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Olu Dara's Album Illuminates the Origins of Jazz.

Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the CD "In the World From Natchez to New York" by Olu Dara from Atlantic Records. Dara who plays coronet, has been a fixture in the New York jazz scene since the 1970's. He performed with drummer Art Blakey, Julius Hemphill, David Murray and Henry Threadgill. This is his first CD of his own.

05:32

Other segments from the episode on June 5, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 5, 1998: Interview with Paul Thomas Anderson; Review of Olu Dara's album, "In the World: From Natchez to New York"; Interview with Lowell Handler; Review of the film …

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 060501NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Paul Thomas Anderson
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "BOOGIE NIGHTS")

BURT REYNOLDS, ACTOR, AS "JACK HORNER": My name is Jack.

MARK WAHLBERG, ACTOR, AS "EDDIE ADAMS": Eddie -- Eddie Adams.

REYNOLDS: Eddie Adams from Torrance.

WAHLBERG: Yep.

REYNOLDS: Jack Horner. Filmmaker.

WAHLBERG: Really?

REYNOLDS: Yeah. I make adult films, exotic pictures.

GROSS: That's Burt Reynolds and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from "Boogie Nights," a new movie about a group of people who make porn films. Reynolds plays a director who's slightly more ambitious than the average X-rated director. He aspires to make movies that people will watch for the story as well as the sex.

Mark Wahlberg plays the well-endowed teenager who, with the help of the director, becomes one of the biggest stars of adult films.

Boogie Nights takes place from 1977 to '84 and chronicles how the business was turned upside-down by cocaine and video. Boogie Nights shared the Toronto Film Festival's top award with "L.A. Confidential." My guest is the screenwriter and director of Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson. Although he's only 27, this is his second feature film. His first, "Hard Eight," was set in the world of casino gambling.

Before our interview gets started, let me tell you that we will be talking about some adult subject matter.

Anderson told me that he grew up in the San Fernando Valley in California, which he describes as a capital of the adult film business. He'd occasionally see mysterious film crews going in and out of houses, and he passed cinderblock warehouses without signs, which he assumed were connected to the industry.

I asked him if, as part of his research, he ever went to the set of an adult film.

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON, WRITER AND DIRECTOR, "BOOGIE NIGHTS": I went after I'd written the first draft and spent some time and hung around, and just -- you know, it's kind of -- it's a trip, you know, for the first 10 seconds it's kind of shocking. But then after those 10 seconds, it's quickly -- the shock sort of goes away and it's just work, you know, and you're kind of witnessing these people really trying to do good work, you know, and it's really not that different from a real film set, you know, where they're worried about the same thing.

Like, OK, is it in focus? Is the lighting OK, you know?

GROSS: How's my hair?

LAUGHTER

ANDERSON: How's my hair -- you know, are we communicating what we want to communicate here, you know? And that's kind of interesting and wonderful, I think.

GROSS: Boy, if you ever needed a metaphor to kind of hammer home: film as voyeurism.

ANDERSON: Right.

GROSS: Being on a porn set would have to be it.

ANDERSON: Yes.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Now, you got Burt Reynolds to be in this movie, and it's an excellent performance and everybody is saying so. He was a big film star in the '70s when this movie is set. You grew up in the '70s. Did he mean much to you when you were growing up?

ANDERSON: Yeah, he did. I mean, I can remember, you know, being -- and I told him this. I said when I was eight years old and I saw "Hooper," the first thing I did was go home and sort of recreate the title sequence of Hooper, you know, in my own bedroom, like -- with, like, soccer pads, you know, I mean, the opening title scenes of Hooper, he's like putting all these stuntmen pads. And I would sort of -- ran home to my bedroom and sort of recreated that title sequence with...

LAUGHTER

... and I told him. And I -- he was impressed, I think.

GROSS: Was that a good enough credential?

ANDERSON: I think that's why he's in the...

GROSS: Yeah.

ANDERSON: ... yeah, I think that's why he's in the movie.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Well, was it hard to get him to be in it? I mean, this was -- this is your second film -- second feature-length film to be released, but he probably didn't know you from a hole in a wall when you approached him?

ANDERSON: He didn't, but you know, the first time I met him was right after I sort of set up a screening of my first movie for him, and he watched it, and he had read Boogie Nights, so he knew what he was getting into. And we sat down and it was kind of wonderful -- sort of the same thing as going to a porno set, you know, for the first 10 seconds it's Burt Reynolds, oh my God, you know. But then -- but then it sort of quickly went away and it was just an interesting guy to talk to.

And that's kind of the way it was on the set, you know, is that ultimately it's just -- he's just another actor who just wants to do good work, you know. It's -- but that's not to say that there weren't a couple of times where -- while we were editing the movie, it was actually -- you know, his -- he would turn his head in a certain way or the light would catch him in a certain way, and I'd just sort of stop and say: "that's Burt Reynolds. How did Burt Reynolds get in this movie? What's happening here?"

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson is my guest, and he wrote and directed the new film Boogie Nights.

The Burt Reynolds character in your movie is a porn producer and director who wants to make movies that incorporate story into them, so people won't just watch the movie to see the sex scenes. They'll want to see what the outcome of the story is.

ANDERSON: Right.

GROSS: Did -- is that based on a certain character or a certain type of trend in '70s porn?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. That's something that you saw, I think, in '70s porn was more of an effort to create a genre; you know, to create a whole new sort of set of rules for these -- you know, to take it out of sort of stag film status and make it, you know, a genre where you could tell a story and also have a movie that was basically a sex film.

And I -- so I think Burt's character is kind of based on a lot of notions that flew around at that time. There was a lot of people that really wanted to kind of try and dignify the industry at that time. Not to mention that Burt can also accurately reflect, I think, any so-called legitimate filmmaker's wishes, you know, which is: how do I make a good movie where, you know, I can keep people in the theater?

GROSS: You obviously have a real affection for some of these characters. Did you know any of the people in the pornography industry? Or have you since come to know them through the making of this movie?

ANDERSON: I've since come to know them through the making of the movie. It's funny 'cause when I made -- when I first wrote the movie, I'd never been to a real porn set. Like I said, I'd only been sort of surrounded by it in a peripheral way.

And all of my sort of knowledge was based on just sort of watching porno movies and seeing documentaries or reading a couple of articles. The actual research within the field that I did was just to verify, well: is what I think the truth the truth?

You know, and then when I did meet some of the people in the industry, I kind of saw that my imagination wasn't really too far off from what the truth was. Well actually, I should correct that. I would say that it was funnier and sadder than I thought it was going to be.

GROSS: The young porn star in your movie is played by Mark Wahlberg, and in the movie, you know, his name is Eddie in the film, but he takes on the porn name Dirk Diggler. That's the name he imagines, you know, a porn star should have. How did you come up with that name, Dirk Diggler?

ANDERSON: I have no idea, but I know that I -- I still have the index card that -- where I wrote that name down when I was 17 years old, in my bedroom. I really don't know. I have no idea. I mean, I think a good porn name has to have two Gs in it.

GROSS: Oh, I knew that. Yeah.

ANDERSON: That's very important.

LAUGHTER

ANDERSON: Yes.

GROSS: That's the kind of comment -- I say, why? Why two Gs?

ANDERSON: I don't know. It just -- it just looks good and it sounds good for a good porn name. And you know, a K is pretty important, too. So you know, I wish I really knew, but I -- it just kind of hit me like it hit him, I guess, like "Dirk Diggler," wow. That's what's gonna -- that's my future.

GROSS: There's a scene where Dirk Diggler pulls down his pants for the first time and the crew of the porn movie sees how well-endowed he is.

ANDERSON: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And the camera pans the expression on each of their faces, and everybody's -- everybody has this absolutely fantastic look on their face.

ANDERSON: Right.

GROSS: And I'm wondering what the actors were really looking at when you shot those expressions?

ANDERSON: You know, that's a wonderful question, and the answer is me.

LAUGHTER

I -- honestly, I think -- and I remember it was the sound guy who said that that was probably his single -- single greatest experience on a film set. And I don't know what language I can use on the air, but I sat just off camera 'cause Mark and Julianne, you know, they didn't -- weren't needed. They were just off-camera. I sat off-camera and I said OK just look at me and each reaction followed as you see in the movie.

GROSS: Well, you must have really showed them something to get those expressions. That's very funny.

ANDERSON: You know, I'm a method director, you know, I really...

LAUGHTER

GROSS: The casting in your movie is really terrific. I mean, we've talked about Burt Reynolds and Mark Wahlberg is very good. Julianne Moore, an actress I love ...

ANDERSON: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ... is just wonderful in the role of a porn star who's married to the director played by Burt Reynolds; and W.H. Macy plays an assistant director; Ricky Jay, the sleight-of-hand artist, you know, plays the cameraman; John C. Reilly (ph), who had the starring role in your previous film Hard Eight, co-stars in this. He's terrific. What a find, I mean do you have an approach to casting that you'd want to talk about? I just think you have a great eye for really good actors.

ANDERSON: Yeah. Well there's two approaches. First is -- is most of those actors that you just mentioned are friends of mine.

GROSS: Oh.

ANDERSON: So I -- and it's wonderful because I get to write parts for them -- A because they're my favorite actors; B because they're my friends and we get to spend all summer shooting a movie together, you know, so it's just wonderful. And John Reilly and Phil Hoffman (ph), Philip Baker Hall (ph) were all in my first movie.

It's a leg-up, you know, to be able to go to an actor and say, well, what kind of part haven't you played before? What do you want to do in this one? And what can I -- what can I write for you that you, you know, would really thrill you?

And that's kind of fun. And you can also sort of factor in wonderful personal things about them that, you know, no one else knows, you know, and you can kind of write it in. The wonderful thing is when they say: "this character is nothing like me." And you kind of go: "mm-hmm, sure it's not" -- you know.

But anyway, and then, you know, with someone like Ricky Jay, there's a great advantage to, you know, going to make a movie is that you get to kind of meet people that you really want to meet. And for a long time, I wanted to meet Ricky Jay, and this was a way to meet him -- to send him the script and go "I want you to be in this movie. Please, can I just hang out with you? Can I just be around you?"

And he said OK. You know, with casting, it's funny because, you know, you mentioned Julianne Moore -- I mean, she is someone that I had in mind when I write the part, but I didn't know her personally, you know. I knew her work. And she -- so I wrote the part with her in mind and gave her the script and she went with it.

I have a great casting director named Christine Shieks (ph), who really has wonderful instincts. She also cast my first movie. And not just -- not just in terms of these bigger parts, you know, but in terms of the smaller parts, you know. And the thing you always look over is the person that says, you know, that comes home and says, like: "more coffee?" -- you know? There was kind of -- can look those over.

And it's fun to -- there are so many great actors out there. really are. There are so many great actors that I really loved making where there's 80 parts. You know, there's about 80 parts in this movie, and I got to cast 80 actors. I just -- I just watching them act, you know.

GROSS: My guest is Paul Thomas Anderson, writer and director of the new film Boogie Nights. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back with Paul Thomas Anderson, writer and director of the new film Boogie Nights.

Boogie Nights has an R rating, but...

ANDERSON: Yeah.

GROSS: ... it was an -- originally, I think, an NC-17. Why did you decide to tone it down?

ANDERSON: Well, that's a contractual thing. You know, when you -- when I first went to try and get money for this movie, I sat down with New Line and I said: "so here's the deal. It's three hours long and it's going to be NC-17." And they said: "uh, can you pick one?" And I said: "OK, I'll pick one. I'll take it as a challenge to make this an R-rated movie, but it's going to be long, you know, are you OK with that?" And they said: "fine."

So contractually, you know, I was obligated to make an R. On our first submission, the film was an NC-17. You know, it had -- no scene was taken out of the movie to get the R, but it was just a matter of sort of negotiating and trimming down on some of the sex.

In the first sex scene that you see between Julianne and Mark, just some of the shots were extended a bit more so, you know, I don't know how, sort of -- I don't know how graphic I can be here, but it basically was just shots of humping, you know, Mark on top of Julianne humping, and you -- if you see his bare ass, and they're just sort humping -- if that goes on too long, that's something they say is a no-no.

So you deal with the MPAA and you kind of negotiate back and forth about what you can get away with and what you can't. And at the end of the day, I'm really happy with where the movie is. You know, I think -- none of the stuff that they suggested changing was stuff that affected the story, you know.

And that was sort of the line that I had to draw, was well, you know, if we're just talking about shots of Mark's butt, you know, that's one thing. But the second this -- any of these suggestions effect the storytelling of the movie, we're going to have a problem.

And it never did. You know, it never got there. And the funny thing is is that I went back. I was going to do an unrated versions for overseas or for laser disc and I looked at it, and it's like 40 seconds worth of stuff, and I said well this is just silly and I don't need it, and this is really the best version of the movie.

GROSS: There's a scene where the Mark Wahlberg character comes home and you could tell he's aroused by the bulge in his pants. Does that count as something that they wanted -- did you have to negotiate that with the board?

ANDERSON: No, that wasn't one. They didn't have a problem with that. They had a problem with, like I said, humping -- for how long humping goes on. They have a -- they had a problem with humping and talking at the same time.

And essentially it boiled to when they said: "so you -- she's humping there and she's talking. Can you pick one?" And I said: "well, the talking is more important." So we just went and shot a shot of Nina Hartley, and I said: "Nina, hump once, stop, say your lines, and we'll move on." And we did that and put it in and got the R.

GROSS: Boy, it sounds like a bad joke about not being able to chew gum and walk a straight line at the same time, doesn't it?

LAUGHTER

ANDERSON: Yes. It's a similar thing.

GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson is my guest -- director and writer of the new film Boogie Nights, and his earlier film is called Hard Eight.

There's some great disco through the movie. I'm wondering what your feelings for that music is?

ANDERSON: Well, I -- I love all the music in the movie. It's sort of music that comes from my record collection, you know. The criterion for picking the music was it just has to be cool, you know. That was really the first thing, you know, it's nice if on the other hand it can work kind of thematically or maybe lyrically there's something that happens that kind of complements what's happening in the movie. That can always be nice, you know,

But just sort of music should just work on the vibe level first, you know, that's sort of the criterion that we used. And I -- I'm very fond of that music.

GROSS: The opening scene in your movie has behind it "The Best of My Love" by the...

ANDERSON: Right.

GROSS: ... Emotions. It's really -- that record has to really help set the energy level for the movie, so it must have been really hard to narrow down -- of all the records you could use, which one are you going to choose. How did you choose it?

ANDERSON: You know what? That was not a tough choice. That -- those -- to me, there was only two songs sort of as choice for the opening, and it was either Best of My Love or "Got To Be Real." And then "Carlito's Way" came out, and I saw that Got To Be Real was used pretty prominently, so it was very clear to me that The Emotions was the winner, you know.

But I love that song. I think -- I love not only the sort of lyrical value of the song, but just like I said, the vibe of the song and the way that it starts to start, you know, in punctuation with the title coming on. It was really great.

GROSS: You movie is set in the '70s and early '80s, so you know, in part of the movie you're really dealing with '70s fashions and '70s looks, whether it's, you know, the stud look or the country and western dude look. My friend likes to call the '70s "the decade that fashion forgot."

It's the decade you came of age in. I figure when you were growing up, you thought that everybody always wore, you know, big hair and big sideburns and big collars and things like that.

LAUGHTER

ANDERSON: Right, right, right.

GROSS: Did you have fun with the clothes in the movie?

ANDERSON: I did. You know, I have to -- I have to say the funny thing is that for as much focus as there is on the '70s stuff, I had more fun with the '80s stuff. I mean, because that was just a clearer kind of memory to me, is sort of moving into my adolescence and, you know, the sort of -- the wonderful trend of headbands and Capezios and, you know, lots of zippers on everything, you know. It was actually incredibly fun.

The '70s stuff was great, you know, and the funny thing was is that my costume designer, Mark Bridges, actually we had a hard time finding some of the stuff because, you know, the thrift stores are sort of bare. You know, I mean '70s fashions are so in vogue now that the thrift stores are sort of all out of this stuff.

So we really had to -- it was sort of a massive -- a much bigger treasure hunt than you might think to find some of these clothes. But the '80s clothes weren't hard to find. There are certainly a lot of headbands and legwarmers out there.

GROSS: Unwanted.

ANDERSON: That's right.

GROSS: Well, Thomas Anderson is my guest -- writer and director of the new film Boogie Nights, about the pornography film industry from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s. His previous film was called Hard Eight.

Your first film, Hard Eight, was set primarily in Las Vegas where -- without saying too much about the story, a young guy in his 20s who's really kind of lost, finds a father figure who's this kind of expert gambler and is showing him the ropes in Vegas -- showing him all the tricks to get a free room; tricks to make people that you're a real like high-stakes roller and real winner and all of that.

And I'm wondering how much you knew about Vegas when making that movie? -- about gambling, too.

ANDERSON: I knew -- I knew -- I knew a lot. I'd spent a lot of time gambling and I still like to gamble. I spend a lot of time in Vegas. And I really was just kind of in a time where I was obsessing about gambling. And I think in the same way I made a movie about the valley where I -- because I just wanted to stay in the valley 'cause that's where I lived at the time. I'd wanted to be able to walk to location.

I made a movie in Reno just because I wanted to go gamble. You know, I really wanted to be there.

GROSS: Why did you want to gamble?

ANDERSON: I wanted to make money.

GROSS: Did you make any?

ANDERSON: No.

GROSS: Did you lose a lot?

ANDERSON: I lost a ton, you know, but...

GROSS: You know, I've said this before, but I can never understand why anybody who knows movies gambles, 'cause in every gambling movie, the gambler always loses big in the end and destroys his life and destroys his family.

ANDERSON: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So I mean, you always know what the outcome is going to be.

ANDERSON: Exactly. But you know, I think that's why you're there is to try and spending a year of your life trying to figure out why the hell am I doing this, you know, and hopefully you can get some answers from it.

GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson -- he wrote and directed the new film Boogie Nights. We'll talk more in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Paul Thomas Anderson, writer and director of the film Boogie Nights. It's about a group of people making X-rated movies in the '70s and '80s in the San Fernando Valley where Anderson grew up.

Boogie Nights is dedicated to your father, Ernie Anderson, who passed away earlier this year. And I think a lot of our listeners will know his voice, or you know, knew...

ANDERSON: Right.

GROSS: ... his voice, primarily probably from his announcements on ABC Television?

ANDERSON: Yeah.

GROSS: He was like the voice of ABC for a long time. I don't know if he was officially...

ANDERSON: Yeah.

GROSS: ... called that, but he did all those, you know, like "coming up on the 'Love Boat'"...

ANDERSON: Right.

GROSS: ... kind of announcements. You know, he had quite a voice. So tell me what it was like for you hearing, you know, your father's voice coming out of the TV all the time?

ANDERSON: It was great. It was very cool, you know. He was a very interesting man. He had an interesting kind of job in that we -- he was -- he didn't have to do anything, really. He'd get up for a couple of hours and he'd go into the studio down the street from where we lived, you know, in the valley. And he'd say a couple of words and then come you, and you'd sort of wonder like: "what's your -- what do you do? What's your job." And he'd say: "I'm done. I don't know." You know?

He'd just -- and it was a great job and I think he was really kind of happy that he didn't have to be involved with Hollywood or deal with, you know, any kind of politics or anything. And he did it, and he did it better than anybody and it was kind of a trip to hear him once in a while on the radio or you'd be in the supermarket, and you'd hear, you know, a commercial on the PA there.

But it was -- it's a beautiful voice. I think you -- we always knew when we were in trouble, you know, in my house because he would use "the voice," you know. He would say, you know: "be home by 11:00," you know, "or I'm going to kill you." You know.

GROSS: It's a very authoritative voice.

ANDERSON: Yes, you know, you knew, oh God, OK, he's using "the voice." I gotta be home by 11.

GROSS: I think he hosted a horror show in Cleveland. This would have been before you were born...

ANDERSON: Yeah.

GROSS: ... a horror television show?

ANDERSON: There's -- this is something that he did in the early '60s that started his career. He was working at a local television station in Cleveland, and he created this character called "Ghoulardi" (ph). And it was this incredibly odd kind of avant garde freaky beatnik thing where he would introduce these horror films.

These were terrible horror films, and he would sort of do these little sort of vignettes before and during and kind of comment on how bad the films were. And he would sort of blow things up with firecrackers, and just sort of be this all-around rebel, you know, that apparently a lot of people have responded to. I mean, people will come up to me and say "oh my God, you're Ghoulardi's son, and you have no idea what that did for me. It was the -- sort of the biggest thing ever."

And my dad used to tell me that he did this, and I remember being like 13 or 14 and just thinking, you know, all right, well what does this mean? You know, this isn't that big a deal. And we went to Cleveland and literally stepped off the plane, you know, people were all over him. It was like the Beatles had arrived or something. It was like: what is this, you know?

But it was -- it was a very cool thing. I have a lot of the clips from that show. It -- very interesting. He was one of the first guys to sort of chroma-key (ph) himself inside the movie, you know, so...

GROSS: Oh, yeah.

ANDERSON: ... he'd be in there with the actors, commenting on how bad the dialogue was or how bad the monster looked, you know, sort of saying, like: "I can see the string," you know, "I can see the string on the flying saucer," you know.

GROSS: Would he act like the zombies were really chasing him?

ANDERSON: No, well, he would do the exact opposite. He'd stop and say: "look, this monster doesn't look real," and the zombie would kind of like run past him. You know, I -- very weird.

GROSS: So did he help you get started when you started working in movies?

ANDERSON: Well, I'm -- not really. Unfortunately, like I said, is that he didn't have a lot of ties to the sort of -- the industry at all, you know. I would sort of say, like "come on, Dad, who do you know? Help me out."

LAUGHTER

You know? And he'd say: "I don't get involved in that, man" -- you know, and so -- so unfortunately there was this guy who was sort of in the industry, but didn't know anyone. It was sort of like, you know, thanks for all your help, you know.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: So what did you do to get started? What kind of television or movies did you work on before making your own?

ANDERSON: I worked all around. I worked as a messenger for a long time -- for a messenger service. I worked on a game show called "The Quiz Kids Challenge," which was kind of fun, you know, three incredibly bright children versus three average adults, you know: who will win?

GROSS: Did you have to write questions for them?

ANDERSON: No, my job was to -- they would go around to all of the country and videotape children, you know, at school, asking them a series of questions and I would sort of edit down the top choices from each of the field trips, you know. And that was part of my job to edit the quiz kids.

GROSS: So you were like the Ed McMahon of precocious children.

ANDERSON: Right.

LAUGHTER

Exactly. I still have some of those tapes, actually. They're quite funny.

GROSS: Well maybe you can work them into a movie sometime.

ANDERSON: I might.

GROSS: Yeah. You I think worked at one of those Sundance workshops...

ANDERSON: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ... where -- what? -- you did a fellowship or something to get to work on a movie?

ANDERSON: It's -- it's the Sundance Filmmakers Lab run by a woman named Michelle Sadrumn (ph). You know, I had a short film that showed at the Sundance Film Festival in '92 or '93. And she came to me and said: "you know, I love your short and have you written a script?" And I said I had, and I'd written Hard Eight. And I gave it to her, and she invited me to the lab.

And I thought, well -- I was a little bit skeptical, you know. I thought is -- am I going to be forced to buy "Rhinestone" from the Sundance store, you know, at gunpoint? And what it turned out to be was this wonderful, wonderful thing. I don't have any experience with film schools, really, and this to me is probably what film schools should be.

The directing side of things I brought up my two actors, John Reilly and Philip Baker Hall. They sort of picked three scenes from the script and rehearsed them and put them on videotape and then cut them together. And all the while, you're sort of surrounded by other directors, like John Schlesinger was there and Frank Oz and Michael Keaton Jones (ph). And they're sort of guiding you and kind of giving you tips and talking about everything -- just sort of talking about movies, you know.

And then the screenwriting part happens, and you sit down with the script and -- I met with Richard Legravanes (ph) and Todd Graff (ph) and Scott Frank (ph) and, you know, they just sort of pick your script apart and kind of -- you just get to sort of talk about movies for two weeks. And it's so wonderful and it's so supportive, and you get to come out of there saying "I was at the Sundance Lab," which means something -- which means something when you go to get financing for a movie. You know, people listen a little bit closer when it has the Sundance name attached to it, so...

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Boogie Nights has been really well-reviewed and you know, I imagine it's going to be really popular. It's a great film. So that puts you in the position of being like one of the new, you know, new hot filmmakers who is probably going to get a lot of offers from the big studios and stuff.

And you know, really that kind of thing could just be like the kiss of death, unfortunately, for a talented young filmmaker because sometimes like when big success strikes really soon, you know, it's just kind of overwhelming and -- I don't know. But it's just easy to lose track of your real vision. And I'm wondering, like, what your approach is going to be to, you know, kind of maintaining your sense of what you want to do?

ANDERSON: I bought a set of horse blinders.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Yeah.

ANDERSON: I've put them on. I haven't put them on yet, 'cause I'm still just trying to just sort of sit and enjoy what's going on, because it's...

GROSS: Yeah, sure.

ANDERSON: ... trying to find a weird balance of relaxing for five minutes, 'cause I really did only finish the movie, you know, about a month and a half ago.

GROSS: Wow.

ANDERSON: I mean, we really kind of pushed it right up to the deadline. I want to just try and sit back and enjoy what's happening. I don't want to try and feel bad about it. I want to enjoy it, but then put my horse blinders on, you know. And -- 'cause I have in mind the next movie, the next couple movies that I want to make. So, I can't imagine being swayed in any way from what that's going to be.

The wonderful thing is that I have the luxury of having made a first movie that absolutely no one saw, you know. So it's not like, yes, I'm young and this is only my second movie and this is a great success for me to have, but I've also got to -- I got to go through two years of hell with my first movie in trying to get that seen, and not having it happen. So...

GROSS: Hard Eight?

ANDERSON: ... I don't feel too spoiled. Yeah, it was Hard Eight.

GROSS: Is that on video now?

ANDERSON: It is now.

GROSS: Good.

ANDERSON: Yeah, I hope people will find it there.

GROSS: So, my last question: would you ever like to make a real porn movie?

LAUGHTER

ANDERSON: Didn't I? It's two and a half hours long, I mean. No, I don't think so. I don't think so. I think maybe Boogie Nights is my version of a porn movie.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Paul Thomas Anderson, thank you very much for talking with us.

ANDERSON: Thank you for having me and asking good questions.

GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed the new film Boogie Nights.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Paul Thomas Anderson
High: Writer and Director Paul Thomas Anderson. His latest project is "Boogie Nights," a film about the pornography film industry in the late '70s and early '80s in the San Fernando Valley. Anderson's first film was the independent "Hard Eight" with Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson.
Spec: Movie Industry; Pornography; Boogie Nights; Paul Thomas Anderson
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Paul Thomas Anderson
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 060501NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: From Natchez to New York
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Olu Dara is an elusive figure on the New York jazz scene -- a cornetist who played with drummer Art Blakey in the early '70s. Then he became a key ally of new jazz composer-saxophonist Julius Hemphill, David Murray, and Henry Threadgill.

All of them made excellent use of Dara's pungent blues style. Dara usually keeps a low profile and only now has a CD of his own, his first ever. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Dara's debut is not so jazzy, but you can't fairly accuse him of selling out.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "IN THE WORLD FROM NATCHEZ TO NEW YORK")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Olu Dara on cornet, the trumpet's stubbier cousin which has a quieter, more conversational tone that fits him perfectly. On his new CD from the Atlantic label called "In the World From Natchez to New York," Dara plays some lovely cornet, but not much of it. As on his too rare live appearances, he's more inclined to sing a few songs and play some blues guitar.

But I expect many fans of his jazz work will have the same reaction to his CD that I had the first time I saw him perform. He doesn't do what you expect, but he does what he does so well you don't care.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "IN THE WORLD FROM NATCHEZ TO NEW YORK")

OLU DARA, SINGER/GUITARIST, SINGING:
Young mama
Young mama
You just need a little time
Maybe a new fellow to talk about
What's on your mind

WHITEHEAD: Olu Dara comes from Natchez, Mississippi and spent time in the Navy, during which he visited the Caribbean and Africa. In the '60s, he settled in New York, where he played rhythm and blues for a while. When jazz musicians started hiring him, he was glad for the work, but he still felt and sounded like a blues musician.

Dara is not one to deny his roots. On his big-label CD, he doesn't surround himself with famous friends, but sticks with his working band of lesser-known players. In the World isn't really a jazz record, but it does shed light on where jazz comes from.

For instance, Dara illuminates the connections between black Southern speech and the rhythms and inflections of jazz music. His tune "Ochre" is an homage to street vendors back home.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "IN THE WORLD FROM NATCHEZ TO NEW YORK")

DARA, SINGING: I got strawberries
Strawberries
I got fresh beans
I got good looking ears of corn
I got the home made drink

WHITEHEAD: Mississippi, Africa, the Caribbean, New York -- you can find all of Olu Dara's ports of call in there. As with another great entertainer, Louis Armstrong, you can hear his singing and playing as mirror images of one another. Like Armstrong, Olu Dara has the gift. He's as natural an entertainer and blues musician as anyone around.

But like any good blues man, he knows life has its grim side, too. The track "Jungle Jay" (ph) features Dara's more famous son, the big-selling rapper "Naz" (ph).

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "IN THE WORLD FROM NATCHEZ TO NEW YORK")

DARA, AND RAP PERFORMER "NAZ," SINGING:
Jungle

We have to look out where everywhere I go
Every turn around
Watch my back, watch my front

Jungle

That's what it's all about
It's a jungle of the mind
It's a jungle when you (Unintelligible)

The world's so big, yet so small
It's one block ending diametrically
Before they reach what they wanted
I choose to get blunt-ed
And cruise to 125th Street
Music loud as hell in my jeep
(Unintelligible) people, strangers
Not thinking danger
Amongst my people...

WHITEHEAD: On his new CD, Olu Dara traces the arc of the African-American cultural diaspora, from country picnics to the urban pressure cooker. He makes us hear how it's all connected -- blues to hip-hop, West Africa to the West Indies to West 125th Street. Makes us hear it when others only talk about it.

His music is so deft and charming you forgive him for not showing off his cornet playing, even if you wish he'd feature it a bit more on his next CD, whenever he gets around to that.

GROSS; Kevin Whitehead reviewed In the World from Natchez to New York by Olu Dara. Kevin's new book, "New Dutch Swing," has just been published. He'll talk with us about it soon.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Kevin Whitehead; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the CD "In the World From Natchez to New York" by Olu Dara from Atlantic Records. Dara who plays coronet, has been a fixture in the New York jazz scene since the 1970s. He performed with drummer Art Blakey, Julius Hemphill, David Murray and Henry Threadgill. This is his first CD of his own.
Spec: Music Industry; In the World From Natchez to New York
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: From Natchez to New York
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 060501NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Twitch and Shout
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:35

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Lowell Handler has documented the lives of people who live with the condition he has: Tourette's Syndrome. It's a genetic disorder which creates involuntary movements, noises, and thoughts. Sometimes the symptoms include uncontrollable swearing and obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Handler was diagnosed in 1981 when he was 24 years old and in his last year of college studying to be a photographer. After the initial emotional upheaval, Handler decided to deal with his condition by taking pictures. He spent part of 1988 traveling with neurologist Oliver Sachs taking pictures of people with Tourette's Syndrome who Dr. Sachs was writing about.

Then he became the associate producer and narrator of a documentary about people with TS called "Twitch and Shout." Now, he's written a memoir, also called "Twitch and Shout." I spoke with Lowell Handler in 1995 when the film was released, and asked him to describe his symptoms.

LOWELL HANDLER, AUTHOR, "TWITCH AND SHOUT: A TOURETTER'S TALE," PRODUCER AND NARRATOR: I -- I guess I have a lot of different symptoms. I mean, it's -- it's -- you know, I have a lot of vocal symptoms. I have a lot of noises I make. I have a lot of kind of barking sounds that I make. I have a lot of physical movements; a lot of twisting and turning; a lot of jerky movements in my arms and legs and torso.

You know, it's basically -- that's what Tourette is. I mean, it's a movement disorder and it's a disorder that involves inability to inhibit, and not only to inhibit movement, but also to inhibit thoughts and words and actions and speech and noises and so forth.

GROSS: What goes through your mind when you go through one of the twitches, like when you stamp your foot or when you thrust your arm out?

HANDLER: What goes through my mind?

GROSS: Yeah. Are you conscious of what's happening? Or is it an involuntary...

HANDLER: Well, it's involuntary. Sometimes I can sense it ahead of time and sometimes it just jumps out. But what goes through my mind isn't any different than what goes through anybody else's mind. There's no particular thought process. There's no, you know...

GROSS: I guess I'm wondering if when -- when your arm gets thrust out or when you stamp your foot, are you thinking: "I'm going to stamp my foot now." Or are you thinking: "oops, I just stamped my foot"?

HANDLER: No, neither really. It just happens. I don't think of myself as really any different than anybody else, except that the only reminder, and it's a constant reminder of how I am different than everybody else, is people's reaction to me. But if there was nobody to react or for instance when I'm around a group of people who've known me for many years, there's no difference at all, because they're not reacting and so I have no mirror.

GROSS: How much compulsive behavior do you have? And what kind of behavior is that?

HANDLER: The compulsive behavior is one of the most disturbing aspects, I think, of Tourette's Syndrome. But it's not something that everybody with Tourette has certainly. I think a large percentage of people who have Tourette do have it.

And that involves, you know, all kinds of things like touching objects, touching people, kicking things. And certainly tics or involuntary movements can kind of be -- it's kind of difficult sometimes to distinguish what is a tic and an involuntary movement -- a manifestation of the Tourette -- or what's a sort of compulsive action.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. I find that interesting. In your movie, you say that a lot of people lose their symptoms when they're absorbed in their work, and that with you, too, when you're taking pictures, you're not likely to get, you know the tics and the noises that can interrupt you during the rest of daily life.

HANDLER: Yeah, that's true.

GROSS: Is there any explanation for that?

HANDLER: I don't know what the scientific explanation is. I think that -- I'm not sure, really. I really don't know the answer to that. I know that it -- that symptoms just tend to dissipate when one is involved in activity and really concentrating.

GROSS: So, that must make it very appealing to work a lot.

HANDLER: Yes. I like photographing and I like working, and it keeps me happy.

GROSS: Well, you know I interviewed your brother.

HANDLER: Yeah. But am I the first Touretter you've ever interviewed?

GROSS: Yes, you are.

HANDLER: Oh, really.

GROSS: Yeah, yeah, you are. And I interviewed your brother -- I think it was a year or two ago, when he was in...

HANDLER: Evan.

GROSS: ... yeah, your brother Evan Handler, and he was doing a one-person show in New York about the years that he had leukemia.

HANDLER: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: But anyways, he had said that, you know, you, his brother, had Tourette's. And so I made the mistake of thinking that you probably cursed a lot involuntarily, which some people with Tourette's do. And so, I think I asked your brother if it was unusual to have you visiting and have you kind of cursing involuntarily in the hospital, and he kind of straightened me out and told me that that wasn't a problem that you had. And you straightened me out more in the movie because only 15 percent of people with Tourette's have this problem, which is called copulalia (ph).

HANDLER: Right.

GROSS: But boy, it must be really hard for that 15 percent of people with Tourette's who do have it.

HANDLER: Yeah, it's actually very difficult, extremely embarrassing, at times dangerous, and also very funny at times. I have a number of friends who have copulalia, and especially when a lot of racial slurs are involved. There's one friend I have who lives here in New York City.

She actually lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and she says a lot of racial slurs. And so whenever we're out together, every single -- you know, a member of a given ethnicity will pass by and she will come out with the racial slur for that particular ethnic group, including her own and mine and anybody else at this point.

LAUGHTER

So it's very -- it can be very -- very interesting going around town with her.

GROSS: Well you know, I think some people interpret that as, you know, well: this is what she's really thinking. Somebody else who thought that would be able to like repress it to keep it in, but because she has this neurological disorder, it comes out. But she really believes these racial epithets.

HANDLER: Well I don't think -- I think -- you know what it is? I'll give you an example that I think people can kind of grasp and understand.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

HANDLER: How many times have you been talking down the street and saw somebody totally bald and thought to yourself "baldy?" Or seen somebody who weighs like 400 pounds and thought "fatso?" These things pop into everybody's mind, but how many people would actually blurt them out?

GROSS: But that's my point. I mean, that's a...

HANDLER: This woman thinks of the word -- sure, she thinks of the word because, you know, a lot of people would think of the word. It doesn't mean that she's against the person or that she's a racist or that she's a bigot at all. But yet she -- the word is in the culture. It's out there. And it's already been established as a sort of label in society. So, she simply has the inability to inhibit this language.

GROSS: Do you remember the first time you met somebody else who had Tourette's?

HANDLER: Yes. I remember that vividly. And it was very frightening for me.

GROSS: Why was it frightening? I thought -- I thought you were going to say the opposite.

HANDLER: No, actually it was frightening because I had, you know, somewhat middle of the road symptoms, and I remember I went to a Tourette's Syndrome Association meeting in New York City, which is where I live now. And I went with my parents. And I remember it was very difficult for my parents to be, because here was this thing -- this thing that you have that -- and we really didn't know what to expect.

And there was a man there who actually I'm still in touch with -- a man named Bob Nast (ph), who lives in New Jersey. And he had some very -- he's a very nice guy and he's a very intelligent man, and he had some very kind of classically severe symptoms. And I -- he came over and introduced himself and shook my hand, said hello, and he was like, you know, mouth-popping and flailing and all over the place.

And I'm saying to myself: "Holy God, you know, is this -- you know, is this going to happen to me?" Or, you know, what -- what -- you know, who knows -- you know, Tourette is not degenerative. That's the first thing everybody asks: "is it degenerative?"

It's not degenerative, but it's constantly in the fluctuating state. Sometimes it's worse, sometimes it's better. It waxes and wanes and it changes every day and every week. And you really don't know what to expect.

So, it was frightening for me. But then I -- now I don't even give a damn anymore, really. But it just -- I didn't know what to expect. It was that kind of thing.

GROSS: Does anyone on the street ever assume that you're homeless because you're walking funny or because you're talking to yourself?

HANDLER: I think -- they don't think I'm homeless because of the way I'm dressed.

GROSS: Right.

HANDLER: But I think they do think -- I've had many times people react where they think I'm an alcoholic or I'm a drug addict. The other day I was in my neighborhood in the East Village, and one of the actually homeless guys who was panhandling -- I always buy the New York Times on the corner -- and he looked at me. And I was "hmmph" (ph) -- kind of barking and doing that. And he looked at me and said: "you've been drinking that vodka again, huh buddy?" And I said: "no, have you?"

LAUGHTER

You know, what am I supposed to say? But it's like everybody has some comment. Everybody wants to put in their two cents.

GROSS: Part of your film is set at a national conference for people with Tourette's Syndrome.

HANDLER: Touretters Conference.

GROSS: Yeah. And it looks like a really interesting conference, and several of the people attending comment about how it's the place where they feel most comfortable in the world because everyone at the conference has Tourette's and you don't have to explain yourself; the hotel staff understands what's going on. And so, you don't have to be self-conscious about anything. Do you feel that way there too?

HANDLER: Oh, definitely. You know, and in fact Oliver Sachs was there with us.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

HANDLER: He's kind of like our unofficial mascot. It was a lot of fun. I mean, those conferences are incredibly exhausting and rejuvenating at the same time.

GROSS: There was one discussion at the conference about the difficulty of finding a lover or a spouse. Is it usually hard for people with Tourette's to find somebody that they feel real comfortable with and who's comfortable with them. I'm wondering, too, if you know a lot of couples who both have the syndrome.

HANDLER: Well actually, you know, I think it is more difficult for people with Tourette or with any particular condition just because it's an added difficulty. A couple of years ago, both Laurel Keiten (ph), the director of this film and myself were at a wedding, and the wedding was two people who both have Tourette's Syndrome. And it was quite incredible, it really was, because the man actually had a severe case of Tourette's Syndrome and the woman had a mild case of Tourette's Syndrome.

And there was a rabbi conducting the service, every single thing that was said as part of the ceremony, there was some response by the groom in relation to what was being said. So that the rabbi would say, you know: "we all look forward to these things in life; being together, and the things that we look forward to..." -- and the groom, you know, "that Grateful Dead tapes, Grateful Dead tapes."

LAUGHTER

And then he said, you know: "we -- we're so thankful to the Tourette's Syndrome Association for bringing these people together and they've given so much." And he said, like: "money, money." And you know, all kinds of hysterical things like that, and everything was like -- almost like a comedy routine, you know.

GROSS: When we decided to do this interview, I of course wondered, you know, what if any symptoms would come out while we were talking.

HANDLER: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: You know, would you be twitching as we talked and, you know, would there be noises being made. And now you're in a studio in a separate city from me. We're talking...

HANDLER: Right.

GROSS: ... via fiber optic line so you're in New York; I'm Philadelphia. I haven't seen you. But there's been a couple of times when I heard -- I felt a little -- a little shout or something.

HANDLER: Right.

GROSS: But really, I mean, nothing -- nothing has sounded different than a typical interview. Do things usually go that uninterrupted for you? Is it because like you're particularly focusing on the interview?

HANDLER: Yeah, I was going to ask you if you're disappointed.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: No.

HANDLER: Actually, it is because I'm sort of focused, but it's also because I think my Tourette is highly visual and I think that, you know, it also tends to be very interactive, where I'm interacting with other people. So that I'm very animated and I kind of move around a lot, but when I'm kind of concentrating, asked to be contained in a setting like in a studio like this, in a sound studio or on a train or a bus, I tend to try to keep to myself and just focus on the task at hand. Yeah.

GROSS: Your movie is called Twitch and Shout, which -- I really like the title 'cause it's funny. And I'm wondering if you and a lot of people you know with Tourette's Syndrome have a sense of humor about it.

HANDLER: Yeah, we definitely do. I think it's both, you know, it's -- it's a full range of things. It's very terrible. It's uncomfortable. It's awful, but it's also quite hysterical and quite funny. And I think it's all of those things at the same time.

GROSS: I want to thank you a lot for talking with us.

HANDLER: Thanks, Terry.

GROSS: Lowell Handler has a new memoir called Twitch and Shout. Our interview was recorded in 1995, after the release of the film Twitch and Shout, which he narrated.

Coming up, "The Truman Show."

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Lowell Handler
High: Lowell Handler has Tourette's Syndrome. He has written the new memoir "Twitch and Shout: A Touretter's Tale." Handler was associate producer and narrator for a 1995 documentary called "Twitch and Shout." The film is about people with Tourette's Syndrome.
Spec: Health and Medicine; Tourette's Syndrome; Twitch and Shout; Movie Industry
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Twitch and Shout
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JUNE 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 060504NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: The Truman Show
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Jim Carrey's new movie is a departure from the kind of broad physical comedy that made him rich and famous. Our film critic John Powers has a review of "The Truman Show."

JOHN POWERS, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: The Truman Show is so clever that it takes a while to realize it's not a comedy. Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank (ph), a salesman who lives on Sea Haven Island, a beaming community of identically quirky tract houses. He's married to an amiable nurse named Merrill (ph), who's played by Laura Linney (ph), and he drives golf balls off the pier with his life-long buddy Marlon.

It's an idyllic existence, until Truman realizes that he's actually the unwitting star of The Truman Show -- a 24-hour-a-day TV series that's the ultimate in reality programming. Hidden cameras follow every moment of his life. While Truman himself is real, his loved ones are all actors. His acquaintances extras. And Sea Haven's actually a gigantic domed set overseen by the show's creator, who's played by Ed Harris, who's sort of a cross between Big Brother and God.

The movie was written by Andrew Nichol (ph), who made last year's "Gattica," a similar tale of a man rebelling against a manipulative high-tech society. Here, the hero's existence is a sinister parody of the American dream of security, comfort, and perfect order. Sea Haven Island is a nightmare theme park that cheats Truman of all genuine experience and strips his life so that even his deepest emotions serve TV ratings.

In fact, the movie conjures a voyeuristic corporate-run America that's only a slight exaggeration of our own; a world where media-fueled fictions overwhelm private lives, as when Truman's frantic attempt to talk honestly with his wife veers into a commercial.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE TRUMAN STORY")

LAURA LINNEY, ACTRESS: Let me give you some help, Truman. You're not well.

JIM CARREY, ACTOR: Why do you want to have a baby with me? You can't stand me.

LINNEY: That's not true. Why don't you let me fix you some of this (unintelligible) cocoa drink? All natural cocoa beans from the upper slopes of Mount Nicaragua -- no artificial sweeteners.

CARREY: What the hell are you talking about? Who are you talking to?

LINNEY: I've tasted other cocoas. This is the best.

CARREY: What the hell does this have to do with anything?

POWERS: The Truman Show is superbly directed by Peter Weir (ph), whose best work from "The Year of Living Dangerously" through "Fearless," shows us the world in a radically new way. Weir neatly reveals the comic side of Truman's askew reality, and does even better at showing how easily we, like Truman, can be manipulated.

In the most creepily touching scene, Marlon decides to convince his confused pal Truman that life in Sea Haven is exactly what it seems. "The last thing I'd ever do is lie to you," Marlon says. And he speaks the words with such heartfelt conviction that it's hard not to be moved. Even though we can see the show's producer feeding him the words on an ear phone.

Weir even finds a core of restraint in Carrey -- he of the eloquent backside. Carrey has said that he'd like to be another Jimmy Stewart, and the character of Truman is a step in that direction. He's terrific in the opening scenes, where he exudes the shallow good cheer you'd expect of a man whose whole life has been designed to make him shallow.

But once Truman starts seeing the truth, Carrey lacks the emotional weight to make us feel Truman's inner turmoil. Like many comedians turned actors, he seems scooped out, and I kept wishing the movie could have starred the real James Stewart.

At bottom, The Truman Show is an ingenious allegory about a man who risks everything he's known to escape a reality that he's been raised to accept without question. His story's been worked out so cleverly that I only wish it didn't leave me so cold.

Watching, I kept thinking about the old movie "It's A Wonderful Life," whose hero George Bailey (ph) yearns to flee the small town where he's always lived, but remains tethered to it by love for his neighbors and family -- especially his warm-hearted wife.

George is torn by an ambivalence that borders on hysteria. Truman faces no such inner conflict. Why would he want to stay with his wife? An actress whose pretense at love is little more than a form of cheerful castration? Why should he feel any ties to his hometown? A fake community whose citizens are as hollow as holograms.

In attempting to flee Sea Haven, Truman doesn't have to struggle with loyalty or love -- only the logistics of getting away. And the result is a climax that must disguise its emotional tinniness with lazy, feel-good imagery.

The Truman Show wants us, like its hero, to question our own prefab reality, but like most allegories, it finally makes things far too easy. Truman Burbank is faced with a scary, but simple choice: freedom or captivity, rather than having to choose among different forms of freedom and captivity, which is what the rest of us must do every day.

GROSS: John Powers is film critic for Vogue.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: John Powers; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Film critic John Powers reviews "The Truman Show" which opens today in theaters. It tells the story about Truman Burbank who from the moment he was born, for the last 30 years, has been the unwitting star of the longest running and most popular documentary show.
Spec: Movie Industry; The Truman Show
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: The Truman Show
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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