Other segments from the episode on January 24, 2003
DATE January 24, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/Aâ¨ TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/Aâ¨ NETWORK NPRâ¨ PROGRAM Fresh Airâ¨â¨Interview: Chris and Paul Weitz discuss films they have directedâ¨BARBATA BOGAEV, host:â¨â¨This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, in for Terry Gross.â¨â¨"About a Boy" starring Hugh Grant is a relatively small-budget Hollywood movieâ¨that has made a big impression. Last year, Time magazine film critic Richardâ¨Schickel called it `the smartest, funniest and most winsome big-studio releaseâ¨of a so-far dismal year,' and the film earned Grant a Golden Globe nominationâ¨for best actor. It's now out on video and DVD.â¨â¨Chris and Paul Weitz directed "About a Boy," which they adapted from a novelâ¨of the same name by Nick Hornby, who also wrote "High Fidelity." The Weitzâ¨brothers seem like an unlikely pair to take on this sophisticated comedyâ¨since they were best known for directing the teen comedy "American Pie." Theyâ¨also wrote the screenplay for the animated film "Antz." Terry spoke withâ¨Chris and Paul Weitz last June.â¨â¨"About a Boy" stars Hugh Grant as a single guy living on the royalties of hisâ¨late father's hit novelty Christmas song. He enjoys the uncommitted life--noâ¨job, no family--but he does like having relationships with women as long asâ¨they don't require a deep commitment. He's figured out that single mothersâ¨are easier to score with. So he pretends to be a single father, which is hisâ¨ticket into a single parents' group, where he hopes to meet women. Here he isâ¨at a meeting, putting on his act.â¨â¨(Soundbite of "About a Boy")â¨â¨Mr. HUGH GRANT: I have a two-year-old, Ned. He's got blue eyes and sort ofâ¨sandy-colored hair and he's about 2'3". Um--and his mum left.â¨â¨Unidentified Woman #1: Really?â¨â¨Mr. GRANT: Yeah. Yeah. I mean obviously, it was a very big shock because weâ¨were so happy. Sandra's neurology practice was just up and running, and thenâ¨one day her bags were packed and my best friend was waiting outside in hisâ¨Ferrari. Yeah. You know the Moderna, the one with the supercharged engine,â¨where you can actually see the engine through the back window?â¨â¨Unidentified Woman #2: May I ask, does your ex see Ned at all?â¨â¨Mr. GRANT: Well, sorry, I didn't catch your name.â¨â¨Unidentified Woman #2: Susie.â¨â¨Mr. GRANT: Susie. She doesn't see much of him, no. No.â¨â¨Unidentified Woman #2: How does he cope without her?â¨â¨Mr. GRANT: Well, you know, he's a very good little boy, very brave. They'veâ¨got amazing resources, don't they? Just the other day I was thinking about myâ¨ex, and he came crawling up and put his little pudgy arms around my neck andâ¨he said, `You hang in there, Dad.'â¨â¨Unidentified Woman #2: God, that's amazing for a two-year-old.â¨â¨Mr. GRANT: Is it?â¨â¨Group: Yes.â¨â¨GROSS: Chris and Paul Weitz, welcome to FRESH AIR.â¨â¨Mr. CHRIS WEITZ and Mr. PAUL WEITZ (Directors, "About a Boy"): (In unison)â¨Thank you for having us.â¨â¨GROSS: Is there anything that you related about the scheme of this single guyâ¨to create an imaginary kid so he can make it with single mothers?â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: The fact that we've done that before, I think, really...â¨â¨GROSS: I knew it.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah. They're method actors, we're method directors.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Well, I think that every man at some point or other has come upâ¨with some cockamamy scheme to meet women, whether it be a haircut or a muchâ¨larger kind of con. So I suppose I could sympathize with that, but more soâ¨with the character who essentially does nothing because he can afford to doâ¨nothing and is trying to occupy his time on the way to the grave asâ¨entertainingly as possible.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: I think, I mean, in a larger sense, I certainly can identifyâ¨with the idea that you pretend to be something before you actually are thatâ¨thing. I mean, when we first were getting the chance to direct, we had noâ¨idea what we were doing, and we actually didn't pretend all that much. Weâ¨pretty much told people we didn't know what we were doing, and this is a guyâ¨who pretends to have a child, and during the course of the movie he actuallyâ¨finds that the one thing that he's pretty good at is being a mentor, or fatherâ¨figure. He's not particularly good at anything else.â¨â¨GROSS: Did you read this book when it was first published?â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: We didn't actually, no. It had already been published forâ¨three years by the time I got around to reading it, and I read it on vacation.â¨And Paul and I had been looking for a book or a movie idea with a kind ofâ¨Billy Wilderesque theme to pursue, and I thought this was the one.â¨Unfortunately, it had already been bought by Robert De Niro's productionâ¨company, by New Line Studios. So it had been knocking around for a whileâ¨before we came to it.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: There was another director attached, which was the unfortunateâ¨part, and there was another script which had changed the character to be anâ¨American living in London. We read it and we thought that Hugh Grant would beâ¨perfect for it, because it was supposed to be somebody who's sort of gotten byâ¨on their charm through much of their life, and I think you can really believeâ¨that with Hugh. And it was also incredibly funny in a very verbal way, andâ¨Hugh's great at that kind of thing, so we just sort of hovered around likeâ¨vultures until the project fell apart, actually.â¨â¨GROSS: And how did you convince the people you needed to convince, who Iâ¨imagine included De Niro's production company and Nick Hornby, the author ofâ¨the book, that you were the guys?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: I don't know that we ever did convince Nick Hornby, soâ¨hopefully once he saw the film--no, he's been very kind about the film, and Iâ¨think that he feels like we were really true to the spirit of the book.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: But I think that both he and Hugh had their doubts aboutâ¨whether the directors of "American Pie" could make this kind of book into theâ¨kind of movie that it is. I think they were so rabid about getting a chanceâ¨to do it that eventually they just gave up on trying to put us off.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: I mean, how...â¨â¨GROSS: Well, I can understand that they would think that the directors ofâ¨"American Pie" are the wrong guys to do this, so what did you do? I mean, didâ¨you show up and say, `Well, we made that movie and it did really well, butâ¨that's not who we really are'?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Well, not really. I mean, just by being mildly articulate, youâ¨know, you get a lot of credit. I mean, the lower the bar is, in a certainâ¨way, it was as if they were dealing with a talking chimp, you know--the factâ¨that we directed "American Pie," but, you know, had some degree ofâ¨sensitivity. I mean, the thing is that our approach to "American Pie" wasâ¨pretty much to try to make it as humanistic a telling of that genre piece asâ¨possible.â¨â¨But no, we also stuck around. I mean, the project didn't get made for aâ¨little while, and I think that we could clearly articulate what we wanted itâ¨to be like, which helped the studio get its head around it. And we said weâ¨wanted to try to make a movie that is akin to "The Apartment," whichâ¨actually--I mean, the character in "The Apartment" has a similarly ludicrousâ¨scheme to get ahead, which is that he thinks he's going to get ahead in theâ¨corporate world by loaning his boss the keys to his flat so his boss can haveâ¨affairs, you know--not a particularly wise, you know, way of climbing up theâ¨corporate ladder. But that's a movie that also has some really dark sort ofâ¨things happening in the middle of a very funny comedy, so I think that ifâ¨you're able to articulate the tone of what you're trying to do, then you'reâ¨ahead of the game.â¨â¨GROSS: Nick Hornby's novels are filled with pop culture references. He wroteâ¨"High Fidelity," and even in "About a Boy," I mean, one of the ways in whichâ¨the main character mentors the boy in his life is by giving him the right CDsâ¨and buying him the right sneakers...â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah.â¨â¨GROSS: ...and it's just a lot of pop culture stuff. How did you find aâ¨visual language that you thought would work with the kind of pop style of Nickâ¨Hornby?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: I mean, for one thing, when you're following Hugh at first, weâ¨shot it sort of like a very slick commercial, and the color tone is all blue,â¨and when you're seeing the kid, the camera's fairly static and there's a lotâ¨of sort of warm earth colors. I mean, the other thing we did...â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: So there's a distinction, initially, between the kinds ofâ¨worlds in which these two people operate. The first sequence, you never seeâ¨Hugh's face in the credit sequence. You just see things. You know, weâ¨decided his apartment was very much about the things in it, so it's a lot ofâ¨shots of very glossy, shiny objects that people might like to have, so when weâ¨do see him in the trappings of pop culture, it's often in a, you know,â¨gigantic record store or a superstore.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah. And in the movie, we tried to put him in as many sort ofâ¨gigantic consumer venues as we possibly could. I mean, the other thing, too,â¨is that, I mean, when he buys the kid these sneakers in the movie--because theâ¨kid is dressed horribly by his mother and given a horrible haircut--he buysâ¨the kid these sort of cool sneakers, but, I mean, in the usual way you'dâ¨handle that, the kid would be transformed and there'd be some sort of, youâ¨know, musical montage where he's making the kid look cool. In this version,â¨the next thing you see is the kid's standing barefoot in the rain because theâ¨kids at his school have stolen the sneakers that Hugh Grant has given him.â¨â¨I think that going back also to "The Apartment," there's this fantastic shotâ¨of Jack Lemmon at the insurance company where he works, surrounded by tons andâ¨tons of uniform desks, which is actually, I think, a quote of a film calledâ¨"The Crowd," which was a great silent film about sort of the American Dream.â¨But nowadays I think that, to intellectualize somewhat, we've gone from beingâ¨a manufacturing culture to a consumer culture, so in this case we were tryingâ¨to put him in these sort of gigantic consumer venues that would depersonalizeâ¨him.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Chris and Paul Weitz, directors of the film "About a Boy." It's nowâ¨out on video and DVD. We'll continue Terry's interview with them after thisâ¨break. This is FRESH AIR.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨BOGAEV: Let's get back to Terry Gross' interview with Chris and Paul Weitz.â¨They directed the film adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel "About a Boy." It'sâ¨just been released on video and DVD.â¨â¨The first movie they directed was the hit teen comedy "American Pie" about aâ¨group of boys in their senior year of high school who vow to lose theirâ¨virginity by the end of the senior prom. The film starred Jason Biggs.â¨Eugene Levy played his well-meaning but clueless father. In this scene, Levyâ¨goes into Biggs' room for a father-son talk about the facts of life.â¨â¨(Soundbite of "American Pie")â¨â¨Mr. EUGENE LEVY: (As Jim's father) Oh, I almost forgot. I bought someâ¨magazines. You want to just flip to the center section? Well, this is theâ¨female form, and they have focused on the breasts, which are used primarily toâ¨feed young infants, and also in foreplay.â¨â¨Mr. JASON BIGGS: (As Jim) Right.â¨â¨Mr. LEVY: This is Hustler, and this is a much more exotic magazine. Now theyâ¨have decided to focus more on the pubic region, the whole groin area.â¨â¨Mr. BIGGS: Right. Uh-huh.â¨â¨Mr. LEVY: Look at the expression on her face. You see that? See what she'sâ¨doing? She's kind of looking right into your eyes, saying, `Hey, big boy.â¨Hey, how you doing?' You see?â¨â¨Mr. BIGGS: Right.â¨â¨GROSS: Now this is a teen movie about several guys who kind of make this pactâ¨that they'll lose their virginity before college, hopefully by the time of theâ¨senior prom. And the movie is their adventures in virginity losing.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah.â¨â¨GROSS: I mean, is that the kind of movie you felt like, `Yeah, this is it.â¨This is what I really wanted to direct'?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Well, the thing is, to me, it was a very human contained story.â¨To us, what it was really about was guys going through a rite of passage--notâ¨the rite of passage of losing their virginity, but the rite of passage ofâ¨graduating from high school. And they have this incredibly close friendship,â¨and they all sort of know that they're not really going to be able to be thatâ¨kind of friends anymore, so in order to not dwell on that, they becomeâ¨obsessed with losing their virginity. And also what we were consciouslyâ¨trying to do was to make the film less misogynistic than most of the films ofâ¨that genre tend to be.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Yeah. I think there are a few genre conventions that we had toâ¨satisfy. There have to be some breasts on display at some point or other, andâ¨people have to be caught in compromising positions. But that seemed to be theâ¨easy thing to do, all the gross-out humor. What felt harder was to portray aâ¨kind of updating of certain what had been stereotypes in teen sex comedies andâ¨to realize that a film like "Porky's" was, in fact, incredibly misogynisticâ¨and ugly, and to try to put women a bit more in control of the situations inâ¨this film.â¨â¨GROSS: I thought it was interesting. Most of the guys in "American Pie" areâ¨actually revealed to be very vulnerable, even though they're putting on thisâ¨big front.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Yeah.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah. No. It's a film where pretty much everybody is tryingâ¨to be nice to each other and--yeah, so I agree.â¨â¨GROSS: Well, now I have to ask you about the actual title scene, the pieâ¨scene. And for listeners who haven't seen it, you know, a friend who claimsâ¨to have lost his virginity says--when asked what it feels like, he compares itâ¨to the feeling of an apple pie. So the Jason Biggs character tests this outâ¨by getting intimate with a pie and, of course, his father, played by Eugeneâ¨Levy, walks in as this is happening. What went through your mind inâ¨considering how you should shoot that whole sequence?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Well, the first thing that we said to the studio is, `Look, youâ¨know, we're going to be very delicate. It's going to lose the comedy of thisâ¨if you see too much.' And then we got there and we said, you know, `What theâ¨hell? Let's just shoot as much as we can.'â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Well, it's not just `What the hell?' There's actually no wayâ¨to show someone...â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: That's true.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: ...having sex with a pie without showing someone having sexâ¨with a pie. I think to us, the important thing was more the interactionâ¨between the kid and his father afterwards than the gag itself, which isâ¨fairly--you know, if you're willing to do that on film, then you've achievedâ¨the strength of that gross-out gag, but the more important stuff is that hisâ¨father is actually willing to cover up for him and, in some way, is actuallyâ¨trying to deal with his son's--what seems to him is his perversion.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: The film was interesting in terms of when it came out, becauseâ¨it actually came out right after the Columbine shootings. And so theâ¨Columbine shootings led to a huge questioning of the role of the R rating inâ¨society, and our film got sort of swept up in the question of, you know,â¨should kids be allowed to go see films that are perhaps violent? So to me,â¨you know, the idea that America sweeps in sort of sexuality with violence andâ¨lumps them together in terms of how it deals with them in terms of itsâ¨entertainment was interesting. And in retrospect, you know, you have thisâ¨image of American as apple pie, and so I thought there were a few interestingâ¨aspects to that being a central image of the film.â¨â¨GROSS: What were some of the issues surrounding, like, what kind of ratingâ¨you wanted to get for the film, whether you wanted a PG or an R or...â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Well, at first we had a...â¨â¨GROSS: Yeah.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: No. Well, we wanted an R...â¨â¨GROSS: Why did you want an R?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: ...as opposed to an NC-17.â¨â¨GROSS: Oh, I see. Right, yeah.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: We knew that it would never get a PG-13, just because...â¨â¨GROSS: Well, it's about virginity, so how are you going to do that? Yeah.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Yeah.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: It's about sex. But at the same time, we didn't want an NC-17,â¨which is--if you haven't heard of it, it's because films that get an NC-17â¨rating never get seen. It's the rating above R, between R and X. And forâ¨about four cuts of the film, we were stuck in that kind of middle territory.â¨And, you know, you get involved in these rather bizarre horse trading momentsâ¨with the MPAA, in which you say, `You know, well, I'll take out one F-word ifâ¨you give us this extra thrust on the pie.' And so we went through a ratherâ¨surreal period of watering down the film without watering it down too much.â¨â¨GROSS: Now, so, you know, your two best-known films are a teen comedy, a teenâ¨kind of, like, sex and gross-out comedy that is much more--I don'tâ¨know--sensitive is the right word than a lot of other films in that genre, andâ¨your other big film is "About a Boy," which is a much more kind of, like,â¨sophisticated, witty story about adults.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah. And I...â¨â¨GROSS: So compare for us how both of those films were tested and marketedâ¨before they were set forth into movie theaters.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: The system for testing a film, any studio film, is the sameâ¨nowadays. There's a research company called NRG and they run a kind of marketâ¨testing thing in which you invite what's supposed to be an arbitrarilyâ¨selected audience to watch the film and grade it, and they have these cards onâ¨which they score the film in various ways and list their favorite scenes andâ¨the scenes they liked least and that sort of thing. You try, as filmmakers,â¨to bias the selected audience as much towards, you know, what you think isâ¨your hard-core demographic. So, of course, we only wanted teen-agers to comeâ¨to the "American Pie" test screening, and I think we only wanted bourgeoisâ¨mid-30s people to come to this one. And then you wait for this score, whichâ¨is a kind of strange compilation of numbers. And on that score rests, to someâ¨extent, how avidly the studio is going to market your picture.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: And luckily, they both tested really well. I mean, "Americanâ¨Pie" is--you know, it was as if they'd had a religious experience orâ¨something, these kids. You know, they'd probably never seen a film before.â¨But I think filmmakers tend to fear those events, the test screenings. Forâ¨us, we were a little lucky because there were a couple of really edgy, youâ¨know, comedic things in the film that the studio wasn't so sure would go over,â¨but the test audience sort of singled a couple of those things out asâ¨everybody liked.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: This is in "About a Boy." There were...â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: It's "About a Boy," yeah.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: ...moments where Hugh Grant's character seemed, to the studio,â¨to be on the verge of detestable, which audiences actually rather enjoyed. Soâ¨we actually found ourselves benefiting from the process, whereas I think inâ¨certain cases, it could damage a film or at least damage the integrity of theâ¨film, because you start catering to the imagined sympathies of an imaginedâ¨audience.â¨â¨GROSS: "American Pie," which you directed--it was one of the most popularâ¨teen comedies of the late '90s. What kind of teen movies did you grow upâ¨with? Did you go to the teen movies or did you just watch, you know, more...â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: We were watching Bergman in our teens.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: "Wild Strawberries" is hot.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Well, I was mostly about science fiction, "Star Wars," theâ¨first "Star Wars" trilogy, which, of course, in its own way, was a teen movie.â¨Luke Skywalker's a kind of space teen, although I guess less hormonal thanâ¨Earth teens.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: And I remember going to see "Porky's," although I don'tâ¨remember anything about it. The film...â¨â¨GROSS: Did you like it?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: As a kid, it didn't really stick with me, so maybe I didn'tâ¨love it that much.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: I liked it a lot at the time. I thought it was, you know, theâ¨Second Coming. But I...â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: But essentially, I mean, the actors were all in their mid-30sâ¨playing 17-year-olds.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: That was the amazing thing.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: I think I was frightened by it. But "Fast Times at Ridgemontâ¨High" is a wonderful film that deals from a female point of view with a lot ofâ¨the issues and is a really funny comedy. And so I think that that was more ofâ¨an influence. And also, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" introduced a lot ofâ¨wonderful young actors to the mainstream. So that was also the thing we'reâ¨trying to do, is take unknowns and, you know, bring them to the fore.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Yeah. I remember seeing "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and notâ¨understanding why the two cute girls holding surfboards in the ads weren'tâ¨actually in the film. It was my first experience with disappointment withâ¨marketing, because they looked really great. That was a terrific film. Goingâ¨back to "Porky's" now, I think, is a pretty mortifying experience because theâ¨actors are in their late 30s to early 40s, have beer bellies and are losingâ¨their hair, and also because the attitude towards women expressed in theâ¨script of that film is so odious.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: I mean, just to go back to marketing "About a Boy," I mean, theâ¨thing is, it's a little hard because people are now used to sort ofâ¨classifying their comedies. There's romantic comedies. There's sort of teenâ¨genre comedies. But they don't really have that kind of category of filmsâ¨that, you know, for instance, Billy Wilder used to make. I mean, occasionallyâ¨you get one--like, "Jerry Maguire" is a wonderful film or "As Good As Itâ¨Gets"--that actually manages to be a comedy for adults. But I think that it'sâ¨a real trick as to how to market that kind of film.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Directors Chris and Paul Weitz speaking with Terry Gross. We'll hearâ¨more of their conversation in the second half of the show. He's "Above You,â¨Below Me" from the soundtrack of "About a Boy." I'm Barbara Bogaev and thisâ¨is FRESH AIR.â¨â¨(Soundbite of Above You, Below Me")â¨â¨Unidentified Singer: Don't wanna give. Don't wanna steer. Don't wanna beâ¨anything I'm not. You take answers. I give questions like some rollingâ¨monologue. Wanna be the one to say that today could be the day. A pity toâ¨believe in what you know is what you know. I will take you as you are.â¨Please accept me as I am. Find your lonely life bizarre. Know it's aboveâ¨you, know it's below me.â¨â¨(Announcements)â¨â¨BOGAEV: Coming up, choreographer Garth Fagan. He's been leading his ownâ¨dance troupe for over 30 years and has created a distinctive dance vocabularyâ¨which draws on African and Caribbean influences. Also, David Edelsteinâ¨reviews the new film "City of God," and more of our interview with filmmakersâ¨Chris and Paul Weitz.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨BOGAEV: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, in for Terry Gross.â¨â¨Let's return now to Terry's interview with Chris and Paul Weitz. Theyâ¨directed the film "About a Boy," starring Hugh Grant, which is now out onâ¨video and DVD. The Weitz brothers' other directing credits include "Americanâ¨Pie" and the animated film "Antz."â¨â¨GROSS: Your working together, it sounds like a mother's dream come true, youâ¨know. Every mother hopes that their children will actually get along whenâ¨they become adults, but working together, that's great. Is your motherâ¨thrilled that you work together?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: I think our parents are thrilled that we work, period, becauseâ¨it was touch and go there for a while. But, yeah, they're pleased. It's theâ¨opposite of the old Cain and Abel scenario. But she doesn't get to see us inâ¨the editing room.â¨â¨GROSS: I want to ask you a little bit about your family. You come from aâ¨really interesting family. Your grandfather was an agent who representedâ¨Billy Wilder, who you've referred to, and who else?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: William Wilder, John Huston.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Ingmar Bergman.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Charles Bronson, oddly. And pretty much anybody who came intoâ¨town with a funny accent had to stop at the Paul Kohner Agency and play ginâ¨rummy and have apple strudel or something. Yeah. So our grandfather hadâ¨these great clients. Our grandmother was a Mexican film actress who starredâ¨in the first talking picture in Mexico called ...(unintelligible).â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: And who's on a Mexican stamp actually.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: And then I...â¨â¨GROSS: Wait, I read that she was in the Mexican version of "Dracula"?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: She was. Yes.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: At the...â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: It was shot on the same sets as the Tod Browning version, butâ¨from midnight on after the English language crew had finished their dayâ¨shooting. It was a really scheme by my grandfather to keep my grandmother inâ¨the country, because talking pictures had just come around, and she had anâ¨incredibly thick accent. And what with the end of the silent era looked likeâ¨she wasn't going to get too many more jobs.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: So he came up with the scheme of let's shoot Spanish-languageâ¨versions of American films at night when they're not using the sets. And...â¨â¨GROSS: That was his idea?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah. Yeah.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Yeah.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: As a ruse to keep my grandmother from going back to Mexico.â¨And then our mother, Susan Kohner, was an actress. She was nominated for anâ¨Academy Award in a film called "Imitation of Life," which was an old Douglasâ¨Sirk tearjerker.â¨â¨GROSS: Where she plays a very light-skinned...â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yes.â¨â¨GROSS: ...African-American woman passing for white.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Yeah. Yeah.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Mm-hmm.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: And our dad was a fashion designer. In the '50s he and, Iâ¨think, Hardy Amies and Pierre Cardin--I'm probably leaving out a couple ofâ¨people--were the first people to put their names on the clothing they wereâ¨selling and to make it--the whole idea of licensing and of the designer nameâ¨for men...â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: But then he turned basically to writing biographies ofâ¨prominent Nazis because he had worked in intelligence in the OSS during theâ¨Second World War. So we've got a strange family, in other words, to cut aâ¨long story short.â¨â¨GROSS: So you in your family you had two actresses, an agent, a fashionâ¨designer. What was it like when you watched movies with your family? Whatâ¨would they point out to you? What were they looking for?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Really nothing. No, no. I mean, I think they all had theirâ¨own predilections. My grandfather was still--I mean, my grandfather startedâ¨out as a producer, so towards the end of his life in his 80s he decided, `I'mâ¨going to produce again,' so he was really looking for properties to produce.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: But he had--I mean, in his time, making films was an extensionâ¨of a larger sense of being cultured, which had to do with literature and, youâ¨know, a lot of the great films of his time were made from books.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: I think that actually our mother instilled more of a love ofâ¨the theater. And maybe on our part, as opposed to I think most directors whoâ¨come from a very visual perspective and maybe come up through doing MTV videosâ¨or commercials or something, we, like the old filmmakers of the '40s and '30s,â¨were really looking to theater and to the written word a lot more for ourâ¨inspiration.â¨â¨GROSS: So what were your teen-age years like? Maybe you can compare yourâ¨teen-age years to the teen-age years in "American Pie," where the issues areâ¨going to the prom and losing your virginity and...â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Well...â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Well, I was in high school in London. There was no such thingâ¨as a prom. I wore--my school had been in mourning for Queen Victoria forâ¨about a hundred years so the uniform was black and gray and white. It was aâ¨very different scenario. I don't think I met a girl until I was about 18.â¨And I played a lot of rugby and cricket. So not very similar to "Americanâ¨Pie."â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Well, maybe I could...â¨â¨GROSS: So do you know what kind of film you will be doing next or that youâ¨would like to do next?â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Not really. It's going to have to be ambitious in that I thinkâ¨that it can be either ambitious on the level of just being truthful orâ¨ambitious on the level of scope and sort of the visual task set before us.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: I mean, I think that--well, I've certainly decided that theâ¨process of making a film is so incredibly draining that you may as wellâ¨overreach yourself slightly; otherwise you're sort of wasting your time. Theâ¨last thing we want to do is another version of what we've just done. I canâ¨never understand the position of a sort of jobbing director. And fortunatelyâ¨we don't have to be because we can kind of write to keep body and soulâ¨together while we're waiting for the next thing to direct. So it's reallyâ¨hard to say exactly what. I only know it would be interesting if it were someâ¨kind of leap in genre. It would be amazing to do a science fiction film or aâ¨thriller. I think the only thing we wouldn't do is an action film, since Iâ¨think there are enough things blowing up in real life without blowing them upâ¨on screen.â¨â¨GROSS: Well, I want to thank you both so much for talking with us.â¨â¨Mr. P. WEITZ: Thank you very much.â¨â¨Mr. C. WEITZ: Well, thanks for having us.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Chris and Paul Weitz directed "About a Boy." It's now out on videoâ¨and DVD. From the soundtrack, here's "Something to Talk About."â¨â¨(Soundbite of "Something To Talk About")â¨â¨Unidentified Group: (Singing) I've been dreaming of the things I learnedâ¨about a boy who's bleeding, celebrate to elevate. The joy is not the sameâ¨without the tears. Ooh. Ipso facto, using up your oxygen, you know I shall,â¨calling out for extra help. You've got to let me in or let me out. Ooh,â¨something to talk about. And something to talk about.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Coming up, we meet choreographer Garth Fagan. This is FRESH AIR.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *â¨â¨Interview: Choreographer Garth Fagan discusses his dancing careerâ¨and dance-teaching styleâ¨BARBARA BOGAEV, host:â¨â¨My guest, Garth Fagan, founded the Garth Fagan Dance company 33 years ago, andâ¨ever since, his work has challenged assumptions about gender, race andâ¨political correctness. A native of Jamaica, Fagan incorporates African andâ¨Caribbean dance, extreme athleticism, hip-hop and balletic movements into hisâ¨choreography. Fagan Fagan has also worked on Broadway. He won numerousâ¨awards, including a Tony and Britain's Laurence Olivier Award for hisâ¨choreography for the Disney musical "The Lion King."â¨â¨The Garth Fagan Dance company is currently on a national tour. When I spokeâ¨with Garth Fagan in 2001, I asked him what is earliest dance memory was fromâ¨his childhood in Jamaica.â¨â¨Professor GARTH FAGAN (State University of New York): My first dance memoryâ¨was really like party dancing, you know. I come from a family of 13 aunts andâ¨uncles on one side and seven on the other side, so there were always parties,â¨you know. Somebody's always having a birthday or a graduation or whatever.â¨And everybody danced. Right up to my grandparents, everybody danced. And weâ¨didn't have the age-specific parties that are so trendy now. We had partiesâ¨where you had from children through grandparents, and everyone danced. Butâ¨the idea of concert dance or professional dancing never occurred to me. Itâ¨was just a fun thing that you did.â¨â¨And Iva Baxter, who was--directed Iva Baxter Dance Company and who forgedâ¨Caribbean dance and modern dance into a nice synthesis, she saw me in highâ¨school. And I had to fill in for someone who had sprained his ankle orâ¨something. And I did it on an outrageous dare. And I knew it would upset myâ¨father because he was an Oxford graduate, a very British gentleman and Fagansâ¨just didn't do things like that. You know...â¨â¨BOGAEV: So someone hurt their ankle and you, who had no dance experience,â¨said you'd fill in for them?â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Well, I was very athletic and was quite the party dancer, youâ¨know. I had won awards in cha-cha and mambas and what have you. So...â¨â¨BOGAEV: At dance contests.â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Yeah, dance contests. So, I mean, it was the thing to do. Andâ¨just on a dare I did it. And all I did was I listened to what this lady toldâ¨me to do and totally unbeknownst to me, I went out there and did it, andâ¨people said, `You were great.' And I said, `I was what?' You know, 'cause itâ¨didn't feel great to me, 'cause what do I do next, you know, blah, blah, blah?â¨And she invited me to come to her studio and start taking classes. And sheâ¨also showed my Martha Graham's "A Dancer's World," which is one of the mostâ¨beautiful films on dance and that art. And Martha--well, you know, what canâ¨we say? What an amazing artist and person. And that showed me Mary Hinkson,â¨who became one of my teachers and still my mentor and priestess, and justâ¨showed me the possibilities of concert dance. And I also saw men dancing in aâ¨very manly way, because as a teen-ager back then I didn't want to be a swanâ¨prince or anything like that. Now that I'm an adult, I understand the valueâ¨of swan princes, but as a kid, you know, I wanted a--more athletic stuff. Andâ¨she had wonderful dancers.â¨â¨BOGAEV: You founded your first dance troupe here--your--now your only danceâ¨troupe, Garth Fagan Dance, 30 years ago.â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Mm-hmm.â¨â¨BOGAEV: And back then, you picked untrained dancers for the troupe.â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Mm-hmm.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Why'd you do that? These are people who had no contact with dance...â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Right. They were...â¨â¨BOGAEV: ...I guess, as you did when you were young.â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Right. They were people that I saw at parties who had thisâ¨really wonderful sense of movement and rhythm, and people on the soccer fieldâ¨or the basketball court, you know. And I wanted to come up with Faganâ¨technique and I wanted to break the mold. And I didn't want to spend timeâ¨untraining people who had had, you know, classical training or major modernâ¨dance training. I just wanted to do something new. And I wanted the speedâ¨and precision of ballet, the love of weight, and the flow of modern dance, andâ¨the polyrhythm and the use of the torso that you find in African and Caribbeanâ¨dance. And I wanted to forge that into a new blend.â¨â¨BOGAEV: I think you see a lot of modern dance and it looks like dancers areâ¨trying to look like real people while they're dancing.â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Yeah.â¨â¨BOGAEV: And it strikes that false note, but watching your company, theâ¨dancers look more like real people dancing.â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Yes.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Is that at result of the technique or your philosophical infusion toâ¨your dancers?â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: It's a result of the technique and the philosophy because fromâ¨day one I didn't want them to do the self-congratulatory thing, you know. Aâ¨dancer does some fabulous turns and then looks out at the audience forâ¨applause--you know, that kind of vulgarity I found boring and tedious. Iâ¨mean, it is understood that you are professional people, got baby-sitters, gotâ¨on the train and came to see you perform, so now do it. And it was veryâ¨important to me that you get the sense of people dancing, as opposed toâ¨hybrid-mannered dancers trying to be people.â¨â¨BOGAEV: I love how the women in your company dance. They are so, so equalâ¨to the men. They're just as athletic, just as fast, but they don't--they doâ¨it without sacrificing the sensuality of their movement or their femininity.â¨Could you talk about creating that? Was that a political decision on yourâ¨part...â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: That was a poli...â¨â¨BOGAEV: ...that reaction to that girly, princess status of the ballerinas?â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Yes. Yeah, that was a decision that I made, A, to celebrate myâ¨daughter; B, because the women that I know and respect are not waiting for anyâ¨prince to carry them off or tell them what to do. They have a good idea ofâ¨what they can do and what they ought to be doing. And the whole girl-boyâ¨thing annoyed me. These are adults who are dancing and if the men can turnâ¨that fast, well, why can't the women? If the men can leap that way, why can'tâ¨the women? And by the same token--my women are strong and erect and fabulous,â¨but by the same token, my men are so--are not just macho, you know, soullessâ¨beasts. They have to be vulnerable and open, also, but I consciously wantedâ¨to do that so that you had this sense of humanity, and then gender and raceâ¨came down the road, you know, after you'd enjoyed the dancing.â¨â¨BOGAEV: I'd like to talk about your work on "The Lion King." Youâ¨choreographed the Disney Broadway musical, directed by Julie Taymor, and won aâ¨Tony Award for your work and, also, the Laurence Olivier. Now in a musical,â¨dance is not the focal point. It's just part of the whole. How do you adaptâ¨your choreography to not stand out too much?â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Well, you need a seamless whole. You know, you need theâ¨evening to be a seamless whole. And there are moments when the music isâ¨numero uno, and then there are moments when the dancing is numero uno, andâ¨there are moments when the entire parade flows before your eye. And thisâ¨involves music, costumes, lights and dancing. And you listen carefully to theâ¨director--in this case, Julie Taymor--and hear what her ideas are. And thenâ¨you go ahead and you forge your own ideas.â¨â¨I had decided and told Julie and everyone that I wanted all types of dance inâ¨this musical, because I wanted children who came in to see, you know, modernâ¨dance, ballet, hip-hop, African dance, jazz. I wanted them to experience asâ¨many of the dance forms as exist--and just kids fooling around. Like in "Iâ¨Just Can't Wait To Be King," it's just kids fooling around the way kids wouldâ¨do in a bedroom in a pillow fight, you know.â¨â¨For me, the newest thing was the use of Julie's wonderful puppets andâ¨elaborate costumes, which, in concert dance I like clothes as minimal asâ¨possible, so the human body, which is the dancer's instrument, is seen withoutâ¨much distraction. So I had to use those and use them well. And I had toâ¨realize that people were hyenas in this section and then they were lionessesâ¨in the next section. Then they were giraffes. Anyway, it was an amazingâ¨experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was quite enriching for me.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Did you try and play against people dancing too much like theâ¨animals that they're supposed to embody?â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Oh, yes. No, I--it wasn't a stuffed-suit show, you know.â¨They--Julie always wanted the human beings to be seen within the costumes ofâ¨the animals. So, like, the lioness dances like--a beautiful feminist toneâ¨that shows, I mean, all the wonderful range of womanhood. I mean--and, youâ¨know, if the lionesses don't hunt, nobody eats, you know. So let's get a gripâ¨on that one. And you have all the femininity in the world out there, butâ¨still, they kill the gazelle so that people can have a meal. And sometimesâ¨we're not comfortable with the two perspectives of that being in one personâ¨and in one woman. And, likewise, the hyenas are horrible, terrible people,â¨but there is some humanity to them, so that was important that it just wasn'tâ¨stuffed suits trying to look like an animal. No, it was the way that theâ¨lions use their shoulders. I used a lot of that, you know, essence--theâ¨essence of being the animal.â¨â¨BOGAEV: So in choreographing hip-hop for "The Lion King," where did youâ¨learn hip-hop or what were you drawing on? Your an older gentleman now. Iâ¨don't imagine you're doing it in the club.â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Mature, Barbara. Not older yet, just mature.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Very good. Very good.â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Yeah. I go to a lot of parties, you know, so I see it in myâ¨grandkids and the dancers, you know. The dancers--I have company requirementsâ¨for the dancers to see certain shows, certain galleries and they haveâ¨requirements for me, too, you know. And...â¨â¨BOGAEV: What does that mean? You have a list of things that--ways in whichâ¨they should enrich their lives?â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Oh, absolutely. When we're on tour in foreign countries we goâ¨to the art galleries. We go and see their national dance or whatever they'reâ¨most famous for, you know. And it expands the consciousness. And we callâ¨those company requirements. I mean, when we have company requirements, youâ¨have to go. There's no debate, no whatever, you just go. And they love that.â¨And then they give me company requirements, too, you know. I mean, singers orâ¨dancers that I wouldn't know of in my general field--they'll tell me.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Garth Fagan, I want to thank you very much for talking with me.â¨â¨Prof. FAGAN: Thank you ever so much, Barbara.â¨â¨BOGAEV: Garth Fagan. His Garth Fagan Dance company is currently on tourâ¨performing in cities along the East Coast. In March, they travel to England,â¨France and Germany.â¨â¨Coming up, a review of the new Brazilian film "City of God." This is FRESHâ¨AIR.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *â¨â¨Review: New film from Brazil, "City of God"â¨BARBARA BOGAEV, host:â¨â¨The Brazilian film "City of God" was a runaway hit in Brazil, and it's thatâ¨country's entry for an Academy Award. Critic David Edelstein says that theâ¨film has elements of great storytelling, but it left him cold.â¨â¨DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:â¨â¨The Brazilian melodrama "City of God" takes its title from the notorious slumâ¨on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. According to the movie, the community wasâ¨thrown up in the '60s to keep poor people as far as possible from the swankyâ¨beaches and resorts. That name, Cidade de Deus in Portuguese, is a sort of aâ¨sour joke, like calling LA the City of Angels. And the corpses pile up, theâ¨narrator says it over and over to drive home the irony.â¨â¨I've heard the M-word, masterpiece, invoked about "City of God," along withâ¨comparisons to great juvenile crime tragedies like Bunuel's "Los Olvidades"â¨and Hector Babenco's "Pixote." But the movie isn't slanted as a tragedy ofâ¨lost youth, and despite that title, it's not really about the absence of God.â¨It's basically a blowout gangster picture about a psychotic new breed of urbanâ¨capitalist. It's like "Scarface" or "New Jack City" or "Menace II Society,"â¨but with the jazzy syntax of "Pulp Fiction" and "GoodFellas." I'm mentioningâ¨a lot of other movies here, which should tell you something. This is one ofâ¨those foreign films that once you get past the unfamiliar landscape and actorsâ¨isn't really so foreign. "City of God" speaks the international language ofâ¨splattery action pictures.â¨â¨OK, brilliant, splattery action pictures. This is a sensational piece ofâ¨filmmaking. It's fast and hopped up, it's packed with mayhem, yet the framingâ¨is detached so the bloodshed isn't shoved down your throat. The director,â¨Fernando Meirelles, has done a lot of commercials in Brazil, and I bet they'reâ¨high-end ones because you've never seen a movie about violence and povertyâ¨that's quite this sleek. It's rife with flashbacks, digressions, theâ¨narrator's commentary. The seems are all on show, but it still moves like aâ¨rocket.â¨â¨That's the nickname of the narrator, by the way, Rocket, placed by Alexandreâ¨Rodrigues. He's meant to be the film's protagonist, but he's really just anâ¨observer. His big brother, Goose, was at the center of things in the '60s,â¨one of a trio of high-spirited rogues who rob a gas truck then throw handfulsâ¨of money in the air for little children. The early scenes in the '60s takeâ¨place on brown earth that's not yet paved, and the lighting bronzes theseâ¨beautiful robbers. They're stupid but sexy; they're hungry for life. Theyâ¨aren't brought down by the cops, but by a little kid who goes by the name Li'lâ¨Dice. He gives the trio the idea for a motel robbery that ends in a massacre.â¨Then Li'l Dice grows up in the '70s to be Li'l Ze--that's like Little Joe--andâ¨becomes the teen-age Scarface of the city of God.â¨â¨As played by Firmino da Hora, he holds the screen with his huge front teethâ¨and a grin like a storybook wolf. He wants to swallow the world. He wipesâ¨out the rival drug dealers and anyone else in the way, including little kids,â¨whose robberies or muggings would bring more police in the slum. This is whenâ¨the movie gets bluer and colder and much, much bloodier. In its final third,â¨the now-crazed drug lord, who's upset because he can't get a date, picks aâ¨pointless fight with a handsome straight arrow known as Knockout Ned. Thatâ¨doesn't mean throwing a few punches. It means firing several hundred roundsâ¨into the guy's house and killing a large percentage of his family. The movieâ¨builds to a full-scale gang war, which goes uncovered by fearful Rioâ¨photojournalists, which creates an unprecedented opportunity for our narrator,â¨Rocket, who dreams of becoming a photographer.â¨â¨"City of God" might have justified that M-word if Rocket had learned from hisâ¨new vocation, if he'd been able to see something through the lens of hisâ¨camera that he couldn't as a mere bystander. But Rocket doesn't seem to thinkâ¨about the horror of the violence that he shoots, which suggests that theâ¨director, Meirelles, didn't think about it much, either. The violence isn'tâ¨glorified, but it almost never gets under your skin, which is odd when youâ¨consider the sociopolitical trappings and how many little kids end up eatingâ¨bullets. Photographing the carnage is a way for Rocket to get out of the cityâ¨of God and a way for the director to get a big US release, an Oscarâ¨nomination, a calling card in Hollywood. The movie is like a high-tonedâ¨commercial for youth violence: `Come to Rio for the rush, and don't forgetâ¨your bullet-proof vest.'â¨â¨BOGAEV: David Edelstein is film critic for the online magazine Slate.â¨â¨(Credits)â¨â¨BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.