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Helen Suzman, Anti-Apartheid Crusader, Dies At 91

A pioneering political leader in the fight against apartheid, for 13 years Suzman was the sole representative in South Africa's all-white Parliament to reject race discrimination. She died Thursday at 91.

06:55

Other segments from the episode on January 2, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 2, 2009: Interview with Seth Rogen; Interview with Josh Brolin; Obituary for Helen Suzman.

Transcript

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Seth Rogen, Not Such a Loser in Real Life

DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is Fresh Air. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, filling in for Terry Gross. Seth Rogen was only 17 when he got his first big break, a role on the TV series "Freaks and Geeks" produced by Judd Apatow. Too bad it was canceled before the end of the first season. So was Rogen's next series with Apatow, "Undeclared." But they reunited for a series of movie hits: "The 40 year Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad," which Rogen also co-wrote.

Rogen co-wrote and stars in the film "Pineapple Express," a funny, hybrid, kind of stoner and action film which comes out on DVD next week. Terry spoke to Rogen about it in July. Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server. While parked outside the home of someone he's about to serve with a subpoena, he witnesses the guy being murdered. Not wanting to be discovered, Dale drives away. But he accidentally dropped some telltale evidence - the very potent marijuana Pineapple Express, which is sold by only one dealer - his. So, the killer's know how to find Dale and his dealer, Saul Silver, played by James Franco. Here's a scene just before the murder. Dale is at his dealer Saul's place, smoking and buying Pineapple Express, before heading to his next assignment. Saul is surprised to see Dale so professionally dressed.

(Soundbite of movie "Pineapple Express")

Mr. JAMES FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) What's up with the suit?

Mr. SETH ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Well, I'm a process server, so I have to wear a suit.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Wow. You're a servant, like, a butler, a chauffeur?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) No, no. What? No, I'm not, like...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Shine shoes.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) I'm a process server. I, like...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Process.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton): I work for company that's hired by lawyers to, like, hand out legal documents, like, subpoenas to people who don't want them. So, I've got to wear...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Subpoena.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Disguises sometimes just to make them admit that they are themselves, so I can serve them the papers.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Disguise.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Kind of, I guess. It's a hell of a job.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) That's cool, man.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Like, a day-to-day basis, it's fine...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Got a great job where you don't anything.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) That's what I say.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) I wish I had that.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Are you kidding? You do. You have the easiest job on Earth.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) (Laughing) That's true.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) You didn't think of that, huh?

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) I do have a good job.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Yeah, you do nothing.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Thanks, man.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) No prob.

(Soundbite of WHYY's Fresh Air, July 31, 2008)

TERRY GROSS: Seth Rogen, welcome to Fresh Air. What are some of the possibilities you saw in the idea of an action film with two stoners as the heroes?

Mr. SETH ROGEN (Actor, Writer): You know, it's just kind of seemed like a funny way to explore action movies, I guess. I mean, I'm a big fan of them always. And you know, it's always people who are very equipped to deal with the situations that they're thrown in. So, the notion just seemed funny, because it's, like, basically stoners are kind of the last guys in the world who are equipped to deal with that. And the humor possibilities just seemed somewhat endless.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: There's a lot of action scenes in the film that are obviously inspired by action movies. What was one of the classic scenes you wanted to try yourself? Like, there's one scene where you have to jump from a balcony, I think it's onto Gary Cole, who's...

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: One of the villains. And that's such a classic scene. Like, tell me the action film that doesn't have that kind of jump on it.

Mr. ROGEN: The dramatic leap.

GROSS: Yeah, yeah. So, what are the things you wanted to, like, do that you've seen in other action films?

Mr. ROGEN: One of the big things that we wanted to do was trying to kick out a car window as you're driving after it's been shattered, you know, obstructing your view. I mean, that's - I can't count how many movies I've seen that in, and we just thought, you know, like, it could be funny if it just kind of goes wrong and this foot just kind of punctures through the window and gets stuck.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And yeah, you know, we just kind of wanted to play with these iconic moments of action. There's a really small one that always makes me laugh really hard, where there's a big shootout at the end, and the moment my gun runs out of bullets, I turn and there's just another gun sitting there, and I'm, like, oh, nice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And to me, always just - that scene is, like, so convenient. And you know, they never run out of bullets in action movies, unless it's at the most dramatic time possible.

GROSS: And you had - this is your first movie where you had to carry a gun, right?

Mr. ROGEN: In "Superbad," I carry a gun, but I didn't get to shoot it that much.

GROSS: Oh, that's true because you're a cop, yeah, of course.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: And you carry it very irresponsibly, yeah.

Mr. ROGEN: I do. But in this, there was, like, a week straight of shooting, where, like, all I did was shoot a machine gun. And I hate to - every - it went against all my Jewish and Canadian instincts, but I enjoyed every second of it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: When you were growing up, could you physically defend yourself as a kid, and did you ever need to?

Mr. ROGEN: I did. I did karate for a really long time, almost 10 years when I was younger. And I was always big. I was kind of around this size, like, since I went into high school. I played rugby and stuff like that. So, people, you know, would screw with me, but I never got into, like, a real fight or anything like that.

GROSS: Why did you take karate?

Mr. ROGEN: My friends did it. Sammy and Evan took it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: It was at the Jewish community center. It was just really something to do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: I was really into martial-arts movies and stuff like that...

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. ROGEN: You know? I liked actions movies. Jean-Claude Van Damme was a major influence on me at that point in my life.

GROSS: So, how far did you get? What belt?

Mr. ROGEN: I was, like, a brown belt, which is pretty good. I entered a tournament once, and I punched the guy in the throat and got disqualified. I realized - I don't know if you're familiar with "Karate Kid," but the bad guys in that are called Cobra Kai, and they're, like, the evil karate guys. And then when I went to the tournament, I realized that's what we were; we were like the Cobra Kai of the Jewish karate community.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Since you play stoners in so many films, tell us about the first time you got high and what the experience was like.

Mr. ROGEN: I was pretty young. I guess I was in high school, so I was probably 13 years old. It was crazy. I remember it very vividly. I remember - it was actually kind of horrifying, because one of my friends - we smoked out of a bong, and one of my friends - this was so stupid - he didn't want to bring - it was after school on a Friday, and he didn't - we smoked weed in this park called the Ravine that was across the street from my high school. And he didn't want to bring the bong back home with him. We were going to walk back to his house and hang out, and he didn't want to bring it there. So, he wanted to go back into school and put the bong in his locker and leave it in there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And I was like, dude - I was so paranoid and high and scared - I was like, we can't go back in the school; like, that's the last place we should go. To school, are you're kidding me? And he was just like, no, I'm just going to put it in my locker, and no one will know; no one will know we're high. He had smoked pot before a few times. And I like - I lost my mind, and I was like, we can't go back in there. And they just went in anyway. I remember thinking, we're traveling through time. I remember I kept thinking that. And then he put it back in and everything was fine, and we went back to his place. We ate a lot, and we wrestled in his room, I remember.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And one of my friends tripped over a beanbag chair and hurt his head. And we all - it sobered us up completely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: My guest is Seth Rogen, and he's starring in the new movie "Pineapple Express," which he also co-wrote with Evan Goldberg. And the two of them also wrote "Superbad," and also were producers of "40 Year Old Virgin." So, how did you meet Evan Goldberg?

Mr. ROGEN: I met Evan at bar-mitzvah class. It was called tallis and tefillin. Every day after - maybe not every day - a few days a week after school, all the Jews that went to that temple would converge and learn of their haftarahs and what not, and him and Fogell were in my bar-mitzvah class, and we became great friends. Once, you know, you're in bar-mitzvah class with people, they're going to invite you to their bar mitzvah, so we got invited to dozens and dozens of bar mitzvahs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And we - there was a year straight where every weekend, I went to at least one bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, and we would all go, and it was a lot of fun. We sneak some beer; we'd hang out; we would try to get with girls and not. And usually we'd just end up hanging out together alone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: But we became good friends.

GROSS: Well, didn't you write the first draft of "Superbad" when you were 15 with Evan Goldberg?

Mr. ROGEN: We started younger. We started when we're around 13 writing it - maybe 14. I mean, you know, I'm a little older than he is, like, only like six months. But like, I would say, like, the general structure of the movie, like, the series of events is very similar to what it was when we first wrote it. What wasn't there, though, was the relationship between the Seth and Evan characters, the fact that you know they were going to college and they were breaking up and they were going to different colleges and they felt weird about that. That was all stuff that was added as we got older and a little smarter and, you know, we realized more, you know, what made a good movie, and ultimately, you know, that's what the movie is about. And we kind of wrote the movie backwards in that regard. Now, that's what we would start with and kind of build everything around it, but you know, later we worked out the emotional side.

GROSS: Well, let me play something from working out the emotional side, and it sounds like this is a scene that you added later when you were older. And this is toward the end of the movie, when the Evan and Seth characters, they've been fighting a lot and getting in each other's way, but at this party, where all kinds of mayhem happens, but anyways, the Evan character rescues the Seth character from this terrible situation. They're both really drunk, they sleep side by side in sleeping bags, and the Evan character, played by Michael Cera, has this to say to the Seth character, played by Jonah Hill.

(Soundbite of movie "Superbad")

(Soundbite of sigh)

Mr. MICHAEL CERA: (As Evan) I can't believe you saved me. You saved me. I can't believe - I owe you so - you carried me. I love you. I love you, man.

Mr. JONAH HILL: (As Seth) I love you. I love you. I'm not even embarrassed to say it. I just - I love - I love you.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I'm not embarrassed.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I love you.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I love you. It's like, why don't we say that every day? Why can't we say it more often?

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I just love you. I just want to go to the rooftops and scream, I love my best friend Evan.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) We should go up on my roof.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) For sure.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) Like, when you went for Easter on your vacation, I missed you.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I missed you, too.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I want the world to know. It's the most beautiful thing in the world.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) Boop, boop, boop. Come here. Come here, man.

(Soundbite of hand slapping back)

GROSS: And that's the Seth character giving the Evan character a big hug.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: Yes.

GROSS: So, it's a very uncharacteristically emotional scene for these two characters, and they're very...

MR. ROGEN: It is.

GROSS: Embarrassed in the morning when they wake up next to each other.

Mr. ROGEN: It's like they slept to each other, exactly.

GROSS: Yes, exactly, exactly. So, where did that scene come from? Had you had emotional moments like that with Evan or any other male friend?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: Never ever in a million years, never. Eh, not with Evan, for sure. I mean, I've never had something - like, you know, drunk people have tried to do that to me, and I instantly shut it off. I say, don't to this, dude; you'll feel terrible about this later. It'll be - I'll bring it up all the time; I'll make fun of you. Just save yourself the embarrassment and don't do it. To us, you know, these male friendship stories are just funny. You know, when we grew up in Vancouver, you know, our friends were - I don't know if I'd say callous, but we had a very, you know, harsh relationship with one another; we'd constantly make fun of each other. You know, emotions, you know, really were not welcome there. You know, there was no room where your feelings hurt. You know, everyone had really thick skin, I would say. And then I'd moved to L.A., and everyone's actors here and writers, they were like super emotional and super in touch with their feelings, and it seemed like every two weeks one of my friend just coming to me and, like, you hurt my feelings the other day, dude.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And I'm like, what are you talking about? What?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And to us, there's just nothing funnier than, like, a guy awkwardly explaining to another guy that he's hurt his feelings, and then later, awkwardly, you know, forgiving him for doing that.

DAVIES: Seth Rogen speaking to Terry Gross in July of last year. More after a break. This is Fresh Air.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Our guest is Seth Rogen. His movies include the "40 Year Old Virgin," "Knocked up," "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express." Terry spoke to him in July.

(Soundbite of WHYY's Fresh Air, July 31, 2008)

GROSS: Now, let me ask you about "Knocked Up."

Mr. ROGEN: Yes.

GROSS: In which you play a very unenlightened guy who has a, kind of, drunken - you were drunk at a bar, and a very attractive woman is drunk at the bar, too. She's an anchor for a local station, and you end up sleeping together for one night. And - actually, let me play a clip from the movie, and this is, like, the morning after. It was, like, the day after; you're meeting in a coffee shop...

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: After you've slept together, and you're both, like, really uncomfortable.

(Soundbite of movie "Knocked Up")

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Whew. I just yacked something nasty. I feel way better, though. I think that's, like, the secret, like, you've got to - I mean, once you're hung over, you've just got to puke. Feels so - did you puke?

Ms. KATHERINE HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) No.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You can. I won't think it's gross.

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Oh, that's OK. I'm - I'm fine. I just need some coffee, so...

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You know the best thing for hangover is weed. Do you smoke? Do you smoke weed?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Not really.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You don't?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) No.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) At all?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Mm-mm.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Like, in the morning?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) No, I just don't.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You know, it's, like - it is, like, the best medicine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Because it fixes everything. Jonah broke his elbow once. We just got high, and it still clicks, but I mean, he's OK.

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Right.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Yeah. Last night was great, what I remember of it.

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Right, yeah.

GROSS: Well, it turns out, as most of our listeners probably know, that she's pregnant from this one-night stand that you've had together, and she decides to keep the baby, and then you're in the position of having to figure out what the heck to do, and you end up actually falling in love with each other. So, you know, a lot of people's reaction to the movie was, there is no way she would have had this baby.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: You know, she's just started, like, this new job; she's so into her career; there's no way she'd have this baby. And you and she are so different; there's no way that she'd actually stay with your character, because you guys have nothing in common. So, what's your reaction to that response?

Mr. ROGEN: Um, I don't know. I mean, she does keep the baby. I mean, to me, that's a weird issue, that there's no way she would keep this baby. I mean, I don't think this character is the first person in the history of the universe to get pregnant and keep the baby. I mean, people do that. I mean, if she didn't keep the baby, it'd be a pretty short movie. So, you know, we just didn't tell that story. To me, when there's movies that are about, you know, guys named Hell Boy, and you know, the issue that they have with our movie that she doesn't get an abortion, I mean, I think there's greater suspensions of disbelief...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: That are made on a daily basis among movie goers. And as far as, you know, she would never fall in love with me, I mean, I feel like that's what the movie's about. I mean, either you buy it or you don't. It's a - I mean, that's what it is. I mean, that's the journey. It's that she does - you know, we do slowly fall in love with each other. So, either the movie works for you or it doesn't. I mean, that's, you know, that's a pretty big...

GROSS: You've played several characters who are kind of clueless about women and what women or girls really want and who they really are. Now, I have to say, you grew up in Vancouver.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: You've described your parents as radical Jewish socialists.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So, I have to assume that your parents tried to bring you up in an enlightened atmosphere, where you learned to respect women and treat them as equals.

Mr. ROGEN: Yes, very much so, yes.

GROSS: Which your characters never know how to do. So...

Mr. ROGEN: No, not at all, but I feel like I - I feel like the reason I have the insight to know that that's funny to watch is because I know how wrong it is, you know, and I also feel like that's was how kind of why we can get away with it, is because you can tell that we're not actually like that, that we're showing these guys as idiots, and that we think they're wrong. And that's the joke of the scene, is it's not, like, how great this guy's advice is; it's look at what a moron he is.

GROSS: So, what are some of the things your mother taught you about how to behave around women or how to treat women?

Mr. ROGEN: Oh, just always be extremely respectful, was something that was drilled into me, which I think probably prevented me from having sex for a good seven years longer than it should have.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: I mean, you know, some of my friends would lie to girls to get them, or do things that - you know, they would cheat on girls. I was just never in the realm of what, you know, what's instilled to me, you know? Yeah, I mean, my mom's a social worker, for God's sakes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: I mean, it's a - when it came to, like, appropriate behavior towards one another, it was - I was well-versed.

GROSS: So, you moved to L.A. when you were 17, maybe?

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: Were you graduated from high school yet?

Mr. ROGEN: No. It was the summer going into my senior year is when I moved.

GROSS: Why did you move? I mean, you ended up working on "Freaks and Geeks," but you didn't have that lined up yet.

Mr. ROGEN: I moved because I got...

GROSS: Did you?

Mr. ROGEN: No, I did, I did. I got cast on that from Vancouver.

GROSS: Oh.

Mr. ROGEN: They did, like, casting sessions, like, all over North America, in Chicago, New York, Toronto, and I moved to L.A. with a job.

GROSS: Now let me play a scene from "Freaks and Geeks" and this is, you know, again a series set in high school, which also starred James Franco, who's in "Pineapple Express" with you. This is one of the episodes that you were prominently featured in, and you were with a girl who plays tuba, and you're starting to date, and she's about to hit you with a really big surprise.

(Soundbite of TV show "Freaks and Geeks")

Ms. LINDA CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) This isn't really that uncommon, but when I was born, I had the potential to be male or female.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) Yeah. Me, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) No, I mean - I mean, I was born with both - with both male and female parts.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller): Uh-huh?

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) My parents made a decision with the doctors that I should be a girl. I mean, thank God, because that's who I am, but it's still a really big part of my life, and I thought you should know.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) No, this is good that you - you told me this.

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) Are you freaking out?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) No, you know, you're - you're all girl now.

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) Yeah.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) Yeah, so, you know, it's OK, you know. So, it's - if I was dating you when you were just born, things might be a little different because of all that stuff, but now you're all girl now, so, it's OK.

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) Thanks, Ken.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) Yeah. You know, it's - I had a - I had my appendix out. So, you know, I've been there.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's Seth Rogen in a scene from "Freaks and Geeks." It must have been an amazing experience at the age of 17 to suddenly be on a show like "Freaks and Geeks," and even though it wasn't a commercial success, it was a big cult success, and I bet it's still popular on DVD. And that's where you met Judd Apatow, who you're still working with, I mean, that you've had such incredible successes together. So, can you talk a bit about what it was like to suddenly go from, like, a high-school kid to suddenly being a co-star on an American TV series at the age of 17?

Mr. ROGEN: It was amazing. You know, what's funny about that time, when I think back on it, is how - it's actually kind of scary - how little thought I put into the actual quality of the show. Like, I didn't think it was a bad show necessarily, but I don't remember putting any thought at all into whether or not it was a good or bad show. I think I was just so ecstatic that I was working, and then as it went on, you know, I started to really appreciate that it was good and that we were doing something a little different and that, you know, everyone was really cool to work with and that it was really talented group of people, and it was just when I was realizing that, that it got canceled.

GROSS: It was great to talk with you. I really want to thank you a lot.

Mr. ROGEN: Thank you very much for having me.

DAVIES: Seth Rogen speaking to Terry Gross in July of last year. His film "Pineapple Express" comes out on DVD next week. I'm Dave Davies, and this is Fresh Air.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Coming up, actor Josh Brolin on playing George W. Bush in the Oliver Stone film, "W." His other films include "No Country for Old Men," "American Gangster" and "Milk." And we remember South African Helen Suzman, who, for decades, campaigned for racial equality in the Apartheid-era parliament. She died yesterday at the age of 91.
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Josh Brolin Takes on the Legacy of 'W.'

DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is Fresh Air. I'm Dave Davies. Our guest Josh Brolin played George W. Bush in the Oliver Stone film "W." Brolin played Bush as a young man, drinking and carousing before finding Jesus and launching his political career, and he was also President Bush, surrounded by familiar White House figures, including Dick Cheney, played by Richard Dreyfuss, Donald Rumsfeld, played by Scott Glenn, and Karl Rove, played by Toby Jones.

Josh Brolin followed his father, James Brolin, into acting. He had many roles in film and theater for more than 20 years, but became better known last year with attention-getting performances in "American Gangster," "In the Valley of Elah" and "No Country for Old Men." Brolin currently co-stars in the film "Milk," which is now in theaters. He's receiving critical acclaim for his supporting role as Dan White. I spoke to Josh Brolin last October before the release of the film "W." We started with a clip. Here, Bush is preparing to take on the incumbent governor of Texas, Ann Richards. He's sitting on a park bench, being coached by Karl Rove.

(Soundbite of movie "W.")

Mr. TONY JONES: (As Karl Rove) What do you say that George W. Bush is a rich, spoiled jerk; his wealth was produced by stock swaps and bailouts arranged by his daddy?

Mr. JOSH BROLIN: (As George W. Bush) Ann Richards can badmouth me all she wants. I've created a successful small business. I run a Major League Baseball team. I'm in touch with real people in Texas, work with them every day at the ballpark, talk with the fans, hotdog vendors, get to know what they think, because truly, deep down inside, you know I'm a guy like you, a guy you can trust.

Mr. JONES: (As Karl Rove) Fabulous. Fabulous Dub. What it all comes down to is who Joe Voter wants to sit down and have a beer with, and guess who that is.

Mr. BROLIN: (As George W. Bush) Just remember make mine non-alcoholic.

Mr. JONES: (As Karl Rove) So, anything about the issues, you come to me first; I'll tell you what to say.

Mr. BROLIN: (As George W. Bush) Oh, you're not going to tell me what to say, Karl. I'm going to tell you what I want, because you're the word man. This campaign starts and ends with me and what I think.

Mr. JONES: (As Karl Rove) You've got it, W. I'm just a little fairy, putting down a little magic dust for you.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROLIN: (As George W. Bush) Karl, this time, I'm going out-Texas Texas.

(Soundbite of WHYY's Fresh Air, October 13, 2008)

DAVIES: Well, Josh Brolin, welcome to Fresh Air. When you thought about taking this role on, of George W. Bush, I wonder, did it seem risky? What did you consider in whether - deciding whether to say yes?

Mr. BROLIN (Actor): Yeah. When somebody like Oliver Stone, with the resume that he has, came to me and said, I see George W. in you, it was disconcerting, to say the least.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROLIN: I didn't quite understand why and what and, even when he told me, you know, I - you know, you guys grew up on a ranch together; you have followed in the same footsteps as your fathers; very strong mothers; you know, whatever cosmetics he had read in the press, and I still didn't get it. And, you know, without reading the script, I was very reactionary. I imagined it to be something, you know, in the present and having to do with the war, and it wasn't until I read it that I finally understood, you know, it was one of the great acting challenges for me, at least up until this point, to follow this guy's life from 21 years old to 58 years old. It put me into a fear that I enjoy, which is, can I live up to this character, as opposed to my first reaction, which was looking down on it, saying, why would I want to do that?

DAVIES: Talk a little bit about getting Bush down physically. What did you have to work on?

Mr. BROLIN: I don't - there was - everything. You know, I watched him;. I watched videos and watched the difference between when he was tired and not tired; when he was in public, when he was in private; how he was with, you know, Tony Blair, as opposed to some prime minister, premier, over in the...

DAVIES: And what differences did you see?

Mr. BROLIN: How he held himself; how he compensated; how erect he was; how, you know, his hands - I don't know why he had this kind of - he has this apish thing that he does, where the back of his hands are always facing forward, which I thought was really interesting. He's always moving, this kind of ADD thing. What we do in the movie, and you've seen the movie, was we chose to eat a lot, to be busy during scenes, which, you know, if you look at something like "No Country For Old Men," it's the opposite.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. BROLIN: You know, it's all about the quiet. It's all about, how do you convey ideas through subtleties? Whereas Bush, I think, was the opposite, you know. There's a lot of talking going on; there's a lot movement going on.

DAVIES: Well, you know, the film opens with a scene of you in the Oval Office with the cast of the characters - you know, Cheney and Rumsfeld and Powell - and it's the scene where you're just coming up with the phrase "axis of evil" for the State of the Union address. And I have to say that when you see you opening up in that scene, you get a sense that you really nailed this. I mean, it really looks like George W. Bush, conducting a meeting and making a decision. But you know, there's a difference between doing an impression of somebody and then inhabiting the character. And I wonder if that was a struggle for you to be - to get his mannerisms and voice so familiar that then you could kind of forget about it and then interpret him as a character.

Mr. BROLIN: No, I know what you're saying, and yeah - I mean, you never know until it's out there because, especially with this character, you're not just doing one voice; you're not just doing the present or 2002 to 2004, you know, this kind of tight-diaphragm, breathy, you know, thing that he has that we all know so well. You know, there's a lot of different voices in this movie. There's - you know, how Western is he when he's 21 years old and he's in the second year of Yale or his first year at Yale? You know, how much was he affected and influenced by, you know, Eastern dialects? Or did he fight it completely and, actually, the western dialect came out even more because he wanted to overcompensate, because he wasn't having a good time during his school years? Or - you know what I mean? So, I think, you know, part of what you're asking is, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROLIN: There was a moment where - when I finally came down to the voice that we know so well, and it was the scene where Hudd walks in when he's - when W. is governor, and he's become governor, And he says, you know, hello, you know, Hudd, come on in; why don't you take a seat? And that's when we did the full-blown voice for the first time. And when we went through it, after they said cut, you know, all of us - me and Oliver and the whole crew - started cracking up, because it was nerve-wracking, you know? Obviously, I wanted to do a good job, and I wanted to be accurate, and I don't want to do necessarily some caricature of it, but you want it to feel right. And that partially comes with body language; that partially comes with not overdoing it; it partially comes with subtleties in breath and voice.

(Laughing) And so, you know, as you can hear in my voice right now, it's...

This is what I went through every minute of every day not knowing. So, I can't answer your question. Don't ask me anymore questions.

DAVIES: All right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: You said Hudd came in the room. You're referring to who?

Mr. BROLIN: Stacey Keach.

DAVIES: Oh, OK, and he was playing the minister, right?

Mr. BROLIN: Yeah, exactly.

DAVIES: Right, right, right, OK. Just a couple of more things about some of the demands of playing this role. You eat a lot in this movie. I mean, you have conversations where you're eating, and I noticed that it's not these things where people sort of pretend to eat or have a plate in front of them. You're really downing the sandwich.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: And I wondered if - did you get stuffed in multiple retakes?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROLIN: Well, you know, I mean, it lent to - I told you, Oliver and I had made the decision that we wanted him to keep moving, you know, and this kind of ADD quality. And finally, you know, I had lost - again, just to look younger, not because it sounds cool, because it's no fun - but you know, you lose weight and I cut my hair to look - to be able to look 21, because I was very afraid that I wouldn't, being 40 years old. And right after that first week of the youngest scenes from 21 to 25, I had then eight, nine weeks to gain as much weight as I could as fast as I could. And my body was so used to losing weight that it was very, very difficult. We were eating banana and avocado shakes, about 12 a day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROLIN: And always going to McDonald's right before I went to sleep. So, my sleep pattern changed; I felt awful. And uh, wait, what was your question again?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROLIN: No, I was getting to it; I was getting to it. What was the point?

DAVIES: How could you stay...

Mr. BROLIN: The eating, the eating. Right, right, right.

DAVIES: Eating so much on the set?

Mr. BROLIN: So, that - the scene with Richard Dreyfuss, I ended up eating 15 sandwiches.

DAVIES: Ugh.

Mr. BROLIN: Which was horrible. You know, it was horrible. But it was good because I was forced to do it in the scene, which, you know, lent to me gaining another, I'm sure, three or four pounds for that day.

DAVIES: Josh Brolin, recorded in October. He played George W. Bush in the Oliver Stone film "W." More after a break. This is Fresh Air.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Let's get back to our interview with Josh Brolin. His films include "W.," "No Country for Old Men" and the new film, "Milk."

(Soundbite of WHYY's Fresh Air, October 13, 2008)

DAVIES: I read, you are, of course, the son of the actor, James Brolin, and I read that you grew up on a ranch. And I was trying to picture whether your childhood was more Hollywood or more ranch-life. Which was it? Or both?

Mr. BROLIN: My mother - no, it was definitely more ranch life. My parents, I would assume, consciously kept me away from Hollywood. My mother was very distrustful of Hollywood and those types, which, I guess, is me now. I don't know. And she - I was raised in Paso Robles, Templeton, California. And we had 65 horses, you know, give or take a few on different times. And my father went back and forth to Los Angeles, and mother is from Texas, and she loved the country, and she didn't want to spend any time in the city. So, I'm very grateful for that. I did the same thing for my kids. My kids grow up about three miles from where I grew up, and it was nice to able to keep them out of Los Angeles.

DAVIES: So, you grew up on a ranch, but you found your way into acting, you know, as a young adult. Did you always think you'd want to follow your dad's footsteps?

Mr. BROLIN: No, not at all. I was very against it. When my friends found out that that's what I finally wanted to do or was willing to experiment with, they were all very surprised. Now, law was something that I loved. I love debate. I love law and through high school, taking Youth and Society and Law 1 through Law 6, or whatever it was from freshman to a senior. My acting was - but that's - you know, there's a connection there I'm seeing now, obviously, between law and being a lawyer and being an actor.

But no, I wasn't interested at all, and then around 11th grade, I had the opportunity to take an acting class in school. It was an improv class, an improvisational class. And that's, you know, when I finally said, yeah, I'll do it and see what it's like and I'm - just out of curiosity. I wasn't interested because I saw my father, you know? He'd have money one year, and he wouldn't have any the next year, and he have some the next year, so the fluctuation, no security. But when I did it, the improvisational - I don't know - experimenting with voice and character and all that was really eternally for me; it was like a drug. You could really lose yourself and be writing your own dialogue, and the whole delving into storytelling was really profound and interesting.

DAVIES: You've had a string of very well-received performances in the last few years. I mean, you did "American Gangster" with Ridley Scott, where you played the corrupt cop. And then you were another cop "In the Valley of Elah" with Paul Haggis. And then there is, of course, "No Country for Old Men," and I thought we should talk about that a little bit, the Coen Brothers film. And I thought we'd begin by listening to little bit of you from the film. This is your character, Llewelyn Moss, who has found $2 million in cash after a drug shootout and is trying to get away with it. But a very, very scary killer, Anton Chigurh, who's played by Javier Bardem, is after you. You've sent your wife off to her mom's place in Odessa, and in this conversation, Bardem has caught up with you on the telephone. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of movie "No Country for Old Men")

Mr. JOSH BROLIN: (As Llewelyn Moss) Yeah, I know where you're going.

Mr. JAVIER BARDEM: (As Anton Chigurh) All right.

Mr. BROLIN: (As Llewelyn Moss) You know she won't be there.

Mr. BARDEM: (As Anton Chigurh) It doesn't make any difference where she is.

Mr. BROLIN: (As Llewelyn Moss) So, what you going up there for?

(Soundbite of sigh)

Mr. BARDEM: (As Anton Chigurh) You know how all this is going to turn out, don't you?

Mr. BROLIN: (As Llewelyn Moss) Nope.

Mr. BARDEM: (As Anton Chigurh) I think you do. So, this is what I'll offer. You bring me the money, and I'll let her go. Otherwise, she's accountable, same as you. That's the best deal you're going to get. I won't tell you, you can save yourself, because you can't.

Mr. BROLIN: (As Llewelyn Moss) Yeah, I'm going to bring you something, all right. I decided to make you a special project of mine. You ain't going to have to come look for me at all.

(Soundbite of phone hanging up)

DAVIES: And that's Josh Brolin with Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men." What's interesting about you and this character, I mean, you play this - he's a welder who lives out in rural West Texas, who happens upon this chance for a score. You're on the screen a lot in this movie, often without lines. There's just a lot shots of you observing and figuring out stuff. What is - how is acting different when you're really not doing it verbally so much?

Mr. BROLIN: It was - for me, it was a great challenge just because, you know, dialogue is - especially coming from the theater - a lot of the work that I've done is dialogue-motivated. So, this was a nice challenge to be able to figure out how to convey ideas through body language and through grunts and groans. I mean, I remember I had - there was a moment where I find the money - Llewelyn finds the money - and he opens up the satchel and looks down and he looks at the dead guy and he looks up, and I actually had a full-blown conversation with the Coens about adding mm-hmm, because there's this dialogue, and to me, in his head about, should I take it? You know, should I go with this? Should I not go with this? There was this constant dialogue in his head that he would answer monosyllabically. And so we had - you know, the fact that we had a conversation about going mm-hmm or mm or uhmm(ph), you know, seemed a little ridiculous to me. But that was the nature of the movie, and I liked it. I like - it was a nice experiment and it seemed to work, which I'm - I was very happy about.

DAVIES: You know, I read that you have had a pretty serious side career as a day trader in stocks. Is that right?

Mr. BROLIN: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I - there was a point in my career that I didn't - I mean, I knew the stock market, and I knew how to play a little bit. I didn't know a lot; I was more interested in it; I was always a good math's student when I was a kid in school. And there came a point in my career where I wasn't - I didn't like, really, the jobs that I had to do in order to pay for my kids' school or, you know, whatever, put food on the table. And we sold our ranch about four years ago, and it gave me an opportunity to really focus on the work that I wanted to do and not work when I didn't have to and just do theater, you know, and started - keep playing with the craft in any way that I could.

But the movies, you know, they're indelible, and I really - it was important to me to be able to look back on my resume and like what I saw and remember the experiences with fondness, you know? And so, during that time, I started - I met a guy, Brett Markinson, and he really taught me a lot about trading and we started a company together, Market Probability. And we've done very well. I mean, just - in the last - and obviously, we're not trading right now because of the uncertainty, but before this whole debacle started to happen, you know, we were 73 percent for the year. So, we were doing very, very well.

DAVIES: Yeah. You know, it's hard to think of two pursuits more disparate than acting - where you're, you know, delving into the human soul - and then all the kind of technical analysis that comes with being an effective stock analyst or trader.

Mr. BROLIN: I see only the connections. I don't see the...

DAVIES: OK.

Mr. BROLIN: I can see how you would see that it would be on opposite ends of the spectrum, but I see it like golf, you know? You have to technically figure out exactly when to swing and how to hold your hands, you know, and visualize this and do all this, and there's so many things to learn technically with golf. But when it comes down to it, when you're finally going to take that swing, you have to completely erase it off in your mind and just let it happen. Otherwise, if you're thinking too much, you wouldn't even be able to hit the ball.

DAVIES: When I look at some of the roles you've had, like in "American Gangster," where you play the corrupt cop, and "Valley of Elah," where you play a police, you know, another cop, and then "No Country for Old Men," where you play Llewelyn Moss, It seems to me that you bring a sort of classic sort of masculinity, a kind of - I don't know - a Robert Mitchum sort of feel to some of these roles. And I'm wondering - you just so easily play a tough guy. Do you think of yourself as a tough guy?

Mr. BROLIN: No, not at all, and I don't think anybody who knows me thinks of me as a tough guy. I think the public perception is that, but these roles - I mean, look - I mean, you know, Bush, is Bush a tough guy? You know, he may come across as a tough guy. What I like about these roles is the fallibility of the role. You know, with Llewelyn Moss, he comes across as a tough guy, but he turns out to be extremely fallible, you know, and he's very sensitive, especially with his wife. You know, why is he doing what he's doing? Because he wants to give his wife a better life, you know?

That's wonderful; it's sensitive; it's - you know, but it is manly, I think, in the end. I think with Detective Trupo, you know, I worked very closely with Ridley on the arc of that role, and we changed - we wrote the ending together, because I wanted him - he was such an extreme ego and so over confident and so, you know, bloated with his own, you know, success, that I wanted it to be as severe at the end of, you know, the movie, where he takes his own life, which was not how it was written. We did that. And then, you know, so, I'll - the machismo factor is wonderful. It just - Mitchum was always macho from beginning to end.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. BROLIN: I like the fallibility of machoism(ph). I like how fragile it all is. I like exploring that. So, I like to be able to fluctuate within that idea of things and turn it on its head, hopefully.

DAVIES: Well, it'll be great to see where you go next, and Josh Brolin, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. BROLIN: Thank you so much, Dave.

DAVIES: Josh Brolin, recorded in October. He played George W. Bush in the Oliver Stone film "W." He co-stars in the film "Milk," which is currently in theaters. He's already received awards and nominations for his supporting role as Dan White. Coming up, we remember an outspoken and influential Apartheid opponent who died yesterday at the age of 91. This is Fresh Air.
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Helen Suzman, Anti-Apartheid Crusader, Dies at 91

DAVE DAVIES, host:

Helen Suzman, a South African who fought for racial equality for decades within the country's Apartheid-era parliament, died Thursday in Johannesburg. She was 91. Suzman served in parliament for 36 years, from 1953 to 1989, and was known for heated confrontations with leaders of Apartheid and for her visits to Nelson Mandela in his prison cell on Robin Island. After Apartheid fell, Suzman remained a prominent social critic, at times taking issue with officials of the African National Congress. Terry spoke to Helen Suzman in 1993, just before the multiracial elections that permanently abolished Apartheid and after the publication of her memoir, called "In No Uncertain Terms." Suzman was a controversial figure internationally because she opposed economic sanctions against South Africa, arguing they harmed poor blacks more than whites. She eventually acknowledged that sanctions had a significant impact.

(Soundbite of WHYY's Fresh Air, November 9, 1993)

Ms. HELEN SUZMAN (Anti-Apartheid Activist, South Africa; Author, "In No Uncertain Terms: A South African Memoir"): I do not deny that sanctions played a part in expediting the end of the Apartheid system, but at dire cost of thousands upon thousands of jobs. And you know how important jobs are. In every country in the world, every candidate talks about creating jobs for his constituents, and it's no different in South Africa. And of course, that's the reason for the violence, which is upsetting a lot of people, and that's really the reason why a lot of people are talking, anyway, about wanting to leave.

TERRY GROSS: So, you think sanctions had something to do with it?

Ms. SUZMAN: Oh, yes. I don't deny that.

GROSS: You opposed sanctions...

Ms. SUZMAN: Yes.

GROSS: But if you had to do it over again, would you not oppose economic sanctions?

Ms. SUZMAN: I would oppose economic sanctions, because I think the cost was too high in a country that has no social-welfare support system, no dole, no food stamps. And if you lose your job, unless you were in a skilled occupation where you contributed to an unemployment insurance fund, you get nothing. And that is why the crime has increased so terribly. I think the Apartheid system would have broken down anyway because of black resistance and because South Africans did not like the isolation from sport and cultural events in the world, and also, simply because the Apartheid system no longer could be maintained; you cannot maintain segregation in an integrated economy. And all these were reasons why it broke down.

GROSS: You were elected to parliament just five years after Apartheid was codified by the National Party, just three years after the Racial Classification Act. So, this repressive system had just been put into place in an official way. What did you see as your role as the lone voice of dissent? Did everybody in parliament feel like your enemy? I mean, were they unfriendly to you as well as your political opposition?

Ms. SUZMAN: Some people were quite friendly. They sort of liked me despite my views, but most of them really were very unfriendly. I mean, I never had a meal with any of my colleagues during those years. I used to go upstairs and have a meal upstairs with my secretary and researcher, or I used to have guests in the public dining room at parliament, but I never sat down with my caucus, with the caucus people of the National Party or the United Party.

GROSS: Were you ridiculed within parliament for being anti-Apartheid, or for being female, or for being Jewish?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SUZMAN: Well, a bit of all of that, but ridiculed is not quite the word. I was attacked, and that's rather different. It was much more aggressive than ridicule.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Ms. SUZMAN: And well, it's a - being a woman didn't make any difference to me. I mean, I reckoned - you know, I knew that if you wanted to be considered the equal of male colleagues, you had to be better than them, and let me tell you, that wasn't that difficult.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SUZMAN: And as far as being Jewish is concerned, well, you know, that depended on the way Israel behaved at United Nations, funnily enough. You know, if United Nations voted against South Africa at U.N., then at least Israel voted against South Africa - Resolution at U.N., then I used to come in for a lot of anti-Semitic interjections. And on the other hand, after Israel won the Six Day War, I was treated as a heroine almost as if I'd done it myself, because the government identified with Israel as a sort of small country surrounded by dark-skinned neighbors, and there was this amazing six-day victory.

GROSS: You know, I'm thinking about all the incredible repression that you were trying to fight - the murders of activists, the totally inhumane imprisonment of blacks and especially of blacks who were leaders of the opposition - and yet, you had to voice your opposition in this very kind of gentile setting, the parliament. Granted, I know people were, you know, very vocal in arguing with each other, but still, it is kept in argument. I mean, this is the kind of thing people fight to the death over, you know what I mean? This is the kind of thing that people put their lives on the line for. And I'm wondering if it was ever frustrating to be dealing with such incredible repression and oppression, to be dealing with the people responsible for it, and to only be able to argue with them?

Ms. SUZMAN: Well, I mean, short of taking a gun and shooting them, what else could one do? I mean, it was an opportunity at least to voice one's uttered despair and dismay at what the government was doing, and knowing that this would probably be printed in the press the next day, and keep some values alive in that country. Otherwise, the whole thing was just a morass of, as you say, oppressive legislation and people being ill-treated without anybody even knowing about it. So, it had its value, and strangely enough, the government, for all its authoritarianism, had a very healthy respect for the parliamentary system, which is why I, who was known to be opposed to everything, was given very adequate time to debate.

DAVIES: Helen Suzman, who spent decades campaigning against Apartheid, speaking with Terry Gross in 1993. Suzman died yesterday at her home in Johannesburg. She was 91.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Fresh Air's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our engineer is Bob Perdick. Dorothy Ferebee is our administrative assistant. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. Our digital production project supervisor is Julian Herzfeld. Our theme music was composed by Joel Forrester and performed by the Microscopic Septet. For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies. Have a great first weekend of 2009.
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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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