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'Green Hornet', 'Dilemma' Prove Bromance Is Dead.

Both The Green Hornet and The Dilemma open this weekend. The two big-budget male buddy pictures -- one starring Seth Rogen; the other Kevin James and Vince Vaughn -- illustrate that the juvenile "bromance" genre is just getting old.



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Other segments from the episode on January 14, 2011

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 14, 2011: Interview with Billie Joe Armstrong; Review of films "The Green Hornet" and "Dilemma."


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong Takes Broadway


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Our guest is Billie Joe Armstrong. In 2004, his punk-pop band Green Day
released a Grammy-winning album called "American Idiot." Instead of looking
inward for his material, as he did on earlier albums with songs about his
anxiety, relationships, panic attacks, Armstrong wrote about politics,
specifically the alienation and anger he felt during the presidency of George
W. Bush.

An adaption of the punk-rock opera, as the album was called, opened on Broadway
last year, earning a Tony nomination for Best Musical. "American Idiot" has
virtually no dialogue: the story is told mostly through songs and choreography.

New York Times theater critic Christopher Isherwood wrote that the show, quote,
remains for me the most exciting and moving new musical on Broadway, a potent
fable about growing up in a distracted and disappointed America.

For selected performances this month and next, Billie Joe Armstrong will be on
stage with the show, in the role of St. Jimmy. Terry spoke with Billie Joe
Armstrong last year. Before we hear their conversation, let's start with Green
Day's version of "American Idiot," followed by the version on the new Broadway
cast recording, which features singers from the show, accompanied by Green Day.

(Soundbite of song, "American Idiot")

GREEN DAY (Music Group): (Singing) Don't want to be an American idiot. Don't
want a nation under the new media. And can you hear the sound of hysteria? The
subliminal mind (bleep) America. Welcome to a new kind of tension all across
the alien nation, where everything isn't meant to be okay. Television dreams of

(Soundbite of song, "American Idiot")

Unidentified People: (Singing) Don't want to be an American idiot, one nation
controlled by the media. Don't want to be an American idiot, one nation
controlled by the media (unintelligible) calling out to idiot America. Welcome
to a new kind of tension all across the alien nation, where everything isn't
meant to be okay...


Billie Joe Armstrong, welcome to FRESH AIR. So you play on the soundtrack of
the Broadway cast recording, but the cast sings. What would you say are the
main differences between the Broadway versions of your songs and your versions?

Mr. BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG (Musician): Oh, you know, I mean, it goes from a
three-piece band to a 20-piece vocal ensemble, you know. When we did the album
the first time around, it was, like, me, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool doing
everything. And then this time it was, you know, dealing with the string
section and dealing with how all the characters were kind of coming out and as
far as the play or the musical, if you will, were involved.

GROSS: One difference I've noticed, I think the Broadway singers enunciate more
clearly than you do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARMSTRONG: That was a big - yeah. That was a big deal when - you know,
being a rock singer, I can get away with a lot, you know, because most of the
time people don't know what the hell you're saying anyway. That's why we have
lyric sheets, you know.

GROSS: And there's a long tradition of that in rock.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and then - but the tradition, you know,
we were in the studio with Michael Mayer, and...

GROSS: He's the director.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Who's the director, and Tom Kitt's the arranger. And when they
were listening to the singers, they were saying things like, you know, can you
please - I can't hear the T in this particular word. And we were looking at
him. You know, we're like I can hear it fine, you know. But that's just the
difference between theater people and rock people, I guess.

GROSS: I bet no one has ever said to you: I can't hear the T.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah, no, I don't think so.

GROSS: So the songs on "American Idiot" are rooted in part in the Bush
administration era, and I'm wondering what performing for you was like then,
particularly performing songs from "American Idiot."

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I think I felt a sense of empowerment. I think I was - you know,
in the beginning, you know, right after, you know, 9/11 and then watching sort
of the tanks going into Iraq and everything sort of, you know, these embedded
journalists, you know, going in, you know, live. It felt like a cross between -
it was, it was a cross between war and reality television.

And so I just felt this, like, great sort of confusion, and I was, like,
someone needs to say something. I don't really know - you know, I don't know
how it's going to come out, but, you know, whatever it has to be, it's got to
be something very bold and get someone's attention immediately.

Just as - you know, because if you're so distracted, you know, by what's going
on on television, you're just watching it, it's like, but in reality what
you're doing is you're sitting there on the couch and just sort of seeing, you
know, the world unfold and explode and lives being lost right in front of your
very eyes.

So for me it was just, I kind of felt this moment of just, it was like rage and
patriotism, I guess, if you'd want to call it that. And I just wanted to write
something that was, you know, it just felt very - that wrote itself in probably
30 seconds.

GROSS: I want to play another song from "American Idiot," and this is
"Holiday." Would you put this song in the context of what you've been talking
about politically?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah, you know, it's - when I think of "Holiday," it's, like,
fragments of sort of political confusion. And it takes the English language,
and it kind of - it's, like, it goes again, you know, using English words
against itself or something, you know, especially, like, sieg heil to the
president (unintelligible) which actually was German also.

But it's - yeah, it is, it's kind of another one. Like it was sort of -after
the song "American Idiot," then doing "Holiday," you felt even - I felt even
more empowered to write something like that.

GROSS: So here's "Holiday" from the Green Day album "American Idiot."

(Soundbite of song, "Holiday")

GREEN DAY: (Singing) Hear the sound of the falling rain coming down like an
Armageddon flame, the shame, the ones who died without a name.

Hear the dogs howling out of key to a hymn called Faith and Misery, and bleed,
the company lost the war today.

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies. This is the dawning of the rest
of our lives on holiday...

GROSS: That's "Holiday" from the Green Day album "American Idiot," and of
course now there's a Broadway musical called "American Idiot," featuring the
songs from the album.

"American Idiot" is, in part, about the anger and discontent of young people
entering the larger world, and the Broadway show, it's also about, you know,
one of the characters having to fight in Iraq. How far away does that part of
your life seem when you were in your teens or early 20s, finding your place in
the world?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: For me, I mean, you know, when, you know, the first time that
you escape from home or the small town that you live in or whatever, you know,
there's a reason the small town is called a small town, it's because not that
many people really want to live there.

So to try to get out and see something more, and, you know, for me, I had a
place called Gilman Street, and it was a club, a punk-rock club in Berkeley,
and I was just introduced to a lot of new ideas. And...

GROSS: So that was your escape?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I think that was my escape. And there was this sort of feeling
of, like, I felt there was another moment in time where I felt empowered and
because I was getting an education and that I wasn't really getting being at
home anymore, or from the schools that I had to go to. It was sort of this
feeling of just like, oh, I'm out of prison, you know.

But in the musical there's a lot of - you know, the guy Johnny, or Jesus of
Suburbia, you know, as he's finding this sort of self-righteousness, he ends up
finding sort of some self-destruction, and I think those are the bumps in the
road that you take because you have to take bruises as you get older or coming
of age.

GROSS: There's a lot of anger in the songs in "American Idiot," and I assume
anger is an emotion that you're familiar with.


GROSS: So when you were a teenager, where - what was generating most of the

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Feeling lost. I always say that - in every song I write, whether
it's a love song, or it's a political song or, you know, something, or a song
about family, the one thing that I find is feeling lost and trying to find your

I think a song like "American Idiot," it's a series of questions. You know, I
think "Holiday" is a series of questions. It's like, it's -you're trying to
battle your way out of your own ignorance, and that's where it's personal.

It's like, you know, I don't want to be an American idiot. What I want to be is
I'm not sure. I just want more. And I'm willing to take the risk to try to get
out of that, you know, or to try to find something more.

So that's - I don't know, so it's just lost and trying to dig your way through
all, like, the sort of, you know, the mental wrecking yard, I guess.

GROSS: I know your father died when you were young. How old were you?


GROSS: And he had cancer of the esophagus. Did that contribute to you feeling
lost, do you think?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I think so. I mean, I think it went, you know, beyond that. You
know, I remember I was always the kid that got lost in, like, the shopping mall
or, like, I got lost in Santa Cruz, you know, walking the boardwalk when I was,
like, five or six. I was always just daydreaming constantly, and I still am.

You know, I have a lousy sense of direction in so many different ways, and you
know, I think losing someone, you know, that young, it's hard because, like,
when you deal with death, like when you lose someone when you're young, and
you're dealing with death, you suddenly realize that death is a part of life.

So when death comes knocking again at a certain time, or if it's a friend or a
loved one, you just, you start to not get used to it, you know, you just, you
just see it, and when you see it over and over again, you just realize, like,
that it, like I said before, that it's a part of life.

But it's hard because you see this very strong, strong-willed man, it's like
you see him crumble within a matter of three months. It's just, it's like, you
know, it's the beginning of summer, and then at the end -by the end of the
summer, it's a completely different person, and then they're reading his last
rites to him. So it's just a lot to take in, you know.

I worried about my mother. I worried about a lot of things that I think it's
unfair for kids to worry about because - but you have to, you have to man up,
and for a 10-year-old to man up on something like that and sort of - you know,
my brother was 13. He had to man up too, and it was, you know, that's a really
young age for someone to sort of have to grow up very quickly.

GROSS: So it's interesting, you know, that you discovered punk, and it meant so
much to you. So once you got deep into punk, did that, did that also bring on
any kind of, like, physical transformation just in terms of how you wanted to
look physically and what kind of, like, attitude you wanted to present to the
outside world?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I think so. You know, I mean, there was definitely - it wasn't
really a dress code. I think the time when I was getting into punk, there
wasn't really - I think the uniform was gone, you know, in the scene. You know,
I mean, I wore stuff that my dad wore as a truck driver.

You know, I mean, I wore dickies and Ben Davis shirts and derby jackets and
flipped-up baseball caps and Chuck Taylors and with, you know, a pile of bleach
on top of your head. You know, it was, you know, you went around, and you
borrowed eyeliner from girls that were around the scene at the time, and it
was, it was just, you know, it wasn't really a dress code. I mean, that was
just what we were into in the punk community, you know.

GROSS: So you mentioned that you would borrow eyeliner from the girls. Why
couldn't you buy it? Why'd you have to borrow it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I think it was just good conversation, you know? You know, it
was - I think that's sort of almost where it came from. And you know, there
were the girls that were around. You know, I think all, well, not all, but I
think a lot of women like to see what guys look like dressed up like women. So
- you know, or just put makeup on them or whatever, you know.

So it was, it was just kind of a fun little activity, and I think it just sort
of stuck throughout the years.

DAVIES: Our guest is Billie Joe Armstrong, the front man for Green Day. We'll
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's interview with Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead
singer, guitarist and songwriter from the band Green Day. The Broadway musical
"American Idiot," based on the album Green Day put out 2004, is now on
Broadway. Billie Joe Armstrong is now performing in the show for selected
performances this month and next.

GROSS: So some of your songs are also about psychological issues. Like one song
mentions soda pop and Ritalin. There's a song "Basket Case," the song "Give Me
Novocain." And I'm wondering, like, how much of that is about you, if you were,
like, medicated at all or in therapy or told you should be in therapy when you
were in your teens, in school.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Not so much. You know, I think I tried to mix humor with mental
health. You know, a song like "Basket Case" is sort of about panic attacks.
And, you know, "Give Me Novocain" is just, you know, where you self-medicate,
whether it's with alcohol or weed or speed or, you know, whatever your drug of
choice is.

You know, it's just kind of falling into that, experimenting with that, you
know, escapism in unhealthy ways. But I think when I was a kid, you know, a lot
of - there was a lot of, you know, it was just, it was drinking and acid and
mushrooms and...

GROSS: Did you do a lot of acid?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I did my share.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Tell me what your trips were like and whether you saw them as kind of
like spiritual, you know, meditative, exploratory things, or whether it was
more about music or more about, like, something else altogether and whether
they were good trips or bad trips.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: It kind of depends on the moment of the trip, you know. I think
the first part of a trip is always - is the funnest part.

GROSS: When you feel it coming on?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah, yeah, and then there's about the two or three hours where
you're completely confused and, you know, and there's certain hallucinations
that are happening that I'm not particularly fond of.

But then there's the, you know, the comedown, which I always enjoyed also. But
the whole experience itself was never really - I don't think it ever really
contributed to music.

I think, you know, it cracks open your brain a little bit, but in the long run,
you know, in seeing sort of all the casualties around Berkeley and San
Francisco because of it, it was - it was always kind of something it was like I
never got completely into.

GROSS: So you never played while you were on acid?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I did. The first time I ever dropped acid, I played. I played
with this band called Blatz, and I remember they were a local band, really
crazy. It's like - they were basically like the B-52s on acid.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARMSTRONG: There were two female singers, and there was one male singer.
The male singer always - this guy Jesse Luscious always ended up naked on
stage. It was a very memorable experience, you know, to see guitar strings that
were - started kind of wrapping around my neck a little bit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Seems funny now, maybe not so much then.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Well, it wasn't that - that was part of the downside, which when
I was coming down, it was like oh, this is kind of fun, you know, but not
really something I ever did with Green Day.

Mike and Tre, you know, they definitely did their share of playing. I think we
played the Gorge outside of Seattle, Washington, on Lollapalooza, and they
dropped acid then, and that was, you know, an interesting experience to see a
rhythm section look at each other and giggle for, you know, 45 minutes.

GROSS: So the guy who used to take off his clothes while he was performing,
could you ever imagine yourself doing that?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah, I did.

GROSS: You did?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I used to do it a lot when - you know, right after "Dookie" came
out. I was arrested for it in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I did it at Madison Square
Garden because I didn't know if I was ever going to play Madison Square Garden
again. So I, you know, I said, well, there's one way to remember this occasion,
is to be the guy who was naked on stage at Madison Square Garden.

And then, you know, and then it came down to a point where everywhere we
played, the cops started showing up and saying, you know, if this guy gets
naked on stage, he's going to be arrested immediately. You know, and sure
enough, it happened eventually in Milwaukee.

GROSS: So what statement were you making by taking all your clothes off?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: It was, like, this non-statement statement. You know, I mean,
there was no - I just was - it was, you know, old enough to know better but too
young to care, you know, kind of attitude towards it.

GROSS: So let's hear another song, and this is "Give Me Novocain," and there's
a line I particularly like in this: Bittersweet migraine in my head, it's like
a throbbing toothache of the mind. I like the throbbing toothache of the mind.

I think most of us have had a throbbing toothache of the mind. So "Give Me
Novocain" reminds me of The Ramones title "I Want to Be Sedated." Were you
thinking about that at all when you wrote it?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: No, I mean, that's definitely a kind of poetry that I definitely
relate to, you know, a song like "Now I want to Sniff Some Glue" or something
like that, it's, you know, I think that was a new way of, you know, writing
lyrics and just, like, straight, right to the point, you know exactly what's
going on.

DAVIES: Billie Joe Armstrong, speaking with Terry Gross. He's now appearing in
the Broadway musical "American Idiot" for selected performances. We'll hear
more of our conversation in the second half of the show. I'm Dave Davies, and
this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Let's get back
to our interview with Billie Joe Armstrong, the front man of Green Day. The
band's 2004 album, "American Idiot," which won a Grammy for best rock album,
was adapted last year into a Broadway musical.

GROSS: One of the amazing things about Green Day is that you met Mike Dirnt
from the band, the bass player in middle school so...

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah. Ten years old.

GROSS: It's kind of amazing, like very few relationships withstand the test of
time from middle school to adulthood.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I remember the first conversation we ever had was in -because we
ended up in the same class. It was Miss O'Connor's class. And I met Mike pretty
much the first week in school and then we, you know, he just ended up coming
over to the house all the time and we just became really close. You know, I
think somehow I think sometimes my father dying and Mike coming into my life at
the same time sort of coincided.

But I think it was around we really - when music really started hitting us both
together playing at the same time was around I think 7th grade. And we started
learning like, you know, heavy metal songs together and just, you know, jamming
together all the time. He'd come over with his guitar and I'd go over to his
house with my guitar and it just sort of, you know, lasted till now.

GROSS: So Tre Cool, who's the drummer with the band, he grew up in an unusual
way. He grew up in a home without electricity, no television, I don't know if
he had radio or probably not a stereo or anything. So I think, stop me if I'm
wrong here, that his father was a veteran who wanted to kind of like move away
from the world when he got home and that's why they moved to like a mountain or
something? Is that close to...

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah. They moved up to the mountains up in Mendocino County,
basically like a back to the land kind of family way, you know.

GROSS: I see. Okay. Okay.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: And I think Tre had a lot of freedom growing up up there and,
you know, he didn't have a typical childhood at all, you know. I think, you
know, if you talk to him and hang out with him for a while you would understand
he's not a typical guy at all, you know. He's -but, you know, he ended up
playing in a band called The Lookouts and, you know, the first time I ever saw
The Lookouts play, you know, he was wearing an old woman's shower cap and he
had like a tutu on or something like that, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARMSTRONG: And I remember thinking that he was an amazing drummer. So it
was a difficult transition going from our old drummer to Tre, just because Tre
was just a showoff, you know, and so it was kind of - but I knew that the way
that he played and the different beats and the background and because he had a
background in jazz and he could play any sort of particular beat or that you
wanted that I knew I can - as a songwriter - I know that I can always write a
song that he's going to be able to play immediately, you know. So it kind of
opened up my world at the same time.

GROSS: Now when you started touring, Tre's father, your drummer's father, was
driving. So, yes or is that incorrect? Yeah?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Oh yeah. He started - well, we started touring in 1990. We, you
know, we did the van tours first. This is before Tre's dad came in. So we did
three, four tours before that and then when we got a little bit of money
together we bought a bookmobile but someone needed to have a trucker license to
be able to drive this thing. And so Tre's dad knew how to drive it so, or he
had the license for it. So he became our driver when we were touring. We opened
up for a band called Bad Religion, then we ended up going on tour all through,
you know, the United States again after that in a bookmobile, you know, that we
just converted into this little touring bus.

GROSS: So did it feel funny to be playing punk music and having one of the band
member's fathers having to drive you?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: No. No. I mean Frank was - Tre's dad was, he was one of the
guys, you know. There was no rules or anything like that we had to, you know,
that most kids had to abide by so, you know, we just - it wasn't like he was,
you know, he turned into everybody's parent or - he wasn't even Tre's parent.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARMSTRONG: He was just, you know, he just kind of let us just roam, do
whatever the hell we wanted. And, you know, we would go out and get tattoos and
he would get a tattoo with us and he would, you know, it was not really like a,
you know, a typical, you know, he was just, he was someone that you could
relate to. And I remember when this band Tribe Called Quest would go up and
play during Lollapalooza and there would be these big low-end subs that would
go out and it would just shake the entire backstage and it's just like this
really boom, you know.

And I remember one time Frank going oh, I don't like that noise. And we're like
why? He said because that reminds me of dropping napalm in Vietnam. And that
was like, it was like oh my gosh, you know. So there was a whole different - he
kind of added a whole different perspective and he wasn't just Tre's father but
he was this, I don't know he was this kind of this cool guy at the same time.

DAVIES: Our guest is Billie Joe Armstrong, the front man of Green Day.

We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's interview with Billie Joe Armstrong, the
front man of Green Day. Their 2004 album "American Idiot" has been adapted into
a musical which is now on Broadway.

GROSS: Well, let's hear another song. For this one we'll go back to "Dookie,"
which won the Grammy for best alternative music album in 1994. And I want to
play "Basket Case," which has a line about being neurotic to the bone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Can you talk about writing this song?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I remember that song being hard to write. It wasn't an easy song
to write. And, you know, the lyrics kept changing and it started out as a
relationship song and then it got the idea for it to be more neurotic and a
panic attack song, and it seemed to hit home. And I didn't even expect the song
to actually be a single. It was just seem like it was just a difficult song to
play. But then, and then it got released and then, you know, I guess I was
wrong about that.

GROSS: Well, it had a video too.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, a video. Like we were in a band in an insane
asylum, you know, and that was pretty heavy to see just all the different, you
know, there would be scratch marks on the walls of people trying to climb out
and it was very like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," you know, kind of
moment. And it was like, you know, there was - the ghosts that were in that
place were just it was kind of terrifying really.

GROSS: Okay. So this is "Basket Case" from the Green Day album "Dookie."

(Soundbite of song, "Basket Case")

GREEN DAY: (Singing) Do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing
and everything all at once? I am one of those melodramatic fools, neurotic to
the bone, no doubt about it. Sometimes I give myself the creeps. Sometimes my
mind plays tricks on me. It all keeps adding up. I think I'm cracking up. Am I
just paranoid or was I stoned?

I went to a shrink to analyze my dreams. She says it's lack of sex that's
bringing me down. I went to a whore. He said my life's a bore so quit my
whining because it's bringing her down. Sometimes I give myself the creeps.

Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me. It all keeps adding up. I think I'm
cracking up. Am I just paranoid? Uh, yuh, yuh, ya.

GROSS: That's "Basket Case" from the Green Day album "Dookie," and my guest
Billie Joe Armstrong is the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the band.
And, of course, now on Broadway is the show "American Idiot," that's based on
the Green Day album of the same name.

I'm wondering what it's been like for you to basically become a man on stage.
In other words, when you started performing you were a teenager, you were
probably in your 20s when the bad started taking off. Is that about right?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah, 22.

GROSS: Yeah. That's pretty young. And so, you know, and then you became a
father, you have two children, so you've grown up a lot since you started
performing. But, you know, a lot of your songs are about the questions and the
problems of being young and of like, finding your place in the world. But
you've kind of found your place. You've grown up. You're the father of two. Do
you feel like you've been able to grow and change on stage? You know what I
mean? Growing up - like becoming a man in a public way like that.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah, I think so. It's kind of one of those rare things. I think
I've become better at being on stage through the years, especially right around
when the record "Nimrod" hit. I think, you know, especially with big audiences
there were certain things that I had to learn to, you know. I think there's a
more of an emotional thing that happens at our show. It's not just about chaos
and out of control and, you know, I think it becomes about people dancing and
people having a really great time and knowing that I'm responsible for that.

So it's a, and it's become sort of this gathering and you see all the, you
know, one thing about our show is that what I try to do is to have the dynamics
of it. And I'm not just talking about when music gets loud and music gets soft.
It's also I think like concerts for me they do become about anger. I think they
become about sadness and then they bring you back to some sort of conclusion
and the crowd feels involved. Its not just about the singer or it's not just
about the band.

GROSS: Is performing cathartic for you? Do you feel like you undergo some
transformation during the course of a concert?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah. I mean I think if there's a place to die then I guess on
stage would be the, you know, it's like a lot of people would die in their
sleep. I think I would rather die on stage. I just put everything I possibly
can into a show, you know, and just make sure that I walk away with the same
experience, you know, where I'm not, it's not just about the maybe the
performance of it but it's like you sort of guide the audience too or where,
you know, or where the audience has guided me to, you know, at the same time.

GROSS: Is it ever a problem that life itself isn't as vivid as life on stage
can be?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Sometimes its hard. You know, when you're at home on Sundays and
there's not much going on, becomes a little tough, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I think because those are such extreme highs that you go
through. It's an addiction, you know, being on stage. So finding those moments,
it takes a lot to find those moments of silence, you know. Sometimes it's
trying to find moments of silence when you're actually on stage where you look
out and you go and you think to yourself I have to make sure that I am enjoying
every second and just notice that no one is sitting in their seats.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARMSTRONG: You know, everyone is up and I'm just trying to take it all in,
you know. And then when you're at home, it's just trying to take in where it
gets really silent and it's like whoa this is a kind of a mundane experience,
you know. And it takes an adjustment. It takes me a week or two to adjust from
being, you know, when I get home from tour. I mean sometimes I think Adrienne,
my wife would, you know, she's like, you know, when you come home why don't you
stay at a hotel for a week or something like that, just for the transition, you

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Like coming up from the bottom of the ocean and getting the bends or

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah, totally.

GROSS: So you met your wife at a Green Day show. Was she a fan?

Mr. ARMSTRONG: I don't know if she - no, I don't think she was a fan. She was
just a girl in Minneapolis that was part of the Minneapolis-Mankato punk rock
scene. And, you know, I met her. We played in a basement, and she happened to
be there. And then we played at this place called the Varsity in Dinkytown a
couple of days later and she showed up there and everyone was - we got everyone
to come up on stage and start dancing and she was the only one sitting down in
the audience. And she came up to me after because we ran out of - we had these
EPs that we were selling and she asked me for an address where she could get
one and then I just gave her my address. And then, you know, we started writing
letters back and forth to each other from Minnesota to California.

GROSS: Oh. Interesting. And then you actually started spending time in person

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah. We were talking on the phone and we were writing letters.
And I was just like, I got to go back and see this girl. I haven't seen her
since the summer before and I think it was around spring of '91. And then I had
to see her again. So we had this mini tour. It was like five shows that we had
to drive all the way out to the Midwest. And we went and we played in Beloit,
Wisconsin, Sioux Falls, and then we played in Minneapolis and we played in

And then she showed up in Sioux Falls, and then she just grabbed me. And she
said, Billie Joe? And I turned around, and my first, I was just - I had to
remember what she looked like, because I couldn't - it just didn't register at
first. I remembered her voice just from the phone. And she turned and looked at
her friend and goes, he doesn't remember me. And I felt like the biggest tool
at that second.

I was, oh, my God. I can't - you know. I was like, yes I do. And so we - I
don't know. Then we went to where there was a dumpster out in the back, and we
just talked all night long. And so that was 20, almost 20 years ago.

GROSS: Dumpster - sounds very romantic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah. Well, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And so you were sending real letters to each other, not emails.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: No. This was - I don't even think I got an email address until
about two years ago. So we were - yeah, we were just writing letters and, you
know, running up large phone bills.

GROSS: So I'm thinking about how much you've seen the music industry change.
Like, you started as this, you know, punk band and an indie band, and now
you've got a Broadway show. So, I don't know. It seems like you've seen both

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah. It keeps evolving, and I like kind of being on both
extremes, too. I would never abandon one. You know, I still - I love playing
clubs and doing these different projects for something like the Foxboro Hot
Tubs, or Pinhead Gunpowder, or something like that. It just - I still get the
same charge out of it, and then putting out EPs and things like that.

But I also like the opposite extreme of doing things like rock operas and
getting into, you know, musical theater and, you know, and seeing where - what
different formats that you could put records out on, whether it's vinyl or a CD
or digital download or a video game. So it's a - I don't know. And it just
keeps changing, and you just got to be open to those ideas.

GROSS: Well, it's really been great to talk with you. Thank you so much.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me.

DAVIES: Billie Joe Armstrong is the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for
the band Green Day. He's now appearing in the Broadway musical "American
Idiot," which is based on Green Day's 2004 album.

Next month, Green Day will release a new live CD and DVD. It's called "Awesome
as" – well, I can't say the whole title on the radio, actually. So we'll just
leave as "Awesome as F."

Here's a track from Green Day's 1994 album, "Dookie," "Welcome to Paradise."

(Soundbite of song, "Welcome to Paradise")

GREEN DAY: (Singing) Dear mother, can you hear me whining? It's been three
whole weeks since that I have left your home. This sudden fear has left me
trembling, 'cause now it seems that I am out here on my own. And I'm feeling so

Pay attention to the cracked streets and the broken homes. Some call it the
slums. Some call it nice. And I want to take you through a wasteland I like to
call my home. Welcome to paradise.

A gunshot rings out at the station. Another urchin snaps and left dead on his
own. It makes me wonder why I'm still here. For some strange reason it's now
feeling like my home, and I'm never going to go.

Pay attention to the cracked streets and the broken homes. Some call it slums
some. Some call it nice. I want to take you through a wasteland I like to call
my home. Welcome to paradise.

DAVIES: Coming up, David Edelstein on two new big-budget buddy movies, "The
Green Hornet" and "The Dilemma."

This is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
'Green Hornet,' 'Dilemma' Prove Bromance Is Dead


Two big commercial movies open this week. "The Green Hornet" is screenwriter
and star Seth Rogen's update of the old pulp radio and TV show about a masked
hero and his kung fu sidekick. "The Dilemma" is a comedy, starring Vince Vaughn
as a man who discovers a secret about the wife of his best friend, played by
Kevin James.

Film critic David Edelstein has a review of both films.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: "The Green Hornet" and "The Dilemma" are big-budget male buddy
pictures: The first is a semi-satirical action movie, the second, a comedy that
turns serious. Both are well made, and both are tiresome.

Folks, the bromance motif, in which grown men wrestle with their masculinity
while acting like juveniles, has been wrung dry.

"The Green Hornet" at least is likable, and a refreshing change from all those
heavy, angst-ridden superhero movies. The director is Michel Gondry of "Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," a virtuoso at making childish fantasies take
wing. And I'm not the first to notice a Bob Hope-Bing Crosby road movie vibe
between the two stars: Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, aka The Green Hornet, and Jay
Chou as the kung fu master Kato, both smitten with Cameron Diaz in the Dorothy
Lamour role.

Rogen's Britt is a ne'er-do-well rich kid, son of a disapproving media mogul,
played by Tom Wilkinson, who dies suddenly. It's all quite Oedipal. In the
prologue, the father tears the head off his son's superhero doll. And The Green
Hornet persona is born when Britt and Kato, who was his dad's assistant, knock
the head off a statue of Britt's father. Their superhero gimmick is that
they'll pretend to be bad guys, but really fight criminals. And Britt wants
them to be best buds.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Green Hornet")

Mr. JAY CHOU (Actor): (as Kato) We'll need a car.

Mr. SETH ROGEN (Actor): (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Hells, yes. We'll need
a car.

Mr. CHOU: (as Kato) With some weapons.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Hmm.

Mr. CHOU: (as Kato) And armor.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Cool rims. Spinning rims.

Mr. CHOU: (as Kato) I can do that.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Kato, I want you to take my hand. I
want you to come with me on this adventure.

Mr. CHOU: (as Kato) I'll go with you, but I don't want to touch you.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Okay, you don't have to take my
hand. But will you come with me on this adventure?

EDELSTEIN: The Hope-Crosby thing might work better if the quips were fresh and
Chou was comfortable with English. He speaks as if he learned it phonetically,
and unlike Bruce Lee's Kato in the old TV show, he talks a lot. Both for P.C.
reasons and because Chou is a big star in the all-important Asian market, Kato
refuses to be Britt's sidekick. So he and Rogen trade lame insults while
fighting off the bad guys.

There are a few neat trick shots in which Kato moves at a different speeds than
his slow-mo adversaries, and a couple of good 3D effects, like the split
screens in which each frame is at a different spatial level. But it's not worth
the 3D glasses surcharge. There's little in "The Green Hornet" that jumps out
at you.

But it's "The Dilemma" that really lays there, paralyzed by its seriousness.
It's about two unemployed best friends, veterans of the auto industry. Vince
Vaughn's Ronny is a can-do manager, while Kevin James' Nick is the brilliant
engineer. Vaughn cooks up a scheme to land a meeting with a big car company.
And after it works, they meet up at a crowded bar with Jennifer Connelly as
Vaughn's girlfriend, Beth, and Winona Ryder as James's wife, Geneva.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Dilemma")

Mr. KEVIN JAMES (Actor): (as Nick Brannen) You lying bastard. You are
unbelievable. Did we get this meeting or not? I'm hugging this man like I'm
some kind of ass.

Ms. JENNIFER CONNELLY (Actor): (as Beth) Why were you hugging the man?

Mr. VINCE VAUGHN (Actor): (as Ronny Valentina) Because he's our guy's direct

Ms. WINONA RYDER (Actor): (as Geneva) Why would you hug the direct competitor?

Mr. JAMES: (as Nick Brannen) Because he had a near-death experience.

Mr. VAUGHN: (as Ronny Valentina) Actually, no he didn't. That never happened. I
made that up.

Ms. RYDER: (as Geneva) Ho-ho, shame. Shame. Shame.

Mr. JAMES: (as Nick Brannen) What are doing?

Mr. VAUGHN: (as Ronny Valentina) What do you mean what am I doing? Did we get
the meeting or what?

Ms. RYDER: (as Geneva) Come on, Nick.

Mr. JAMES: (as Nick Brannen) No, I'm never hugging again. I'm not listening to
you any – he sets me up.

Mr. VAUGHN: (as Ronny Valentina) What do you expect me to do? Geneva, listen to
me. You know him. He's way too honest.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. VAUGHN: (as Ronny Valentina) It might be(ph) completely necessary. Nick, my
man, we got the meeting.

Mr. JAMES: (as Nick Brannen) I'm not going to lie. Sometimes, I love your

Mr. VAUGHN: (as Ronny Valentina) You, I will hug. Hug you right back.

Mr. JAMES: (as Nick Brannen) Free, this is free.

Mr. VAUGHN: (as Ronny Valentina) Come in here.

Mr. JAMES: (as Nick Brannen) This is nothing. No charge.

Mr. VAUGHN: (as Ronny Valentina) My man. Oh, don't ever – don't ever let me go.

EDELSTEIN: These fleshy guys, one tall, one short and round, have a
quintessential manly-male project. In a scene that drew considerable advance
criticism, Vaughn's Ronny says of electric cars: They're totally gay, and
proposes a new variation: a responsible, energy-efficient car that makes loud
vroom-vroom noise like the old Fords and Dodges - like we need more road noise
in this world.

But "The Dilemma" turns on the women. Ronny spies Geneva smooching another guy
- played by Channing Tatum, with a lot of tattoos - and is torn. Should he tell
his buddy and shatter him, and maybe ruin the project on which everything in
their lives rides? Or should he keep it a secret for now? His contortions,
moral and physical, occupy the next 90 minutes.

Maybe the late Blake Edwards could have found a balance between slapstick and
psychodrama, but director Ron Howard can't get the pacing right. Vaughn has a
couple of very funny scenes, and Wynona Ryder a good demonic glint, but the
movie drags. And the central problem - the invention of that noisy engine -
ends up a nonissue.

"The Dilemma" comes down to whether Ronny can help Nick recover his masculine
pride, symbolized by a scene in a pro hockey arena in which Nick competes to
slap a puck into a slot. Even Freud would roll his eyes and tell the filmmakers
to grow up.

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

You can join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @nprfreshair. And you can
download podcasts of our show at

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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