAVIES: Ben Vaughn speaking with Amy Salit about Lee Hazelwood, who died last
week. He was 78.

(Credits)

DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HAZELWOOD: (Singing)
There's no one in this world for me
There's never going to be
There's no one in this world needs me
There's never going to be
And yet sometimes in my dreams I hear

(End of soundbite)
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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