tv Charlie Rose PBS April 8, 2014 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
>> charlie: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with a new play at the public theater called "the library" directed by steven soderbergh and written by scott burns. >> well, i wanted to do this one because it was so tied into conversations that scott and i had had over the years about our primal need for stories. this is how we make sense of everything. i mean, what i said to scott was, think of what most of your life consists of. something happens to you, you tell somebody about it. something happens to them, they tell you about it. that's most of your life. >> charlie: yes. and this was about the danger of putting the story in front of -- or placing the story, giving it a priority that's over
the truth in an effort to heal or transcend or whatever. >> charlie: we continue this evening with tilda swinton, her new film is called "only lovers left alive." >> i was very grateful to have known the wonderful michael powell at the end of his life, and i once had a very meaningful moment with him when i had flown over from home to new york and i met him in the evening and he said, what was on the plane? was there a good film on the plane? and i said, no. he said, what was it? and i said, "batman," i think it was one of the first. he said, you're wrong, that is a good film because i hav it makes own world. any film that makes its own world is a good film. and i swallowed that an and digested that ever since and absolutely believe he's right. >> charlie: we conclude with an appreciation for peter mattheissen a good friend of this program who died saturday april 5.
>> there's a deeper truth in fiction. you see, you can get at a deeper truth. when you're stuck with the facts, there is only so far you can go and you're stretching, really, your responsibilities as a writer, whereas in fiction, you can go anywhere you want and, also, you never know where you're going so it's energizing and thrilling. >> charlie: steven soderbergh, scott burns, tilda swinton and an appreciation of peter mattheissen next. >> there's a saying around here: you stand behind what you say. around here, we don't make excuses, we make commitments. and when you can't live up to them, you own up and make it right.
some people think the kind of accountability that thrives on so many streets in this country has gone missing in the places where it's needed most. but i know you'll still find it, when you know where to look. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> charlie: steven soderbergh is one of our great directors over the past 25 years, movies like "sex, lies and videotape," "traffic" and the "ocean's franchise." he worked with screen writer scott z. burns, together brought us "side effects," "contagen"
and performens. the lib follows a 16-year-old girl in the aftermath of a deadly high school shooting as she strug tolls tell her story of what happened, written by scott z. burns and directed by steven soderbergh. i am pleased to have them at this table, welcome. >> thanks. >> charlie: let's begin at the beginning, how this began, because there was some effort in hollywood to make a movie out of columbine which you were a part of, i guess. >> well, i read the book and i know stephen was reading it around the same time and even though no one was eager to jump in and make it a film, there was one part of the entire columbine story i hadn't been aware of it until i read dave's book and i sort of stayed after it and decided that even though maybe it wasn't going to be a movie it could make a really great play. >> charlie: and you suggested that to mr. soderbergh? >> i started writing it. after we finished doing "side effects," i said, you know, do
you have any interest working on a play? he said, if you're asking, then i'm saying yes. >> charlie: that's sort of what i was looking for, yes. because you wanted -- you directed a couple before. >> yeah, the third thing i've done -- well, i wanted to do this one because it was so tied into conversations that scott and i had had over the years about our primal need for stories. this is how we make sense of everything. i mean, what i said to scott was, think of what most of your life consists of. something happens to you, you tell somebody about it. something happens to them, they tell you about it. that's most of your life. >> charlie: yes. and this was about the danger of putting the story in front of -- or placing the story, giving ate priority that's over the truth in an effort to heal or transcend or whatever, and this --
>> charlie: everybody has their own motivator. >> yeah, we do. we're all trying to figure out reasons to get up in the morning and keep going, and that's fine, but in this situation these competing narratives create a really destructive debate within a community and, so, i said yes because i thought we have been preparing for this for a long time. >> charlie: the larger point is what is truth? >> i think it's what is truth and what happens when people become trapped within their own nare tye and do we ever -- their own narrative and what can we do to get outside of that and without the empathy that getting outside of that requires, do we ever move any closer to understanding. >> charlie: i mean, this is not related but, at the same time, it sort of has this idea. you know, the bob woodward technique for writing his books, he gets one person that's in the room and they tell him what they saw and heard. he then uses that to get another
person to say what you saw or heard because they think he already knows the story, i might as well tell my side and you come up with a mosaic of what actually happened in the meeting. >> exactly. so everybody has a different motivation, a different agenda. some of the people in that room may be driven by a certain ideology and, so, at what point, if you're bob woodward, you're kind of going on instinct about whose story is going to get primecy within the scene you re-create, and that's tricky. if you're off course 3 degrees, you're way off in the course of a book. >> charlie: i went to law school and there are things that happened. sometimes they will have somebody come in, explode the classroom and run out, is a common classroom technique and everyone has to describe what they saw and heard and it's
vastly different. red shirt, brown shirt? black or tan slacks? everything. >> and that's just a classroom. imagine a situation in which there's gunfire and your life is threatened and there's tear gas and somebody's trying to get out of you exactly what you saw, exactly what you heard, and then you're talking about a 16-year-old, you know, who's got other issues in her life going on besides that. >> charlie: which affect the truth. set up the scene you wrote, scott. >> the shooting takes place in a high school library, and there is a shooter who comes in, and he has a motivation for doing that but, like a number of things in the play, the motivation becomes very subjective for all the people who are affected by the shooting and, so, we don't really learn for quite a while exactly what was driving the shooter. but more importantly, there's an incident that happens, and i don't want to give away the play, but there's an incident
that happens within the library and there's a girl who's wounded who survives who's played by chloe grace moretz, and it's sort of her journey about how does one get their truth told and listened to when there are other people who are claiming great amounts of pain or suffering who also have truths they want to get told. >> charlie: with your admonishmen, i don't want to give it away either, but there's someone who's killed. >> several people. >> charlie: yeah, in different places. >> yeah. >> charlie: and they have parents, and their parents are invested in their child, and that's their prism for seeing everything. >> absolutely. well, in order to deal with an unspeakable tragedy, again, off parent who construction -- you have a parent who construction a narrative who somehow makes this livable, and the problem is -- >> charlie: livable --
-- their narrative -- >> charlie: it softens the impact to have the tragedy. >> the parent didn't just show up the day after the shooting. they have the narrative that began long before the shooting with their child and spouse, so how does this event integrate into that. >> charlie: so everyone is affected by what their life was before they were at that moment. >> yes. >> charlie: and police play a role because they're interrogator and they're intimidating. >> the media plays a role. the fact we live in a world with unfiltered content that quickly can masquerade as truth plays a role. >> charlie: and you also put this in the context of media today, and what do you believe? >> well, as i'm sure you've seen, it's, in many outlets, you'd rather be first than right. so this is a situation in which that's happening in a big way,
and the affect it has on the lead character is pretty intense. >> charlie: what drove you to want to do this theme? >> i don't know. i think it just grew out of these conversations scott and i would have about why we can't seem to solve more problems in the world. >> charlie: because we see them differently. >> well, because of cheese these competing narratives. >> charlie: i thought this was important -- this is not quite on target -- for negotiators and people like henry kissinger have said you have to begin by expressing clearly what you want and communicating to the other side you understand where they're coming from, you know, that they're getting a hearing within you as the world they see. >> oh, i think that's absolutely true and very much what the play is about and very much was part of the conversation scott and i were having, because you're talking about empathy and the ability to understand why somebody is asking you for the
thing they're asking you for. so that's why, when he brought this play to my attention, the idea that he was going to do it, it seems these are things that run throughout the three films that we've made together. it seems perfectly in line with those. >> charlie: the detective moretz -- am i saying that right, chloe grace moretz? >> mm-hmm. >> charlie: the detective says, i think, over time, the difference between what people said or did and what they wish they'd said or did tends to grow, the difference grows. >> i think so. i think that's true. especially in a situation like this in which there's trauma. >> charlie: yeah. it's interesting, too, to bring another tangent into this. it is said that president reagan would talk about the war in such graphic terms but it was basically what he had done in los angeles and that, somehow,
what actually happened and what he would describe -- >> had become fused. that doesn't surprise me, but i also know that he was -- the television movie the day after was one of the primary reasons he started in on this idea of speaking with the soviets about disarm mament. >> charlie: exactly. that he was so affected by the movie that he said we have to do something about this. >> charlie: before the conversations with gorbachev, they would make movies about soviet history for him to piece it together because that was the way that he learned. >> more so than reading a lot of books. we both read the nicholson baker book. >> charlie: what if world war ii had ended differently.
>> well, it was really about all of these stories that i was unaware of them that had been told about the second world war and this ala alternative history that we weren't taught, and i think there is a kind of narrative drift that occurs after an event that exists mainly because it suits somebody's agenda, you know, for the story to begin to morph. >> charlie: so creating a theater piece. you know, tell me what you called on to create this as a theater piece in terms of music, how you use music, in terms of the darkness of the space, in terms of speaking to the camera -- not the camera -- >> direct address, yeah, exactly. my job as i saw it was to try and make this as visual as possible and then bring whatever tools i could from that other job into the theater and create a sense of editing that you don't typically see in a theater
piece. >> charlie: how do you edit the theater piece? >> well, i think you will some day get a look at that. because i wanted it to be sort of seamless and i wanted it to -- you know, as we talked about, the hardest thing -- the biggest difference between the job that we did before and the job that we're doing right now -- >> charlie: in terms of making a movie about present ag -- preo play. >> is how to present a closeup. if you're in a movie, you just go there. if you're on stage you have to direct everyone's attention to that space. >> charlie: how do you do that? >> through a combination of composition and lighting. you know, staging -- so what i knew i didn't want to do is make a piece that was representational, meaning i'm going into a medium in which it would be, to me, boring to have somebody show up and go, wow, that couch looks like a real
couch, because why -- i do that when i make a movie. so, in this case, the number of scenes within the play required me to be able to change locations in an instant, and the only way to do that is to create a sort of abstract space in which light and composition are your sort of way of transporting people. >> charlie: and you went from games to row. >> i was going strictly -- talk about stories, i had never seen one of his exhibits. >> charlie: but? but i've heard people describe them. >them. but i have no idea whether it's like that. >> charlie: have you tried to investigate? >> i'm definitely not seeing one of the exhibits now.
>> charlie: you wanted to make sure you didn't take from him and not your own imagination. >> what we appropriate from him and we believe is light is an emotional thing. we have an emotional response to light, the quality, the intensity, the color, the juxtaposition of it when you use two different colors, it's a very efficient way to emotionally affect people. >> charlie: do you use light to accentuate the sound of gunfire? >> yeah. >> charlie: you use dark a lot. >> yeah, it's a very -- it's a moody piece. there have been some complaints, but i think it's kind of -- it's just -- we're up to something different. >> charlie: you've said to me, look, it will be a different play by the time it opens. >> right. >> charlie: how will bit different? >> one of the things we've learned and this is a big difference between film is steven has always included me in
the post-process on the movies we've done together, and the post-process gets advanced into the preview process in a play because there is no post-process on a play. so, normally, the editing and the sound and all of that, you have an opportunity when you preview a play to look at it and go, that line didn't really work, or we're getting a laugh there and i don't want a laugh there, and normally you could cut that out in the editing room, but what we have to do is cut it out in previews and see the next night if it worked. but it's hard because, you know, a friend of mine said it's sort of the difference between citing and surfing. when you ski, the mountain doesn't move, only you move, so that's a little bit like a movie. and in surfing, the mountain moves, you move, everything moves. so you need to be a more fluid process in a play, at least at this stage. >> charlie: how is it different to write for theater? >> you know, i hope i have an
answer to that by the time i'm done with this process. i think, again, a lot of it goes to not just having a camera there, and, so, there are normally opportunities in a screenplay where somebody doesn't need to say something because you know you can just push in on them and capture their emotion. and here i think there is an opportunity for people to verbalize things that normally they could express or the camera could help them express or editorial could help them express. that's different. >> charlie: so, you know, you've done this before. do you come away with a different sense of the power of theater? >> absolutely. absolutely. i think the -- forgetting about the fact that people can't steal it, which i really like, there is a -- when you talk about empathy, there is a connectivity between the performers and the
audience in a live situation that's totally unique, very electric and really satisfying. >> charlie: and can change from night to night. >> oh, it does. >> charlie: that's incredible. it really does. which for our piece is great because our piece is about storytelling, and the fact our story changes every night i hope resonates -- >> charlie: because the audience is different. >> and the actors are different. >> charlie: their life is different because whatever happened at work might affect the performance that night. >> you're right. the audience is a huge part of it, and there is a feeling before the play is even started that's very palpable, the difference between a matinee audience on a sunday and a friday. they've already started an interactive process before the play's even gone on and especially -- i don't think we're ruining anything by saying there's someone on stage when they walk into the door, and that immediately begins a sort of interaction that's kind of interesting to witness. >> charlie: there's no
curtain, you mean? >> no. you walk in and there's somebody there on stage. >> charlie: hmm. man. so let me talk about you and cinema and all this other stuff. one of your -- no, but, i mean, you're interesting to me because you have gone through a kind of -- on this program -- a conversation about your life. >> yeah. >> charlie: and i remember one time i was stunned because you talked about leaving filmmaking. how did that work? >> that was just, to my mind, a very normal, evolutionary process and only really became kind of public when a friend of mine who shall remain nameless but whose initials are matt damon gave an interview that suddenly got traction about this issue, and it was just time for me to start doing other things, thinking about other things. this is a perfect example. >> charlie: yeah.
and it wasn't a -- i would never say never. it just became blatantly clear to me i need to go off and try other stuff. >> charlie: i think painting was one possibility. >> yeah, and i started on that and i decided to do this ten-hour tv show, so that got interrupted. >> charlie: this is the one with clive owen. >> yes. >> charlie: what's it called? "the nick." >> charlie: what's it about? set in a hospital in new york in 1900. really fun. >> charlie: is it a drama? yes, for the most part. it's maihem, medicine in 1900. a lot of interesting stuff going on. >> charlie: have you seen this evolution in him? >> i've seen him, you know, through the course of doing the movies and the play, i think i've seen steven try and find new ways to do things, and i think, when you get into shooting a movie, it's not just shooting the movie, it's also dealing with the agents and dealing with the producers and dealing with the studios, and
those can have a really sort of corrosive effect on your enthusiasm for the endeavor. so i think it's that part coupled with, you know, how many times can you come up with a new way to shoot and over the shoulder and at what point do you want to try as a creative person to do other things, which i think is great. >> charlie: what's your equivalent of that? >> writing a play. >> charlie: writing a play. or a book or music. you know, each one of these things asks a different thing of you and allows you to try and find new things about yourself. for me, what i found about the play was it was a representation of this sort of ongoing dialogue we had had about how people just take turns telling each other stories and that that's true of large things like war, but it's also true of smaller things like relationships, and i wanted to write something that was much
more personal. and for this, a lot of the research i did was with a woman name vauschner (phonetic) who was a survivor of columbine and it was interesting to how that experience affected her in all sorts of ways. >> charlie: do you know what your next project is? >> i'm adapting a book by a "washington post" reporter named betty metsker about -- called the burglary about a break-in into an f.b.i. office in 1971 by some anti-war protesters. >> charlie: so suppose somebody comes to see you today and says, i have a brilliant idea for theater, and you agree and said, let's do it, and somebody comes in and says, i have a fabulous actor who wants to make a movie i'm interested in, would you write the screenplay, which would you choose? >> i feel stories choose me. >> charlie: do you really?
yeah. so to me it's almost involuntary. >> charlie: whether the story itself, you can connect to it in a vees rail way to stimulate your passion. >> yeah, or i can imagine a structure i haven't tried yet. i think for both steven and i, the ultimate narrative starts to wear on you if it's always linear and you're trying to find a new way to tell a story, and that can be by structure or changing the form from a movie theater to a play. >> charlie: having done these, do you have a new sense of power of theater -- not just the power of theater to influence, but the capacity to change theater? >> well, there are -- i have to, of course, find my way through it, you know, i'm not trained as a theater director. i understand directing, i understand storytelling, and i understand actors and composition and things like that. >> charlie: that will get you a long way. >> well, you know, but it would be stupid for me to go and do a
revival of a shakespeare play or -- do you know what i mean? to do a straight piece of theater would be stupid because that's not my background. so i want to do other piecer> charlie: well, i mean, the other reason, though, is to look at it with a fresh eye, i mean, because you haven't done that and because your skills mostly have been employed in a different place, you may see theater with a fresh eye and a beginner's eye that, you know, gives you the possibility to use it in an interesting way. >> look, if i can be the idiot savant and keep it that way, that it would be awesome. >> charlie: "the library" is running at the public theater through april 27th. tilda swinton is here, and we can be happy about that.
stars in a new movie by jim jarmusch, a vampire love story that spans centuries. here's the trailer for "only lovers left alive." >> you're being so reclusive is probably only going to make people more interested in your music. >> yeah. what a drag. >> hello. what is it? you look tired. >> are you going to tell your wife what your problem is? >> it's the way they treat the world. >> and now they've succeeded in contaminating their own blood, never mind the water. >> i have been expecting you for some reason, dr. faust. (whispering) >> and is there a possibility of a flight 370 from san diego to detroit. is that correct? >> i love what you've done with
the place. remember when you gave that to schubert? ♪ >> i had a dream. shouldn't she be sleeping in the conference room where the wooden stakes are? >> i'm really, really hungry. do you maybe have something? >> did you smell it all the way from l.a.? >> we're a family. you're looking awfully pale, doctor. >> is that the really good stuff. >> i have been pretty lucky in love, if i say so. >> i wish i had met him before i road down there. >> whoa, man. ♪
>> what is that? oh, negative. >> charlie: tilda swinton can be seen also in the grand budapest hotel. welcome. >> thank you. >> charlie:ates movie about love? >> it's about lovers, long love. >> charlie: over centuries. millenia. >> charlie: millenia, yeah. vampires in love. >> vampires in love. lovers in love who happen to be vampires. >> charlie: it's about mortality. >> mortality and immortality which tend to go together. >> charlie: yeah. and it's about reboosting your interest when you're getting fatigued. >> charlie: i believe in that idea. in other words, if you reboot yourself, in a sense, you have to refresh yourself every ten or 15 years to make sure you have the right amount of energy to move forward. >> at least. i would suggest you don't have to be much older than 26 these days to know what fatigue is. >> charlie: maybe 16.
super saturation. >> charlie: yeah. so you play eve. tell me who eve is. >> eve is a druid. she's 3,000 years old, so she's got perspective. adam's young. he's only 500 years old. >> charlie: yes, a musician in detroit. >> yes, a musician in detroit and a genius. >> charlie: a genius. a proper, bonafide genius who hands his offcuts to shiewsht. >> charlieto -- to schubert. >> charlie: and he lives in tangier? >> yeah, under the name of some actor. and we live a long, long life. >> charlie: part of that is having real conversations. >> we wanted to show a relationship between a couple who really liked each other enough to talk to each other. >> charlie: exactly. that's the point. even if you don't like somebody,
if you find them interesting, you can love them. >> and even if you aren't like them, if you're really different and these two are really different, the first grain of the film was a wonderful book, mark twain's "the diaries of adam and eve," fictional or not are the original "the diaries of adam and eve," and a book jim was inspired by when sarah driver, his sweetheart gave it to him, he passed it to me and that's the first thing that sparked our interest in the couple. you have this very curmudgeonly crumpy adam stomping around the garden saying, wednesday, i've got to name all these animals. and she's this space cadet saying, oh, the stars! and wanted to knock them out and put them in her hair. they are completely unalike yet a pair. >> charlie: you've had those kind of relationships. >> yeah, i'm very lucky. >> charlie: you really have. yeah, i really have. >> charlie: what about the the
vampire aspect of it? is that to give the centuries of relationship? is that what's need bid the vampires? >> you're suggesting they may not really be vampires? >> charlie: i'm not suggesting anything. i'm just saying why did jim want to make a movie using vampires in the story? >> well, you will have to ask him when he comes. >> charlie: at your suggestion. >> i would suggest that there's something about vampires being outsiders, being in the wainscoting of society. they are loners, outsiders. >> charlie: does that resonate with you, my dear? >> occasionally, when i'm not sitting at the table. but i'm in great company in that wainscoting. >> charlie: so you do see yourself as a kind of, you know -- >> actually -- >> charlie: not in the mainstream? or not. >> i would say there's more than one mainstream.
one man's mainstream is another man's dirty little brook. >> charlie: this is the third collaboration between you and jim. >> yes. >> charlie: what is it about him and the way he makes movies that is so attractive to you? >> i love it. he's a friend of mine for a start, and that's a great help. i love his mind and the way he makes a real cinema that is completely unique. i think the first jarmusch film i saw which was in europe which is "stranger than paradise "-- . >> charlie: you loved it? not only loved it but it was the first american independent film i saw made by an alien. >> charlie: but don't you consider yourself something of an alien? >> who doesn't, charlie? >> charlie: okay, we're together on that. >> all humans are aliens. >> charlie: somebody calls you up and says, we want you to come, my dear, and give this very proper lecture on the history of cinema, which you say what i would have said,
thank you but no thank you. >> yes. >> charlie: and then your son -- >> mmm... >> charlie: -- comes and says something about -- as i remember it -- correct me, you know -- how did people dream before cinema? >> yeah. this is a few years ago when my son was eight and a half which is a very timely moment and it was the great awe gust san francisco film festival when they asked someone every year to give the state of the cinema address and i thought they wanted someone to talk about the industry or the fiscal report. >> charlie: had no interest? well, no knowledge. i suppose i should hear somebody else give that lecture but i can't give it. and i was on the verge of writing to these people saying impossible, when i went to say good night to my son. >> charlie: he was how old? eight and a half at that point. a sinmatic age if there over was one and he asked me a question,
what were people's dreams like before cinema was made, i think he said -- he didn't say "invented "-- and this kind of exploded my brain and i went downstairs, before i wrote to the people and actually said, hang on, i wrote this lecture -- or, rather this piece of writing which was a letter to my son talking about a state called" the state of cinema ," a place we all go to. >> charlie: yes. and jim jarmusch was there, he is a filmmaker that makes a corner you can go to, jim jarmusch land. >> charlie: and you can go there. >> nice to be there. >> charlie: so the eight and a half foundation -- >> yes. >> charlie: -- was created by you -- >> well, by my son effectively, yes. >> charlie: -- in order to make films about individuals to show you what? >> no, not to maim fill -- make films, to make film fans. my cousin who is a filmmaker, we
created the eight and a half foundation to create a new birthday for children eight and a half when they become film fans. >> charlie: why eight and a half? >> it's the age my son asked that question and also the name of a really phenomenal film about making films. >> charlie: right. and we have a web site. this is something that we've already made in scotland. the scottish government gave us money to run a pilot there and 2,000 children have taken part, they're eight and a half, and they look at our international films from throughout the last hundred years which is the great luxury we have. we now have 100 years of cinema to draw on. they'll write to us and work out when the eight and a half birthday is and we'll send them the dvd of their choice and it will probably be something from iran or china or france, almost certainly from before 50 years
ago, but maybe not, and it will almost certainly not have been made by disney or pixar. >> charlie: what were you doing at momar? nobody knew you were going to be there because you were sort of asleep. was it interpretive in. >> it was a piece i was invited to make by momar which i made in london and then again in rome. and the performance department were making series of it, and it was part of the piece i don't talk about it. >> charlie: explain one more time why you don't talk about it. >> because it's part of the piece, as much about disappearance as appearance. it's about awe they wantic presence. a human being in a case rather
than a photograph of someone or even some twitter remark about someone, and as much a person in authentic space as a person in a doorway just outside the walls of momar which people are affecting to come inside to look at someone they might have read about in a book. >> charlie: let me talk about one thing in your life -- first of all, to pay you great respect, your mother died when you were making the film. >> yes. >> charlie: how ol' was she? she was 83. it was a very interesting thing because jim and i had been talking about making a film about immortal lovers for eight years. when you plan something for a long time and you get to shoot it it's like a party because you manage to get to do it eventually. and the moment we started shooting, my beloved mother was diagnosed as terminally ill. >> charlie: having months to live. >> weeks, they said. she ended up having enough time for me to finish shooting the film and go and look after her for the last seven weeks.
but it was an amazingly moving thing partly because the film is about these lovers, my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary before she died, so it's a bittersweet film but it was one of those things, you know, it kind of kept me going. >> charlie: took jim a while to get it made, seven or eight years, and he was about to abandon it. >> when you make something for a long time you abandon it before breakfast and then pick it up again. >> charlie: but he says you talked him out of it. >> you know, you have to put a band together to make a piece of music like this, and you need to get everybody together, and i was there from the beginning, and it's a very easy thing for me to have a conversation with jim on the phone or meet up with them when i'm coming through new york and say, come on, jim, let's keep going. that's the easy part because i truly believed we would make it. i also know enough about these long gestations on films that
you never end up regretting the long wait because you need it. but then the money comes, the band gets formed, the money comes and you're going to need everything. >> charlie: he has total control over his film. >> yes. >> charlie: he's not part of the studio system. he has final cut and he makes it. >> yes, properly in every way independent, not co-dependent remotely. >> charlie: i like that. let's talk about the men in your life. wes anderson. >> another one. >> charlie: another what? another mainly master of the cinema working today and making another great film, maybe his best ever. just evolving and delighting and asking me to play another really old bird. >> charlie: and this is really old. this is like 83. >> she tells everybody she's 83, but she's in her mid 90s. >> charlie: but she is going
to die. >> she is going to die, yes. but she dies in love. >> charlie: yeah. she's deeply in love. >> charlie: it's a brilliant performance by ray. >> it is. >> charlie: how do you describe a set film? are they pieces? >> an artist like jim jarmusch or wes anderson or martin scorsese, they make films, the things that it says on the tin, a wes anderson film set in a hotel in the '30s, we're going there. jim jarmusch's vampire lover film. you know, martin scorsese's wall street. >> charlie: you love wall street? >> i love "the wolf of wall street" very much. >> charlie: several great performances. >> very much. again, a whole world. >> charlie: yes. i was very grateful to have known the wonderful michael
powell at the end of his life, and i once had a very meaningful moment with him when i had flown over from home to new york and i met him in the evening and he said, what was on the plane? was there a good film on the plane? and i said no. he said, what was it? and i said, "batman," i think was one of the first "batman" films. he said -- the first time anyone's ever said this to me -- you're wrong, that is a good film because it makes its on world. any film that makes its on world is a good film. and i swallowed that and digested that ever sips and i absolutely believe he's right, and those filmmakers i referred to before, they are all making unique worlds. >> charlie: great to have you. nice to see you, charlie. >> charlie: peter mattheissen, the aw author died april 5.
his letters always seem to be of a different early era with universal spiritual and timeless concerns. matthiessen was an environmentalist, activist, explorer, founder of "the paris review," c.i.a. agent and buddhist teacher. first and foremost a writer, produced more than 30 books in his career and remains the only author to win national book award for fiction and nonfiction. his last work will be published april 8. he was born into a wealthy new york family, profess add life long unease about unearned privilege that fueled his need to explore the larger world. he moved to paris after graduating. he founded "the paris review." moved to new york in the '50s and spent the rest of his life writing about the natural world and humanity, the snow leopard, at play in the fields of the lord and trilogy of watson novels which he compressed into
one long work, shadow country in 2008. matthiessen is survived which wife maria eckert, four children from two previous marriages two, stepchildren and six grandchildren. he appeared on this program many times in the last two decades. here are moments from those conversations. what was it that drove you to go to africa and to go in search of something? >> well, i think it began at my mother's urgency. my dad is a hunter and i hunted and somehow i got interested in animal behavior. my brother did, too. my brother is a marine biologist. so really it started very early since we were about eight or ten years old. >> charlie: must have been some wander lust, though, wasn't therwasn't? >> that kind began when i first
started writing novels and they weren't selling well. i went to "the new yorker" magazine and said, would you send me around the world? i wanted to see the wilderness but i needed it as an income. so it came together that way. it's something i loved to do and was getting paid to do. >> charlie: your life seems to have had a guardian angel, for the most part. do you agree with that? >> i think i'm very lucky in my life. >> charlie: father was an architect. >> yes. >> charlie: lived in connecticut. >> right. >> charlie: he went to yale. i went to yale. and, you know, i think my folks -- i don't think they would have chosen that i had become a writer. they certainly were encouraging and hoping to it. they were very leery i might write about them.
>> charlie: published early? published early. my first story when i was at yale i sold. >> charlie: a long association with "the new yorker." >> many, many years. >> charlie: national book award. >> yes. >> charlie: for the snow leopard. >> yeah, a couple of others. one of the novels was nominated, too. >> charlie: snow leopard one, didn't it. >> charlie:. yes. >> charlie: it's not your best book, in your judgment? >> let me say this, i think the snow leopard is fine, but the snow leopard in a way has been kind of a nail in my fictional coffin. >> charlie: why? because it's a book so closely associated with me and people say why does he write fiction? but i think my fiction is the heart of my work. >> charlie: you think that you will be remembered in time for your fiction. >> i do. maybe i'm just whistling in the dark here, but i don't think so.
i first began as a short story writer. i wrote about 30 short stories before any nonfiction. the three of my first four books were novels. not very good novels, i confess, but nonetheless, the stories were being published and, you know, and then i really was kind of a -- i was a commercial fisherman and doing that in addition to my writing and i had a new wife and young kids and i really had to make some money, so i went over into writing nonfiction about what i knew about, boats and wild places and wildlife and stuff. then i got mr. sean who agreed to send me around the world to all the wild places. i said, everybody's writing about europe but who's writing about all these wonderful wildernesses that are going down the tube? and he agreed and i rushed off to south america before he could change his mind. so that really was the beginning
of that and produced a non-fiction and fiction book, and encouraged my interest in traditional people whom i've always been interested in and aim certain kind of anthropologist because i'm interested in how they work and relate to the world, and i'm not much interested in -- at least much less interested in urban. i like these people on the edge. >> charlie: what common denominator do most good writers have? >> that's a very interesting question. i don't know. i do know -- i mean, i think i kind of know. i think there has to be an element in really good writing, there has to be an element that's in tact. it doesn't depende depend on --r example, i have an aversion to
using trade names because i don't want to depend on anything for a quick identification for the reader. it has to be complete in itself and has to have a mystery in it. it has to have something mysterious. even though you never spell it out -- you don't say, this is mysterious -- but i think they have to feel they're in the presence of something they cannot quite find. a poet spoke about that. we have the courage of certain experiences we call supernatural because we have no vocabulary for them. something that's just implicitly there. and some writers move in to that and are very daring with that element. but i think almost all good writing has that mystery and strangeness somewhere in that. >> charlie: you were a c.i.a. agent who use "the paris review" for a cover. >> i invented it as a cover. >> charlie: exactly. i did, but very, very short order. i was much more interested in
"the paris review" than my paid job, so to speak. i have been very lucky in my life. i've had many great adventures and this is the only adventure i regret was the c.i.a., but it did do one thing for me -- and i quit on the job when i was still a young kid, only 24 or 25. >> charlie: two years in the c.i.a. >> yes, and i never had any politics before, i was a greenhorn, and my politics, when i got them, they were really at bay. i said, you guys can't trust me anymore, i'm not on your side. a lot of things were happening back there, black lists and stuff. >> charlie: why would you do to them. >> what it was really doing -- i was spending my day deceiving people. that's all it is. >> charlie: deceiving people as to -- >> as to who you are, what you're up to, what you want to
know them for, all that kind of stuff. i really disliked it. >> charlie: were you looking for people you could convert or to expose people? >> no, i was getting information on people. i didn't even know what i was doing because they never tell you what the heck you're doing, what they're using it for. but i made a very good contact they were excited about and they wanted me to go in deep around make myself kind of a dupe, a tool for -- >> charlie: writing for you. yeah. >> charlie: are you happiest with non-fiction or fiction. >> fiction. >> charlie: you are. i began as a fiction writer. i wrote that for ten years and that's where my heart is. i wrote non-fiction -- not to put it down. someone said my non-fiction is the same thing. the loss of values and the --
and injustice. in a way, i'm writing about the same thing but in fiction you can go much deeper. i use the word for this thing, i'm disstilling it. i go deeper and deeper. in non-fiction, you're stuck with the facts or you should be. you should be more or less loyal to the facts. >> charlie: you should be. in non-fiction, more or less loyal to the facts? >> you should be loyal to the facts and you know it well. in fiction you go to a much deeper place. >> charlie: you have always been obsessed maybe about endangered species. >> yes. >> charlie: and endangered planet. >> and endangered people's. >> charlie: absolutely. native american. >> yeah. >> charlie: is there something about the person ideal that you think is in danger? >> i think so. i think what we're settling for,
really, in recent years, in recent decades, is so far a degraded form of what was originally envisioned in the constitution, our founding fathers and everything, it's an ignoble quality. seems like we're going in some small country, either granada, veet name, or whatever, but seems like we're behaving a way to go into iraq -- the whole thing about iraq, the question and dispute, but to say shock and awe and announce we're going to go in and shock and awe people with our might and bombs, no matter how justifiable, which is debatable, that seems awful
to go in and frighten people and there are all these dreadful terms as if it's perfectly normal behavior, torture and all this. >> charlie: do you think it's temporary in the american experience? >> i sure hope so. i think we've lost a lot of respect around the world and rightly so. i think, as americans, we really feel this is a great country, and i think we have to speak out. it's not unpatriotic to say, hey, we're better people than this. our values are better than this. and that's the way i feel. i'm going to kick and scream it to the end, you know. >> charlie: do you think about the end? >> well, you know, i'm 81. i mean, time is not on my side uphowever -- >> charlie: we never know. we never know, but i do have a lot of i think so this to finish. >> charlie: his new novel "in
paradise" will be published tomorrow. i was looking forward to see him once again at this table to talk about his extraordinary talent and his passion for so many things. this program will mishim, and my grief goes to his family. peter mattheissen, dead at 86. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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