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Remembering The King Of Pop, Michael Jackson

Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli remembers pop icon Michael Jackson, who died Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 50.


Other segments from the episode on June 26, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 26, 2009: Obituary for Michael Jackson; Interview with Gabriel Bryne; Review of the film "The hurt locker."


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Remembering The King Of Pop, Michael Jackson


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

As FRESH AIR’s TV critic, I’d like to open today’s show by saying a few
words about Michael Jackson, who died yesterday of cardiac arrest at the
age of 50. For the 24-hour cable-news networks, which also dealt with
the death of “Charlie’s Angels” star Farrah Fawcett the same day, it was
a case of major-media overload, but the Michael Jackson story trumped
all others, and fittingly the best tribute came from MTV.

Michael Jackson, as the young front man of the Jackson 5, was a star at
an incredibly young age, racking up an amazing string of number-one hits
in the early 1970s. His group’s appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,”
while not as significant in terms of breaking down racial barriers as
some of the acts Sullivan showcased in the ‘50s and ’60s, were
memorable. So was the reaction of the Sullivan show audience.

(Soundbite of television program, “The Ed Sullivan Show”)

Mr. ED SULLIVAN (TV Host): Gary, Indiana, here’s the youthful Jackson 5.

(Soundbite of song, “I Want You Back”)

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Singer): (Singing) When I had you to myself, I
didn’t want you around. Those pretty faces always made you stand out in
a crowd. But someone went and picked you from the bunch, one glance was
all it took. Now it’s much too late for me to take second look.

Oh baby give me one more chance, to show you that I love you. Won’t you
please send me back in your heart? Oh darlin’, I was blind…

BIANCULLI: But in television, as in the recording industry, Michael
Jackson made his biggest impact and his most significant contributions
once he went solo.

The year was 1983. MTV had launched two years earlier, and it’s
difficult to remember or imagine how different a network it was back
then. Not only did it play nothing but music videos 24 hours a day, but
it played music videos only by white artists.

The performer who broke unofficial black list, or white list, was
Michael Jackson with a video and song too catchy too ignore. He danced
lighting up squares on a floor with every step, and MTV and a superstar
were reborn. The song was “Billie Jean.”

(Soundbite of song, “Billie Jean”)

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) She was more like a beauty queen on a movie
screen. I said don’t mind, but what do you mean, I am the one, who will
dance on the floor in the round…

BIANCULLI: On MTV, “Billie Jean” was the first blow of a two-pronged
attack. “Beat It,” which borrowed its imagery from a gang street fight
in “West Side Story,” became another number-one hit for Michael Jackson
two months later. In that same month, March 1983, Jackson appeared on a
live NBC entertainment special honoring the 25th anniversary of Motown
Records, the label on which the Jackson 5 had recorded.

Michael Jackson reunited with his brothers and sang that night, but he
also made a solo appearance that remains one of the most electrifying
star turns in TV history. He performed “Billie Jean,” introducing a new
dance move he had concocted for the occasion, a backwards, gliding step
he called the Moonwalk. Viewers went crazy, critics raved, and even Fred
Astaire phoned Jackson the next day to offer his praise. You are
incredible, Astaire told him. You are a hell of a mover.

Not even Madonna, who became a pop star later that year because of a
string of sexy videos, could unseat Michael Jackson as MTV’s biggest,
most influential artist. “Thriller,” the album from which he drew an
unprecedented number of hits, sold an absurd number of copies. By the
time Michael Jackson bestowed upon himself the title The King of Pop,
there was no denying it.

Throughout the ‘80s, he used his clout and his talent to make one ornate
music video after another, strengthening MTV’s appeal as well as his
own. Say the titles of Jackson’s hits, and you’re likely to remember the
images as quickly as the music: “Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,”
“Dirty Diana,” Black or White.”

But if Michael Jackson’s biggest contribution to live TV was his “Billie
Jean” Moonwalk, his greatest contribution to all TV history was his 1984
music video “Thriller.” Directed by John Landis of “National Lampoon’s
Animal House,” it was the longest, single-song music video ever made, a
record I believe it still holds.

It had a storyline, which made it a mini-movie, and a well-rehearsed,
inventively presented dance sequence featuring Michael Jackson and other

dancers as a group of choreographed zombies that has become positively
iconic, and who can forget Michael’s confession to his girl at the start
of “Thriller,” just before he transforms.

(Soundbite of music video, “Thriller”)

Mr. JACKSON: I’m not like other guys.

Ms. OLA RAY (Actress): (as Michael’s Girl) Of course not. That’s why I
love you.

Mr. JACKSON: No, I mean I’m different.

Ms. RAY: (as Michael’s Girl) What are you talking about?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. RAY: (as Michael’s Girl) Are you all right?

Mr. JACKSON: Go away.

(Soundbite of scream)

BIANCULLI: More recently, Michael Jackson’s TV history has been more
tabloid coverage than music appreciation: a baby on a balcony, a creepy
primetime interview, lawsuits involving underage boys and so on. But now
with his death, all those images, all those stories, are folded

Yesterday and today, while most networks covering Jackson’s death were
using his music videos only as a visual backdrop while interviewing
everyone they could reach, MTV did something different. It checked with
other celebrities, too, but MTV spent most of its time just playing
Michael Jackson’s massive library of music videos and live performances.

On CNN, MSNBC and elsewhere, you could hear about what made Michael
Jackson such a pop-culture icon, but on MTV, you could witness it all
over again.

(Soundbite of song, “ABC”)

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) A buh-buh buh buh-buh

The JACKSON 5 (Music Group): (Singing) A buh-buh buh buh-buh

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) You went to school to learn, girl, things you
never, never knew before…

Mr. JERMAINE JACKSON: (Singing) Like I before E except after C…

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) Or why two plus two makes four. Now, now, now,
I’m gonna teach you…

The JACKSON 5: (Singing) Teach you, teach you

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) All about love, dear…

The JACKSON 5: (Singing) All about love.

Mr. JERMAINE JACKSON: (Singing) Sit yourself down, take a seat. All you
gotta do is repeat after me.

The JACKSON 5: (Singing) ABC.

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) Easy as…

The JACKSON 5: (Singing) 123

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) Or simple as…

The JACKSON 5: (Singing) Do re mi.

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) ABC, 123, baby, you and me girl.

The JACKSON 5: (Singing) ABC.

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) Easy as…

The JACKSON 5: (Singing) 123.

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) Or simple as…

The JACKSON 5: (Singing) Do re mi.

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) ABC, 123, baby, you and me, girl.

BIANCULLI: Coming up, actor Gabriel Byrne. This is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Gabriel Byrne And The Art Of Listening


And now we shift from a performer who mesmerized people by dancing and
singing to one who captivates fans by sitting and listening. Our guest
today is Gabriel Byrne, who stars as therapist Paul Weston on the HBO
series “In Treatment.”

Based on an Israeli TV drama, “In Treatment” features Byrne, as Paul,
working through a weekly schedule of therapy appointments. Monday
through Thursday, as depicted in half-hour TV episodes, he meets weekly
with four separate patients. On Friday, he sees his own therapist,
allowing us a window into what he’s thinking.

Season one of “In Treatment” is out on DVD, and season two, which
concluded recently on HBO, is showing now on HBO Signature and available
on HBO On Demand.

Gabriel Byrne, who also starred in “Miller’s Crossing” and “The Usual
Suspects,” spoke with Terry Gross earlier this year. They started with a
clip from the second season of in treatment in which Byrne, as Paul, is
listening to a patient named Mia, played by Hope Davis.

She’s a successful lawyer and has had several affairs with married men,
including a colleague who just broke up with her. After talking to Paul
about the two men she slept with over the weekend, she starts talking
about her father.

(Soundbite of TV show, “In Treatment”)

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) You make him sound perfect.

Ms. HOPE DAVIS (Actor): (As Mia) Is that bad?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Can you think of a downside to it?

Ms. DAVIS: (As Mia) A downside to having a father who loves me? No. The
problem is I can’t find anybody as good as him. You think there’s
something wrong with that, don’t you?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Well for one thing, your father’s married to your
mother. Do you think there’s any connection between that and your
picking married men?

Ms. DAVIS: (As Mia) I said that I was done with that.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) You did, but you also asked me what that pattern
was about.

Ms. DAVIS: (As Mia) Now you’re going to tell me that my father molested
me? Because he didn’t.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) I didn’t think that, but your father has been an
essential comfort for you. For as long as you are his favorite, you
won’t ever be alone. I’m getting the feeling that the tight bond isn’t
entirely comfortable.

Ms. DAVIS: (As Mia) What do you mean?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Well look at this morning. You came in, you crossed
a boundary. It made you feel special, but I think it also rattled you.
Your speech was fast, graphic. You tried to provoke me. You spilled

Ms. DAVIS: (As Mia) The spill was an accident.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Maybe, but what I’m saying, Mia, is that it’s not
always a simple thing to be special. I was thinking of the feeling that
you had when you were eight, after the robbery in your father’s store,
and he held you. It was too tight. It was life and death. Do you think
it’s possible that to separate from your father is to risk being
entirely alone, but to stay with him is to be uncomfortably close?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. DAVIS: (As Mia) Why are you doing this? My dad is all I have.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) No one else?

Ms. DAVIS: (As Mia) Colleagues, acquaintances.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Is he your closest relationship? Are you his?

Ms. DAVIS: (As Mia) I feel sick. I, I ate too much. This is like anti-
therapy. I walk in here feeling great. I’m going to leave feeling like

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Sometimes that happens.

TERRY GROSS, host: That’s Gabriel Byrne and Hope Davis in a scene from
“In Treatment.” Gabriel Byrne, welcome to FRESH AIR. You are so good in
this role.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: Thank you, dear.

GROSS: Are people coming up and confessing their problems to you or
talking with you, you know, about their therapist because you’re so
convincing and so sympathetic as a therapist, not always in your
personal life in the series but as a therapist?

Mr. BYRNE: Yes, one or two people have come up to me and engaged me in
conversation about their, in one case, very private life, and I hasten
to reassure these people that I’m actually not real, I don’t have a
practice in Brooklyn and that they should, actually, seek professional

GROSS: So let me bluntly ask you the question that I know everybody
probably always wants to ask you, which is: In preparation for this
role, did you go into therapy, or had you already been in therapy and
understood what the process was like?

Mr. BYRNE: I had never been in therapy. I had known a few
psychotherapists but never actually took part in the process myself, but
I understood that it was about listening, and listening, I think, is one
of the most profound compliments that you can pay to another person. To
truly listen and to feel that you’re heard is deeply fulfilling in a
deep human way.

I knew it was about that. The thing was how to make drama out of
listening. And so therefore, television, because it uses the close-up so
frequently, allows you to do that because by some magic alchemy, if
you’re thinking something or feeling it, the camera will capture it.

GROSS: You said this is a series that’s, in part, about listening, that
your job, your role, your performance, is in part about listening.
That’s one of the reasons why I love the series, because it’s about
listening and often about asking good questions.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That’s theoretically what I’m supposed to be doing on the show.
So it’s like you’ve heroicized the act of listening.

Mr. BYRNE: Yes. I think that it’s – as I said, listening is a really
profound thing to do. I mean, we hear sometimes, but we don’t actually
really listen, and when we start to listen, it’s the beginning of a
deeper awareness.

GROSS: But you know what? But listening isn’t a great visual - like
watching somebody listen isn’t usually a great visual experience. I know
from the very few times I did television, that when the camera would
come on me when I was listening to somebody’s answer to my question, I
would look, you know, inert, which you can’t – you as an actor can’t
afford to look on camera. So what do you need to do to make listening an
action, an action that the camera can really pick up?

Mr. BYRNE: Well, if you’ve ever observed a child listening, they’re so
engaged in the act of listening. I was in a café about two years ago,
and I saw these – I saw a man and a woman at a table by the window, and
she was so absorbed in everything that he was saying.

He was talking about, obviously, something that was personal to him, but
in the act of engaging with him by listening, she was outside herself,
and I looked at that moment and I thought that’s what listening is, when
you’re absolutely absorbed in what the other person is saying.

And the challenge of acting is that you don’t hear everything just once.
You have to hear it several times because you have to do take after take
after take, but to constantly be absorbed and to try to be outside
yourself so that you’re not aware of listening, because really, truly,
profoundly listening is to be unaware of yourself at a deep level.

So you asked me if I had done any research for this. I had seen priests
in confession. Obviously being a Catholic brought up in Ireland I had
seen how they sometimes perfunctorily listened, because there’s many
ways of pretending to listen. And I also find that very interesting to
observe, the way people fake listening and fake engagement.

I knew that if this thing was going to succeed, it had to be – that had
to be convincing, first and foremost. And I watched - you talk about
yourself as an interviewer. I watched Dick Cavett tapes, and I was very
keenly interested in the way that he didn’t always have the right
question, and sometimes he got a little bit uncomfortable, and sometimes
his body language was a little uncomfortable as well, and that to me
looked like real as opposed to, you know, let’s, you know, convince
everybody that I’m totally comfortable and everything is going smoothly.

Sometimes silence is more powerful than the actual words that are
spoken, and silence something that, say, somebody like Harold Pinter or
Beckett in the theater really truly understood, that words sometimes are
not more powerful than silence.

GROSS: Now your character is so good at being a therapist, although he
sometimes makes some pretty serious mistakes. But on the whole, he’s
such a sensitive and just really engaged therapist. But your character’s
also in pain in his own life. His own life isn’t going well. I mean
right now he’s separated from his wife, he misses his children. They’re
in Baltimore. He’s moved to Brooklyn. and you’ve made other mistakes in
your private life too in the series.

So you have your own therapist, and one half-hour of each week is
devoted to sessions with your therapist, who’s named Gina and is played
by Dianne Wiest. And years ago she used to be your supervisor. So let me
just play a brief clip from one of your sessions with your therapist.

(Soundbite of TV show, “In Treatment”)

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) I hate my life. It’s broken. Every day it hurts.
I’m not getting anything from my family, so I try to get it from my
patients. I know it’s wrong, but who else do I have?

Ms. DIANNE WIEST: (as Gina) Who else do you have to get what you need

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Nobody. Okay, I have you, but you can’t give me
what I need. See, it’s not your job.

Ms. WIEST: (as Gina) Let’s talk about what you need.

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Do you have any water? You’re supposed to have
water for your patients.

Ms. WIEST: (as Gina) Paul, you’re so convinced that I won’t have any
water for you, you don’t see it. It’s sitting right there.

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Thanks.

Ms. WIEST: (as Gina) So can you tell me what you need?

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) I don’t need anything special, just what everybody

Ms. WIEST: (as Gina) Well, you have food. You have clothing. You have

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Well, sort of. I have a den with no other bears. Is
that shelter?

Ms. WIEST: (as Gina) You need some other bears?

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Uh-huh, yeah. I miss them. You know what I’m
talking about. I know you do.

GROSS: Gabriel Byrne, you want to just explain what the reference to
bears is?

Mr. BYRNE: I think the reference is to his children and to an intimate
life, and that although he deals in one way in a very intimate way with
patients, it’s a poor substitute for the intimacy of his family, which
he’s separated from.

He also is without a relationship in his life and without a partner. So
he’s a vulnerable, compassionate, angry man, and I have to say here
that, you know, I can bring those qualities of compassion and anger and
vulnerability and whatever to the character, but I wouldn’t be able to
do that if it wasn’t for the writing. And the writing, you know, if it’s
not on the page, it’s not on the stage, and Warren Leight, who heads up
the writing team, I think they just did a spectacular job in making this
seem very ordinary conversation at times but yet very real.

BIANCULLI: Gabriel Byrne, star of HBO’s “In Treatment,” speaking to
Terry Gross earlier this year. We’ll hear more of their conversation in
the second half of the show. I’m David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.
Here’s another track from Michael Jackson’s hit album, “Thriller.”

(Soundbite of song "Human Nature")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Musician): (Singing) Reaching out to touch a
stranger, electric eyes are everywhere. See that girl she knows I'm
watching. She likes the...

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I’m David Bianculli in for Terry Gross,
back with more of Terry's interview with Gabriel Byrne.

Byrne is the star of HBO's "In Treatment," the excellent and
increasingly addictive drama series about a psychotherapist and his
patients. Byrne, who became a movie star, thanks to a starring role in
"Miller's Crossing" by the Coen brothers, didn't come to the U.S. until
he was in his late 30’s. He was born in Dublin and Terry asked Gabriel
Byrne about his earlier years.

GROSS: Now you grew up in Dublin and didn’t come to the United States
till you were about, well in your late 30’s. And shortly after coming to
the States you made "Miller's Crossing," a film in which you played a
gangster. Correct me if I'm wrong in this, you were educated by the
Irish Christian Brothers? Is that a Jesuit - a Jesuit group?

Mr. BYRNE (Actor): No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: There's a - the Jesuits, they're a much more sophisticated
outfit altogether. The Christian Brothers were a teaching order and they
were known for their strictness, rigidity and Victorian approach to
discipline. Spare the rod and spoil the child was their kind of
philosophy and sometimes that resulted in inhumane and cruel treatment
of people who were in their charge. I say that not with any anger, but
just as a fact.

GROSS: What did you have to experience?

Mr. BYRNE: I think everybody that I know who was brought up in those
times expected that that was just the status quo, certainly cruelty on
an almost daily basis. I was just looking at a kind a diary that I had
kept, like a kind of child's diary at the time and I confided to this
diary that I didn't know why I was being hit because I didn't
understand, you know, if Jack has three stones in his pocket and Tom has
four stones in his pocket, how many stones does the Bishop of Cork have
if he lives in Paris, or something meaningless like that.

You'd say, I have no idea what that means and they'd hit you anyway. So
I didn't understand why I was being hit. And I remember, not be too
Dickensian about it, but I do remember winter mornings with one of these
men, you know, who'd had a brain operation and now read everything
upside down. So we all had to learn to read things upside on the
blackboard so that we wouldn't, you know, rise his anger. And this guy
would just give you what he called 12 of the best on each frozen hand, I
remember, in wintertime. That may sound a little, you know, Dickensian
and dramatic but it was the truth and...

GROSS: It also sounds bizarre.

Mr. BYRNE: Yes.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: Well you have men who have taken a life of - a life oath of
celibacy and they are denied the basic comfort of human connection and
warmth - and celibacy is something that I absolutely detest within the
Catholic Church. I think it's an appalling outrage against humanity to
make people - it's not like, I'm not really a religious person, but it’s
not like Christ came down from heaven and said look, okay you all got to
be celibate. It was something that was introduced in the 11th Century so
the church wouldn't have to pay the dependents of priests who died. So
celibacy's a manmade - a manmade thing. And so you had these people who
give up the possibility of human contact and warmth and you have them in
front of 50 kids. And they're told that they can hit with impunity, and
that discipline is to be meted out for any transgression, or perceived
transgression. So the stage was set for all kinds of abuse both physical
and sometimes more than that.

GROSS: I think I’d read that you had also studied to be a priest, that
you, for a period, you planned to be a priest. Is that not right?

Mr. BYRNE: Yeah, I spent - at that time there's a very strange thing
that was, you know, they used to recruit young boys. I mean I was 11
years of age and this guy came into the school one day and he showed
these slides on the wall about you know working in Africa and I thought,
wow that looks really nice. There's rivers and horses and smiling kids
and the guy's got a straw hat on. That looks like a good job. And at the
end he said, how many boys would like to do that? And I said I’d like to
do that. So I found myself leaving from Dublin on the mail boat to go to
England when I was 11 to study to be a priest. And at that time, to be a
priest was to be called by God.

It gave great honor and blessing to the family whose son was called to
be a priest. And I went there and spent four and a half years and lost
my vocation – vocation, I say. But they made the mistake, the priests
who ran the place, they made the mistake of inviting a traveling - a
group of traveling players to the school. And these traveling players
included two girls, one of whom was in a black slip with black

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: How she got in, I don't know, but anyway, she was on the
stage and she created havoc and chaos among the 200 to-be priests. And I
have a memory just of a gaslight and her standing under this lamplight
with this - with her leg showing and me thinking, now that's what I
want. And when they left, we were all hanging out the dormitory windows,
all these so-called, you know, apprentice priests, and she waved from
the little bus that they got into. And she waved to me, and I waved back
to her and I blew her a kiss, and she got in the bus and disappeared.
And then I looked and I saw there was 200 other guys hanging out the
window and they all thought the same thing. But many vocations were lost
that night. And I often wonder who that woman was because I thank her.

GROSS: So when, you know, obviously you were serious enough about
religion to spend several years in the seminary. When you were invited
to leave the seminary did you leave God behind?

Mr. BYRNE: Not immediately, but I suppose I had what they call a crisis
of faith and I remember once saying God, if you're up there and, you
know, strike me down if I say something bad against you. And I said, I
don't like you God or something to that effect, something kind of
adolescent or childish and nothing happened, and I thought well may
there's nobody really up there. And life took over, just the thrill and
excitement of being 17, 18 years of age, being able to walk through the
streets of London and seeing things like, you know, guys standing
outside these strip clubs saying: Come on in. Come on in.

GROSS: And you had permission to go. There was nothing holding you back

Mr. BYRNE: Yeah. There was nobody there to say - well, there’s the
little voice in my head saying, you know, you'll be damned forever in a
mortal hellfire. But it kind - when you weighed it against the
possibility of seeing a naked woman, you kind of said, well. So it was -
that was my crisis of faith was naked women or hell forever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: But at some point you didn't have to choose between the two.

Mr. BYRNE: No.

GROSS: At some point I'm sure you realized you could naked women and if
you wanted...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: could have some sense of God in your life. Did you choose
to keep one or were you kind of done with that?

Mr. BYRNE: I was done with that kind of God. My life since then, I
think, has been about a search for some kind of God. And I wouldn't say
that I'm religious in any way, but I think that I move towards some
version of being spiritual.

BIANCULLI: Gabriel Byrne, star of HBO's "In Treatment," speaking to
Terry Gross earlier this year. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

This is FRESH AIR. Gabriel Byrne plays a psychotherapist on HBO's "In
Treatment." And in most therapy sessions, the discussion eventually
leads to early childhood for clues about motivation and behavior. So
when Terry interviewed Gabriel Byrne earlier this year, they naturally
wound up talking about his early childhood growing up in Ireland.

Mr. BYRNE: It was a working class family in Dublin and my father was a
laborer and he had to work really really hard, and my mother was a
nurse, who had to work nights, and there was six kids in family. And,
you know, that produces its own stresses and strains. And I used to - I
remember when "The Brady Bunch" came out. I used to hate "The Brady
Bunch" because - and it’s not only now retrospect I can understand why I
might've hated them because they seemed like such paragons of virtue
that they would say things like Mom, Dad can we have a meeting?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: And I know if I said that to my father he wouldn't - he
would've just looked at me and said, you know, what? You know, so they
were all such happy and every problem that they had every week was
resolved within 26 seconds by the father, the mother, the maid who
served them orange juice, and each other. So they represented a kind of
an idealized family which, when I looked at, not just my family but
other families around, we were coping with real life and it wasn't just
like that. So it kind of bred a kind of unconscious resentment in me

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: ...I'm only beginning to understand now.

GROSS: You know, part of me is wondering how come you don’t want to go
into therapy. And the reason why I ask this is having become a big fan
of "In Treatment," like I've never been in therapy, but watching "In
Treatment" I sometimes think, wow that's so interesting, like, the
process is so interesting. Maybe I should go into therapy. It just looks
so fascinating and revealing. And I know what you're doing is drama as
opposed to like the reality of therapy and the two would be a little

The revelations would probably come a lot slower in real life. But
nevertheless, there's something very seduction too about the idea of
somebody devoting such complete attention to solving the mystery of who
you are and why you do what you do. So having immersed yourself in
therapy as an actor for "In Treatment," how come you're not seduced by
the idea? How come you haven’t wanted to go into therapy afterwards?

Mr. BYRNE: Well I could throw the question back at you and say that you
sound almost like you want to go into therapy yourself. You're just
waiting for the right nudge to go in there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: And...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: ...I could do you a good rate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: I’ll give you a 20 percent discount.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BYRNE: But for the same reasons like you, I'm kind of fascinated by
the notion of somebody giving their full and very considered opinion to
the narrative of my life. I think what a good psychotherapist does, I
imagine, is that they help you to write the real narrative of your life
and come to terms with - because I think we have a tendency when we talk
about our lives to kind of magnify certain things and give them an
importance, idealize certain things and be in denial about other things,
and looking at the narrative of your life and how that influences who
you are as an adult can not be but I think a good process.

GROSS: No, I think that's really well put. One of the things you did
after leaving the seminary was you went to college, you studied
archeology and linguistics, and I think this is where you learned to
speak and write Gaelic. .TEXT: Mr. BYRNE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And I - you know not growing up in Ireland or anything, I don't
know how many people are left who actually speak that language and how
much it's considered just like an archaic or literary language. What is
the answer to that?

Mr. BYRNE: Gaelic is an ancient language and a really beautiful one. And
Oscar Wilde said about English, he said the English stole our language
and we learned it and returned it to them with great beauty. I mean, it
was a little bit Oscar Wilde-ish to say that, but the truth is that up
until 18 say 60 or 65 almost everybody in Ireland spoke Gaelic. And
within a hundred years Ireland, adopting English as its premier
language, produced Shaw, Yeats, Wilde, Beckett, O'Casey, Synge - some of
the greatest writers of the 20th Century. Yeats redefined poetry, Joyce
redefined the novel, and Beckett redefined theater - that was all in a
hundred years. It's a most complex and beautiful language and with a
wealth of great poetry and prose that most people don't really know. But
it’s a beautiful language that's being revived. And people are beginning
to take a new interest in it, just like they did with - for a long time
Irish dancing was reviled and, you know, disregarded, and now it’s like
the hip and cool thing to do. To speak your own language is a very hip
and cool thing to do, and to be robbed of your language is to be robbed
of the way you think.

GROSS: Can you maybe recite a few lines in Gaelic from a poem you
particularly love and translate it for us?

Mr. BYRNE: Okay, that’s a hard one. Okay, I’ll try. (Gaelic spoken) It’s
a half-remembered fragment from Patrick Pearce, who was one of the rebel
leaders of 1916, and translated it means because – going back to naked
women - Ireland stands in for, a naked woman stands in for Ireland and
he talks about, naked I saw you, beauty of beauties, and I blinded my
eyes that I would not see you, my ears I closed that I would not hear
you. (Gaelic spoken) That’s the last two lines of it, and it says, And
in this road before me I gave my face. In other words, I turned my face
towards this road before me.

GROSS: You know, as an actor you’ve played all kinds of characters,
some, you know, very reflective and gentle, father figure, some like
very brutal, like in “Miller’s Crossing,” and – and also you’re a
criminal in “The Usual Suspects.” Having grown up, like come of age in a
seminary, was it at all difficult to get in touch with the brutal side
of yourself, to unleash that? Were you comfortable unleashing it when
you had to for roles?

Mr. BYRNE: I think we all have within us the capacity to be angry and
accessing anger. It’s interesting, that what I sometimes go to and I
look at drama students, you know, working, becoming actors, the first
place that the men go to is anger. And the first place that the women go
to is tears. It’s just an interesting thing that it’s easiest to access
for them, whereas men accessing tears seems to be more difficult,
possibly because the culture doesn’t endorse the notion of men and

But anger seems to be an accessible emotion. Repressed anger is
something I, you know, I have worked with in my work. And I find it a
safe place to let it out there, because I think that anger is a real
emotion and, you know, I try not to be afraid of it. I heard a woman the
other day – I sometimes go to this church in Brooklyn and the woman, the
preacher was talking about how our bodies are repositories for our
feelings and how we store anger in our bodies. And I thought that that
was quite a good point to make.

GROSS: You said you sometimes go to this church, but you also told us
that you no longer really practice religion. Why? Why do you go to

Mr. BYRNE: Because I think that to be encased in silence for three
quarters of an hour in that way is - I find it nourishing and relaxing
for the soul. It’s a nice church, they sing nice hymns, there’s
beautiful stained glass, flowers, there’s usually a good sermon, and the
seats are comfortable.

GROSS: Gabriel Byrne, it’s really been great to talk with you. Thank you
so much.

Mr. BYRNE: You too, Terry. And if you go to therapy, I will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I’ll let you know.

Mr. BYRNE: Okay, I’ll check it with you again, make sure. Okay.

GROSS: Good deal.

Mr. BYRNE: Yeah, okay.

GROSS: Okay. Bye, bye.

Mr. BYRNE: All the best.

BIANCULLI: Gabriel Byrne, star of HBO's "In Treatment," speaking with
Terry Gross earlier this year. Season one of “In Treatment” is out on
DVD and season two, with a different set of patients, can be seen on HBO
Signature and HBO on Demand.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
'Hurt Locker': American Bomb Squad In Baghdad


Director Kathryn Bigelow is widely acclaimed for two films with cult
followings - 1985’s poetic outlaw vampire saga “Near Dark” and 1991’s
daredevil movie “Point Blank.” Her profile has been lower since then.
But that might change with her latest film, “The Hurt Locker.” It tracks
an army explosive ordnance disposal unit, or bomb squad, in Iraq in
2004. Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: Some filmmakers know how to get under your skin and
control your responses, to infect you. And Kathryn Bigelow is among the
most gifted. Here’s how I knew her Baghdad-set war movie “The Hurt
Locker was” inside me. The characters were in a fierce desert firefight
and Jeremy Renner’s Sgt. William James had grabbed the rifle of a
soldier who’d just been shot down. It jammed, because the bullets were
sticky with blood, and James pulled them out and as enemy shots exploded
around him, he dumped them into the hands of a neophyte soldier.

He yelled, Clean them off! - and the soldier yelled, How? And James
said, Saliva! And at that moment — I swear — I found myself building up
spit, because it was all so crazy fast and I thought, I can help, and
there was no time even to laugh at myself.

Set in 2004, “The Hurt Locker” centers on an American bomb squad — now,
centers is wrong, since the film doesn’t feel as if it has a center. It
veers from one gut-churning mission to the next.

Screenwriter Mark Boal was embedded as a journalist in Iraq with an
Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit. He and Bigelow take their theme from
a book by Christopher Hedges that war is, quote, "a drug, a potent and
lethal addiction." That line opens the movie, and I think putting it
onscreen is a mistake. It pins down the thesis. But Bigelow has
certainly made it live. The camera moves are sudden, the cuts a beat too
quick. The jumps from close-up to long shot signal explosions are
imminent, even when they’re not. Bigelow is in sync with men under
threat from all angles. And the men, their weapons cocked, are alert to
everything - a pop, a head poking from a window, a wire snaking out from
a mound of debris. “The Hurt Locker” isn’t like other Iraq films, which
lead with American paralysis and guilt. The horror is here, but
underneath the rush.

There is a conventional dramatic conflict. It’s between Renner’s James
and Anthony Mackie’s Sergeant J.T. Sanborn, who thinks James is a
cowboy, a danger to the unit. Their tug-of-war plays out over and over,
as James dons the astronaut-like bomb suit and walks toward a potential
explosive, a new pyrotechnical puzzle, while Sanborn’s men pirouette and
scan surrounding buildings and bystanders. After one successful bomb
diffusion, James is accosted by a colonel, played by David Morse.

(Soundbite of movie, “The Hurt Locker”)

Mr. DAVID MORSE (Actor): (As Colonel Reed) (unintelligible) flaming car,
Sergeant James, (unintelligible)

Mr. JEREMY RENNER (Actor): (As Staff Sergeant William James): Yes sir.

Mr. MORSE: (As Colonel Reed): You’re a wild man, you know that? He’s a
wild man, you know that? I’ll shake your hand.

Mr. RENNER: (Staff Sergeant William James) Thank you, sir.

Mr. MORSE: (As Colonel Reed) Yeah. How many bombs have you disarmed?

Mr. RENNER: (Staff Sergeant William James) I’m not quite sure.

Mr. MORSE: (As Colonel Reed) Sergeant.

Mr. RENNER: (Staff Sergeant William James) Yes?

Mr. MORSE: (As Colonel Reed) I asked you a question.

Mr. RENNER: (Staff Sergeant William James) Eight hundred seventy three.

Mr. MORSE: (As Colonel Reed) Eight hundred and seventy three. Eight
hundred and seventy three.

Mr. RENNER: (Staff Sergeant William James) Counting today sir, yes.

Mr. MORSE: (As Colonel Reed) That’s gotta be a record. What’s the best
way to go about disarming one of these things?

Mr. RENNER: (Staff Sergeant William James) The way you don’t die, sir.

Mr. MORSE: (As Colonel Reed) That’s a good one. That’s spoken like a
wild man. That’s good.

EDELSTEIN: "The Hurt Locker" dramatizes what other Iraq films haven’t -
that innocent civilians can buckle under the pressure too, freezing in
their cars or striding up to overanxious troops with bizarre
pleasantries. The movie is so disorienting, you never guess who has a
detonator or who’ll end up dead. Name actors, memorably Ralph Fiennes as
a brusque private contractor, pop up and go out with shocking speed. The
less-known actors keep you guessing too. Renner doesn’t overplay James’s
hot dog persona. The character’s focus is on the explosives, with no
wasted motions, no grandstanding. And Mackie’s Sanborn is so infuriated
by Renner’s lack of caution, there’s at least a chance he’ll engineer an
accident and take out his comrade himself. It’s only after the film ends
and your fight-or-flight instincts ebb that you might wonder about the
movie’s politics, or lack of them.

The question of what these men are doing in a culture they don’t
understand with a language they can’t speak and people they can’t read
hangs in the air but is never posed. Yet maybe that’s why “The Hurt
Locker” rises above its didactic counterparts. Kathryn Bigelow has
always been enthralled by the macho warrior, the existential daredevil,
and she’s so deep inside these soldiers’ testosterone-soaked psyches
that the question of why has no meaning.

Sensation is all — and this is, in all senses, a sensational film.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine. You can
download Podcasts of our show at
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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