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Greg Kinnear on 'Fast Food Nation'

Actor Greg Kinnear stars in the new film Fast Food Nation, based on the non-fiction book about the fast food and meatpacking industries. Kinnear's other films include Little Miss Sunshine As Good As It Gets, AutoFocus and Nurse Betty. KINNEAR got his start as host and executive producer of Talk Soup on E! Entertainment. He subsequently hosted his own late-night talk show, Later with Greg Kinnear.




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Other segments from the episode on November 16, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 16, 2006: Interview with Greg Kinnear; Interview with Shirley Corriher; Commentary on language.


DATE November 16, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Greg Kinnear talks about how he got his start in the
movie industry and also talks about some of his movies including
"Little Miss Sunshine," "Auto Focus" and his new film "Fast Food

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave DAVIES, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.

My guest Greg Kinnear didn't get into acting until he was 31, after he'd
hosted a late-night TV talk-show and a program on the E! cable channel called
"Talk Soup." But he seemed to have a knack for the craft. He soon delivered
an Oscar-nominated performance as Jack Nicholson's gay neighbor in the film
"As Good As It Gets," and he's never looked back. A review in the Times of
London said that while Kinnear often played the straight man in films, that
Kinnear, quote, "through his unconventional depiction of the ordinary was
matching his flashier co-stars shot for shot, line for line." Kinnear's films
include "Auto Focus," "Nurse Betty," "Stuck on You," and more recently,
"Little Miss Sunshine" and "Fast Food Nation," a dramatization of Eric
Schlosser's book about the fast-food and meat-packing industries. He plays a
new marketing executive for a fast-food franchise called Mickey's. In this
clip he's at the company's lab smelling samples of some new artificial

(Soundbite from "Fast Food Nation")

Mr. GREG KINNEAR: (As Don Anderson) That's wonderful.

Unidentified Actor: Yeah, you like that. That's the Barbecued Big One.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Don Anderson) Wow, it tastes like it's right off the grill!

Actor: You don't think it needs like liquid smoke or any other kind of

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Don Anderson) No, no, no, no. I think it's perfect. Let's
test that.

Actor: OK. Try this one.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Don Anderson) I don't know.

Actor: Yeah...(unintelligible)...Caribbean seasonings are kind of tricky.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Don Anderson) Well, we're calling them Calypso Chicken
Tenders. I think people are going to have an expectation for maybe a touch of

Actor: Oh, lime. Lime's easy. I just held back on the terpinolene to keep
the flavoring subtle, but I can always go back and add more.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Don Anderson) Yeah, why don't you try that?

Actor: I'll keep working on it.

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Greg Kinnear and many in the cast of "Fast Food Nation" visited
meat-packing plants and shot some scenes there. I asked him what he saw that
surprised him.

Mr. KINNEAR: Well, the first thing I was surprised at was the sort of covert
nature that the production was being operated under. We had gone under a
fictitious production name. Instead of going by "Fast Food Nation," we went
as "Coyote," and that was because, I believe, Eric doesn't have a lot of fans
in the meat-packing industry, and they control and obviously have total
control over a lot of the warehouses and the slaughterhouses where we wanted
to get access to. So that caused us to head south of the border, and they
managed to secure a plant about 400, 300 miles south of El Paso, in the area
of Chihuahua, and we went down there and used those facilities.

DAVIES: So you were in a Mexican meat-packing plant. Did the folks running
the plant know what the movie was about or what you were up to?

Mr. KINNEAR: Yeah, yeah. They did, and they were--I mean, they were
comfortable with it, comfortable enough that once we got down there, there was
no secrecy about what it was we were doing. I don't know about all the, you
know, discussions that went on in order to get us in there but they were, you
know, really cooperative, and the truth is there are--and it's explained
neatly in the movie and it's explained in the book, you know, there's two
different worlds in the meat world. I mean, there is the packing facilities
where the beef is, you know, frozen in huge, huge machines that I couldn't
believe the size of these things and so quickly. I mean, it's 40 below zero.
This patty starts out as a little piece of ground beef and comes out just as a
brick of, you know, like a rock. And these facilities where, you know, the
meat is ground and then frozen and then prepared to be shipped off are pretty
clean, pretty impressive operations. And, you know, Kris Kristofferson's
character who's an old cattle rancher in the movie talks about--you know,
talks to Don as he's sort of naively going through this whole world and he
says, `Did they show you the kill floor?'

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. KINNEAR: That's my Kris, by the way. It's not dubbed in.

DAVIES: Not bad.

Mr. KINNEAR: And I sort of naively say, `Well, no, they didn't.' He says,
`They didn't show you anything.' And the truth is, you know, where those
cattle are kept and the kill floor themselves are, you know, bloody, tough
conditions, obviously.

DAVIES: This character that you play, Don Anderson, is this executive for
this huge fast-food conglomerate, and he's supposed to--he's new to the
company, and he's looking into potential contamination in the meat, and he is
in some respects a very morally conflicted guy. I mean, he's got a regular
job and a wife who's busy shopping online for sheets, and in some respects, I
found it a little unsatisfying that we kind of don't get quite to the bottom
of either his own moral dilemma or exactly what's going on, and I guess, in
some respects, that's maybe the point here, right, is that there are issues
here without villains?

Mr. KINNEAR: I think so. I mean, I know what you mean. I'm in the movie,
and there's some sense of that that I--that's, you know, tangible that you
feel when you watch it. But, you know, the truth is we want our characters to
stand up and say they're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore.
And wouldn't that be nice if, you know, if Don was going to be that guy, and,
unfortunately, the guy that they've drawn here has car payments and two
children to keep in school and has real obligations, and I think that speaks
to maybe a lot of people who have questions about things that they might want
to do something about or maybe not feel right about but they also have, you
know, real--you know, they live in the real world and they have real
obligations to take care of day in and day out, and so they're willing to kind
of ignore that voice maybe, and I think Don is one of those guys, and we're
not used to seeing that kind of person in our movie characters.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. KINNEAR: I mean, we're looking for Chuck Norris here, and it just isn't
going to happen, and to me, that was what was just interesting about this
particular guy.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. KINNEAR: Hadn't been asked to kind of undergo that sort of challenge
before, and I kind of thought it was a revelation in a way.

DAVIES: If you're just joining me, my guest is actor Greg Kinnear. His new
film is "Fast Food Nation."

Well, Greg Kinnear, you're also starting in "Little Miss Sunshine," which is
this terrific story of this crazy, dysfunctional family in a VW bus taking
their daughter to a beauty pageant. We've got the grandfather, kicked out of
the nursing home for snorting heroin; the teenage boy who's quit talking; your
brother-in-law, the Proust scholar who's recovering from a suicide attempt.
You know, this is one of those films you play, of course, a wannabe self-help
guru who's sort of the patriarch of the family. This is one of those--it
struck me that this is one of those stories that, if I looked at a script of
this, I might think it's just ridiculous and might never work. What did you
think when you saw this story?

Mr. KINNEAR: I thought it was kind of tragic. I mean, certainly there's the
funny stuff in it, and I got the comedic elements, but there was a part of
certainly the character that I was asked to play, Richard Hoover, as you say
is a failing motivational speaker. That's a good place to start from for an
actor, by the way. And just the struggles that he's going through and trying
to kind of hold his family together while he faces ruin. I mean, all that
just seemed really interesting to me, and the fact that we got such a good
cast was just an added bonus.

DAVIES: Well, let's hear a clip from the film. This is one where you're on
your way to--it's Los Angeles, I guess, for the beauty pageant. You're


DAVIES: ...and your wife Toni Collette is there, and you're describing your
hopes for becoming this very successful motivational author and speaker, and
you're talking about the guy who's going to promote your stuff, and you get
into a little thing with your brother-in-law who's in the backseat. He's
played by Steve Carrell...

Mr. KINNEAR: Right.

DAVIES: ...who's this brooding Proust scholar. Let's listen.

(Soundbite from "Little Miss Sunshine")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) So finally I'm just sitting there, and I
decide, you know, this is Stan Grossman, what the hell, and I start pitching
him the nine steps and about--I don't know, two minutes in, he stops me. He
says, `I can sell this.'

Mr. STEVE CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) Mm-hmm. Interesting.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) Yeah, and this is the guy who knows how to
do it, you know. You start with the book and then you do a media tour,
corporate events, DVD/VHS series. I mean, there's a whole fascinating science
into how you roll these things out.

Mr. CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) Wow!

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) Yeah, so he's in Scottsdale right now, you

Mr. CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) Ah!

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) ...building the buzz and kind of getting
the whole pipe thing going on. He's doing what the pros call a `ticking-clock

Mr. CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) Oh, how about that!

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) Yeah, and I can detect that note of sarcasm
there, Frank.

Mr. CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) What sarcasm? I didn't, I didn't hear...

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) But I want you to know something. I feel
sorry for you.

Mr. CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) You do? Good.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) Yeah, I do. Because sarcasm is the refuge
of losers.

Mr. CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) It is? Really?

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) Yep. Sarcasm is losers trying to bring
winners down to their level, and that's step four in the program.

Mr. CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) Wow, Richard, you've really opened my eyes
to what a loser I am! How much do I owe you for those pearls of wisdom?

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) Oh, that one's on the house, buddy.

Mr. CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) It is?

Ms. TONI COLLETTE: (Sheryl Hoover) OK, you guys, that's enough.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Richard Hoover) Yeah, it's on the house. That's on the

Mr. CARRELL: (As brother-in-law) Wow!

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: And that's my guest Greg Kinnear, the motivational speaker there
arguing with his brother-in-law played by Steve Carrell in the new film
"Little Miss Sunshine."

You have all these wacky characters and this terrific cast with Alan Arkin and
Toni Collette and Paul Dano and Steve Carrell, and you, and then kind of a
fulcrum in the middle of it is this 10-year-old actor Abigail Breslin who
plays the seven-year-old Olive. And I know that this was not a big budget
film, and you had a 30-day shooting schedule, I believe.

Mr. KINNEAR: Yeah, 30 days with one day reshoot. So we really made it up
all in a day.

DAVIES: What's it like working with a child actor, who--I mean, did you have
to develop a particularly close relationship with her?

Mr. KINNEAR: You know, I had a good relationship with Abigail immediately.
I think anybody who would meet her would instantly warm to her. I mean, that
comes across on the screen, just that incredible humanity of hers. She is
such a sweet girl and a girl, by the way. You know, the amazing thing is that
her acting is so wonderful. She is such a--you know, a presence on camera
that you kind of lose sight--I mean, there were six of us. We'd be sitting
around talking and, every once in a while, you'd glance over and Abigail would
be, you know, munching down a Twinkie and playing with a yoyo, and you'd be
like, `Oh, my God, that's right! She's nine.' And you would have to remind
yourself because she just doesn't have the presence of a child.

DAVIES: And the other interesting thing in a modest budget film like that is
you did have some action sequences here because one of the funny gags is that
the bus is semicrippled...

Mr. KINNEAR: Yeah.

DAVIES: ...and you kind of have to push-start it every time. What was it
like shooting those sequences?

Mr. KINNEAR: Well, you know, of course, I was--I'm driving...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. KINNEAR: ...this whole rickety 1969 bus, and we're not ever pushing it
because they're heavy and they're hard to push. Note to those who think you
can push your VW bus is it takes more than three people--three or four people.
So I would actually have my foot on the accelerator and just try and get it up
to enough speed to sell the joke that they were pushing it and that it wasn't
being run by a motor, and, of course, the great fear was that I would
accelerate too fast and that the people who had to then all jump on the bus
wouldn't be able to jump on the bus.

We didn't have a big stunt coordinator budget on this movie as you can
imagine, so somebody came up to me and whispered shortly before the first time
we tried this little trick, you know, `We think Abigail can go about three
miles an hour,' so take it easy on the speed.

So it was--more stress in this movie came from not ever acting--I never had a
moment where I was worried about that. It was all about driving, because we
didn't have the budget obviously to shut down freeways, and if you were
driving around LA on a freeway last summer, there's a hell of a good chance
you're in our movie, 'cause we were everywhere, and I was always behind the

DAVIES: My guest is actor Greg Kinnear. His new film is "Fast Food Nation."

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


DAVIES: If you're just joining me, we're speaking with actor Greg Kinnear.
His latest film is "Fast Food Nation."

You know, I know that before you got into film you spent time as a TV
talk-show host, and, of course, you hosted this very successful show in which
you introduced cuts of wild things that were happening on other talk shows
like Jerry Springer. "Talk Soup," I guess it was called.

Mr. KINNEAR: Yeah.

DAVIES: But I was curious about the time that you spent as a talk-show host
and whether you think that experience contributed things to your acting
ability and career, characters that you drew on, a certain presence that you

Mr. KINNEAR: Well, it's hard to say. That was my experience, so I don't
have anything to compare it with. But I--you know, out of college I worked at
kind of a very low-budget cable channel out here. It was E! before it was
even called E! It was called Movie Time and basically went in in front of a
camera every day for about four hours and tried to fill time, and you know,
it's hard to say what experiences, you know, inform, you know, my work now. I
assume everything does to some degree, you know, whether it's some sort of
comfort level early on with a camera. It's an odd thing, you know, obviously
acting isn't--got a craft all to its own, but when you stick a large, you
know, 400-pound camera in front of you while you're trying to do that, it can
be distracting, and maybe somewhere along the way, I got that issue out of the

DAVIES: What made you want to take the leap into acting?

Mr. KINNEAR: Well, you know, I had been kind of a--just as you say, I was
doing "Talk Soup," and a show at--talk show over at NBC, and thank God, I
don't know, Sydney Pollack was really in a pickle. He was casting "Sabrina"
and was looking for Harrison Ford's younger brother and asked me to come in
and audition, and you know, I had studied drama in college...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. KINNEAR: ...and I always had interest in it, but just always followed a
different path and was fine doing what I was doing, but really, it was that
opportunity that let me kind of switch gears, and I didn't switch gears
immediately. For a while I was doing a talk show in the day and being an
actor at night or vice versa, and it was kind of cheating on both careers. So
I ended up, obviously, just pursuing film.

DAVIES: You know one of the other films that's an interesting role for you is
the Farrelly brothers' film, "Stuck on You," where you played conjoined twins
with Matt Damon, which is really actually a sweet movie, but, you know, I
wondered if you had any reservations about taking that role when it could be
seen as being in such terrible taste?

Mr. KINNEAR: Well, I thought that Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly, who I
know, who actually have done a lot on behalf of, you know, handicapped people
and have done a lot to try to put characters in their movies who may have
physical challenges and let them be part of the joke. In other words, not
treat them with kid gloves and not say, you know, it's almost like a reverse
discrimination, where, `OK, well, they're handicapped, so we're not allowed to
have any--they're not allowed to be part of the joke. There's not allowed to
be any humor when dealing with somebody like that.' And I think that that is
an ongoing issue that you can kind of find pieces of in all of their films.
So, you know, I felt like they would treat it properly, and moreover, when I
read the script, you know, the fact that they're--you know, Bob and Walt are
conjoined is really secondary for them. The only people who struggle with
that or have an issue with that are the people who surround them. It has
nothing to do with--you know, with their own, you know, issues of their, you
know, shortcomings because they don't see it as that. They don't see any
challenges. They don't see any difficulties, and I think that that's, you
know, I think that's true of a lot of, you know, people who might have, you
know, any kind of handicap that the issue is in the people around them and
less about them.

DAVIES: The other thing that's interesting about that film from the Greg
Kinnear point of view is in this film, you get to belt out a showtune with a
big band at the end of the song, "Summertime."

Mr. KINNEAR: That's right.

DAVIES: It must have been fun.

Mr. KINNEAR: It was great actually. I'd never recorded anything before, and
I was half--you know, Pete sent me, you know, the Billy--who's that?

DAVIES: The Billy Stewart that did that version.

Mr. KINNEAR: Yeah, the Billy Stewart, right. He sent me the original Billy
Stewart, and he said, you know, `You need to start listening to this,' right
as soon as I signed onto the movie, and I was thinking, `What the hell am I
listening to this for?' And then he sprung it on me that I was going to go
down to somebody's garage and do a recording of it, but the real highlight
was, of course, Meryl Streep agreeing to come on and do the dance number with
me at the end of the movie. It was a very surreal couple of days, and she was
a great sport for playing along.

DAVIES: So, talk show to Oscar nomination now to singing star, maybe.

Mr. KINNEAR: Yeah, my whole CD...(unintelligible)...will be coming out

(Soundbite from Greg Kinnear's song "Summertime")

Mr. KINNEAR: (Singing) "Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr up, chup, chup,
chu, chup, chup, huh! Summertime, huh! And the living is easy. Fish are
jumping, don't you know, my darling, I'll settle right down in the cotton is
high. Like-a like-a like-a your life is richer. And your mama's
good-looking, yeah. So hush, pretty baby, don't you cry. One of these, one
of these, one of these mornings coming, you're going to rise, you're going to
rise up singing. Then you will spread your little wings, your little wings,
and take to the skies. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, until that morning, that
morning, baby, there's nothing going to harm you, no. Hush, pretty little
baby, don't you cry. Shup, don't you cry, no. Pretty darling..."

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: That's Greg Kinnear. He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite from Greg Kinnear's song "Summertime")

Mr. KINNEAR: (Singing) "...fall back from your eyes. So hush, pretty baby,
don't you, uhh, brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr up, chup, chup, chup, huh! Pretty little
baby...(unintelligible)...from your eyes."

(Soundbite of applause)

(End of soundbite)


DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave DAVIES, filling in for Terry Gross.

My guest is actor Greg Kinnear. He was nominated for an Oscar in his role in
"As Good As It Gets." His other films include "Nurse Betty," "Stuck on You,"
and most recently "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Fast Food Nation," a
dramatization of Eric Schlosser's book about the fast-food and meat-packing

Well, I do want to talk about one of your films which is memorable to me.
That's "Auto Focus," directed by Paul Schrader, which is this remarkable story
of Bob Crane, who starred in "Hogan's Heroes" in the late '60s, and his life
essentially unravels with a sexual addiction and this friendship with this
character John Carpenter, no relation to the film director, who was his
partner in scoring women, and Carpenter equipped him with videotaping
equipment to capture his sexual exploits. You were the lead. You played Bob
Crane. Tell us what appealed to you about this role and how you got into the

Mr. KINNEAR: Well, I was very intrigued with the story. I mean, Bob
Crane's, you know, sexual addiction, was something that I was very unfamiliar
with and unaware, as I think a lot of people were. I knew him as Hogan and a
kind of fun-loving presence on television, but the fact that he had that kind
of sort of dual personality, you know, and those kind of underlying demons was
obviously just interesting off the bat. You know, Paul Schrader is a very,
very interesting, you know, American filmmaker, and his direction of that
was--it seemed like a great match, you know, because there were parts of that
script written by Michael Gerbosi, which were very funny, and I got those, you
know--parts were quite clear to me, and then there was a very dark, subversive
side to this relationship between Bob and Carpenter that started kind of fun
and playful but like all things started to move into the area of getting a
little sordid.

DAVIES: One of the many interesting and weird things about the Bob Crane
story is his family's kind of connection to--he is now dead. He was killed in

Mr. KINNEAR: Right.

DAVIES: ...but his son Bob Crane Jr. was a consultant on the film...

Mr. KINNEAR: That's right.

DAVIES: ...and, in fact, has a cameo appearance interviewing somebody.

Mr. KINNEAR: He does. Me.

DAVIES: You. That's right. That would be you. I'm just curious. Did you
talk--I'm sure you must have talked to him about his dad and...

Mr. KINNEAR: Yeah.

DAVIES: did he perceive his dad's sexual addiction and the way it
undid him.

Mr. KINNEAR: Well, he didn't--you know, he became aware of it in his latter
years, and certainly when he was, you know, in high school and college, or,
you know, right out of high school, he started to get a real sense of what a
problem this was, and you know, faced, you know, other kids who were aware of
it. It was pretty much underwraps around Hollywood, but, you know, slowly
started to come out a little bit. But, you know, Robert Crane Jr. he was a
real--you know, he was a real helpful guy, just in terms of giving me some
sense of who exactly his dad was. He had a lot of, you know, old, you know,
tapes, not porn tapes but tapes of his father performing and a few interviews
and things that I thought were very revealing from his early radio days, by
the way. He was a big disc jockey out here in Los Angeles, kind of the Rick
Dees of his time at one point. And he, you know, had that again, that sort of
ability to keep everything snappy and happy and the fact that, you know, these
two people existed in him was pretty amazing, and we needed that kind of
insight along the way, and Robert helped us with that.

DAVIES: Was there anything in those early tapes that you recall that you kind
of fastened on and said, `Wow, this is it! I get him'?

Mr. KINNEAR: Well, you know, Paul Schrader had a recording that he found
between--that Bob and Carpy had made about sexual liaisons with women--I'm
trying to look for the NPR safe way to put this--and they did a recording,
musical recording of a song that they had produced together about their sexual
conquests. It's a song with, like, background singers, and they thought they
were going to maybe, you know, make an album of it or something, and I
thought, it was so strange that--and I think, you know, more than anything, it
spoke to their relationship in their world and in what they were doing at that
time. It had just all become so normal. You know, they weren't doing
anything wrong. I mean Bob says repeatedly in "Auto Focus," you know, `Sex is
normal. I'm a normal guy.' And, of course, that's true. Sex is normal, and
that's the, you know, curious thing about sexual addiction because it's normal
up until the point where you're doing it starts to impede on your, you know,
relationship with your--you know, your family and your children and your job,
and that, of course, you know, it all came tumbling down for him towards the
end, and there were some indications that he was, you know, trying to put his
life back together at the end and had made sort of a split with Carpenter,
which, you know, is possibly some of the suggestion that Carpenter, you know,
was responsible for the murder of Bob, but who knows?

DAVIES: Well, you know, I wanted to play a clip from the film which captures
a moment in Bob Crane's life when he's really come unraveled and his career,
which was really soaring when he did "Hogan's Heroes," had descended to dinner
theater and was now at the point where the best gig he could get was going on
a show called "Celebrity Cooks," and this is you as Bob Crane going on this
cooking show and behaving badly, and I'll note, since it's not clear from the
audio, that at some point in the scene we'll hear him notice a woman in the
first row of the studio audience who has a very low-cut blouse. Let's hear
this cut from "Auto Focus."

(Soundbite from "Auto Focus")

Mr. JOHN KAPELOS: (As Bruno Gerussi) Welcome to "Celebrity Cooks." My name
is Bruno Gerussi.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. KAPELOS: (As Bruno Gerussi) Today we'll be cooking with Colonel Hogan
himself, Mr. Bob Crane.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Bob Crane) Thank you, Bruno. It's a pleasure to be here.

Mr. KAPELOS: (As Bruno Gerussi) Wonderful to see you. Now what has Hogan
been up to?

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Bob Crane) Pretty much the same old thing. I'm still
trying to pull the wool over Klink's eyes...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Bob Crane) ...and trying to get into Hilda's pants.
Actually, I did get into her pants, I married her, but now she's divorcing me

Mr. KAPELOS: (As Bruno Gerussi) Oh.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Bob Crane) ...that's not worked out, but I will be next
month in Long Beach performing a show called "Beginner's Luck."

Mr. KAPELOS: (As Bruno Gerussi) Wonderful. So, Bob, what recipe have you
brought us today.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Bob Crane) It is a pasta dish...

Mr. KAPELOS: (As Bruno Gerussi) Mm-hmm.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Bob Crane) ...with chicken...

Mr. KAPELOS: (As Bruno Gerussi) Mm-hmm.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Bob Crane) ...and fettuccine they tell me. I don't--that's
what they told me to say anyway.

Mr. KAPELOS: (As Bruno Gerussi) It sounds delicious.

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Bob Crane) You got a balloon smuggler here in the audience
today. You got a license to carry those things? Here's a little tip on how
to remove the wrinkles from your face, just take off your bra.

Studio Audience: (In unison) Ahhh!

Unidentified Woman: Oh, what?

Mr. KAPELOS: (As Bruno Gerussi) Oh!

Mr. KINNEAR: (As Bob Crane) Sh-sh-sh-sh. Calm down. Boo. Calm down.
They'll cut all this stuff out. They edit it, and they take all this stuff

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: That's my guest Greg Kinnear playing Bob Crane in the film "Auto

Do you know if that scene was based on a real incident?

Mr. KINNEAR: It is. There was a cooking show up in Canada. It was a live
broadcast, and there is--or, at least, Paul Schrader was not able to locate
the tape of it, but it was a pretty talked-about incident that people were
aware of where Bob had gone on to the cooking show and just, you know, there
was an indication in his presence there that he was starting to maybe lose his
way a little bit, and, of course, that was the beginning of a lot of things in
his life.

DAVIES: You are working a lot. I mean, you've got three movies out this
year, I think, and I know that you've just had your second child.
Congratulations on that! You know...

Mr. KINNEAR: Thank you.

DAVIES: I mean, I know from having kids myself what a wonderful time it is to
have toddlers at home. Do you think about slowing down or how you're going to
manage a busy acting career and a family?

Mr. KINNEAR: Well, I have slown down. You know, it's a funny thing about
movies is, you know, at times when you're not busy at all, people will come up
to you and say, `You are so busy.' Not really, you know, figuring on the math,
which is...

DAVIES: You were busy a year ago.

Mr. KINNEAR: A year ago, you couldn't stop me, a year ago. This year I
worked for a few months with Robert Benton up in Portland on a movie, but
aside from that, I have a five-month-old daughter and a three-year-old, and
we've had plenty of time this year. I think they're all--the girls and my
wife, they're ready to get daddy out of the house again, because the truth is
I really haven't done that much this year. You know, and it's kind of the
great luxury of films is, obviously, when--you know, when you're away and
you're working, you are all of that, but when you're not, you know, you really
get the benefit of getting to spend some time with your family, and that's
been the case this year.

DAVIES: Well, Greg Kinnear, we're happy you were able to find some time for
us. Thanks a lot.

Mr. KINNEAR: Thank you for having me.

DAVIES: Greg Kinnear starred recently in "Little Miss Sunshine." His latest
film is "Fast Food Nation."

Coming up, what you need to know about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey and how
it works.

This is FRESH AIR.


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

Interview: Culinary expert Shirley Corriher, author of "Cookwise:
The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking," gives tips on how to
cook a juicy turkey, sweet potato dish and gravy

In case it's sneaked up on you, Thanksgiving is just a week away. Some of us
are panicking, so we thought we could turn to Shirley Corriher for some
cooking advice. Not only can she give you recipes for a great Thanksgiving
dinner, she can explain the science and chemistry behind the techniques.
Corriher is the cook many restaurant and test kitchen chefs call to explain
why a recipe is failing and how to fix it. She's a former biochemist and a
contributing editor of Fine Cooking magazine. Her book, "Cookwise: The Hows
and Whys of Successful Cooking," won the 1998 James Beard Award for Food
Reference & Techniques. She also has a new DVD called "Kitchen Secrets
Revealed," which is available through her Web site,

Terry Gross spoke with her after "Cookwise" was published. She asked Corriher
to explain some of the principles that will help us make a better turkey.

Ms. SHIRLEY CORRIHER: Well, my absolutely favorite thing to do with turkeys
and with large roasting hens, and I've even done it with shrimp, is to soak
them in brine. Now this is what I do, say, with the large hen, I would use,
like, a full cup of salt. Now with a turkey, the smaller turkeys, I'd go with
a cup and a half of salt and put them in a large container that I could cover
it with ice water and keep it in the refrigerator overnight. Then before you
roast the turkey, you want to rinse it very well. Get all the surface salt
off. And it is astonishing how much juicier turkeys are prepared in this way.
And they've weighed birds, you know, before and after brining, and they gain
weight significantly, and you can certainly see it in the incredible


Now what principles determine how long to cook a turkey and what temperature
to roast it at?

Ms. CORRIHER: Well, now, I think anybody you ask is going to have a
different answer on this, and I'd certainly advise people if they have a
system that has worked, stick with it. Some things to remember. The leg and
thigh meat has to be cooked to a higher temperature than the breast, and this
is a real problem. Those legs and thighs actually taste metallic and slimy if
they're not cooked over 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Then the breast, on the other
hand, which is the broad expanse that gets the most heat usually, that starts
drying out anywhere from 155 up. It's getting drier and losing more moisture.
So what I try to do is arrange it in the pan so that I can actually move the
whole pan and the bird over to one wall so that that hot wall--so that it's
near the hot wall of the oven to get that leg and thigh cooked well, and then
I divide the time and then I push it over to the other wall, so the other leg
and thigh get some extra heat on the cooking time.

I think everybody's oven varies dramatically, and it's just impossible to, you
know, give correct times, I believe, and temperatures. We can talk a little
bit about temperatures. I like to start at a very high temperature and then
turn the oven down for slower cooking. I want to get the outside hot, you
know, get things really going and then turn it down so that it cooks more
slowly to stay juicy and tender inside, so I would say, I would actually start
a bird maybe 450, 475, and if the bird's not too big, I start it breast down
and then do this to both sides and then flip it over.

GROSS: You are an advocate of a good thermometer. How do you use the
thermometer when you're roasting a turkey.

Ms. CORRIHER: Well, you want to try to be careful not to touch bone so I
like to either insert it once in the thigh and try to get into the fleshy area
and go down so that, you know, at least an inch or so of the thermometer shaft
is into bird, and now this is with one of the little instant reads. Some
people--and now on the breast, I insert it there also, so I like to check both
places. Check the temperature of the leg and thigh and check the temperature
on the breast. Now the big fat-based thermometers go into the bird, and I
would say they would have to go into the breast portion of the bird and can
remain in during the whole cooking time. The important thing to remember is
that that temperature is going to increase after you take the bird out of the
oven so be sure to get the bird out before it reaches your maximum

GROSS: Wait. Wait. Why is the temperature going to increase after you take
it out of the hot oven?

Ms. CORRIHER: Because, see, the outside of that bird is superhot and that
heat is still being conducted from layer to layer to layer inward, and a big
turkey could increase easily 10 degrees after it comes out of the oven. So
you want to be sure to get it out 10 degrees before you really want it.

GROSS: What temperature do you look for?

Ms. CORRIHER: Now, the FDA absolutely insists on 180 degrees. So this would
mean get it out at 170. I think the breast is way too dry with that, and I'm
willing to take my risk personally to go, you know, a little lower on that. I
hate to cook a turkey breast over 160.

GROSS: And you've never been sued by your guests.

Ms. CORRIHER: They've all survived, thank goodness, Terry.

GROSS: They've all survived. OK.

My guest is Shirley Corriher, and she is a cook, a food writer and an expert
on the science of cooking.

Now, for people who want to make, say, an interesting potato dish...


GROSS: ...for Thanksgiving, what would you recommend?

Ms. CORRIHER: Well, my grandmother's old-fashioned grated sweet potato
pudding is sensational. It's totally different from any of the modern sweet
potato dishes. You grate the sweet potatoes raw, and actually what you do,
you can do it in a processor just with the chopping knife and chop it with
quick on/offs until the pieces are small like rice, and you stir these raw,
chopped sweet potatoes with a cup of brown sugar and a cup of half and half or
cream. My grandmother used, you know, her whole milk on the farm. And two
teaspoons of dry ginger and I think a little salt, and if my memory--oh, a
tablespoon of cornmeal and one egg, and stir this together and bake. It's a
deep brown and a very unusual texture. But it's a truly old, old dish. I
know, some of my students make it every year for Christmas and Thanksgiving,
and one took a big plate over to a nearby nursing home, and she said one of
the little ladies who was in her 90s, when she started eating it, that tears
rolled down her cheeks. She said, `You know, I haven't had this dish since I
was a little girl.'

Another great family tip I'd love to pass on...

GROSS: Please. Yeah.

Ms. CORRIHER: mother made the best gravy imaginable.

GROSS: Yes. I should ask you about gravy. Go ahead.

Ms. CORRIHER: Well, I watched her and I thought I knew exactly how she did
it, but what I missed all these years was that she would take out one or two
cups of the raw dressing mix, you know, before when she mixed it up and put it
in the pan, she would save one or two cups and add that to the gravy to
thicken it, and it was marvelous. It--you know, you don't realize it's there,
but the gravy has then all the wonderful flavors and, you know, sage, and
herbs and onions and celery that you had in the dressing you know are in
there, and it's just a wonderful touch.

GROSS: So when you say that your mother added dressing to the gravy, she
would add some of the stuffing to the gravy?

Ms. CORRIHER: Yes, the raw stuffing before it's baked...

GROSS: The raw stuffing.

Ms. CORRIHER: The raw stuffing, which, you know, is composed of the bread
crumbs and herbs and onion and celery. So she would put that raw stuffing
into the drippings or the gravy, and it would thicken so much nicer than just
cornstarch or flour alone.

GROSS: Well, I want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

Ms. CORRIHER: Thank you, and I certainly wish everyone good luck with their
turkeys and cakes and pies.

DAVIES: Shirley Corriher's book is "Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of
Successful Cooking."

Coming up, Geoff Nunberg on the meaning of political labels.

This is FRESH AIR.

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

Interview: Linguist Geoff Nunberg talks about political labels

The election results didn't just reshuffle the Congress, they also got people
debating the meaning of labels used to map out the political spectrum. Our
linguist Geoff Nunberg has been thinking about what's in a label.

Mr. GEOFF NUNBERG: If you ever find yourself desperate for a conversation
starter, you might drop the observation that the word label is related to lap,
which was originally a piece of cloth that hangs down at the bottom of a
garment. A little part of that meaning survives in the way that we talk about
political labels, with the implication that they're merely tags tacked on to
things for convenience. We don't ordinarily say that "duck" is a label for a
kind of waterfowl. Duck is just a name, whereas calling a word a label
implies that it distorts or oversimplifies the category that it's attached to.
You hear people say, `I don't believe in labels,' but nobody ever says, `I
don't believe in names.' Even so, we can't help imputing a reality to labels.
Putting the Porsche name on a pair of sunglasses can invest them with the same
panache we associate with the cars, even if we know perfectly well that the
two have nothing in common. That's the principle that leads everybody to
claim a political label when it's riding high in the saddle.

At the heyday of liberalism in the 1950s and 1960s, everybody was happy to
wear the label, from Stevenson to Eisenhower to the Dixiecrats. And nobody
was too interested in debating its essence. As the critic Lionel Trilling
wrote, `Liberalism was merely a tendency, not a body of doctrine.' That began
to change in the '70s and '80s, as a combination of liberal missteps and
conservative attacks drove the liberal label from center stage. Politicians
who had once proudly owned up to the label began to flee from it. Old tribal
differences no longer seemed important. People stopped distinguishing between
progressive liberals, moderate liberals, practical liberals, northern
liberals, traditional liberals and New Deal liberals. Now the label was
reduced to a small band of die-hards clinging to the edges of the political

Since then, of course, it's the conservative label that has swollen to contain
multitudes. Particularly as the ideological polls were redefined to add
social issues that nobody had much cared about when the liberal-conservative
opposition first emerged in the New Deal era. A recent Harris poll showed
that Americans are much more likely to identify people as being liberal or
conservative according to their views on abortion or gay rights than on
whether they want to cut taxes. That's why the media invariably describe
anti-abortion or pro-gun Democrats like James Webb, Jon Tester or Bob Casey as
conservatives, even if they actually campaign on the kind of economic populism
that defined liberalism 50 years ago. In fact, the label `social liberal' is
regarded as almost a redundancy these days as if it went without saying.

Fifteen or 20 years ago, the phrase was as frequent as `social conservative'
in the media. Now it's outnumbered by social conservative by almost 20-to-1.
The mark of a successful label is that we feel the need to make distinctions
and qualifications among the many groups that are laying claim to it.
Nowadays, it's the conservative label that attracts a clutch of modifiers:
social, economic, small government, fiscal libertarianism, traditional neo and
paleo. But the big tent conservative label began to fray as the
administration's poll ratings declined precipitously, and since the elections,
it appears to be coming apart at the seams.

True, everybody on the right wants to claim that the voters didn't repudiate
true conservativism. The Republicans would still be in power if they'd only
been faithful to core conservative principles. But each constituency has a
different idea of what those core principles are and how they were betrayed.
For James Dobson of Focus on the Family, the Republicans' downfall was their
failure to do more to preserve moral values. For Dick Armey, it was the
refusal to hold the line on spending. And for William F. Buckley, it was a
failed Iraq adventure that signaled the absence of an effective conservative
ideology, as he put it.

Whenever you hear somebody talking about true conservatism or genuine
liberalism, you can be sure the argument has more to do with labels than
ideas. There's a fear on the right that the voters' dissatisfaction with
Republicans may translate into disenchantment with the conservative label
itself, just as the liberal label was tarnished by its association with
Vietnam and the civil rights backlash. The immediate reaction is for each of
the conservative constituencies to claim the right to sole use of the label
and discredit all the pretenders who have been wearing it improperly.

In the next election, it's a safe bet that people who call themselves
conservatives will be doing a lot more explaining and qualifying than they did
the last time around. True, the conservative label is still a very long way
from disintegrating the way the liberal label did after Vietnam. The right
doesn't really have to worry seriously until Republicans start saying things
like, `I don't believe in labels,' always a sign that a label is becoming more
an inconvenience than a convenience. The beauty of a label is that it smooths
over the corrugations of the world to create an impression of common purpose.
But that's also why it can become an embarrassment when it comes to
apportioning blame. At that point, people are just as happy to drop it in
somebody else's lap.

DAVIES: Geoff Nunberg is a linguist who teaches at the School of Information
at the University of California at Berkeley.


DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(Soundbite of music)
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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