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tv   Charlie Rose  Bloomberg  December 30, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm EST

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♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: "moonlight" is the new film from writer and director barry jenkins. it is an adaptation of tarell mccraney's play, "in moonlight black boys look blue." the film focuses on three pivotal time periods in the life of a young man as he comes to terms with his sexuality and struggles to find his identity. coach writes that the film has the best take on black masculinity, ever. here is a look. ♪
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>> what you looking at me like that for? >> what, man? kaman, you just drove down here? >> yeah. ♪ >> who is you? >> i try not to remember. ♪ >> i try to forget all those times. >> at some point, you have to decide for yourself who you want to be. can't let nobody make a decision for you. ♪ >> you want to tell him of the boys take his ass all the time? >> what's wrong? >> i'm good. >> no. i have seen good, you ain't it. >> remember the last time i saw you?
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♪ >> you are my only, my only. >> no, no, no. you are going to listen. >> to who, ma? huh? to you? >> who is you, man? i ain't seen you in like a decade. it's not what i expected. >> what did you expect? ♪ charlie: joining me now is the writer and director of the film, barry jenkins. and three of its stars -- trevante rhodes, naomie harris, and andre holland. i am pleased to have each of them here at this table for the first time. welcome. charlie: they are raving about you. they are raving about you at other film festivals. what is it that you hope to accomplish with this film? >> you know, people have said that "moonlight" is a story that
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doesn't get told often and characters we don't see often, that are voiceless. so my greatest hope for the film and it is what i have experienced in toronto and london, these places are removed from the setting of the film -- charlie: which is miami. >> exactly. and inner-city miami, like just these four square blocks, people can see themselves in these characters who they assume are nothing like them. and it has been my experience that people are finding a way to genuinely empathize with the story we are telling and the characters we are showing in the film. charlie: you know miami. >> born and raised. yeah. [laughter] charlie: and how did that shape this story? >> hugely. there is almost this senate seat -- senate seizure -- anesthesia that happens when you are working in a place that you know. there is a scene in the film of the character said, sometimes the breeze comes through the hood. and liberty city where i grew up is only three miles from the ocean and sometimes you can smell it.
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and i think knowing those kinds of things, you go into a location with more confidence. that it will have the same emotional currency you felt growing up there. charlie: tell us who chiron is. >> chiron is a beautifully flawed individual who is coming to terms with finding out who he is, finding what love is, finding the relationship with his mother, just trying to understand life, really in general. charlie: tell me about his mother. >> his mother is paula, who is a struggling single parent, who is also dealing with a severe crack cocaine addiction as well. charlie: what is interesting about this is you see him in different parts of his life. how hard is that pull off? >> i thought it would be impossible, but with the way -- charlie: the mother stays the same. >> right. i wanted to have some kind of foundation or bedrock and naomi as paula was that bedrock. and you know, i wanted -- the time between the chapters changing the character as the young man is shaped so much by the environment, i wanted him to be a different person, the same character but a different person in each chapter. my hope was that we could find
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actors have the same feeling in their eyes and you could see the soul of the character across all three parts. so far, i think that is what people are experiencing. charlie: andre, what was the challenge for you? >> wow. one of the big challenges for me -- i play kevin who is a childhood friend of chiron and goes on to become the object of his affection. charlie: right. >> the challenge was i came in at the end of the film and seemingly out of nowhere and you do not understand why he has come back and they are on screen together for a very long time, working through a problem and we do not know what the motivation of the character is. so that was a big challenge, identifying what that was. but once we found it i think it is -- charlie: this is what -- said, who is much admired throughout the united states and europe, he said, "barry has a disability to -- has this ability to capture black folks in their ordinariness, without making statements or declarations. so often are about blackness or lgbt issues engages in this debate about whether we are human or not -- and barry just steps right past that.
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he's saying it's not an argument worth having. he tells the viewer you have to accept this. you have to accept that they're human." >> i would wholeheartedly agree with that. >> and not because of who it is. [laughter] charlie: go ahead. >> i was going to say, we are from this particular neighborhood and we grew up in the same way and both of our moms went through the ordeal for -- portrayed by naomi, said the -- so the idea that the characters are inherently human, it is not a foreign concept to us. it was not even the point. we were just trying to get it right and accurately portray the experience growing up and i think when you do that, you end up with one, specific, but also two, universal, because you are not thinking about this issue or that issue. charlie: we talk about masculinity and we also talk about identity, are they one in the same? >> i think for this character they are. what happens is there is a performance of masculinity that the world is projecting at you always. this is how a man walks, talks, speaks to another man, or speaks to a woman.
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and i think when you are getting that sort of stimulus so much from the outside world, you lose your grip on what your idea of masculinity is, which i think if you are a man growing up in the world we grew up in, is very key to your identity. it becomes harder to self identify, the more you are receiving this both positive and negative reinforcement of what masculinity should look like. charlie: when you would think about playing the age you play him, in connection to andre, did you look at the earlier performances? >> no. [laughter] >> barry did not allow it at all. we were trying to find some semblance of something, something, but he did not allow it and he was adamant about it. i guess that was to depict how we change through our lives at certain points. it was a genius thing to do. [laughter] >> i feel like the world is shaping the characters so much, that when you meet them in each
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chapter he has become a different person. i wanted to keep the soul of the character, so when you look at his eyes you will see the little boy, but he is a different person. it is great because he and andre were at this point where the old person slowly comes back to the surface. charlie: there is -- you come to the realization that chiron is gay. how does that affect the relationship that paula has with him? >> i think she can't really accept it at all. she finds it disgusting, unpalatable, and it is part of her for the rejection of her son, as well. and i think she genuinely fears for his safety and what it means growing up in this kind of community they are growing up in. it's not something that will be easily accepted by anyone in the community. charlie: how did his first sexual experience affect him? >> i think it confused him profoundly. i think he knew who he was, but he did not know that for one, this person who he felt this connection was was the same way and he did not understand, he
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didn't understand how to feel, i guess. i think. charlie: how much, because you are so close and you knew the author and the neighborhood, did you have to direct more because you had a deeply felt sense of this story? >> nobody has asked that and i did. i thought i would have to let -- direct less. that is what i assumed. but when we got there, we had an issue with naomi's visa, and we shot in sequence. we were going to do the work across seven days, but we ended up doing her work across three consecutive days and directing somebody that looks like your mom and sounding like your mom, it was intense. and i had to one, compartmentalize my personal life and keep it separate from the work, but it did make the work better because we did things i did not consider. charlie: you obviously wanted
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her badly. >> yes. charlie: why was that? >> because she is the only character in all three films, she is the bedrock, and i thought it would take a lot of skill to do the things she was doing, which were in some cases dark and ugly, and preserve the humanity of the character. and i thought somebody as gifted and amazing as naomi could pull it off. charlie: how does kevin change? >> the changes drastically. -- kevin changes drastically. he is acting out this performance of masculinity, particularly in the second story and by the third story he has become much more vulnerable and open. he has found a way to reach out and he is liberated, reaching out to this guy. and try to draw him out of himself. charlie: what was the most challenging thing for you? >> getting past the hurdle. i thought i would hide behind the playwright has our lives are
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so similar move this is his biography in tt myself out of it, but it was difficult to get to the point where i was like, this is my story. charlie: what are the autobiographical elements for you? >> the relationship between the sun and mother. it is a composite of myself and tarell mccraney. it was the first thing i saw in it. how did he know the things i know? so many of the things that i went through with my mom -- i think getting to the point where i accepted i was going to tell the story, the house a big thing for me. charlie: are you surprised by the reaction? how do you measure the reaction? >> i wrote a journal a week before the premier at tell the ride, to tell myself what i thought of the film and what i was proud of and i decided i was very proud of it, no matter what anybody thought, i was proud of the work we all did. charlie: are you finding that people want to communicate with you because of this film. >> big-time. [laughter] charlie: why are you laughing? same thing for you? >> yes.
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>> people are deeply moved to see themselves represented, because they do not see it often and we did a good thing -- showing it any differently. charlie: take a look. this is another scene, a drug dealer returning chiron back to his mother. here it is. >> what happened? huh? what happened? why you didn't come home like he was supposed to? huh? who is you? >> nobody. i found him yesterday. i found them in a hole on 16th. yeah, that one. some bush -- boys chased him. scared him more than anything. he did not tell me where he lived until this morning.
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>> thanks for seeing to him. he usually can take care of himself. he's good that way. >> little man. charlie: who did the adaptation? >> i did. charlie: and you wrote the script? >> it came pouring out of me. charlie: tell me about your reaction to this, having experienced the film and the message of it? and the sense that you are part of something that resonates? >> has been an extraordinary journey. it is incredible to see people that you are not naturally think are represented in these stories, b -- b so deeply moved by it. it has the ability to strip back
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the labels we attach to ourselves and society attaches to us and connect with people's hearts and show that this is a story about humanity, love and identity. that is universal. charlie: paula has a strength as well as vulnerability? >> yeah, absolutely. she has had to develop it of that,or, but underneath she is fundamentally a woman in pain. charlie: congratulations. to all of you. >> thank you. charlie: there is much talk about future awards, and i wish you well. back in a moment. stay with us. ♪
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♪ charlie: casey affleck is here. he stars in kenneth lonergan's film "manchester by the sea," he plays an isolated janitor forced to return to his hometown to -- after becoming the legal guardian of his teenaged nephew. tony scott writes that he gives one of the most fiercely disciplined screen performances in recent memory. here is the trailer. >> if you could take one guy to an island with you and you would be safe because he was the best man, if it was between me and your father, who would it be? >> my daddy. >> i think you are wrong about that. ♪ >> what happened to my brother?
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>> so that is chandler. >> i don't understand. >> which part of you having trouble with? >> i cannot be the guardian. >> your brother provided for your nephew's upkeep. >> i think the idea is that you would relocate. >> relocate to where? >> it was my impression that you would spend a lot of time here. >> i'm just a backup. >> no one can appreciate what you have been through. if you really feel like you cannot take this on, it is your right. ♪ >> where we going, the orphanage? >> whatever you decide, you can always stay with us. >> do you want to be his guardian? >> well -- >> he doesn't want to be my guardian. >> we are trying to lose kids at this point. >> hello? >> i want to call and say i'm sorry. how is patrick doing? >> he has not really opened up with me. >> did you have sex with these girls? >> strictly basement business.
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i am working on it. >> you do not want to be my guardian? that is fine with me. >> it's not back, it is just the logistics. >> all my friends are here. i have two girlfriends and i have a band. >> you are a janitor, why the hell do you care where you live? ♪ >> i said a lot of terrible things to you. my heart was broken. and i know yours is broken too. >> you don't understand. >> ♪ i am coming home ♪ >> i think there's something wrong with me. >> you want me to call your friend? what do you want me to do? >> i'm not going to bother you. i will just sit here until you calm down. >> all right, i'm calm her now. will you please just go away? >> no. charlie: this is remarkable, and congratulations. casey: thank you. charlie: what is it about the film you think is so compelling?
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casey: a movie is made by so many people and they are all doing their jobs and sometimes we start with just a first rate supertalented experienced director and you still, you do not know what you will end up with. that is the nature of making movies, everybody must contribute and in such a way that it amounts to something. and so it is kind of a mystery. maybe there are other people with more experience and are smarter and can say, this is how it gets done. this is why it worked. from the moment i read it i was confused on why it worked so well. it doesn't follow a formula in the telling of the story. it does not have the kinds of moments in it you would expect from a movie like this to have. you sort of expect these two
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characters who are forced together who have both suffered some loss to save one another in a very perfectible way and to have some cathartic moment that -- in the climax of the movie that results in both of them moving on to a happier place in life. and it doesn't have that, totally. so it is a unique movie in that way. i think it works because of a combination of all of the little elements, all of the things that everyone contributes. i don't know. charlie: you play a guy who is emotionally closed off. casey: well, i guess i am playing a guy who is -- i never thought of him that way. i thought of him as somebody who had such strong feelings inside of him that he had to bottle them up or else he would just fall apart. he suffered a loss in his life that was so great, the kind of thing most people would not want to survive.
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and he survives this and now how is he going to carry on? he tries to kill himself at one point and then he decides to live. but he lives in such a way that he does not have to think about his past. he is doing that because he wants to -- he is a very responsible person and he wants to take care of his brother, who is sick. and then his brother passes away. and then he has to take care of his nephew who is now -- who has no one to take care of him. and you know, i think that he -- there are many scenes in this movie where i felt like it was almost too difficult to contain the emotion because the nature of the part. but the film has a lot of restraint and kenny shows great restraint in a way that he shot it and in our conversations
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about how to portray the character, it is clear he wanted the character to be a very emotional person dealing with an enormous amount of sadness and shame and grief and overwhelming at different moments but always to keep a very tight lid on it and let it only out in a few moments in the movie, to list -- lift the lid and then close it back. that might be one of the reasons why it is so emotional watching it. i saw it at the sundance film festival and at the new york film festival and i was surprised at the amount of people i would hear crying in the theater. you know, nobody really wants to cry audibly in a movie theater. so if you know that is happening, it is not something they are in control of and it is a real emotional experience for
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them. i guess it worked. charlie: do you look at this role, you read it and when you are there on the set and did you say, yes, this is why i am an actor? this is the kind of thing that makes me feel whole. casey: i do. i said that when i read it. i thought, this is what i want to do as an actor and these are the kinds of roles i wait for. and part of an actor's job is to show up on set that day with the appropriate feelings, that you are -- that the character is supposed to be having for the scenes and someone else has written the words you are going to say and somebody else has decided where the lights are, your job is to understand what you are saying and feeling and why in some cases and in some cases, you have strong feelings and you do not need to understand them. i thought, this is an
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opportunity to play a lot of different things and to do it in a style i like, kind of naturalistic and he is not telling you what he is feeling. the character is very terse. he speaks to people in -- he is curt and there is a chance to feel all of the silences and these one-word answers with a lot of feeling. as a supplement to the things in the script, as a way of saying, this is also what is happening inside, which you cannot write on the page. and to work with someone like kenneth lonergan, who is just one of my favorites. he has made movies i have watched over and over again. an opportunity i said yes to. charlie: you watch them over and over and over again. looking for different meanings, different nuances? looking for --
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casey: all of that. looking for -- just sometimes just watching and seeing what happens. and letting it wash over you. there are things to discover in a movie that is done with care that you do not find in the first viewing or the first reading. i find that over and over again. you read something once and you read it again and if you do not find something else, it is an indication that maybe you should not do the movie. i still go back sometimes to the place that kenny has written and i find new things. even in one i was in, i thought, wow, there was a different take on the scene i could've explored. charlie: how did he help make this performance that came out of you? casey: he likes actors and he is very patient with actors and he is open to them doing things their way into bringing whatever it is -- whatever their own
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experience is talking to them , about their life. here is a scene where a man goes to the hospital and the doctor tells him his brother has passed away. so, you know, what is your first -- what is your impulse about this moment? what is your instinct? how should it be played? charlie: did he ask you that? or did you ask him? casey: no, he asked me. he likes to help. charlie: and you find out later that he has left you with a certain responsibility. casey: right. yeah. and so first, you think, ok, who is this guy and what is he bringing from his past to the moment? well this is a character who lost his children some years ago and so he is going to react in this moment very differently. well how differently? what does that do to someone? and i think he does not want to deal with anybody's sympathy. it's a reminder of things in the
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past. he does not like the way -- to feel like -- he does not want to let anyone in. he controls the situation, he drives the conversations so they don't go into an area that is too painful for him. those are the conversations he starts to have. charlie: this is the best thing that has ever happened to him. to give him an opportunity to recover from what had been a devastating occurrence in his life. this presented an opportunity, and whether he saw it that way or not, it was a reluctant opportunity. casey: yes. he saw it as something he was incapable of doing. i am not capable of being a caretaker. charlie: because of what happened to me. casey: i have to find another way of taking care of this kid. someone else will have to do it. i can't talk to this kid. or do all the things a parent has to do.
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so, but he stuck with it and i guess that results in a positive change for him. charlie: congratulations. it is great to have you here. it is great to have a conversation with you. this is a remarkable film. casey: thank you for having me. i appreciate it. ♪ charlie: kenneth monaghan is charlie: new film starring casey williams and lle hedges. a man who returned to his hometown to look after his of his pon the death older brother. he calls the film a richly drama.ing it's been named best film of the ear by the national board of
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review. here's a look. >> i don't understand. >> which part of you having trouble with? review. here's a look. >> i don't understand. >> i can't be his hearty and -- guardian. >> well -- >> i mean, i cannot. >> i assumed joe had discussed this with you. >> no, he did not. no. >> i have to say, i am somewhat taken aback. >> they cannot live with me, i live in one room. >> he is provided for patrick's upkeep. >> i cannot look after him until he is 18. >> i think the idea is that he would relocate. your brother has worked everything out. charlie: i am pleased to have kenneth lonergan back at this table. when you watch that, what you see? kenneth: casey.
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how lost he is and the turmoil inside of him. also josh, he is one of my best friends. i just saw the little things in the moment. josh is totally thrown because he thought it would be routine. those are the things that make scenes work for me. the costume director told me, i just keep seeing casey's eyes. this was one of our first scenes and i felt we were on a good start. charlie: every good director i know love actors. can you be a good director and not love actors? kenneth: i think so. stanley kubrick i think was a little less interested in acting
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and delving into the depths of performance but very interested in human beings. but it think most directors are very interested in actors. charlie: what you like about this as a movie? kenneth: the tremendous effort the characters are making to do the right thing despite carrying a tremendous emotional burden. casey's character does not just want to take care of his nephew, but do it properly. at first, he just wants to get him set up. the premise is that character's
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brother dies and leaves him, his nephew. what is not so obvious is how he refuses to just send the kid away. he could've sent him to relatives in minnesota or back to his troubled mother. but he is sticking it out as best he can despite that he is under terrible duress. charlie: so when he left manchester, what was his state of mind? kenneth: devastated. i don't know how much you want to give away. he left town because of an unspeakable tragedy and his wife was essentially destroyed. his brother is not well, he has congestive heart failure, it requires help taking care of his kid. so he goes about 1.5 hours away so he can be on hand as needed. he has a monastic existence in quincy.
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charlie: and then he has to come back. kenneth: it is implied in the story that he comes back periodically when he has to be hospitalized. he has been in touch but he has to test himself from the town he grew up in. charlie: what type of stories to -- do you like to tell? kenneth: about people who are dealing with things that are too big for them. charlie: grief. kenneth: grief, the fact that the world never does what you wanted to do. death. institutional difficulties. difficulties with lawyers and doctors and the law. difficulties just getting through life. charlie: it sounds like you like the characters to be in trouble. kenneth: well, it makes for drama. it is a little hard to imagine enjoying a movie where the bush
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-- everyone is sitting around happily for an hour and a half. charlie: your last film was 2005. you have been working in theater in between. kenneth: my last film was not completed until 2012 because of difficulties with the editing. but yes, i wrote a play in 2009. i wrote another one in 2011. last year i wrote one called "hold on to me, darling." so i have been working. charlie: is it your goal to simply continue to go
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back-and-forth between theatre and film? kenneth: i don't see why not. they're both challenging and rewarding. it is gratifying to sit with an audience and watch everyone participate. charlie: is it different in a screening room with a film versus with an audience? kenneth: is completely different. you feel what is happening with the audience and you immediately pretend you're in the audience and you have all of these criticisms you did not have before. when it is going well, you feel good about it. charlie: what is the most satisfying thing about directing film? kenneth: when you feel you have more or less successfully put all the elements together. the shots come out the way you want. there are so many things to do. there's the film, production design, the music, the editing, the cast. when all of that comes together and makes the scene sing, that is a good feeling. charlie: and when it doesn't?
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kenneth: it is not a good feeling. it is a nagging feeling that you have to fix it. ever quite go away. there are still some things i would like to fix in this movie but at some point you have to let go. your improvements stop being improvements. charlie: you lose the thread as in, some times you can overdo it? kenneth: yes. at some point you stop -- it is like a symphony, you hear it note by note. charlie: here is another scene with michelle williams. >> i don't have anything to say. >> that is ok. >> i know you have been around. >> patrick is settled in. >> it looks like he has been
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doing pretty good, considering. >> i think he is, yes. >> i don't know if you noticed, but i kept in touch with joe, i have not seen patrick at all. >> you can see him if you want. >> can we ever have lunch? >> you mean us, you and me? >> yeah. charlie: you love it, don't you? kenneth: i love them. i don't know how they do it. it is an incredible feeling. an incredible, emotional life and it just looks like two people having a really difficult discussion. charlie: what goes into your head when you are cutting that scene? two people having a conversation. kenneth: it is so complicated that you have to do it by instinct,
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in a way. you have two shots, two cameras going at the same time, and there are no performance issues, sometimes you just start with the take you like and build from there. what you have that in place, but you somehow have to feel your through. my editor and i, this was not that hard of a scene to edit because the performances were so good on the takes, but we wanted the editing to be up to the level of the performances. i think you just follow the path of what is happening in the situation as best you can. for instance, we can see her say, do you want to have lunch or not, and i think it is important to see that. we can see her make that decision. we can see how she blurts it out and then you must see his reaction because the wind goes out of him and it is a beautiful reaction. those are two shots you know you
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want, you put them in the machine and you're off and running. it is interesting, because wherever you put the camera changes the feeling of the conversation a little bit. it is amazing how many different ways you can do it. you have to follow some instinct. the ot thing, you are in the editing room, you will put together a few shots and then you will realize there are shots you hold on -- held on too long and everybody agrees with you. i don't know what that is, i don't know if it is akin to a musical sense. charlie: probably experience, too. i don't know that you are necessarily born with it. i've been in the editing room with people and their instinctive sense was so strong. kenneth: it is so important. i guess it is also where -- if you maybe could go back and say, this is the story of a girl who builds up to ask her ex-husband to have lunch and then after
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that happens, it becomes the story of a man who was talking to someone in a way he cannot bear and he has to get out of the conversation and the next shot becomes different -- i think there must be a narrative in the editing that you don't think about intellectually but you are following as you follow the conversation. charlie: he is so damaged he is scared of reconciliation. kenneth: he can't talk to her, it is too painful. he has lost everything. he is barely getting through the day just talking to other people and she is at the center of his distress and she -- they still care for each other, but the relationship is over. charlie: much success to you. "manchester by the sea" is the film. ♪
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charlie: in 1928, former journalists turned playwrights wrote "the front page. tennessee williams says it was earthy and talented. it has been adapted to film
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numerous times since its 1928 debut, including the 1940 comedy "his girl friday." the latest version is in -- broadhurst theater. i'm delighted to have the director in two stars here. what is the enduring part of this? >> we have had a lot of revivals, but it is huge. it is like 27 people. you can't afford to do that play anymore unless you get somebody like scott rudin or an institutional theater to do it. oddly enough, i think it is sui generis. there's been nothing like it before or after. it is a curious combination of reality. these guys listened, they based the play on many people they knew, incidences they lived
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through. there were even lawsuits when it was originally done. the structure of it, the comedy, the veracity, the politics of it, it is a grab bag of everything we have ever been to each other, know about and still have not gotten over. charlie: what would you say, john? john: it is a great american play that could only have been written at that particular time when we were popping all over the place. it covers a wide range of topics. it does so with the human characters. i have not done a style like this since i was in college doing a restoration piece. it is different from anything i have ever done and i am so glad
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i was asked on board because it is a challenge, not only for me but it is so much dam fun. charlie: nathan? nathan: most people associate this with "his girl friday," a great idea, to make the character a woman. they created a screwball comedy but the play is not a screwball comedy. it is dark comedy mixed with melodrama and by the third act it's a farce. it is highly unusual. it was put together by jed harris, who said it needed to be fixed. it has the hand of george kaufman. it is a three act structure and very much in the tradition of his plays.
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the first act is set up, the second act is complications and then the third act is hilarious and everything pays off in a delightful and satisfying way. but it is interesting for audience today, the best thing you can tell someone about a play is that it is 90 minutes with no intermission. they're thrilled. [laughter] nathan: this is asking people to have a little patience and it is worth it by the end because these guys knew what they were doing. it is the most fun i've had in a long time. it is technically a hard place to be. it is demanding.
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charlie: what does this say about people who are attracted to journalism in this kind of reporting? nathan: i'm sure that it led a lot of people into the law. -- i'm sure that "to kill a mockingbird" but a lot of people into law and that this led a lot of people into journalism. people considered it vulgar. in 1928, to have a woman, a prostitute, to walk on stage and say "i have been looking for you bastards," it was shocking. >> these are people at the top of their craft. when you start out, you feel your way, but like anybody, you get to work with really good people. you certainly push them out and see what they do, and then basically they are first audience. you listen to them, you try to edit, you try to reflect, but
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you don't use them because they are pouring it at you. charlie: who is sheriff hartman? john: peter b hartman, who in reality was a man who threatened legal action when the play open. he was the sheriff of cook county. he was under a man whose sole contribution was "keep king george out of chicago." [laughter] john: a lot of trough feeding. he is a backslapping, chicago version of a good old boy. not quite the brightest bulb in the dressing room mirror. i wanted to see how stupid i could make him and still breathe, which is not a good approach.
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[laughter] [crosstalk] john: he is in peril. charlie: and walter burns? nathan: walter burns is such a tremendous character. that is the relationship and the play, this father-son relationship he has with the reporter. it is based on a famous editor in chicago. he did this to charles macarthur. he gave him his watch and then had him arrested for stealing it. there was an escaped convict in chicago they based this loosely on. but he was saying not to get involved with women because they would distract him from the story and getting his work done. he also, apparently the legend
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goes that he got drunk and fell on a copy spike and popped out his eye. he had a glass eye. and then -- ben would say you could tell which one was the glass eye because it was the warmer one. [laughter] nathan: he dressed very well and looked like a successful local merchant and had a purring voice, but that disguised the monster beneath. charlie: great comedy is always about something serious? nathan: i would agree with that. it has to be played that way. usually it is like -- john: to take your comedy as seriously as ours. nathan: it is life-and-death. that is displayed. there is no being relaxed about this play.
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and the music is very difficult. it is overlapping dialogue, it demands a precision and accuracy and vocal stamina. what needs to be heard and what does not need to be heard. it is relentless. there are only a couple of places where the play relaxes just for a minute or two and then it is a speeding train. it is unusual in that way. john: finding the places where one can breathe and relax to set up what is coming. charlie: you cannot mount a play like this today. nathan: we just did. charlie: because you have the reputation. and reputation brought the audience. i assume you could write something fantastic and people would want in on it. but it is difficult to take all
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of these actors and put them on broadway in a commercial project. >> but the great thing for me was watching this group of men and women watching each other act. john: that is such a joy and pleasure. i get to do it nightly. i don't want to single anybody out, but jefferson mays is astounding. nathan: hilarious and brilliant. that is the joy of it. it is like putting together quickly a repertory company and people reveling -- it is not about who has the biggest part, it's getting to watch all these people work and interact with them and the joy of doing that in a play like this. >> we don't have a national theatre, we not been allowed to
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do that because we don't support the arts like that here. every once in a while, a clarion call goes out with a piece of material, what people think, i would like to have some of that. charlie: do you think, things like this are why you got into this life? john: i took the amtrak from st. louis in 1975 and this is beyond my wildest dreams. we don't have a bad any in the bunch -- bad penny in the bunch, and to watch this group every night is beautiful. nathan: and i feel very lucky, especially in the theater, whether it is "the iceman cometh," or new play. what is better than doing the front page with a company like this?
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an old friend, on broadway, and people laughing their heads off. for me, the reason i wanted to do the play was because i wanted to say one of the most famous curtain lines of all time. i wanted to say, "the son of a -- stole my watch." i wanted to be the guy to sit on the desk with a phone like this and say that. blackout. what is better than that? that is what life is all about, to have those moments. charlie: "the front page" is currently in previews and will open on october 30 and run until january 29. ♪hank you for coming.
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no, that could be a --
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