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Weaver and Michod Go Inside 'Animal Kingdom.'

In the film Animal Kingdom, Australian actress Jacki Weaver plays the matriarch of a criminal family who has a twisted relationship with her sons. Weaver and Animal Kingdom's director David Michod discuss their unglamorous portrayal of a crime syndicate.

19:30

Other segments from the episode on January 18, 2011

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 18, 2011: Interview with Sioban Fallon; Interview with David Michod and Jacki Weaver; Review of The Decemberists' album "The King is Dead."

Transcript

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An Army Wife Reflects On 'When The Men Are Gone'

DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, sitting in for Terry Gross.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fought in an age of embedded
reporters, soldiers' blogs and YouTube videos from overseas and the home front.
But our first guest, Siobhan Fallon, employs the traditional, low-tech form of
short fiction to describe the lives of soldiers and especially their families.

Fallon is a military wife, and her new book is based largely on the experiences
of Army families in Fort Hood, Texas. When soldiers leave on a deployment, she
writes, their spouses somehow manage. They improvise. They take the strangeness
and make it normal.

In her stories, wives have to deal with oil changes and home repairs, as well
as loneliness, the crises of adolescent kids and, sometimes, infidelity and
even death.

Siobhan Fallon is the wife of an Army major who earned her master's of fine
arts in creative writing at the New School in New York City. She will soon be
leaving for Jordan, where her husband will be stationed. I spoke to her about
her book, called "You Know When the Men Are Gone."

Well, Siobhan Fallon, welcome to FRESH AIR. Tell us some of the changes in
sight, sound, and routine at the base that tells you when the men are gone.

Ms. SIOBHAN FALLON (Author, "You Know When the Men Are Gone"): It's pretty
obvious right from the first moment that the soldiers deploy because: one,
there are so many to begin with. So as soon as the brigades start rotating out,
you have this eerie sort of quietness and less cars.

There aren't the long lines to get into the front gates with all the pickup
trucks. And, of course, all of the fast food places, they don't have the lines
at the drive-thrus or the crowds that you would see at lunchtime or seven in
the morning, when they - or actually, they have to be there earlier.

When they have to go into PT, you know, there's always a traffic jam on
Battalion Avenue or something, like the soldier's room.

DAVIES: And PT is?

Ms. FALLON: Oh, the physical training that most of the soldiers do at the same
time. It sort of puts a halt on the entire base.

And you just start to notice that there are more women and children because you
don't have the balance of, you know, the males. And the females, suddenly you
are just very aware of the families that are there, and they kind of take over.

You just see them, the kids running, playing, and the wives don't have as much
to do in one area of their lives, or they're not worrying about taking care of
their husbands as much. So they might have more free time to get together. So
you might see them outside.

DAVIES: Now you write that, of course, that military wives rely on each other
for companionship and babysitting and care and empathy. And they don't mix so
much with civilians even though, I mean, there is a town there, Killeen, Texas,
and then Austin, which is a pretty hip place, is only 70 miles away. Why is it
that they find it hard to kind of mix with civilians?

Ms. FALLON: From my experience, and especially in a place like Fort Hood, where
so much of the community is military to begin with, you're surrounded by
spouses who have so much in common with you that it's just easier to form those
friendships instead of maybe the civilian friendships that would include the
husband that you suddenly don't have.

Or, you know, your soldier's away. It makes it a little more difficult to hang
out with your friends who have their spouse with them, and that reminds you
that your spouse isn't there.

DAVIES: Infidelity is one of the things that comes up here a lot, which isn't
surprising because, you know, fears or suspicions of infidelity are part of any
long-distance relationship, and, of course, these folks are experiencing long
separation with enormous stress.

And I thought I would have you read a section from a story, and this was the
case of a woman. The character's name here, I believe, is Kaylani(ph). She has
not heard from her husband for awhile, and so she's so concerned that he hasn't
been writing and returning her emails. She decides she's going to - well, she's
going to find out for herself. Why don't you just read this section and explain
what happens.

Ms. FALLON: Sure. So Kaylani sat down at the computer and, convinced it was the
only thing she could do, broke into Manny's(ph) email. It wasn't hard. He had
used the same password for as long as she had known him: monstermanny.

She accessed his account and glanced down the page, seeing her past missives:
Are you OK? Javier(ph) took two steps today. And yesterday's email: Email me
ASAP. All the while feeling something grow behind her lungs, something that
wanted to swallow the air inside of her.

Most of the emails had not been opened yet, but her husband had definitely been
online. A message from one of his high school friends, dated just two days
before, was no longer in the new mail section.

At that point, she ought to have clicked on the mouse on the little X in the
corner in the screen. She ought to have leaned back in relief, certain he was
fine. But she felt the thing in her chest expand, and she continued skimming
over the messages that Manny had read.

There was one from his brother, a forward from another buddy from home;
something she hoped was junk mail, advertising pictures of Britney Spears'
crotch; and one from a name she didn't recognize, a Michelle C. Rand(ph) at
usarmy.mil, titled "So Lonely."

@usarmy.mil was tacked onto every active-duty soldier account as an email
address. The mouse hovered, the little arrow pointing at So. Who was this
Michelle Rand, and why was she telling Manny she was lonely? Kaylani clicked
open.

Manuel, are you coming over Tuesday? My roommate is on duty. We will have the
whole night. I want your body so bad. Let me know ASAP, Shel.

DAVIES: And that is how this Army wife discovers that her husband appears to be
having an affair overseas. So when an Army wife discovers something like this,
I mean, like anyone who's rocked by this news, there are many things they can
do.

They can confront their husband by phone or email. They could talk to friends.
They could move out. They could talk to their mothers. One thing that Army
wives can do is report them to the command, and there would be consequences,
wouldn't there, particularly if it was fraternizing with someone else in the
military, as this husband seemed to be doing?

Ms. FALLON: And the husband's - or the soldier's command would probably have to
act, and it could go anywhere, I think, from, like, an official reprimand that
would go into the soldier's record or just, you know, like a non-official
talking to the soldiers involved and probably trying to separate them or
transfer them to a different unit.

That's one of the lines, I think, that the Army has to walk is that they are so
involved with their soldiers 24 hours a day, and they have such control over
their lives that something that, to the outside world, the civilian world, you
know, your boss would have nothing really to do if you're committing adultery.

But the Army has to take that very seriously because the repercussions could
endanger the lives of soldiers if it's happening during a deployment. It also
could wreak havoc on the social structure at home, among the wives. They really
need to make sure that the soldiers are as happy as possible, as well as the
wives, because it's such a tightly woven community.

DAVIES: So if she reports this to the command structure, other people know,
right? I mean, probably other people on the base, probably other people in the
soldier's unit. And that's something that she has to think about, right?

Ms. FALLON: Oh, yeah, exactly.

DAVIES: Do you want to say what this woman did?

Ms. FALLON: In the case of this story, Kaylani decides to do nothing, and she
approaches the wife of their commanding officer and then decides against
telling her.

DAVIES: Right, he returns home, and she ends up wanting to confront him but not
doing so, and then she discovers he's having - you know, he's seen horrible
things, and he's having nightmares at night and chooses to just treat it as an
experience that he'd had overseas where a lot of things happened that might be
regrettable, but they're going to put it behind them. Do you find this sort of
a common way of dealing with it?

Ms. FALLON: Yeah, when the soldiers come home, the spouses want to have a fresh
start. And it's a fresh start for both of them because the spouses had that
long, lonely year, and they know that their spouses, you know, the soldier has
been through an awful lot.

And a lot of times, the soldiers really don't want to share all of the
experiences, obviously, with their spouse. When they are in the war zone, they
don't want their spouse to really worry about them and know what they might be
going through.

And then when they come home, it seems almost like old news, like you're
starting over, and usually you can be sent to a new base. So it gives this
whole feel of a new life starting, and I think it's easier, then to almost
pretend that the old life no longer exists or has an impact on the return.

DAVIES: There's another interesting kind of take on this. In the opening story
of the book, which is called "You Know When the Men Are Gone," which is also,
of course, the title of your book.

And your character meets this woman Natalia(ph), who is different from others,
other wives on the base. Explain her story, how she's different.

Ms. FALLON: Well, Natalia was someone that her husband had met when he had been
deployed previously to Bosnia. So she represents a massive threat to the
spouses who are at Fort Hood because she's someone that the soldier actually
brought, physically brought back from a deployment to replace the wife he had
had.

And she's everything they fear most about: one, like, not knowing what's
happening with the soldier who's overseas and that he might find someone
younger and prettier and more stylish and exotic, in their eyes.

So she starts off as a threat just because of her background of having been the
mistress, and then Natalia resists all of the efforts of the wives to become
one of them. Like, she doesn't attend the meetings, and she doesn't wash the
cars or bake the cookies or do the other things that creates, like, a cohesive
wife community.

DAVIES: In your experience, do military wives talk about these threats of
infidelity with each other? I mean, there's a moment in one of the books where
someone says, well, there's so-and-so who's a female abroad in a support role
in a unit, and she's a home-wrecker. Was there a lot of talk like that?

Ms. FALLON: I think it's definitely a fear, and it was actually one of the
positive things about having a soldier in the infantry. And so some of the
wives that I knew, we would joke about how lucky we are that there weren't
women, and it was one of the only things we didn't have to worry about with our
soldiers being deployed.

But when your soldier's away for an entire year, you're going to imagine the
worst of everything that could possibly happen. It's just one of the many
things that I think spouses would seize upon. And it's something that you could
blame another person, you know, and it's something we would fear in ordinary
American society.

So it's almost easier to imagine than the more horrific things that could
happen to your soldier. So I think it was fed because it was part of the common
experience versus the situations you wanted to avoid thinking about completely
that might happen to a soldier deployed.

DAVIES: We're speaking with Siobhan Fallon. She's written a collection of short
stories called "You Know When the Men Are Gone." We'll talk more after a short
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guest is Siobhan Fallon. She is a
military wife who has written a collection of short stories about the
experience. It's called "You Know When the Men Are Gone."

One story that you write, "Camp Liberty," the one that is set in Iraq, you're
really following not a military wife, you're following, you know, a soldier, a
sergeant who leads a unit in Iraq.

And the descriptions are very detailed and very evocative. I mean, I really
feel like I'm in the Humvee with this guy and inside his head. I think I'd like
to have you read a piece of your description of this soldier.

So this is a section where you're writing about a sergeant, a guy who had been
an investment banker. His name is David Moguson(ph). In his civilian life, he
was called David, but in the Army, they call him Mogue. And you're describing
what he experiences after coming back from some time on leave, and he was sort
of discontented, and his nose was running, and this is the description of when
he's back with his unit.

Ms. FALLON: (Reading) His runny nose immediately dried up, and he felt alert
again, awake at dawn to the call to prayer that reverberated around the base.
It was as if his body had grown dependent on the 120-degree days and the 40-
degree nights, the long-sleeve camouflage uniform and the heavy lace-up boots,
the weight of the helmet and the 40-pound Kevlar vest, the tinny water fed to
his mouth by a warm tube from the camelback slung over his shoulder, the
churned-out high-calorie but tasteless eggs at the chow hall in the morning,
the dried-out MRE bags in the afternoon, sleep-deprived nights of helicopters
landing or mortars ringing with the usual bad aim against the perimeter of the
base.

His body thrived in the desert. His Mogue thrived, while the weak little David
crawled deeper into hibernation, and Mogue was seized with a terrible thought:
What if, after all of his longing to get out and get on with his life, in his
comfortable middle age, he would look back at this time and realize that his
years in the Army were the most vivid, the most startling real of his entire
life? Maybe he should not be getting out after all.

DAVIES: And that's Siobhan Fallon from her book of collective short stories,
"You Know When the Men Are Gone."

You have a lot of photos of Fort Hood on your website, and there's one - which
are really interesting to look at, by the way.

Ms. FALLON: Thank you.

DAVIES: They add a lot to story, if one wants to read the book. But there's one
that - you have a picture of a sign at a parking area, and it says: reserved
parking for a gold star family.

Ms. FALLON: Yes.

DAVIES: Explain that.

Ms. FALLON: Well, gold star is the euphemism for a family who's had a soldier
die. It would be one of the parking spots at the very front of, you know, a
commissary or BX. And it's kind of a scary reminder.

So all of the - you know, you drive by, when you go get your groceries, and you
see that gold star spot, and you're just praying that you will never have to
use it. And then, of course, it refers to other benefits, too. Like, gold star
families are how we refer to families who have lost a soldier.

DAVIES: Yeah, I have to say it makes, you know, what for a lot of people is a
private kind of pain very public.

Ms. FALLON: Yeah. Yeah, and that story of mine, "Gold Star," that's the issue
that the protagonist is dealing with, whether she ought to take the spot or not
because she knows as soon as she pulls into it, the entire parking lot will
immediately know everything, which is almost everything her life has become at
that point with her soldier having recently died.

And she has to weigh the importance of, you know, whether she wants to find a
spot on a very busy day at the commissary or keep her grief to herself.

DAVIES: You know, you write that a military wife really has different lives
that they live, you know, when the soldier is deployed and when he's not. And,
in a way, you're busier, too. I mean, you're a single parent. You've got to
balance the checkbook, and if there's a leaky faucet, either fix it or find
somebody to fix it and, you know, change the kids' schedules.

And then a year later, the husband comes home. What are some of the adjustments
that that requires?

Ms. FALLON: You know, it's pretty wild. I know, I've been through three
deployments, and each time, I would assume they'd be easier because it's
something I've done, but I just have - each time, I forget how much I would
depend on my husband for these small details in my life that I didn't even
realize he was doing and the things that he would naturally take care of.

And then suddenly he was gone, and I would have no idea what plumber we used
or, I don't know, how to turn off the furnace or turn it back on or reset it,
just these things that I can't call him to even find out.

So it's definitely a tremendous readjustment when your soldier leaves, and it's
almost as big of a readjustment when he returns because after a year, you've
actually finally figured out how to be independent and do everything that you
need to do for your child or for yourself.

And then your soldier returns, and suddenly you both have been so independent,
and now you need to become dependent on each other. So I think it's natural
that there would be a little tension in that situation.

DAVIES: Right, and his head is, in some ways, still in, you know, life-
threatening situations he was in and camaraderie with the unit that, you know,
was primal.

Ms. FALLON: Right.

DAVIES: One of the interesting things that you write about are pamphlets that
the Army gives soldiers on how they should behave when they return. Do you want
to share some of the advice they give?

Ms. FALLON: The Army has really been trying very hard, I think, to handle all
sorts of situations. And one of the things they make the soldiers do before
they return is they have them fill out all of these surveys to pinpoint
problems that they might have and that the soldiers might not even be aware of.

And then they return, and they all have to go to a certain amount of counseling
sessions, and I think that's actually fairly new. My husband's most recent
return, I remember he had a few days that he had to go to these long, long
classes.

And, of course, you want your husband home, and then suddenly he's got to
report in to work like the day after he returns. But I see the value in that,
and I think it's - I mean, we all have that wonderful image of the reunion, and
we think only that far. We don't really think beyond that.

DAVIES: I wanted to share some of the tips in a pamphlet that you write about
in the book. These are things a soldier should remember, from this Army
pamphlet when they come back:

No cursing. Your family members are not your men. They are not your squadron or
platoon. They do not have to obey your orders. Your wife has been handling
finances, disciplining the children during your absence. Don't expect to
suddenly walk in and take over. Work with her, be patient. Tell her you
appreciate the job she has done. Take time to be charming.

And then this fascinating one: Psychologists recommend that you do not engage
in intercourse with your wife immediately upon return. Wait a few days, until
she shows signs of responding to you. Be patient. Good advice?

Ms. FALLON: Yes, I think so. Most of that was actually taken from an Army
pamphlet. So that's definitely advice that we're told.

And again, it's just something you kind of need to be reminded of when you have
expectations that might not be met and from both points of view, you know, for
the spouse, as well as the soldier. So it's good to know that there's a
readjustment stage.

DAVIES: All right, well, I wish both you and your husband safety and good
travels.

Ms. FALLON: Thank you.

DAVIES: Siobhan Fallon, thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. FALLON: Thank you, Dave.

DAVIES: Siobhan Fallon is leaving soon for Jordan, where her husband will be
stationed. Her collection of short stories is called "You Know When the Men Are
Gone." You can read an excerpt on our website, freshair.npr.org. I'm Dave
Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
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Weaver and Michod Go Inside 'Animal Kingdom'

(Soundbite of music)

DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross.

Chances are you missed the film "Animal Kingdom" in theaters last summer. It's
a gritty Australian crime drama written and directed by my guest David Michod,
and starring actress Jacki Weaver, who also joins us. "Animal Kingdom" follows
a Melbourne family of bank robbers and drug dealers as the police close in on
them. It won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and Jacki Weaver's performance
earned a Golden Globe nomination.

Weaver plays Janine Cody, the mom of the crime family. Stephen Holden of The
New York Times called her character a magnetic, seductive hybrid of Lady
Macbeth and Ma Barker in the camouflage of a cheery suburban grandmother. Jacki
Weaver appeared in the 1975 Peter Weir film "Picnic at Hanging Rock" and has
been a regular of Australian TV, film, theater and tabloids for decades.
"Animal Kingdom" is the first feature film David Michod has directed.

In this scene, Weaver's character is concerned that a young member of the
family may flip and testify against them, and she's leaning on a corrupt cop,
played by Justin Rosniak, to have the boy killed in police custody.

(Soundbite of movie, "Animal Kingdom")

Ms. JACKI WEAVER (Actor): (as Janine Cody) Hi Randall, before you go on, this
boy is currently being looked after. Tell me if you agree with this. This boy
has been looked after. He knows who you are and you know how these things go.
They're going to ask of all sorts of questions about everything he's ever seen
or done, everyone he's ever met, (unintelligible). And you've done some bad
things, sweetie. Haven't you? I want this part to be clear, this is not about
you doing me a favor or me blackmailing you or anything like that - just a bad
situation for everyone. Ezra's got the address. It shouldn't be too hard to
fill up a raid on the house. There'd be reasonable grounds. What, with all the
strange activities, the comings and goings, day and night. One of the neighbors
might and seen a gun or something? This is your area of expertise. I'm not
trying to tell you how to suck eggs. What do you think?

Mr. JUSTIN ROSNIAK (Actor): (as Det. Randall Roache) I really don't see how
anything can be done tonight.

Ms. WEAVER: (as Janine Cody) Randall, I feel sick about this. I'm not happy at
all, not one little bit. But we do what we have to do. We do what we must. Just
because we don't want to do something doesn't mean it can't be done.

DAVIES: Well, David Michod, Jacki Weaver, welcome to FRESH AIR.

This character, Jacki's character, Janine Cody - or she's called Grandma Smurf
at times, right - is such a sweetheart; and there's this amazing touch that we
see early on, Jacki, where when you greet your sons and grandsons, all of them
criminals, and there are many of them, you give them these nice slow little
kiss on the lips. Tell us about that gesture.

Ms. WEAVER: That gesture, though it's a small one, I think speaks volumes about
the relationship she has with the boys. Because, while it's not indecent
obscene, it is an inappropriate gesture to kiss your adult son lingeringly on
the mouth. I have a son in real life, who is in his 30s, and I can honestly -
and I love him very much and we're very close, I can honestly say I haven't
kissed him on the mouth since he was two and a half years old.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WEAVER: But that was something I wish I could say that was my choice, my
acting choice, but it was a little gesture of David's idea. And I think it just
said so much, in such a small gesture, about the strange bond that exists in
that criminal family; the power the mother has over them; that she has had
these sons with different fathers. They were obviously unsatisfactory, probably
violent relationships with criminals. And there's also a kind of substitute
with her sons, I think, perhaps. This is all surmise on my part. David, who
wrote the film, might say I'm talking rubbish.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Yeah, David, so yeah, so you've got the grandmother here planting these
little kisses on her sons throughout the film. What inspired that?

Mr. DAVID MICHOD (Writer and director, "Animal Kingdom"): I wanted just a kind
of a small, but powerful, gesture that represented the almost proprietorial(ph)
nature of the relationship that this woman has with her sons. You know, that in
a way she appears very loving, but actually, her relationship with her children
is very self-serving. You know, that what she really loves the idea of being at
the center of a pack of quite young and powerful and dangerous men, being her
sons. And that's the level in which her love seems to operate. And so I kind of
just like that small and proprietary gesture.

I mean it's funny people talk about the kissing on the lips quite a lot and I
actually know, I know mothers who kiss their sons on the lips, and so I've been
quite surprised at how effective that gesture has been. I mean there's another
scene in the movie. I don't know if you remember it, but when Ben Mendelsohn's
character first appears in the movie - Ben playing Jacki's eldest son - Jacki
does that entire scene sitting on Ben's lap, which I actually think is a
stranger gesture than the kissing on the lips.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MICHOD: I don't know mothers who sit on their sons' laps.

DAVIES: David Michod wrote and directed the film "Animal Kingdom". Jackie
Weaver plays the role of a crime family matriarch.

We'll talk more after a short break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guests star actress, Jacki Weaver, and
writer-director, David Michod. They both collaborated on a film "Animal
Kingdom."

You know, this is a film about kind of the daily life of criminals, David
Michod, and it's a pretty on glamorized view of their lives. Were there any,
kind of, crime movies stereotypes you wanted to avoid?

Mr. MICHOD: I wanted, I was very clear when I started, that if I was going to
make a crime film that I was treading a well-trodden path. And that if I was
going to bother doing this at all, there needed to be something about it that
was unusual. So it was kind of clear to me that I needed to work out how
"Animal Kingdom" might be different from other crime films. And not because -
they're a number of crime films that I love to pieces - and I had a clear sense
from very early on, based on that first response I had to reading about the
central events of "Animal Kingdom," the kind of brutal revenge killing of those
two young cops, that what I wanted to do was make a kind of sprawling,
Melbourne crime story that was very menacing; that had, running through it,
bubbling under the surface, a kind of a sense of fear and threat and impending
violence.

And then that kind of, in some ways, determined the tone of the film and the
way the film should be made, you know, which is that it needed to be a crime
film that took itself very seriously. You know, that couldn't exist in a kind
of a heightened or, you know, a light universe. And in some ways that then
determined also, you know, the nature of every decision that kind of stems from
that, you know, in discussions that you have with actors and crew about playing
things with truth.

DAVIES: Right. Well, you don't see criminals living extravagant lifestyles and
spending a lot of money. You don't see them snapping off very funny lines, you
know, like you would, say, in "Goodfellas," for example. These are people who
are living under an awful lot of stress.

Mr. MICHOD: Yeah. I mean and they also, I mean because in a way that what
you're looking at the film "Animal Kingdom" is a film about a particular crime
family in decline. It's, in some ways, you know, it's like the third act of
"Goodfellas" in a way as an entire film. You know, it's all of the crime, in a
way, that you see in the film is defensive, backed into a corner, retaliatory
crime. It's a film about a gang of armed robbers in which you don't see them
committing armed robbery. What you see is them backed into a corner and
committing the crime of paranoid retaliation.

DAVIES: Right. And there is a lot of tension in the film. Was there tension on
the set, I mean with all these, as you said, Alfa males, you know, contending?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MICHOD: Yeah. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MICHOD: It was - I mean it was fun. There were moments there on, yeah, the
boys spent a lot of time with each other and I think, as Ben Mendelsohn says,
they basically got comfortable enough with one another so that they could all
start fighting each other - which they did, you know. And for me, it was an
interesting experience as a director, very often, sitting there watching these
boys, you know, play rough with each other, sometimes wondering whether I
needed to step in and manage them. But most of the time, just sitting there
watching them thinking I'd cast the movie rights, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Jacki, there's a knowing giggle from you. What were you thinking of?

Ms. WEAVER: Well, I like to think, when I was on set, they behaved a bit
better.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MICHOD: They did. They did. And I remember, actually, when were at
Sundance, when finally we got to show the movie to an audience, that feeling,
that buzz that started to build around the film was so exciting that you could
say the boys, who were all there with us, are getting very excited too, and
that when they get excited, generally, stuff gets broken.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MICHOD: But, and so, this kind of pack of boys rolling up and down Main
Street and Park City at Sundance, creating havoc was always somehow kept in
check by Jacki's presence. You know, you could just sense the way that these
boys felt like they needed to behave themselves around her.

DAVIES: So was this like good-natured scuffling? Was it arguments about how to
do a scene? What was it?

Mr. MICHOD: It was a whole mix of different things. You know, there were, you
know, I mean Ben, especially, is such a powerful - Ben Mendelsohn is an
incredibly powerful actor. He's one of my favorite actors in the world. This
has been who plays the oldest brother of the family. And he is, he's so wildly
charismatic and entertaining and has, you know, quite unique ways of eking
performances out of his fellow actors that can sometimes involve, you know...

Ms. WEAVER: Bullying.

Mr. MICHOD: Bullying or just emotional manipulation, and he did it on this
movie, in "Animal Kingdom," to great effect.

DAVIES: You know, as you describe Ben Mendelsohn and his bullying and
manipulation, I think of a scene in the film where he's sort of getting the
emotional upper hand on one of his younger brothers by intimating that he might
be gay. This is Darren, right, played by Luke Ford?

Mr. MICHOD: Yes.

DAVIES: Why don't we just listen to some of that scene.

(Soundbite of movie, "Animal Kingdom")

Mr. BEN MENDELSOHN (Actor): (as Pope) Where did you get that suit? What's that
suit?

Mr. LUKE FORD (Actor): (as Darren) It's a suit.

Mr. MENDELSOHN: (as Pope) What do you think it looks good on you?

Mr. FORD: (as Darren) What?

Mr. MENDELSOHN: (as Pope) Looks gay. You gay?

Mr. FORD: (as Darren) (bleep) off, will ya?

Mr. MENDELSOHN: (as Pope) It's a serious question. I don't care if you're gay
or if you're not gay, you know? It's all right if you are, man. I just want you
to tell me about it, you know. I don't care whether you're gay or you're not
gay, I just want you to talk to me about it, you know? Making yourself a drink?

Mr. FORD: (as Darren) Yup.

Mr. MENDELSOHN: (as Pope) What is it?

Mr. FORD: (as Darren) It's bourbon and Coke.

Mr. MENDELSOHN: (as Pope) Bourbon and Coke is not a very gay drink, man. I
think look, if you're gay, man, if you are and you want to make yourself a gay
drink, just go ahead and make yourself a gay drink, you know what I mean?
That's what I'm talking about, mate. I just want you to tell me things, you
know it just kills me to see you living a lie.

Mr. FORD: (as Darren) (bleep) off. Seriously.

DAVIES: And that's Ben Mendelsohn and Luke Ford in the film "Animal Kingdom,"
which was written and directed by guest, David Michod. Also with us, Jacki
Weaver who stars in the film.

What's going on in that scene where the older brother is, you know, suggesting
that his younger brother might be gay?

Mr. MICHOD: I think it's a clear and in many ways it's the most crystaline,
sort of active emotional manipulation. I mean Pope, the character that Ben
plays, is the most emotionally damaged character in the film and understands
that because this gang, this family, needs exact revenge on the police, that he
needs to make sure that his brothers are with him, and that he is, they are,
under his spell. And for him the easiest way to achieve that with Darren, who's
the kind of the baby of the family, is to directly challenge his sexuality in
the most base way. You know, I mean to just basically suggest that maybe he's
gay is, you know, is Pope's way of encouraging Darren to man up, you know. I
mean and that actually, that day in particular was the day where Ben and Luke
weren't speaking to each other.

And it was, again, it was nerve-racking, you know, because it felt like an
incredibly important scene for me and it wasn't until we were actually, you
know, rehearsing and then shooting the scene on the day that I could see it
coming to life. And I could see how that tension, that very real tension that
existed between them on that day was fading into the scene.

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guests are actress Jacki Weaver and
writer-director David Michod. They both collaborated on the new film "Animal
Kingdom."

Jacki Weaver, you know, you were in the Peter Weir film "Picnic at Hanging
Rock" and American audiences will remember that. And you've basically for a
long long time been doing a lot of film, a lot of TV and a lot of theater
especially in Australia. Was it ever your ambition to come to Hollywood and
make a career here?

Ms. WEAVER: I've always had fantastic work offered to me at home. I've had a
great career. I've done about a hundred plays and I've only done about 15
films, so I've been very lucky. I've played some leading roles in a lot of
American plays in Australia that were very successful, so there hasn't really -
I didn't really feel coming to America and not getting those leading roles was
better than - you know what I'm trying to say?

DAVIES: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: You know, Jacki Weaver, you've had a colorful life and have fed
tabloids for many years. You've had, you know, several eventful marriages and
relationships with high-profile men. And it was interesting when I was
preparing for this, how many people described you as such a delightful
interview. And I just wonder after all of these years how are you not angry and
suspicious of the media?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WEAVER: That's really sweet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WEAVER: Now I am disarmed. You disarmed me with your charm. One of my
favorite husbands...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WEAVER: ...was bureau chief for Fairfax Media in New York for 11 years. And
previously, I'd had a husband for five years who was a journalist. So I do love
journalists, if they're good ones. So, yeah, there are some reporters I don't
like and I wouldn't give them the time of day. But no, generally, I briefly -
for a year on television I worked as an arts journalist on a big current
affairs program so I had to do interviews myself and I think that makes you a
little more amenable when you're the interviewee if you've had to be an
interviewer. So, yeah.

DAVIES: Jacki, I have to ask you, is it true that you were fired from a Heinz
57 commercial set for laughing too hard on the shoot?

Ms. WEAVER: Well, I was playing an asparagus, Dave.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WEAVER: And if you could see me, I'm a very tiny person. I'm under 5 feet
tall.

DAVIES: Yes.

Ms. WEAVER: It was classic miscasting. I mean if anything I should have been a
squash.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WEAVER: And I just found the whole thing so wonderfully amusing in a Monty
Python way that I got slightly hysterical. Not in a loud way. I'm not a loud
person. But I did find it impossible not to laugh all the time. And finally the
producer and the director were furious and they sent me home. They sacked me
and they rang my agent and said it was the most unprofessional behavior they'd
ever seen in an asparagus.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Jacki Weaver, it's been a pleasure. Thank you.

Ms. WEAVER: No, thank you, Dave.

DAVIES: David Michod, congratulations on the film and thanks for speaking with
us.

Mr. MICHOD: Thank you.

DAVIES: Jacki Weaver earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role in "Animal
Kingdom." David Michod wrote and directed the film.

Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews the new album from The Decemberists. This is
FRESH AIR.
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*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
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..PGRM:
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..NTWK:
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..SGMT:
The Decemberists' New Album Fit For A 'King'

DAVE DAVIES, host:

The Decemberists is a Portland, Oregon-based band that formed a decade ago. The
band's albums have been characterized by a wide variety of styles, from indie
rock minimalism to art rock expansiveness.

Rock critic Ken Tucker says the band's new album, "The King is Dead," finds The
Decemberists using shorter song forms and guest collaborators such as R.E.M
guitarist Peter Buck.

Here's his review.

(Soundbite of song, "Calamity Song")

THE DECEMBERISTS (Musicians): (Singing) Had a dream you and me and the war of
the end times. And I believe California succumbed to the fault line. We heaved
relief as scores of innocents died. And the Andalusian tribes, setting the
(unintelligible) back alive, till all that remains is the arms of the angel.

KEN TUCKER: The Decemberists made their reputation on the strength of group
leader Colin Meloy's large, tortured vocabulary and penchant for spinning 10-
minute-plus song cycles with influences ranging from Siouxsie and the Banshees
to Death Cab for Cutie. Too often, Meloy's use of 19th-century locutions has
been pretty cutesy itself. Thus, any attempt by this clever, ambitious man to
impose some concision on his music can only be beneficial. This quality is what
makes the 10 songs on "The King Is Dead" cohere as The Decemberists' best album
to date, thanks to brisk tunes such as this one called "Don't Carry It All."

(Soundbite of song, "Don't Carry It All")

THE DECEMBERISTS: (Singing) Here we come to a turning of the season, witness to
the arc towards the sun. A neighbor's blessed burden within reason becomes a
burden borne of all and one.

And nobody, nobody knows. Let the yolk fall from our shoulders. Don't carry it
all, don't carry it all. We are all our hands and holders beneath this bold and
brilliant sun. And this I swear to all.

TUCKER: We can assume that the band's album title, "The King Is Dead," is a
cheerful one - this is, after all, a group that took its name from an uprising,
one of whose aims was to abolish monarchy, and which has been known to play the
Soviet national anthem to open their shows. But thankfully, there's little
garrulous rabblerousing on "The King Is Dead." Instead, Colin Meloy and his
band have enlisted singer Gillian Welch and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck to help
make a record heavily influenced by '70s folk-rock, but with fresh riffs, not
mere nostalgia. The result is a fine song, such as the album's first single,
"Down By the Water," featuring both Buck and Welch.

(Soundbite of song, Down By the Water")

THE DECEMBERISTS: (Singing) See this ancient riverbed. See where all the
follies have led. Down by the water. Down by the old main drag.

I was just some towheaded teen. Feeling round for fingers to get in between.
Down by the water. Down by the old main drag.

The season rubs me wrong. The summer swells anon. So knock me down, tear me up
but I would bare it all broken just to fill my cup. Down by the water. Down by
the old main drag.

TUCKER: There's a song that manages to triumph over self-conscious phrasings
such as the summer swells anon and sweet descend this rabble round. Colin Meloy
often writes lyrics as though he never quite recovered from a first encounter
with the work of Algernon Swinburne. But the guy has a terrific voice:
plaintive without being whiny, earnest without being maudlin, coarsened by a
fine graininess.

Always be skeptical of a fellow who has said numerous times that he was heavily
influenced by the crown prince of mope-rock, Morrissey. But this time around,
Meloy is describing "The King Is Dead" as a collection that's quote, "an
exercise in restraint" and it's more influenced by R.E.M and Neil Young.
Listening to country and bluegrass music hasn't hurt, either, on one of the
best songs here called "All Arise!"

(Soundbite of song, "All Arise!")

THE DECEMBERISTS: (Singing) Baby wants a new spin. Baby wants a broken heart.
Hear you found the lynchpin to keep it all from falling apart. But you keep on
going. You keep on rolling. Better find a way. Better kick it from your big
brown eyes. Hear it tightens up when you fall at the 15th try. Like a ship at
ocean. Like a ship at ocean.

TUCKER: One of the most enjoyable aspects of all of The Decemberists' albums is
that the band avoids the autobiographical impulse: the band doesn't spill out
its memories or its neuroses with either urgency or emo lassitude. Meloy and
his colleagues are, at best, real craftspeople, who take pride in constructing
solid blocks of song; packages that open up to reveal, at their sturdiest, an
interest in and appreciation of the world around them. For that, we can put up
with the occasional fussy phrasing or arch alliteration.

As Meloy says in one of my favorite lines on this album - which is all the
better for sounding so colloquial and tossed-off: it's well-advised that you
follow your own bag.

Indeed it is.

DAVIES: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed "The
King is Dead" by the Decemberists. And listen to this, the entire album is
being streamed online today only at nprmusic.org.

For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(Soundbite of song, "Winter Sunday")

THE DECEMBERISTS: (Singing) On a winter's Sunday I go to clear away the snow
and greener ground below...
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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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