July 13, 2012
Guest: Aaron Paul
DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. The fifth and final series of AMC's "Breaking Bad" begins this Sunday."
(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "BREAKING BAD")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) It's Gustavo. He's dead.
DAVIES: Last season ended with the gruesome death of drug lord Gustavo Fring, the nemesis of Walter White, the former chemistry teacher turned meth maker and dealer. In this scene from the new episode, Gustavo's henchman Mike, played by Jonathan Banks, learns of Gustavo's death and confronts Walt, played by Bryan Cranston, and his assistant Jesse Pinkman, who's played by Aaron Paul.
(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "BREAKING BAD")
JONATHAN BANKS: (As Mike) Son of a bitch.
AARON PAUL: (As Jesse) Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold up, hold up.
BANKS: (As Mike) Get out of my way, kid.
PAUL: (As Jesse) What? Wait a minute. All right, let him talk.
BANKS: (As Mike) (Unintelligible) talk. I am done listening to this (beep) talk. Now get out of my way.
PAUL: (As Jesse) He's got something you need to hear, all right?
BANKS: (As Mike) What did you do, Jesse? Do you even know? Do you even know what you've done?
BRYAN CRANSTON: (As Walt) Yeah, he saved his own life.
BANKS: (As Mike) One more word.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) Mike, if you kill him, you're going to have to kill me. Come on.
BANKS: (As Mike) Oh Jesse, Jesus. What is it with you guys?
DAVIES: On today's show we feature our interview recorded last year with Aaron Paul. He won an Emmy for his performances on the show. When the series began, Walt was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Needing money for his treatment and wanting to leave an estate for his family, he decided to use his chemistry expertise to cook crystal meth. His meth became legendary.
Jesse, his former flunking student who was already cooking and selling meth small-time, became Walt's assistant cook. Before "Breaking Bad," he was best known for his performance in "Big Love." Terry spoke with him in November, and they began with a scene from the first season of "Breaking Bad," soon after Walt and Jesse teamed up. Jesse was supposed to sell the meth they just cooked and bring back the money. Walt's angry when Jesse shows up late.
(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "BREAKING BAD")
CRANSTON: (As Walter White) We were supposed to start at three.
PAUL: (As Jesse) Hey, I'm out there making fat stacks, man, chill. Hey, prepaid cell phone, use it.
CRANSTON: (As Walter) How much is this?
PAUL: (As Jesse) Twenty-six big ones.
CRANSTON: (As Walter) Is that all, $26,000?
PAUL: (As Jesse) No, that's $2,600, and your share is $1,300, minus $25 for that phone.
CRANSTON: (As Walter) How much meth did you sell?
PAUL: (As Jesse) Nearly an ounce.
CRANSTON: (As Walter) Last time I checked, there were 16 ounces to a pound. What'd you do with the rest, smoke it?
PAUL: (As Jesse) Yo, I've been out there all night slinging crystal. You think it's cake moving a pound of meth one teenth at a time?
CRANSTON: (As Walter) So why are you selling it in such small quantities? Why don't you just sell the whole pound at once?
PAUL: (As Jesse) To who? What do I look like, Scarface?
CRANSTON: (As Walter) This is unacceptable. I am breaking the law here. This return is too little for the risk. I thought you'd be ready for another pound today.
PAUL: (As Jesse) You may know a lot about chemistry, man, but you don't know jack about slinging dope.
CRANSTON: (As Walter) Well, I'll tell you, I know a lack of motivation when I see it.
PAUL: (As Jesse) Oh, my...
CRANSTON: (As Walter) C'mon. You've got to be more imaginative, you know. Just think outside the box here. We have to move our product in bulk, wholesale. Now how do we do that?
PAUL: (As Jesse) What do mean, to like a distributor?
CRANSTON: (As Walter) Yes, yes, that's what we need. We need a distributor. Now, do you know anyone like that?
PAUL: (As Jesse) Yeah, I mean, I used to until you killed him.
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
Aaron Paul, welcome to FRESH AIR. I love that scene.
PAUL: Thank you so much.
GROSS: And I love the way your former chemistry teacher, who's now your partner cooking meth, is lecturing you about your lack of motivation, the way only a teacher could.
GROSS: Now, your character Jesse starts off as - I mean, he's a kid from the suburbs who's an underachiever, and he's modeled his look and his way of speaking on hip-hop culture, probably watched a lot of, like, Beastie Boy videos.
PAUL: Yes, absolutely.
GROSS: And you got the picture from a cell phone message that we played. Who did you model Jesse on early in the series?
PAUL: Really, it was a combination of people that I've met throughout my life and people that I've encountered in New Mexico, and it's all over the place. And so I just kind of tried to form a unique, interesting personality through people that I've encountered.
GROSS: So we're into the fourth season of "Breaking Bad" now. Have you come close to counting how many times you've used the word bitch?
PAUL: Oh, wow. The yos and bitches. It's too many to count. It's incredible. And all of those are scripted, nothing - a lot of people ask me if - do you just improv the yos or the bitches sometimes, and everything's on the page. It's great.
GROSS: So your character, Jesse, was supposed to be killed off in the first season of "Breaking Bad." How did you find out that your character was doomed? When did you learn that?
PAUL: I didn't learn that until towards the end of the first season. We still had - we were on the sixth episode, so the fifth episode plus the pilot. And we had one more to go, and I hadn't read the script yet. And Vince, we were at lunch, and Vince is...
GROSS: This is the creator, Vince Gilligan.
PAUL: Yeah, this is the creator Vince Gilligan, calls me over, and he's, you know, eating with all the writers. And he goes, I want to tell you something. And I go, what's that? And he goes, you know, originally Jesse was supposed to die at the end of this season. And this is the first time I've ever heard any of this.
And instantly my heart kind of dropped and slowed down a bit, and he goes, but we don't think we're going to do that anymore. And I was just - I was like, what do you mean? What are you talking about? Like, what's the plan? And he's like, no, we just - I just wanted to let you know that that's not the plan anymore.
And I didn't know how to take it, but he said that they just loved the, you know, the dynamic between Walt and Jesse and the chemistry that, you know, Bryan and I kind of brought to these characters. He decided to change the whole dynamic of their relationship and really of the show.
But the entire second season, the entire third season, I thought that Jesse could be a goner at any moment because there's, you know, many things that this character has screwed up on, and, you know, he could definitely meet his deathbed at any moment, so.
And they'd always tease me. They'd always joke around saying, oh, did you read the next script? And I would say, no, not yet. I haven't got it. You know, I haven't got it. And, you know, Bryan would come up and give me a hug and say, well, I'm not going to say anything, but, you know, it was such a pleasure working with you.
PAUL: It's been an amazing past year and a half, and, you know, you have a huge career ahead of you. And so they would always joke around about it. They kind of slowed down this fourth season, but we'll see. Who knows? I mean, this kid could die at any second.
GROSS: Well, when I interviewed Vince Gilligan, he basically said he couldn't imagine the series without you.
PAUL: Oh, I love that man. How nice is he?
GROSS: But he also made it clear that's no guarantee.
GROSS: So - but, you know, that kind of uncertainty, I could see that being a little helpful because Jesse's never sure how long he's going to live. So why should you know?
PAUL: Right, exactly. That's true.
GROSS: Jesse's changed so much in the course of the now four seasons of the show. And, you know, he starts off really small-time. You know, he's almost like still a kid. And now he's involved with this big drug ring and where there's a lot of violence, a lot of money.
At the end of Season Three, last season, Walt is afraid that the head of the drug ring is going to kill him as soon as Walt has finished training his assistant cook, a man named Gale, in how to prepare the meth recipe. And if the head of the drug ring kills Walt, he'll probably kill Jesse, too.
So Walt thinks the only hope is to have Jesse kill this assistant meth cook, Gale. So he convinces Jesse that Jesse has to murder the assistant cook. And so you, Jesse, kill Gale, and then you just really become dead inside afterwards.
So you kill him, you're dead inside, you start using meth again, and then you end up going to your support group, your drug support group. You want to confess that you've killed a man, but you can't confess that. So you make up a story that you've killed a dog. And here's a clip from that scene in the support group.
(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "BREAKING BAD")
PAUL: (As Jesse) A couple weeks back, I killed a dog.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) You hit him with your car?
PAUL: (As Jesse) No, I put him down. I watched him go. I was looking him straight in the eye, and he didn't know what was happening. He didn't know why. He - he was just scared, and then...
GROSS: And then members of the support group try to comfort Jesse, and one of them says, oh, well, the dog was suffering, putting him down was a kindness. And then when Jesse says that's not what happened, the woman in the group assumes, oh, well, the dog must have bitten someone, so you did the right thing. And then you say it wasn't that.
And then another person in the group assumes, like, well, you must have started using meth again, and that took you to the dark side because that's what meth does. And everybody's trying to help you justify killing this dog, and you know that there's really no justification for what you've done, which is killing a man. So let's pick up the scene from there. And the leader of the support group speaks first.
(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "BREAKING BAD")
JERE BURNS: (As Group Leader) How'd you feel about what you did, Jesse?
PAUL: (As Jesse) I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As Colleen) Who cares how you feel? What kind of a person kills a dog for no reason?
BURNS: (As character) Colleen.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As Colleen) You put an ad in the paper, you drop him off at a shelter. You can't just sit there and talk about killing a helpless, innocent animal.
BURNS: (As character) Colleen, we're not here to sit in judgment.
PAUL: (As Jesse) Why not? Why not? Maybe she's right. You know, maybe I should have put it in the paper. Maybe I should've done something different. The thing is, if you just do stuff, and nothing happens, what's it all mean? What's the point? All right, this whole thing is about self-acceptance.
BURNS: (As character) Kicking the hell out of yourself doesn't give meaning to anything.
PAUL: (As Jesse) So I should judging and accept?
BURNS: (As character) It's a start.
PAUL: (As Jesse) So no matter what I do, hooray for me because I'm a great guy? It's all good? No matter how many dogs I kill, I just, what, do an inventory and accept? I mean, you back your truck over your own kid, and you like accept? What a load of crap.
BURNS: (As character) Hey, Jesse, I know you're in pain...
PAUL: (As Jesse) No, you know what? Why I'm here in the first place is to sell you meth. You're nothing to me but customers. I made you my bitch. You OK with that, huh? You accept?
BURNS: (As character) No.
PAUL: (As Jesse) About time.
GROSS: That's my guest Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in a scene from this season of "Breaking Bad." You are so lost at this point in the storyline. Do you feel like the character you're playing now is different from the character you started playing on "Breaking Bad," because so much has happened to him, he's changed so much?
PAUL: Oh, 100 percent. He is so broken now. I mean, he was a lost kid at the beginning of the series, you know, just kind of struggling to find his way. But he was content with dime-bagging it, you know, just selling teenths at a time and living in his aunt's house.
But when Mr. White comes back into his life, and they continue to go down this dark rabbit hole, and they can't seem to get out of it, they're both so in way over their heads.
And now, you know, Jesse has completely really lost the support of his family. He had lost his first really true love, I think, with Jane, that was - started off as a good influence on Jesse but then just turned into like a chemical romance, really.
And now, you know, he's a murderer, and he's just lost and tortured, and it's so tragic what he's going through.
GROSS: And murder really isn't in his nature, but he had to do, and he has to live with the consequences of that. Did you have to figure out who is Jesse without the drugs and the poses?
PAUL: Yeah, yeah, I really - you know, joining this series, obviously I had no idea where this character was going, and I didn't really have much of a backstory, but as the seasons have gone on, I feel like I have a true grasp of who this kid is, inside and out. And it's incredible how I feel like such a personal connection with Jesse. It feels like he's almost a part of me, to be honest.
But I couldn't be such a polar opposite from this kid. But going to work every day and kind of zipping on his skin is such a - you know, such a dream.
GROSS: What makes you the opposite of Jesse Pinkman?
PAUL: I feel like I have my life together, really, and Jesse just seems like he's constantly just struggling to keep his head about water. And he's just this, you know, messed up kid trying to find his way, but you know he has this soul, he has this heart, and that's why - I mean, that's why I feel people, you know, are rooting for him.
And they just want to, you know, hug him and tell him it's going to be OK. But at the end of the day, like, is it really? Is it going to be? You don't know.
GROSS: He wouldn't accept that hug anyways.
PAUL: No, no, he actually would not, no.
DAVIES: Aaron Paul, speaking with Terry Gross. Paul stars in the AMC series "Breaking Bad." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DAVIES: We're listening to Terry's interview recorded last year with Aaron Paul, who stars in the AMC series "Breaking Bad." Its fifth season premieres Sunday night.
GROSS: You've taken a lot of punishment in the series. You've been beaten in a lot of very imaginative ways. What are some examples of some of the worst beatings you've taken in the series?
PAUL: Wow, well, some of the worst beatings really came at the very beginning, which was done by a character name of Tuco, this guy played by Raymond Cruz, and he's just this very loud, violent drug dealer who's addicted to meth. And there was this one scene where he's beating me up with a bag of money and beating me to a bloody pulp, and that's the first time Jesse goes to the hospital in the series.
And then the next time that he got beaten up by Tuco, really Tuco's going to - is about to put a shotgun to his face and pull the trigger, and he throws Jesse out of this house. And in one of the takes, probably on the eighth or ninth take, my head actually comes into contact with the opening of this wooden screen door.
And I catch it, and my entire body flips around, and it splits the screen door into a million pieces, and I just land flat on my, like, head and chest. And the scene continues to go on because he thinks that I'm just acting. But in reality, I was just completely out of it, and I don't remember it happening. And I ended up getting this pretty serious concussion.
GROSS: Oh, really?
PAUL: Yeah, yeah.
GROSS: I thought you meant the character thinks you're acting. You mean the actor thinks you were just acting.
PAUL: Yeah, no, the - yeah, Raymond Cruz thought that I was still just in the moment, but then there was a point where he picks me up, puts me on his shoulders, and he was going to slam me against the wall, and try to grab him and just tell him - you know, to tell him to stop.
And so they shut down production for a little bit, ambulance was called, and they sent me to the hospital. I was saying I was fine, but I just felt a little drunk, to be honest. It was just so strange. So I just, you know, ended up going to the ER and spent about six or seven hours with one of our executive producers.
GROSS: Would you have problems watching scenes like when you're beaten up or scenes when your face has been beaten to a pulp? Do you watch yourself in those scenes?
PAUL: I do, yeah. I mean, I'll watch it when the show airs, you know, whether it being if I fly home to Idaho with my family. You know, they have a "Breaking Bad" night every week, and so I come from a huge, huge, loving family, and they've been supportive since, you know, day one.
So my parents are, you know, they're still madly in love. It's their 40th anniversary coming up in November. And I have many siblings. I have 14 nieces and nephews. And they throw a huge party.
PAUL: Yeah, they throw a huge party every Sunday night. So that's pretty great.
DAVIES: Aaron Paul, speaking with Terry Gross, recorded last November. Paul stars in the HBO series "Breaking Bad." That's the AMC series "Breaking Bad." Its fifth and final season premieres Sunday. Aaron Paul will be back in the second half of the show. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross. Let's get back to Terry's interview recorded in November with Aaron Paul. He plays Jesse Pinkman in the AMC series "Breaking Bad." The show begins its fifth and final season this Sunday. Jesse was a smalltime meth dealer until he hooked up with his former chemistry teacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston. Walt's chemistry background helped him cook some powerful crystal meth.
GROSS: Your co-star, the star of the series "Breaking Bad" is Bryan Cranston. Did you know him from "Malcolm in the Middle," I mean from watching him on "Malcolm in the Middle," in which he played the father?
PAUL: Oh yeah, I love him. I loved that show. I thought he was great. And...
GROSS: And how old were you when you first started watching that?
PAUL: Oh man, I actually I was in L.A. when they were casting that pilot. I remember reading that pilot and I went out for the older brother, didn't end up getting it obviously, but...
GROSS: Oh, no. Really?
PAUL: Yeah. Yeah. And yeah, Chris Masterson ended up getting the role and he was brilliant on it. But, yeah, I was a huge fan of that show from day one. I think I've probably seen pretty much I think every episode. But my mom is the biggest "Malcolm in the Middle" fan. She's obsessed. And when...
GROSS: Maybe that's helped to ease the blow that you're going to play...
GROSS: ...somebody who cooks meth in the series.
PAUL: Yeah. Exactly. When I told her that Bryan Cranston was the star of "Breaking Bad," the pilot that I had just booked, she lost her mind. She was so, so, so excited because she knew one day she would be able to meet him, you know.
PAUL: So she was ecstatic.
GROSS: So you're obviously very different from the Jesse Pinkman character that you play on "Breaking Bad." In fact, you know, he's a meth head. You grew up in Idaho. Your father is a Baptist minister, yes?
PAUL: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. He's actually retired. He doesn't have a church he does every week in anymore, but he still does, you know, weddings and funerals and sometimes will guest speak at some churches. But, yeah, throughout my entire life growing up in Idaho we would go, you know, to his congregation every week and he would preach and, yeah.
GROSS: What was his preaching like?
PAUL: It was it great. It was inspiring, really. I mean he would get up in front of all these people and kind of just get lost in the moment as well, and I think that's where I take not that I'm saying he was really standing up there acting, but he would just really get lost into these stories. He would speak, and it was fun to watch and to hear. And, you know, I left at such a young age. I left...
GROSS: Left Idaho and left home?
PAUL: Left Idaho. Yeah, I left Idaho at 17. You know, I graduated high school a year early and just, you know, the typical story, packed up my car and moved out. Yeah.
GROSS: I wonder if there was any pressure on you to be the good kid because you were like the son of the minister. And if so, if acting was a kind of like release valve for that because you could be all the people that you weren't allowed to be.
PAUL: Oh yeah, total, 100 percent. I mean you nailed it. It's, you know, I forget who told me this but they said, you know, acting is really like a cheap form of therapy, it's such a nice release. You know, we're all kind of crazy in our own way. And it's true, it is a nice, it's a great release and it's so much fun just to kind of zip on different skins and...
GROSS: When you left home at age 17, which as you point out is really young...
GROSS: ...did your parents try to like bar the door and do everything in their power to prevent you from going, and telling you that you were making a huge mistake that you would always regret, that you are throwing your life away and throwing away everything that they had ever done to help you in life, etcetera?
PAUL: You know what? Not at all. It was quite the opposite. I always had the plan of moving to L.A. They knew I always wanted to do this. And I think really in eighth grade I made it certain just to let my parents know this was my plan. You know, I'm going to move to California or New York and I'm going to try to become an actor, and that they knew that from early on. And so when I started taking it very seriously in high school and they would see, you know, these productions that we put on and they would see how excited I would get about them, they were all about it when I mentioned to them that I wanted to take zero hour, where I'd go to school early, you know, to do an extra class and take correspondence, which was really homeschooling as well, just to graduate early so I could get out to L.A., you know, sooner than later.
And they just applauded me and they said go for it. Just do it. You want this. Like I love, you know, like, I love your passion. And so they supported me. I love - you know, there's a great story. Most of my teachers were supportive, but there was this one teacher that came up to me when I was saying goodbye, really, because I graduated, I'm done, and she said I feel that you're making a big mistake and what is your plan B? I mean do you have another plan if this doesn't work out? Like what if it doesn't work out?
And when I told my mom that, 'cause every - from everywhere I was getting blessings from every side. But I told my mom that and my mom went straight into the school and just said how dare you say this to my son? Like, what's your plan? What's your second - what if this doesn't work out for you? You know, what's your plan B? And it was just so great to see my mom like take that control, because I've never seen her like that in my life. And it was just so great that they were supportive of going after dreams. And - 'cause if you don't then what do you really have? You know, you might as well just shoot for whatever you want to do.
GROSS: Well, they must have a lot of faith in you and in your ability to follow through on the dream.
PAUL: Yeah. I know it's and, you know, obviously I couldn't have done this without them and it's incredible, very, very blessed.
GROSS: So you get to LA and then what? You don't know anybody there. Like, You don't, I mean....
PAUL: Yeah, no, I know.
GROSS: You have you car is packed up, then what?
PAUL: Yeah. I actually, my mom came out with me, found a little studio apartment, and she just wanted to make sure I would get settled. And it's funny; the weekend I was moving into this little tiny studio apartment in North Hollywood, a bank robbery is in progress like two blocks from my place.
PAUL: A giant bank robbery and it ended in crazy bloodshed. And my mom is like oh, my God. Where am I allowing my son to move to? But she, you know, she got on a plane and went back to Idaho and so I'm sure very safe, but I'm sure she was scared for my life but she was still very, very, very supportive. But yeah, I didn't know anybody, I just, you know, saved up a bunch of money from random jobs I worked in Idaho and just tried to find myself an agent and a manager.
GROSS: And succeeded?
PAUL: And succeeded. Yeah. Yeah. I got a...
GROSS: Oh how did you do it? Did you just talk them into it or what?
PAUL: Yeah, I just talked them into it and bribed them a little bit. But...
PAUL: No. I - oh, no.
PAUL: I didn't bribe them. I actually I ended up going to this acting competition that was held downtown Los Angeles. And I mean there's just thousands of kids there and I ended up signing with a manager there, and then he found me an agent pretty quickly, like, you know, a couple of weeks later. And that agent, Loch Powell, is now my manager and I've been with them since day one. And I, you know, I really owe everything to him. He's great.
GROSS: Well, you paid off.
GROSS: So can I just say something about the voice that you do as Jesse?
GROSS: There's something about the voice that Jesse always seems to be on the verge of like complaining or whining or feeling put upon.
GROSS: It's like he still a teenager. You know what I mean? It's like still his parents are nagging him or his teacher is nagging him. That's his kind of like posture in the world a lot of the time.
PAUL: Right. Yeah. It's true.
GROSS: Is that what you've been trying for vocally?
PAUL: Yeah. No, I mean it just - I see Jesse as this kid that still hasn't found his footing, you know? And I love that he, you know, he still calls Walter White Mr. White and he's...
GROSS: Yeah. Yeah. That's so great.
PAUL: He's just lost in his own world. And, I don't know. I think well, you know, this season is where he's really, he's kind of taken the reins of his life.
GROSS: Well, I just want to say, if Vince Gilligan is listening, please do not kill off Jesse Pinkman.
PAUL: Yes. I agree. Thank you so much.
GROSS: Aaron Paul, it's been great to talk with you. Thank you so much.
PAUL: Thank you so much, Terry.
DAVIES: Aaron Paul, speaking to Terry Gross, recorded last November. Paul stars in the AMC series "Breaking Bad." Its fifth and final season premieres Sunday. Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz tells us about plans to celebrate the 75th anniversary of "Tanglewood," the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This is FRESH AIR.
DAVE DAVIES, HOST: Tomorrow night, Tanglewood - the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra - celebrates its 75th anniversary with a gala all-star concert. But part of the celebration has already started. On June 20th, the orchestra begins 75 days of streaming rare concerts from the vast Tanglewood archive.
Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz is very excited about this project.
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LLOYD SCHWARTZ, BYLINE: On July 20, 1958, at Tanglewood, pianist Leon Fleisher played an electrifying Brahms' "First Piano Concerto" with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under one of its former music directors, Pierre Monteux. This remarkable teaming has not been heard since then.
But the BSO has come up with an inspired way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Tanglewood. Every day for 75 days, through the summer, the BSO will stream a different historic Tanglewood concert on its website, including this astonishing Brahms, and going even further back to the very first Tanglewood concert, with a Beethoven "Fifth Symphony" under the leadership of the visionary Serge Koussevitzky, August 5, 1937.
I can't remember when I first started going to Tanglewood. It was certainly before I owned my own car, because I needed someone to give me a ride out to the Berkshires, more than two hours from Boston. Music was only part of the pleasure. The setting is idyllic, and a good picnic out on the lawn could be as enjoyable as the music itself. Of course, the open-air acoustics are not going to compare well to the magnificent sound at Boston's Symphony Hall, and many of the programs simply repeat what has already been performed in Boston. But every now and again, there's something wonderful that Boston can't replicate.
The very best performance I ever heard by Seiji Ozawa was at Tanglewood in 1974: Schoenberg's epic saga "Gurrelieder," which almost cries out for an outdoor setting. He led the amazing student orchestra and such legendary artists as soprano Phyllis Curtin and bass-baritone George London. Ozawa was in his element. When he repeated this piece five years later at Symphony Hall, with a different cast, it felt cramped and flat. I'm sorry this isn't one of the downloadable performances, though there's a thrilling version led by James Levine. Not all these past concerts are serious ones. I'd have loved to attend the July 13, 1961's BSO Pension Fund Concert, conducted by Danny Kaye, whose conducting adviser was his friend and BSO first violinist Harry Ellis Dixon. I'm especially tickled by Kaye's deconstruction of Johann Strauss.
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SCHWARTZ: One Tanglewood event I was at, and I'm very happy to hear again, is a 2006 performance of Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat by the Tanglewood Music (technical difficulties). But these brilliant young players were upstaged by the three speakers serving as Narrator, Devil, and Soldier: composers John Harbison, the late Milton Babbit, and the then only 97-year-old Elliott Carter, who is particularly poignant as the cheated soldier.
(SOUNDBITE OF TANGLEWOOD PERFORMANCE 2006)
ELLIOTT CARTER: (as Soldier) The Devil robbed me blind. I miss those treasures left behind, the pleasures that I knew before: my mother smiling at the door, the friends with whom I'd raise a glass, the summer smell of fresh cut grass. And my fiddle, a cheap and tuneless thing, still, when I tried, I could make it sing.
SCHWARTZ: I don't have equal enthusiasm for every choice, but on the whole I think this is a remarkable selection. There are informative and witty notes on line by former Boston Globe music critic Richard Dyer that include some reviews of the original concerts-not all completely positive. And the first day of each download is free. It's wonderful to finally have access to these previously inaccessible concerts.
DAVIES: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix. Upcoming downloads from the Tanglewood archives appearing on the Boston Symphony Orchestra's website include performances mentioned in Lloyd's piece, with Stravinsky on Sunday and the Brahms first piano concerto on August 3rd.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, BEETHOVEN'S "FIFTH SYMPHONY")
DAVE DAVIES. HOST: Coming up, David Edelstein reviews the Kenneth Lonergan film "Margaret" which is out on DVD. This is FRESH AIR.
DAVE DAVIES, HOST: In the mid-'90s Kenneth Lonergan received enormous acclaim for his play "This is Our Youth" and in 2000 for his film, "You Can Count on Me." His second film, "Margaret," starring Anna Paquin, was a long time in coming and had only a brief life in theaters. Now the theatrical release is available on Blu-ray along with a longer DVD cut. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.
DAVID EDELSTEIN, BYLINE: A fiasco with a great first half is what I called Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" when it was dumped in one New York theater last fall, five years after it was shot, amid a legal battle between Lonergan and a producer. I'm a huge fan of Lonergan's plays and his first film, "You Can Count on Me," but "Margaret's" second half was so disjointed I couldn't get behind it.
But a handful of other critics did, and fans started a Twitter campaign - a small but significant groundswell enabling Lonergan to make a three-hour cut for DVD. That extended cut is as close to a masterpiece as any American film in a decade.
The protagonist is a Manhattan teenager named Lisa, played bravely, marvelously, by Anna Paquin. In her first scene, she admits to cheating on a test to a too-indulgent private school teacher played by Matt Damon. She's a blase relativist - there's no right or wrong.
Then comes a turning point. She distracts a bus driver whose cowboy hat she likes. He runs a red light, a woman is hit - a wildly shocking accident that ends with Lisa holding the dying woman, drenched in blood. I've never seen anything like it, and hope never to again.
Its impact lingers through the film, of course, though in the next few days Lisa barely talks about it. She goes to a party. She calls an ironic hipster played by Kieran Culkin and asks him to take her virginity, blowing off a close friend who adores her.
She won't discuss what happened with her single mother, an actress - played by Lonergan's wife, J. Smith-Cameron - who's about to open in an Off Broadway play. Her father in L.A., played by Lonergan, is friendly but superficial - useless.
Then, suddenly, more than an hour into the film, Lisa confronts the enormity of the accident, and how she lied to protect the bus driver, played by Mark Ruffalo. She journeys to the distant reaches of Brooklyn, surprising him and his wife.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARGARET")
ANNA PAQUIN: (as Lisa) I'm not trying to get you in trouble.
MARK RUFFALO: (as Maretti) I know you're not 'cause you can't 'cause I didn't do anything wrong. All right? There was no criminality found. That's it. The report is, you know, final. That's it.
PAQUIN: (as Lisa) So you're just going to leave it.
RUFFALO: (as Maretti) I'm going to leave it because that's all that it was. If something else would've happened, then I'd take that to whatever that was. OK? It was tragic. It's a tragedy, but there's only a certain speed that those brakes can react, OK? That's the physical limitation of the machine. I don't know what else to tell you. It's shocking. It was a shock. But you can't bring her back. You cannot bring her back.
PAQUIN: (as Lisa) I'm not talking about bringing her back. I'm talking about telling the accident investigators what really happened.
RUFFALO: (as Maretti) But you already talked to them.
PAQUIN: (as Lisa) I know that, but I lied.
RUFFALO: (as Maretti) You lied.
PAQUIN: (as Lisa) Yes. And I can understand if you don't want to get in any trouble, but I can't...
RUFFALO: (as Maretti) So then why didn't you say that right then?
PAQUIN: (as Lisa) Because when they were asking me what happened it seemed like you were kind of looking at me, like we were saying to each other let's not say anything about what happened.
RUFFALO: (as Maretti) OK. All right. Now I really don't know what you're talking about.
PAQUIN: (as Lisa) I can't prove that you were doing that.
RUFFALO: (as Maretti) OK. OK. Did I what? Did I say something to you? Did I - did I - did I threaten you in any way?
PAQUIN: (as Lisa) No. And I'm not blaming you for any of this. All I'm saying is that I didn't really tell the cops what happened and I didn't want to go back without having spoken to you first.
RUFFALO: (as Maretti) But you told them what you saw. You told them what you saw and so did I. I mean, I'm the one driving the bus. I'm the one behind the wheel.
PAQUIN: (as Lisa) All right. Have it your way.
RUFFALO: (as Maretti) No. You know what? Leave it alone. What do you - you want to ruin my life? Start talking about looks and you waved at me and I had my cowboy hat on? Go ahead, but you're going to go home and you're going to do your homework and I'm going to lose my job. And who's going to take care of my family? You?
EDELSTEIN: You can hear the urgency of Paquin's Lisa, her desperate attempt to communicate the intensity of her feelings, to the point where other characters accuse her of over-dramatizing. But Lonergan's point is how earth-shattering this is, and how teenagers feel the world more deeply than grown-ups with defenses in place. When Lisa reaches out to a friend of the woman killed, played by Jeannie Berlin, the older woman's cynicism butts up against the teenager's passionate conviction in a way that breaks your heart.
Lonergan's larger theme is that no one fully connects with anyone else, and in the extended cut it's underlined perfectly by a subplot in which Lisa's mother is courted by a Colombian businessman, played by Jean Reno, who can't get on her wavelength.
"Margaret" is named for a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem about a young girl suddenly perceiving death. Lonergan gives you that perspective - Lisa's - but his canvas is wider. He lingers on high-rises, passersby, planes overhead that evoke the trauma of 9/11.
I still think these shots call too much attention to themselves - all these people with their own lives - but they have an impact. "Margaret" needs the sprawl. It's counterintuitive, but a longer movie can feel shorter if its scenes are properly set up. In the extended cut, Lonergan has charted the torturous emotional journey of a modern girl as no one has on screen.
When you buy "Margaret" you'll find that extended cut packaged with a Blu-ray of the theatrical version. Use that as a coaster. Really. I only wish the extended cut could play in theaters across the country. The occasion is that momentous.
DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine. The two disc set of "Margaret" includes the theatrical version on Blu-ray and the extended cut on DVD.
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