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Jerry Leiber: Remembering One Of Rock's Great Songwriters

Leiber, the lyricist behind "Jailhouse Rock," "Yakety Yak" and "Stand By Me," died Monday. He was 78. Fresh Air remembers the songwriter with excerpts from a 1991 interview with Leiber and his songwriting partner Mike Stoller.

20:42

Other segments from the episode on August 26, 2011

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 26, 2011: Obituary for Jerry Leiber; Interview with Greg Mottola; Review of the Blu-ray release of the film "Scarface."

Transcript

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Jerry Leiber: Remembering One Of Rock's Great Songwriters

DAVE DAVIES, host:

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

Lyricist Jerry Leiber died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 78. He and his partner
Mike Stoller wrote some of the most memorable rock and roll songs of the '50s
and '60s.

(Soundbite of song, "Kansas City")

Mr. WILLIAM HARRISON (Singer): (Singing) I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City
here I come. I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come. They got some
crazy little women there, and I'm gonna get me one.

(Soundbite of song, "Jailhouse Rock")

Mr. ELVIS PRESLEY (Singer): (Singing) Going to a party in the county jail. The
prison band was there and they began to wail. The band was jumpin' and the
joint began to swing. You shoulda hear those knocked-out jailbirds sing. Let's
rock. Everybody, let's rock.

(Soundbite of song, "On Broadway")

Mr. GEORGE BENSON (Singer): (Singing) They say the neon lights are bright on
Broadway. They say there's always magic in the air.

(Soundbite of song, "Love Potion No. 9")

THE SEARCHERS: (Singing) I took my troubles down to Madame Rue. You know that
gypsy with the gold-capped tooth. She's got a path on 34th and Vine selling
little bottles of Love Potion No. 9.

(Soundbite of sing, "Ruby Baby")

DION AND THE BELMONTS: (Singing) Oh, Ruby, Ruby, I want 'ya. Like a ghost, I'm
gonna haunt 'ya. Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, will you be mine sometime?

(Soundbite of song, "Charlie Brown")

THE COASTERS: (Singing) Fe-fe, fi-fi, fo-fo, fum, I smell smoke in the
auditorium. Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown. He's a clown, that Charlie Brown.
He's gonna get caught, just you wait and see. Why's everybody always pickin' on
me?

(Soundbite of song, "Stand By Me")

Mr. BEN E. KING (Singer): (Singing) When the night has come, and the land is
dark, and the moon is the only light we'll see. No I won't be afraid, oh I
won't be afraid just as long as you stand, stand by me. So darling, darling,
stand by me, oh, stand by me. Oh stand, stand by me, stand by me. If the sky
that we look upon...

DAVIES: Leiber and Stoller wrote for Elvis Presley, The Coasters, the Drifters
and Ben E. King. They not only wrote songs, they often produced them. In fact,
Leiber and Stoller were the first rock and roll producers to actually get
credit on a record for their work. One of rock's greatest producers, Phil
Spector, got his start as one of Leiber and Stoller's assistants.

Leiber and Stoller met in L.A. when Leiber was still in high school, and they
were soon writing songs professionally. Leiber was the lyrics half of the team,
and he was known for sassy phrases that captured the vernacular spoken by young
people of his day.

Terry spoke to Leiber and Stoller in 1991. They began by listening to the
original 1953 version of "Hound Dog" sung by Big Mama Thornton.

(Soundbite of song, "Hound Dog")

BIG MAMA THORNTON: (Singing) You ain't nothing but a hound dog, been snoopin'
round my door. You ain't nothing but a hound dog, been snoopin' round my door.
You can wag your tail, but I ain't gonna feed you no more. You told me you was
high class, but I can see through that. Yes, you told me you was high class,
but I can see through that. And daddy, I know you ain't no real cool cat. You
ain't nothing but a hound dog...

TERRY GROSS, host:

Well, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, welcome to FRESH AIR. The record we've been
listening to, Big Mama Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog" was your first major
hit as songwriters and producers. What was it about her that led to this song?

Mr. JERRY LEIBER (Lyricist): Well, Mike and I were invited to Johnny Otis'
rehearsal studio to listen to and look at some of his artists. Big Mama was one
of them, and she was really formidable. She was scary-looking. She was big, and
she must have weighed about, oh, anywhere from 275 to 350. And she had this
really gutty, guttural growling sound in her voice.

And the both of us fell in love with her, and we just loved what she looked
like, and we loved what she sounded like. She sang "Ball and Chain," and we
decided to take off that minute and go to Mike's house and try to write
something for her.

GROSS: How'd you come up with this song, though?

Mr. LIEBER: Well, Mike was driving, and I was banging on the roof of the car.
And I was trying to come up with something nasty that would be at the same time
playable, that wouldn't be censored, you know.

And the closest I could get to what I was thinking was you ain't nothing but a
hound dog.

GROSS: So you were thinking four-letter word, epithet, and what you came up,
though, with hound dog.

Mr. LIEBER: Right, which sort of, you know, made it - it felt right, and it
seemed like it would be passable.

GROSS: Mike, let me ask you how you think Elvis handled this song differently
from Big Mama Thornton.

Mr. MIKE STOLLER: How he handled it differently? Well, he handled it very
differently. He didn't sing it in the same tradition of blues intonation that
Big Mama used. And also the lyrics were considerably different because Big
Mama's - the way the song was written for Big Mama, it was really about a
gigolo. It's a woman complaining about a gigolo.

And Elvis couldn't sing that song. So he sang a version of it which I think, as
I'm told, he heard from a lounge act in Las Vegas, that he heard singing the
song in Vegas.

Now, I had heard that he knew Big Mama's record and loved it, but it was only
after he heard this lounge act do it that it seemed appropriate for a male
singer.

GROSS: You know, I think it was the first time Elvis sang "Hound Dog" on TV, it
was on the Steve Allen show, and he sang it to a little hound dog. It was very
cute.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: How...

Mr. STOLLER: A basset hound.

GROSS: A basset hound, okay.

Mr. STOLLER: Right.

GROSS: Did you feel really kind of cheated by that? Here's a song that you
wrote that was supposed to be an epithet, you know, about a gigolo, and it ends
up with someone as forceful as Elvis making it into, you know, this kind of
cute, little, harmless song on the Steve Allen show?

Mr. LIEBER: We thought it was kind of dopey. I mean, I wasn't offended. I just
thought it was silly, that's all.

GROSS: Yeah. Now, you wrote several songs for Elvis, including "Jailhouse
Rock." Why don't we play a little bit of that?

(Soundbite of song, "Jailhouse Rock")

Mr. PRESLEY: (Singing) Going to a party in the county jail. The prison band was
there and they began to wail. The band was jumping and the joint began to
swing. You should have heard those knocked-down jailbirds sing. Let's rock,
everybody's let's rock. Everybody in the whole cellblock was dancing to the
jailhouse rock.

Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone. Little Joe was blowing on the slide
trombone. The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang...

GROSS: That's "Jailhouse Rock," written by my guests Jerry Leiber and Mike
Stoller. Now, you wrote a lot of songs for Elvis' movies. This was really one
of the best songs. Some of the movies had really awful songs in them. Did you
have to write some of those awful songs?

Mr. LIEBER: Oh, yeah.

Mr. STOLLER: Sure.

Mr. LIEBER: Oh, we loved writing the awful songs because they were more fun,
things like "Steadfast, Loyal and True," you know, songs where he was
supposedly graduating high school, but we had to write these terrible songs.
The problem was this: You got a script, and there would be a moment in a scene
where they would want a song.

Now, we would tell the director, we would tell Hal Wallis, the producer, and
we'd say look, you know, we're not trying to get out of writing a song, but
this is really a dumb place for a song. I mean, the guy's about to go into the
boys' room and comb his hair.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEIBER: And I don't know why he has to sing. I'm going into the boys' room
to comb my hair. And they'd say we want the song. So we'd write it. So a lot of
those songs that shouldn't have been written were written and recorded, and
they're there for posterity.

GROSS: A lot of the songs that you wrote over the years were novelty songs,
songs like "Charlie Brown," "Love Potion No. 9," "Yakety Yak," "Poison Ivy." I
think I just named all Coasters songs here. But how did you get so involved
with novelty songs?

Mr. LEIBER: We didn't think of them as novelties. We thought...

Mr. STOLLER: Dark dramas.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STOLLER: We were both trying to imitate Tolstoy and Dickens, and I guess we
just fell short of the mark.

GROSS: Well, let me play one of your novelty songs, and this is "Charlie
Brown."

(Soundbite of song, "Charlie Brown")

THE COASTERS: (Singing) Fe-fe, fi-fi, fo-fo, fum, I smell smoke in the
auditorium. Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown. He's a clown, that Charlie Brown.
He's gonna get caught, just you wait and see. Why's everybody always pickin' on
me? That's him on his knees. I know that's him.

GROSS: I was wondering if one of the reasons why you wrote so many novelty
songs had to do with that you were two white Jews writing for a lot of R and B
groups, who were black.

I don't know how self-conscious you were about that. But I was thinking, well,
maybe it was easier, in a way, to write songs that were funny as opposed to
maybe the presumptuousness of writing something that was really heartfelt when
you were writing for other people, though you wrote a lot of those songs, too.

Mr. LEIBER: Well, to begin with, these two white Jews really (unintelligible)
themselves as black. I was brought up in essentially, predominately black
neighborhood in South Baltimore. And, well, Stoller can speak for himself, but
he went to interracial camps when he was a kid.

No, it's not that. We really felt that we were very black, and we acted black,
and we spoke black because, you see, when I was a kid growing up, it was -
where I came from, it was hip to be black, you know. I mean, to be white was
kind of square, you know.

And the clothes, you know, you had to dress a certain way. And if you looked a
certain way, and you spoke a certain way, then you were okay, and if you
didn't, then you were lame.

And all, you know, teenagers especially are very, very conscious about what is
hip and what is lame and what is square and what is out and what is in, you
know. And, I mean, I grew up right there in the middle of a black culture, and
I knew dead-on what it was, you know, I mean, firsthand.

Mr. STOLLER: And I belonged to a social club in Harlem from the time I was 13
years old, and I used to go up there every weekend. And from there, of course,
I used to hang out on 52nd Street and listen to all the jazz musicians in the
little clubs. So that was a part of my life.

Mr. LEIBER: When I met Stoller, he had - he was sporting a goatee, and he was
wearing a beret. And he was - he would stand hunched over like he had a
humpback, and he'd smoke, and he would say, hmm. You'd say anything to him,
you'd say you want to go to the movies, he said hmm. Or you'd say you hungry
man, let's go eat. He'd go, hmm, because he was like that, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEIBER: It wasn't until he was about 21 that he started talking.

GROSS: So let me ask you again if there was a point when you started thinking
that it was presumptuous to think of yourselves as being black.

Mr. LEIBER: I think when Baraka turned me to one day because LeRoi Jones had
been my buddy for years, and LeRoi in New York told me that I was the greatest
living black songwriter. This was when he was LeRoi Jones.

And about two or three years later, when the revolution started to happen,
right, he informed me that I was white.

GROSS: How did you respond?

Mr. LEIBER: I sort of felt like I'd been betrayed.

Mr. STOLLER: I think he was astonished to find out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEIBER: I started sitting in the front of the bus.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller speaking with Terry Gross in
1991. Leiber died Monday at the age of 78. We'll hear more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We're listening to Terry's 1991 interview with early rock and roll
songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Leiber died Monday at the age of 78.

GROSS: One of the things that you are famous for having pioneered was bringing
a string section to rock and roll or to rhythm and blues.

Mr. LEIBER: That was Mike's fault.

GROSS: Yeah, let me ask you, you know, on the Drifters, the Drifters' recording
"There Goes My Baby," that's the classic example of you bringing strings on.
What went through your mind to do it?

Mr. STOLLER: I can tell you exactly what was on my mind, just the line, the
melodic line. And I was playing it. I used to joke about this one because it
sounded like (unintelligible), and it sounded like one of the Caucasian
melodies.

Mr. LEIBER: I don't know if you get the pun, but he's been saying this for many
years, and I always thought it was funny, the fact that he would use a
Caucasian melody on this...

Mr. STOLLER: But it was - Jerry heard it, and he said that sounds like strings.
And I said why not? And so, why not? We had five violins and one cello, and
they were all basically playing in unison.

Mr. LEIBER: Because Jerry Wexler wouldn't spring for six violins and two celli.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Now, another thing that happened on this record was you introduced a
Latin rhythm that you...

Mr. STOLLER: The Bayonne rhythm was one that both Jerry and I adored. It was
first - we first - or at least I first heard it in the film "Anna," with
Silvana Mangano. And they had a Brazilian, small Brazilian group, and the
record "Anna" became a fairly big hit, and it was a popular melody.

And I just loved the rhythm on it, and we had always looked for a place to use
it. We'd used it maybe once before on an early record that was not particularly
successful. And we had the opportunity to use it on this record date. And there
happened to be a timpani leftover from another recording session in the studio,
and we used it.

Now, the drummer was not a percussionist. He was just a trap drummer, and he
didn't know how to use the tuning pedal on the timp. So he played one note
throughout the entire thing, which gave it a rather bizarre, muddy bottom with
all kinds of weird overtones. And it was kind of fascinating, though, and
that's where we first had a successful use of that Bayonne rhythm, which in
case anybody's wondering is (makes noises).

Mr. LEIBER: Which finally was used, I think, and is responsible for maybe over
a thousand hits because this Brazilian rhythm supports a slow ballad without
the ballad seeming to be slow or sluggish. It keeps it moving, and everyone
from Burt Bacharach to Phil Spector to you name it have leaned heavily on the
support of this rhythm pattern.

(Soundbite of song, "There Goes My Baby")

THE DRIFTERS: (Singing) There goes my baby, moving on down the line. Wonder
where, wonder where, wonder where she is bound. I broke her heart and made her
cry. Now I'm alone, so all alone. Wish I knew what can I do. There goes my
baby...

GROSS: My guests are the songwriting and production team of Jerry Leiber and
Mike Stoller.

What is your style of working together? And let me go back to when you were
writing hits nearly every day. What was your style of working together? Would
you be in the same room?

Mr. LEIBER: We'd be in the same bathrobes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEIBER: We wore matching bathrobes. Yeah, we'd be in the same room.
Actually, Stoller would normally sit at the piano, and I would sort of stalk
around the room and smoke. Now, neither of us smoke anymore. So it's taken half
the fun out of work. But he would sit at the piano and fiddle, and finally...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEIBER: I don't mean fiddle, fiddle, I mean fiddle with the piano, you
fool.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEIBER: And I would...

Mr. STOLLER: And Leiber would stalk around the room screaming.

Mr. LEIBER: Right.

Mr. STOLLER: And if something stuck to the wall, something he screamed, we'd
work on it.

Mr. LEIBER: We'd take a biopsy and work on it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEIBER: But now that was the early days. The way we work these days, when
we work, I usually have a fix on a lyric, and I'll bring in eight or 10 or 12
lines, and I'll give it to Mike. And he'll go home and work on it because this
way, we can have some time alone.

Mr. STOLLER: Which is a delight. And - or I will write a melody or half a
melody and lay it on Jerry and say, listen, what can you do with this? And then
we'll get back together and tear it apart and start over.

GROSS: I want to thank you both very much for talking with us.

Mr. STOLLER: Thanks.

Mr. LEIBER: Right-o, yeah, it was fun.

DAVIES: Songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller speaking with Terry Gross in
1991. Leiber died Monday at the age of 78.

Here's "On Broadway," a record which Leiber and Stoller produced and co-wrote
with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

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

(Soundbite of song, "On Broadway")
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Two Slackers, A Roadtrip And An Alien

DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies in for Terry Gross.

Our next guest is a writer and director, Greg Mottola. He directed the hit teen
comedy "Superbad" and he wrote and directed two critically-acclaimed films,
"Daytrippers," released in 1996, and the 2009 film, "Adventureland" set in an
amusement park in the '80s and starring Jesse Eisenberg. Mottola also directed
several episodes of the TV series "Arrested Development," "Undeclared" and "The
Comeback."

Mottola’s latest film "Paul" is now out on DVD. It's written by and stars Simon
Pegg and Nick Frost, the English duo best known for the comedies "Shaun of the
Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." In Paul, they play a pair of English science fiction
buffs who are touring UFO sites in the American West when they encounter a real
alien named Paul, who ends up traveling with them in their rented RV. The
creature is a computer-generated graphic but has the voice and attitude of Seth
Rogen.

In this scene, Pegg's character is driving the RV and the alien Paul is up
front eating pistachios. Frost's character, who passed out upon meeting Paul,
wakes up in the middle of the scene and attacks the alien.

(Soundbite of movie, "Paul") (Soundbite of music)

Mr. SETH ROGEN (Actor; Writer): (as Paul) I love pistachios. Alien can eat a
closed one, right?

Mr. SIMON PEGG (Actor; Writer): (as Graeme Willy) I usually just bite them.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Paul) No. You don't do that at all. There's nothing on there
anyway.

Mr. PEGG: (as Graeme Willy) Throw them away. I like mussels.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Paul) No, I like pistachios.

(Soundbite of screaming, fighting)

Mr. PEGG: (as Graeme Willy) Nick, stop. He's okay. He's actually friendly. His
name is Paul.

(Soundbite of coughing, heavy breathing)

Mr. PEGG: (as Graeme Willy) An alien called Paul.

Mr. NICK FROST (Actor; Writer): (as Clive Gollings) With that Klingon? You
psychotic nerd.

Mr. PEGG: (as Graeme Willy) Listen, Paul is from a small M Class planet in
northern spiral arm of the Andromeda galaxy.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Paul) Thank you.

Mr. FROST: (as Clive Gollings) He looks too obvious.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Paul) There's a reason for that, Clive. Over the last 60 years
the human race has been dripped-fed images of my face on lunch boxes and T-
shirts. In case our species do meet, you don't have a spaz attack.

Mr. FROST: (as Clive Gollings) I do not have a spaz attack.

Mr. PEGG: (as Graeme Willy) Don't do it again.

DAVIES: Well Greg Mottola, welcome to FRESH AIR. This film is a weird road trip
with an alien, and it doesn't work if the alien doesn't work visually and isn't
funny. Talk a little bit about creating Paul, the alien, his look, his
personality.

Mr. GREG MOTTOLA (Director): Well, that was one of the reasons I wanted to make
the film because I liked the challenge of making a CGI character that gave a
kind of naturalistic comedy performance. We've seen CGI characters do a lot of
things, but not so much that. You might see that in an all CG film but not so
much in a mixed live-action CG character who's photo real and has to have a
kind of, you know, consistent, believable psychology.

In the beginning, when we decided we wanted to Seth to do this, one of the
caveats was that Seth would not be available for the actual filming. He was
going to go make "The Green Hornet," so we knew we wouldn't have him on set.
Hence, the lead actors Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Kristen Wiig would be acting
to a stick with ping-pong balls for eyes and a script supervisor reading lines.
And I thought well, that's problematic.

DAVIES: Yeah. That's one of the first things I wondered because in the film, I
mean the alien, it totally works. You totally believe he's in the RV with them
and everywhere and I'm sitting there thinking how do you act if this is blank
space?

Mr. MOTTOLA: You know, I went back and looked at "ET." Obviously, I studied a
lot of Spielberg films and other sci-fi films from the period because they're
referenced throughout the movie. So I was watching "ET" and I was thinking
well, you know, a big part of what sells this are the performances of those
kids. You know, Drew Barrymore really makes you think she's meeting an alien
for the first time. The creature design is amazing in "ET" but, you know, I
knew the actors had to sell it.

So I turned to one of the costars in the film, Joe Lo Truglio, who plays
O'Reilly. He and Bill Hader have paired up as these two ridiculous, comical
federal agents who are in pursuit of Paul, and I asked him if he'd be the voice
of Paul during the filming and he said yes. And thank God, and he was - he took
it very seriously. He would study tapes of Seth Rogen rehearsing the character
so he could see what Seth was doing with it. And then he'd bring his own
improvisations to the actual filming, which, I think, just made an enormous
difference for Simon and Nick and Kristen.

And to have someone they could play against, someone they could improvise with.
And then later, in post production, Seth recreated some of Joe's ideas and
lines and improvs and, you know, it’s this very strange theater troupe's, you
know, vibe, where people are trading the character back and forth. It's like
the - you know, sometimes there will be a play where two different actors play
the same part on different nights of the week.

DAVIES: Yeah. I'm picturing you doing this job of directing and, you know, and
directing it's an artistic endeavor, but it's also this huge management thing,
because you have production schedules and big crews and budgets and all that.
And so you've got this, you know, you've got this pre-recorded lines of Seth
Rogen. You're trying to simulate with this computer-generated guy is going to
look like on the set, manage all the other actors, not to mention the fact that
this movie also includes bar fights, explosions, car crashes. Gosh. That's a
lot to manage isn't it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOTTOLA: Well, and it was done on a budget. There are comedies where people
are just sitting around a restaurant, talking, that have bigger budgets than
this film. You know, there were places where the limitations were frustrating
for sure. For instance, we had action scenes, car chases and explosions and we
had no second unit which, you know, for the listener, most action films tend to
have a second unit where a stunt coordinator is off simultaneously shooting the
action bits so the main production can be focusing on acting and so forth. We
just had to kind of work it into our schedule and cram it in somehow. And I
guess the fun part of that is I got to run around in the little car that goes
super fast and has a camera strapped to it, although I feared for my life a few
times.

You know, it's, I started out in indie films. This is quite different than
shooting a 16 millimeter film in 15 days like I did way back in the mid-90s on
my first film "The Daytrippers." And I also, you know, my heroes are people
like Woody Allen. I kind of thought I would only work exclusively in the world
of naturalistic comedy drama, but there is this side of me that also loves
Hollywood and I wanted to see what that felt like. I wanted to see what it felt
like to do special effects and I don't think I'm going to dive right into a
special effects movie next. My agents have asked me that. I said I think I need
two people sitting in a restaurant talking. But I certainly learned a lot.

DAVIES: You've done a lot of sort of character driven stuff. I mean your
earlier film "Daytrippers" was, you know, it was this relationships among
family members, and here you've got this sophisticated computer-generated
alien. Kind of interesting that you're directing that kind of film.

Mr. MOTTOLA: Well, when I read a script I always - the first question I ask
myself is, is there something that I could bring to it that maybe the next guy
wouldn't. Because I've read a lot of very good scripts and thought there are
people who could do this better than I. What I liked about this challenge was
that in my mind, Paul should give a naturalistic comedy performance. So I felt
that it needed to be played like a real actor would play it. He is a character
in a road movie. He is Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces." He just happens to
be one of these people in the car.

In fact, Simon said to me when I - I asked him point blank when we first met on
this, are you sure I'm somebody you'd want to have do this? And he said, look,
I saw your first film "Daytrippers" in London in a theater, and in a way, this
could be like that in places. It could be people driving around in a car and
one of them just happens to be an alien.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: An extraterrestrial.

Mr. MOTTOLA: Yeah, just happens to be. You know, we've all had that experience.

DAVIES: You had a big success with "Superbad," the film with Jonah Hill,
Michael Cera and others. And I thought we'd listen to a clip here. I mean this
is folks who saw the film will remember this. This is three high school seniors
played by Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and their buddy Fogell who is played by
Christopher Mintz-Plasse. And they want to get booze and in this scene Fogell,
their nerdy friend, has gotten a fake just made. It happens to be a Hawaiian
driver's license and they're discussing whether it will work. Let's listen
Okay.

(Soundbite of movie, "Superbad")

Mr. MICHAEL CERA (Actor): (as Evan) All right, that's good. That's hard to
trace, I guess. Wait. You changed your name to McLovin?

Mr. CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE (Actor): (as Fogell) Yeah.

Mr. CERA: (as Evan) McLovin? What kind of a stupid name is that, Fogell? What,
are you trying to be an Irish R&B singer?

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (as Fogell) Naw, they let you pick any name you want when you
get down there.

Mr. JONAH HILL (Actor, Writer): (as Seth) And you landed on McLovin...

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (as Fogell) Yeah. It was between that or Muhammed.

Mr. HILL: (as Seth) Why don't you just pick a common name like a normal person?

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (as Fogell) Muhammed is the most commonly used name on Earth.

Mr. CERA: (as Evan) Fogell, have you actually ever met anyone named Muhammed?

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (as Fogell) Have you actually ever met anyone named McLovin?

Mr. HILL: (as Seth) No, that's why you picked a dumb (bleep) name.

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (as Fogell) Gimme that.

Mr. HILL: (as Seth) All right, you look like a future pedophile in this
picture, number one. Number two: it doesn't even have a first name, it just
says McLovin.

Mr. CERA: (as Evan) What? One name? One name? Who are you? Seal?

Mr. HILL: (as Seth) Fogell, this ID says that you're 25 years old. Why wouldn't
you just put 21, man?

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (as Fogell) Seth, Seth, Seth. Listen up, (bleep). Every day,
hundreds of kids go into the liquor store with fake IDs, and every single one
says they're 21. How many 21-year-olds do you think there are in this town?

Mr. CERA: (as Evan) Let's stay calm, okay? Let's not lose our heads. It's a
fine ID; it'll, it's going to work. It's passable, okay? This isn't terrible. I
mean, it's up to you, Fogell. This guy is either going to think here's another
kid with a fake ID or here's McLovin, a 25 year-old Hawaiian organ donor. Okay?
So what's it going to be?

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (as Fogell) I am McLovin.

DAVIES: And that's from the film "Superbad," directed by our guest Greg
Mottola.

Mr. MOTTOLA: Yeah, there weren't that many bleeps. I was wondering how many...

DAVIES: Yeah. I will be going to do that on the radio, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Right. These characters are, you know, decent adolescent guys but they
are completely assessed with getting some sexual experience and getting alcohol
as a route to getting sexual experience. How much like these guys were you when
you were in high school?

Mr. MOTTOLA: I'm gauging the likelihood my parents are listening to this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOTTOLA: When I read the script I thought I completely relate to them. They
are entirely inept. They don't know anything about women. It's rather sad. And
I thought that's, you know, if we can make this feel real and psychologically
accurate maybe this movie will have some life to it. Yeah, I was a bit like
those guys. I was an art student. I was kind of like; I became the forger of
IDs because I had the best art skills so I was like Donald Pleasence in "The
Great Escape." I was always making fake IDs for people, which is, I'm sort of
embarrassed to admit that, but...

DAVIES: I think the statute of limitations has expired. This was the '80s you
were making fake IDs?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOTTOLA: Yeah. Yeah. So, yes, I had some of my moments like that.

DAVIES: Greg Mottola's latest film "Paul" is now out on DVD.

More after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Our next guest is a writer and director Greg Mottola, who directed the
films, "Daytrippers," "Adventureland" and "Superbad." His latest called "Paul"
is now out on DVD.

Well, I want to talk about "Daytrippers," which is I think a terrific film and
it was worth preparing for this interview just to be able to watch it again.
And let me just kind of mention the plot and we'll listen to a clip. It's about
a family that lives in the suburbs. They are two grown daughters, one played by
Hope Davis at home has found a romantic note on the floor which might have been
meant for her husband Louis who works in New York City. This is a suburb of New
York and Louis works in the publishing world. He's already headed off for work
and she sits down with members of her family. They say, oh my gosh, what does
this note to mean? Is he having an affair? And they all decide to pile into the
family station wagon for a trip into New York to ask Louis about it. And there
begins a remarkable road trip movie. And what we're going to hear here is some
conversation along the road to New York.

One of the sisters played by Parker Posey has her boyfriend along. He's sort of
a pseudo-intellectual named Carl and he gets into a conversation about his work
that also brings an Anne Meara who plays the mom of the family. Let's listen.
It begins with Parker Posey

(Soundbite of movie, "Daytrippers")

Ms. PARKER POSEY (Actor): (as Jo Malone) Carl, tell mom and dad about your
novel. Carl wrote a novel everyone. It's great. It's, it's this far out. It's
brilliant.

Mr. STANLEY TUCCI (Actor): (as Louis D'Amico) I don't think your parents want
to hear my novel.

Ms. POSEY: (as Jo Malone) Mom and dad, you want to hear about Carl's novel?

Ms. Anne MEARA (Actor): (as Rita Malone) Oh, yeah. Sure, Carl.

Mr. TUCCI: (as Louis D'Amico) Well, Rita, it's an allegory about spiritual
survival in the contemporary world. The main character is this freak of nature.
He's this man who doesn't have a normal head. He was born with the dog's head.

Ms. MEARA: (as Rita Malone) A dog's head?

Mr. TUCCI: (as Louis D'Amico) Yeah. You know, sort of a fantastical story.

Ms. POSEY: (as Jo Malone) It's like a fable.

Mr. TUCCI: (as Louis D'Amico) Yeah. Like "Master and Margarita" or...

Ms. POSEY: (as Jo Malone) "Animal Farm." Mr. TUCCI: (as Louis D'Amico) "Animal"
- yeah. Exactly. Very Kafka-esque.

Ms. MEARA: (as Rita Malone) Carl, I'm not an educated woman.

Ms. POSEY: (as Jo Malone) It's Dr. Seuss for adults, mom.

Ms. MEARA: (as Rita Malone) Oh. Oh, yeah.

Mr. TUCCI: (as Louis D'Amico) So, everyone else will look as normal, except for
the man with the dog's head, who really only wants...

Mr. PAT MCNAMARA (Actor): (as Jim Malone): What kind of dog?

Ms. POSEY: (as Jo Malone) Dad, it's not important.

Mr. TUCCI: (as Louis D'Amico) No, no. No, no, no, no. It is important.
Actually, that's very important. It's a German Shorthaired Pointer. You see,
it's actually especially important that it's a Pointer, because that's a
crucial metaphor. Because in the book, he's sort of a visionary, you know? You
know - pointing the way to salvation?

Ms. MEARA: (as Rita Malone) Jo loves dogs. Remember Pepper? We had to put him
to sleep.

Ms. POSEY: (as Jo Malone) Mother.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: And that is from "Daytrippers," written and directed by our guest Greg
Mottola. Fun to hear that again, isn't it?

Mr. MOTTOLA: I have not watched the film in over a decade, so it's -yeah. A lot
comes back.

DAVIES: Right. You know, as I read about this, it's amazing that you got - and,
I mean, this is an impressive cast, you know, Liev Schreiber, Parker Posey,
Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Anne Meara, Campbell Scott and Marcia Gay Harden.
And from what I've read it, it sounds like you paid them, like, tortilla chips
and subway tokens. I mean, how did you get -I mean, these people were better
known later than they are - now than they are then. But how did you get a cast
like that with such a miniscule budget?

Mr. MOTTOLA: Well, one of the advantages of being in New York City and trying
to get a career off the ground is that you're in a city filled with some very
creative, talented people, and I got to meet some of them socially. I became
friends with Campbell Scott, and he introduced me to Hope Davis. Another friend
of mine from school had worked on a movie, "Dazed and Confused," and knew
Parker Posey, and Parker introduced me to Liev. And I just did a lot of
begging.

You know, the truth is, good actors are always looking to do something
different. They are dying to play slightly odder characters or work on movies
that aren't straight down the middle. So I took advantage of that, and, you
know, we designed the film in a way that if it ever got sold, we'd pay everyone
back. So the upfront costs were incredibly low. We shot the whole thing for
about 60,000 bucks. And, you know, in a weird way - because no one was telling
me what to do - of course, it's an experience I want to recreate again, because
it's a little trickier when you're - you know, when someone else is footing the
bill and millions of dollars are at stake.

DAVIES: Yeah. What were some of the obstacles that you faced in shooting this
thing in what, like, 16, 17 days?

Mr. MOTTOLA: There are scenes in the film where there's just one single take on
every person, where we didn't even get to do a take two because we had, you
know, 12 pages of dialogue to do in one day. The first day of shooting, our
camera had been stolen. We were unloading the truck, and we had no camera. So
by the time we scrambled and found one, we had two hours left. So, you know, I
shot everything I needed from that location - because it was a location we
couldn't come back to - in two hours. It was, you know, not ideal, but in a
way, it taught me something about resourcefulness.

DAVIES: Right. And the scene that we heard was inside a car. And it occurred to
me as I watched it that it seems the camera was actually inside the car, as
opposed to, you know, traveling next to it with - on a mount, or something.

Mr. MOTTOLA: Yeah. I mean, that was one of the things we had to resort to, to
do it. I'm actually hiding in the back of the station wagon underneath a
blanket with the sound man in all those scenes. Actually, the set - in that
particular scene, the sound was so bad because of the Long Island Expressway,
we had to loop the entire scene. Everyone's voice had been replaced, which, as
a filmmaker, as I listen to it, I can tell. But I think we got away with it. It
was - that was very challenging. But, you know, it taught me some technical
skills.

DAVIES: Yeah. You did a lot of directing in television for some really great
shows - I mean, "Undeclared" and "Arrested Development." You want to just tell
us a little how you got into that and what that experience was like?

Mr. MOTTOLA: Well, when I came out of film school, I was hoping to emulate
heroes of mine like Woody Allen, and kind of write and direct my own small
movies. And then I realized that that's actually quite hard to do. It's very
hard to be Woody Allen. And I realized I just need to be working, and I just
need to work with good people. And Judd Apatow called me and asked me if I
wanted to direct an episode of his second television series "Undeclared." And I
think before he finished the sentence, I yelled yes several times...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOTTOLA: ...and essentially moved from Manhattan to Los Angeles
immediately, because I was dying to get experience. And it was one of the
better decisions I've made in my life.

DAVIES: Is there an episode or a particular moment that you really treasure?

Mr. MOTTOLA: Well, working with Judd is kind of like comedy boot camp. He does
have an amazing comedy mind, and, you know, Judd was one of the first people
who told me: You know, if a joke is funny, but it's not moving the story
forward, you have to cut it. You have to be disciplined. You have to - you
know, or if a joke is counter to the character's psychology, you have to cut
it. He has a real aesthetic about storytelling and trying to balance comedy and
psychology and storytelling and plot, and all those things. So I took a lot
away from that.

Judd also has a great kind of Mike Leigh, Cassavetes version of comedy where -
part of the reason he loves improv so much is that it puts the actors in a
position where they don't know what the other actor's going to do. You can kind
of - you can get lightning in a bottle with that technique, because an actor's
waiting for a line sometimes, if it's in the script, and something else comes,
and they have to be on their toes. And it elicits, often, a response that's
quite surprising. And if your actor's really in the moment and very inventive,
surprising, funny, wonderful things happen.

And I really admire Judd's techniques in that regard. In TV, you know, the
director is - it's not an auteur medium for directors. It really is the
producer-writer's medium. As such, it takes a lot of the heat off of you, so
you get to try things that are harder to try in features because there's so
much pressure and so much money at stake. It was quite freeing to do television
for a few years.

DAVIES: Well, Greg Mottola, it's been fun. Thanks so much.

Mr. MOTTOLA: Oh, thank you so much, Dave.

DAVIES: Greg Mottola directed the films, "Daytrippers," "Superbad" and
"Adventureland." His latest film "Paul" is now out on DVD.

Coming up, John Powers considers the cultural impact of the Al Pacino film
"Scarface" as a new Blu-ray version is released.
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'Scarface': Over-The-Top, But Ahead Of Its Time

(Soundbite of music)

DAVE DAVIES, host:

In 1980, Fidel Castro allowed 125,000 disaffected Cubans to take boats to the
United States. Known as the Mariel Boatlift, the exit is included up to 25,000
criminals. In his 1983 movie "Scarface," director Brian de Palma tells the
fictional story of one of them, Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino. In the years
since its release this gangster film’s popularity has grown and grown. Now
Universal has brought out a new Blu-ray edition.

Our critic-at-large John Powers says the occasion hasn't thinking about why the
movie has a bigger reputation today than it did when it first came out.

JOHN POWERS: Back in school, I was always amused to hear about classics that
were dismissed when they first came out - you know, how "Moby Dick" wrecked
Herman Melville's literary career, or how "The Wizard of Oz" was considered a
disappointment when it was first released. I naturally assumed that, had I been
around back then, I wouldn't have missed the boat like that.

But that was before I became a critic and discovered that, over the years, you
wind up with a pocketful of unused tickets from all the boats you've missed.

Take, for instance, "Scarface," the 1983 gangster picture directed by Brian De
Palma, written by Oliver Stone, and starring Al Pacino, who gives a performance
the size of a Caribbean cruise ship. When it first came out, I panned it for
taking Howard Hawks' great 1932 movie and remaking it as something trashy,
shallow and excessive to the point of camp. I wasn't alone. The movie received
lots of bad reviews, and even the public wasn't wild about it. It was only the
16th biggest box-office draw of 1983, behind such cinematic triumphs as "Mr.
Mom" and "Jaws 3-D."

But "Scarface" didn't vanish like they did. Instead, over the next quarter-
century, it became a phenomenon. The movie is now so iconic that it doesn't
even seem silly that Universal should bring out a fancy, metal-encased Blu-ray
version, the "Scarface Limited Edition Steelbook," which captures the story in
all its lurid glory.

By now, most everyone knows the plot. Pacino stars as Tony Montana, a small-
time Cuban exile. Tony arrives in Miami along with his friend, Manny Ribera -
that's Steven Bauer - and sets about trying to grab the American Dream the only
way he knows how - through crime. Over the course of nearly three hours, Tony
rises from being a dishwasher to a drug lord complete with a gold-bedecked
mansion, a gorgeous moll - played with sly bitterness by Michelle Pfeiffer -
and personal stashes of cocaine the size of the Matterhorn.

Here, Tony, coked to the gills in a fancy restaurant, begins a widely braying
at the low-heeled patrons he thinks are looking down on him.

(Soundbite of movie, "Scarface")

Mr. AL PACINO (Actor): (as Tony Montana) You need people like me. You need
people like me so you can point your fingers, and say that's the bad guy. So,
what that make you? Good? You're not good; you just know how to hide. How to
lie. Me, I don't have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth - even when I
lie. So say goodnight to the bad guy. Come on; the last time you going to see a
bad guy like this, let me tell ya.

POWERS: I tell the truth, too, and here's an abiding one: If there's any
quality that makes a piece of pop culture last, it's energy. And like the
chainsaw that dismembers Tony's friend early on, "Scarface" just roars. It's as
indelible as a cartoon, from Pacino's dementedly hammy acting to the bevy of
quotable lines, almost none of which are clean enough to be quoted here.

Yet the historical reason "Scarface" became a touchstone is that De Palma and
Stone - especially Stone, the most plugged-in Hollywood filmmaker of the '80s -
were actually ahead of their time. In Tony Montana's gaudy rise and fall, they
predicted much of what we've seen in the past quarter-century - the delirious
consumerism, the reality-TV egomania, the sense of getting ahead as a life-or-
death struggle. Most strikingly, "Scarface" anticipates the rise of hip-hop
culture, with its celebration of the gangsta life in all its aspiration and
tragic sense of doom.

Where a comfortable middle-class white guy like me found Tony's story a
preposterous fantasy, rappers like Snoop Dog and Flavor Flav saw it as a mythic
version of something real. It captured their sense of what it was like to be an
outsider trying to fight your way to the top, grabbing all the women and bling
you could because you know it could all quickly come to a violent end. They
identified with Tony's braggadocio, his desire to live large, and his
willingness to fight to the end. And as with so much of hip-hop, this taste for
"Scarface" entered the mainstream. These days, teens of all races quote Tony's
lines and play the "Scarface" video game. For them, it's a classic.

As for me, watching "Scarface" again the other night, I still found it
comically over the top. But with the benefit of hindsight, I also saw that such
an aesthetic judgment is only part of the story. You see, when it comes to pop
culture, what finally matters is not whether something is good, but whether it
has the power to burn its way into the national psyche. And "Scarface"
undeniably has that power. I never would've believed it, but in 2011, millions
of Americans find Tony Montana a figure who's truer - and more resonant - than
Captain Ahab or even the "Wizard of Oz."

DAVIES: John Powers is film critic for Vogue and vogue.com.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: You can join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at nprfreshair.
And you can download Podcasts of our show at freshair.npr.org.

For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: On the next FRESH AIR, bring your appetite for food and conversation.
We begin a week of interviews about food and cooking with Chef Grant Achatz. He
cofounded a Chicago restaurant famous for its avant-garde food.

Achatz lost his sense of taste for a while after being diagnosed with tongue
cancer. He's now in remission and has opened a new restaurant.

Join us.
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