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From the Archives: Former Beach Boy Brian Wilson Returns with His First Album in a Decade.

Legendary composer, producer, arranger and performer Brian Wilson, formerly of the Beach Boys. Last fall he released his first solo album of new material in ten years, called "Imagination" (Giant Records/Warner Bros. Records). Now there's a new companion home video which features a live performance and interview. It's also called "Imagination." (Warner/Reprise Video) (REBROADCAST from 8/20/98)


Other segments from the episode on January 29, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 29, 1999: Interview with Brian Wilson; Interview with Liv Ullman; Interview with Arthur Miller.


Date: JANUARY 29, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 012901np.217
Head: Brian Wilson
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Next month the reclusive Brian Wilson will begin a concert tour. This month a new Brian Wilson home video was released as a companion to his recent PBS show and his CD "Imagination," which was his first album of new songs in 10 years.

On this archive edition we have an interview with Wilson recorded last August after the release of the CD. In his days with the Beach Boys, Wilson arranged most of the harmonies, now he sings all the parts as well. There are about 90 vocal tracks on "Imagination" and he sings every note on them.

During the days of the Beach Boys' surf hits, many people wrote them off as kids stuff, but Wilson is now considered one of the greatest songwriters and one of the most influential producers in the history of rock-and-roll. He's also one of the music's most eccentric geniuses. He suffered from depression, nervous breakdowns and other psychological demons.

He's no longer involved with his controversial therapist Eugene Landy. Wilson is remarried and has adopted two babies.

Before we hear from him, let's play a song from his CD "Imagination."


Another car runnin' fast
Another song on the beat
I take a trip through the past
When summer's way out of reach

Another walk in the park
When I need something to do
And when I feel all alone
Sometimes I think about you

Take my hand
Smile and say
You don't understand
To look in your eyes

And see what you feel
And then realize
That nothing's for real
'Cause you know it's in

Your imagination
Running wild
And running
Your imagination

Running wild
And running
Your imagination

Running wild
Another bucket of sand ...

GROSS: Brian Wilson, welcome back to FRESH AIR. It's a great pleasure to have you here.


GROSS: This is your first CD of new songs in 10 years. Why now?

WILSON: Well, because I was a little bit hurt because the first one didn't sell very well. So I kind of felt hurt about that, so I laid off for quite a long time. In the meantime -- but in the interim, I wrote a lot of songs with my friends. I have about 45 songs that I've written that we didn't put on the new album.

GROSS: When you say that you were hurt that the other record didn't do so well -- I mean, how exactly did it affect you?

WILSON: Well, I expected it to be a very big album, because it was a good album, and it didn't sell very much at all. So I felt kind of hurt by that.

GROSS: Now on your new CD, you've recorded all the vocal parts yourself. You do all the voices on it.

WILSON: Right.

GROSS: What's your technique for doing that?

WILSON: Well, the technique is just many things. One technique is we do one track. Then we do it over again and again and again -- four times -- the same track, reinforcing each note stronger and stronger. Yep.

GROSS: So you're not singing harmony yet. You're singing the same note on each of these tracks.

WILSON: Well no, we sing harmony, but each note of the harmony has four on the same. You know what I mean?

GROSS: Yeah -- why is that? Just to make it kind of bigger?

WILSON: To make it bigger, fatter and it's nicer sounding, yeah.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm. So it makes it sound almost like a whole curtain of voices, like a whole background of voices, instead of just a couple of people singing harmony.

WILSON: Yeah right, exactly.

GROSS: Now do you always hear songs and harmony? As you're writing, do you hear harmony?

WILSON: Sometimes I do, yes. Most of the time I don't. I usually hear the melody and the chords, but then the harmony and the voices comes later as I arrange it.

GROSS: I want to play another track from the new CD, and this is a song called "Happy Days." And I understand this is a song you started many years ago.


GROSS: When did you start it?

WILSON: In 1970, I wrote two verses and we recorded it, by the Beach Boys, and we shelved it. We junked it, because it wasn't appropriate music for us.

GROSS: What was inappropriate about it?

WILSON: Well, it just didn't sound right. It had the wrong kind of sound for the Beach Boys. It was too much of a departure.

GROSS: Was it too sad?

WILSON: Yeah, it was too sad. It really was.

GROSS: Would you recite one of the verses for us from the early part of the song that you thought was too sad for the Beach Boys?

WILSON: "I once was so far from life; no one could help me; not even my wife." That's sad lyrics.

GROSS: Yeah. "I once felt so far from life" -- you don't feel that way anymore?

WILSON: No, no, and I feel much a part of life. Yeah.

GROSS: Why don't I play the song, and then we can talk about how you've produced it. And as our listeners will hear, it has an unusually discordant beginning. Here it is.


Dark days were (unintelligible)
Never ending sorrow
Only the past (unintelligible)
And turn to (unintelligible)

Oh God, the pain
That I've been going through
Raining in my heart
To my emotional rescue

I used to be
So far from God
No one could help me
Not even my wife

Oh, God the pain
That I've been going through
Raining in my heart
To my emotional rescue

GROSS: That's "Happy Days" from Brian Wilson's new CD "Imagination."

The beginning is so discordant. It's such a different kind of sound for you, both in terms of the vocal harmonies and the music behind the voices.


GROSS: Tell me about why you wanted that sound on this?

WILSON: I wanted it to sound like something I was going through.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

WILSON: Depict -- I wanted it to depict the mood of my life at that time. And then it did. It depicted it.

GROSS: In the record it almost sounds like there's a newscast or a radio broadcast mixed into the background.

WILSON: Oh yeah, that was meant to depict the confusion in my life. That was the "confusion" part of it.

GROSS: So as if you were like picking up different signals that didn't belong?

WILSON: Right. Exactly.

GROSS: Is that what you were feeling then, that you were hearing things that you shouldn't have been hearing?

WILSON: Yeah, absolutely.

GROSS: What kind of things were you hearing?

WILSON: Voices in my head, auditory hallucinations and stuff like that.

GROSS: Did that interfere with your music?

WILSON: No. No, I was able to isolate the music from the voices.

GROSS: Tell me more about producing "Happy Days" and what else was in your thinking about how it should sound.

WILSON: Well, I wanted it to sound mellow, with a little bit of love, but not too much love. And I wanted to depict the mood of my life. You know, as my life got happier, the voices got happier.

GROSS: How has your life changed in the past few years?

WILSON: Well, it's changed quite dramatically with my new wife and my new babies. I have a whole new lease on life now. It's wonderful.

GROSS: I think you got married in 1995?


GROSS: And you've adopted two children since then.

WILSON: Right. Right.

GROSS: What's it like for you being a father the second time around? Your daughters are grown now and are famous in their own right. Yeah.

WILSON: Oh, right. Well I wasn't a very good dad to my early -- my original daughters. I wasn't really a good dad to them. But I'm a lot closer to my new babies now than I ever was. It's like a brand new world has opened up.

GROSS: My guest is Brian Wilson. Let's listen to another track from his latest CD "Imagination." This is called "Let Him Run Wild."


When I watch you
Walk with him
Tears fill my eyes
And when I heard you

Talk with him
I couldn't crack his lies
And before he tries you
I hope you realize

Let him run wild
He don't care
Let him run wild
He'll find out

Let him run wild
He don't care
I guess you know
I waited for you

He'll do the same
With other girls
As he did to you
Then one day

He'll run into one
That's gonna hurt
Him too
Before he makes you over

I'm gonna take you over
Let him run wild
We don't care
Let him run wild

GROSS: We'll talk more with Brian Wilson after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Brian Wilson. His latest CD is called "Imagination."

You're seen so differently now than you were when the Beach Boys got started. You know, in the '60s, I think a lot of people saw the Beach Boys as, you know, great performers, but, you know, they were a teenage act that sang about surfing.

And now, of course, you're seen as one of the great geniuses of rock-and-roll, both as a songwriter, as a performer and as a producer. And I'm wondering how that change in how you're seen has affected you and how you see yourself?

WILSON: I see myself as primarily a singer, and after that maybe a producer and a writer -- songwriter. But my main forte in life is singing, of course.

GROSS: Now why do you see yourself primarily as a singer? I mean, you've written so many great songs and ...

WILSON: I know. I know.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

WILSON: But I just -- I feel the need to sing more than I do anything else. You know, it's kind of like that.

GROSS: So when you're not working on a new record, when you're not in the studio, are you still singing a lot?

WILSON: Oh, yeah. I sing every day at the piano. I go to my piano at least once a day and sing.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm. And do you always sing your own songs? Do you ever sing songs by other people?

WILSON: I sing all kinds of songs. I sing songs from Phil Spector, from myself and other people.

GROSS: What are some of the songs that you particularly love right now, by other people, that we might be surprised that you like?

WILSON: Oh, I like Burt Bacharach, "Walk on By."

GROSS: Uh-huh.

WILSON: I like Phil Spector, "Walking in the Rain" -- "Walking in the Rain." Records like that -- really cool records.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm. Do you feel like you learned things from Burt Bacharach's production too?

WILSON: Yeah, actually I did. I learned about chord changes and melodic thought. And Chuck Berry, of course, was probably the biggest influence on my melody writing.

GROSS: The Beach Boys, without you being part of them, have managed to, you know, continue their career by singing their old songs in performance. You never made yourself into an oldies act.


GROSS: And I'm wondering, you know, on the one hand, it's easy to do that, you know, to kind of get by on work you've already done; songs you've already written.


GROSS: On the other hand, you always have new songs that are going through your head -- new songs that you want to ...

WILSON: Right.

GROSS: ... write and record. Do you ever wish that you were the kind of person who could be happy playing the old songs?

WILSON: Yeah, all the time. I think of that all the time. I'm wondering why I can't be happy with those old songs. It's just a strange feeling. I mean, it's like a nostalgia thing, you know. It's just that I need those old songs a lot. I really do.

GROSS: You do need them.

WILSON: Oh, yeah. I need to listen to them all the time.

GROSS: Do you really? You know, when you say "listen to them," you mean play them at the piano or go back and play the records?

WILSON: Go back and play the records, I mean, yeah. I need that.

GROSS: But what is your current favorite of your old songs?

WILSON: I like "California Girls" the most, I think. I'm partial to "California Girls."

GROSS: Why is that?

WILSON: I don't know. I think the sound of the record -- the way the record starts out; the choruses in the record I thought were really good.

GROSS: Why don't I give that a spin? But before I do, would you tell us a little bit about producing that record?

WILSON: Yeah, I was 23 years old, and I went in the studio and I said: I'm going to cut a number one record. So before I went into the studio, I went to my piano and I said: I want to cut a shuffle beat, like "puh-chu-puh-chu-puh-chu" -- like that. And I kept working and working on it until I got a "bomp-a-doo-puh-domp-a" bass line. And then all of a sudden, it just -- the song just fell together like magic. It fell together.

GROSS: Did you write the lyric for it?

WILSON: Mike Love and I did, yeah.

GROSS: Uh-huh. And were you going through a period of girl watching, so to speak?

WILSON: Not really going through a period; we've always been that way. Mike and I have always been girl watchers.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

WILSON: You know, so it made it easy to write those lyrics.

GROSS: Right. OK, well let's hear it -- "California Girls."


Well, East Coast girls are hip
I really dig those styles they wear
And the Southern girls with the way they talk
They knock me out when I'm down there

The Midwest farmers daughters
Really make you feel all right
And the Northern girls
With the way they kiss

They keep their boy friends warm at night
I wish they all could be California girls
Wish they all could be California
I wish they all could be California girls

GROSS: That's the Beach Boys and my guest is Brian Wilson.

You had a chance to remix some of your old music for ...

WILSON: You mean, with "Pet Sounds"?

GROSS: ... with "Pet Sounds," yeah, 'cause there was a new CD box ...


GROSS: ... of that included a remixed mono version ...

WILSON: Right.

GROSS: ... a new stereo mix, as well as outtakes. What was it like for you to rework old music of yours?

WILSON: What was it like? It was like a big nostalgia trip, a sentimental trip that really took a lot out of me to go through that. It was probably the best album I ever produced, so I was very -- I was very into it.

GROSS: What were you going through in your life while you were producing "Pet Sounds"?

WILSON: I was going through a happy time. It was just a very happy time in my life.

GROSS: What was happy about it?

WILSON: It was very -- well, I -- my -- I was very happy about the Beach Boys' success and I was very much in tune with the competitive aspect of life and the business. And just -- just -- from there, I rambled on, you know.

GROSS: What were the new techniques that you tried in the studio for "Pet Sounds"?

WILSON: I tried to mix different instruments together to make a third sound, like organ and a piano mixed together to make a third sound. I just did a lot of mixing of instruments together. And I used echo very well.

GROSS: Is there a track that you think is your favorite from the record?

WILSON: Yeah, I like "Caroline, No" the best.

GROSS: Oh, that's a great song, too. Yeah.

WILSON: It is.

GROSS: Before we hear it, I just have a couple of more questions.
The -- "Pet Sounds" was originally issued in mono and you remixed it for stereo for the recent box set. I believe you're deaf in one ear?

WILSON: Yeah, right.

GROSS: Can you hear in -- I mean, what's the difference for you when you're working in stereo or in mono in the studio?

WILSON: Well, in stereo -- I can't hear stereo.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

WILSON: 'Cause it takes two ears to hear stereo. So I mixed it in mono. That's the only way I know how to make music is mono. But then when I started mixing stereo records, I could mix them, but I couldn't get the benefit of hearing how they sound, you know, with two ears. I just have the one ear.

GROSS: So how do you work now for new records? Do you mix them in mono and someone else does them in stereo?

WILSON: No, I mix them in stereo now. I mix in stereo.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

WILSON: You know, I can hear, but I can't hear the exact way it is, you know.

GROSS: Right.

WILSON: I hear enough of stereo to be able to mix it in stereo.

GROSS: Do you end up turning down the sound on one speaker so you can isolate the other speaker?

WILSON: Yeah, yeah. Actually, yeah. It's all a case of mixed -- in the mix.

GROSS: OK. This is "Caroline, No" from "Pet Sounds."


Where did your long hair go
Where is the girl I used to know
How could you lose that happy glow
Oh Caroline no

Who took that look away
I remember how you used to say
You'd never change but that's not true
Oh Caroline you

Break my heart
I wouldn't want to (unintelligible)
It's so sad to watch you (unintelligible)
Oh, Caroline no

GROSS: That's "Caroline, No" from "Pet Sounds." My guest is Brian Wilson.

Let's go back to your new CD and hear another track from it. And I thought this time we could hear the ballad "Cry."


GROSS: And I think this really has a sense, too, of what you were talking about before, about recording each part that you're going to sing four times to make it ...

WILSON: Right.

GROSS: ... really thick. Is this a good track to illustrate that?

WILSON: Yeah. Absolutely, yeah, 'cause it's like a very mellow, sad song and the more voices, the better. You know what I mean?

GROSS: Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm. So how many -- how many different tracks would you estimate you laid down for this song?

WILSON: Tracks vocals, you mean? Or ...

GROSS: Yeah, vocal tracks.

WILSON: About 20 -- 20 vocal tracks.

GROSS: Huh. And is it fun to do that? Does it get tedious after a while?

WILSON: Oh, it's very tedious, of course, but after you're done, you go: wow, I did that? How could I do that?

GROSS: Tell me about writing this song. And you wrote the words and music for this.

WILSON: Yeah. It happened one day when my wife started crying. She was upset about something and she was crying.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

WILSON: And I went to the piano and started writing a song called "Cry" because I couldn't deal -- I couldn't deal with how hard she was crying, so I wrote this song called "Cry." And I -- it just -- it just came very spontaneously and very naturally.

GROSS: And what does she think of this song?

WILSON: She loves it. It's her favorite song on the album.

GROSS: Brian Wilson. Recorded last August after the release of his CD "Imagination." This month a companion home video was released featuring performances and an interview. Next month Wilson begins a concert tour.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Brain Wilson
High: Legendary composer, producer, arranger and performer Brian Wilson, formerly of the Beach Boys. Last fall he released his first solo album of new material in ten years called, "Imagination." Now there's a new companion home video which features a live performance and interview. It's also called "Imagination."
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Brian Wilson

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Brian Wilson

Date: JANUARY 29, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 012902NP.217
Head: Liv Ullman
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Many of us have carefully studied Liv Ullman's face as framed in close-ups by director Ingmar Bergman. Her face expressed the subtleties of depression, despair and confusion; the emotions that dominated the movies that Ullman and Bergman worked on together -- like, "Persona," "Shame," "Face to Face," and "Cries and Whispers."

With the new film, "Private Confessions" Ullman has collaborated again with Bergman, who wrote the story. But this time she's directing. I spoke with Ullman in 1993 after the release of "Sofie," the first feature film directed by Ullman. She also co-wrote the screenplay.

I asked her what it was like being the boss on the movie set.

LIV ULLMAN, ACTRESS: In pre-production with the actors, with the set designer, costume, make-up, and so I had no problem because we were kind of talking the same language -- the same emotional language.

But the first day on the set -- the first day of shooting -- it was hard because then I met a crew -- I met people who deal with the technical aspects of a film and they like to use their language, and their language wasn't always my language.

And also, obviously being a woman, as you may know too from a working place, you have to prove yourself in a way that men don't often have to do. And so we had a week where, you know, there was this silent power struggle, and I won.

But I decided I don't want to win because I'm crying or because I'm emotional or, you know, having temper tantrums. I want to win by them respecting that I've done my homework. And since it's my script and my vision, they will finally understand that I know what I'm talking about.

And they saw the rushes and they saw how good the actors were. And without words we put down the so-called "little war," and had a wonderful piece of three months where we danced together to my drum.

GROSS: What was the power struggle about and what did you do to win?

ULLMAN: It's the usual power struggle, you know. That it's not easy for all men, nor for many women, to take directions from a woman. I also wanted on the set that there would be a kind of language -- they way we talked to each other -- that it would be gentle and full of respect.

And mainly I wanted the actors to be treated really warmly and nicely so they would feel very safe, very trusted so they could create. Because I find that actors are creative -- these were very established, wonderful theater actors of Denmark, and I wanted them to bloom.

And to bloom, they cannot, you know, be told, well, hurry up. Hit that mark. Do this and that. And so there were some, you know, disagreements there because sometimes they were talked to that way, and I had to make sure that that wouldn't happen again.

And also there were a lot of technical -- what do you say? -- words I didn't know. You know, to me a camera can fly. To me a camera can dance and it can slowly come into the face and, you know, caress a body. And obviously that's not the dictionary used when you set up a scene, but that's how I spoke. And then they had to understand.

GROSS: Did they laugh at you at first when you used poetic language instead of more technical terms?

ULLMAN: Sure they laughed. And they would then use technical language far more than they needed to to make sure I didn't understand them. And, you know, if you don't understand something you don't even know you're supposed to make a decision. And that's how, not only in films, but in all fields of life that sometimes women become strangers to what is going on because they do not really understand what the question is nor that there is a question.

Because it's only when we, you know, talk the same language that we can share the responsibility of an answer. So they would make me, sometimes, invisible and that's when I didn't cry, and I didn't storm out of the studio. That's when I stood there being invisible saying, "hello, I'm here. And whatever you think, we're going to do the shot my way.

GROSS: Did you have to work to not cry or was that just not the instinct in the first place? You know, sometimes when you say to yourself I'm not going to cry that's when you really weep.

ULLMAN: Well, I know. Well, yeah I had to -- because it would have been so easy to say, OK, take the responsibility now you guys for all this. I know you're so much better. Because it's in my nature to say, I'm sorry, can I go and get you coffee while you do the important stuff here.

But I knew I would lose if I do it. And I had worked so hard on the preparation. I knew my stuff so well and I had the whole in my head -- not the "hole" as a hole in the Earth, but the "whole" thing in my head. So I knew nobody else had that because I'd been with the script for so long. So, yeah, I had to remind myself: don't cry Liv. It's going to be fine. And it was fine.

GROSS: Now you've been directed by one of the most emotionally intense directors, Ingmar Bergman. Was there anything you tried to borrow or tried to consciously avoid based on your experiences as an actress being directed by him?

ULLMAN: Well, you know, I think as in most professions in life you learn more by those who do it bad than almost by those who do it well, because you learn by the bad ones what not to do; what makes you nervous, what makes you insecure. You know, that's not how I should deal with people.

From the best ones you don't really think: I have to remember this. I have to remember this. And although I made 11, I think, wonderful pictures with Ingmar Bergman I made so many more pictures with so many other directors, and theater and writing. And I've been up and going for so many years.

So as hard as it may seem for people to believe, I don't wake up and go to bed thinking what would Ingmar Bergman have done and thought. No.

GROSS: What's the story of how you made your first film, "Persona," with the Ingmar Bergman who directed it and Bibi Andersson who co-starred with you?

ULLMAN: Well, I had been, you know, an actress for many many years, actually then in Norway -- eight years. And I was a leading actress in the National Theater of Oslo. I'd done many Norwegian and Swedish films at that time.

And I met Bibi Andersson on a Swedish film and went to Stockholm, and on the street we were walking and we met Ingmar Bergman. And like in the book, although it wasn't Lana Turner, I was -- Ingmar Bergman looked at me and said, would you like to do a film with me? And I thought that was a glib thing to say. So I just blushed and said yes.

But the film then that he had in mind where I had a small part that never happened because he became ill. But while in the hospital he kept this image of Bibi and me on the street, and he had seen a photograph of us and struck by our likeness.

He was in the hospital and he wrote, in a week, the film "Persona" based on the likeness between two women. And that was "Persona," and, you know, it was all -- came together -- pre-production and everything within 14 days -- three weeks.

Bibi and I was vacationing in Czechoslovakia when we got a fax to the Embassy of Sweden, come back, Bergman is out of the hospital and needs to do a film with you. And we went back and thought we were doing this little film on an island in Sweden, and it turned out to be, you know, a very special film in film history. Today, many have made films like that, but at that time it was a first. And it's a classic film.

GROSS: In "Persona" you play an actress who is very depressed going through like an existential crisis, and you've given up speaking. And Bibi Andersson plays your nurse. There are many scenes in which you're staring into the camera or staring just off into space, and there's just incredible intensity on your face registering this absence, you know. This feeling of kind of groping for meaning.

What were you thinking about during those long scenes in which the camera is just observing your naked face?

ULLMAN: Well, I don't really know. You know, I've seen the picture since then, and I was so young, actually, when I did it. I was 27. And one thing I did understand was that I was doing Ingmar Bergman and that's what I continued to do in a lot of the films. And just because he wanted to work with me he made the role into a woman's role instead of a man's role.

I was too young really to understand what an existential crisis was. And I was kind of a happy person, and it hadn't occurred to me that one has such crises. And today I understand much more, but I think my luck was that I somehow recognized Bergman and saw it's him I'm portraying. So I watched him, and I did him on camera.

GROSS: What did you find in his face or in his body that you borrowed for that role?

ULLMAN: Oh, this young boy -- I saw a picture of him as a schoolboy when he was 11, and you can just see this boy. He doesn't have many friends, and he has all these pimples. And it's just somebody wanting to come out and say, hi, here I am. Please see me.

And that's what I saw in this grown man who was, you know, 21 years older than me. And I borrowed that. So, if you say I'm looking intently into space and all that in "Persona," I think I was trying to shows this person, you know, wanting to communicate; wanting to be part of the world but not knowing how to. And then deciding, I'm not going to speak. I'm just going to go into myself and hide from people.

I can understand more of that today, not that I want to go inside and hide, but I can see how some people find it so difficult to live and to connect with others that they find it easier to just shut the door. It's sad but I can see why some would make that choice.

GROSS: It sounds like you understood shyness better than you did the existential crisis.

ULLMAN: Probably. But, you know, I think shyness is at the bottom of much existential crisis. Shyness -- in a deeper meaning -- shyness where you feel so much on the outside you feel everybody else has got it together and you are the -- what do you say? -- the forever outsider.

GROSS: My guest is actress, and now director, Liv Ullman. We'll be right back.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: Let's get back to our 1993 interview with actress and director Liv Ullman.

Now, you and Ingmar Bergman became lovers. Was it ever a strain having a lover who was older and was also the boss -- the director? I mean, you had -- it's sometimes an awkward position to be in, to have the person who you're most intimate with also be the person who is giving you directions.

ULLMAN: Well, I tell you it wasn't like living with Bob Hope.


And you know when we met for breakfast if...


...he'd tell me about his nightmares I knew I was going to star in them in his next film.


But -- and actually we did "Persona," and then I only did two films for him while we lived together. The bulk of the work we had done together was after our personal relationship was all over. But those two films, that was no fun.

The others, when the day was over, they could go and have fun and be together, but I had to go home with the boss. And this was really a boss, you know, in existential crisis. Yeah, that was kind of tough. And we lived on this island and he built a house there where we had made "Persona," and he built a wall around the house and nobody would look in. But nobody could look out either. So it was -- it was some strange years there.

GROSS: Was there ever, literally, a breakfast in which he told you about a nightmare and you did play that scene in a movie afterwards?

ULLMAN: Yeah, actually it was. But many years after. Actually, the picture you mentioned earlier, "Face to Face" where he told -- yeah, an exact scene like a nightmare he had had at that time was in this film.

GROSS: What was the scene? What was the nightmare?

ULLMAN: Where the woman which I played in "Face to Face" tries to commit suicide. She wakes up in her childhood bed. She's visiting her -- I don't know who she -- it must have been her mother. And she wakes up and on the bed is sitting this strange woman with a glass eye -- black glass eye -- just staring at her and then reaching out and trying to embrace her. And she screams. And she wakes up. And that was his nightmare. Yeah, that's what I got to do.


GROSS: So was it any more relaxing to act after your relationship with him had ended?

ULLMAN: Yeah, well, I tell you, you know, he is not as dark as his films seem to say, nor while we're doing the films even the dark ones. There is so much laughter and fun working with Ingmar Bergman. His films, except for "Fanny and Alexander," which is the last one he did, are not showing so much of that really playful young boy that he has inside.

But during filming we had so much fun. Erland Josephson, who is also in "Sofie," he is my best play mate. I can't tell you how, during all these years, we had been doing all these violent scenes and then in between we are lying in a bed there on the set, you know, there's always a bed because we are always married.

And we'd just laugh away and tell jokes and secrets and bad mouth the director. And that's why it was fun doing -- or strange, actually, doing "Sofie" because here is Erland Josephson married to somebody else, Ghita Norby, the Danish actress he's married to in the film.

And there they were, you know, lying in bed and laughing and going on. And I knew they were bad mouthing me, I'm sure.


And I couldn't be part of it. I had to kind of set up new shots and be on the other side of the camera. And it was very strange, suddenly, to see my play mate, you know, in his old role and I suddenly had this new role of the director.

GROSS: Liv Ullman, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

ULLMAN: Thank you very much.

GROSS: Liv Ullman, recorded in 1993 after the release of the first feature film she directed, "Sofie." She directed the new film, "Private Confessions." The story is by Ingmar Bergman.

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Liv Ullman
High: Actress Liv Ullman. She's best known for her work with director Ingmar Bergman. In 1993 she made her directing debut with the film, "Sofie." It was based on a novel by Danish writer Henri Nathansen. She also co-wrote the screenplay. Ullman is directing again and collaborating again with Bergman. Her new film is "Private Confession," which was written by Ingmar Bergman.
Spec: Entertainment; Movie Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Ingmar Bergman; Liv Ullman

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Liv Ullman
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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