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Brian Cox: After Four Decades, a Hollywood Institution

Emmy Award winner Brian Cox's latest show is the HBO series Deadwood (whose third season is now out on DVD), but he's been featured in more than a hundred films and TV shows over the past 40 years.

His films include Match Point, Rushmore, and both The Bourne Identity and its sequel The Bourne Supremacy. He won his Emmy as Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Goering in TNT original movie Nuremberg.

This interview first aired on June 26, 2006.

20:35

Other segments from the episode on June 22, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 22, 2007: Interview with Jack White and Meg White; Interview with Brian Cox; Review of the film "A Mighty Heart."

Transcript

DATE June 22, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Jack White and Meg White discuss their band, White
Stripes, musical tastes, and upholstery
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for the New York Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Our opening guests today are Jack and Meg White of the duo The White Stripes.
They've just released their new, much-anticipated CD "Icky Thump." It's their
sixth studio album, the first from a major record label, and many critics are
raving about it. Here's the title track.

(Soundbite of "Icky Thump")

Mr. JACK WHITE: (Singing) Yah-hee, icky thump
Who'd'a thunk, sitting drunk,
On a wagon to Mexico
Oh, well, what a chump
Well, my head got a bump
When I hit it on the radio
Redhead senorita looking dead
Came and said
`Need a bed?' en Espanol

I said, `Gimme a drink a water
I'm gonna sing around the collar
And I don't need a microphone

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: That's the title track from "Icky Thump," the new CD from The
White Stripes. The White Stripes formed in 1997. Although they're eccentric
enough to have remained an indie band with a cult following, they've actually
developed a large following. Their single "Seven Nation Army" from their
earlier CD "Elephant" won the Best Alternative Music Grammy. Jack White wrote
several songs on the bluegrass soundtrack for "Cold Mountain" and had a small
part in the film. He also produced a CD by Loretta Lynn called "Van Lear
Rose," which won a Grammy in 2005 for Best Country Album.

Jack and Meg White don't talk publicly about their relationship to each other,
and still coyly suggest they're brother and sister, though many press reports
described them as divorced. As Rolling Stone said earlier this week, "Being
in The White Stripes involves a lot of rules: no admitting you aren't
related, no dressing outside the code, no playing with other people, no bass."

Terry spoke with Jack and Meg White in 2005, following the release of their CD
"Get Behind Me Satan."

TERRY GROSS, host:

How did you both start playing together?

Mr. WHITE: We started as just a sort of a--you know, I was just playing in
the attic, and Meg sort of came up there, and I said, `Hey, get behind the
drums.' And, you know, we did--I remember the first thing we were--just played
together sort of as a lark. We did "Moonage Daydream" by David Bowie
and--because Meg wanted to do that. She was really into that song at the
time. And I have a recording of that actually still; I found it recently.
And it just felt really good right off the bat. It just felt like something
was different. And I think the reason why is because Meg's sort of
childishness behind the drums really brought some new character to playing a
song like that.

And we started to play more and more, and it became this thing where, you
know, I suppose--I forget who it was. I guess it was Picasso maybe who said
that he spent his whole life learning--took his whole life to learn how to
paint like a five year old. I'm not sure if it was him who said that.
Correct me if I'm wrong. But, you know, that's how I felt about Meg, you
know. She's painting like a five year old. She's playing like a five year
old. She's playing drums just like a little child. And I wish I could do
that. I wish I could play the guitar like a little child, you know.

GROSS: Now, Jack, you play drums. That was your first instrument before a
guitar. And...

Mr. WHITE: That's right.

GROSS: ...did--and from what I've read, it sounds like you used to record
drums and guitar when you would record stuff in your room. So when Meg
started playing drums, did you want her to sound at all like you sounded, or
did--were you looking for something completely different?

Mr. WHITE: No, that was what struck me. I mean, I--it started sort of as
that lark thing with just sort of messing around, you know, and it became
something beautiful very, very quickly. And it became like, `Wow,' you know.
So I didn't want Meg to play proficiently at all, no. Matter of fact, I said,
`Please don't practice,' you know. `Please don't play by yourself because
it's just going to ruin it,' you know.

GROSS: So, Meg, now that you've been playing for several years, have you
become more proficient, in spite of Jack's urgings?

Ms. WHITE: I suppose a little bit, yes. Still probably not on the level of,
you know, any of the classic, amazing drummers, but I, you know--probably
better--certainly better than I was then.

GROSS: And, Jack, is that ruining things for you?

Mr. WHITE: No, I think she keeps a tether on it, you know? She really keeps
the whole band, the two of us--she keeps the band anchored.

GROSS: OK. So you're from Detroit and you're interested in blues, in rock,
in--obviously, you've listened to a lot of punk and heavy metal too, and
mountain music. So you have all these influences that, you know, it's easy
for us to hear in your recordings. Did you go through a period of not only
asking yourself whether you could play the blues being white, but if you could
play mountain music being from Detroit, or play early rock 'n' roll because
you grew up in the '70s and '80s. I mean, did every step you turn lead you to
questions about, `Am I authentic enough?' Or did you early on just decide,
`Well, you know, I love it; it doesn't really matter whether I grew up then or
I lived there or whatever'?

Mr. WHITE: We had a good experience in White Stripes because we started off
at the sort of whatever the lowest level you could of just, you know, playing
at the Gold Dollar Bar, which is like a block from where we're sitting right
now, which is a local scene; garage rock was happening. Just warming up for
the band, you know, gradually getting to play out of town in Toledo or
Chicago, you know, whatever. We just kind of built it up from the absolute
nothing.

And that kind of showed, you know, me--because people really liked us in
Detroit and embraced us immediately, which was really surprising. And you
know, we were like their secret band. And then we were the, you know, secret
band of, like, people in Chicago or whatever. You know what I mean? We just
kind of kept going, going on and on, and we started to learn this thing that
no matter what you did, you know, some people are going to really like you and
some people are really not going to like it. And some people are going to
like it for the wrong reasons--like it's part of their identity to have a
secret band that they--you know, it becomes part of their personality. And
once you get more popular, they don't want to be a part of you anymore because
they don't like it for the music's sake; they like it for other reasons.

So that kind of taught me early on that, you know, I can't think about that
anymore. You know, I can't concern myself with that. That's just too cool,
you know, or too cool for me. I can't--I mean, I love mountain music and I'm
going to play it, and I can't think about if it's going to fit with what we're
doing or not, it just has to happen. And I think this band has been really
great with that a lot of things have been able to work with a very limited
means. We've tried to make each song have its own personality on each record
and not have a whole album full of the same, monotonous riffs over and over
and over again. And I feel such a breath of fresh air when something like
"Little Ghost" on this record kind of comes up because it's--you can take a
nice deep breath and feel something, totally different personality.

GROSS: Well, before we hear "Little Ghost," the mountain music kind of song
that you wrote for the new CD, would you talk a little bit about writing the
song, Jack?

Mr. WHITE: Yeah. I wrote this song at a friend's house, and they had had to
leave me to watch the house for a minute, and I wrote this song in 10 minutes,
matter of fact. The idea just came out. I don't know--I just kept thinking
of this phrase `little ghost,' and it just came out quickly, and I started to
think about being the only person who sees something, and maybe that's kind of
the feeling you have when you're in love with somebody, that you're the only
one who notices all these beautiful things about them, you know, and you kind
of tell your friends, `Isn't she great? Isn't she great?' And they're like
`Yeah, she's OK,' you know, but they don't see her the way you see her--you
know, that sort of feeling. Almost, I just wanted to equate it with somebody
you actually could not physically see, like a dead person, a ghost.

(Soundbite of "Little Ghost")

WHITE STRIPES: (Singing) Little ghost, little ghost,
What I'm scared of the most,
Can you scare me up a little bit of love?
I'm the only one that sees you
And I can't do much to please you,
And it's not yet time to meet the Lord above.

The first moment that I met her,
I did not expect a specter
When I shook her hand, I really shook a glove
She looked into me so sweetly
And we left the room discreetly
No one else could know the secret of our love

Little ghost, little ghost
What I'm scared of the most,
Can you scare me up a little bit of love?
I'm the only one that sees you
And I can't do much to please you,
And it's not yet time to meet the Lord above.

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: That's "Little Ghost" from their 2005 CD "Get Behind Me Satan."
More of Terry's interview with Jack and Meg White after a break. This is
FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2005 interview with Jack and Meg White.
Their new CD as the music duo The White Stripes is called "Icky Thump."

GROSS: Now we just heard a mountain music kind of song that you wrote,
"Little Ghost," and you produced an album by Loretta Lynn and it was her first
solo album since the '80s I think, very stripped down, very--I mean, there's
even just like a voice and guitar track on it. Why did you want to work with
her?

Mr. WHITE: Oh, I'm absolutely in love with Loretta Lynn. There's just no
doubt about it. I had been such a huge fan and was struck so hard by "Coal
Miner's Daughter," the movie. It was the first experience with her as a
child, you know, and it just grew and grew and grew and I just became so
enamored with her songwriting style. I just couldn't believe, you know, what
she was doing, sort of these doubled choruses, you know, and it was just so
brilliant and it just seemed like, `How is she doing this?' I remember talking
to her while we were working on the album. She's, like, `Yeah, everyone
always tells me, Jack, you know, I write backwards and all these things,' and
I think, `Yeah, I think you kind of do write backwards,' and so clever. She's
so clever and talented. I mean, like, how could I not resist that, you know?

GROSS: Did you ask her to work with you?

Mr. WHITE: Someone told me, I think it was her manager said, you know,
Loretta's thinking about making, you know, maybe one final album or one more
album. I said, `Well, you know'--I said, `If I can throw my name on the pile,
you know, I'd love to produce it.' I figured there was no way it was going to
happen. As a matter of fact, I did it without a contract. Once it did--you
know, we went down to record some demos at this guy's house in east Nashville
in a home studio as well. We went down to record some demos and Loretta had
sent me 10 songs, her and her daughter being--maybe actually her daughter had
just recorded the demos herself on the acoustics. I'm not sure but it was
about 10 songs she just picked off the pile of hundreds of songs she had
written, and we recorded eight of them the first day and all eight of those
are on the album, you know, and it just--it was so special. I just couldn't
believe it.

GROSS: Well, I want to play one of two tracks and I'll name the two and then
you can decide which of them.

Mr. WHITE: OK.

GROSS: These are my two favorites. One is "Family Tree" and one is "Miss
Being Mrs."

Mr. WHITE: Oh, well, I'd have to say "Miss Being Mrs." because that's really
special to me because that's just me and her playing.

GROSS: Oh, that is you. I wasn't sure if that was you. Oh, yeah.

Mr. WHITE: That's me playing guitar and her singing and we just did it live.
That was the second take of the song and that was another song we--I was
assuming that we were going to eventually move and maybe make it into a full
band song possibly, but after hearing that played back, it was just--it felt
so good to sit in that room and play and back her up by myself. How selfish
of me, you know, to take that opportunity, but it was just so wonderful.

GROSS: Well, I'm glad you didn't change it. So this is Loretta Lynn with
Jack White on guitar.

(Soundbite of "Miss Being Mrs."

Ms. LORETTA LYNN: (Singing) I like it all alone in my bed of memories
I'm dreaming of your sweet kiss, oh, how you loved on me
I can almost feel you with me here in this blue moonlight
Oh, I miss being Mrs. tonight

Like so many other hearts, mine wanted to be free
I've been held here every day since you've been away from me
My reflection in the mirror, it's such a hurtful sight
Oh, I miss being Mrs. tonight
Oh, I miss being Mrs. tonight

Oh, and how I love them loving arms that once held me so tight
I took off my wedding band and put it on my right hand

I miss being Mrs. tonight

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's "Van Lear Rose," which is an album by Loretta Lynn, produced by
Jack White. That was Jack White on guitar.

Jack, what was your style--how did you start to sing? Like, what came first?
Were you playing music, writing songs, singing?

Mr. WHITE: Playing the drums came first for me, and then I needed something
to play the drums to. You know, I had a little four-track reel-to-reel in my
bedroom, you know, so I started to teach myself how to play guitar so I could
play along with something. Me and another friend I went to high school
with--her--name's Dominic Suchyta. And we had sort of--he liked music, you
know, rock 'n' roll and all that, too, so we started learning things together.
And he was playing bass and stuff, so we started doing these little recordings
and covering Bob Dylan songs on record and whatever, you know, I don't know,
whatever we were doing. And so it kind of built up from there.

And then I started to get into this band, the Flat Duo Jets, when I was a
teenager. And I worked at this upholstery shop. I was apprentice for this
man named Brian Muldoon. And after we were done at work--he played drums, you
know, so after we were done for the day, we would set up the drums and the
guitar, and we would play songs. And we were really into this two-piece band
called the Flat Duo Jets, who were doing lots of kind of rockabilly and punk
sort of music, but also throwing in these really gorgeous ballads, you know,
from the '40s, you know, or things that Patti Page and people had sung.

And so I started to get more and more exposed to those kind of chord changes,
I think, sort of playing, you know, things like, you know, (singing) `See the
pyramids along the Nile,' "You Belong To Me" and things like that. And I
started to get into that, those chord structures, you know, something I would
not have been exposed to. And songwriting started to come out of that.

And then once--a couple years later, I really, really got deeply into the
blues, and I think some kind of--that also sparked a little bit more of the
songwriting, you know, it sort of opened up. And the poetry I'd been writing,
or whatever I'd been writing, I don't know. And I tried--you know, I started
to work it in together. I started to discover what you could do. Could you
write the words first and then the music, or write the music first, then the
words and all that jazz? And, you know, I started throwing them together, and
it started to--by the time me and Meg were playing in the band, I think it
was--started to come to something interesting.

GROSS: Now, Jack, you grew up in a family of, like, 10 kids. I think you
were the youngest of 10?

Mr. WHITE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So did your brothers and sisters look after you, and did they...

Mr. WHITE: Oh, boy, did they.

GROSS: Uh-huh?

Mr. WHITE: Oh, boy, did they. Like having 10 parents, when actually...

GROSS: Was that a good thing or a bad thing?

Mr. WHITE: I don't know. I really don't know. I've been asking myself that
my whole life. I suppose they--I--God bless them, because I love them very
much, and they were always very helpful to me, and the--and in good and bad
ways. You know, when you're the youngest, you get to learn from everybody's
bad example, you know. You need to learn how to not make the same mistakes
that everyone else made. And you--you know, you get a different perspective
on things.

My family also has a very big, you know, chip on their shoulder about pride
and ego, about not patting somebody on the back when they're doing so well.
So it sort of makes you try harder, I think, to impress, and almost this never
really satiated feeling, you know, that I was sort of never really encouraged
out loud, you know. You know, it was sort of, `Yeah, OK. What you're doing's
OK, but you could be doing it better' kind of a feeling, which kind of became
a frustrating thing to me when I was a teenager, you know. It was like,
`Forget this, man, I--you know, I don't need this kind of mentality anymore.
I feel good about what's happening or whatever I'm working on or whatever
furniture or music or sculpture, whatever, and, you know, I don't need this
approval anymore.' You know, and I think that's what really shaped me, was
letting go of that.

GROSS: You mentioned, you know, you were apprenticing in an upholstery shop.
Did you see your future as lying in furniture?

Mr. WHITE: I don't know. I just--I remember, you know, when I was working
there, I was really into music, you know, and I would just kind of thought--it
just seemed like even playing a live gig was just this impossible thing, you
know. `How could I ever be in a band and play a show?' I didn't even think
that was--it was just never going to happen, you know, especially the sort of
the attitude in Detroit kind of doesn't make you think that, you know, you're
going to have a chance. I mean, maybe in LA or New York and things like that,
the people kind of around you sort of make you think, `Yeah, maybe one day
you'll get on television, if you have the right friend,' you know. But
Detroit doesn't make you feel that way, and I didn't even think that I would
ever be in a band, for one thing, let alone play on stage, and let alone write
music.

So, yeah, upholstery was the big sort of thing that I was doing. And I worked
in a couple other shops, too, and I eventually opened my own, Third Man
Upholstery. I had my own studio. I worked on sculptures and did people's
upholstery, did antiques. And I started to--I made the big mistake of
bringing, you know, a guitar to my studio and eventually not getting any work
done, because I was playing guitar all day long.

GROSS: So were you good at this, you know, at upholstery?

Mr. WHITE: Well, I don't know. It's an extremely difficult trade, you know.
And I was--you know, I'm coming from--the man I worked for, Brian Muldoon,
he's sort of a super-perfectionist, and he was working on midcentury modern
furniture, you know, like Ames and Jacobsen. And all these great designers
were probably the most difficult type of upholstery to do, you know, gluing
fabric directly to foam and all this jazz. So it was really hard. So I
started doing these old settees and little 1800s furniture for these old
ladies and things like that. And, you know, I could do that all right.

But I went to--I remember going and talking to the other upholsterers at the
supply place, when I'd go and buy springs and staples and whatnot, I'd say,
`You know, how long is this going to take me before I start making money
easily and it's not a hard thing to do?' And he's, like, `Probably eight to 10
years, it took me.' It was, like, `OK. I don't know if I've got it in me,
man.'

GROSS: Well, Jack White, Meg White, thank you so much. Congratulations on
the new CD.

Mr. WHITE: Thank you for having me.

Ms. WHITE: Oh, thank you.

Mr. WHITE: Thank you for having us.

BIANCULLI: Jack and Meg White, speaking to Terry Gross in 2005. Their new CD
release is "Icky Thump." I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Torrential Outpour Blues")

Mr. WHITE: (Singing) I'm ringing back doors
That're no longer there
I'm getting hard on myself
Sitting in my easy chair
Well, there's three people in the mirror,
And I'm wondering which one of them I should choose
But I can't keep from laughing
Spittin' out these 300 miles per hour torrential outpour blues

(End soundbite)

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

Interview: Actor Brian Cox talks about his role on "Deadwood" and
other movies and plays he starred in
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli.

The third season of HBO's "Deadwood" is now out on DVD, so we thought it would
be a good time to hear Terry's interview with one of that show's many
stand-out character actors, Brian Cox. On "Deadwood," Cox plays Jack
Langrishe, a theater producer who brings his traveling troupe of actors and
hangers-on to the opportunistic, dangerous frontier mining town. He plans to
convert an old bordello into a theater.

In addition to his recurring role on "Deadwood," Scottish actor Brian Cox has
appeared in Spike Lee's "25th Hour," and in "The Bourne Identity." Before
Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter in "The Silence of the
Lambs," Cox played Hannibal Lecter in the 1986 movie "Manhunter."

Terry spoke with Brian Cox in 2006. Before we listen to their conversation,
let's listen to a scene from the third season of "Deadwood." Brian Cox, as
Jack, is talking with old friend Al Swearengen, played by Ian McShane.
They're plotting against George Hearst, the ruthless tycoon who owns much of
the town. Jack's idea is to get close to Hearst by pretending to be a faith
healing masseuse. But Jack, being as theatrical as he is, doesn't exactly say
it in those words.

(Soundbite of "Deadwood")

Mr. BRIAN COX: (As Jack Langrishe) Perhaps I'll give him a sleigh ride which
ensues. The best connection to Leviathan may not be by harpoon.

Mr. IAN McSHANE: (As Al Swearengen) Explain yourself.

Mr. COX: (As Jack) I mean the inimical Mr. Hearst, suffering with
discomfort at his back, the wiles of a bull...(word censored by
station)...such as oneself may have use as a feint to occupy him.

Mr. McSHANE: (As Al) Campaign towards relief, protracted, punctuated by
Pentecostal whoops and manual pushes and prods while invoking arcane
authorities. The host's unhealthy soul, reliable to sustain his symptoms.

(End of soundbite)

TERRY GROSS, host:

Brian Cox, welcome to FRESH AIR. I'm going to ask you to describe your
character in "Deadwood."

Mr. COX: I play a character called Jack Langrishe. He's a character who
actually existed. He's slightly different from the real character. He wasn't
as flamboyant as perhaps I have--or David Milch has--made him. And he's
serving a clear purpose in the story of "Deadwood." But he was an amazing man
because he was a man who toured theater companies all over America during that
particular time, and he was--he set up--he had just lost everything, and
actually kind of like out of the ashes of the Chicago fire, he lost his
company. And within a week, he had everything back on its feet again. He
started off touring with about 15 people. He ended up touring with 115
people. He finally retired, and he died as a senator, I think, in Colorado.
He was a really, really interesting man, and he was the first person to really
bring theater to the West. He actually did in "Deadwood" itself, he did the
American premier of "The Mikado," believe it or not.

GROSS: Oh, God! Excuse me, that has to register on me. To think of the
Mikado in "Deadwood," the way Deadwood is portrayed in the series, is really
hysterical.

Mr. COX: Yeah, it is. It's a kind of--so odd really. But it was
fascinating. He was a fascinating character just--and so he comes now to
Deadwood, and basically, I think, you know, we've arrived in the third series,
and, you know, if you look at the sort of graph and the path of "Deadwood,"
you can see that culture, you know--having been through the whores and the
boozing and what have you, and the kind of more basic things that was required
in those mining camps. The miners themselves, of course, sought culture.
They wanted theater. They wanted--you know, they wanted burlesque, but they
also wanted straight theater, so, you know, Langrishe serves a need.

GROSS: Because your character is a man of the theater and very into theater,
but when he's just having a conversation, he very often sounds like he's
proclaiming on a Shakespearean stage. You've performed in Shakespearean
productions. What is the difference between how you actually perform
Shakespeare when you're doing Shakespeare and this kind of Shakespearean sound
that you've given this theatrical producer in "Deadwood"?

Mr. COX: Well, it's to do with the technique of how to speak, for a start,
how to sustain a thought on one breath. Shakespeare's all about breath as
thought, but a lot of his cadence is very, very long, you know, the iambic
carries you through. And I mean, there's a whole--you know, there's a whole
structure to how you play verse. But also the idea is that everything is on
the text. You know, the subtextual idea is a very, very 20th century idea,
and it's a kind of thing that pervades American films which is why we have
this kind of Strasbourgian effect, you know, this kind of, I think, basically,
phony Stanislauskism where the actors scratch and mumble and do other stuff,
and that's supposed to be real, you know.

But the interesting thing about somebody like Langrishe is his language and
his training and his craft and his appreciation of words infects him. And you
get that with theatric types. I mean, it's slightly dying out in the way it
was now, but I worked, for instance, with John Gielgud. I worked with Ralph
Richardson, and I also worked with Laurence Olivier once, and they had a
cadence. They had an ability to use a phrase in a particularly erudite and
extraordinary way. They were part of that breed of actor, and those Victorian
actors excelled at it, absolutely excelled at it. It was the way they spoke,
it was the way they thought, how they got up in the morning. That's what they
started with till when they went to bed at night.

GROSS: I want to get to another role that you've had, and this is just such a
terrific performance. It was in the film, the "25th Hour"...

Mr. COX: Oh, right.

GROSS: ...in 2002. It was directed by Spike Lee, and I want to play a scene
here. Edward Norton plays someone who's about to serve a long prison term,
and the film is set in the 24 hours before he has to report to prison. And
this is like the last scene of the film. You play his father. You own a bar.
You're driving your son to the prison down a long country road, driving him
from the city to the country where the prison is, and his face is beaten raw.
He's actually had somebody beat him up so that he wouldn't look too pretty or
too weak and innocent when he got to prison. So he's sitting in the car with
his face beaten up, you're driving.

And then you say to him, `Just give me the word and I'll take a left turn, and
we'll find a nice little town that you can hide in instead of reporting to
prison." So here's some of that scene. We'll pick up right after you've made
that offer.

(Soundbite of "25th Hour")

Mr. COX: (As James Brogan) if you want it. If that's what you want, I'll do
it.

Mr. EDWARD NORTON: (As Monty Brogan) No, they'd take your bar.

Mr. COX: (As James) My bar. Jesus, my bar. They can take my bar to hell
and back. You think my bar is more important to me than you, my only child?
Give me the word, and we'll go.

Mr. NORTON: (As Monty) They'll find me. They'll find me sooner or later.

Mr. COX: (As James) You know how they find people? They find them when they
come home. People run away, but they usually come back. That's when they get
caught. So you go and you never come back. You never come home. We'll
drive. Keep driving. Head out to the middle of nowhere. Take that road as
far it takes us. You've never been west of Philly, have you? This is a
beautiful country, Monty. It's beautiful out there. It looks like a
different world: mountains, hills, cows, farms and white churches.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's my guest, Brian Cox, with Edward Norton in a scene from the
film, the "25th Hour." That is such a beautiful scene and...

Mr. COX: I'd actually forgotten that. It's beautiful.

GROSS: ...it's as if you're reading a poem with music behind you.

Mr. COX: Yeah.

GROSS: It's so--so can you talk a little bit about doing that scene? Your
monologue there lasts nearly seven minutes. Yeah.

Mr. COX: Yeah. It was an amazing thing. Well, you know, the monologue was
rewritten--it was actually rewritten on the day we recorded it. I mean, we
did one version early on and then we just did this other version because Spike
fell in love with the whole idea of this, of the kind of
redemption-regenerative, you know, thing that could happen to Ed's character.
So he wanted more stuff. So David Benioff, who wrote the script and also
wrote the original book, wrote this, you know. This--I think it's in the end,
it's about a 10-minute monologue, and it was quite amazing, and we just did
it.

You know, we did the scene, of course, with Ed and I, and then it goes in and
it kind of makes this seemless change into the monologue. And it's just an
extraordinary--I think it's a truly, truly extraordinary film because it deals
with so much. Again, it deals with--you know, because it was the first film
to deal with--directly with 9/11 in a scene where they--the two boys are down
in lower Manhattan, and Spike had the guts to kind of pan through the window,
and you look right down at ground zero, and it kind of gave the film an edge
and a whole--paean and kind of homage to America. And when I hear that script
now and I hear the fact of the celebrating of what is beyond Manhattan, what
is beyond that place, it's just quite--it's so evocative and so poetic and so
of the time and, you know--I kind of really--I think it's a remarkable piece
of work.

GROSS: Brian Cox, you didn't really become well known in the States
until--you're in what, your 40s? When the film "Manhunter" came out in the
1980s, I think that was a kind of turning point...

Mr. COX: I was just...

GROSS: ...in terms of American recognition.

Mr. COX: Yeah. I was just in my late--I think, no, it came out round about
was--I made it when I think 39, and it came out when I was 40. Yeah.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. So, you know, you played Hannibal Lecter in "Manhunter." What
are some of the pluses and minuses of getting discovered by Hollywood when
you're 40 as opposed to when you're in your teens or 20s?

Mr. COX: Well, the thing is--I think the obvious plus is that you're there.
I mean, I've always wanted to be an actor for the long haul. I've never--I
kind of realized it when I--I mean, I started really quite young. I was 15
when I started work in the theater, and I went to drama school when I was just
17. I did my audition when I was 16. I was working as a professional actor
from the age of 19. So, you know, it was very--I was very aware that--and I
think it's my Scottish canniness, I think, is what stands me in good stead--I
was very aware of the fact that I would be, you know--that, while I know it's
an insecure profession, it's something I want to be doing down the road.

And the irony is, of course, as you get older--well, actually it's not ironic,
it's a fact of life, you know, experience comes to you, so the thing that's
more interesting is, as you get older, because you've been dealing with life.
So in a way, your work gets richer and you know more about your job, and
you're able to offer more. And the most interesting work for me is the
supporting work. You know, in the theater, I'm a leading actor, and I will
always go back to the theater and assume that role, but I can do it less and
less because it's expensive. But in the cinema, it's knowing where your place
is and knowing that you want to be a supporting actor, so you come in and you
give the color to a movie in a way, you know, because I had--you know, got
colleagues back in England say, `Well, I could never play small parts in
films, you know or anything like that,' and I just think it's a nonsense
really. I mean, Michael Powell once said the great thing about cinema is that
there are no small parts or big parts. There are only short parts and long
parts. You're on a film either for a long time or you're on it for a short
time. But when you're on a film--whatever--you know, when you're there,
that's you. You're doing it.

BIANCULLI: Brian Cox speaking to Terry Gross in 2006. More after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2006 interview with Brian Cox.

GROSS: I know your father died of cancer when you were nine...

Mr. COX: Mm.

GROSS: ...and your mother had some kind of breakdown and was
institutionalized.

Mr. COX: Yeah.

GROSS: For how long was she institutionalized?

Mr. COX: She was institutionalized for about--well, on and off, it was about
two and a half years, two and a half--yeah, two and a half to three years.

GROSS: Was there ever a diagnosis?

Mr. COX: Well, basically, she had--you know, she had a massive nervous
breakdown, and she was--I mean, she did try to commit suicide at one point,
and I think just everything became too much for her, and she just completely
physically and mentally collapsed, and they didn't know what to do with her
for quite a while, and then they finally decided to give her electric shock
treatment. So they gave her electric shock treatment over a period of about,
I think about six or seven months, and then she had to recover from that, so
it was a kind of long, drawn-out process, and, you know, it was quite--I think
it was very difficult for her. It was a very painful time for her.

GROSS: So, you must have had it pretty rough. I mean, by the time you were
nine or 10, you were in some ways almost orphaned because your mother was
institutionalized, your father had passed away.

Mr. COX: Yeah. I had these wonderful sisters who--I have three elder
sisters and I have a brother as well, a brother who's older than me. There's
a kind of--the war is between us all. My sisters were born--I mean, I've got
sisters who are 16, 15 years older than me. And they're still around. I
mean, they're fantastic women, truly fantastic women. They had--they were
fantastic to me when I was a kid. I mean, they really were. They saved me.
I mean, my childhood was great. I mean, I--you know, in recent times I get a
little bit--I get a little bit concerned because I seem to give the wrong
message about my childhood. Actually, my childhood until my father died was
really pretty amazing. I mean, my mother and father had problems, but they
had problems which had to do with--my father made some--during the war he did
quite well because he had a tiny shop, and he made some very bad building
investments and lost a lot of money, and that was in the background. But,
basically, we were a very happy family.

GROSS: Now, you left home when you were around 15.

Mr. COX: Yeah. I left home--I still lived at my home but I was hardly ever
there because I was working at the theater. I really left home when I was 17.

GROSS: And did you leave home because you were unhappy there or because you
wanted to start looking at theater more seriously?

Mr. COX: No, no. You know, when I left, it was really because I had a very
strong accent. A very, very strong Londonian accent. And I had to go to
drama school, and I wanted to go to drama school. And you really, in order to
learn the craft of acting, and I wanted to go to London because I didn't want
to go to Glasgow. I really, you know--I needed somewhere where I could learn
how to speak, you know, what they call standard English, which I've never been
able to speak.

GROSS: What do you think of your accent is sounding like now?

Mr. COX: Well, my accent is a sort of hybrid of so many things. You know, I
think that--you know, I've lived in England, you know, on and off most of my
life but I've also lived in America. I mean, it's been very difficult because
I've got this line in this play--I'm doing this Stoppard play in London--and
I've got this line where I say to the woman who plays my wife, just--you know,
who's had cancer--I say--she's had a breast removed--and I say, `Just don't
lose half your bum, that's all.' And I keep saying `butt.' I get told off over
and over, `It's not butt, it's bum.'

GROSS: What about the accent or the dialect that you're using in "Deadwood"
as the theatrical producer?

Mr. COX: Well, that was originally--you know, it was so odd, because I
originally was going to play him American, but then I realized that he was
indeed Irish. And there was a wonderful actor called Micheal MacLiammoir.
Micheal MacLiammoir was the man who gave Orson Welles his first job. Him and
his lover, who was called Hilton Edwards, ran the Gate Theater in Dublin in
the '20s. But Michael became this sort of grand dame because he was gay, but
he was this very sort of--and he always wore full makeup, and he wore a black
toupee, and actually the irony was he wasn't really Irish but he pretended to
be Irish because he loved the Irish cadence, and he loved that way of
speaking, that wonderful way of speaking in that Irish voice. And so I kind
of thought that was--this was a very good kind of template for Jack Langrishe.
So I kind of used him for that.

GROSS: Now, I've read that you've said that you don't like to watch your own
movies. You don't like to see yourself on screen because it makes you feel
like the elephant man. You said, `I come across as a sort of creature. I
never seem like a human being.'

Mr. COX: Right.

GROSS: And I'd like to hear more about that.

Mr. COX: Well, it's funny. I've just been doing some ADR for "Deadwood"
this morning...

GROSS: ADR. What is ADR?

Mr. COX: Looping. You know, doing some extra--`Additional Dialogue
Required' is what ADR is. It's where, you know, where you dub yourself on a
screen. You know, like they might change a line and you have to, you know,
you have to watch yourself on the screen, and there's a little white line goes
across and you play the line. So I had to see myself, and I--yeah--I mean, I
just go, you know, it's just so odd. I think your own--you know, when you're
in the mirror, you know, if you pass yourself in the mirror, you're still. Or
you see a photograph, you're still. But when you see yourself in motion, all
kinds of--your face does all kinds of odd things and takes on odd shapes. And
I get kind of spooked by it. I really do. My wife, she keeps saying, `Oh,
you must watch your work, you know. You really must.' And I did when I was
younger. I did because I was vain. And I think it's still vanity that makes
it goes and goes, `God this guy is so ugly.' You know, it is the elephant man.

GROSS: You know--and what you're saying is true in your mind but so untrue in
reality.

Mr. COX: Yeah, I know.

GROSS: But here's why I'm interested in this, is that you're dealing with
this as an actor, but I think like so many people just deal with this looking
in the mirror in the morning.

Mr. COX: Yeah.

GROSS: You know, that it's just such a reaction that I think many of us have
just looking in the mirror, like, `That?'

Mr. COX: Exactly.

GROSS: `That's how I look?'

Mr. COX: Well, at least in the mirror, you're still. But, you know, on
screen, you're moving.

GROSS: Right, right. You even get to see how you look behind your ears and
stuff like that.

Mr. COX: That's right, you know. And then you see...

GROSS: Yeah...(unintelligible).

Mr. COX: ...angle.

GROSS: Well, Brian Cox. I wish you good luck, and thank you very much for
talking with us.

Mr. COX: Thank you, Terry. It's been a delight.

BIANCULLI: Brian Cox, speaking to Terry Gross last year. He's featured on
the new third season DVD set of the HBO series "Deadwood."

Coming up, "A Mighty Heart." This is FRESH AIR.

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

Review: David Edelstein reviews the film "A Mighty Heart"
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Right after the September 11th attacks, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel
Pearl and his wife Mariane, also a journalist, arrived in Pakistan. Daniel
Pearl was kidnapped in January 2002 and held for five weeks before his murder
was broadcast to the world. Since his death, his widow has published two
books: a collection of Daniel's writings called "At Home in the World," and a
memoir called "A Mighty Heart," which now is a movie directed by Michael
Winterbottom.

Angelina Jolie plays Mariane. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: "A Mighty Heart" tells the story of the hunt in
Pakistan for kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl through the
eyes of his very pregnant wife Mariane. The film is gripping. Apart from
flashbacks that dramatize Mariane's idyllic memories of Daniel, it's clipped,
blunt and grimly realistic. It's almost a police procedural, with a focus on
the nuts and bolts of the investigation. Our suspense is lessened, though, by
our knowledge that it will end badly.

And the movie's power might be lessened by director Michael Winterbottom's
respect for the feelings of Mariane Pearl, who refused to watch the
widely-circulated video that documented her husband's final moments. This is
the rare case of a film that doesn't bludgeon us enough. The movie's message
isn't spelled out, but is easily inferred. Angelina Jolie, who plays Mariane,
and her significant other, Brad Pitt, who helped produce with Mariane, didn't
want to turn one of the most horrifying stories in journalism into a general
indictment of Islam or Pakistan, or a movie about murderous anti-Semitism in
the Muslim world. By sticking with the process, they show how the team that
formed around Mariane became an improbably surrogate family. I say
"improbable" because they're a strange mix.

Daniel's colleague, Asra Nomani, played by Archie Panjabi, is of Indian
descent, which makes her suspect in the eyes of Pakistanis, some of whom put
forward the ridiculous idea that Pearl's kidnapping was orchestrated by India.
Then there's Will Patton as a higher-up in the US consulate. Patton has made
a career out of embodying shifty American officials. A Wall Street Journal
editor is a decent guy, but not a beacon of focus. And who knows which side
the Pakistani captain, played by Irfan Khan, is on. When he's kidnapped,
Pearl is looking at alleged ties between the so-called "Shoe Bomber" Richard
Reed and the Pakistani police.

The Pakistani government wants to play up the nonexistent Indian connection.
The FBI doesn't understand the country's culture. But it's the view of "A
Mighty Heart" that Mariane and her team might have saved Daniel, had his
captors not been too eager to execute him. In their compound, she and others
work the phones and Internet and diagram the relationships between the major
players. They're shocked to discover the truth about the sheikh that Daniel
has set out to meet.

(Soundbite of "A Mighty Heart")

Unidentified Actor #1: (In character) Mariane?

Ms. ANGELINA JOLIE: (As Mariane Pearl) (Unintelligible).

Actor #1: (In character) We have caught Gilani. He was in Moza Farabad, but
he is here now.

Ms. JOLIE: (As Mariane) What did he say?

Actor #1: (In character) He's not involved.

Unidentified Actor #2: (In character) Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I
thought Gilani was the guy?

Actor #1: (In character) He was just bait. He was used as a bait.

Ms. JOLIE: (As Mariane) So there's no Gilani involved?

Actor #1: (In character) No. We go back to Araf. We go back to Shadik and
Bushif.

Mr. WILL PATTON: (As Randall Bennett) I don't see this as a negative thing,
I have to say.

Actor #2: (In character) This is a set up. I mean, if Gilani has nothing to
do with this, somebody's--these letters are bogus.

Ms. JOLIE: (As Mariane) It's worse than that. It means that they've been
planning something for weeks. And for weeks he thinks he's meeting with
Gilani, and there is no Gilani?

Mr. PATTON: (As Randall) Right.

Ms. JOLIE: (As Mariane) And whoever these people are, they're thinking about
doing this for weeks?

(End soundbite)

EDELSTEIN: There's a disbelief that now seems quaint that hangs over the
investigation. In late 2001, American journalists had little idea of the
deadly labyrinth into which the war on terror would lead them. Mariane and
Daniel, played by Dan Futterman, are no naifs, but as long as Daniel meets a
subject in a public place, he considers himself an unlikely target, even as a
Jew, for jihadists with a message to get out. Mariane is French, and of
partly Afro-Cuban descent, a challenge for a Caucasian-American, even an
exotic looking one, to put over. It's hard to forget Jolie is who she is, but
she's a canny actress, and she plays Mariane with brusque economy that's true
to the real woman in interviews.

Mariane took some heat for not seeming sufficiently emotional in her
videotaped plea to Daniel's captors, but the movie makes the case that she has
to tamp down her emotions for the sake of her unborn baby. "A Mighty Heart"
does not recreate any part of the videotape she refused to see, for which I'm
grateful and sorry. The film needs something visceral to drive home Daniel's
fate. In writing about this movie, I finally forced myself to watch that
atrocity video. Apart from my relief that the actual killing isn't shown, I
was struck by how pointed its message--as articulated by Pearl on camera--is,
that no American is safe.

Since then, Pearl's death has shown up in the culture in myriad forms, if only
subtextually, in movies like "Babel." "A Mighty Heart" means to celebrate
Pearl's life, but his death and what it represents is, like it or not, central
to his legacy.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.

(Credits)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
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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