Skip to main content

'Sopranos' Embarks on Sixth Season

The new season of The Sopranos opens on Sunday, bringing the world of Tony and Carmela, Christopher and Paulie Walnuts back to dens around the country. The show's last previous episode aired in the summer of 2004.

05:49

Other segments from the episode on March 10, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 10, 2006: Interview with Sidney Lumet; Review of the film "The hills have eyes;" Interview with Philip Baker Hall; Review of the new season of "Sopranos" and "Big…

Transcript

DATE March 10, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript
DAVID BIANCULLI, anchor:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: "The Hills Have Eyes," remake of 1977 Wes Craven film
DAVID BIANCULLI, anchor:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for New York Daily News,
sitting in for Terry Gross.

In the last few years, there's been a trend in Hollywood to remake horror
films from the '50s, '60s, and '70s--in many cases, upping the violence. The
roster includes "Thir13en Ghosts," "The Fog," "House of Wax," "When a Stranger
Calls," "The Living Dead" movies, and now a remounting of "The Hills Have
Eyes," a Wes Craven thriller that Craven himself has produced. Film critic
David Edelstein has a review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:

"The Hills Have Eyes" is one of a seemingly endless spate of horror remakes.
Its source: a 1977 Wes Craven movie that was nowhere near as visceral. It
didn't, for example, have actual viscera. The gory remake is directed by a
Frenchman named Alexandre Aja. He's one of the new breed of hack-'em-up film
makers with a ton of talent and nothing much to do with it. "The Hills Have
Eyes" is different in kind from the gut-bucket pictures of the '70s. Its
technique is endlessly resourceful. Its actors are superb. Its dialog is
credible. Its characters are three-dimensional. When you see them die in
agony, you can't laugh the whole thing off. Some people at my screening
actually gripped their chairs and wept.

The premise of the original and the remake is rather witty. It's a
apocalyptic variation on "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," which was in part a
cheeky satire of the American nuclear family. This time, it's nuclear in a
different way. The setting is the New Mexican desert, where all those Fat Men
and Little Boy A-bombs were tested in the '40s and '50s. Apparently not all
the mining family residents took kindly to being kicked off their land. They
hid in tunnels and the resulting mutations, the offspring of miners bathed in
radiation, are something to see.

Their guest victims, whom they regard as lunch, are a large extended family,
the Carters and the Bukowskis, who are en route to California in a restored
Gulf Stream trailer. The mom is the tremulous Kathleen Quinlan. Her
all-American patriarch husband is played by Ted Levine, who once did
unspeakable things himself with human flesh in the "Silence of the Lambs."
He's constantly at odds with his yuppie left-wing son-in-law, played by Aaron
Stanford. The most important character is an infant girl. When you introduce
a baby into a mutant cannibal movie, it's serious business.

After some of the usual genre foreplay, the family finds itself with its tires
blown out in the middle of the desert, amid barren hills and craters. Then
the teenage son, played by Dan Byrd, finds one of the German shepherds,
Beauty, in not great shape.

(Sound bite of "The Hills Have Eyes")

Ms. KATHLEEN QUINLAN: (As Ethel Carter) Jesus.

Mr. TED LEVINE: (As Bob Carter) Bobby.

Ms. QUINLAN: (As Ethel Carter) What is it, Bobby?

Mr. DAN BYRD: (As Bobby Carter) Dad, I think something's going on around
here.

Ms. QUINLAN: (As Ethel Carter) What is it?

Mr. BYRD: (As Bobby Carter) There's people or something living in those
hills, talking...

Ms. QUINLAN: (As Ethel Carter) People?

Mr. LEVINE: (As Bob Carter)

Ms. QUINLAN: (As Ethel Carter) Bobby. Bobby, listen to me. We're in the
middle of nowhere, OK? Nobody lives in those hills.

Mr. BYRD: (As Bobby Carter) Beauty.

Ms. QUINLAN: (As Ethel Carter) What?

Mr. BYRD: (As Bobby Carter) I found her and she was--it looked like
somebody, like, cut her open, you know? Yeah, I--I didn't say anything
because I didn't want to scare anyone, and I didn't want Mom upset. But
there's something going on. OK, Dad? That's why she's not back yet.

Mr. LEVINE: (As Bob Carter) OK. All right, stay right there.

(End of sound bite)

EDELSTEIN: It isn't long after that scene that the mutants descend on the
trailer. Among the family of freaks is a crouching creature in a top hat, a
model Goliath, and a mound of flesh with a huge brain pan who rasps a version
of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in ironic salute to the government that deformed
him.

In the most intense battle of "The Hills Have Eyes," a man with a baseball bat
squares off against the sharpened point of an American flag. There amid the
dummies of traditional '50s families that were placed inside houses on the
A-bomb range to monitor the effects of the blast, you don't need to be a
deconstructionist to get the symbolism. After all the movie's emotional and
physical pummeling, I found myself cheering the brutal retaliations in a way,
I thought I'd evolved beyond.

Commercial horror films are now less about telling scary stories and more
about turning you into quivering wrecks. Sure, genre filmmakers have always
tried to make you jump or hide your eyes or just fill you with nameless dread.
But after "The Blair Witch Project," which showed absolutely nothing, yet made
a lot of people physically ill, filmmakers have become almost clinical in
their expertise at evoking the audiences' so called fight-or-flight responses.

For decades, lazy critics have likened thrillers to roller coaster rides. But
"The Hills Have Eyes" is truly comparable. I swear I felt those fear-factor
chemicals infuse my bloodstream. I'm not sure why I didn't flee, which I'm
programmed, evolutionarily speaking, to do. Maybe I wanted to prove I could
take it. Or maybe I wanted to protect the human species by warning you off.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.

Coming up, actor Philip Baker Hall. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Actor Philip Baker Hall discusses his childhood and how
he has prepared for some acting roles
DAVID BIANCULLI, anchor:

Philip Baker Hall is best known for his performances in the films of Paul
Thomas Anderson. Hall played a gambler in "Hard Eight," a porn mogul in
"Boogie Nights," and a whiz kid's game show host in "Magnolia." Hall is great
at playing hard-boiled, even in his role as a library cop tracking down
overdue books in that now-classic episode of "Seinfeld." His other films
include "Bruce Almighty," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," and "Air Force One."
He's now in Fox's new sitcom "The Loop," premiering this Tuesday, March 15th,
after "American Idol." Hall plays Russ, an impatient and ascerbic Chicago air
line executive. Here's a scene in which Russ is chewing out his airline
staff.

(Sound bite from "The Loop")

Mr. PHILIP BAKER HALL: Now, we're up against it, but there is a way to win,
and it's called "imagination."

Oh, I know. I know. I said a fruity word, so have I gone insane? Is this
airline being run by a madman? Maybe. But it's going to take madness to save
this drowning mongoose.

All right. Imagination. Everybody say it with me. No. Don't say it.
Because you don't have it. We're going to cut costs, or everybody's going to
be sucking off the government teat. And that is one crusty heifer. I want
ideas from everyone of you ass clowns in two days. And if you can't imagine
that, imagine yourself fired. So get fruity, folks.

Oh, by the way. You don't have a pension plan anymore.

(End of sound bite)

BIANCULLI: Terry Gross talked to Philip Baker Hall in 2003. Let's hear a
scene from Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" in which Hall plays the host of a
TV quiz show for precocious kids.

(Sound bite of "Magnolia")

Mr. HALL: (As Jimmy Gator) End of round one. Excellent work, ladies and
germs. I think we should take a look at the scores on the board here. Kids
are up a leg with 1500, and the adults are down a little bit with 1025. So
we'll be back for round two and a ring-ding-do!

(Sound bite of music)

Mr. HALL: (As Gator) Whoa! Hello, hello. Bonus musical question. And the
winner is...

(Sound bite of paper shuffling)

Mr. HALL: (As Gator) ...kids!

(Sound bite of applause)

Mr. HALL: (As Gator) The kids are in the lead, they get a chance here to
pull further and farther ahead if they can answer the following secret bonus
musical question. Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to read a line to you
from an opera. I want you to give me that line back in the language in which
the opera was originally written. And for a bonus 250--250--250, you can sing
it.

(Sound bite of paper shuffling)

Mr. HALL: (As Gator) Here's the line. `Love is a rebellious bird that
nobody can tame, and it's all in vain to call it if it chooses to refuse.'

(Sound bite of bell)

Mr. HALL: (As Gator) Yes, Stanley.

"STANLEY": Well, that was in French, and that was from the opera "Carmen."
And that goes, (singing in French).

(End of sound bite)

TERRY GROSS reporting:

That's my guest Philip Baker Hall in a scene from the movie "Magnolia."

What did you draw on for this character?

Mr. HALL: Well, Paul and I, we had--we spent a fair amount of time together
before that talking about this character. And Paul had done some research,
and he had some personal experience also with someone who was having a kind of
an Alzheimer's problem as well as perhaps a series of mini strokes, which is
what we were kind of exploring there.

GROSS: Right. And if our listeners didn't catch this, your memory's going a
little bit. You're having a little bit of trouble in the scene that we just
heard.

Mr. HALL: Yes. Yes. Yes. And there's I guess quite a bit of literature
about this phenomenon where you can have these little strokes and sort of not
be aware that you're having a stroke, but they accumulate. The effect of them
accumulates until finally you're almost unable to speak, which is where my
character sort of gets at one point in this film. So that was my preparation
for that aspect of the role.

The other preparation that Paul and I did together was, I don't know if this
channel is still operating on television or not, but at the time there was a
channel that played nothing but old quiz shows and old game shows from the
earliest days of television. So I remember we sat one day virtually all day
and just watched this channel and watched all these old quiz show guys from
25, 30 years ago just to get a line on what--just the modus operandi of guys
who do this for a living, who do nothing but relate either to kids or to
contestants, and how that colors and changes their personality as people and
how it might affect their lives.

GROSS: What did you pick up on from that?

Mr. HALL: Oh, just the kind of offhand and shallow kind of personal
relationships that--hey, I'm not indicting anybody who does that for a living,
believe me. I mean, all these are honorable professions and I do respect
them. But if somebody does this kind of job for 20 years, you know, I think
it, you know, you're not looking to go very far below the surface here like,
you know, so a manner, a way of dealing with people, of relating to people,
and that ultimately, however, culminates maybe in some very difficult personal
relationships at home with one's own children or one's own wife or one's own
family.

So I mean, this was an aspect of it. Because as we looked at many of these
people, we noted in cases that we knew about that there was, you know, there
are a lot of well-publicized family problems, especially with the children of
famous people who do nothing but this kind of work. So it was an education
for us, and it helped Paul to solidify certain things in the script, and it
helped me to get a handle on what to go for in the preparation of the role.

GROSS: I want to ask you about your voice. Your voice is often--I mean,
you're often in these kind of tough or authoritative type of roles, whether
it's somebody, you know, with a lot of power in a Cabinet position or whether
it's, you know, somebody who's connected to gangsters--I know your voice is
capable of being really tough. I can't quite place it geographically. It
always sounds very urban to me, but I can't really say I hear or I can locate
a particular accent. Where are you from?

Mr. HALL: I'm from Ohio. I was born in Toledo, Ohio, and I grew up there.
My father was from Montgomery, Alabama, so I certainly don't speak, unless a
character requires it, with any kind of a Southern dialect. Something may
have been added or taken out of the Midwestern aspect of it by hearing my
father, who did pretty much maintain his accent and dialect. And then I was
in New York for 16 years, also. And also as an actor, one who studied
dialects and vocal tricks of one kind or another as required for an actor,
especially a character actor, maybe it's been flattened out in some way that
you can't determine where it came from. But I am from the Midwest.

GROSS: Well...

Mr. HALL: In fact, somebody asked me once, they wanted me to do something--I
don't know if it was for a commercial or what--they wanted me to do a
Midwestern accent, and I thought I was already doing it. So there you go.

GROSS: Right. What did your father do when you were growing up?

Mr. HALL: My father worked in Toledo at the Willis Overland plant, which was
an automobile plant. And during the Second World War, they produced the
jeeps. Most of the jeeps that were used in the Second World War were made in
Toledo. And then later, it was Kaiser-Frazer Automotive, and they made the
Nash, the Nash Rambler and all these cars. And that's what he did. He worked
at a factory most of his life.

GROSS: How would your family have been affected by the Depression?

Mr. HALL: My father and his brother in the '20s had had a very successful
tire vulcanizing shop. In the '20s, when automobiles were really becoming
popular and everybody was having a car, the whole business of tires and how to
maintain them and keep them going without buying new ones all the time, there
was a process developed in Akron at the Goodyear Tire Company called
vulcanizing. And those who were sort of looking to the future went up and
took that course on how to vulcanize and then in their various localities
would start a vulcanizing shop. And that's what my father and his brother
did. They started a vulcanizing shop in Toledo, Ohio, and were very
successful.

But when the Depression came and everything collapsed in 1929 and 1930, they
lost their shop, and so my dad was pretty much out of work for almost 10
years. He just did odd jobs and did what he could. We were on what was
called, in those days, it was called relief; it would be welfare today. We
were on relief, and I remember we used to depend on some relatives who would
bring bags of groceries for us, or I remember going with my dad down to these
agencies in Toledo that would hand out, oh, dented canned goods and powdered
eggs and powdered milk and all this kind of stuff.

So it was up, really, until the war began, and in 1940, maybe I think, is when
he got employed at the Willys Overland plant and then began to kind of
stabilize economically and our life changed a little bit. He was able to buy
a house and our life became very different than it had been. But for the
first 10 years of my life, the family was struggling.

GROSS: What's another, like, defining moment of your early life?

Mr. HALL: Well, I think a defining moment of my early life would probably be
in grade school, and then also in high school, when I realized that there
might be another life for me other than the life that was there. In other
words, my father always expected me to follow him at the Willys Overland plant
and to work at the plant, also. Which, in fact, when I went to college at one
point I did for a short time. But he was always expecting me to probably end
up working in a factory like he did. This is what appeared to be the life
that was available.

But somewhere I realized that I would be able to make something different with
my life, and that I could perhaps do it as an actor. And I knew this pretty
early. Somewhere in grade school, I began to sense the possibility of this.
You know, my voice changed early, and I remember that the teachers, when they
would do little class plays and programs and things, they would select me
sometimes for key roles because probably between the ages of 12 and 14, I
didn't sound like a child. I sounded basically like an adult because my voice
became so deep and so husky so young. And I began to realize at that point
that I sort of intuitively possessed some skills in this area. And I
determined at a pretty young age to try and make the most of them.

I was always the one cast as the principal or the chief or the mean father or,
you know? So I started out as a kid acting these parts because that's what
the teachers gave me, because if you wanted an authentic adult-sounding voice
in the play, it almost had to be me. So I think that's where it began.

GROSS: So do you think you can use that quality in your voice when you need
to be authoritative in real life, or when you need to be in a position of
power?

Mr. HALL: That's a good question. And my seven-and-a-half-year-old daughter
and my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter do not respond to this quality in my
voice, I can tell you that. So in real life, it means absolutely nothing.

I can scare people in movies on cue and on command, but my daughters are not
in the least frightened by my big voice.

GROSS: Well, I've really enjoyed talking with you. Thank you so much for
talking with us.

Mr. HALL: Terry, I've enjoyed this so much. I know I've rambled on here,
but it's fun to be given an opportunity to ramble on.

BIANCULLI: Philip Baker Hall speaking to Terry Gross in 2003. He stars in
the new Fox TV sitcom "The Loop" premiering next week.

Coming up, the return of Tony Soprano and the introduction of a new family
guy, both on HBO. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Sixth season of "The Sopranos" and premier of "Big Love"
DAVID BIANCULLI, anchor:

I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for the New York Daily News, filling in for
Terry Gross.

Now I'm going to put on my TV critic's hat and talk about two shows appearing
this Sunday night on HBO. One is the cable network's first new series of the
year, a family drama about a Utah polygamist. It's called "Big Love." The
other show, returning after an absence of 21 months, is a little thing called
"The Sopranos."

For "The Sopranos," expectations are unbelievably high. The last time we saw
James Gandolfini as New Jersey boss Tony Soprano, he was running home and into
the arms of his wife, Carmela, to avoid a federal drug bust that claimed New
York counterpart Johnny "Sack." Adriana was dead, shot and killed on Tony's
orders, once Christopher, her fiance, revealed she was an informant for the
FBI.

Every time "The Sopranos" returns to begin a new season, series creator David
Chase acknowledges the time that has passed in the interim. We pick up, not
where the last episode left off, but as if their lives had been preceding the
whole time without us focusing on them. So in the world of "The Sopranos,"
several things have happened, including surprises I won't reveal. But it's
not spoiling anything to say that while Johnny Sack continues to run his side
of things from prison, Tony has gotten more powerful since we last saw him.
And Carmela, played by Edie Falco, has gotten more comfortable, not just with
Tony, but with the illegal profits he's been sharing with her, including
regular dinner dates at a high-class sushi restaurant.

(Sound bite of "The Sopranos")

Unidentified Woman: (As waitress) Spicy shrimp hand roll,
that's...(unintelligible)...favorite...(unintelligible)...and oysters.

Ms. EDIE FALCO: (As Carmela) You tell me when you want to stop.

Mr. JAMES GANDOLFINI: (As Tony) Well, keep them coming.

Ms. FALCO: (As Carmela) I don't know about you, but ever since we found this
place, I catch myself fantasizing about this.

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony) Me, too. Sometimes during sex.

Ms. FALCO: (As Carmela) So I had a nightmare the other night. Did I wake
you up?

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony) No.

Ms. FALCO: (As Carmela) Adi was in the house. My spec house.

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony) Was she going to buy it?

Ms. FALCO: (As Carmela) We were just talking. Speaking of which, did you
call that guy? The inspector at the Building Department?

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony) I will. I promise.

Ms. FALCO: (As Carmela) He's coming on Friday, Tony. That could be my last
chance to get a reversal on the stop-work order.

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony) All right. I'll call.

Ms. FALCO: (As Carmela) I wonder where she is. Adi.

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony) I told you. She probably met some guy.

Ms. FALCO: (As Carmela) Not call anyone for over a year?

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Tony) What's this? There's sauce in the shrimp.

(End of sound bite)

BIANCULLI: That's a great scene. It sounds nice and easy on the surface, but
Tony is deflecting Carmela's curiosity about Adriana's disappearance. It's
just one of many secrets he has to hold and contain in a year where he faces
dangers from inside his mob family as well as outside.

This is the final lap for "The Sopranos." After this year's standard 12
episodes, it returns early next year for the final eight. Imagining how it
will end is a lot of fun. But watching these new episodes--I've seen the
first four--is a blast, too. Everything that makes "The Sopranos" so
novelistic and so rewarding is here in abundance. Familiar characters show
new sides. New characters have subtle yet profound effects upon the primary
plot lines. Some moments are laugh-out-loud funny and others are
turn-your-head-away violent, often in the same scene. "The Sopranos" still
feature some of the best writing, directing, and acting in all of television,
and I mean in the history of television. This sixth season starts
brilliantly, and however "The Sopranos" eventually ends, it'll be a hard act
to follow.

Following it Sunday night, though, is HBO's newest series "Big Love." Bill
Paxton stars as Bill Henrickson, a Salt Lake City businessman--not a Mormon,
this show tells us early and often--who lives on a quiet suburban street with
his wife, Barb. Next door, in another house, is his much younger wife,
Margene. And next door to her is a third wife, Nicki. From the street, they
look and act like three different households, but from the connecting back
yards, the one man, three wives and seven kids make up one big happy family.
Well, sometimes happy.

"Big Love," created by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, examines polygamy
from a perspective closer to every day reality than male fantasy. "Big Love"
may seem like a bit of culture shock after the grittiness of "The Sopranos."
When one wife gets upset in "Big Love," she exclaims, "Oh, my heck!" And
that's about as rough as it gets. But the way the women jockey for power and
attention, they may as well be soldiers in Tony Soprano's army. They don't
seem very happy with the family dynamics, at least not at the same time. But
they're fascinating to watch, especially as all the characters inside and
outside the extended family get to make their mark.

Grace Zabriskie and Bruce Dern as Bill's very eccentric parents, turn in
performances that are absolute delights. And Harry Dean Stanton, as one of
Bill's fathers-in-law, plays his role as the show's scheming dominate villain,
the Utah equivalent of J.R. Ewing on "Dallas."

It takes a while for most HBO shows to develop. But after previewing five
episodes of "Big Love," I'm already anxious to see more, and very fond of the
show's unique premise. Family dramas on TV are rare enough. With "Big Love,"
HBO has come up with something truly new: a families drama.

(Sound bite of music)

(Credits)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
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.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

16:53

Filmmaker Finds An Unlikely Underwater Friend In 'My Octopus Teacher'

Craig Foster spent a year diving — without oxygen or a wetsuit — into the frigid sea near Cape Town, South Africa. His documentary is now nominated for an Oscar. Originally broadcast Oct. 20, 2020.

44:00

'Dance Can Give Community': Twyla Tharp On Choreographing Through Lockdown

Neither the pandemic nor age can keep legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp from her work. During the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, Tharp, now 79, choreographed several dances through through Zoom. She's the subject of a new PBS American Masters documentary.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.

Playing

Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue