Skip to main content

Filming 'The Game That Changed A Nation.'

Invictus director Clint Eastwood and star Morgan Freeman — who was Nelson Mandela's pick to portray him — talk about telling the story of one pivotal public gesture the former South African president made shortly after his election, hoping to make a big statement that would help ease decades of racial bitterness and injustice in his nation.


Other segments from the episode on December 9, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 9, 2009: Interview with Nicholas Schmidle; Interview with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman; Review of Carla Bley's album "Carla's Christmas Carols" and Eddie…


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
'Hostage Business' Survives Economic Downturn


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Now and then, you'll read a news story about a business executive, journalist
or aid worker being kidnapped in a third world country. But our guest,
journalist Nicholas Schmidle, says such kidnappings occur thousands of times
every year. It's become so common, in fact, that an industry of insurance
specialists and kidnapping and ransom consultants has grown up to service
companies whose employees are seized by rebel groups or criminals looking for a

In a piece in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Schmidle notes that
kidnapping consultants have made bargaining, ransom and the release of hostages
almost routine. Some people wonder whether their willingness to negotiate and
pay only makes the problem worse.

Nicholas Schmidle is a fellow at the New America Foundation and a frequent
contributor to the Times magazine. He's also written a book about his
experience living and reporting in Pakistan. It's called "To Live or to Perish
Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan." Schmidle spoke to FRESH AIR
contributor Dave Davies.

DAVE DAVIES: Well, Nicholas Schmidle, welcome to FRESH AIR. Your story in this
week's New York Times Magazine begins with a Scottish gentlemen, who's a
veteran worker in the oil industry, at a karaoke bar in Nigeria, when a bunch
of armed men storm through the door, order everyone to the floor, and he is
whisked away in a van and becomes a victim of kidnapping. Now, were the motives
of his kidnappers financial or political or both?

Mr. NICHOLAS SCHMIDLE (Fellow, New America Foundation; Contributor, New York
Times Magazine; Author): A little bit of both. When John was kidnapped, at
first he thought that these people that had barged through the door were armed
robbers. That was the most common form of crime that would happen in such an

So they all told him to get down, and all these people are laying on the floor.
And as they starting combing through the crowd, there were – you know, no one
knows exactly how many gunmen, maybe eight, maybe 12, because there were some
that were also out in the vans waiting outside. As they were combing through
the crowd, they started - some of them were picking out, taking watches off of
those that were lying on the ground, while the others were talking purely
political rhetoric and talking about what they were doing and, you know,
wanting to know who people were.

But John said that what let him know that these people were different was the
way that they were pushing them into the van in that they were very careful.
They realized that these people were commodities, and they realized that the
people that they were about to kidnap were going to be used as political pawns,
and they were also, in the end, also going to be used as financial pawns. So
they needed them to be in as good of a shape and as unharmed as possible.

DAVIES: Now, your story really is about some of the financial superstructure
that has developed around the industry of kidnapping and ransom. Speaking
internationally, how common is this? I mean, are there scores, hundreds,
thousands every year?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: There are certainly thousands. Last year, in Mexico alone, there
were 7,000 cases, reported cases of kidnapping. In Nigeria last year, there
were about 450. And - you know, so Mexico is by far and away the industry
leader, if you will.

DAVIES: Of these thousands of kidnappings, does anybody have an estimate of how
many are ideologically motivated or how many of them are simply cash

Mr. SCHMIDLE: It increasingly is purely a business transaction. Now, in
different countries, the nature of the kidnappings differs. Nigeria, very few
instances involve the victims being hurt or killed. In Mexico, there are
reports that, you know, once someone is taken, fingers start getting cut off if
the ransoms aren't paid in due time, and it's a much, much, much different
industry, if you will, a different business.

So Nigeria, though, it really is all about the dollars. And particularly in the
case of the foreign oil workers, I mean, John was telling me this - the
Scottish guy was telling me these great stories, you know, of them – once they
were in the camp, once they had been kidnapped and were taken into the creeks
and were being held at this camp where the kidnappers were – you know, they
were ordering them take-out. And they were then asking them what they wanted on
their hamburgers, and then they were getting in the boats and driving into the
middle of Port Harcourt with a take-out order, ordering the take-out, throwing
it into the bag, getting back in the boats and then driving back to the creeks
to make sure that their six foreign hostages were happy and, you know, were
relatively well-nourished.

DAVIES: Now, you write about the institutions that have grown up around these
increasing numbers of kidnappings for ransom. There are, of course, insurance
companies that write policies for firms that have employees at risk, and then
there are these kidnapping and ransom consultants. What do they do?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: The kidnapping and ransom consultants are essentially advisors.
So if a company - say Acme Company wants to buy a kidnapping and ransom
insurance policy, they will go to an insurance company, they will buy the
policy, and then with that policy will come the stipulation that you are going
to get a kidnapping and ransom consultant that should there be – he or she is
not only going to advise on the front end about how to prevent kidnappings, but
in the instance or the event of a kidnapping, will be on the scene with you,
advising you and walking you through the negotiation process.

DAVIES: So it's to effectively negotiate release in a fiscally responsible

Mr. SCHMIDLE: Exactly. The biggest thing that these K&R consultants bring is
they bring a world of historical and institutional knowledge. They know what an
American who works for an oil company, what the ransom is in Nigeria, how that
differs from, say, a Canadian journalist who's been kidnapped in Somalia and
how that differs from a, you know, British executive who's kidnapped in India
or something.

I mean, they – so they draft – when they come in, they draft what's called a
target settlement figure, and that is essentially the K&R consultant's
operating budget, how long they think it'll take, how much they think the
ransoms will be, how long it – you know, how much it's going to cost them to
stay. So the policies cover everything. They're reimbursable policies.

Now, the media also plays a major role, and one of these K&R consultants who
had spent a lot of time doing cases off the coast of – piracy cases in Somalia
said look, CNN always gets the ransoms wrong. So these pirates come to us, and
they say, look, we saw the last ransom that was paid for a boat down in the
Gulf of Aden or something, and CNN says they paid 10 million. And this guy, you
know, said CNN's always wrong. It was, in fact, closer to one million, so we
can sort of revise the whole negotiation.

DAVIES: Now, to what extent, from your reporting, do the police seriously try
and investigate kidnappings or prevent them? Or to what extent are they in
collusion with the kidnappers?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: According to the police, it's pure investigation, no collusion
whatsoever. According to the kidnappers and according to local journalists and
according to human rights lawyers, they depend upon one another.

Adiele Nwaeze, who was one of the most wanted kidnappers in Port Harcourt this
spring, we had numerous meetings with this guy, over the phone, in person. And
he and his lawyer detailed the extent to which Adiele, after he would get a
ransom, he would then pay back the police chief. He would give the police chief
cars. He would give the police chief money. And in other cases, they would sort
of alert the police ahead of time to, look, we're going to do this kidnapping
on this street at this time. Stay off the roads. So the relationship is
frightening, frighteningly scary.

DAVIES: So a kidnapper told you directly: I was working with the police chief.
He would clear the roads when I needed them, and he got his cut.

Mr. SCHMIDLE: He went one step further. He said the police chief's wife was, in
fact, driving a car that I had bought with ransom money and donated to the
police chief as a way of saying thank you.

DAVIES: Did you get back to the police chief and ask him about this?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: Yes, I did. I talked to him a few weeks ago, and he said that it
was a factual impossibility.

DAVIES: Tell us what happened to John, the guy that you wrote about who was
kidnapped in Nigeria and taken away to this camp and given take-out orders by
his captors.

Mr. SCHMIDLE: Right. So John - the first morning that John woke up in the camp,
he noticed that – well, first, he gets into the camp on the first night, and
they go through and they ask - the kidnappers didn't know who they had. They
knew they had pulled six people off the ground in a bar. They didn't know who
they had.

So they went through, and all of these guys named their - gave their name,
their company affiliation and their nationality. They went to sleep that night.
The next morning, they woke up, and the kidnappers had brought in all this
local labor, and they were putting together huts, and they were – you know,
they were cooking food. And John, they really – John was saying that they, that
there are all these rumors and all these suspicions that cannibalism takes
place back in these creeks, and John said, look. You know, I can't – I don't
know, and I don't know whether these guys were just trying to mess with us or
get us into our head, but he was sitting on a bench in the camp one day, and
one of the kidnappers next to him looked at John, and he said oyinbo. And
oyinbo is the word in Nigeria for white man.

He said oyinbo, and he looked at John, and he kind of scanned him and looked
him up and down. He said good chop, good chop. And chop is the word for food in
the sort of pidgin English they speak, suggesting that, you know, that white
men make particularly good food.

So John – so this went on for about nine days. And on the ninth day, John was
told to put on - the kidnappers – the leader of the kidnapping gang in this
camp came up to John and said put on these clothes, and he handed him a face –
a ski mask, gloves, hat, camouflage pants, etcetera.

He put all the gear on, and by this point, he looked just like the rest of the
kidnappers. And they got into a speed boat, and they went racing off. And for
about - they drove for about 15 minutes in the water, in the river, and they
eventually landed at a spit of sand, and there were three guys sitting on the

One of them handed John a phone and said John, we're going to make a call right
now, and you are going to – you're going to be asked two proof-of-life
questions. And the proof of life is really the crux of the negotiation, and
that is when the kidnappers and negotiators can prove that the deal is on, and
this is the last step, essentially.

And so John was asked two questions about where he lived in 1986 and what
company he worked for. He answered both questions correctly. After the proof-
of-life questions, they put the ski mask back on, and they took off back down
the river. And John didn't know what this would meant. They said, you know, OK,
the negotiations are going well. Just hold tight.

Sure enough, that night, the captors went to the six hostages and told them to
get ready, that they were planning the rendezvous, they were planning the money
drop. And now – if it all went to plan, it was going to be simply a financial
transaction. They were going to throw the hostages into the boats. They were
going to take them to a landing in Port Harcourt, the hostages were going to
get out, and they were going to be given a bag of money, and everyone was going
to go on their merry ways.

But just to make sure, the captors prepared as if they were going to war. Now,
these are all people from the Ijaw community, and so they believe in the Ijaw
god of war. His name is Egbesu. And so in order to honor Egbesu, they paint
their face with white paint. They put red ribbons around their arms, and they
all douse themselves, as they're getting into the boats, with a concoction
that's based with - on – a palm oil concoction.

And all of the gunmen are getting droplets of this on their bodies. They're
going in, stepping into the boat, and John steps into the boat and looks at the
man standing there with a bucket and a little stick that he's using to spray
everyone, and John says, you know, well, what is that? And he explains that
this is a potion they believe that keeps bullets away and makes you immune from

And John's got a really dry sense of humor, and says, well, you know, can we
get some? And the guy says, well, you know, yeah, sure. And so John – they go
ahead and they douse the six hostages. And John says, well, you know, what
happens, what if it doesn't work? What if, you know, what if we get a bullet?
And the guy looks at him and says well, if you get hit and you start bleeding,
then it means you just didn't believe properly.

And so, you know, within an hour or two, they met - got to the rendezvous
point. No guns were fired except just in the air as the kidnappers were sort of
trying to prevent any funny business at the last minute. So as the hostages
were getting out of the boat and climbing up onto this landing and running to
this Land Cruiser that was waiting a few hundred yards away, the kidnappers are
firing up in the air just to create a sense of chaos. And that was it.

So then John, you know, that was John's 10-day spell as a hostage.

DAVIES: Do you know what it cost to get him back, what the ransom was?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: According to him, there were two ransoms paid. Apparently, the
first ransom was about $300,000, but it had quote-unquote "gone missing." And
the second ransom, which actually resulted in their freedom, was another

DAVIES: Do you know what he meant by gone missing?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: The suggestion was that there was corruption involved and that,
like I said, $300,000 had been sanctioned by someone. This was in the early
days. So this could have actually been sanctioned by the insurance company, and
then the Nigerian government could have said, you know, we don't know what
happened to the money that you gave us yesterday. Or it could have been
sanctioned by the Nigerian federal government and the state government could
have said we don't know what happened to the money, what happened yesterday.
But all told, approximately $600,000 were paid out.

DAVIES: You know, I can imagine if I had a relative in a foreign country who
was kidnapped, I would be hysterical. And I would imagine that relatives may
want to fly to the capital and get deeply involved. How do the consultants deal
with family members? Do they tell them to stay away? Do they have techniques
for calming them?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: That's a great question. You know, the consultancies,
particularly the bigger consultancies that have multiple consultants working
each case, will oftentimes have a consultant - say, back in Houston, Texas -
that's working with the – that is keeping both headquarters in Houston, Texas,
and keeping also the family calm. And then they'll also have another consultant
who's, say, in Lagos, Nigeria, or Port Harcourt, who's working the case,
working the negotiation side of it a little bit closer.

It is a concern, and, you know, as one of the consultants said to me, you know,
it's - when the gunshots go off in the background on the phone, and that's
their way – I mean, in Somalia, the gunshots will go off, and that's their kind
of - that's the equivalent of, say, the Mexicans cutting someone's fingers off.
You know, and that - he said, that's gut-check time, and that's when you as a
consultant have to be able to keep everyone calm. And there weren't – I don't
think there are any secret techniques, or at least none that they shared with
me. But that's – I mean, that's the balance, is keeping everyone's emotions in
check and remembering that this is – while this is a life that we're trying to
get out, you have to boil down that life to being a commodity and you have to
be - realize that you're bartering for, you know, you're just bartering for a

DAVIES: Our guest is writer Nicholas Schmidle. We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guest is writer Nicholas Schmidle, the
author of the story in this week's New York Times Magazine about kidnapping and
ransom. He's also the author of the book "To Live or to Perish Forever: Two
Tumultuous Years in Pakistan."

You mentioned that you spent some time with this veteran kidnapper in Nigeria.
How did you make that kind of contact?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: So this guy's name is Adiele Nwaeze, and he had become -
according to the police chief in Port Harcourt, the main city where we were
spending most of our time - he'd become the most wanted kidnapper in March and

He'd been on the run from the government. He had, you know, been in hiding. No
one knew where he was. And then in early August, the Nigerian government
announced an amnesty for militants that had been fighting against the
government in the Niger Delta region over the past several years. And the first
people to enter this amnesty, embrace this amnesty and turn in their weapons
and declare that they sort of wanted to take the true path were oftentimes just
simply criminals, such as my friend Adiele Nwaeze.

He, about 10 days after the amnesty began, he went to the government and said,
OK, you know, I'm ready to come in, but I want to be assured that I'm not going
to be killed or prosecuted. And so this was the arrangement.

Now, he was being held in a – but he was also very angry. He was angry. He said
that the terms of the amnesty hadn't been met. He wasn't getting the stipend
that they had promised him, and that he still – they hadn't – they promised to
rebuild his house, and it was still laying in – totally destroyed.

So he was willing to talk, and we – my fixer was a fantastic guy, and he'd been
able to get in touch with him. And we went to a military safe house one
afternoon, and the military, oddly, let us sit there and interview this guy for
an hour. And he told us all about how he got into the industry, what he'd been
– you know, who he'd kidnapped, how he'd kidnapped them, the kind of money he'd
made, what he did with the money. And it was just – it was an amazing story,
and you realized the extent to which this has become institutionalized because
his lawyer, who was standing next to him, and his lawyer's named was, no joke,

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHMIDLE: And so, as Innocent is standing there sort of watching the
discussion, you know, Innocent is saying, you know, I would advise you not to
go into detail on that or not to say that. And I thought this is unreal. And so
Innocent is, like, you know, the kidnapper's lawyer. And it was really – it was
quite a scene.

DAVIES: You also spoke to a young kidnapper who may be in the lower end of the
trade. His name was Dedon(ph), right? That's the…

Mr. SCHMIDLE: Exactly. He wanted to be called – that was his nom de guerre. He
said, you know, call me Dedon.

DAVIES: And how was his tale different?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: His tale was different in that there wasn't – he wasn't as
ruthless. He had a college degree. He had just graduated with a degree in
political science a couple of years earlier. He told me that his favorite book
was Machiavelli's "The Prince," and - but he'd - there are cults on Nigerian
campuses, and he belonged to this cult called the Greenlanders. And Dedon,
after he graduated, couldn't find a job as a political scientist and went back
to his alumni network, and a couple of these Greenlanders were living in a camp
and they had been involved in kidnappings. And one thing led to another, and
before Dedon knew it, there were no options, and he and his buddies had formed
a kidnapping syndicate and were running around kidnapping people, including
seven-year-old kids.

DAVIES: But at a lower level, right? I mean, he didn't do Westerners, right?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: He didn't do Westerners, but he never had the chance, and he just
didn't have the sophistication. He admitted it. He said, you know, that - we
know that Westerners – and as he said, you know, we know that white men are
where the money is. So he was focusing on easy prey: older men that came from
land and money, kids that they could easily grab and then be able to ransom
off. And, you know, he said that the ransoms that they received were in the
tens of thousands, nothing, you know, like the hundreds of thousands of dollars
that Nwaeze was making.

DAVIES: Were there ways that you took special precautions, given what you
learned about this issue when you were abroad and reporting it?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: Well, even over the course of the two years that I lived in
Pakistan, where toward the end of my stay in late 2007, kidnapping was becoming
a concern, and then I went back to Pakistan for a few weeks to do reporting in
August of '08 and it became more of a concern, particularly when stories
started appearing in the press that I had been kidnapped when I actually hadn't
been kidnapped, the – you know, I kind of leave a paper trail and will try and
notify both family and – try to notify and stay very in close contact with

And on this trip, I was in contact every day with my editor, sending him a text
message or an email right around 8 or 9 p.m. Nigerian time as I was sort of
turning in for the day and I was at my hotel, saying my location, the time, you
know, how everything was going, etcetera. And at least that way, should
something go wrong, everyone – you know, your last location is known much more
accurately than just kind of disappearing for three weeks to go report a story.

DAVIES: Nicholas Schmidle, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. SCHMIDLE: Thanks for having me on, Dave.

GROSS: Nicholas Schmidle spoke with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies.
Schmidle's article on the kidnapping and ransom industry was published in this
week's New York Times Sunday Magazine. Dave Davies is a senior writer for the
Philadelphia Daily News. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Filming 'The Game That Changed A Nation'


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman have just
made their third film together. We’re going to talk with them about working
together. Eastwood directed and starred with Morgan Freeman in the films
“Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.” Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela in
the new film “Invictus,” which is directed by Eastwood.

The story is about how after the end of apartheid President Mandela tried to
unite blacks and whites around rugby, on the assumption that a winning team
could inspire the country and bring it together. In this scene, the leadership
of the ANC, the African National Congress, which had led the resistance against
apartheid, has just voted to change the team’s name, emblem, and colors, which
they’ve considered symbols from the apartheid era. President Mandela sees that
as a divisive move and rushes to their meeting to convince them to reverse
their vote.

(Soundbite of movie, “Invictus”)

Mr. MORGAN FREEMAN (Actor): (As Nelson Mandela) I believe we should restore the

(Soundbite of murmuring)

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Mandela) Restore their name, their emblem, and their color -
immediately. Our enemy is no longer the Afrikaner. They are our fellow South
Africans, our partners in a democracy. And they treasure Springbok rugby. If we
take that away, we lose them. I know - all of the things they denied us, but
this is no time to celebrate petty revenge. This is the time to build our
nation. You elected me your leader. Let me lead you now.

GROSS: Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in a scene from the new film
“Invictus.” Freeman told me that years ago Mandela had said if anyone were to
portray him in a film it should be Morgan Freeman. Freeman was able to spend
some time with Mandela to prepare to play him.

What are some of the things you learned about him as a man by watching him?

Mr. FREEMAN: I don’t think I learned anything that really stands out that much.
I was watching nuance all the time and I didn’t – I don't think I found
anything that just like, oh, gee, what a surprise that is. I don’t think that
ever happened.

GROSS: Let’s get into some of the nuance then.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: What did you learn just about his posture and his style of speaking?

Mr. FREEMAN: Well, at this age he doesn’t quite stand straight. He is an erect
man but if you try to mimic his posture, you would fold just a little bit,
that’s one thing. He has a kind of flat-footed walk. It’s not very flat-footed,
because he used to be a boxer and he's - but he’s got a bad leg. And I think
that is what occasions kind of the way he walks. And he has certain little
ticks and quirks that I can’t tell you about but I can show you.

GROSS: So there are a lot of rugby scenes in the film. As the team prepares,
and as they, you know, work their way toward the World Cup and through the
World Cup. So Clint Eastwood, you had to figure out ways of shooting those
scenes, and it’s – it's actually a pretty violent looking sport. I’m incredibly
unfamiliar with rugby but it looks a little bit like football with different
rules, but no protective gear. There’s no helmet, there’s no padding. I mean,
the players are basically wearing shorts and T-shirts.

Mr. CLINT EASTWOOD (Director): Well, it is a rough sport, probably among the
roughest. It's - because of those things you just got through mentioning, the
lack of equipment and what have you, there’s a lot of – a lot of muscle and a
lot of effort exhibited on the field. You don’t have separate teams that come
in like American football. You have - you play the whole game. There’s a lot of
different rules to it, but it is an exciting game to watch.

Because the picture is seen through Mandela’s office and his associates, who
think he is doing the wrong thing by embracing this team - the Springbok team
had not played an international game in many years due to boycotting apartheid,
that they were not favored to do anything. The only reason they were in the
play-offs was because it was the host nation. And so that gave them a shot at
it, but then they had to play some very strong teams, ending up with the
strongest rugby team at that particular time in history, which was the New
Zealand All Blacks.

And so we just tried to montage up to it, and then the final game hangs on the
cliff as to whether they win or lose the World Cup, which is a dream, of
course, that Mr. Mandela counted on and defied the odds.

Mr. FREEMAN: And won.

GROSS: This is the third film that you’ve worked together on. You worked
together on “Unforgiven,” which you both starred, and Clint Eastwood, you
directed. And in “Million Dollar Baby.” And again you were both starring, and
Clint Eastwood, you directed that. How did you first meet? Did you meet each
other before making those movies?

Mr. FREEMAN: No, we actually met on the set of “Unforgiven.” It was the first
time I had ever gotten up close and personal with him. I remember being in
Zimbabwe working on a picture, when I got a call from my agent that Clint
wanted me to be in his Western. And I was almost floored with surprise. And you
know, he’s probably one of my favorite Western actors of all time. And one of
my favorite movies of all time was “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” which was his. And
now he is calling me to come and be in one with him. My life couldn’t get

GROSS: So let’s hear a scene from “Unforgiven.” And this is a movie in which
Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman both play retired gunslingers who agree to
take on one last job. And the job was to find whoever it was who slashed the
face of a prostitute in another town, and other prostitutes in that town have
put their money together to pay a reward for whoever, you know, avenges this
crime. And so you very reluctantly agreed to do it. You’ve really given up your
guns. This is something you don’t want to do, but you do it. So here you are on
your way to this job and you’re sitting around a camp fire talking.

(Soundbite of movie “Unforgiven”)

Mr. EASTWOOD (Actor): (As William Munny) Ned, you remember that drover I shot
through the mouth and the teeth came out the back of his head? I think about
him now and again. He didn’t do anything to deserve to get shot. At least
nothing I could remember when I sobered up.

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Ned Logan) You were one crazy son of a bitch, Will.

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As William Munny) Yeah, no one liked me. Them boys all thought I
was going to shoot them out of pure meanness.

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Ned Logan) Well, you ain’t like that no more.

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As William Munny) Eagle, he hated my guts. Bonaparte didn't
think too much of me either.

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Ned Logan) (Unintelligible)

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As William Munny) No. Quincy used to just watch all the time -

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Ned Logan) Well, like I said, you ain't like that no more.

GROSS: My guests, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, in a scene from
“Unforgiven.” Morgan Freeman, what’s it’s like to be directed by Clint

Mr. FREEMAN: Hard to explain because you’re not directed by Clint Eastwood. If
you're lucky enough to get a job with him, you’re allowed to work. He didn’t
hire you to say, okay, now this is what I want you to do. He hires you and
you’ve read the script and if you think you can do it, and then you’re left
alone to do it. For me that’s very close to heaven as you can get.

GROSS: One of the things he’s famous for is for not saying action, so as to not
have this like clearly delineated line – maybe I’m misrepresenting this, so
stop me if I’m wrong, and also to just kind of maintain the quiet and the mood
that you want in your mind and not holler action. Clint Eastwood, stop me if
I’m misrepresenting you.


(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Am I close here?

Mr. EASTWOOD: I will.

GROSS: I should let you explain it and then ask Morgan Freeman what it’s like
to not hear action.

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, you hire people because you think they’re either really
close to the part or you admire their talent and you figure that they’re going
to bring to – they're obviously - you don’t hire them because they're dummies.
You hire him because they – you figure they understand the script certainly as
well as you do.

And then I suppose if somebody forgets something or leaves something out, you
remind them about it, and if you want it a little more dynamic, a little more
speed in the scene, or a little this and that, you make those suggestions, but
you don’t – you’re not going be giving acting lessons. That’s something you
can’t do.

There’s no director on the planet, never has been, that's going to be able to
stop a production and start from scratch. That’s why you hire professional
people. And if you’re a good casting person, which I believe I am - I like to
think I am - you get people who you know can deliver. Morgan Freeman would be
probably the ultimate example.

GROSS: And in terms of not saying action?

Mr. EASTWOOD: And not saying action is something I learned years ago from
working on the "Rawhide" series and I'd have various directors come in every
week with new episodes and they'd all love to scream action at the top of their
lungs. We found that it not only kept the set rather noisy, because everybody
felt they had to scream, but then the horses would go crazy. They'd go all
different directions.

And they'd line up four of us and we'd ride up to toward the camera and the
director would yell action and the horses would go every which way. And the
actors would either fall on the ground or be hanging on for dear life. And
finally one day I said to a director, television director at that time, I said
how about just not saying action. Maybe the horse is so used to hearing it that
it unnerves him or gets him anxieties about going into the shot and maybe it
gives the actor a slight anxiety, and maybe they just grip the horse subtly but
a little stronger than they should.

And so in order to keep things to calm down, I said, why don’t you just wave at
us. Just wave, come on in, you know. And so – or use the words come on in or
what have you. So that kind of – I found that that worked very well and I found
it worked even when you don’t have horses because the people, sometimes with
kids and stuff, I'll just start the camera and not even tell them I’m starting
it, because you don’t want, you want people to come in with a relaxed
atmosphere. Now, the scene may not be relaxed, but the objective of the scene -
but you want the work mechanism to be relaxed.

GROSS: Morgan Freeman, do you feel less anxiety because Clint Eastwood doesn’t
holler action when a scene starts?

Mr. FREEMAN: Well, I feel less anxiety because Clint Eastwood’s the one behind
the camera. I’m just amused by the fact that he doesn’t call action. He doesn’t
call anything. And he never says cut. I never once heard him say cut at any
time. He says things like, okay, that’s enough, or stop, or well, I guess
that'll do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EASTWOOD: Or that’s about as good as it's going to get, I guess.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: My guests are Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. Their new film is
“Invictus.” We’ll talk more about working together after a break. This is FRESH

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We’re talking with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman about working
together. They’ve just made their third film together, “Invictus.”

Let me move on to another movie that you made together. And this is “Million
Dollar Baby,” and let me play a scene. And in this movie Clint Eastwood as a
former – would you call him a boxing coach, boxing manager, what’s the right

Mr. EASTWOOD: Boxing manager and coach.

GROSS: Okay.

Mr. EASTWOOD: Owns a small gym.

GROSS: Yeah, now he owns small like rundown gym in downtown L.A.

Mr. EASTWOOD: Exactly.

GROSS: And Morgan Freeman is a former boxer who now cleans the gym and helps
run it. And he lost an eye in a fight while the Clint Eastwood character was
his coach, urging him to stop the fight. But Morgan Freeman didn’t stop the
fight and that ended his career. In the movie, a young woman played by Hilary
Swank wants desperately to be coached by the Clint Eastwood character. He turns
her down but finally agrees and becomes a kind of father surrogate to her. In
this scene, Hilary Swank is fighting in – is fighting, and her manager - Clint
Eastwood isn’t managing her at this moment and her manager is incompetent, so
Eastwood kind of comes into the ring, takes over and is in her corner. We hear
him talking with her and then we hear a voice-over from Morgan Freeman. And
Morgan Freeman’s character narrates the story. So, here’s the scene.

(Soundbite of movie, “Million Dollar Baby”)

Ms. HILARY SWANK (Actor): (As Maggie Fitzgerald) I keep holding my left up and
then I throw a punch and it keeps dropping.

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As Frankie Dunn) Yeah, let it drop.

Ms. SWANK: (As Maggie Fitzgerald) That’d be a lot easier.

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As Frankie Dunn) She thinks she knows you that’s all, Every time
you drop it she comes right over the top, so you just wait for her you see,
that’s all she’s thinking about, and when she cocks that big right hand - do
you hear me?

Ms. SWANK: (As Maggie Fitzgerald) I hear you boss.

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As Frankie Dunn) When she does you step to the side, come over
with a big goodnight hook. You got one?

Ms. SWANK: (As Maggie Fitzgerald) Got it right here.

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As Frankie Dunn) Okay.

Unidentified Man: Fighter I’m calling it.

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As Frankie Dunn) Go, give it to her.

Mr. FREEMAN (Actor): (As Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris) The body knows what fighters
don’t: how to protect itself. A neck can only twist so far, twist it just a
hair more and the body says hey I’ll take it from here, because you obviously
don’t know what you’re doing.

Unidentified Man: Neutral corner.

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As Frankie Dunn) See the way she did that? Sugar Ray would do
that. Girl's got sugar.

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris) Lie down now, rest and we’ll talk
about this when you regain your senses. It’s called a knock out mechanism.

Mr. EASTWOOD: (As Frankie Dunn) Don’t get carried away now.

Ms. SWANK: (As Maggie Fitzgerald) Yeah, boss.

GROSS: It’s a scene from “Million Dollar Baby,” with my guests Clint Eastwood
and Morgan Freeman as well as Hilary Swank. One of Freeman, you know, part of
your role in this is to be the narrator to do the voice over and to tell the
story and to do it in the kind of voice that you can kind of read between the
lines of…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …because there's mysteries here in the story as you tell it. Can you
talk a little bit about doing the voice-over in the film?

Mr. FREEMAN: Well, we – I think we did that in about an hour, right?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FREEMAN: When we went into a makeshift studio and I had the script and we
just laid it down, sort of like a timing track. And I always watch Clint get
this voice that he uses in the movies. So, I decided on this with I’m going to
do the same thing. I’m going to get a Clint Eastwood voice. So, I did it. I
just made it about as raspy as I could finally get it. And that was the – I
like the quality of that voice.

GROSS: Clint Eastwood, did you know that that’s what he was doing trying to
capture your voice?

Mr. EASTWOOD: No, I don’t know too much about what he was doing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EASTWOOD: We had – yeah, actually – I got this idea. We had a little hour
of break because of a mechanical problem. So, there was a guesthouse in this
house we were shooting. So, we stepped out, and I said, let’s go, do this
narration. So, we went out in the guesthouse and set it up with a - sound guy
brought his equipment out there and we knocked out the whole picture, the whole
narration for the picture. But it sounded great to me. I think he’s got a
wonderful sound anyway. No matter what picture he's in, he always has this
wonderful speaking voice. But he’s also playing Scrap-Iron, a guy who’s been
beaten around pretty much, as has Frankie, the character I played. So, they’re
both old gummers, so to speak. And…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EASTWOOD: …and it seemed like the right tone at the right time.

GROSS: Morgan Freeman, when the director of the film is also the star of the
film, as Clint Eastwood was in “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby,” does it
complicate things for you as the actor, you know, when you’re director is
actually not behind the camera but he’s in the scene with you?

Mr. FREEMAN: No, it only complicated things for me when we’re doing
“Unforgiven” because - and this happened one time, I’ll never forget. We were
filming. It was night. It was – I think we had rain towers and it was very cold
and it was raining. And we were both wet but we finished the scene. I’d be sent
inside to the heat and Clint would be outside setting up the next shot. And I
began to worry about him. So, other than that no, I don’t have any reaction to
him being the star of the movie and then behind the camera too. Again this goes
back to this whole thing of the quality of the set. It always runs smoothly.
So, it’s not like he had bit of more than he could good chew, which you can see

Mr. EASTWOOD: I’m just flattered that he was worried about me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did you tell - Morgan Freeman, did you tell Clint Eastwood you were
worried about him? And I imagine you were worried he was going to get sick.

Mr. FREEMAN: Well, I think, yeah, I was, I think I express some solicitude
about his well-being during all that. But, you know, you don’t go up to Clint
Eastwood and say, hey…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FREEMAN: …why don’t you sit down for a while.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EASTWOOD: I was a much younger man then too.

Mr. FREEMAN: That's true too.

GROSS: Thank you both so much for talking with us.

Mr. FREEMAN: Good to talk to you, Terry, again.

Mr. EASTWOOD: Nice talking to you, Terry.

GROSS: Clint Eastwood directed the new film, “Invictus,” which stars Morgan
Freeman as Nelson Mandela.

This is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Holiday Cheer With A Jazz Twist


Jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead says two kinds of people consume Christmas music:
those who actually like the stuff, and folks who need something listenable on
hand in case seasonal visitors request some ornamental mood music. For both
groups, he reviews two new jazz brass albums - holiday cheer with a twist.

(Soundbite of song, "O Tannenbaum")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD: Carla Bley’s version of a Christmas tune we don’t need to
identify showing how a wrong note in the right place can make all the
difference. Her album “Carla’s Christmas Carols,” is sometimes sweetly and
majestically unironic. But the odd bits give it a sense of mystery that suits
the holy day but is rare in Christmas music. It might’ve been the year’s
weirdest yuletide disc if not for Bob Dylan.

Christmas music often features brass ensembles. It takes trumpets to announce
the arrival of a king. Most of Bley’s arrangements feature a brass quintet. On
“Jingle Bells,” you can just about see the horse pull that sleigh.

(Soundbite of song, "Jingle Bells")

WHITEHEAD: Sometimes, that classical brass quintet is joined or replaced by
Carla Bley’s piano and Steve Swallow’s improbably tuneful electric bass. Bley
is celebrated as a composer but doesn’t get her due as a witty and economical
pianist in the tradition of Basie and Monk.

(Soundbite of song, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town")

WHITEHEAD: Carla Bley shows she can play the wrong right notes as well as the
right wrong ones. She often balances lyricism and silliness like that. The way
she walks a line between honest sentiment and amused detachment suggests one
way to cope with the season.

The album to put on after hers is trumpeter Eddie Allen’s “Jazzy Brass for the
Holidays.” His tongue-in-cheek sensibility can be a lot like Bley’s, but his
arrangements for four brass plus bass and drums are bluesier and swing harder.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Eddie Allen with brother Carl Allen on drums. Eddie had played in
Lester Bowie’s drum and bugle corps Brass Fantasy, so he knows how to blow
raspberries at old favorites. Trombonist Clark Gayton is right with him on

(Soundbite of song, "Jingle Bells")

WHITEHEAD: Now it’s not like Eddie Allen’s sextet makes a joke out of
everything. Jazz musicians interpret unlikely material all the time and are no
strangers to serious playing on light themes. Here’s the band’s other top
trumpeter, Cecil Bridgewater.

(Soundbite of song, "Let It Snow")

WHITEHEAD: “Let It Snow.” Good as these two brass albums are, the gold standard
for jazz Christmas music remains Billy Strayhorn’s revamps of the “Nutcracker”
on the Duke Ellington CD “Three Suites.” But you can’t listen to that all week.
Besides which, Eddie Allen’s sextet makes those shopworn Xmas tunes so shiny
you can forget you’re listening to Christmas music and think you’re just
listening to music.

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead teaches at the University of Kansas. And he is a jazz
columnist for He reviewed “Carla’s Christmas Carols,” by Carla Bley
and “Jazzy Brass for the Holidays” by Eddie Allen.

You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site And you
can follow us on Twitter at nprfreshair. 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.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue