DATE September 24, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Mark Bowden discusses his views on the possible use of
US special forces in Afghanistan based on the experiences in
Somalia described in his book "Black Hawk Down"
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
The United States' war against terrorism will involve the military's special
forces. My guest, Mark Bowden, wrote about the special forces in his
best-seller, "Black Hawk Down," about the daylong battle when US forces landed
in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. Bowden wrote about terrorism in his book,
"Killing Pablo," about the hunt for Pablo Escobar and the leaders of
Colombia's Medellin cocaine cartel. Bowden also writes for the Philadelphia
Inquirer, and has been covering how America's military retaliation is likely
We called Bowden earlier today at his home in suburban Philadelphia. Many
Americans, in spite of their grief and anger over the attacks of September
11th, are worried that our retaliation will kill many civilians. Bowden
thinks our weapons are sophisticated enough to keep damage to a minimum.
Mr. MARK BOWDEN (Philadelphia Inquirer): I think, for instance, when the
United States bombed in Belgrade to end the Serb aggression in Kosovo, you
didn't see much of an outcry over civilian casualties, in part, because I
think they were minimal. It used to be that, like, in World War II, when the
United States bombed the Nazi--Nazi Germany, they would basically fly hundreds
of bombers over a city and open the doors at the bottom of these bombers and,
literally, just spew bombs out the bottom and throw them down at the ground.
And so in order to sort of knock out a power plant, you might have to drop
2,000 bombs; many of which hit in the near vicinity, but nowhere near the
We're fortunate, with the arsenal that we have now, of being able to target
with great precision what we're going after. Obviously, there's no way to
guarantee that there won't be civilians killed when that sort of thing
happens. And that's why, you know, taking this step into warfare is not done
lightly. But I would hope that any bombing campaign directed at the Taliban
or at these terrorist organization bases would be aimed with great precision.
GROSS: But we've been hearing that there's so little in the way of targets in
Afghanistan. The country is so bombed out as a result of a long war with the
Soviets and then civil war afterwards. What have you been hearing about
Mr. BOWDEN: Well, I think it is difficult. There are possible targets.
Afghan--the Afghani government, the Taliban, is actually fighting a civil war
at the moment, and they have an army and they have an air force. That means
that they have bases. They have heavy equipment. They have planes. They
have communication centers--not much, but some--and they rely upon them. And
I think that even though, you know, we're not dealing with a modern state as
we were in Serbia, we can make life very difficult for the Taliban. We could
make it difficult for them to fight their civil war. We could make it
difficult for them to continue to rule and have a hold over the country. And
I do think that there are fairly well-established terrorist bases, although I
suspect bin Laden and his crew have long since cleared out of them.
So I think that you're right that a bombing campaign in Afghanistan is more
limited than the kind of damage that could be done to a modern states. It,
nevertheless, can bring extraordinary pressure to bear on that government and
can get people moving, which I think is a situation that helps special forces
in going after them.
GROSS: Your sources in the military tell you this action is going to be fast
and brutal. What does that mean?
Mr. BOWDEN: Well, I think that people who have been arguing about what we're
going to do in Afghanistan--I've heard a lot of discussions, certainly, over
the last two weeks--seem to be under the misconception that the United States
is going to invade Afghanistan, and that we could be caught up in a tragic,
protracted conflict, much as the Russians were. And I think the difference is
that any strikes done by the United States will be, as I said, precisely
targeted, will take place over a fairly short period of time. Any
introduction of ground troops will probably the elite units like Delta Force
or SEALs, who rely on speed and surprise in getting in and getting out as
quickly as possible. And so that's the difference that I think that I'm
trying to make.
GROSS: Are the special forces already well trained for the type of action
they'll likely be called on to perform?
Mr. BOWDEN: They are. They, in fact, you know, have been planning and
practicing going after terrorist camps in Afghanistan, in particular, for
several years, and they practice these things continually. That's not to say
that things don't go wrong and that, you know, even the best-trained soldiers
dropped in on a, you know, lightning raid that has a fairly limited goal,
can't get pinned down, caught up in a brutal fight, captured or killed. This
is very dangerous work. But I think that the men that the United States is
sending to do these missions are probably the best-trained, best-equipped in
GROSS: I imagine you've met a lot of the special forces men because you've
written about them. I can't help but wonder if they--is `look forward to' the
right word--if they're anxious to go in and do this? I mean, if--because
they're trained, they really--they want to go ahead and they want to go?
Mr. BOWDEN: I think they do want to go, and I think that it's a credit to
them because these are not kids. When I wrote my book "Black Hawk Down" about
the battle of Mogadishu, one of the things that I tried to capture was the
kind of naive enthusiasm for war that some of the US Army Rangers had prior to
the big fight that happened on October 3rd. And they got their comeuppance,
at least in the fact that they realized what a nightmare war was and that it's
not something that anyone should look forward to.
The soldiers of Delta Force, the SEALs, these are older, more experienced,
more mature men. They're deeply patriotic, extremely committed to what they
do. They believe that force is necessary in this world, that if the United
States is going to survive and thrive as a nation in this world, we need to be
able to employ force effectively. And their belief in that and their belief
in themselves, I think, makes them somewhat eager, when the situation calls
for it, to demonstrate what they're capable of.
GROSS: How do the tactics of the special forces compare to the tactics of
Mr. BOWDEN: Well, conventional military relies on strength in numbers and on
things like heavy air support, tanks, you know, the whole array of
conventional war-making equipment. Special forces works in--with very small
units. They rely less on strength in numbers and in, you know, fire power
than on violence of action, speed and surprise. They're designed to conduct
very specific, small-scale kinds of operations. And they're also designed not
to occupy territory or to take things over, but to get in, accomplish their
mission and get out. I think that that pretty much sums it up.
GROSS: Have you seen the training of special forces?
Mr. BOWDEN: I have seen them carry out some of the kinds of raids they do.
In fact, you know, I wrote about in "Black Hawk Down" a Delta Force raid on a
target house in Mogadishu, and I spent a lot of time and effort trying to
imagine, on the basis of, you know, the descriptions that I was given, what
that was like. And I did my best in the book to describe it. When they made
the movie of "Black Hawk Down," which is currently in production, I was over
in Morocco and the pilots and Rangers who carried out that assault--the same
units--that ain't right--re-enacted it in the streets of Mogadishu. So I had
had the opportunity to actually see it. And it's so much more violent and so
much more fast, so much more loud and intimidating than anything I had ever
GROSS: In what way was it faster and louder than anything you'd imagine?
Mr. BOWDEN: Well, I was there. I was standing on the street, you know, when
the first assault came in. The Little Bird helicopters--they're called
AH-6s--literally have the assault forces riding on benches on the outside of
these little helicopters. And they just, in a second, appear overhead, land
on the street with people scattering, running in all directions. And before
you really--it's very, very loud. It's shocking when it happens, even in this
case when I knew it was going to happen because it was being done for the
movie, but it was just--Boom!--suddenly, they're there. By the time you've
kind of reacted just to the noise and to the sudden appearance of them, they
are already in the house arresting the people that they're after. And then in
come the big helicopters, the Blackhawks, which make a lot of noise and stir
up a great storm of wind. And in the midst of this sudden chaos, there's
suddenly soldiers on the ground who've roped down from the helicopters.
So, I mean, watching it, it makes you appreciate how hard it would be to react
in any kind of offensive way against something like that. It would take time.
And I think that's the purpose. They design these exercises so that they
happen so fast and so violently that it takes their enemy at least a few
minutes to figure out what to do next. And if they're good enough at it,
they're sort of in and out before anyone has a chance to respond.
GROSS: The movie adaptation of your book "Black Hawk Down," about our
military action in Somalia, is in production. You know, a lot of Hollywood
movies are being put on hold right now because the tone of the movie doesn't
seem to fit with the tone of the nation right now. What do you think is going
to happen with "Black Hawk Down"? Do you think that's--that might
actually--that the opposite might happen, that it might be kind of rushed into
theaters more quickly because it's about the American military?
Mr. BOWDEN: I think that there's a possibility that that could happen, but
I'm also aware, because I've been talking to Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley
Scott, that they're very sensitive to not trying to exploit something as
serious and important as what's going on right now. I'm actually flying out
to Hollywood tomorrow to see as much of the film as there is to be seen. And
I'm sure that, you know, one of the reasons they want me to do that is that
they're all trying to figure out, you know, whether the film as it now stands
is appropriate to the present situation. I tend to think it will be, in
particular, because it depicts precisely the kind of military action that
we're likely to engage in here in Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle
East as we're going after these terrorist groups. So it remains to be seen.
I think we're still trying to figure out exactly how it fits into this sort of
GROSS: But the story in Somalia doesn't really end in victory.
Mr. BOWDEN: It does in the sense that the soldiers successfully carried out
their mission. I mean, they were targeting two lieutenants of Mohammed Farrah
Aidid that day, and they got them, arrested them and took them out of the
city. Now, obviously, it didn't go smoothly. Things did not go as planned,
and there ended up being American soldiers killed and many, many Somalis
killed. But in a way, you know, I think that that's a very important message
for where we are right now because, ideally, we would love to think that these
forces are so good at what they do that they're gonna be able to carry out
these missions without any Americans getting killed or hurt. What "Black Hawk
Down" demonstrates is, to a certain extent, the inevitability of things going
wrong and what actually it looks like when things go wrong. So in that sense,
you know, I think it's probably a good, cautionary tale for Americans who are
really gung ho and enthusiastic about getting into action.
GROSS: My guest is Mark Bowden. He writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and
is the author of the best-seller "Black Hawk Down." We'll talk more after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Mark Bowden, who writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and
has been reporting on our military plans. He's the author of "Killing Pablo,"
about Pablo Escobar and the author of the best-seller, "Black Hawk Down."
Now bin Laden was connected somehow to our action in Somalia. What's the
Mr. BOWDEN: Well, it's actually a very tenuous connection, Terry, because
there's a tendency, I think, particularly in the press, to inflate the
diabolical reputation of someone once they've been singled out as a kind of
enemy of the United States. And I think that's what's happened with bin Laden
and Somalia. The truth is that there were Somalis who fought in Afghanistan,
and some of them maybe fought even with bin Laden. And when the United States
intervened in Somalia in 1992 and certain elements in Mogadishu were opposed
to that--those who were aligned with Mohammed Farrah Aidid--there were--you
know, I would have presumed that these veteran, Afghan fighters were probably
leaders among those who fought against UN troops and who ended up fighting
against the United States. And they, no doubt, had some experience in
shooting at helicopters, having been fighting the Russians for a long time.
So they probably loaned their expertise.
But when it came right down to it in the battle of October 3rd, 1993, what
shot down the American helicopters was the fact that they were able to throw
so many rocket-propelled grenades into the air. It wasn't any particularly
clever technique in using those weapons or anything like that. And so I think
whatever role was played by those Afghan veterans was more general and, you
know, may or may not have been connected with bin Laden. The one place where
bin Laden maybe did have an influence is he probably loaned money and he
probably had a hand in supplying some of those weapons.
GROSS: What's gone wrong? What's your understanding of why it's been so
difficult for the United States, with all its intelligence, to find out where
the terrorists are and root them out?
Mr. BOWDEN: I think that the intelligence, while it's taking a beating right
now and has certainly failed in a number of ways, is better than most people
think that it is, that we have, in fact, known where people like bin Laden
have been over the past five or six years from time to time. What I think is
that we have lacked the will to go after these people. There's a very
delicate balance in the Middle East, as anybody who's spent any time there
understands, between the moderate factions of--sort of the moderate leaders
and the fundamentalist zealots who are feared, I think, by the moderates in
those states. And even someone like Yasser Arafat tries to maintain a
delicate balance in his efforts to create a Palestinian state between, you
know, advocating for the interests of his people, but not angering Hamas, you
know, the extremists in their midst, because I think that, you know, his
regime, the PLO, runs the risk of being toppled or displaced by these
extremists. And I think that's the situation in a lot of these countries.
So there was an understandable caution or--some would say--timidity on the
part of the United States about doing something, like going after bin Laden in
Afghanistan, that might upset that balance and could tip the factor in favor
of the extremists. I think the attack on the World Trade Centers and the
Pentagon has banished that timidity, for better or for worse.
GROSS: But it is a real concern.
Mr. BOWDEN: Certainly, it's a concern, and it's, you know, like many
conflicts that the United States has entered on in its history, the outcome is
uncertain. One scenario that you could easily see is that this military
effort by the United States will end up throwing the Middle East into chaos,
and giving the Islamic extremists an excuse to recruit tens of thousands of
supporters who see a holy war between the secular, Christian United States,
you know, against the Muslim world. And that's, you know--that's a
I think that it's also possible that military action by the United States
could embolden the moderate Arab states and the moderate Muslims to crack down
on the fundamentalists, I think, whose fundamental disagreement with the
Western world is only partly to do with the political grievances that have
accumulated over the years, and has much to do with just a basic opposition to
our way of life.
GROSS: Mark Bowden, after writing about the US action in Somalia and after
writing about the end of the Medellin Cartel, what are your thoughts on how
President Bush is approaching--to the extent that we know how he's
approaching--the war on terrorism?
Mr. BOWDEN: Well, I'm extremely impressed so far with the way that President
Bush has handled this, and not just because his rhetoric has been very
effective and powerful, but more because of the restraint that he's shown.
I'm particularly impressed with the way that he has reiterated again and again
that this is not going to be easy, that this is not going to be fast, that it
will involve casualties. You know, one of the things that made the mission to
Somalia a disaster was that the president and the Congress and the
administration had done nothing to prepare the American public for the
possibility of American casualties. No one had ever explained why this was
even significant, why this was an important exercise. So that when we saw
dead American soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, I think
everyone's reaction, in addition to horror, was `Why? Why are we even there?'
You know, `Why are these lives being lost?' In this case I think the
president has done an extremely good job of sort of marshaling public opinion
for what could be a very costly and difficult campaign.
But I think, more important than any of that, is I'm impressed with his
emphasis on the broad nature of this attack, that it involves more than the
military. It involves political, diplomatic, financial assaults. I think
that, frankly, those last three, the politics, the diplomacy and the attack on
the finances, may ultimately prove to be the most important part of this whole
exercise. So, you know, I think that this has to be done. I certainly
understand the lists of political grievances that have created hostility
toward the United States in the Middle East. But I do believe that there are
these--at this core of the hatred of the United States is a small group of
zealots who oppose, basically, what we stand for as a country, which is the
separation of church and state and the modern society that we have. And I
think we really are, in a certain sense, being called upon to defend our way
GROSS: Now, Mark Bowden, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. BOWDEN: You're welcome, Terry. My pleasure.
GROSS: Mark Bowden writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He's the author of
the best-selling book "Black Hawk Down" and of "Killing Pablo."
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Coming up, we remember violinist Isaac Stern. He died Saturday at the
age of 81.
Hollywood studios have postponed the release of several action films about
terrorism. We'll talk with Andrew Davis, director of one of those films,
"Collateral Damage," starring Arnold Schwarzenneger.
(Soundbite of music)
Interview: Andrew Davis discusses the postponement of his movie
"Collateral Damage" following 9/11 attacks on the US
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR, I'm Terry Gross.
Terrorism is a popular subject for Hollywood action films, but after the
attacks of September 11th, movie studios have delayed the release of several
films with terrorist plots. On September 12th, Warner Bros. Pictures
postponed the October 5th release of "Collateral Damage," starring Arnold
Schwarzenegger as a firefighter whose family is killed in a terrorist attack.
My guest Andrew Davis is the director of "Collateral Damage." He's best known
for his thrillers and action movies, such as "The Fugitive," "A Perfect
Murder," "Code of Silence" starring Chuck Norris and the Steven Seagal movies
"Under Siege" and "Above the Law."
We called Andrew Davis and asked him first about the threat against Hollywood.
Studios were put on alert last Thursday after the FBI warned of an
uncorroborated but credible threat that a film studio in California could be
the target of a terrorist bombing in retaliation for any bombing attacks by
the US in Afghanistan. I asked how he reacted when he first heard the threat.
Mr. ANDREW DAVIS (Director, "Collateral Damage"): I thought first that it
might be, you know, something that was created by somebody in Los Angeles,
had nothing to do with anything. And then I also thought that it's very
viable in terms of Hollywood being an image maker for the world and a focal
point for media attention and a way to get lots of attention for anybody's
GROSS: What else do you think the message might be?
Mr. DAVIS: Well, I think Hollywood movies are a symbol of America all over
the world. And I think it's like the Trade Towers might be images of American
power and business, so does Hollywood become a part of that.
GROSS: Are you changing the way you're behaving in the light of that threat,
what you're doing, where you're doing it?
Mr. DAVIS: My life is going to continue on. I'm preparing another movie and
it doesn't relate to anything (technical difficulties) issues involved. And
I'm just concerned about the whole world right now, not so much about myself.
I'm just concerned that this event be able to be turned into something
positive rather than negative, meaning that this event, because of its great
tragic consequences, will allow us to learn to get along with each other in a
way we'd never thought about before.
GROSS: Yeah, in the meantime, it looks like the opposite might happen.
Mr. DAVIS: Well, I think that's our duty right now. as communicators and
filmmakers, is to say, `How did we get here and how are we going to get out of
this?' You know, one of the problems of drama and making entertainment is
that thrillers, for example, are always based upon the quality of the bad
guys. And, you know, when the Cold War ended, everybody was scrambling around
to try to find the, quote, "bad guys." And maybe we need to make movies where
we show how people could live together and our challenge would be to make
dramatic and entertaining and involving stories that show how we might get to
a place of kind of nirvana, you know. Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I'd like to
believe that I could make movies that show people how we could live together.
GROSS: Meanwhile, you've had to pull "Collateral Damage," your new movie
starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. What's in the movie that made you think it
should be postponed?
Mr. DAVIS: Well, the imagery of the movie is scarily close to the events
that happened in New York last week. I mean, not to the ...(unintelligible)
the scale, but the story is about a fireman. The opening scene of the movie
is Arnold saving lives in a collapsing building. And he goes home to his wife
and child and perceives to hear that his wife thinks that his kid should go to
the doctor. He's got a sore throat and Arnold's going to meet them down in a
large urban area to pick the child up from the pediatrician. And as he gets
out of the truck to go forward, a bomb goes off. So the imagery is so close
to what happened. It's like "China Syndrome" in a way. My friend Michael
Gray wrote "China Syndrome." And the events of that Three Mile Island
accident happening with the opening of the movie were very similar. And
basically, it's the story of the grief and loss of a fireman dealing with his
family just, you know, dying and what he has to go through to try to collect
his life. And in frustration, he goes after the man who did it.
GROSS: Who are the terrorists in the movie?
Mr. DAVIS: Well, the story involves Colombia and our involvement in Colombia.
It does not involve the Middle East at all. It's a totally different area.
And my interest in making this movie was to basically try to prevent violence,
not to use violence as entertainment. My goal here was to say something is
going on in Colombia that looks very scary to me. And we better think about
what we're getting involved in down here. I did a film in Colombia many, many
years ago as a young cameraman and I worked in Bogota and the outskirts of
Bogota and I fell in love with the country. And the events of the last 20
years in Colombia have just made me very, very sad. And we, as a people, I
don't think, really aware of what's happening down there. So my goals of
making "Collateral Damage" as a filmmaker were to say, `Let's wave a flag here
and say please, let's not get involved in a war that's going to cause more
innocent people to get killed.' Colin Powell was on his way to Bogota when he
GROSS: I wonder, from the way you describe the movie, if maybe this isn't an
argument for releasing it now if it speaks to the moment.
Mr. DAVIS: Well, I think it's inappropriate for people to go through the
emotional wrenching that Arnold as a character goes through in the movie.
This movie is much more significant this week than it was 10 days ago. And it
has a kind of reverberation emotionally and politically, and, you know, that
it didn't have before these events.
GROSS: After September 11th, was everybody involved in the film unanimous
that you should postpone the release of it or was there a debate inside?
Mr. DAVIS: Oh, I think it was very unanimous. I think people didn't know
what to think. I mean, this is such a unique happening, a tragedy. You know,
the United States has never dealt with anything like this on their own soil
before. And because of that, people had no idea what the reaction would be
and I think that the fact that the title talks about innocent people being
killed, collateral damage is a term that has been used for years now. It was
used in relation to Yugoslavia and Bosnia, in the Middle East. All over the
world, this term has been used in terms of innocent people being caught in the
middle of terrorist acts or acts of war. And I think that it was just too
close to home to release this movie right now. I think that the movie will be
embraced in a way that will give it great significance when it's finally in
the theaters. And I think that it'll have a significant importance and a
humanity to it because this is not a revenge movie in the sense that here's
the good guy, here's the bad guy, let's go get 'em. This is a story about a
fireman who goes on a journey to find justice for his wife and son's death and
realizes that he may becoming the man he's chasing, a man who saves lives may
becoming a man who takes lives.
GROSS: Do you know when the movie will be released?
Mr. DAVIS: No, I don't. And this is a decision that's beyond me. The
decision will be made by Warner Bros. and I'm sure it won't be for several
GROSS: How has September 11th affected the kinds of movies you want to make
compared to, say, Joe Lieberman going to Hollywood and saying you should be
toning down the violence?
Mr. DAVIS: I think that it reinforces the idea that images contain powerful
messages for people. And we have a responsibility with the imagery we put out
there both in terms of putting ideas in people's minds that may be played out
in ways that hurt other people, and we have a responsibility to our own selves
and our children to portray images that can give them some way to lead their
lives without being paranoid, without being racist, without being, you know,
in a world where everybody is absolutely at war with each and afraid to talk
to each other.
GROSS: Do you think it's conceivable that certain movies or certain types of
movies have actually even influenced the terrorists?
Mr. DAVIS: I don't know. You know, this question came to--like the giant
James Bond movies. It was always a joke that the intelligence services of the
world would see a James Bond movie and get an idea and say, `Hey, we ought to
go make that, that's pretty cool,' you know. It's the old chicken and egg
situation. Does life imitate art? Does art imitate life? Certainly, the
idea of wars and tragedy and people being mad at each other has been a part of
drama forever. And it will continue to be a part of drama.
You know, politics and history have become a part of entertainment because
that's what our lives are about. It's relevant to people that can relate to
what the issues are. Look at all the movies that were made after Vietnam of
all stripes. And I think this subject is not going to go away. It's going to
be part of our history, our literature, our entertainment for a hundred years
or more. And, you know, there will be a period movie made about this time a
hundred years from now. And so I don't think it's going to go away. I think
it's a question of what are the sensitive issues that are in front of us right
now? Will it affect the way people play this out, the way they dramatize it,
the point of view they take? And there will be all kinds of points of views
made in terms of dramatic entertainment about this subject.
GROSS: As the director of several thrillers, you've had to make things blow
up. What was it like when you saw on television the World Trade Center
blowing up? I mean, this is the kind of image that a lot of people in
Hollywood have created artificially for the movies, and there was, like, the
real thing live on TV.
Mr. DAVIS: Well, I reacted to it like any other human being in America did.
You know, I was just--it was mind boggling. And I think the fact that I was
watching it on a television, I was so removed from everything, gives that kind
of veneer to it of desensitizing it again. It was the faces of those people
running away and the firemen walking around in a daze that we saw afterwards
that really was the most emotional part for me.
GROSS: Do you think that September 11th is going to change the kind of movies
you want to make? Will you want more explosions in your movies even if there
is a larger political or social message behind the explosion?
Mr. DAVIS: Well, first of all, you know, my first movie was a very gentle
movie about a young musician growing up in Chicago. And it was a film called
"Stony Island," about, you know, my brother growing up on the South Side as
the last white kid on the block making it in a black neighborhood as a young
musician. And that's the film that launched my career as a director.
And then I was offered a picture called "A Code of Silence," a police thriller
and it made a lot of money. And that's how I got into the action world.
I'm starting a film called "Holes," based upon an award-winning book by Louis
Sacher, a young people's book. It's a very layered, sensitive story about a
kid in a reform school in Texas. And I'm looking forward to doing that very
I have several other projects that basically are very optimistic and hopeful
kinds of movies that I was planning to do before "Collateral Damage" was done.
So I would like to be able to make movies that, you know, families can come
to. I think movies that deal with getting away from darkness and tragedy and
pain are things that I would love to be a part of. They're hard to make.
They're hard to make them interesting. They're hard to make them dramatic.
They're hard to make them funny. And yet, that's the challenge for us, is to
find a way to bring ourselves together by going to this--you know, the
theaters of America are the last public arena where people sit in the dark and
think about something. And I hope that we can have an assembly of people
going to movies where they think about what life could be like.
GROSS: Why are the films that you're talking about more difficult to make and
to keep interesting than thrillers or action films?
Mr. DAVIS: Well, you know, it's interesting. It's like when you make a
thriller, you make something that involves fear and danger. That film travels
around the world very easily. What's funny to the German people or to the
Thai people or to the American people is not the same thing all the time. So,
you know, we're making global movies these days. So when you make a movie
that somebody can understand all over the world, sometimes you come back
to--people can relate to the story, the unjustly accused man being chased.
That's a very simple story line. That's a very clear story line. The
subtlety of certain types of comedies just doesn't translate.
GROSS: During World War II, I think movies were very popular. There were
movies that were just kind of entertainment to take our mind off the war, but
there were also movies about the war to boost morale.
Mr. DAVIS: Mm-hmm.
GROSS: Have you been thinking about that, about the kind of movies that seem
to work in the past?
Mr. DAVIS: Well, I was born in 1946. My father came back as a sergeant from
Normandy. And I was a little young when that all happened, but I certainly
understood the role of the studios later on in the war effort and in creating
images that were part of the war effort. I'm sure that in a second, the
studios, if the government wanted them to, would participate in supporting
whatever the efforts were that was in the interest of the American people. At
the same time, I think that everybody is rethinking what it is we're going to
do. And, you know, it seems like there's no question that people are going to
support what the government feels is proper to do in terms of retaliating or
finding out who did this. And at the same time, I think all kinds of new
questions are going to be asked. And Hollywood is an amalgam of America.
There are going to be people who support whatever the government wants to do
and there are going to be people who question it in the sense that, you know,
are we getting ourselves deeper involved in something that we don't
understand? Are more innocent people going to be hurt? And does this play
into the hands of the people who did this which makes us more the enemy and
more the monster?
GROSS: Andrew Davis, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. DAVIS: Thank you.
GROSS: Andrew Davis is the director of "Collateral Damage." It's October 5th
release has been postponed.
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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Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
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