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From the Archives: Novelist Hubert Selby, Jr.

Writer Hubert Selby, Jr. Thirty-four years ago, his collection of stories, "Last Exit To Brooklyn," (Grove Press) shocked readers with its salty language and explicit portrayal of prostitutes, thugs, ex-cons, and striking dock workers along the Brooklyn waterfront. Selby has several new books out: "The Willow Tree" and "Reading the Apocalypse in Bed: Six Radical Plays" (Marion Boyars Publishers). And there's a new book about Selby, entitled "Understanding Hubert Selby, Jr." by James R. Giles and Matthew Bruccoli (University of South Carolina Press). REBROADCAST. ORIGINALLY AIRED 8/11/88.

11:50

Other segments from the episode on June 19, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 19, 1998: Interview with Boy George; Commentary on Maria Callas; Interview with Hubert Selby, Jr.; Review of the film "X-Files: Fight the Future."

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 19, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 061901np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Culture Club
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

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

The British singer Boy George was a pop star in the '80s. With his band Culture Club, he had such hits as "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?," "Karma Chameleon," and "I'll Tumble 4 Ya." His music was somewhere between pop, soul and reggae. His look was somewhere between male and female.

Culture Club fell apart in 1986 and so did Boy George, who was trying to kick a heroin habit. He cleaned up, but didn't reestablish himself in the states until the film "The Crying Game." His version of the title song ran under the close credits.

In 1995, he published an autobiography called "Take It Like A Man" and he released a CD called "Cheapness and Beauty" -- his first to feature songs with an unambiguously gay point of view.

Culture Club has reunited. They just performed in London and they begin an American tour in July. Also next month, a new Culture Club compilation CD will be released. On this archive edition, we have a 1995 interview with Boy George. Let's start with the Culture Club hit "I'll Tumble 4 Ya."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- BOY GEORGE AND CULTURE CLUB PERFORMING "I'LL TUMBLE 4 YA")

BOY GEORGE AND CULTURE CLUB, SINGERS: (SINGING)

Down town, we'll drown
We're in our never splender
Flowers
Showers
Who's got the new boy gender

I'll be your baby
I'll be your score
I'll run the gun for you
And so much more

I'll tumble 4 ya
I'll tumble 4 ya
I'll tumble 4 ya
I'll tumble 4 you

I'll tumble 4 ya
I'll tumble 4 ya
I'll tumble 4 ya
I'll tumble...

Uptown their sound
Is like the native
You send her
Junktion
Funktion
The boy with pop is slender

Did he say maybe
Or I'm not sure
He'll be a boy for you
But you need more

I'll tumble 4 ya
I'll tumble 4 ya
I'll tumble 4 ya
I'll tumble...

GROSS: Now how does it feel to sing songs now that acknowledge that you're gay?

BOY GEORGE, SINGER: Well, I guess all my songs have in a way been sort of gay love songs in a sense. In the past, they were kind of ambiguous.

GROSS: I'm trying to think, you know, in your lyrics in the past, was it always like a "you" instead of a "she" or a -- or a "he" that you were addressing?

BOY GEORGE: I think it was general, you know. We kept it ambiguous. The first time I ever recorded with Culture Club -- the first demos we ever made -- were for EMI records.

GROSS: Mmm-hm.

BOY GEORGE: And a song called "(unintelligible)" was one of our first songs. And in that, I sang "he loves me, he hates me" and there was a whole incident where the engineer stopped me and said "you're saying `he.'" And then the whole band had a big discussion about it. And we decided that it would be better to not alienate people.

So in a way, what I've done has gone back to my originally way to writing and just written from the heart, really.

GROSS: Now let me explain. I'm in a studio in Philadelphia. You're in a studio in New York. We're connected by wires, so I'm not seeing you. What's your look now?

BOY GEORGE: It's kind of Priscilla Presley meets Alice Cooper.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Why don't you describe what you're wearing; how your hair is.

BOY GEORGE: Well, my hair is kind of like '60s with a bit of punk. And I have on fierce black eyeliner that kind of sweeps up towards the sky. And then I have kind of quite normal clothes. It's kind of casual with a twist. I have these kind of weird pants which I bought in Japan; kind of bright blue Versace boots, an orange-checked shirt, and a kind of gray jacket from John Bogate (ph). Nothing too flamboyant, but it kind of has an edge to it.

GROSS: What color's your hair?

BOY GEORGE: My hair is black; jet black like a raven.

GROSS: How come you dyed it black?

BOY GEORGE: Well, let's not go into that.

LAUGHTER

It's always been dark.

GROSS: Boy, that's like the last thing I thought that you wouldn't want to talk about.

BOY GEORGE: Well, you know, my hair kind of changes color daily as I take it in and out of the box.

GROSS: Oh, I see.

LAUGHTER

Right. OK.

BOY GEORGE: It's like a kind of living Cindy-doll (ph) approach.

GROSS: Got it. OK. You know, when I first saw you perform, I wasn't sure whether the drag was just a way to get attention, you know, and you actually, like, went home and put on khakis and a shirt and tie; or whether, you know, you really enjoy dressing in drag and always had.

BOY GEORGE: Well when I was a teenager, I started dressing up. When I discovered David Bowie -- that was when my kind of extravagant style began. In Culture Club, I did come and look like that most of the time. These days, I'm more likely to go home and put on a pair of khakis, you know, because I like to have a distinction between what I do on stage and there is more of a separation now than there used to be.

I was kind of trapped in that image for years. I couldn't bear to let people see me looking normal. Now, I don't give a damn.

GROSS: What's changed for you that you don't care now?

BOY GEORGE: I guess I'm more comfortable with my appearance, my physical appearance, without the armor, without the drag. So there's more of a balance and it just makes dressing up more fun, you know, because it's not something you have to do as an obligation.

GROSS: Mmm-hm. Now, were you into style before you were old enough to go to the clubs?

BOY GEORGE: The first line in my book is: "When I was a little boy, I wanted to be Shirley Bassey." So I've always been attracted to style and dramatic gestures. I grew up with a fascination for all things different. I used to watch those Busby Berkeley movies on the Saturday -- TV on Saturday. And I just always loved glamour and pizzazz.

GROSS: And when did you start to try to become that?

BOY GEORGE: I guess around the age of about 11 years old, when I started to really get into pop music. That was around the time of the glam scene, so there were people like David Bowie, Mark Boland (ph) -- all sorts of fantastic performers. And that's when I really started getting into it.

GROSS: Now when did you start to sing?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I always used to sing along to pop records. I used to walk around the streets with a transistor radio to my ear. And I learned all the words to every pop song you could imagine. And so I was always singing all my childhood and all through my teenage years. And people used to say, "you know, you have a good voice, why don't you try and become a singer?" But it just seemed so out of reach when I was a teenager.

And when punk rock came along, it really opened the door for people like me because prior to that, you really had to pay your dues and spend years on the road, and punk kind of kicked down the door and turned everything upside down.

GROSS: So what was your singing like when -- you know, during the punk era?

BOY GEORGE: Well my first band was called "In Praise of Lemmings." So that kind of gives you an idea of what kind of -- and we had this song which was called "Mask." And it was very -- I was really influenced by "Susie and the Banshees." (ph) I was a big Susie Banshee (ph) fan. So it was kind of very drony -- kind of "Make a mask for me ..." -- all that kind of deep baritone-type stuff and very suicidal.

LAUGHTER

But I soon snapped out of that.

GROSS: Tell us the story of how Culture Club got started.

BOY GEORGE: Well, I was in this band called "Bow Wow Wow," and they threw me out. But I had the bug. I'd been on stage. I'd gotten a kind of taste of it. So I started to look for my own band, and that's really how it happened. I just rang around and then once I got a couple of members of the band, we started to look for other people.

GROSS: So one of the co-founders of the band, John Moss (ph), who, you know, was the drummer -- you were lovers with him for a long time.

BOY GEORGE: We were lovers pretty soon after we met, and John was the kind of driving force behind the band. You know, getting things organized. He was a real sort of go-getter type person. So he was the kind of practical force within the band.

GROSS: Mmm-hm.

BOY GEORGE: We kind of fell in love within about three months of meeting each other. And that's really what made the whole thing so exciting. And as we got more and more successful and our relationship kind of fell apart -- you know, the pressures of being successful and jealousy, immaturity. I mean, it really kind of wore us down.

GROSS: In your book, you say that you actually wanted people to know that you were gay, but John didn't want you to reveal that.

BOY GEORGE: Well, John didn't want people to know about us and our relationship because on the one hand he felt that the media, if they knew, might try to interfere and write bad things about us. And I guess also there was a lot of fear on John's part because he wasn't very comfortable with his sexuality.

But as far as I was concerned, you know, I was out of the closet at 16. My parents knew when I was 16 years old. So it was very frustrating for me to be kind of living in limbo -- almost living a lie. I mean, obviously the way I looked and the way that I behaved, I think made it quite clear to a lot of people what I was. But I was sitting on the fence and it was a very difficult thing for me to do.

GROSS: What advice did your record company give you when you signed?

BOY GEORGE: My record company never ever gave me any advice about my sexuality. Nobody ever interfered. I think people don't want to talk about it. The general attitude in the business is: I'd rather not know. You know, if we don't talk about it, it doesn't exist.

I mean, I never had any of that. I mean, no one in my -- in my management or in my record company ever said, you know, don't say. They just didn't talk about it.

GROSS: Let me play the record that was your first hit in the states. This is -- I'm going to play Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? Was that your first hit in England also?

BOY GEORGE: It was our third single, but it was our first successful record.

GROSS: Do you want to say anything about writing this song -- how you feel about it now?

BOY GEORGE: Well I guess in those days, I was a bit of a victim. And this song is very kind of "woe is me." You know, it was a song about John -- all about the fact that, you know, he wasn't sort of giving 100 percent to the relationship and he wasn't being honest with himself. So I guess it has a certain poignancy.

GROSS: OK, this is Boy George, Culture Club, singing "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" -- the first hit in the states.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- BOY GEORGE AND CULTURE CLUB PERFORMING "DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HURT ME?")

BOY GEORGE AND CULTURE CLUB, SINGERS: (SINGING)

Do you really want to hurt me?
Do you really want to make me cry?
Precious kisses
WOrds that burn me?
Love is never asking why.

In my heart the fires burning
Choose my color, find a star.
Precious people always tell me
That's a step a step too far

Do you really want to hurt me?

GROSS: I thought it was interesting in your book you say that at some point you realized that all the fans that surrounded your house and that really wanted to get close to you -- it wasn't so much that they cared about you. They cared about being close to fame; being close to celebrity.

BOY GEORGE: Well, I can only kind of relate it to my own experiences as a teenager. You know, I used to stand outside David Bowie's house. And I used to go to radio stations and I used to touch him as he -- you know, I used to try and touch him and scream as he came out of the building.

I don't really know why I did that. When I think about it now, I think how ridiculous. But I guess in some way I related to David Bowie. He was somebody a little weird. He was bisexual. I knew I was gay. So he was kind of like a God to me. He was a kind of release and escape.

I don't know if that's true of my fans. But I think a lot of the girls that were kind of into Culture Club and into me -- I think they really recognized a certain frailty and a certain vulnerability in me. And I think that was what was the attraction.

GROSS: My guest is Boy George. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back with Boy George.

You write in your book that you became trapped in your own image. You had had a lot of different styles before you really became famous. Was the image that you had when you became famous one that you were expected to keep?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I don't think I was expected to keep it.

GROSS: I mean, were you expected to keep like that hair-do and that outfit?

BOY GEORGE: Well, it kind of works so it was -- it was -- I mean, the look that I had in Culture Club was a kind of watered down look of all the looks I'd had since I was a teenager.

GROSS: Describe it.

BOY GEORGE: Well, it was the big Hasidic hats ...

LAUGHTER

GROSS: I never thought of it that way.

BOY GEORGE: ... well, it was actually a proper Jewish hat that I wore.

GROSS: Really?

BOY GEORGE: Which was a present from John. It was actually a frumer's (ph) hat. And then I wore it with sort of dreadlock braids with ribbons.

GROSS: Mmm-hm.

BOY GEORGE: And my clothes were kind of psychedelic and baggy -- not really women's clothes. Kind of blowing the boundaries. I mean, kind of androgynous if you like.

GROSS: Mmm-hm.

BOY GEORGE: I mean, I didn't wear breasts. I wasn't really trying to be a woman. I was really contradicting all those sort of rigid ideas of what is male and female.

GROSS: What about the image of the rest of the band?

BOY GEORGE: Oh, I did terrible things to them. I mean, I made them wear things that they looked absolutely ridiculous in. Once I made Roy have white dreadlocks, which was a pretty hideous look. And then there was a time in Japan when I made them all wear these kind of very tight sort of lycra shorts, with clip-on suspenders. That wasn't a particular favorite look of theirs. I was very bossy. I mean, I used to -- I guess because they were kind of quite straight-laced, so I used to try and spice them up a bit and make them look more interesting.

GROSS: Mmm-hm. When you came to America and you had become a star here and you started doing television shows here -- shows that you didn't know. It must have been an interesting experience. Like in your book, you write about being on "Live With Regis Philbin." And what a disorienting experience that was. Would you tell us about that?

BOY GEORGE: Well, when we arrived at the show, I couldn't believe all the audience were wearing plaid trousers and wide-lapel jackets and big funky colored shirts. You know, we looked like space aliens. It was like so bizarre because we seemed like to be from another planet.

GROSS: You know, he's got a wildly popular show now.

BOY GEORGE: Absolutely, yeah.

GROSS: Are you gonna -- you on it?

BOY GEORGE: I did it this morning.

GROSS: Did you?

LAUGHTER

BOY GEORGE: Yeah.

GROSS: Now, you did "Solid Gold." And I thought it was really interesting. You wouldn't let the Solid Gold dancers share the stage with you because -- because why?

BOY GEORGE: I thought they were tacky, to be honest with you.

GROSS: Well, I have to agree with you.

LAUGHTER

BOY GEORGE: I mean, I felt that the whole setup of Solid Gold was a bit '70s, and we were all about doing something modern; something revolutionary. And I just thought that they jarred with our image.

GROSS: So were you -- you really had the power to say: "Sorry, you can't use your own dancers on the show"?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I said you can use them, but just not behind us, thank you.

GROSS: So ...

BOY GEORGE: I was a bit of a tyrant in those days. I mean, I used to really -- I used to pull weight a lot. You know, I used to really get very uppity about things. And I would refuse to do the show. I would just simply say: "Well, if they're on, we're not" -- you know. And of course, I got away with it a lot of the time.

GROSS: One year when you won a Grammy, you said -- well, why don't you repeat what you said.

BOY GEORGE: I said: "Thank you America. You got style and taste and you know a good drag queen when you see one."

GROSS: Now, how did you decide to say that?

BOY GEORGE: It just kind of flew out of my mouth. I mean, it wasn't like I sat down and planned to say it.

GROSS: Oh, you hadn't?

BOY GEORGE: Oh, no, not a syllable. I mean, a lot of the things I say kind of just burst out, you know, and I remember after that, I was told a lot of the people from CBS Records who I was signed to at that time had fallen off their chairs and were like weeping and you know, kind of dying in shock on the floor.

LAUGHTER

So I was quite pleased about that.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Did they say anything to you afterwards?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I think that up until that point, and I say this in the book, up until that point, my sexuality had been kind of hovering in a huge question mark. And by saying I was a drag queen, I was kind of saying I was gay. So it really did change things for me after that.

I mean, it kind of signaled a kind of almost like, you know, it was like -- almost like the end of Culture Club because people had always wanted to see me as this kind of sexless inoffensive exotic doll. And suddenly I was sort of being sexual and being provocative. And it really freaked people out.

GROSS: So did it change your audience's reaction to you?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I did hear that they were kind of college debates about what I actually meant. You know, people did take it far more seriously than it was, you know, than was necessary. But I guess in those days, you know, it was quite a shocking thing. I mean, now you have drag queens on every kind of, you know, movie you can see and they're on TV all the time. But at that time, I suppose people found that shocking, you know.

GROSS: You started using drugs after the band caught on. How did it change your personality when you got involved with heroin?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I think drugs really help you to escape. And a drug like heroin is almost like a womb-like drug, you know. You just completely cut off from your feelings. You don't care about anybody or anything. And you almost have this kind of superior air about you that is, you know, it's hard to imagine unless you've done it.

GROSS: You know, in your book you say that on tours you got into, you know, destroying expensive hotel rooms ...

BOY GEORGE: No, never.

GROSS: Oh, I -- that's what I thought it said.

BOY GEORGE: No, never did anything like that.

GROSS: OK.

BOY GEORGE: I -- you know, when I was a kid I used to get very upset watching Laurel and Hardy bust up these houses. It used to really upset me.

LAUGHTER

I would never, ever do anything like that. I mean, that's something -- I guess, you know, coming from a quite poor family -- you know, my mother really had to kind of scrape to get by, and she was very house-proud. So I would never, ever bust up a hotel.

GROSS: I'm really glad. I just think it's so spoiled to do that. I ...

BOY GEORGE: Oh no, I never do ...

GROSS: ... hate it when rock stars do that.

BOY GEORGE: Oh no, I've never done that. Oh, no, no, no -- not me.

LAUGHTER

Ozzie Osborne, but not me.

GROSS: Well how did you end up kicking heroin?

BOY GEORGE: Well unfortunately, I lost two very close friends of mine, and that was a real sharp shot. Because I realized if I carried on, I'd be next.

GROSS: Mmm-hm.

BOY GEORGE: Certainly, you know, I had the world's media on my back. I felt like almost like a rat in a corner, you know. I really didn't have any choice 'cause everybody was saying "please give up." You know -- "pull yourself together." And as I say, you know, losing my friend Michael and my friend Mark was really what I needed. And sad to say that, you know, because, you know, there's not a day that goes by that I don't think of them, you know, and wish I could turn back the clock; wish I could have done something, you know.

GROSS: Boy George, recorded in 1995. He's reunited with his band Culture Club. They begin an American tour next month, which will coincide with the release of a Culture Club compilation CD.

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
Guest: Boy George
High: Pop star BOY GEORGE. In 1982, he and his band Culture Club first hit the charts with "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" In a 1995 autobiography, he says he got trapped in the image he created. His band fell apart in 1986, and he developed a drug addiction. He's now recovered. Culture Club is back together. They're releasing a compilation album in mid-July 1998 and and have begun a world tour. Some upcoming US dates are: 7/23/98 Atlanta, 7/30 NYC, 8/5 Philadelphia, and 8/7 Boston. Both Culture Club and Boy George (solo) are planning new albums to be released in the spring of 1999. His autobiography is called Take It Like a Man: The Autobiography of Boy George. (written with George O'Dowd, published by HarperCollins.)
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; CUlture Club; LIfestyle; Culture; Drugs
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 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: Culture Club
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 19, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 061902NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Maria Callas
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:30

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

It's been 20 years since the death of soprano Maria Callas, but she's never been more popular. Live performances, home videos and even a CD ROM of her "Tosca" are now available. EMI has been reissuing all of her complete operas and vocal recital albums in better sound.

Our classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz is surprised only at the rare coincidence between popularity and artistic greatness. Here's his review.

LLOYD SCHWARTZ, MUSIC CRITIC: A few months ago, I was watching "Seinfeld" and there was a commercial for Apple Computers. "Think Different" the slogan read, and flashing across the screen were images of Einstein, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Picasso, and Maria Callas. "Think Different" -- she certainly did.

And those differences made her the greatest and of course the most controversial opera singer of the century. One of the controversies was over her voice, which was not conventionally beautiful and not particularly large. But it had color -- a different color and character for each part she played.

Dark and ferocious for Turandot or Lady Macbeth. Light and lambent for the witty comic heroines of Rossini. Frail and pathetic for Violetta or Mimi. Ferocious and pathetic for Medea or Norma.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SOPRANO MARIA CALLAS PERFORMING IN OPERA)

At the beginning of her career, Callas astonished the opera world by singing Wagner's heroic Brunhilde and the brilliant vocal filigree of Bellini in the same week. And within each role, no one was ever more expressive in coloring the words. Her rechetatives (ph) are at least as interesting as her arias.

She seemed to live her roles -- speak them while she was singing. Yet no singer ever hewed more closely to a score. "Callas is Carmen" the ads read when she recorded Bizet's opera. And for once, the ads were true.

And not only words. Callas changed the 20th century perception of a lost style of 19th century opera called "bel canto" by demonstrating that all those wordless vocal ornamentations were part of the drama. Lucia's coloratura trills and rulads (ph) -- unarticulated notes -- became with Callas the most poignant expression of Lucia's madness; a source not just of visceral vocal excitement -- and it was certainly exciting -- but of profound human pathos.

It's that astonishing flexibility and her refusal to sing anything less than all out, even in rehearsal, that may have caused her voice to wear out so quickly. The greatest part of her career lasted little more than a decade.

Still, she continued to record and then, even with her voice fraying, she learned to make her problems part of the drama; to add even greater subtlety to her phrasing, and depth to her characterizations.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SOPRANO MARIA CALLAS PERFORMING OPERA)

No operatic career has ever been more fully documented on disc. There's now a four-CD set called "Callas: The Voice, The Story" that includes interviews with Callas and other musicians and substantial excerpts from live performances.

But there's little Callas on film. One treasure that has just been added to her videography is the aria "Vici d'Arte" from "Tosca" that she did on the Ed Sullivan Show. It's on a video called "Great Moments in Opera" and is the only extant film record of Callas at the very height of her power. And she's shattering.

The most important news, however, is that EMI has been reissuing all her recordings in improved sound. And her recital albums are now organized as they were on their original LPs. They're short discs, but at bargain prices and it's revealing to hear each album as the unified statement it was first intended to be.

Perhaps Callas' continuing popularity results from the non-musical side of her life: The drama of the artist with convictions confronting the arbitrary authority of opera managers; and the juicy gossip of her lawsuits, her weight loss, her feuds, her public quarrels with her mother; how she left her husband for Aristotle Onassis; how Onassis dumped her for Jackie Kennedy.

Trash -- what's important is that she was a great artist, a creative genius; the Einstein, the Picasso of opera. But if the trash lures a new public to recognize her genius, then bravo to the trash.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix. The Maria Callas recordings he reviewed were reissued by EMI.

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

Dateline: Lloyd Schwartz; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Classical music critic LLOYD SCHWARTZ profiles opera singer Maria Callas. It's the 20th anniversary of her death. There's a been re-issue of her work. Live performances, home videos and a CD-ROM of her Tosca performance are now available. We will hear selections from "Bizet: Carmen," "Bellini: Norma" and "Verdi: Arias II." (EMI Classics)
Spec: Music Industry; Opera; Entertainment; Lifestyle; Culture; Callas
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 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: Maria Callas
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 19, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 061903NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: The X-Files
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:53

TERRY GROSS, HOST: We sent our TV critic David Bianculli to the movies to see the "X-Files: Fight The Future." Here's his thoughts on the movie version of the popular TV series.

DAVID BIANCULLI, TV CRITIC: In order for an X-Files movie to work, it has to succeed on two levels at once. For people who have never seen the show, it has to stand alone on its own merits and establish the lead characters and primary subplots that fans of the series already know so well.

For those fans of the series, it has to move the show's narrative story forward rather than start over from scratch, and also have to offer something new. The X-Files movie with its screenplay by series creator Chris Carter (ph) does both of those things well. It has other problems, which I'll get to in a minute, but it jumps those first two hurdles very impressively.

When the TV series ended for the season, the X-Files department of the FBI had been disbanded. And agents Fox Mulder, and Dana Scully, played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson had been reassigned from investigating the paranormal to more routine duties. When we first see Mulder and Scully in the movie, they're performing some of those other duties -- helping with a bomb threat called in on a Dallas federal building.

These early scenes nicely establish the banter and trust between Scully and Mulder. And all of the exposition explaining what drives and haunts the character of Mulder is provided almost comically. It's done in a scene where he goes to a bar to drown his sorrows and spill his guts to the bartender, played by Glenn Hedley (ph). And when that bartender hears his story, she cuts off his liquor supply.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SCENE FROM "X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE")

SOUND OF TAPPING ON BAR TOP

GLENN HEDLEY, ACTRESS, PORTRAYING BARTENDER: So what do you do?

SOUND OF LIQUID POURING

DAVID DUCHOVNY, ACTOR, PORTRAYING FOX MULDER: What do I do?

HEDLEY: Mmm-hm.

DUCHOVNY: I'm the key figure in an ongoing government charade -- the plot to conceal the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials. It's a global conspiracy, actually, with key players in the highest levels of power and it reaches down into the lives of every man, woman and child on this planet.

LAUGHTER

So of course, no one believes me. I'm an annoyance to my superiors; a joke to my peers. They call me "Spooky." Spooky Mulder whose sister was abducted by aliens when he was just a kid and who now chases after little green men with a badge and a gun shouting to the heavens or anyone who will listen that the fix is in and that the sky is falling.

HEDLEY: Well, I would say that about does it, Spooky.

BIANCULLI: New elements in this movie include Martin Landau as Mulder's latest source of top secret government information and a new type of life form that is only partly human.

But for X-Files loyalists, a lot of things in the movie will be reassuringly familiar. Mitch Pelagi's (ph) FBI assistant director Skinner is here, as are the sinister cigarette smoking man, the wacky lone gunman -- those conspiracy theorists who are even more paranoid than Mulder; and even killer bees and the mysterious black oil.

Most of all, though, the film is about the two characters at its center: Scully and Mulder. And that's the smartest thing about this big movie version of the X-Files. Yes, the sets are bigger and there are more explosions and car crashes and the story spans more time and space than most TV episodes of the X-Files. And everybody gets to swear a lot.

But what works best in this film is what works best on the small screen as well: the chemistry between the two leads. If you compare the "X-Files: Fight The Future" to other summer action movies of the past few years, it comes off as being refreshingly intelligent. Rob Bauman (ph) who directed the movie has directed dozens of episodes of the TV series and manages to take advantage of the big sets and set pieces without forgetting to hone in on his stars.

The two major problems I have with the film are lapses: one of logic; one of taste. The major logical lapse comes near the end when a very obvious question about how Scully and Mulder escape from a remote and hostile environment is never answered. Instead, the movie avoids the question and merely fades to the next scene. What's much worse, though, is an early explosion that intentionally echoes in visual terms the Oklahoma City bombing. That's poor taste, pure and simple.

The rest of the movie, though, is just fine. Special effects are strong and there's a lot of mood and mystery in classic X-Files tradition. As for whether Scully and Mulder finally link up in this film in the romantic sense, well, if you're curious about the answer, then you probably want to discover it for yourself.

Go to your local movie theater. The truth is out there.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

I'm Terry Gross.

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

Dateline: David Bianculli, New York; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: TV critic DAVID BIANCULLI reviews "X-Files: Fight The Future,"the movie version of the popular Fox TV series. The film, like the TV show, stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. You can expect the usual roster of aliens, conspiracy theorists and secret government agents. The film opens today.
Spec: Entertainment; Movie Industry; The X-Files; David Duchovny; Gillian Anderson; Lifestyle; Culture
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 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: The X-Files
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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