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Danny DeVito

Danny DeVito's Eclectic Taste

Actor, producer and director Danny DeVito was first known for his role as Louie on the TV comedy Taxi. He directed War of the Roses, Hoffa and Death to Smoochy, and produced Erin Brockovich and Pulp Fiction. DeVito is now starring in Deck the Halls.


Other segments from the episode on November 30, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 30, 2006: Interview with Danny DeVito; Review of the new Beatles remix album "Love."


DATE November 30, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Danny DeVito talks about his career as an actor and

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest Danny DeVito first became known to audiences for his role on "Taxi"
as the often-exasperated, always-misanthropic dispatcher Louie.

(Soundbite from "Taxi")

Mr. DANNY DeVITO: (As Louie) What's the matter with her?

Mr. JUDD HIRSCH: (As Alex) You wouldn't understand, Louie. Some people just
feel sad at Christmas.

Mr. DeVITO: (As Louie) Well, yeah. You think I don't know that? I got

Mr. HIRSCH: (As Alex) Really?

Mr. DeVITO: (As Louie) My mother is that way. Cries every Christmas on
account of my little brother Nickie never comes to see her. I'll give you the
same advice I give my mom when she cries. I say, `Ma, shut up.'

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: After "Taxi," DeVito's acting career took off. He's also directed
films like "Hoffa," "War of the Roses" and the, as far as we're concerned,
underappreciated comedy, "Death to Smoochy," about a children's TV host played
by Ed Morton. Here's Norton, dressed in his big pink rhino suit, singing to
the kids on the show.

(Soundbite from "Death to Smoochy")

Mr. ED NORTON: (Singing) "He slams the door. He stomps his feet, sends me
to bed with milk to eat."

Mr. NORTON and Children: (Singing in unison) "But my stepdad's not mean,
he's just adjusting."

Mr. NORTON: (Singing) "His temper's bad and he's a slob. He's bitter
because he lost his job."

Mr. NORTON and Children: (Singing in unison) "But my stepdad's not mean,
he's just adjusting."

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Danny DeVito has also helped other directors get their films made.
Among his many producer credits are "Erin Brockovich" and the classic "Pulp
Fiction," starring Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta.

(Soundbite from "Pulp Fiction")

Mr. JOHN TRAVOLTA: You know the funnest thing about Europe is?


Mr. TRAVOLTA: It's the little differences. I mean, they've got the
same...(censored by network)...over there that they got here, but it's just
there it's a little different.

Mr. JACKSON: Example?

Mr. TRAVOLTA: All right. Well, you can walk into a movie theater in
Amsterdam and buy a beer. And I don't mean just like in no paper cup, I'm
talking about a glass of beer. And in Paris, you can buy a beer in
McDonald's. And you know what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in

Mr. JACKSON: They don't call it a quarter pounder with cheese?

Mr. TRAVOLTA: Uh-huh, they got the metric system there. They wouldn't
know...(censored by network)...a quarter pounder is.

Mr. JACKSON: What do they call it?

Mr. TRAVOLTA: They call it a royale with cheese.

Mr. JACKSON: A royale with cheese.

Mr. TRAVOLTA: That's right.

Mr. JACKSON: What do they call a Big Mac?

Mr. TRAVOLTA: A Big Mac is a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.

Mr. JACKSON: Le Big Mac. What do they call a Whopper?

Mr. TRAVOLTA: I don't know. I didn't go into Burger King.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: In keeping with the diverse choices that have marked DeVito's career,
he has also starred in family comedies. In his new film "Deck the Hall," he
plays a father and husband who is overzealous with the Christmas lights on his
house, and that's aggravating his neighbor, played by Matthew Broderick.

(Soundbite from "Deck the Halls")

Mr. DeVITO: I'm not gonna stop until I have the biggest and brightest light
display in the world.


Mr. DeVITO: I also--I really want my house to be seen from space.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Danny DeVito.

Mr. DeVITO: Hey.

GROSS: Welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. DeVITO: Terry, it's so great to be here.

GROSS: I have to say, one of the things I find so interesting about you is
that, you know, on the one hand like, you know, you really became famous
through "Taxi," a hit TV series.

Mr. DeVITO: Yes.

GROSS: You've been in a lot of hit mainstream movies, and then family films
like "Deck the Halls." At the same time, you produced "Pulp Fiction," you
directed "Hoffa" with a script by David Mamet.

Mr. DeVITO: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: I just so like that you're full of surprises and that you have really
wide range in taste.

Mr. DeVITO: I do. I feel that I love doing what I'm doing. I saw, I think
it was in the late '60s, a film by Pontecorvo which was called "Battle of
Algiers." It was at the Thalia, uptown New York. And I was studying acting,
and I just didn't understand what was going on there, you know, with all these
people. There was no documentary footage in it, it was all real, it was all
staged. And I wondered what a director did. And then as soon as I started
studying and finding out what that was about, I kind of like--I have eclectic
tastes. I like comedy. I like dark comedy. I like, you know, slapstick. I
was a, you know, fan of the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges and Jerry
Lewis and all that stuff. But I also liked, you know, "Rebecca." And I liked
things that Hitchcock did and stuff that was a little bit more noire in the
Edward G. Robinson area. And, you know, Fritz Lang got into my life.

And so there were so many different things that I loved, I just think going
into the movie theater and having that light go down, and you disappearing
into that place, that other place, was always the thing. So I just applied it
to my work. I say, you know, when an "Erin Brockovich" comes along, I think
it's a really worthy story to tell, and I'll do anything I can to make it--to
get it to the screen, and then apply my, whatever, style I have acquired from
stealing from the best, you know, going, you know, you just watch other
people's movies and you go, `Boy, I'd like to do that thing' or `I'd like to
do this.' And then you start imagining those things yourself, and you apply
them to all different kinds of genres.

GROSS: Did you know that because you love movies it meant that you wanted to
act? Did you make that connection at all?

Mr. DeVITO: I always thought that I could do it. I didn't have the guts to
go. You know, I look the way I look, and I was not the leading-man type. I
mean, I wasn't going to go out and come down the steps and all the girls would
turn their heads, and I would immediately go in and dance with anybody at the
prom that I wanted. You know, those movies were all being done. You know, it
was the Rock Hudsons and the, you know, Cary Grants, and all the leading men,
you know?

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DeVITO: And that's who you like. But I did say, `Well, I--you know, I
could do that Peter Lorre part.' You know? Or `I could. That Edward G.
Robinson guy is like really tough, and that James Cagney guy.' So, you know,
those are things that might--but I only had that way, way, way, way, deep,
deep, deep in my mind. I never said that to anybody and identified with
people like that. And so although I did want to get on that horse and ride
off into the sunset...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. DeVITO: ...that would be cool, too. Yeah.

GROSS: You know, listening to you talk, I'm thinking that Danny DeVito, when
he acts in movies, often has a very kind of big New York or New Jersey accent,
which you don't have, or at least not nearly to that extent just speaking as
yourself. Who has the greatest accents in your neighborhood when you were
growing up?

Mr. DeVITO: I think my fam--my mother was born in New Jersey, so I had this
like kind of New Jersey, little bit of like--it's not Baltimore. It's not
like Philadelphia. It's not like--it's a New Jersey accent, and it's a little
bit--I always thought it was a little Southern, you know. It was kind of like
a weird, well, from not South Jersey. But the idea is--my father was born in
Brooklyn, so my father had the, you know, `Thirty, thirdy third,' he would
say, you know. Like, `Where were you?' `I was on Troy Avenue. And I was a
car conductor, I took the tickets.' And then he--my mother's was a little bit
more gentle, and it was from New Jersey. The whole family is from Italy, but
they settled in different places. And my mother's accent was a little bit
different. And then all the people in New Jersey had varied. But I had a lot
of influences from the New York area because of my cousins and my uncles and
my aunts, and they would come down. And I always wanted to live in New York.

GROSS: Do you feel like you do your father's accent in some roles?

Mr. DeVITO: I think I do, yeah. I do my father's accent, and it's a blend
between--like, if you look at Louie. My mother was on the show.

GROSS: On "Taxi"?

Mr. DeVITO: She was on twice, on "Taxi." Yeah, she played--there was a scene
where I--Louie leaves his mother in a home and then goes and gets her because
he can't take it. And my mother was my size and grey hair, and she had never
acted before in her life. And she was in her--I guess she was in her late 70s
when we did that show. And she's walking down this little aisleway, hallway,
and I say--and we're going away from the camera. And I go, `Ma.' She's
holding her suitcase. I say, `Ma, that's your bad hand.' And I grab the
suitcase and I put it in her other hand. You know, so...

GROSS: That's really funny. Yeah.

Mr. DeVITO: It was in character but, you know, it was something that, you
know, you get from--you find that, you know, from--so if you look at that
show, and also there was one show where she, we married her off to a Japanese
man, which was hysterical that Louie, you know, his prejudices came out. He
didn't want her to marry a Japanese guy, and it was really funny. But we
wound up having to shoot the ceremony and marrying them.

GROSS: Well, you know, your character on "Taxi" and a lot of the other
characters you've played over the years, including your character in the new
film, "Deck the Halls," they are very extroverted.

Mr. DeVITO: Yeah, I'd say.

GROSS: And, yeah. And are you as extroverted as that? You're not sounding
as extroverted as that?

Mr. DeVITO: No, I'm not. I'm not extroverted. I'm extroverted in that I
know what I want and I get it, I go after it, I do everything I can to--if I
want to make a movie or direct a movie or act in a movie or start a company or
do a thing or whatever, I go after it full force, you know. I don't--I'm not
belligerent about it. I'm not like offensive about it, because I always feel
like, you know, everybody has got their own thing going and you have to
respect that. And that's the way it is in life, and that's the way it should
be. You shouldn't be, you know, sitting back waiting for things to happen.
You have to be aggressive in that way, go out and go after things. Because
it's exciting. It's the hunt. It's going after some dream or some idea. But
you shouldn't be--I would say stay on the side of like being human.

GROSS: Well, one of the things I believe you went after was "Pulp Fiction,"
which you produced. Why did you want to produce the movie?

Mr. DeVITO: Because I'm--a woman who was working for me gave me a script
called "Reservoir Dogs." I was in the middle of, I think, preparing "Hoffa" at
the time, and I had a deal at Columbia Tristar, and it was a deal that--many
thought was a vanity deal, which means that you're only going to do movies
that you want to be in or direct or whatever. But I literally, after "War of
the Roses," I wanted to embrace other filmmakers and try to make it as
comfortable for them to get their work on screen as possible. Because it is a
difficult thing to do, get your work on screen the way you want it. And I
read this script, and I thought it was just genius, really wonderful, and I
said, `Can I meet this guy?' And I heard that the movie had already been shot,
"Reservoir Dogs," and I said, `I don't care. If it's possible, if he's in
town, I'd like to have a five-minute meeting with him, just get me together
with him somehow.' And I did. I got together with Quentin, and he came to see
me. And I just listened to him for like 10 minutes, listened to his stuff. I
said, `Well, what I feel is, I don't--I can't get involved in this movie
because it's already done, but whatever, whatever you're going to do next,'
that's how strongly I responded to him, `please, let me be involved.'

GROSS: My guest is Danny DeVito. He's starring in the new holiday comedy,
"Deck the Halls."

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


GROSS: My guest is actor, director and producer Danny DeVito. When we left
off, he was telling us that after reading Quentin Tarantino's screenplay for
"Reservoir Dogs," he met with Tarantino and told him he wanted to produce his
next film, which ended up being "Pulp Fiction."

What made you respond so strongly, both to Tarantino and also to the
screenplay for "Reservoir Dogs"?

Mr. DeVITO: I think it was the passion that he exhibits in his confidence
and his assuredness of what he wants, no matter what. And I think it's like a
feeling that, if there's any way that you can help that person get it through.
I didn't know how--I didn't know the situation he was in. I didn't know how
many people knew him, how many people wanted to be with him. All I knew is
that I wanted to be with him. I knew that it would be so much fun to make a
movie with a guy like this, who has this incredible talent that I read on the
page and then this enthusiasm that is brimming and wonderful. And he's young.
He was a young guy, and I liked that. I like to see people come out of like
school or a video store or a college or a, you know, or a candy store,
anywhere, who have this verve, this kind of like special spark that people
exhibit when they really want something in a good way.

GROSS: So, when he gave you the script for "Pulp Fiction," did you think,
`Oh, this is great!'

Mr. DeVITO: Well, I didn't get it right away. I made a deal with him. I
made a deal with him that I would get his next script. He told me it was a
series of stories intertwined. He hadn't formulated it yet. And I said fine.
And we made a deal for me to have first dibs on his script. And he went away
for a year to publicize "Reservoir Dogs." And I kept checking in saying,
`Where's the script?' And finally, one day, a year later, I got a script at my
house. And it was 155 pages. It was hot off the press. It was, it said
`"Pulp Fiction" by Quentin Tarantino, final draft.'

So, I sat down immediately in my bedroom and read it, and I was just totally
laughing my head off and going crazy. And I said to Rita, I said, `You know,
either this is a really funny, incredibly unique movie or I am one of the
sickest people on the planet. So, it turns out to be both.

GROSS: Did you want a cameo in it?

Mr. DeVITO: I actually wanted a cameo--well, I was busy. I wanted a--yeah,
but, you know, I was doing something else. And like I said before, it's all
about making that artist's work get into that view finder. And that's what
it's all about. I did fight for John Travolta so that he could get John
Travolta because nobody at the time wanted John Travolta. But I think the
studio wanted Daniel Day Lewis, and I said...

GROSS: Wow! I find that really--I like Daniel Day Lewis a lot. He seems so
wrong. He seems so wrong for the part.

Mr. DeVITO: I know. I know, but he was hot at the time. John wasn't. And
that's the way a lot of the studios work. I mean, that's not the way a lot of
them work, that's the way all of them work. So, we--I said, `Look, I made a
promise to this guy that I was going to do everything to make his vision get
up to the screen,' so we did--you know, I just went to the mat for John. And
it was brilliant. It worked out great and everything about the movie was
just--from the time he started all the way to the time we--to today, it's just
a joy.

GROSS: You know, this is going to lead in a roundabout way. One of the
people in "Pulp Fiction" was Harvey Kietel. And since you were one of the
stars of "Taxi," I always wondered what you thought of "Taxi Driver" which is
like, I mean...

Mr. DeVITO: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: ...not that they're anything alike. But one's like this really dark
vision of this like lonely, alienated taxicab driver in New York. And the
other is this kind of sitcom version of taxi life.

Mr. DeVITO: Well, you know, "Taxi Driver" was, I think it was, might have
been the early '70s.

GROSS: Mid-70s.

Mr. DeVITO: Yeah, mid-70s. I think '72 was the...

GROSS: I think it was '75, '75 I think.

Mr. DeVITO: And then '75 was the other one.

GROSS: '75 or '76 was the other one.

Mr. DeVITO: So, yeah. And I loved it so much.

GROSS: Did you?

Mr. DeVITO: I thought the style was, yeah, the first shot of the car coming
through the steam.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DeVITO: The whole, just alienated like in such a great, in Paul
Schrader's great...

GROSS: Screenplay.

Mr. DeVITO: Yeah. Just of putting somebody in a tin box with all this
excitement going on around them. And he's doing the dirty work of cleaning up
after people, and he doesn't have a life. And he's, you know, how else can
you think if you're in that. If you look at it now and you say, `Well, are
there other people like that?' Yeah, there are people like that who are in a
kind of squalor, and there's life going on all around them. And they don't
have a chance.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. DeVITO: They don't have a fighting chance to get out at all. I mean,
they want that belladonna, and they want that beautiful rose or that flower or
that garden or that whatever outside of it, but it's not attainable. And it
just was, just, you know, one of the top, you know, favorite films. In terms
of Harvey's character, how sleazy can you get. But, I mean, I love that, you
know, and, you know, just, you think, you know, God bless Jodie Foster's
mother and father, whoever let her do the part, because it was just so, you
know, horrifying.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. DeVITO: And, you know, just...

GROSS: So, obviously, you really love "Taxi Driver" and really kind of...

Mr. DeVITO: Oh, I love "Taxi Driver."

GROSS: ...completely comprehended what it was about.

Mr. DeVITO: Totally loved it.

GROSS: So, is there anything that like when you do like the sitcom "Taxi," is
there anything...

Mr. DeVITO: Yeah.

GROSS: ...that you could draw on from "Taxi Driver" even though they had
nothing to do with each other except for the taxi.

Mr. DeVITO: Well, the only thing I did, Terry, was I, in my populating of
my--you know, that little booth that I lived in...

GROSS: Yes, of course.

Mr. DeVITO: "Taxi", most of my time was spent there. I decorated it
myself. And I sent, as a fan, a letter--I mean, not a letter, yeah, a letter
to and a picture to Marty Scorsese and to Robert De Niro. And I had them just
sign it for me, for Louie. So I framed it and put it in my case, and I had
other various paraphernalia that were collected from the streets of New York
and things that I, you know, like a, you know, something that I thought might
have been valuable or a piece of sign or this or that. But I populated the
booth with stuff. And one of the things was a, I don't remember if I had a
ticket stub for the theater, but that was just part of movie thing.

GROSS: Danny DeVito will be back in the second half of the show. He's
starring in the new film, "Deck the Halls."

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


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Danny DeVito. His
acting career took off after he starred in the TV series "Taxi." He's also
directed such films as "Hoffa," "The War of the Roses" and "Death to Smoochy,"
and produced such films as "Erin Brockovich," "Get Shorty" and "Pulp Fiction."
He's now starring in the family comedy, "Deck the Halls."

You got into movies in a kind of roundabout way, judging from what I've read.
Your sister had a hair salon, you worked at the hair salon for a while and
decided you wanted to be a makeup artist...

Mr. DeVITO: Right.

GROSS: ...but, apparently, to get into the school in which you wanted to
study makeup art, you had to do a monologue.

Mr. DeVITO: Yes.

GROSS: And you did the monologue and decided that you'd go into acting

Mr. DeVITO: Well, you know, it was kind of like...(unintelligible)...go
ahead and finish your question.

GROSS: Well, I was wondering what monologue you did for the audition?

Mr. DeVITO: Oh, I know exactly what monologue I did. I did Sakini from
"Teahouse of the August Moon." If you remember, it was a play and then it was
a movie. And actually Marlon Brando did the movie. He played Sakini. The
thing about that was I was in Asbury, I was doing this work for my sister and
I really love her and I appreciated everything she did for me. I was saving a
little money, and then she said, `Why don't you do the makeup thing?' And I
went into New York, and I couldn't find it, and then I kind of stumbled on
this place. This American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and I--they were the only
people that taught the makeup thing. And I spoke to the woman, and she said
you'd have to enroll as an actor because I can't really moonlight. I can't do
anything outside of that. And I said fine. So, I went and I went to the
place, it was a night school situation, so--because I was working during the
day in Asbury. So I went in and I picked a bunch of monologues. I looked at
the one I thought it was the most fun. And I learned it. And I went in and I
auditioned and they accepted me. And I paid attention to pretty much all the
classes, but I especially took extra makeup classes. And then she let me sit
in on a couple of other ones. And then I got hooked. I remember when it
happened. I think we were reading "Of Mice and Men," and I was playing Curly,
and the teacher was like amazing. He was just--I don't know, he gave
something that was a little bit more than--I guess it was a passion and he
cared, and I do respond to that. And he just felt like he knew and what he
wanted, and I immediately started, you know, reading the play from the
beginning to the end over and over again, until I finally said, one day I had
this incredible thing happen to me where I said to my sister, `You know, look,
I love doing this, but I'm going to go to New York and I'm going to enroll in
the school, in the day school and become an actor.' It was like, you know,
everybody was sitting there with their mouths open, looking at me. My mother
and father also, and everybody embraced it and said, `You know, do what you
feel is good for you.'

GROSS: You went to a Catholic boarding school. And I read that you asked to
be sent there. Whey did you want to go?

Mr. DeVITO: Well, I was in Asbury High for a couple of months, and there was
a lot of stuff going on there. There was like, you know--look, I want to have
as much fun as the next person, but I felt like this was getting a little far
out of my realm. You know, there's a lot of--there was a lot of damaging
things going on at that school at the time in the area and a lot of people
doing a lot of things that they probably would regret.

GROSS: You talking about drugs, violence?

Mr. DeVITO: Violence, robberies. This, that, and the other thing. Anything
that was going on that was, you know, that was easy to get into to make a few
bucks. And I had a friend whose father was the one who started that,
getting-out-of-town thing. And this friend of mine, I grew up with him from
Kindergarten all the way up, and he said he was going to this place up in
Summit, New Jersey. And what he did--it wasn't--you'd go out every week.
You'd go on Sunday night. It wasn't that far, and you'd come back on a Friday
so you could spend--so, it was kind of a great toss-up. You didn't have to
really give up your friends. But you were away long enough not to get
involved in anything that was too risky. I always felt that I had a future
for some reason. I always felt that I could--maybe it was the movies, maybe
it was me thinking somewhere deep down, you know, I could do that, what
they're doing up there. But I'm never going to get to do it if I'm in Trenton
State Prison. So, I might as well, you know, try something else. Maybe get
out of town, maybe, you know, do a little hold in Caulfield, you know, or
something. Or just, you know, move away, you know, move away from it.

GROSS: My guest is Danny DeVito. He's starring in the new holiday comedy
"Deck the Halls."

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


GROSS: My guest is actor, director, and producer Danny DeVito. He first
became famous for his role in the sitcom "Taxi" as the dispatcher Louie.
Before we get back to our interview, here's a scene with DeVito and Andy
Kaufman, who played the mechanic Latka.

(Soundbite from "Taxi")

Mr. ANDY KAUFMAN: (As Latka) Louie?

Mr. DeVITO: (As Louie) What?

Mr. KAUFMAN: (As Latka) Louie? Listen. I have a bad cavity in my tooth.
So, is it OK if I leave early and go to the dentist?

Mr. DeVITO: (As Louie) The dentist.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DeVITO: (As Louie) That reminds me of a story I heard yesterday.

Mr. KAUFMAN: (As Latka) Yeah.

Mr. DeVITO: (As Louie) This guy goes into the dentist office.

Mr. KAUFMAN: (As Latka) Right.

Mr. DeVITO: (As Louie) And he says to the nurse, he says, `Nurse, uh, me and
my wife are having very bad sexual problems, so could I please make an

Mr. KAUFMAN: (As Latka) Yeah.

Mr. DeVITO: (As Louie) So the nurse says, `Oh, sir, you don't need a
dentist. You need a psychologist.' And he said, `No, no, nurse, I need a
dentist. With my wife, it's like pulling teeth.'

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KAUFMAN: (As Latka) So, I don't have to go to the dentist.

Mr. DeVITO: (As Louie) No, no way. OK. Now, get back to work, Latka.

Mr. KAUFMAN: (As Latka) Thanks.

(End of excerpt)

GROSS: Now, one of the people who you've worked with over the years was Andy
Kaufman. And then in the movie, "Men On the Moon," you co-starred in the
film. And the film was based on Andy Kaufman's life...

Mr. DeVITO: Yes.

GROSS: ...with Jim Carrey playing Andy Kaufman. It must have been kind of
bizarre in a way to be in the movie where Jim Carrey is playing a person you
actually knew very well and worked with for several years. But what I'm
wondering is do you get a sense that he really could kind of control the
difference between him and his personas?

Mr. DeVITO: Yes. I have a great feeling for Andy. I feel that if you look
at the genesis of it, it was a performance and I saw him like in the very,
very early days when he was just coming out on "Saturday Night Live" and doing
the bongos and doing this kind of cool stuff. So, I read this article years
ago, I think it might have been in the Village Voice or some other paper that
I read in the '60s and '70s, and it was called "We Are the Dog." And it was
kind of--I don't know why this just popped into my head, Terry, but it was
like, you know, when there was six or seven people sitting around a tree and
they're all getting loaded and a dog walks by, everybody kind of looks at the
dog and you just watch the dog for five minutes while he walks around the
tree. Then it walks over and it does something or comes over and sniffs, and
then it leaves. And then you come back to the conversation, and Andy was like
that dog. You know, you could not take your eyes off of him. He was just,
like walk into the situation and was the center of attention, a baby,
something, anything that just brings you, blows your mind. And I think he
knew in the very beginning, he started--he didn't know in the beginning, and
then he started to play upon that and use that. And it was refreshing for
everybody around him. For me, for all the people at "Taxi," we were always
like--we always loved when Andy was in the show because he--we knew that week
was going to be--there was going to be a lot of curve balls, a lot of things
happening. Like he would be standing in the back of the thing and a woman
would walk in with a, a postal woman would walk in, and she would have a
package in her hand. She goes, `This is a package for Danny DeVito. Is Danny
DeVito around?' And they would go, `Oh, yeah, he's in that room.' She knocked
on my door, she gave me the package, I'd sign for it, and then she'd be
leaving, and he'd go, before she walked away, `Why aren't you in the kitchen
doing dishes? Why are you taking this job away from some guy who needs it?'
And she'd go, `What?' You know, this is like not that far away from the '70s.
This was like the early '80s, and he'd go--she said, `What?' And she's not
like a little--she's a postal worker. She looks like, you know, she's
formidable. She's big. She's got muscle. She's got like, bigger than him,
and he would pick a fight with her. And he'd say, `Well, if you think you're,
you know, such a strong woman, you could take over and all this stuff, take a
man's job, let's wrestle right now.' And he would wrestle with her, right
there in the hallway. He would incense that woman to the point of--this is a
little bit off the beam of...

GROSS: No, this is fascinating.

Mr. DeVITO: he was. But he would do that until the woman would get
so mad at him. Now, I know that Andy doesn't mean that. I mean, he means it.
He wants to fight with her. But I know that deep down inside, he's going
like, `This is my art. This is what I do.'

GROSS: Right.

Mr. DeVITO: And they would get on the ground. And we would all be standing
around, and they would wrestle. And sometimes it got close, really close.
But most of the time or all the time pretty much, he would wind up pinning the
woman. And it's just because Andy was not like a little guy. He was a
big--he was a moose.

GROSS: Well, he used to challenge--you know, in his act, he would challenge
people to wrestle. And then there was that whole thing where he actually got
hurt. But you'd never say anything, right? You'd never intervene and explain
to her, `This is theater. This is like theater.'

Mr. DeVITO: No. Well, we would apologize. We'd be apologizing. Andy, we'd
go, `Yeah, that's the way he is.' But you couldn't do it in front of him
because if he was there, he'd go, `What are you talking about?'

GROSS: Have you been thinking about him in watching "Borat"?

Mr. DeVITO: Yes. I did answer that question pretty fast. Yes, I do. I
went to see--I watch "Valley Gee" all the time. And I watch, you know, the
"Borat" stuff. I've been a fan, and I went to see the movie. And I literally
think of Andy all the time. I think that there are very few people who stay
in character like that.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. DeVITO: Who can just commit to what they're doing in such a strong way,

GROSS: It must be frustrating as a friend to have somebody who commits to
character so thoroughly that maybe it's hard to just have a regular
interaction with him?

Mr. DeVITO: Yeah. But it's not a--you don't look at it as unfortunate, but
I did feel close to Andy. But I never felt like, you know, he did come to my
house and have dinner and stuff like that. But it was always his dinner,
his--it's not like a, you know, people go, `Hey, you want to go see the new so
and so movie? Let's go out and get a beer and see the movie' or vise versa.
It's not like that with Andy. It was never like that. It may have been like
that with Bob Samuta, with some people that hung out with him, with his
girlfriend and stuff. But it was never like that with the people at the show.

GROSS: We only have about a minute left...

Mr. DeVITO: I'm sorry.

GROSS: ...I've really enjoyed talking with you. Now, you've talked about how
much movies meant to you growing up and the movie theaters that you'd go to in
Asbury Park where you grew up. I believe you have your own movie theater in
your home now. So, tell us how you designed the movie theater to give you
what you want from the experience of watching movies, which you obviously love
to do.

Mr. DeVITO: Well, I had a space, it was in the back, I built a part of a
house in the back of the house. So there was a space. And I needed a certain
amount of feet because I wanted it to be sizeable so that it wouldn't
be--because I wanted to show 35-millimeter films. You know, it's a
comfortable movie theater. I don't show movies as much as I used to because
everything's moving so fast, and we have the DVDs.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DeVITO: So, I still project them, the DVDs, I have a really nice DVD
projector. But I--you know, there's nothing like watching them on celluloid.

GROSS: Do you miss the experience of actually going to a movie theater

Mr. DeVITO: I go all the time.

GROSS: Do you really?

Mr. DeVITO: I go every--I go sometimes three or four times a week. I go to
the mall.

GROSS: And people don't bother you when you go to the mall?

Mr. DeVITO: They say hello. They say hello. They say hello. `Hello. Hi,
Danny. How are you doing? How's it going? I heard this was a good movie,'
and blah, blah, blah. And we go to the movies. I get my popcorn. I go sit.
I go every week.

GROSS: That's great.

Mr. DeVITO: Because I wouldn't want to ever miss that. So I--you know,
maybe I'll see you at the movies someday.

GROSS: Yeah. Well, Danny DeVito, great to talk with you. Thank you so much.

Mr. DeVITO: Thank you so much.

GROSS: Danny DeVito is starring in the new family comedy, "Deck the Halls."

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

Profile: Remembering lyricist Betty Comden, dead at age 89

Last week the lyricist Betty Comden died at the age of 89. She collaborated
on lyrics with Adolph Green who died in 2002. They wrote the lyrics for shows
like "On the Town" "Wonderful Town" and "Peter Pan" and "Bells are Ringing."

Here's Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra singing a famous Comden and Green song
from the movie, "On the Town."

(Soundbite from song by Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra)

Unidentified Singer #1: (Singing) "We've got one day here and not enough
minutes. Famous site. We'll find the romance and then in eight minutes
beneath the Broadway lights. But with the hair on our chests, but what we
like the best for the night."

Group: (Singing in unison) "New York, New York. It's a wonderful town. The
box is up and the ladder is down. The people ride in a hole in the ground.
New York, New York. It's a wonderful town."

Singer #1: (Singing) "The famous places to visit are so many. That's what
the guidebooks say. I told my grandpa I wouldn't miss any because I've just
one day. I've got to see the whole town right from Yonkers on down to the bay
in just one day."

Group: (Singing in unison) "New York, New York. It's a wonderful town. The
box is up and the ladder is down. The people ride in a hole in the ground.
New York, New York. It's a wonderful town.

Unidentified Singer #2: (Singing) "Manhattan women are all in silk and satin,
so the fellow says. There's just one thing necessary in Manhattan when you've
got just one day. Gotta pick up a date, maybe seven or eight on your way in
just one day."

Group: (Singing in unison) "New York, New York. It's a wonderful town. The
box is up and the ladder is down. The people ride in a hole in the ground.
New York, New York. It's a wonderful town."

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews the new CD of remixed Beatles tracks.

This is FRESH AIR.


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

Interview: Rock Critic Ken Tucker reviews new CD of remixed
Beatles tracks

A few years ago the Beatles producer George Martin worked on a Fab Four
soundtrack to a Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas show, which remixed and combined
various Beatle songs. Now, the 80-year-old Martin and his son Giles have
released a modified soundtrack of that production, an album called "Love."

Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.

We'll have that for you in one sec. A little technical problem in our control
room. But this will be, a lot of interesting music. So, stand by and we'll
have that for you momentarily.

(Soundbite from "Because")

BEATLES: (Singing in unison) "Because the world is round, it turns me on.
Because the world is round..."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. KEN TUCKER: That's the Beatles in a stripped-down, near-a capella
version of "Because" originally from 1969's Abbey Road album turning the song
into a heavenly choir.

One strategy that co-producers George and Giles Martin have done on this album
"Love" is the periodically removable vocal or a guitar or drum part to
emphasize another aspect of a Beatle performance.

On this version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," they use
Harrison's original demo vocal, but with a new string section arrangement by
George Martin, one of the very few new pieces of music added to this album.

(Soundbite from "While My Guitar Gently Weeps")

Mr. GEORGE HARRISON: (Singing) "I look at you all, see the love there that's
sleeping while my guitar gently weeps. I look at the floor and I see it needs
sweeping. Still my guitar gently weeps. I don't know why nobody told you how
to unfold your love. I don't know how someone controlled you. They bought
and sold you. I look at the..."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: To really get a feeling of the sort of cleverly stitched
together sound jumping matchups the producers have come up with, you have to
hear most of this cut, which combines the deep, deep yazz of "Drive My Car"
while swerving into the 1964 song, "What You're Doing," with a sideswipe into
"Rubber Souls," the work.

(Soundbite from "Drive My Car")

BEATLES: (Singing in unison) "Asked the girl what she wanted to be. She
said, baby, can't you see. I want to be famous, a star of the screen. But
you do something in between. Baby, you can drive my car, yes, I'm going to be
a star. Baby, you can drive my car, and maybe I'll love you. Beep, beep,
beep, beep, yeah. Girl, what you doing? I'm feeling really lonely. Wouldn't
it be too much to ask of you what you doing to me? You got me running.
(Unintelligible) Would it be so much to ask of you what you doing to me?
(Unintelligible) Beep, beep, beep, yeah."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: Sometimes the album takes songs we, or at least I, never had
much use for, such as the preciously jaunty "Octopus's Garden," and slows it
down slightly to render it a trippy romantic ballad.

(Soundbite of song)

BEATLES: (Singing in unison) "I'd like to be under the sea in an octopus's
garden in the shade. He'd let us in, knows where we've been in the octopus's
garden in the shade. I'd ask my friends...:

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: What is, you might ask, is the point? This project works as a
concept album, as a kind of lively critic of things small and large. Anyone
who still thinks Ringo was a mediocre drummer, for example, might be chastened
by the way the Martins bring his elemental pattern on "Within You, Without
You" to the fore and connect it to "Tomorrow Never Knows."

Peers may sniff at love. What? A "Sergeant Pepper" trifle like being for the
benefit of Mr. Kite is given full treatment, while the band's most sustained
album, "Rubber Soul," is reduced to a snippet that lasts a few seconds? But
without in any way marring the pleasure, and, yes, kids, the genius of the
original music, placing these songs in new context forces you to listen in new
ways to songs whose familiarity may have dulled our sense of how fresh and
funny and innovative they are and how they remain forever and ever, amen.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor at large at Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed
the new Beatles remix album called "Love."


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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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