Skip to main content

Griffin Dunne: Reflections On His Father, Dominick.

The actor and director shares memories and discusses the work of his late father, journalist and novelist Dominick Dunne, who became famous for covering the lives and trials of celebrities. He died in August 2009 at age 83.

This interview was originally broadcast on December 15, 2009.

45:08

Other segments from the episode on June 18, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 18, 2010: Interview with Griffin Dunne; Review of the film "Toy Story 3."

Transcript

*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20100618
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
Griffin Dunne: Reflections On His Father, Dominick

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli of tvworthwatching.com, sitting
in for Terry Gross.

Father's Day is this Sunday, and in honor of that, we're going to replay
one of our favorite interviews about a son and his father. You probably
know them both by name but may not have known they were related.

The son and our guest today is actor and director Griffin Dunne, best
known as the star of Martin Scorsese's cult comedy classic, "After
Hours." Griffin's father, who died last August at age 83, was Dominick
Dunne, who was famous for writing about the famous.

He wrote novels about the rich and famous and covered real celebrities
and high-profile murder trials for Vanity Fair, including the trials of
O.J. Simpson and Phil Spector.

Murder trials became his obsession after his daughter, the actress
Dominique Dunne, died after being strangled by her ex-boyfriend in 1982.
She played the oldest daughter in the film "Poltergeist." Dominick
Dunne's final novel, "Too Much Money," was published posthumously last
fall. That was the occasion for Griffin Dunne's visit to FRESH AIR and
his conversation with Terry, about four months after his father died.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Griffin Dunne, welcome to FRESH AIR. And I'm very sorry about your
father and glad for the opportunity to talk with you about him.

Mr. GRIFFIN DUNNE (Actor, Director, Producer): Yeah. Me, too.

GROSS: Did you usually read your father's novels?

Mr. DUNNE: From the - you know, his first one, from - he has always, you
know, printed it out and given me the, you know, the loose-leaf pages of
every single one, and you know, I have given him some real bum advice.

GROSS: Really?

Mr. DUNNE: Oh yeah because, you know, his - as a reader, it's his - his
journalism is something that's - you know, as a reader I'm just more
sort of taken with, and his novels are, particularly "Two Mrs.
Grenvilles" and some afterwards, I remember reading "People Like Us,"
and Tom Wolfe's book had just come out, and I said, Dad, oh my God, this
is in the same terrain, and they're going to, you know, criticize you,
and it's going to be - and you're taking on these people, and it's -
everything I said couldn't have been more wrong. It was his biggest
seller, and I worried him about nothing.

So nonetheless, he still gave me his books and with always a reminder
like, boy, you sure called it wrong on "People Like Us." What do you
think of this one?

GROSS: One of the things that newspapers have picked up on in your
father's novel "Too Much Money" is that the character in the novel
admits that he's closeted, and he's been celibate for almost 20 years,
and he says: Can't die with a secret, I'm nervous about the kids, even
though they're middle-aged now; not that they don't already know, I just
never talk about it.

And earlier this year he described himself in an interview for the Times
of London. He said: I call myself a closeted, bisexual celibate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: That's a great phrase.

GROSS: Yeah. So that was not a revelation to you?

Mr. DUNNE: No, it was not, but it certainly was never a conversation, a
family conversation, either. I mean, it was, you know, I would say
closeted, celibate. He was as closeted in his heterosexuality, his
bisexuality and - what am I missing there - celibacy. The conversation
itself was closeted.

It wasn't the elephant in the room. It wasn't - quite honestly, you
know, once you're - I think I guess it might have been - you know, all
of us sort of were aware of it, but I think it - you know, you get to a
certain age where you don't particularly want to have the conversation
anyway.

It's never been - but I was very, I was very kind of touched, and I
certainly have never seen him mention, you know, reference his sexuality
before, and it kind of put a smile on my face because I thought it's so
typical of him to come out and then leave.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: So - and here I am, you know...

GROSS: Answering the question.

Mr. DUNNE: Being asked and answering the question. It's just perfect.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Well, he says, you know, I'm nervous about the kids, even though
they're middle-aged men now. Did he have reason to be nervous about
revealing this as far as you were concerned?

Mr. DUNNE: No, of course not, no. You know, we always just sort of left
it in his court, if he was going to talk about it or not, and you know,
he's - you know, it's something that we, the siblings, would talk about
but never with him. I don't know. I don't feel a great loss in that
aspect either way.

GROSS: So when you say you knew, was is because you could just tell or
because...?

Mr. DUNNE: I think, I think you kind of like get a vibe. He'd have - he
had a great friend who was also a great friend of my sister's, and I
noticed that the - you know, when my sister was killed that the
friendship continued, that he just sort of went from being my sister's
best friend to my father's best friend.

Years and years later, when dad was dying in Germany - well, he got an
infection, I went to Germany to get him and bring him back to where he
lived, you know, for another month or so - there was the friend who we
hadn't seen.

I don't think he'd mind me mentioning his name, but I haven't talked to
him, so I won't. But obviously a - when I arrived in Germany, there was
Norman(ph). I'll just say his name. He'd be fine.

There was Norman, and I saw this incredibly close friendship. I think it
had long since been celibate, I assume, but here he was, the only person
that dad felt comfortable enough asking him to come to this clinic to
look after him. It was a stem-cell clinic, and you had to go with
someone. They wouldn't allow you to be a patient unaccompanied.

So he called Norman, and Norman went there, and he was there looking
after him, and I saw the - I saw this history. I saw how long, what
affection, and you know, real history between these two men, and it was
kind of for me like, for the week I was there it was like getting to
know a brother I never - a stepbrother I had never met.

You know, even though I'd known Norman off and on over the years, this
was real quality time that the three of us were having, and, you know, I
was really - it's one of the real kind of touching, grateful memories I
have of dad's last months.

GROSS: So you're saying at one point you think Norman and your father
had been lovers?

Mr. DUNNE: Absolutely, oh yeah, sure.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Griffin Dunne. He's an
actor, writer, producer, director, and his father is the late Dominick
Dunne, who died in August, and posthumously published is Dominick
Dunne's new novel "Too Much Money." So we're using this as an
opportunity to talk to Griffin Dunne about his father.

You gave a beautiful eulogy for your father, which was actually
published on The Daily Beast, and in that eulogy you talked about how
your father used to go to funerals, years ago, years ago, used to go to
funerals of mobsters and movie stars, and this was long before your
father was famous.

Mr. DUNNE: Absolutely.

GROSS: Why would he go to those funerals, and how would he get in?

Mr. DUNNE: Well, he was of course fascinated from such an early age by
celebrity, by notoriety, by crimes. You know, they had - you know, he
was of the generation of, you know, as a little boy it must have been
the Lindbergh kidnapping to - you know, then the Black Dahlia. And so
crime and of course movie stars and fan magazines were a huge part of
his life.

So when he moved to New York, it was really just by sheer geography that
he lived a block or so away from Campbell Brothers Funeral Home, which
is, you know, where - the place to be seen, open casket.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: That you be buried. And of course, you know, everyone from
Valentino to, I think Mar - not Marilyn, but you know, pretty - you get
the idea, and of course the famous mobsters - that was the go-to place.

And so when there is a viewing, particularly in those days, they didn't
have, you know, velvet ropes or guest lists. You could - they didn't
presume you knew the person or didn't know the person. You could just
wander in and go into their main viewing room and get in line and have a
peek at Vinnie the Chin or, you know, there was one with - I think he
went to - oh God, he went to so many of them.

They weren't all just movie stars too. Sometimes they were - Clifton
Webb was one. You know, he was a great actor, died somewhat obscurely,
and there was hardly anybody there. And the people that were there were
very grateful that dad and his great friend, Mark Crawley(ph), were.
Even though they didn't know him, they were grateful for the company.

So you know, it was the beginning of his fascination with - well, I
think it was the beginning of him kind of finding his voice, whether he
knew it or not, of how that would, how he could use all the kind of
ridiculous voyeurism and actually find a voice as a writer.

BIANCULLI: Actor, director and producer Griffin Dunne, speaking to Terry
Gross last December. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2009 interview with actor, director
and producer Griffin Dunne, which we're replaying for Father's Day. He's
talking about his own father, author and journalist Dominick Dunne, who
died last August.

GROSS: Your father wrote about celebrities, he covered their trials,
invited them to his parties, went to their parties. Being around
celebrity was always important to him. Do you understand why it was?

Mr. DUNNE: Yeah, I mean, I understand that it was a part of him that,
you know, was kind of - was really rooted in having a father who would
not - his own father, who would not acknowledge him, who, you know, he
was of four brothers and three sisters, and he was the outcast.

He was the one that, you know, really did look at these fan magazines
and, you know, was not interested in sports, and I think he had a real
strong dream life of, you know, going to the movies and, you know,
imagining himself there.

I think it's not a particularly untypical story of why so many people
move to Hollywood and become - or New York and become, you know, fame-
obsessed in a way, and I think he's one of those stories of, like - his
family couldn't give him the security and glamour.

He always wanted to be somewhere else, and it was on that screen. It
was, you know, with those people and going to those parties and smoking
those cigarettes and, you know, drinking those drinks and being at the
Stork Club or wherever it is.

He - I think he thought about that a lot, and those kind of - you know,
those kind of, that kind of drive and imagination will eventually lead
you right to the Stork Club.

GROSS: You say he was an outcast in his own family when he was growing
up. He said that his father used to call him a sissy and beat him.

Mr. DUNNE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He's always said. My Uncle John(ph), who's
younger than him, doesn't have a memory of that, just to show you how
different their relationships were, but he would - Dad would tell a
story about - my grandfather was a doctor. He died before I was born.

And he used to tell me the story of his father beating Nick with a belt
and getting a phone call - you know, back in those days the phone was
out in the hallway, and getting a phone call with the housekeeper saying
Dr. Dunne, you're wanted on the phone, it's the hospital. And he's
beating Dad, and he says hang on one sec.

And he goes and takes the call, speaks to - uh-huh, no, give him two CCs
- gives some medical advice, instructions, on the phone to the hospital,
hangs up the phone and then picks up the belt and goes right back on
beating him.

So it was like a - you know, that would have been a pretty traumatic
thing for a kid, but it was - it just seemed to be his relationship,
very particular with just him, you know, him and his father. And I've
always thought that had something - so much to do with him picking his
fights with - you know, taking on the bullies.

GROSS: So since your father wanted to be around famous people and be -
you know, get to the Stork Club, when he actually was around famous
people and made his living from writing about those famous people and
became famous himself, did he feel differently about fame when he became
the object of it?

Mr. DUNNE: Well, one, there wasn't a day in his life where he could not
get over how famous he was. It just was like - that he was famous, that
he was recognized, that he was recognized by a cab driver. He'd go -
he'd literally - I mean, 20 years later he'd go: You're not going to
believe that this cab driver knew who I was. Really? You're that amazed
by that?

He goes, I just - I can't believe it. Not a day goes by, Griffin. I
cannot believe that I'm famous. I can't believe it.

So it brought him - this is open enthusiasm, guileless, just joy. He
loved it, and I used to keep a voicemail on my cell phone from a call.
He used to leave incredibly long voicemails, and he called me from the
chateau once, and he'd go: Griffin, you're not going to believe this. I
just took an elevator up with Bono. Do you know that Bono knows who I
am? I can't believe my life. I can't believe my life. I just love it. I
can't believe it. Bono, he knows who I am.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: It just put such a smile on my face every time. I just used
to listen to it, you know? And it would just crack me up.

GROSS: That's really great. Obviously, he didn't know really well who
Bono...

Mr. DUNNE: He didn't quite know. He knew the spelling. He knew how to
spell Bono, but...

GROSS: So what did fame and celebrity mean to you growing up because you
were surrounded by it, off and on, through your father?

Mr. DUNNE: Yeah, and you know, and it sort of carries on. I grew up in
Los Angeles and in New York, and I ended up in the entertainment
business. But my relationship to celebrity when I was young, in terms of
Dad, because before the, you know, I-can't-believe-how-great-my-life-is
chapter, before then it was the - in the '60s, when I was growing up,
where he was obsessed with getting the acceptance of celebrity and
giving, you know, dinner parties just about every night, and his
priorities were really to get - here, it was confounding to me, to this
day still.

He was a television executive but would give parties for the greatest
filmmakers and producers and actors of the '40s, '50s and '60s, and I
mean, the people that were there, you know, as I became, you know, a
film buff later on, I still can't get over the roster of directors and -
that were in his house.

But at the time, I was just a kid who, we would actually be bundled up
in, you know, our bathrobe and pajamas and checked into a hotel if it
was going to be a particularly rowdy party.

GROSS: What do you mean by rowdy?

Mr. DUNNE: Well, you know, these - this was, you know, they partied.
There was like, you know, there was drinking and dancing until dawn, and
they'd go home and shower and then, you know, go to the studio the next
day with a hangover.

And so it was a - you know, we would have - their parties were real -
real affairs, real, like lots of drinking and, you know, people - people
really let loose.

You know, dad used to document these photos, and you'd see these
incredible encounters that he would have. I don't know why - nobody
seemed to bother that - were bothered that he had a camera, and he would
take pictures of, like, fights and tears and then raucous, uproarious
laughter, and it looked like a lot of fun.

And they would all get dressed up. I mean, in those days people put on
tuxedos, you know, three nights a week and hired, you know, orchestras
to play in their living room and stuff. So you know, it was a swinging
time.

But he was such, at such a - at the mercy of these people he was
entertaining. It was almost like if he couldn't - they weren't real
unless, you know, they liked him and came to his house.

And then, you know, when it all went wrong for him financially and his
marriage falling apart, all those people who ate all the food and drank
the booze, they turned out to not be his friends, and he was just - he
was a great venue for a great party, and he had great taste, and they
were, you know, beautifully decorated, these parties, but as far as
having real relationships with these people, these legends, they were
pretty shallow at the end of the day, and everyone left him, and he was
totally broke.

GROSS: Now, I read that your father was the stage manager early in his
career of "The Howdy Doody Show"?

Mr. DUNNE: Yeah.

GROSS: Did that mean a lot to you? Were...

Mr. DUNNE: Well, Howdy was before my time.

GROSS: It was before your time, okay.

Mr. DUNNE: But I certainly grew up knowing who he was, and he used to
tell great stories, though, about what they would do before the show, on
"The Howdy Doody Show," you know, with the crew, of all the incredibly
filthy things they would make Howdy do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: They would just cry with laughter at, you know, the
compromising positions they'd do right before - right up to the 10,
nine, eight - before the...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: So I have a different image of Howdy.

GROSS: That's really funny.

BIANCULLI: Wow, actor, director and producer Griffin Dunne, speaking to
Terry Gross last year. We'll hear more of their conversation about his
father, the late author and journalist Dominick Dunne, in the second
half of the show. I am David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I’m David Bianculli in for Terry Gross.

In honor of Father's Day, we're replaying Terry's 2009 interview with
the actor, director and producer Griffin Dunne about his father Dominick
Dunne, who died last August at the age of 83.

Dominick Dunne wrote novels about the rich and famous and covered high
society and celebrity murder trials for Vanity Fair. His final novel
called "Too Much Money," was published posthumously and comes out in
paperback this fall.

When Dominick Dunne died, Griffin Dunne gave a funny and moving eulogy
for him.

GROSS: You write that your father was a man of exquisite taste who
produced art and directed his life, but the storyline lacked the
substance that your mother craved. And they were married for how many
years before she left him?

Mr. DUNNE: Actually, 10. Only 10. About, yeah.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. So when you say that his storyline lacked the substance
that your mother craved, what do you mean?

Mr. DUNNE: Well, because he really, you know, he'd be the first to say
this, you know, he became quite evolved out of this period. He was a
very superficial guy. He really needed those parties and who said what
about him and the acceptance. He would literally iron the invitations
that he received to other people's parties and events into a scrapbook.

He wanted to live every moment as it was happening. Getting the
acceptance of, you know, Selznick or someone like that was - that he
went to this party; it's all he could talk about. And mom was like okay,
what is there? And, you know, she didn't want to go - they went out like
five nights a week. And I think mom just got sick of being dragged
around. You know, she had health problems and, you know, dad was
extremely driven.

He really thought this was really important. It was a high, high
priority, I think, more than - I don't say this as a whiny kid, I think
- but more than family. It was, you know, he really, he's the first to
say, you know, about those days, he really lost his way.

He lost and it cost him his marriage. It was never a moment he doubted
how much he loved my mother, and I think one of the great, great regrets
of his life is that the marriage fell apart. And the marriage fell apart
because of, you know, his character at this time. It wasn't substantial
enough.

GROSS: Who did you stay with when they separated?

Mr. DUNNE: Oh, my mother.

GROSS: Your mother?

Mr. DUNNE: My mother. Yeah, and, you know, we had a funny - and not ha-
ha funny, but reaction to when we were told about the divorce. Dad, you
know, they'd obviously made the plan and we were all like oh, I guess I
was like nine and seven and my sister was five, and - my brother was
seven. And they obviously planned, you know, let's not be hysterical
when we say this. And we were seated on a couch, and dad said your
mother and I have decided, she wants to divorce me. And he totally
changed the game plan. And I remember, as a kid, looking at my mom just
rolling her eyes going oh god. And he was devastated, you know, crying
of course, and, you know, and he really could never get her back. And it
wasn't until mom became sick...

GROSS: She had MS.

Mr. DUNNE: She had MS. Yes, and was wheelchair bound. And well, really,
you know, when I guess when my sister was killed is really when they got
back in each others lives and they really banded together. And he was
with her, you know, dad spent Christmases and Thanksgivings with us when
my mother moved to Nogales, Arizona, and he became, you know, in our
lives as a father, as a well, divorced, but as still the husband to my
mom, you know, right up to the end from that moment he was by here side.
And I think it took her a while to get use to, quite honestly.

But he was the one that could talk to her when she was really sick. You
know, she was very, she was now, by that point, you know, in bed and the
disease had given her a - it was difficult for her to talk. She could
listen but it kind of left it being a one-sided conversation. Dad loved
that. He could talk and reminisce with her and, you know, do you
remember the Starks and how we went to that house? Well, you know they
got rid of that house. Now they're moved over -and he would just go on
and on and she just loved listening to him. It was really poignant to
see them.

GROSS: After your mother left your father, he went through a period
where he had kind of spiraled downwards and then I think he was like
drinking and having problems. He...

Mr. DUNNE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...and it got to the point where he had to sell everything. He
even sold his dog.

Mr. DUNNE: Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: And then he moved to New York and ended up living around the
corner from you. You talk about this a little in the eulogy that you
gave for him.

Mr. DUNNE: Yeah.

GROSS: He ended up living around the corner from you, in this, like,
little Manhattan apartment that had a window that overlooked the
airshaft, which was not exactly like the celebrity life he was dreaming
of. But talk about what your relationship with him was like then.

Mr. DUNNE: Well, it was sort of my favorite period. I mean, it was a,
you know, he did indeed sell all of his stuff, and Norman and my sister
helped him, you know, tag it. It was literally a yard sale. And this is
a man who loved his objects, and that's also what I meant in the eulogy
about art directing his life. He knows the providence of everything he
owns. And so it must've been incredibly painful for him to sell these,
you know, everything from fireplace banisters to, you know, incredible
objects. And so then he moved to Oregon to write. He sort of, his car
sort of broke down there.

But when, and it was in there in this cabin that he forced himself to
write. He had no phone. There was no way to reach him, and every, all
the correspondence was by letters. And my letters that I would receive
from him, by this time I had moved to New York and was starting out as
an actor. The letters would, you know, start off at five pages, and then
a week later they go to 10, and then sometimes there'd be 20 single-
spaced letters - page letters. And I realized that he was using them as
like a workshop to write, to find his voice.

And so when he came to New York, it was - he'd been by this time maybe a
year or two sober, and he'd been attending meetings, you know, one a day
and kind of fine-tuning his material in the rooms, actually. And so when
he came to New York and lived around the corner from me in the Village,
you know, we would have lunch, get together somewhere in the
neighborhood.

And, you know, I was one of those kids who moved to New York and be in
the Village and where James Dean was and, you know, I loved all these,
you know, kind of the street figures and I kind of wanted to have a
Damon Runyon-esque kind of relationship with the people on the streets,
which never quite happened, but, you know, "The Boxer" was like my kind
of image - so I'd come in New York.

Well then, all of a sudden Dad moves here and we're sitting outside, you
know, a cafe or something and all these street people I've always seen
in the neighborhood would all go hey Nick. You know these Bukowski look-
alikes and, you know, crossdressers in hair nets, they'd all come up and
say hi to him. And I go, how do you know these people? And he'd go; I
know them from the rooms. And he was a star attraction in the AA
meetings. And...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: ...it was like I just loved him.

BIANCULLI: Actor, director and producer, Griffin Dunne speaking to Terry
Gross last December.

More after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2009 interview with actor, director
and producer, Griffin Dunne, which we're replaying for Father's Day.
He's talking about his own father, author and journalist Dominick Dunne
who died last August.

GROSS: A turning point in the life of your father and in the life of
your whole family was the murder of your 22-year-old sister Dominique by
her, I guess, ex-boyfriend who wanted to continue being her boyfriend.
He strangled her to the point where she was basically brain dead, and
then the family had to decide, you know, whether to pull the plug and
they decided to go ahead and do that. And then there was a long trial.
Well, I don't know if it was long, but there was a trial afterwards. And
it seems that like that was a complete turning point in your father's
life, like personally, professionally, emotionally - in every imaginable
way.

Mr. DUNNE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it was. It was, you know, it was - he was
told by Tina Brown, who he'd just met before leaving for California for
the trial, which was a about a three and a half month trial. He...

GROSS: And this is Tina Brown right before she became the editor of
Vanity Fair.

Mr. DUNNE: Exactly. I think she had just - maybe it was the same week. I
mean literally she - and she had only just hired Marie Brenner and it
couldn't have been newer. I don't think she'd published an issue yet.
Anyway, she'd suggested to dad that he keep a journal of this experience
and indeed he did. And ended up, you know, writing about the trial that
just nobody could've conveyed it -the outrage and the injustice and just
how - what a travesty that whole experience was than, dad did. And he
wrote this probably as, you know, as far as - if you can put a critical
thing on it - probably his greatest piece.

GROSS: The man who killed your sister was convicted of manslaughter and
given only 20 - only two and a half years, which I know your father
considered a grave injustice. He was really angry. And one of the things
- describe what happened when the judge said at the end - you know.

Mr. DUNNE: Well, first of all, two and a half years - I'm really my -
helping like, I am my father's son, because I've this like the kind of
stuff I actually don't - but I feel compelled to sort of continue for
him about this, and because this was such a tough time. But he - this
two and a half years was really - it was arrived at because this judge,
his name is Judge Katz and his career gratefully was ruined as a result
of this, because of what Dad wrote about him.

But this man threw out - sent away the jury while people were testifying
- women were testifying - about his previous history of violence against
women, which by the way, my sister was completely unaware of. And they
also, the jury did not witness this killer, Sweeney, go after - get up
to leave during this testimony that he didn't like of one of the women
he tried to strangle a year or two earlier, and stormed out and was
wrestled in a rage to the floor.

So the jury missed all of that. So we saw him as he was. The jury,
somehow it was portrayed like - you know, it was a different time too in
justice and the attitude towards women's violence - women being victims
of violence. And particularly in that time, you would portray the
victim, that being the person that was killed, as being the perpetrator
of their own crime. And so you'd basically trash the victim. You'd kill
them twice.

And so, the way they talked about - the defense - the way they talked
about my sister was just unspeakable. And then, they sent away the jury
so they didn't even see what this guy was. So I don't know what the jury
was thinking. I guess they thought oh, the rich girl deserved it or the
poor guy with his prop Bible really believed in God and now he's
repentant or, you know, whatever. But they gave this ridiculous
sentence, this insult and - to Dominique's life.

And Dad - this judge said at his closing argument, as his closing before
adjourning, he said: I want to thank the jury on behalf of the court and
the defense and the Dunne family. And Dad stood up in the courtroom and
said: Don't thank them on our behalf, we do not thank you. And
information was suppressed. You did not see what took place here. You've
made a grave mistake. And he was dragged out of that courtroom. And -
proudest moment, you know, for all of us.

So, and it was then that he, that that article I think just all, I think
he probably just wrote it pretty quickly after that and sent it off to
Tina and you know, that was - that became his voice.

GROSS: Were you in the courtroom every day of the trial too?

Mr. DUNNE: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It was, you know, they would, you know, my
mother was in a wheelchair and they would say to - the defense would try
to have my mother removed because she was in a wheelchair, because, you
know, it might prejudice the jury.

GROSS: Wow.

Mr. DUNNE: Yeah, they would have - those conversations took place for
the jury. One time my brother was crying and the defense, in the middle
of his cross-examination, happened to see that Alex was crying.

And he said Alex Dunne has tears in his eyes, your honor, he has to be
ejected from the courtroom. That boy has tears in his eyes. You know, it
was that kind of - you know, and it was really tough. And, you know, my
mother also did - came out of that experience transformed and angry, and
articulate, and started her group called California Center for Victims
of Homicide, which is a very powerful group here that speaks on behalf
of the victims - and has been responsible for a lot of legislation.

GROSS: I want to end by asking you something about your father's
funeral. You wrote a beautiful eulogy for him, which, you know, was
published on the Daily Beast. And I just wonder what it was like for you
to give that eulogy, because you're grieving, your father has died. And
at the same time, when you give a eulogy that's so well-written and that
has to be said in front of what I imagine was a large gathering of a lot
of very famous people - it's almost like having a speaking engagement
while you're grieving. So, what was it like for you to have to rise to
that particular occasion while mourning the loss of your father?

Mr. DUNNE: Well, first of all, my dad - this is sort of the running
theme, too, of the funeral itself, which was an extraordinary event that
my wife Anna and I sort of produced, for lack of a better word. My dad
has been talking about his funeral for at least 10 years. He has been,
whenever he got on planes, he would send me new revisions of who should
speak and who he's ever fallen out with is off the list.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: And who the pallbearers should be, and the ushers, and it was
like a - and he'd have a sense of humor about it, somewhat, but he was
dead serious. Sometimes he would have a rewrite that would happen in the
middle of the night. He would be in London and the thing at Claridge's,
there was a little fire that happened and he'd go, I'm just running out
the door right now, they're evacuating the hotel. If I don't make it out
of here, I do not want so and so to be speaking at my funeral.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: And so it was a, you know, long time in the coming and
totally unjustified. He wasn't even sick when he was starting to think
about this stuff. And I think that climactic - the most incredible
moment that I ever had at a funeral, or - but the proudest moment I ever
had as a father was my daughter got up and - Hannah - and she always
knew she was going to sing. She always knew that she wanted to sing a
song and it was a song called "My Funny Valentine," and she wanted to
explain to them that it was, you know, she had always received anonymous
flowers from my secret admirer ever since she was little.

And she always knew it was from Poppy and then she wanted to break into
the song a capella. And the moment that the church had heard she was
going to sing a song and they said, no, it has to be a religious song.
They don't allow secular songs. And I told my daughter and she said no
way, I'm getting up there, I don't care. See, I wasn't - didn't raise
her strict Catholic. So she goes, I don't care what they do. They are
going to have to - they’ll have to drag me off the stage, those priests
will have to just drag me off. And I said honey, well, first of all,
it's called an altar.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUNNE: And I said, we're - you can do this. I'm listing you as a
speaker and just start to introduce, you know, talk about the flowers
and then play it as if you're overcome by emotion and you've got to
sing. And you're last, so they can't drag you off. And I'm telling you,
it was the most incredible moment. I mean, she has a great, great voice.
But she just stood there and her voice just - my God, it was incredible.
And boy, Poppy could have heard it no matter where he was.

GROSS: Griffin Dunne, thank you so much. It's really been great to talk
with you. I really appreciate it a lot.

Mr. DUNNE: Thanks so much Terry, me too.

BIANCULLI: Actor, director and producer Griffin Dunne speaking to Terry
Gross last December. His father, author and journalist, Dominick Dunne
died last August.

(Soundbite of song, "My Funny Valentine")

BIANCULLI: Coming up: film critic David Edelstein reviews "Toy Story 3."

This is FRESH AIR.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
127862990
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20100618
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
'Toy Story 3': To Growing Up, And Beyond

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Pixar Animation Studios made its first full-length feature film, "Toy
Story," in 1995. It was the first feature to use all computer-generated
imagery. A sequel followed in 1999. But it has taken 11 years for the
studio to bring back Woody, Buzz and the other toys for "Toy Story 3."

Film critic David Edelstein says it was worth the wait.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: With any luck, "Toy Story 3" will be the last of the
"Toy Story" movies. Yes, there will be pressure to squeeze out more
sequels. This is, as industry folks like to say, a franchise, a studio
tent pole. But if the people who run Pixar are as savvy as I think,
they'll know the series should end like this: on a lovely, wistful high.

The "Toy Story" pictures are rooted in a child's fantasy of what happens
when he or she turns out the light and the toys come alive, but I've
never thought of them as kids' movies. At heart, they're about aging,
impermanence, loss and death. Pixar likely borrowed the premise from
Thomas Disch's "The Brave Little Toaster," objects once prized lose
their newness and become disposable. But they have spiritual properties,
and to discard them carelessly is to dishonor the past that shaped us.
The idea is almost Buddhist in how it invests all matter with a life
force worthy of reverence.

"Toy Story 3" has another dimension, probably the upshot of creators
John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and the director, Lee Unkrich, getting
older and having kids. The toys - especially the cowboy Woody, with the
voice of Tom Hanks - see the boy who owns them, Andy, the way of parents
do whose kids are growing up and moving on.

After a wild prologue with Woody and Tim Allen's Buzz Lightyear and Joan
Cusack's cowgirl Jessie saving a trainload of orphans from the evil pig
Dr. Porkchop - which comes to a halt when young Andy is called to dinner
- we jump a decade ahead. Andy doesn't play with toys anymore. He's
going off to college. His room is being cleared for his sister, who has
her MP3 player and computer. Should the toys be stuck in the attic?
Donated to Sunnyside, a day care center? Or left on the curb for the
garbage truck? The gang, which includes the sister's cast-off Barbie, is
scared by every one of those possibilities.

After mix-ups and chases, they end up at Sunnyside, where the toy who
calls the shots is the formidable huggy bear Lotso, with the great
Southern stentorian voice of Ned Beatty. Although Woody is stubbornly
loyal to Andy, the prospect of being played with again is stirring.

(Soundbite of movie, "Toy Story 3")

Mr. TOM HANKS (Actor): (as Woody) Mr. Lotso, do toys here get played
with every day?

Mr. NED BEATTY (Actor): (as Lotso) All day long, five days a week.

Ms. JOAN CUSACK (Actor): (as Jessie) But what happens when the kids grow
up?

Mr. BEATTY: (as Lotso) Well, now, I'll tell you. When the kids get old,
new ones come in. When they get old, new ones replace them. You'll never
be outgrown or neglected, never abandoned or forgotten. No owners means
no heartbreak.

Ms. CUSACK: (as Jessie) Yee-hah. It’s a miracle.

Mr. TIM ALLEN (Actor): (as Buzz Lightyear) And wanted us to stay at
Andy's.

Mr. HANKS: (as Woody) Because we're Andy's toys.

EDELSTEIN: Lotso is a character with stature, a toy shattered by
abandonment who's purged himself of sentiment and runs Sunnyside with
cold efficiency. And soon, our gang discovers the place operates like a
prison. The big, bald baby doll functions as a spooky enforcer, like
Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson in Ed Wood movies. A cymbal-clashing monkey
is the prison guard of nightmares. Soon, horror of horrors, Buzz is
reprogrammed to be his old officious, out-of-the-box self to help Lotso
keep everyone in cages. Suddenly, thrillingly, "Toy Story 3" becomes a
prison-break movie.

As usual with Pixar, the little things win your heart, like Woody
escaping out the bathroom window, but pausing to put down a sheet of
toilet paper before stepping on the seat. At Sunnyside, Barbie is
instantly smitten by Ken, with the voice of Michael Keaton, and all
those Ken-is-gay jokes get a new spin: He's a metrosexual, elated at
finding someone for whom he can show off his disco wardrobe. In the
script by Michael Arndt, who wrote "Little Miss Sunshine," the gags are
all of a piece, right up to the forlorn-yet-enchanting finale.

Kids will love "Toy Story 3" for its cliffhangers and slapstick spills.
But for grown-ups, the film will touch something deeper: the heartfelt
wish that childhood memories will never fade. The paradox of Pixar is
that, using advanced technology, it elevates the old-fashioned, the
links to a more innocent form of play.

This beautiful movie weaves together our joyful fantasies of the past,
the ones that helped form us, and our darker fears of being forgotten.
And in that weave, it offers hope that we can somehow reconcile those
poles of life for ourselves.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
127879953

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?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

41:47

Denial And Lies Are 'Almost An Intrinsic Part Of An Epidemic,' Doctor Says

Apollo's Arrow author Nicholas Christakis says we're likely to be living with pandemic-related social restrictions into 2022 — even if an effective vaccine is developed.

10:43

'The Cold Millions' Takes On The Dented Dream Of American Social Mobility

Jess Walter's sweeping new novel, which traces the adventures of two vagabond brothers, is set against the backdrop of the free speech demonstrations that erupted in Spokane, Wash., in 1909 and 1910.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.

Playing

Just play me something
Your Queue

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

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue