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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  December 21, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PST

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. a conversation with actor stacy keach. he is no stranger to rave reviews. he has had more than his shares of difficulties. we have glad you have joined us. ♪
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. 's impressivekeach career reaches back 40 years of impressive performances. along with success has come with some setbacks. end, hisot mean the career is still going strong.
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he is getting some rave reviews for his performance in "nebraska." let's take a look at a scene. >> i just wanted you to know, i think the world of witty -- woody. secret, though, that he drank quite a bit. seeing as how he has, to some fair it seems to me only if we settled up. >> you want your $800 back? >> he owes me a lot more than that. >> i am sorry to rake it to you, but he did not win anything. with real strong
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sense of right and wrong. if he hit it rich and i do not see any of it, that would be wrong. and i will make it right. pipes, such a powerful instrument. of your performance goes hand-in-hand with that voice. >> thank you. i started my career doing voice work. my dad was a radio guy. thank you for showing that clip. was a wonderful experience. alexander payne was a fabulous director. i got a work -- i got to work with my old pal bruce dern. it is very hard for actors to make value judgments when they play characters.
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findlways have to something to love about the worst character, including iago. what was that in this particular character? >> he felt that he was maligned. bruce dern and i owned a barrage together 40 years ago. family.with his he receives something in the mail that tells him he has won a million dollars. a magazine subscription. it is a scam. he takes his son and he travels back to nebraska to collect his money. i want my piece of it. he really thinks he was done bad. i got a chance to sing, i get a chance for some karaoke.
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ghetto" and hee feels like he is that boy that was maligned by life. tavis: what do you make of all of the buzz? the awards season is always exciting and it is wonderful to get respect from your peers, that i think it is dangerous when that becomes the measure of success beyond the box office. it is wonderful to be recognized, but he deserves it. bruce has had a wonderful career. this is the pinnacle of his career. this is the best thing he has ever done. itself ise film getting a lot of buzz because of other performances. great.s
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it has a great look to it. alexander had to fight with the studio to shoot it in black and white. he thought this is a movie that needs to be black-and-white. won the academy award and it was black-and-white. alexander, make your movie and black-and-white. stage in your career, how are you making decisions? how are you making decisions on what you do and do not want to do on screen? to have the freedom to be able to make choices is something every actor aspires to. most doctors do not have those kinds of choices.
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-- most actors do not have those kinds of choices. i have never had that luxury. i have taken what has come along. but i have played some roles that i wish i did not have to play but there were circumstances where i needed to make some money to put food on the table. but i love the theater. i love the classical theater and i love doing shakespeare and that does not pay the rent. love: how did you fall in with the theater? i was shakespeare? >> it started when i was growing up. radio and he was an actor and director, but he did not let myself or my brother to be in the business.
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the disappointment, the competition, the rejection. be a doctor or a lawyer or something secure. was hard to get their support. when they saw me have some success, they realized i would be ok. i could fly out of the nest without crashing and they started supporting me in my decision. tavis: what do you love about shakespeare? every actor who is a shakespeare fan has their own rationale for what it is they love about his writing. extraordinary,s but his observations of human , i do not such that know of anyone else who has been able to express the full range of what is to be a human being. , always think in many ways
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when you are playing a shakespearean role, the role is playing you. withl that very strongly certain shakespearean characters. the challenges are there. you have to be in shape, it requires stamina and it requires -- it is an athletic event. i mentioned richard the third earlier. , you have character to find something in their humanity to connect to. >> richard the third has a connection with the audience. -- thes directly audience gets charmed by him. shakespeare allows this villainous character to woo the audience along with the characters on the stage.
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it is a great exercise in manipulation. that she manipulates the audience and he does it with great relish. audienceipulates the and he does it with great relish. i am not a great proponent of heavy violence in terms of the way shakespeare is depicted on the screen -- the stage. the violence in the language and the words. even though i love the stage fights in shakespeare, but they can get rough. you can get hurt if you do not stick to the choreography. tavis: there is a good punch in this nebraska. they did not send the clip of the punch.
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he stands up with the dignity of his father. boom. tavis: talk about your stage work. let's talk about your tv work. the next thing that comes to mind is mike hammer. are fortunate in this business, there is a character that people know you for and love you for. angela lance berry was here. -- lance berry was here and we will always know her as jessica fletcher. tell me why -- >> i love doing mike hammer. i grew up with him in the 1950s. when the opportunity came along
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for me to do it, i was thrilled. arele think -- there stigmas attached to playing those kinds of characters. i do many other things. books.adio audio books on tape done as radio shows. i am still playing -- i love noir.ilm the wire -- film i love that whole style. tavis: you cannot beat that hat. look at that. that was one of his final words to me. where the hat. hat.ar the
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tavis: the costumes. put a guynistic to who was a throwback to the 1950s, putting them in a 1980s environment. i thought it was a clever thing. us connect tode them in the 1980s? >> he was an old testament guy. he was a vigilante. he was a champion of the little guy. if someone was a victim of some larger scheme, he was very much in their corner and he would do everything. -- that is oneut of the things we connect with. .e had a good sense of humor he had a poetic way of expressing himself. my dow jones was definitely up. [laughter]
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those are good things. what have you come to the words onout the page? part of what made mike hammer work was the script. , butis a softball question there is an appreciation for that you really have. , if youwriter myself are writing -- if you are saying this instead of that, there is a reason why this is there instead of that. i really honor what the writer does. find something that sticks in my throat, i will talk to direct your new work something out -- i will talk to the
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director and we will work something out. that they arean locked in stone. from time to time in shakespeare, if there is a word that is totally obscure, we will find a modern word once in a while so that people will understand what you're talking about. fors: did the screenplay nebraska just jump at you? >> bob nelson did a great job. alexander massaged it. wonderful words. deep, simple, expressive. tavis: what do you think that this project in black-and-white, what is the take away? what is the connect for the audience seeing this movie shot in that way?
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>> it has to do with the starkness of that environment. there is a warmth there as well. i had never been there before and going back there to shoot this film, i was there on two different occasions and i look forward to going back because the rhythm of life and the cultural aspect of the way people live is so different than living in the big city. it is much simpler, less complicated. world could get in rosie --make things to too rosy. we are looking at the emotions and the character of the behavior -- the emotions and the behavior of the character. tavis: this is a great segue to
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your book. there have been less complicated moments in your life and more complicated moments in your life. i was struck by the candor and the transparency, the honesty on why put all of this in a book? there is a lot here. >> i better do it while i can still do it. . felt the time had come i had come to terms with a lot of things in my past that were troubling me. i found a certain plateau of peace that allows me to be objective about things in my life i am not proud of. nevertheless, i have always been asked, what was it like in jail?
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one day, i will write about it. tavis: speaking of being in jail on the drugs and the other difficulties, i love the phrase, plateau of peace, how did you find your way? >> my wife had a lot to do with it. my family, my friends. back in the 1980s when i was hooked on cocaine, i thought i could take it or leave it. i was in such a self-denial and delusion, i -- self- thought it was something i could deal with. busted in getting order to come to terms with that . i would have just gone on and like many of my friends in those days, i may not be here as a result of it.
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it saves my life, getting busted. my wife had a lot to do with my -- nurturing my spiritual side. you look back on the getting busted part? does that mean you look back on it as a blessing? do you look back on it as something you wish you could've found another way around? you wish you could have avoided it? >> had it not happened, who knows? i think i would have good on -- gone on deluding myself. aspect ofrt of the the addictive personality. i put myself in that category. i have a tendency to be excessive about certain things,
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whether it is drugs or food. , down when you look back the valley, is there a particular thing, is there something you think you have time because there was a where you were the man? it cost me a by going back to "greatto play a role in expectations" and this was about eight years after the event. said, no, wece will not let you do it. you have to give us another two years.
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that role was played by anthony hopkins. the next part he did after that was hannibal. that was a big one for him. >> that could have been me. something -- i have gone back since. i had to pay for it. book: the subtitle of this , what are you most grateful for? >> my family, my friends. my wife. and the fact that i am able to continue to do what i love to do.
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i keep exploring and finding new things in the world of music. and i'm veryessed grateful. tavis: how is it that you occupy your time when you're not on the screen? >> i play the keyboard and i compose. music, ifthing about you continue with music, you get that are added as you get older. -- you get better at it as you get older. as opposed to us linux. -- as opposed to athletics. 45 is a long time between takes. [laughter] with regard to the music,
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how would you describe what your compositions sound like? >> i play jazz and blues and classical. -- mood music, nostalgic kind of stuff. tavis: you are an old soul. do you still enjoy acting? >> i love it, i really do. i have been offered many opportunities to direct. i enjoy directing, but i do enjoy acting more. the idea of controlling the whole thing is not something that appeals to me. producing is something i enjoy.
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everybody answers this question differently, but what is the take away from nebraska? reflecting on your past, do not of secure the future -- obscure the future. the dream of a million dollars, he held onto it even though everybody knew it was a sham. by virtue of the fact that he had the energy and the devotion, the dedication and passion to it gave usdream, it an experience of witnessing and getting to know this entire family. we get to know a lot of wonderful characters. hold on to your dreams.
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nicely said. you could say anything with those pipes. his name is stacy keach. one of the stars in the movie "nebraska." it is getting a lot of buzz in this town. he has finally written his memoir. a wonderful forward by alec baldwin. good to have you. that is our show for tonight. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with kenny logins. a cd about frosty the snowman.
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♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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