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Film critic John Powers

Film critic John Powers reviews the French film that has become a hit in France and has received a cult following, Amelie. Its just been released in the US

04:28

Other segments from the episode on November 30, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 30, 2001: Interview with Ringo Starr; Interview with Ravi Shankar; Review of the film "Amelie;" Interview with Vince Vaughn; Interview with Gene Hackman.

Transcript

DATE November 30, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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Interview: Sitarist Ravi Shankar discusses his relationship with
George Harrison
(Soundbite of "Norwegian Wood")

THE BEATLES: (singing) She said she worked in the morning and started to
laugh. I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath. Then when
I
awoke, I was alone. This bird had flown. Then I lit a fire. Isn't it
good,
Norwegian wood?

BARBARA BOGAEV, host:

In the mid-'60s after The Beatles stopped touring, George Harrison went to
India, where he studied sitar with Ravi Shankar. He became a follower of
the
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and introduced the other Beatles to transcendental
meditation. Harrison also organized benefit concerts for starvation relief
in
Bangladesh, featuring such performers as Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob
Dylan
and Ravi Shankar. These events were precursors to later superstar benefits
such as Live Aid. Terry spoke with Ravi Shankar in 1999.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Now you've been very close to George Harrison. You've described him as
being
almost like a son, and he's described you as being almost like a father.
Now
you met him in 1966, and this was a period when all The Beatles seemed to be
searching for some kind of...

Mr. RAVI SHANKAR (Sitarist): Exactly.

GROSS: ...spiritual help. What did you make of The Beatles when you met
them? They were in this period of a kind of spiritual search. Did you
consider that search to be an authentic search or did you feel that they
were
very kind of confused about what they were looking for?

Mr. SHANKAR: It was exactly what you are saying. They were confused and
they
were searching. But to tell you the truth, when I met them, I almost didn't
know them or know anything about them, because I had just vaguely heard that
it's a popular group. And it was in a party that all the four were there,
but
it was only George that interested me from the very beginning because of his
being so inquisitive and asking questions about music in relation to the
religion and the spiritual aspect of it and the whole thing. And that's how
we came close together, and he started having some lessons.

GROSS: What did you think of the solo he played on "Norwegian Wood"?

Mr. SHANKAR: I never heard it before, and it was only much later on my
nephew
and missus, they play it for me, and I thought it was terrible, in the sense
in that the sound that was produced on the sitar--the song was nice. I
liked
the song very much. But it was a peculiar sound, and it didn't sound like
sitar, even. So he had had little lesson from a person in London who was a
student of a student of mine who was to be in London at that time, and I
told
him, frankly, that `It's fine. People like it and you are happy.' But I
didn't find it interesting enough, because the very sound of sitar, it is
something which we have developed since last 750 years, and it's same like
taking the violin. Someone in Africa sings an African song and scratches on
a
violin, and how would you feel? Because you know what the violin sounds
like.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. SHANKAR: The sound of violin has immediate effect. So it was the same
thing, but I--he understood, and that's why he wanted to learn.

BOGAEV: Ravi Shankar speaking with Terry Gross in 1999.

George Harrison died yesterday at the age of 58.

(Soundbite of "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 world, and I notice it's turning, while my guitar gently
weeps.
With every mistake we must surely be learning. Still my guitar gently
weeps.
I don't know how you were diverted. You were perverted, too. I don't know
how you were inverted. No one alerted you.

I look from the wings at the play you are staging, while my guitar gently
weeps.

BOGAEV: A 1968 demo recording of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

Coming up, a review of the new French film "Amelie." This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Blackbird")

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Review: New French film "Amelie"
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:

A new film making a splash in France is also finding an audience here. The
film is "Amelie," and the director returned to France after making the 1997
Hollywood flop "Alien: Resurrection." Our film critic John Powers has a
review.

JOHN POWERS reporting:

There used to be a big difference between American movies and French films,
at
least the ones that showed here. American pictures were fast and opulent,
but
about as deep as a neon sign. French ones were slower and less fun, but
more
grown-up in their themes and emotions. All that's changed in recent years,
as
the whimsical new film "Amelie" makes clear. Although the movie's a love
letter to Paris and the French fondness for ideas about chance and destiny,
its style is Hollywood hip.

"Amelie" is a modern fairy tale set in a magical Paris at the time of
Princess
Diana's death. Audrey Tautou plays the title character, an innocent young
Parisienne who works as a waitress and inhabits a world of cartoonish,
sometimes poetic types: failed writers, nasty grocers, eccentric painters
who
keep copying the same Renoir painting over and over. Amelie has a cosmic
sense of justice and secretly sets about putting the universe right--finding
mates for the lovelorn, helping grieving widows and abused clerks, and
arranging for middle-aged men to find lost childhood toys that lead them
into
bouts of teary remembrance. A dreamy loner, she eventually stumbles across
a
possible soul mate, an equally dreamy young man who keeps an album of
people's
discarded ID photographs. His name is Nino, and he's played by Mathieu
Kassovitz, who looks a bit like the world's handsomest rodent.

The question is: Will Amelie, who's so good at arranging other people's
destinies, be able to land the man of her own dreams?

I saw the movie a couple of weeks after it opened, and by that time, I'd
heard
about it from maybe a dozen people. What was odd about their responses was
that nobody was lukewarm. Everyone either adored it or hated it. This
struck
me as apt, for the film's director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, seems to have no
interest at all in any kind of middle ground. He once made a terrific short
film called "Things I Like, Things I Hate," and "Amelie" itself introduces
nearly all its characters by telling us the things that they love and hate.

I started off loving the film, for the beginning is filled with wonderful
touches, especially in the scenes of Amelie as a small girl who wears
cherries
for earrings and raspberries like thimbles, which she eats off her
fingertips
one at a time. Just like "Moulin Rouge" earlier this year, the movie offers
something extremely seductive: an idealized version of Paris. Actually,
the
word `idealized' isn't strong enough here. This is a utopian Paris, filled
with nostalgia, where there are no ugly high-rises or racial troubles, where
even the interiors of sex shops are gorgeously lit, and there's a memorable
tang to everyone you meet. Here, fabulous things happen by chance.

If Princess Diana's life embodied the tragic romance of royalty, Amelie's
story is about the comic splendor and the miracle of proletarian life.
Jeunet
is very good at capturing small, often delicate moments of transcendent
beauty. There's a marvelous bit involving a small boy and his marbles,
another about cracking the skin of a creme brulee. Yet even as Jeunet is
drawn to the wry and the fantastic and the gently melancholic, his style
tends
to be as overbearing as a Mack truck barreling down the turnpike behind you.
He's constantly zooming in on people's faces, working up elaborate Rube
Goldberg-style set pieces. There's one here involving a couple having sex.
And he pounds every emotion like a gong.

Not content to have a cute star in Audrey Tautou, Jeunet gives us so many
close-ups of her simpering and smirking like Mr. Bean that about halfway
through the film you're begging for a cream pie.

If you haven't seen Jeunet's other films, in particular "Delicatessen" and
"The City of Lost Children," such stylistic antics might well seem
delightful.
But if you have, you'll notice how he's cannibalizing ideas from his earlier
work, including that gag about the couple having sex. And you'll be driven
crazy at how a film that starts off flaunting its inventiveness grinds to a
halt halfway through. The story simply runs out of steam.

Were someone to show you any 10 given minutes of "Amelie," you'd be so
dazzled
that you'd probably say, `This is really amazing. I want more.' But two
hours of full, fat whimsy is far more, more than anyone needs. It's like
being force-fed a tureen of creme brulee.

BOGAEV: John Powers is executive editor of the LA Weekly.

I'm Barbara Bogaev, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Here Comes the Sun")

Mr. GEORGE HARRISON: (singing) Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun, and
I
say it's all right. Little darlin', it's been a long, cold, lonely winter.
Little darlin', it seems like years since it's been here. Here comes the
sun.
Here comes the sun, and I say it's all right. Little darlin', the smile's
returning to their faces. Little darlin', it seems like years...

(Announcements)

BOGAEV: Coming up, actor Vince Vaughn on making films with John Favreau.
Their film "Made" has just been released on video. He's also starring in
the
new film "Domestic Disturbance." Also, actor Gene Hackman. He's starring
in
two new films, "Heist" and "Behind Enemy Lines."

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

Interview: Actor Vince Vaughn discusses his life growing up and
his film career
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

Vince Vaughn made his movie breakthrough in the independent film comedy
"Swingers," starring with his friend, John Favreau, who also wrote and
directed the film. Vaughn and Favreau teamed up again in the movie "Made,"
which has just come out on video and DVD. Favreau wrote and directed the
film; Vaughn is one of the producers. Terry Gross spoke with Vaughn last
summer. In "Made," the duo is initiated into the crime world. Favreau
plays
an amateur boxer who needs money, and at the urging of his do-nothing
friend,
played by Vaughn, they take a job working for a mob boss in LA. Favreau
knows
they're in over their heads, but Vaughn thinks he's cool enough to fake it,
which, of course, keeps getting them deeper into trouble. Here they are on
the way to the job, flying first class for the first time. The flight
attendant has just told Vaughn that he can choose from a selection of
videos.

(Soundbite from "Made")

Mr. VINCE VAUGHN: What's the--what's the overhead on something like that?
What's the action that's gonna come my way for the videos?

Unidentified Flight Attendant: The action that's gonna come your way?

Mr. VAUGHN: Yeah.

Mr. JOHN FAVREAU: What's it gonna cost him for the videos?

Unidentified Flight Attendant: Oh, no. You're up front. Everything's free
up here.

Mr. FAVREAU: Oh, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. See that?

Mr. VAUGHN: Yeah. Oh, wait a minute. That--see now? They set you up
(unintelligible) when they drop this on you. And I bet there's a hidden tax
for this ...(unintelligible).

Excuse me, sweetie.

Unidentified Flight Attendant: Yes.

Mr. VAUGHN: Where the drinks are concerned, is that a hidden tax? Does
that
fall under the complimentary up-front service, as well, or is that something
you pay for?

Unidentified Flight Attendant: No, no. They're complimentary. Would you
care for another one?

Mr. VAUGHN: They're complimentary?

Unidentified Flight Attendant: Yes.

Mr. VAUGHN: You bet your ass I would.

Mr. FAVREAU: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Unidentified Flight Attendant: OK.

Mr. VAUGHN: Thank you.

Mr. FAVREAU: Can I get a Cutty on the rocks, too? Is that complimentary?

Unidentified Flight Attendant: Yes.

Mr. FAVREAU: Thank you.

Mr. VAUGHN: Cheers, mean. You hear that? (Censored). Everything up here
is free.

Mr. FAVREAU: OK.

TERRY GROSS, host:

I asked Vince Vaughn about that scene.

Mr. VAUGHN: When John and I did "Swingers," that was actually the very
first
time that I ever flew first class, going from Los Angeles to Venice for the
film festival. And so when I was on first class, I was a bit overwhelmed by
it, and I remember John being uncomfortable because I rang the bell and I
asked some questions. But, of course, you know, I didn't hit on the
stewardess or flight attendant during that time or...

GROSS: What questions did you ask?

Mr. VAUGHN: I was just, like, `Is this for free?' And I said, you know,
`So
if I want, like, you know, a glass of champagne, that's free, and I could
get
more glasses of champagne?' She was, like, `Yeah.' I was, like, `Are you
serious?' You know, I just couldn't believe it. I was, like, `Now not only
is there, like, one movie I can choose from, but you're saying that there's
like a list of videos and I choose the video that I put in? I can watch any
video that I want to watch?' And I was just amazed that that was happening.
And Favs was kind of embarrassed, like, you know, `Act like you've been here
before.' And my point of view was, `But I haven't been here before. Why
should I cheat myself out of this first-time experience, you know?'

So then as we took it, you know, made in the movie with the mob, it was
made,
as far as being an actor having an avenue in, we exaggerated it then for the
comedy and also for who the characters were and what they had to serve for
the
overall story of the plot.

GROSS: There's also first times in New York in a swank New York hotel. Did
you have any of those first-time experiences yourself where you maybe said
something inappropriate or acted too overwhelmed by the riches?

Mr. VAUGHN: Yeah, the biggest one...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. VAUGHN: The biggest one that sticks out was I remember that--so we do
the "Jurassic Park," which was like I went from, like, "Swingers" and did
this
other little film called "The Locust." Then I go--which was a very small
budget--to "The Lost World." Then I was just amazed by the toys and the
amount of people that they had and the time that they had to shoot. And
when
that was over with, we--there's a thing called Toy Fair, which I'm familiar
with because my dad is actually a toy salesman. But they made toys and
stuff
for "Jurassic II," and so now you go to Toy Fair and they're sort of selling
the toys to the buyers, which would be like Toys 'R' Us or any of those
franchises.

And so they asked the actors to come and, like, we had to come out, like,
with
lights and stuff like that and be a part of it and, like, meet the people
and
stuff. It was a very odd experience. And they said, `You have $150, I
think,
in incidentals,' which means that, you know, the mini bar and, you know, the
telephone's included in that in this case and room service and that kind of
stuff. So I thought it was like $150 for the three days I was there, so I
was
budgeting. And then I realized afterwards, 'cause Jeff Goldblum was there,
that it was actually $150 every night I could have spent in the room. But I
was, like, budgeting, thinking that $150 had to go over the whole time. And
I
was just amazed by that number figure to be spent in a day on sort of
pleasantries, you know.

GROSS: Well, something similar happens to your character in "Made." He's
told by Peter Falk, who is like the mob guy who's assigning them a job--he's
told that they have a daily stipend, and your character thinks, `Oh, and
what
is that?'

Mr. VAUGHN: Right. The per diem. I remember I was...

GROSS: The per diem. That's what it was. The per diem, yeah.

Mr. VAUGHN: The first time I heard that was on location hired as an actor
and they said, `You have X'--I didn't know what the word `per diem' meant at
all. And they said, `This is your per diem.' I just thought, like, `Boy,
am
I getting over on these guys. They're giving me some cash money up front,'
you know.

GROSS: You and John Favreau also starred together in "Swingers," which,
like
"Made," he wrote and directed. And in "Swingers," you played somebody who
was--he played somebody who was very naive and is reluctantly led into Vegas
by you, 'cause you--he's broken up with his girlfriend and you think Vegas
is
just what he needs.

Mr. VAUGHN: Yeah, exactly.

GROSS: And you're really arrogant and really faking it with a lot of
flare...

Mr. VAUGHN: Yeah.

GROSS: ...in this movie. Let me play a short scene.

Mr. VAUGHN: OK.

GROSS: In this scene, you're--this is your first time at one of the casinos
with John Favreau's character and you're demonstrating to him how to pick up
a
cocktail waitress...

Mr. VAUGHN: Right.

GROSS: ...at the casino.

(Soundbite from "Swingers")

Unidentified Waitress: I walked around for an hour with that stupid Scotch
on
my tray.

Mr. VAUGHN: Yeah, you got knocked out pretty fast.

Unidentified Waitress: Oh, a couple of high rollers like yourself.

Mr. VAUGHN: You believe it?

Unidentified Waitress: I'll go get you that Scotch.

Mr. VAUGHN: No, forget about it. I don't even want it. I just wanted to
order it.

Unidentified Waitress: Well, can I get you something else? I mean, you
really shouldn't leave here without getting something for free.

Mr. FAVREAU: Why ruin a perfect night?

Mr. VAUGHN: Listen, bring a single, malted Glengarry for me and one for my
boy, Mikey, here. And if you tell the bartender to go easy on the water,
then
this 50 cent piece has your name written all over it. OK. I want you to
run
along 'cause I'll be timing you. I'm gonna keep time; one, two, three,
four...

Mr. FAVREAU: What an (censored).

Mr. VAUGHN: Baby, that was money. Tell me that wasn't money.

Mr. FAVREAU: That was so demeaning.

Mr. VAUGHN: She smiled, baby.

Mr. FAVREAU: I can't believe what an (censored) you are.

Mr. VAUGHN: No, baby, she smiled.

Mr. FAVREAU: She was smiling at what an (censored) you are.

Mr. VAUGHN: No, no, no. She was smiling at how money I was; what I did
with
her.

Mr. FAVREAU: Could we get out of here--All right?--because I'm not gonna
pay
for a room and I have to get out of here.

Mr. VAUGHN: Mike, what the hell do you want to get out of here for? The
honey baby's bring us a cocktail.

Mr. FAVREAU: What are you, nuts? Do you think she's coming back here?

Mr. VAUGHN: Baby, I know she's coming back here. Did you even hear what
she
said? `You shouldn't leave here without getting something for free.' Baby,
she wants to party. She wants to.

GROSS: Vince Vaughn, in this scene, we heard one of the catch phrases that
you became well known for, after pursuing this waitress, `You're so money'
or
`That was so money.' That's a phrase that you came up with for the film?

Mr. VAUGHN: Sort of. I mean, it's sort of a Frankenstein, that phrase,
because money existed in sort of a sports culture or a hip-hop culture, but
sort of going `You're so money' and--or `You're so money, you don't even
know
it,' it was sort of the phrase that caught on, which was, `You don't even
know
it and you're so' is sort of what I added to it. And I used to say that a
lot, half jokingly, with John when we were friends and, you know, "Swingers"
was based on a real-life experience in that he did break up with his
girlfriend in order to move out after he filmed "Rudy," to pursue acting.
And
he was really kind of, you know, in a bad way about it and I sort of, you
know, took him out. And the places that I took him was The Dresden, The
Derby, and I was sort of into swinging music and that lounge scene and, of
course, you know, John exaggerated, for comedy's sake. And we always look
at
comedy sort of as an overcommitment to the ridiculous. So the fact that,
you
know, Trent would say this and believe it so much and sort of spin it as if
this was the ultimate truth and you had to get this down is, to me, kind of
pathetic. I was always sort of surprised that Trent was perceived as cool.

GROSS: Were there people who thought that your character was so cool in the
movie, they tried to emulate you?

Mr. VAUGHN: I've heard that, yeah. I've had people come up and say, `Well,
boy, I'm the Trent in my group or this or that.' I just thought--I always
thought it was funny because I always just thought--like, you know, these
guys, I mean, you look at the movie, we're, like, playing video games, you
know. It's not like--the only girl I think Trent ever goes home with is the
waitress, and it doesn't really work out with them. They go in the back and
knock some stuffed animals off the couch and that's about it, and then it
gets
interrupted, you know.

But I think that Trent had a real innocence to him. You know, he's not

maniacal or manipulative. Manipulative, but not from a complete
understanding
of what he's doing. I think he's very innocent. I think a lot of
men--young
me at that age, it's just sort of the thing of it's such a big deal. In a
way, I think it shows women as very powerful because all this time and all
this attention is spent on sort of, `How do we communicate with the opposite
sex?' So, in a way, I think it really shows the power that women have,
especially where men are concerned.

GROSS: "Swingers" was really the movie in which you were noticed. What was
your life like when you were working on "Swingers" with John Favreau?

Mr. VAUGHN: Well, it was, you know, very much in the moment at the time,
meaning there was no plan of anything. You know, we did the movie for
$250,000 in, like, 21 days, so it was completely off the radar. And part of
the reason we were able to do it so cheaply was a lot of it was illegal. We
didn't get all the permits and things that you need if you were a larger
movie
that was being tracked on the radar. A lot of the places that we shot at
did
us favors, because we knew the owners and they'd let us shoot there for
free.
And it actually, you know, gave the movie a great feel that it felt very
authentic; that this--these were the people that would be at those places.
And it brought a real energy that worked for the movie. But it came from a
place of economics, of that was the only way we could get the movie done.
And, in a way, that really served it and made the movie better.

And the making of "Swingers," honestly, Terry, I was just looking to get
tape
to get an agent. I didn't have an agent at the time. I mean, I didn't know
what would come of the thing. You know, we were putting this thing
together,
and we had read the screenplay for a year, trying to get it set up so it was
like a play. We were able to go and shoot and make our days very quickly
because we all knew our stuff very well. But, you know, there was always a
hope or a dream that it could get bought or that it could be seen, but the
odds were just so against it. And we were lucky in that we did what we
wanted
to do and what we thought we found funny and sort of truthful what our life
experience was. You know, we didn't portray in that movie ourselves out to
be, you know, street guys or, you know, really overly successful with girls
or
dealing with heavy problems of drugs and stuff like that, because that
wasn't
our experience. We were really out-of-work actors playing video games who
liked girls and were sort of trying to figure out what was the best way to
meet girls. And I think by being simple and telling the story, not having
things go good in Vegas, I think it became something that was somewhat
universal and a lot of people could relate to.

BOGAEV: Actor Vince Vaughn. His film "Made" is out on video and DVD.
We'll
be back with more of Terry Gross' conversation with him after the break.
This
is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: Back now to Terry Gross' interview with actor Vince Vaughn. He
stars
in the new movie "Domestic Disturbance."

GROSS: I want to ask you about another role that you played, and this was
in
the movie "Clay Pigeons." You play a cowboy who's very glib, who it turns
out
he's a con artist and not to mention a serial killer. How did you envision
the part?

Mr. VAUGHN: Well, I saw it as a piece--to make it not so serious and have
it
be sort of funny and not take it so serious so it you could come off like a
bad HBO movie. And I was fascinated by the response to Trent, to some
degree,
and I thought, well, can you play someone who's killing people in a way that
has all these--what's considered to be pleasant social graces and still have
him be liked by people; give him a point of view and some sort of, you know,
really messed up code that somehow he followed and go on that journey with
sort of this guy who--how he perceived himself and all these sort of things.
And I guess I've always been more drawn and fascinated to those kind of
characters because I find them more interesting. And also, it's sort of my
life experiences with people that I knew. I mean, I would go to the
racetrack
as a little kid. My dad would take me all the time. And a lot of the
people
that I met were colorful people, interesting people, and a lot of them, you
know, good people, but hustlers, you know. But with my dad being a salesman
and sort of the people that I met, I was always really just sort of
fascinated
by that mind-set.

GROSS: Well, in this scene from "Clay Pigeons," you're at a bar. You've
just
walked in and you're trying to pick up a character played by Janeane
Garofalo.
And there are, as you mentioned, kind of traces of your character, Trent,
from
"Swingers" in your approach here. Let's hear it.

(Soundbite from "Clay Pigeons")

Mr. VAUGHN: Damn good-looking girl; drinks Johnnie Walker Black, even pays
with her own money. I can't wait to start dreaming tonight.

Ms. JANEANE GAROFALO: You're very colorful.

Mr. VAUGHN: Oh, you don't know the half of it. I'm like a big fireworks
show. I'm very bright; like Lite Brite.

Mr. GAROFALO: You know what? No offense, but this seat is saved.

Mr. VAUGHN: Who for?

Ms. GAROFALO: First guy not wearing denim.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. VAUGHN: You're not from around here, are you?

Ms. GAROFALO: What makes you say that?

Mr. VAUGHN: Well, you don't look like the town much. You don't. My name's
Lloyd. I won't bite you.

Ms. GAROFALO: That's a plus, Lloyd.

GROSS: That's a scene from "Clay Pigeons."

Vince Vaughn, do you want to say anything about that scene?

Ms. VAUGHN: Just that, you know, that was--my favorite scenes in the movie
was with Janeane Garofalo. I think she's incredible. And some of that was
improvised, and she's just so great and so available. It was really very
easy
to respond off of her. I mean, I knew I had the burden of Janeane, who's a
very bright, sophisticated person, although she's playing this character and
she knows, ultimately, that she has to give in to me because that's, you
know,
the script and sort of where we need to take it for the movie. So she's
open
to that. So my job's a little easier, but I knew it had to come off
believable that you bought that I made her laugh or that I got her to be
open
to talking to me. And so, you know, I went in there with a real specific
point of view. And really, the biggest thing with those kind of things are
listening and really paying attention to her movement and her talking and
seeing what--you know, what was the way in, what was the way into this
particular person.

GROSS: You grew up in Minnesota. Would you describe the neighborhood that
you were from?

Mr. VAUGHN: Well, I didn't really grow up in Minnesota. I was born outside
of Minneapolis...

GROSS: You grew up in Chicago, right.

Mr. VAUGHN: I lived there for about a month. My dad was a salesmen for
Swift
meat company, and he was transferred. I lived in Minnesota for one month
and
then I was raised in Buffalo Grove, which is sort of a middle-class suburb
in
Illinois. And I lived there until I was eight, and then I moved to Lake
Forest, Illinois, which is an upper-class suburb of Illinois.

GROSS: Now I read that you were in a class with problem kids. Is that
correct?

Mr. VAUGHN: Yeah, you know--well, the thing--as time has gone on, people
have
learned more, but I went into a class--one period a day, they would make me
go
to a classroom with, you know, maybe 10 or 12 other students, all who had no
obvious sort of retardation or anything, but it was more learning
disabilities. But for me, it was like--you know, and I sort of felt like
McMurphy in "Cuckoo's Nest" and I've said that before, in that you'd have
the
tallest girl in the whole school. She would never talk, she'd never raise
her
hand in class, but, you know, you sort of look at that and say, `Well, this
girl's already sticking out in a sort of way. Maybe she doesn't feel like
raising her hand,' you know. And I think most of the people there, it had
more to do with sort of an emotional position, based on a physical thing.
Chuck Suitmeyer was in the thing and he--his parents were still farmers and
he
dressed differently than everybody else, so that probably had more to do
with
it than anything else.

But we would go. And it was embarrassing because you'd been 10 years old
and
you'd go for one period a day and they'd make you play Candyland. And
everyone in the school knew you were going to this classroom, so as you're
struggling to have a social life, that was definitely something that was a
hindrance. But it was really a gift for me. I mean, in a way, it made me
be,
I think, more outspoken and that sort of thing in order to have friends.
And
I was always very popular and well liked; not just by one group, but, I
think,
by most of the kids in my school growing up. And I felt a need to sort of
counter that by, I think, being funny and having a sense of humor and maybe
being a bit confrontational with teachers and that sort of thing.

And when I first went into the class I was very kind of mean to the other
kids. And I felt like, `I don't belong here. These kids are, you
know--these
kids are crazy. I don't belong here with these kids.' And then that kind
of
grew into me feeling very connected to them and very protective of them and,
you know, going out of my way to try to include them in, you know, whether
we
were playing kick ball at recess or whatever. I would go, you know, and
pick
them for my team. I felt very including of them after a while.

GROSS: What was your learning disability?

Mr. VAUGHN: I don't know. I don't know what it was. I think I just had a
short attention span, and I think everyone learns differently. And, I mean,
I
was in all normal classes. It was just that, you know, certain kids who
they
felt like needed one class a day to go, but it's not like the class was
effective. There was nothing that was done there. It was just a place to
put
these kids, you know. And all the other people that were in the class were
all fine and very capable people, and I think it probably had more to do
with
the family home experience or a physical thing in school or, maybe, you
know,
a dyslexia that was, you know, better understood now, today, than it was in
the early '70s. Sort of the thing to do then was sort of throw Ritalin at
it,
you know.

GROSS: Yeah. Were you ever treated with Ritalin?

Mr. VAUGHN: They said that they wanted to put me on Ritalin. My mom gave
it
to me one time, and I reacted badly to it. And then both my parents--my dad
says, you know, `There's no way my son's gonna go through life doped up.
There's just--you know, how can he process or learn anything or mature or
grow
if he's not--doesn't have his senses about him, you know? He's not going to
be able to process anything.' So I was lucky that my parents were--you
know,
had that sort of vision. A lot of parents went through it, I think, with
their kids, but, you know, when the school's telling you it's the right
thing
and it's helping them, you know, it's just hard to say, you know, that they
did bad. But my parents--I was fortunate enough--knew that that wasn't the
right thing.

BOGAEV: Vince Vaughn recorded last summer. His new film is "Domestic
Disturbance."

Coming up, actor Gene Hackman. This is FRESH AIR.

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

Interview: Gene Hackman discusses his method for creating
characters
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:

Gene Hackman has three new movies this season. He currently stars in
"Heist,"
also in "Behind Enemy Lines," which opens today in most theaters, and in
"The
Royal Tenenbaums," which is due to open December 14th. Terry spoke with
Hackman in 1999. His movies include "Bonnie and Clyde," "The Conversation,"
"Mississippi Burning," "Unforgiven," "The Quick and the Dead," "Get Shorty"
and "Enemy of the State." Hackman won his first Academy Award as narcotics
detective Popeye Doyle in the 1971 film "The French Connection."

(Soundbite from "The French Connection")

Mr. GENE HACKMAN: (As Popeye Doyle) All right, Popeye's here. Get your
hands
on your heads, get off the bar and get on the wall. Come on, move. Move!
Come on, sweetheart, move. Come on, ...(unintelligible). All right, come
on.
Face the window. Move. Face the wall. Turn around there. Turn around.
Move! Come on, move! Hands out of your pocket. Turn around. Turn around.
Come on. Come on, turn around. Get on the wall, get on the wall. Turn
around. Turn around. Hey, you drop that? Pick it up. Pull your pants up.
Pick it up! Come on, move! What are you looking at? All right, bring it
here. Get your hands out of your pockets. What's my name?

Unidentified Actor: Doyle.

Mr. HACKMAN: What?

Unidentified Actor: Mr. Doyle.

Mr. HACKMAN: Come here. You pick your feet, huh? Do you--get over there,
get the hands on your head.

TERRY GROSS, host:

When you were preparing for your role as a, you know, narcotics cop for
"French Connection," how did you see this role as comparing to other cops
that
you'd seen portrayed in movies?

Mr. HACKMAN: I try not to look at that kind of thing as an actor. I try to
only look at characters and the script in a way that is always fresh for me.
I ask myself a few very basic questions about how is this person like me,
how
is this person unlike me, and in answering those things is where I usually
come up with the character.

GROSS: Would you be able to tell us how you answer them?

Mr. HACKMAN: Well, there are some very obvious things where I ask
myself--for
instance, in "The French Connection," I would say to myself, am I a
policeman?
No, of course not. What does it take to be a policeman? If I can really be
honest about myself, given my personality, my physical makeup, what kind of
a
policeman would I be? Would I be able to do certain things that are
required
of me in this story? Yes? Maybe. If I say to myself no, then the next
question is, well, what do I have to do in order to convince somebody that I
am capable of doing that?

GROSS: So when you ask yourself `What do I have to do to become that person
in a role?,' what answers did you give yourself? What did you have to do to
become that person?

Mr. HACKMAN: Well, some of it was pure acting, and some of it, as I said
before, that sometimes I would say to myself, `I couldn't do this. I
couldn't
say that line to that character in reality,' so then I have to ask myself,
`If
you say you can't say that in reality, then how are you going to act that?'
I
would then give myself a situation where, under some circumstance, I would
be
able to do that. I would relate to an argument possibly that I had had with
someone at some very high-voltage time in my life, to the point where I
could
say, `OK, given the right circumstances, I can do that.' Now, I will now
try
to re-create that moment, just to speak in layman's terms, for myself by
doing
in it a sensory way. What was I wearing that day that this event took
place?
What was the weather like? What was the atmosphere? What was the--and be
very specific about that, so that then I can re-create a situation for
myself
that is similar to the situation in the script.

GROSS: You know, you were talking before about how when you do a character,
you have to ask yourself, `What's similar about me in this character?
What's
different about me in this character? What would I have to do to fill in
the
gap between what he would do and what I would do?' In at least two recent
movies you've played characters with a real sadistic streak: the sheriff in
"Unforgiven" and the sheriff in "The Quick and the Dead." These were
characters who definitely had a strong sadistic streak. What do you do to
get
in the spirit of a character like that?

Mr. HACKMAN: I find in me a sadistic streak. I find something in me that
may
be not very attractive, but that I feel would be valuable in this context.
I
think if you search hard enough, you can find a lot of elements in yourself
that you can use as an actor. You know, under certain circumstances we're
all
capable of murder, I suppose. So you just have to find that circumstance.
Sadism, I suppose, is not something that I find very attractive, but I guess
there are certain things in me that will elicit that kind of thing.

GROSS: On screen, you know, the great sadists always have a lot of
charisma.

Mr. HACKMAN: Well, that's true.

GROSS: So it must be fun to play roles like that.

Mr. HACKMAN: It is. It's always more fun to play a heavy than it is to
play
a good guy. My kids are always asking me to play these things, grandfathers
and kindly old gentlemen, and I just tell them that, you know, it's not that
I
dislike watching that kind of thing, but for me to play it is not as
interesting.

GROSS: Do you get offers for kindly old gentlemen kind of roles?

Mr. HACKMAN: I have, yes. Grandfathers and things like that that are
all-knowing and wise and all that, and they just don't interest me.

GROSS: You've actually dropped out of acting a couple of times, didn't you?

Mr. HACKMAN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Why?

Mr. HACKMAN: Yeah, well, I thought I wanted to paint, I thought I wanted to
do a lot of things, and once I started doing those things, I found that I
didn't have the skill that I pretend to have as an actor, and so I kind of
drifted back to it.

GROSS: That's always--yeah.

Mr. HACKMAN: I think if you've done it as long as I have, it's very hard to
drop it. You know, there's something very seductive about acting.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HACKMAN: Because, you know, you come to work and there's 90 people
standing there waiting for you to do something, and there is something both
very heady and seductive and unattractive about that.

BOGAEV: Gene Hackman speaking with Terry Gross in 1999. His film "Behind
Enemy Lines" opens today. He also stars in "The Royal Tenenbaums," which
opens in two weeks.

We'll close today's show with George Harrison's song "All Things Must Pass."
This is the demo he recorded in 1969. For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.

(Soundbite of "All Things Must Pass")

Mr. GEORGE HARRISON: (Singing) Sunrise doesn't last all morning. A
cloudburst doesn't last all day. Seems my love is up and has left you with
no
warning. It's not always going to be this grey. All things must pass. All
things must pass away. Sunset doesn't last all evening, a mind can blow...
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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