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Revisiting A Conversation With Ted Kennedy

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died Tuesday night of complications related to a cancerous brain tumor. In this archival interview from 2006, Kennedy spoke with guest host Dave Davies about the problem of — and possible solutions to — America's burgeoning health care costs.


Other segments from the episode on August 26, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 26, 2009: Obituary for Edward Kennedy; Interview with Jason Bateman.


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Revisiting A Conversation With Ted Kennedy


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. The greatest United States senator
of our time is the way President Obama remembered Ted Kennedy today.
Kennedy’s death last night, at the age of 77, from brain cancer, marks
the end of an era, the end of his generation of Kennedy political

Ted Kennedy represented Massachusetts in the Senate for more than 46
years. He was elected to his brother John Kennedy’s seat in 1962, when
he was barely old enough to hold the office. He was a staunch advocate
of liberal causes and described health care reform of this cause of his
life. He was also an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, saying that
the best vote he ever cast in the Senate was against going to war.

We’re going to listen back to the interview Senator Kennedy recorded
with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies in 2006 after the publication of
Kennedy’s book outlining his policy priorities, called “America Back on

DAVE DAVIES: Senator Kennedy, welcome to FRESH AIR. Your book deals with
a whole lot of areas, from health care to tax policy to labor relations,
and I think, you know, if your book were the platform of a political
candidate, your opponent would probably go through here and add up the
cost of all of the additional initiatives, and there are many:
increasing unemployment compensation, increasing spending on early
childhood education, college funding, federal job training. Someone
would look at this and say this is an unrealistic, classic liberal tax-
and-spend throw-money-at-the-problem approach to government. Can America
afford it?

Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Well, let’s take some
of these issues. When we put into place the Cold War GI Bill to pay for
the education of all the veterans that returned from World War II, the
Treasury’s analysis of that showed that the Treasury received $7 for
every dollar it invested in education because these individuals had a
considerable success in terms of their life career.

Sil Conte, who was a Republican congressman from Massachusetts, and Tip
O’Neill, were the great advocates of that program, and of course it paid
for itself many, many, many times over.

Take, for example, health care. For every dollar that we are spending in
health care now, 33 cents of that is non-clinical. That’s administrative
costs that are (unintelligible) no business could survive that.

We are supporting the information technology, information technology,
the IT, bringing electronics into the paying of bills and the
administrative costs. The Institutes of Medicine, the Academy of
Sciences, said if you brought in information technology into the current
health care system, you’d save between 150 and 175 billion dollars a
year. Do you hear me? A hundred and 50 to 175 billion a year. More than
enough to afford to have a national health insurance policy.

Secondly, secondly, we do very poorly in the area of preventive health
care. One out of every $4 that we spend in Medicare is on diabetes. One
out of every $10 we spend on health care is on diabetes. There is a
great deal that can be done in terms of the prevention in terms of
diabetes that we don’t do that can save billions and billions of

You know, the fact is, if we do this in the right way, if we take into
consider prevention, if we bring in the right technologies, if we deal
with the health care in a comprehensive way, we can bring the health
care, if we have more competition in terms of the prescription drugs, we
can bring the health care costs down and we can pass a program. We are
spending everything that needs to be spent in health care; it’s just
being spent in the wrong way.

DAVIES: Few people have had had the same job for 43 years. You won
election to the United States Senate in 1962, not long after Lyndon
Johnson was majority leader. I mean, you have a long tenure in this
body. How has it changed?

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, it’s – the most dramatic shift and change has been
the force of and the presence of money and the need and necessity for
candidates to go out and raise a lot of money and therefore draw them
away from doing what they should be doing, and that is attending to the
United States Senate.

When I first arrived there, that was a 12-month job. We got – used to
get the Fourth of July and Labor Day, and we got Christmas. I was in –
in the mid-1960s we were in between Christmas and New Year’s voting. At
that time it was voting on the war in Vietnam.

We used to get back, leave late Friday afternoon and get back Sunday
nights and be ready to go. Now candidates in the Senate, for all intents
and purposes, doesn’t get going until Tuesday noon, and most of the
senators are gone Thursday night, back to raise the resources for their
campaigns, and it’s – we are, I think, a lesser institution and failing
to really deal with what we should be dealing with, and that’s the
people’s business.

I think there’s a way of dealing with it. I’m a strong believer in
public financing of campaigns. In 1973, I had legislation with Hugh
Scott, who was the Republican leader, to provide public financing of
House and Senate and presidential campaigns, and we actually won it in
the Senate, but we couldn’t get the House of Representatives to go along
with it. They’ve done some in the presidential campaigns, but it’s in
disfavor today. But that seems to me to be the way that we eventually
have to go because we are failing in our responsibilities, I think, to
the American people, institutionally.

DAVIES: Well, I guess we should briefly address this issue of campaign
finance reform because, you know, there were the reforms of the ‘70s and
then more recently the McCain-Feingold measure, which you know, it seems
has really failed to keep big soft money out of elections. Why is that
and where do we go from here?

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, as I say, I’m – I believe that what you – what is
necessary, what is called for, is the public financing of elections. You
know, the best estimate now is that the lobbyists spend about $10
billion a year to influence legislation, about $10 billion a year. That
is vastly more than what would be necessary if you had the public
financing of House elections, Senate elections and presidential

The principal reason that people don’t want – you could do it – for
example, believe that when the legislation that I introduced in the
1970s, which was after the Watergate, I think was eight or 10 cents a
primary vote or 12 cents in terms of a general election voter. In
Massachusetts it’s somewhere around four or five million dollars to run
in a state, and that’s really probably plenty. I mean, that gives you
four or five weeks of television and enough to have a pretty good ground
organization. It doesn’t give you, you know, 15 or 24 weeks of
television, but it gives you enough so that you’re able to get across.

Now, what happens is members of the Senate say why in the world do I
want to fund an opposition, and members of Congress, every two years,
and they are going to get a chunk of change to run against me every two
years? Why in the world do I want that, and why does a senator want to
have a decently funded opponent every six years to run against me? Why
do I want to have that? And somebody who was president would have a
well-funded candidate that would run against him in four years.

So they would rather not have that kind. Most of them would rather have
the existing system, where they have to go on out, because they can
raise a good deal more as incumbents than the challenger. The question
is: What serves the country best? And the country would better be served
by having well-funded challengers that would challenge members of the
House and members of the Senate and the president.

That would serve them best, and it would also save them billions of
dollars that we’d have as a result of the lobbying, and it would save
the billions, I think, of dollars in terms of the kind of tax loopholes
that get written in by the lobbyists into the tax bills every year that
are special interests, which these lobbyists work on.

Now, those are the realities, but at this present time people say, look,
I don’t want my tax money used into politics. They just don’t want it,
but at the end of the day they’re getting it because they’re paying for
it with these lobbying activities. And it’s something that, as I have
said too often, we’re getting the best Congress that money can buy, and
I think it’s a real disgrace.

DAVIES: You know, Senator, those who know the Senate well know that
you’ve really immersed yourself in the details, the nitty-gritty of
legislation, and really learned to master the procedures and personal
relationships of the Senate and have a long list of accomplishments, not
just bills passed but also conservative initiatives thwarted, I mean
including the Republican Contract for America in the mid-‘90s, when the
Democrats were in the minority in the Senate.

And I was wondering if you could talk just a little bit about your
education in the ways of the Senate. I mean, was there a time in your
career when you felt you understood how this place works? Was there a
mentor that helped you get there?

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, I think the model and the standard, really, is set
by President Kennedy and Leverett Saltonstall. They didn’t team up very
often. My brother was elected to the Senate in ’52. Senator Saltonstall
was in there. But I noticed that they teamed up on a number of different
issues, a lot of them related to particular regional issues, but I
noticed that my brother and Senator Saltonstall developed a New England
group of Republicans and Democrats to try and find ways of working


I sort of grew up in that tradition about trying to get things done. I
always thought that that is one of the principal reasons you are in the
United States Senate, is to get things done, and that’s the way I’ve
tried to work in the United States Senate, and we have had some success.

I mean, we’re continuing to work now with Senator McCain on the issues
of immigration and immigration reform. Right after that, we’re going to
work with Senator Specter on the voting rights, voting rights extension,
which is so important, has to be re-authorized again.

We’ve worked with a number of different senators over the period of
time. I worked with Orrin Hatch on the Ryan White legislation that dealt
with AIDS, about the CHIP program, that was the Children’s Health
Insurance Program. He was interested in children and children’s issues.
So we’ve tried to do that, and we’ve had some success.

DAVIES: You know, I was struck by your relationships with Orrin Hatch
and Alan Simpson, who are, you know, ideologically almost polar
opposites of yours, maybe, and one of the things that’s interesting to
me about that is that in modern Washington, it seems to me, that
whenever you have a conversation with someone, there’s always a subtext,
and you must always be thinking, well, what’s really their agenda, what
are they trying to manipulate me into, or how are they trying to game
me? And I wonder if it’s hard to develop relationships of trust in
modern Washington. It seems that you have with some of these senators.

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, we joke both with Senator Simpson and Orrin Hatch.
We used to say if we sponsored each other’s legislation, usually one of
us hasn’t read it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. KENNEDY: You know, that was – but you know, I’d find, for example,
I’d be fighting with Orrin Hatch on the floor of the Senate on fetal
transplantation - that was an issue with regards to basic research and
NIH funding, and I’d be fighting with him in the morning, and then I’d
be going down in the afternoon, working with him on the Religious
Restoration Act, which we eventually got passed, about state and federal
impediments on terms of religious practices. For example, the state may
have a rule that no children can have wine or drink wine under 16 and
yet is part of the Catholic tradition in its mass, permits them to take
the wine. Well, you know, there are a number of actions similar to this
in the different religions, and Orrin and I hooked up on a way to try
and – to protect religious rights and protect religious liberties.

So you know, even though you differ on one time, you try and find ways
of working at another, and I think unless you have that kind of a
temperament, if you’re going to just get upset with somebody that’s just
going to oppose you, you’re in the wrong business because you’ve got to
get into another business. But you have to look at this and try and
figure, well, I’ll try and get that person on another bill at another

GROSS: We’re listening back to the interview Senator Ted Kennedy
recorded in 2006 with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies. We’ll hear more
of the late senator’s interview after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We’re remembering Senator Ted Kennedy by listening back to the
interview he recorded in 2006 with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies.

DAVIES: You know, Senator, growing up as a Kennedy, you were, of course,
part of one of America’s most prominent political families, and you
write in your book about how you learned from your family, values of
public service - I mean, your brother Joe having served and died in
World War II. And I wonder, at what age did you become aware that as a
Kennedy, great things might be expected of you?

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, I was enormously, enormously lucky as a young
person. I mean, I had terrific grandparents that were forces in my life
that spoke to me about bigotry and discrimination against the Irish and
about the whole immigrant past; parents, a mother and father that were
inspirational in terms of my spiritual upbringing, had a very strong
faith, which has been very important to me, and also a love of history
and an interest in political life and books and learning and people; and
then I had brothers who really taught me about the importance of

I mean, I had – and then I was very lucky because I saw the system work.
I mean, I saw politics work. I saw a person go out and get elected to
Congress. That was a big deal, I mean, the idea that you had a brother
that was a congressman was just, I thought, was the biggest deal that
could possibly ever happen to any family, and then…

DAVIES: You were 14 when Jack was elected to Congress.

Sen. KENNEDY: When he was elected. And then, my God, he gets - he beats
Cabot Lodge in 1952, and this is just unheard of, and Cabot Lodge was a
big deal in Republican, this - and my brother had done, ran a good
campaign, and then in the ’60 campaign, to see that move and go. So I
had seen, and I still believe in the political institutions functioning
and working, because I’ve seen it done, and I believe in this whole
process because I’ve seen it work.

DAVIES: You know, Senator, as I hear you describe, you know, seeing your
brother go to Congress when you were at 14 - I mean when I was 14, when
most people are at 14, they are utterly absorbed in themselves and their
friends and, you know, their ball games and whatever’s going on at
school, and here you are, you know, in a climate where, as you said,
people are really part of a much wider world. Did it make you a more
serious kid? Did it make you think: I need to think about how I’m going
to be involved in that? Did you feel pressure?

Sen. KENNEDY: Not really. What - it was really the power of example. I
mean, my - I remember my brother, when he first got elected to Congress,
bringing me down to Washington and taking me, by myself, around to the
buildings, bringing me into the House, the House floor, bringing me over
to show me the Senate and then the Supreme Court, Library of Congress.

I could always remember when I’d come down from high school, I’d go down
and visit him, and you know, I’d come in for breakfast, and I’d hear
them talking about interesting things. No one was saying, well, you
ought to do this or ought to do that. It just seemed that the things
that they were involved in, my brothers, I must say my sisters, as well,
they’ve – Eunice, with the Special Olympics, 144 different countries, my
sister Jean, the Very Special Arts programs, those that have some
physical disabilities are still able to create and do incredible kinds
of things; my sister Pat is very involved in a lot of the literature
programs in New York City.

They all were very much involved, and they were all doing interesting
and involved undertakings that were involving people and events and
politics. It certainly became my interest, and running for office, I was
sort of thinking about that back in college. It sort of had an appeal to
me, and I took it from there.

DAVIES: I know that besides being a father to your own children, you had
a very special, important role in the lives of the children of your
brothers, President Kennedy and your brother Senator Robert Kennedy,
after their deaths. And I mean that’s been described by some as that of
a surrogate father.

Clearly you’ve been very involved in all those kids’ lives while
maintaining and incredibly active and professional public life of your
own. And I’m wondering, this seems to have been an enormously full, I
suppose, joy and burden to carry for a long time while you were
balancing this public life, and I’m just wondering if there are any
insights or perspective you could share about how you have managed those
competing priorities over these years.

Sen. KENNEDY: Well, this was sort of something sort of obviously
unexpected thrust on my sisters and myself, the really extraordinary,
wonderful opportunity to try and make a difference in people’s lives
that were missing their fathers, and it’s, I think as people find out,
you know, the time and the effort and the energy that one puts in is
repaid a thousand times in what you get back, and they’re in a wide
variety of different kinds of undertakings, I mean, whether it’s
documentaries or environmental movements or a wide range of different –
Save the Children, a great many of different types of activities. But
I’m enormously proud of all of them and the things that they’re doing
and the involvement that they’re in.

DAVIES: Well, thanks so much for spending some time with us, Senator

Sen. KENNEDY: Fine. Listen, I appreciate it very much. It’s good to talk
with you, really enjoyed it. Thanks so much.

GROSS: Senator Ted Kennedy, speaking with FRESH AIR contributor Dave
Davies in 2006. Kennedy died last night after a year-long struggle with
brain cancer. Dave Davies is a senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News. I’m Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Jason Bateman: Extracting Fun From The Workplace


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The TV series "Arrested Development" gave viewers and the movie industry
a new appreciation of the series' star, Jason Bateman. Since the series
ended in 2006, Bateman has had major roles in "Hancock," "Juno" and
"State of Play." He stars in the comedy "Extract," which opens Labor Day

Yesterday we heard from the director Mike Judge. Bateman plays the owner
of a small factory making flavor extracts. His employees are eccentric
losers and he's trying to sell the factory. He has to stay so late at
work, by the time he gets home, his wife is too tired to make love.

He wants to have an affair but doesn’t want to hurt his wife, so his
friend, a bartender played by Ben Affleck, who describes himself as an
entrepreneur, spiritualist and healer, makes this brilliant suggestion,
Bateman should hire a gigolo to clean the pool and seduce his wife then
she won't have the moral high ground when Bateman has an affair.

After Affleck gives Bateman a Xanax that turns out to be a horse
tranquilizer, Bateman agrees to the crazy plan. The young, attractive,

and brainless gigolo is supposed to show up once at Bateman's home.
Bateman is shocked to see he made a second appearance. In this scene, he
calls the gigolo to find out why.

(Soundbite of movie, "Extract”)

Mr. DUSTIN MILLIGAN (Actor): (As Brad) Hello.

Mr. JASON BATEMAN (Actor): (As Joel) Yeah. Is this Brad?

Mr. MILLIGAN: (As Brad): Yeah.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Joel) What were you doing at my house today?

Mr. MILLIGAN: (As Brad): Oh, uh, nothing.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Joel) Bull (bleep).

Mr. MILLIGAN: (As Brad): Look, don’t worry about it, dude. I won’t
charge you for this one.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Joel) You had sex with my wife again?

Mr. MILLIGAN: (As Brad): Well, I figured we already did it once, so
what's the big deal, right? Besides, I'm not gonna charge you.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Joel) You’re not gonna charge - you are gonna charge me
and I am gonna pay you because you are not gonna have sex with my wife
for free, all right? Now listen, if I ever catch you anywhere near my
house ever again, it's not gonna be great, all right?

GROSS: That's a threat.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Jason Bateman, welcome to FRESH AIR.

You play beleaguered very well. In this movie everyone around you is a
little crazy and you’re constantly beleaguered and you’re going a little
crazy yourself. Do you like doing beleaguered?

Mr. BATEMAN: Yeah. I mean, I guess there's nothing really funny about
somebody who can handle everything, so I try to find some of the flaws,
and holes, and cracks, and vulnerabilities in characters. I mean usually
the characters that are funniest to me are those that think they’ve got
a lot more on the ball than they actually do. So this guy, I didn't have
to search too far to find his flaws.

GROSS: Did you get any interesting direction from Mike Judge who has
worked with actors but also has done a lot of animated work and is
really familiar with voice work because of the actors that do the
characters for his animations?

Mr. BATEMAN: My experience with Mike was completely effortless. He, you
know he's not a micromanager at all, he's got a very specific eye, and I
think that he sort of, he really stays out of people's way and
encourages them to do what he's hired them to do.

GROSS: I want to talk about a film that you made before "Extract" and
it's "State of Play," which is based on a BBC television series, like a
miniseries. In this movie, Ben Affleck plays a congressman whose
mistress is murdered. Russell Crowe is the investigative journalist who
finds that the murder is connected to political and corporate foul play,
and you’re a publicist that may be implicated too.

And in this scene the journalist, Russell Crowe has taken you to a motel
room where he's interviewing you, more like interrogating you, and he's
secretly videotaping it. You’re refusing to give up any information.

(Soundbite of movie "State of Play")

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) Compensate me okay?

Mr. RUSSELL CROWE (Actor): (As Cal McAffrey) Okay. So you want to be
paid to help solve Sonia's murder.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) Save it all right. I'm NPR. I know a
little bit about phrasing questions, so why don't you try phrasing it
like this? Would I like to be paid for helping you get a book deal?

Mr. CROWE: (As Cal McAffrey) Nobody's here for a book deal.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) Really? Everybody wants a book deal. And
I'd like my cut okay? That's just fair.

Mr. CROWE: (As Cal McAffrey) Where did you meet Sonia?

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) Compensation. Compensation.

Mr. CROWE: (As Cal McAffrey) You came here to talk, Dominic.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) You know, mouse, I'm the talent and I
don't like the vibe, so why don't you change that up, okay?

Mr. CROWE: (As Cal McAffrey) It's a nonsmoking room.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) Under your name.

GROSS: Okay, and then later in the scene, in this part of the
interrogation you’re trying to be the one in control. But a little
further down the line you have lost control. Russell Crowe has broken
you and you’re starting to confess everything that's happened.

(Soundbite of movie "State of Play")

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) And so I get a call. I gotta go down to a
street corner. I gotta buy a magazine. I gotta meet some new guy. This
guy, you know, he's some hardcore thick-neck corn-fed Navy Seal looking
guy you know? And he's all up in my face scaring the hell out of me
because he's pissed off and…

Mr. CROWE: (As Cal McAffrey) When was this?

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) This is like a month ago. You know he's
pissed off because Sonia's not giving him anything anymore.

Mr. CROWE: (As Cal McAffrey) And what did he want you to do about it?

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) He wants me to fix it. He wants me to fix
it like one of my hair dryers.

Mr. CROWE: (As Cal McAffrey) And did you?

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) I tried. I tried. I called. She wouldn't
take my call. I go over there. I try to talk to her. She's crying.

Unidentified Woman: (As character) Why is she crying? She's scared,
somebody's after her?

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Dominic Foy) No she's crying because of Collins. She
was in love with him and she was pregnant. And she didn't tell him. She
didn't tell him and, you know, she was petrified that he's gonna find
out what she did, and then he's not gonna want her and he's not gonna
love the baby, and she, she was got so wrecked about it that she burned
thousands of dollars worth of paychecks.

Who does that? And I tried to get her to just relax and to think about
the publicity or think about an abortion or think about, you know the
words just keep your word. What about, well how your decisions are gonna
affect me? And then she's dead, you know? I hear it's a murder. And so I
don't want anything more to do with this thing, you know? I'm just
terrified and I want to go someplace warm and I want to come back to a
clean slate, and you guys write your article and just get them off me.

I'm nothing. I'm nothing to those guys.

GROSS: Oh, you are so broken by the end of that scene.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I just love watching that, in that movie how you went from like
the arrogant sleazy publicist to somebody who's just really like lost
and broken. Can you talk a little bit about shooting that and the, like,
you know, emotional change you have to put yourself through?

Mr. BATEMAN: Well, it was a really great part to play and, you know, he
was a, I guess a fetish club promoter. He was bisexual. He was an
Oxycontin addict. It was, you know, it was everything that you would
want in a character.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: You know, it certainly wasn’t boring, so I was lucky that
they went with me for that because I'm certainly not known for stuff
like that, at least not in my public life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: The weekends are another story. But the, you know, getting
to sort of that I guess that emotional place at the end was, you know, a
result of the script, the story, and also the fact that, you know, he's
popping pills throughout sequence and he's drinking. And so, I don't
know. I was really, really, really happy with it.

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Jason Bateman and he's
starring in the new movie "Extract," a comedy which opens Labor Day

Let's take a short break here and then we'll be back and we'll talk some

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Jason Bateman and he's
starring in the new comedy "Extract." It opens Labor Day weekend. What
are your very first memories of being directed?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: The story that pops into my head is it was "Little House on
the Prairie" was one of my first sort of big gigs. And when I was 10 or
11 I was on that for a year. And one of the first few episodes that I
had to do, I got shot. I walked in on a bank being robbed. And I
remember reading that in the script and thinking, wow, I get to get shot
by a gun and fall to the ground.

And so, that day came around to shoot that scene, no pun intended, and
Michael Landon was directing that episode as he did often. And so he
yells action and I run into the bank and the gun goes off, bang, bang,
and I threw my body against the wall so hard…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: …and slid down the wall and sort of you know shook a little

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: …on the ground as the last bits of life came out of my

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: And I just thought that, oh my gosh, as my eyes were closed
and just trying to stay still and not look like I was still breathing. I
thought to myself, man, did you nail that. Boy, did you do a good job?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: And then I, I just remember…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: I remember just hearing silence and then just a real quiet
sort of from Michael Landon, okay let's go ahead and cut the cameras and
then he…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: And then I opened up one eye and watched him sort of walk
over to me and he said go ahead and sit up. And I sat up and he took my
hand in his hands. He goes, okay, we're going to start over and I'm
going to need you to just fall out of frame. Okay? On the next take?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: And just you’re going to hear a couple of bangs and I just
need you…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: …to just drop to your knees and the camera doesn’t see you
when you hit the ground anymore. So it was, it was a little humiliating
to say the least, but it was a good first very gentle sort of - not
chastising - but, you know, sometimes it’s best not to do too much
acting you know?

GROSS: Also early in "Little House on the Prairie" you had to watch your
parents get killed as their stagecoach overturns and rolls down a hill
leaving you orphaned.

(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. BATEMAN: You sound like a fan. You’ve seen that episode, huh?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did you remember shooting that and what the director told you
about how to cry?

Mr. BATEMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: Was that the first time that you had to like cry on demand?

Mr. BATEMAN: Actually to get that part, when I auditioned for that part
I had to cry. There's really a seam in this interview.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: I had to cry when I auditioned for Michael Landon and I
just remember being really proud of myself that I was able to do that. I
think it was the first time I had ever sort of asked myself to cry for
no reason, and it's not an easy thing to do. It's become more difficult
as I've gotten older, but it was difficult back then when I was 10 or

And so, yes, so in that scene when the parents go over the side of the
cliff in the stagecoach, my sister and I, played by Missy Francis, we
sort of have to take a few steps towards the camera and we're looking
past camera and above camera and we're supposed to be watching the
stagecoach tumble down a 300 foot cliff with our parents inside of it,
and screaming, and yelling, and making up our own lines, you know. I
mean what do you say? No. Mom, dad, no. You know do you yell, you don’t
yell stop. You don’t yell stuff like, you know, hold on or well, you

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: What do you do? So really, the only thing to do was to sort
of cry as hysterically as possible so that I didn’t have to make up any
lines, and luckily the tears came out. But, yeah, that was tough because
obviously we're not looking at a stagecoach. We're looking at, you know
lights behind the camera and probably a truck or two or you know, some
guy smoking a cigarette and it was, there was some pretty complicated
stuff for a 10-year-old to do on that because it was definitely a drama,
you know, it wasn’t a comedy.

GROSS: Why is it more difficult to cry as an adult actor?

Mr. BATEMAN: Well, I don’t know. In my case, my head's just got more
traffic in it now. You know, I'm - things are more complicated. I guess
the older you get, you’ve got more stuff to think about. Not the least
of which is, well, if you don’t cry on this take all those people that
are standing behind the camera are going to start rolling their eyes
thinking, oh, are we ever going to get to lunch? I mean this; we got to
get this guy to cry. I mean come on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: And then, of course, that makes it even more difficult. And
so, it’s, you know, it's a mess. So I don’t know. Although some years
it's easier and so it’s like the almanac, you know that…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: …some years it's the rainy years and some years, you know,
the crops don’t grow. But this year, I've managed to cry a couple times
in some stuff. And I don’t know, maybe it’s because I lost a dog or
maybe I'm just becoming softie, but this year was good for the tears.

GROSS: Not to dwell on "Little House on the Prairie," but I want our
listeners to hear you as a young actor. And we happen to have a clip
from "Little House on the Prairie."

So this is when you’re about 10 or 11. And in this scene, you’ve already
been adopted by, you know, Michael Landon because your parents were
killed. And so your older brother has - you’ve taken his razor without
his permission and you’ve broken it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So you’ve actually stolen another one and you’re trying to pass
it off as his in this scene.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So here’s Jason Bateman at around the age of 10 in "Little House
on the Prairie."

Mr. BATEMAN: And I’ll sound like a little girl in this, yes? Just like
I’m some girl?

GROSS: Well, kind of.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: A little bit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of TV show, “Little House on the Prairie”)

Mr. BATEMAN: (As James Cooper Ingalls) Hey, Albert, I found your razor.

Mr. MATTHEW LABPRTEAUX (Actor): (As Albert Quinn Ingalls) What?

Mr. BATEMAN: (As James Cooper Ingalls) Yeah, I moved the wind box a
little, and there it was.

Mr. LABPRTEAUX: (As Albert Quinn Ingalls) Thanks.

Mr. MICHAEL LANDON (Actor): (As Charles Ingalls) And what did I tell
you? I knew it would turn up.

Mr. LABPRTEAUX: (As Albert Quinn Ingalls) I thought it was gone for
sure. I'm sorry for thinking you took it, James. I just didn’t…

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LABPRTEAUX: (As Albert Quinn Ingalls) This isn’t mine.

Mr. LANDON: (As Charles Ingalls) What are you talking about? Of course
it’s yours.

Mr. LABPRTEAUX: (As Albert Quinn Ingalls) No, it isn't. I had a bad nick
on the blade. I had to be careful with it. Look for yourself.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LANDON: (As Charles Ingalls) This is a brand new razor.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LANDON: (As Charles Ingalls) Where’d you get it, James?

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LANDON: (As Charles Ingalls) James, I asked you a question. Where
did you get this razor?

Mr. BATEMAN: (As James Cooper Ingalls) I didn’t mean it, Pa.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BATEMAN: (As James Cooper Ingalls) I broke Albert’s razor by
mistake. I wanted to make it right. But…

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LANDON: (As Charles Ingalls) James, where did you get this razor? I
want an answer now.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BATEMAN: (As James Cooper Ingalls) From the mercantile.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LANDON: (As Charles Ingalls) You stole it.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LANDON: (As Charles Ingalls) Get up to your room. Get ready for bed.
Go on, now.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: A little of that high drama music…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …behind the scene.

Mr. BATEMAN: If that doesn’t make you cry…

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BATEMAN: …some nice little music swell, that’ll get it done every
time. Then, of course, I had to go upstairs, get ready for bed, which is
code for get ready to get a beat down.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: Mr. Ingalls loved the spanking.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: You know, I think a lot of actors and performers, people who are
very famous go through that - their – this confusion of whether people
like them for who they are in their public lives, like their character,
or who they are in real life. Did you go through that because you
started acting so young?

Mr. BATEMAN: Well, I - not that specifically. But it was certainly
challenging growing up. There was - I was either ostracized in, you
know, junior high and elementary school for being a weirdo actor, or
there was jealousy, or there was just you’re not one of us, or - you
know, its tough enough, but when you’re only spending half the year in
the classroom and they’re seeing you on television and then you show up,
you know, midway through the year, it’s not comfortable at all. So that
wasn’t great. And as far as trying to decipher, you know, legitimate and
genuine, you know, when people really want to be with you and hang out
with you or whether they just want to hang out with you because you
might be pseudo-famous, I don’t know. I sort of just banked on my own
ability to read people’s sincerity. That’s that never really bothered

Plus, I’ve never really been - you know, I mean, I’m not Brad Pitt for
God’s sakes, you know. I’m just – I make a living, and I’ve got - you
know, some people know me, but I’m – I get down the street just fine. No
one bothers me.

GROSS: You know, one of the problems a lot of child actors face is that
they have - they’re successful when they’re young. They get a series,
and then it ends. And no one wants to hire them for roles after that.
They become the answer to trivia questions, and they end up - who knows?
I mean, because unless they’re in the tabloids, we don’t know where they
end up. Were you worried that that would happen to you, that the career
that you always wanted since you were 10 would end when you were a
teenager, and then you move onto something that was less interesting for

Mr. BATEMAN: Yeah, less interesting, less exciting, didn’t pay as much
money. Yeah. That that was a very, very, very clear and present danger
throughout my entire childhood, and again, another reason never to get
your kid into it, because you sort of end up buying the confidence and
the attitude that you really need to be renting. And it’s a very tenuous
position. It’s a very fickle business. And to think that it’s going to
last forever is naive at best. So - and that certainly was the case with
me. You know, I’ve acted pretty consistently for 30 years now. And even
with that, there were some very painful, confusing, you know, dry
periods. And you don’t know when or if you’re ever going to come out of

And like I said earlier, you - there’s only so much you can do to
regenerate that relevance in the industry. And it’s frustrating because
it always is just one job away. So you kind of also have to be in the
constant ready position. You can never let that emotional investment
atrophy. You have to be ready, literally, for the phone to ring, because
the following day could be a big audition. And if you’ve let yourself
sort of reenter normalcy, you’re going to then find yourself at that
audition and have a bit of a panic because wait, what am I doing? I’m
auditioning for a movie. And I’m not a movie actor.

You know, you have to sort of stay in a position of - not entitlement,
but you just have to be ready. And you could go years and years and
years without getting that job. So, as you can imagine, it’s a very
frustrating position to be in. And fortunately, right now, I’m in a
position where my ambition is matched with my level of access right now.
And that’s rare.

GROSS: My guest is Jason Bateman. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Jason Bateman. He stars in the new movie “Extract.”
His recent films include “Hancock,” “Juno” and “State of Play.” He
starred in the TV series “Arrested Development.”

I want to play a scene from “Arrested Development.” And this is a scene
in which your son, played by Michael Cera, has a crush on his ethics
teacher. And at a parents-teachers night…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …you’ve met the teacher, you’ve hit it off and she has just spent
the night with you. So here you are, with your son…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …played by Michael Cera, the next morning.

(Soundbite of TV show, “Arrested Development”)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) Hey, George Michael. I wanted to talk to
you about something before, but I didn’t know if it was real. But now
your ethics teacher…

Mr. MICHAEL CERA (Actor): (As George Michael Bluth) Yeah, I just made
this for her.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) Oh.

Mr. CERA: (As George Michael Bluth) Yeah, she loves Saddam Hussein.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) I’m sure she doesn’t love Saddam. I’m
sure she’s interested in him as a subject, you know.

Mr. CERA: (As George Michael Bluth) Right. That’s what I meant.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) Great.

Mr. CERA: (As George Michael Bluth) You know, I just wanted to make her
something special to show that I care.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) About the class?

Mr. CERA: (As George Michael Bluth) No, I mean about her.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) Oh…

Mr. CERA: (As George Michael Bluth) I kind of love her.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) You mean you love her like she loves
Saddam, right?

Mr. CERA: (As George Michael Bluth) No, no. I mean, like, love her, love

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) Oh.

(Soundbite of door opening)

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) Oh.

Ms. HEATHER GRAHAM (Actor) (As Beth Baerly): Oh, hi. Hi, George Michael.
I was just looking at this model home. I’m going to go home and think
about it. I’m going to go home, think about it.

Mr. CERA: (As George Michael) Dad, what was she doing here? I mean, she

(Soundbite of door slamming)

Mr. HOWARD (Narrator): Michael knew he had an ethical responsibility to
tell his son the truth.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Michael Bluth) Yes. Your Uncle Gob slept with her.

GROSS: Says my guest Jason Bateman and Michael Cera in a scene from
“Arrested Development.” I think it’s fair to say that “Arrested
Development” changed your career, changed the direction of your career.

Mr. BATEMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: What was your audition scene?

Mr. BATEMAN: I don’t know, but what I do remember is reading the script
and guessing – obviously, I guessed right about what Mitch Hurwitz
needed from that character, which is, you know, someone that would
really sort of ground all the eccentric characters that satellite around
the character that I played, which was, you know, sort of the bland sort
of center of the show, kind of the, you know, the chicken breast on
which you throw all this – all these saucy characters.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: And I remember him following me out of the audition room
afterwards, and he said hey, hey. That was a great, great job in there.
Now, you’re auditioning for that other pilot that I’m producing
tomorrow, right? Because he was producing a few different pilots that
year. And I said, yeah. Yeah. He said, yeah, but this one, right? This
show, right? You like this show, maybe, better? Did you like this script
better? I said yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. He said, yeah. He said, don’t
come in for that pilot tomorrow for that other show. I said okay. And,
so I guess what he was trying to do was not show that other network and
that other group of creators me, because he wanted to save me for
“Arrested Development.”

Now, I could have, of course, still gone in on that show the following
day, and that show was a show that really had a much, much better chance
of getting on the air. It was a more traditional, multi-camera, you
know, sitcom in front of a live audience. And this show, “Arrested
Development” was - as anyone who’s ever seen the pilot, at least - was
very left-of-center to say the least, and probably wasn’t going to make
it on. But it was something that was more consistent with my comedic
sensibilities and blah, blah, blah. So, I’m glad that at that fork, I
chose something that was a bit more consistent with my - I don’t know,
pardon the term passion - as opposed to, you know, making a buck. And

it’s paid off quite nicely.

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Jason Bateman, and he’s
starring in the new movie “Extract,” which opens Labor Day weekend. It’s
a comedy. I should mention here - your wife is the daughter of Paul
Anka. Did you know Paul Anka’s records when you met her?

Mr. BATEMAN: No. I mean, I didn’t know his records. I knew that he was
the man behind some very, very famous songs, you know, “Put Your Head on
My Shoulder” and, you know, “Puppy Love” and “My Way” and all that
stuff. So, I certainly knew what I was dealing with. But did I have his
albums? No.

GROSS: Did he perform at your wedding?

Mr. BATEMAN: Yeah, he did. He did perform in our wedding. He took the
song, “My Way” and he changed the words to, I think, his way, basically
singing to me about what I was planning to do with and for his daughter
and what he hoped that I didn’t do with and for his daughter, I think,
as I recall. I was in a bit of black out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BATEMAN: It was a bit nerve racking that day.

GROSS: Was the song funny?

Mr. BATEMAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, he’s, you know, he’s an incredible
performer. He’s - I think he started right about the same time I did.
So, he’s been doing it even longer and has got some very useful advice
for me whenever I get the courage to ask him.

GROSS: Well, Jason Bateman, great to talk with you. Thank you so much.

Mr. BATEMAN: Thank you very much.

GROSS: Jason Bateman stars in the comedy, “Extract,” which opens Labor
Day Weekend. His forthcoming films include “Up in the Air,” which
premiers next month at the Toronto Film Festival and “Couples Retreat,”
which opens in October. His film “State of Play” comes out on DVD next
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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