tv Amanpour Company PBS January 17, 2019 12:00am-1:01am PST
. ♪ hello, everyone, and welcome to "amanpour & co." here's what's coming up. >> i have no tabled a motion of no confidence in this government. >> chaos begets chaos. a vote of no confidence lodged against the bridge government after the most crushing defeat ever dealt a sitting prime minister. her brexit deal is dead. what next? we get takes from westminster to europe. plus -- >> maybe she didn't die. maybe she just moved back to the suburbs. >> the cult favorite british actor richard e. grant on his latest award-winning film with melissa mccarthy. and his extraordinary life story. and -- >> i'm having candy for dinner. >> comedian and actor ellie
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contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christiane amanpour in london. government dysfunction is reaching new heights on both sides of the atlantic. there's paralysis centered around that wall in the united states and around a watery wall over here, the english channel that separates the uk from the eu. the white house has been forced to admit the longest government shutdown in history is having a real and serious impact on the economy while economic and business experts here in the uk make similar dire predictions if the uk comes crashing out of the european union with no deal in place. the prime minister's hard-won exit agreement went down to a crushing defeat in parliament last night. hard line brexiters said it keeps too many eu ties. remainers would prefer to call the whole thing off and stay with europe. all this with just over 70 days to go before brexit is actually
meant to happen. here's what may and opposition leader jeremy corbyn had to say before the vote that corbin tabled. >> mr. speaker, this government cannot govern and cannot command the support of parliament on the most important issue facing our country. every single previous prime minister in this situation would have resigned and called an election. it is the duty of this house to show the lead where this government has failed and pass a motion of no confidence so that the people of this country can decide who their mps are and who their government is, and who will deal with the crucial issues facing the people of this country. i commend my motion to the house. >> the question is this house has no confidence in her
majesty's government, the prime minister. >> mr. speaker, last night the house rejected the deal the government has negotiated with the european union. today it has asked a simple question. should the next set should be a general election? i believe that is the worst thing we could do. it would deepen -- it would deepen division when we need unity. it would bring chaos when we need certainty. and it would bring delay when we need to move forward. so i believe this house should reject this motion. at this crucial moment in our nation's history, a general election is simply not in the national interest. >> amid these games being played in london and washington, real
live security crises are happening overseas. two major terrorist attacks in the last 24 hours. in northern syria, isis has claimed responsibility for a major suicide attack, killing several american service members and others while in kenya, at least 14 are dead after suspected islamist extremists attacked a market cluster of shops. tow buy add elwood is a conservative mp in may's government, he voted to support her deal but fundamentally believes the uk should remain in the european union. he is also a reserve colonel. he served in kenya and has had major brushes with terrorism himself. tobias elwood, let's talk a little bit about the other real issues that are happening, issues that affect our citizens all over. this suicide attack by isis in syria. several american service people
have been killed. what do you make of that? >> well, we're responding to a democratic process in the referendum that took place a couple years ago, but you rightly point out the world is changing. it's getting more dangerous. terrorist attacks continue. and while we are focused on brexit, the united states is focused on the shutdown. the west needs to recognize that the world is changing. we have nations checking the boundaries of the world order that we've assumed after the second world war. migration issues as well. it's so important that we recognize that we must wake up to our global responsibilities, and that means ensuring that we move forward with brexit as quickly as possible because we have a job to do. >> you know, you are very well known for your military experience, for your own brushes with terrorism. your own brother was killed by the then al qaeda offshoot in the bali bombings in the early
2000s, and you yourself raced famously to try to revive a policeman who had been eventually fatally stabbed when isis-motivated terrorists drove over the sidewalk. we're looking at the picture now. right outside parliament where you are now. this is something you know very, very much about. so when president trump said that isis had been defeated and that's why they were pulling out of syria -- and of course the brits have their own issues -- i wonder what you make of that. i'm just going to play president trump's sound bite. >> we've been fighting for a long time in syria. i've been president for almost two years, and we've really stepped it up, and we have won against isis. we've beaten them, and we've beaten them badly. we've taken back the land, and now it's time for our troops to come back home.
>> so tobias elwood, i mean, did he speak too soon? >> well, i'm pleased to say since he's made those comments, john bolton has visited the area. we've continued or underlined our commitment. you can't simply walk away baugh because you think you've defeated the enemy. i think general petraeus famously said you must stay there for the course and make sure you're able to rebuild and work with the new communities. that's exactly what britain is doing, and i hope america will stay the course as well. we blinked back in august 2013 when we actually gave up and handed responsibility of the future of this area to russia. we must make sure that we stay the course and defeat terrorism. it doesn't just mean those who actually are brandishing the weapons, but those who might be enticed, indoctrinated to believe they're going to get a fast track to paradise if they turn themselves into a terrorist, and that takes time. >> i mentioned the story overnight was that, you know, at least 14 or so people have been
killed in kenya by al qaeda-related al shabaab terrorists. but i'm very interested. did you pick up on this issue? we blinked we handed the territory in syria and the battle in syria in 2013. so i want to ask you, do you believe that russia is one of the big benefiters, the big winners in this political chaos that we see here in the uk right now, that we see certainly in the united states? we know that russia interfered in the brexit vote just as it did in the 2016 u.s. election. >> well, you raise a number of very interesting aspects there of how our world is changing fast. we've not dealt with the gross of extremism. it remains there. in fact, you could argue it's even increasing further. we're not at war, but we're certainly not at peace. the art of conflict as changed and the interference we're seeing through cyber
technologists. our national health has been interfered with through cyber capabilities. there are no geneva conventions to prevent any non-state actors from doing that. there is work to be done on upgrating the rules-based order that has kept the relative peace over the last few decades. but we're distracted. the western nations are distracted. we need to get back to the table and recognize how quickly our world is changing. >> i know that you're very in tune and attuned to what the world thinks of britain. i mean britain has often and for its long history punched above its weight. do you think, to follow on to what you're saying, that this sort of political dysfunction is emboldening those who would do this nation harm? >> i can't agree more with that. today has been a massive distraction. this wasn't a debate about confidence in the prime u wanted prime minister jeremy corbyn. i'll say that again. prime minister jeremy corbyn. this is somebody that would take
us out of nato, get rid of our nuclear deterrent. he would nationalize our industries and make friends with dictators in latin america. and he has no position on brexit. we'll get today out of the way, and we'll get back to brexit. it's important that the prime minister does reach across the house now. parliament is now in charge of this, to see whether there is consensus because we were defeated yesterday not because there's one idea, but because a series of ideas couldn't rationalize. they joined together as a coalition of convenience to defeat the prime minister. so she has to reach out. everybody has to take a step forward and see if there's some common ground there or compromise. that is the duty of every single member of parliament. >> i'm interested when you say parliament is in charge now. what do you mean exactly, and how will that change what has been a deadlock situation where there's no majority anywhere for any solution except, it seems, in parliament not to fall off a cliff edge, in other words, not to exit the eu without a deal? >> this has been the toughest
challenge for any prime minister. in a minority government, we have to be in a coalition with the very party that represents a corner of britain that has a land border with the eu. but now we have the speaker of the house of commons changing the goal post, altering the rules as we saw last week. that means that, yes, power has been given to parliament itself in the sense that government wasn't able to get this across the line. but is there a consensus with other groups in parliament for this to be discussed? and that's exactly what the prime minister intends to do over the next few days, begin those discussions to see if there is a consensus. if there isn't, we run out of time, and we either spiral into no deal, which i would not support. that would be damaging for britain's reputation. or you end up having to extend article 50 beyond march the 29th. >> do you think, given all the, you know, indications to the contrary over the last two years since -- 2 1/2 years since the
brexit vote, there has been none of this kind of consensus and compromise and sort of talking that you were describing should happen now, the last furlong. if that doesn't happen, is there any band width, is there any preparations for a second vote no matter what you call it and what committees you put there? >> i think that is something that is gaining greater traction certainly, but the first port of call is to see what that consensus is. let's go back to the original question. what does leave mean? even today in my district in born mouth, i get advice telling me to support no deal, to support a norway option, to support a second referendum. there isn't an answer to what leave actually means because there was no manifesto to say what it means. the prime minister had to pick up the pieces and recognize that this probably was calling for greater control over our borders, greater control o o o our money, and greater control of our laws. ironically, the deal that she proposed provided that.
but the ultra brexiteers who wanted this project in the first place have kicked that out. so wherever you go, we're going to end up with a softer brexit than we are at the moment. and as you imply, it's very unclear where this goes. if this goes beyond march the 29th, yes, you're right, that is one possibility. >> i'm really again fascinated to hear you say a softer brexit because of course much of the oxygen is taken up by the hard-liners. john redwood for instance who famously belongs to a group that not so long ago issued its own interparty vote of no confidence against the prime minister, and they lost. she won that interparty vote, and yet they're behaving as if they won. they tell us and anybody who listens, actually, we need to drop out of the eu without a deal. and the prime minister doesn't seem to be taking them on. does her style need to change? she won for heaven's sakes. >> no. well, taking them on, this is where parliament now plays a
greater role. you are right to say that this group of ultra brexiteers played a role in the defeat, but they want us, as i say, to take us towards no deal. this would be hugely irresponsible. it would have been acts of self-harm to britain of us reneging on close allies, on a working relationship with europe, one that we've developed over many, many decades itself. and then going away from honoring the 39 billion-pound bill. who would want to work with britain in a situation like that? we're supposed to be involved, as i mentioned earlier, playing a role on the international stage as a force for good. our reputation would suffer if we just ran away, and nobody during the referendum itself spoke about that. so what the prime minister now needs to do is say you've got these people f. they're going to fix their views there, then what she needs to do is throw the net wider across parliament so those people who are willing to provide a compromise, who are willing to look at a different kind of brexit, and that's the discussions that will unfold now. >> all right.
and the countdown is on. just about 72 days. tobias elwood, thank you so much for joining us. i know you're soon going to go, when that bell rings, to make your vote. so as members of parliament bicker over the path forward, a common theme is setting in amongst the british public. just figure it out. >> i think it's a bit of a waste of time. i don't understand the point of this vote in the first place because as a country -- so what was the point? >> i thuink a second referendum definitely. the people should decide. in 2016, we didn't know about all those problems. >> i'm fed up because everyone is in it for themselves. they're not worried about the working class like me. >> i think they're behaving like children if you want the honest truth. >> acting like children or not, they're the ones who have to sort all of this out. that is the clear message from the european union today.
franz timmerland is first vice president of the european commission, which is the executive arm of the european unity which has led talks with britain. he tells me after a year and a half of negotiation, the eu has done its part, and now it's britain's turn to figure out just what it wants to do. franz timmerman, welcome to the program. >> thank you very much for having me. >> so can i just ask you first for your human and political reaction to a defeat that was even bigger than predicted. what do you make of it as eu negotiators? >> well, i think what we did honestly is negotiate a withdrawal agreement that we thought would be very good because it would limit the damage both to the united kingdom and the eu because there's going to be damage by -- as a consequence of brexit. so to see it defeated in parliament was not really a surprise because we -- you know, the indications were already
clear. but still a disappointment because we had hoped that this agreement would help us bring about brexit without too much damage. >> i guess what everybody in britain seems to think, and it seems to be the sort of conventional wisdom here, evening in downing street, even after this crashing defeat last night, is that -- and let me just quote what's going around. you know, the gist of what theresa may's government now wants is for the eu to, quote, start getting serious, start understanding that it needs to give something more in exchange for an orderly separation. how does that sit with you? >> well, frankly, we've been negotiating for a year and a half in a very serious way, taking into account that red line defined by prime minister may but also taking into account the interests of the 27 who will remain in the european union. and i don't think there's anybody who wasn't serious about this. nobody at least on the eu side. and i think when we came to a
conclusion with the british government, we put on the table a withdrawal agreement that would serve the interests of both eu and britain. well, now it's been voted now in the house of commons. the onus is not on the eu. the onus is on britain and the british government to tell us what they want. >> they seem to be banking on the fact that this is going to hurt the eu as much or at least enough for the eu to now give more concessions. is that even a possibility? >> i don't think that's the way this is viewed by the government in the member states. i think we have to be very clear that there's no willingness in any of the capitals to sort of throw ireland under the bus. it's very clear that the backstop is in the necessary element of the withdrawal agreement. it's very clear that to safeguard the importance of the good friday agreement, we need to avoid at all cost hardballing the island of ireland.
it's also very clear that you can't pick and choose if you talk about the four freedoms of the european union. so there are a number of things that apparently the british government or some british politicians want to talk about, but i think it is important at the eu side, we're very clear about what the limits are of our possibilities. of course we will have a discussion. of course there is a strong willingness to reach an agreement. but there are also limits to what we can do, and i think we have to be crystal clear about that from the outset. >> let me just play a sound bite of what somebody, a very hard line brexiteer told me last night, one of the conservative party hard-liners. that's john redwood. >> i want an independent country just as america is an independent country. why can't i have an independent country now the public has voted for it? and we will be better off if we govern wisely, which i wish us to do. >> how do you respond to a john redwood, who says that kind of very provocative thing, which
actually does not have a majority in the uk parliament? >> well, i think, you know, as far as i'm concerned, i've heard everything in the last couple of years, also from mr. redwood and others. it doesn't really unsettle me in any way or form because it's crystal clear that when he says the majority want a hard brexit, it's simply not true. there's a clear position of the house of commons where they say they don't want a no-deal brexit. so i would just, you know, wait calmly for this debate to evolve into a certain direction when we get some clarity of what britain wants. then we'll start talking about that. but i just want to make sure that there's no misunderstanding about the position of the european commission and the 27 member states. >> in that you will not reopen this current negotiation. is that what you mean? >> well, what i'm saying is that some of the elements of the withdrawal agreement that are now being challenged or
questioned are essential for us to have a withdrawal agreement. also on the basis of the red lines defined by prime minister may. now, if there is a change in the british position, if there is a different direction taken, then of course this will be carefully assessed by the european commission and the 27 member states. but as things stand now, i do maintain -- and this is also the position of all our member states -- that the withdrawal agreement is the best possible deal in the given circumstances. >> so what would -- and clearly people are now talking about this no deal. i realize there isn't a majority for it in parliament, but who knows? i mean, you know, one could blunder into it. it is the default option, and we've got 72 days as we stand right now until march 29th. first of all, you just said, you know, stay calm. but it's only 72 days. it's almost like they have to start from scratch. what would a no-deal mean for europe? >> well, of course we stay calm,
but that doesn't mean we stay still. we're working very hard on all possible scenarios, including a no-deal brexit, so that europe is prepared to face that possibility. now, nobody wants it. but as you say -- and i say you're absolutely right. even if you don't want it, it might still happen. that's why we have a strong responsibility to also prepare member states and prepare eu institutions for that eventuality. still hoping it will never happen, but it could. you're absolutely right. i mean european history is rife of events and things happening that nobody wanted but happened anyway. so we can't be naive about that. but i think we still should try and avoid it. >> now, in your speech today in the parliament there, were you standing alongside michel barnier, the main negotiator for the eu, and you concluded with a c.s. lewis quote. you can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending. so i want to know what you meant by that, what you envision as
changing the ending. and as part of that, do you believe the eu would allow britain to unilaterally extend article 50 to give itself more time to get this right? >> well, what i meant to say is after the vote last night, the members of the house of commons will have to come together to decide on where they want to go with brexit and what the next step should be, what kind of brexit, et cetera. whether there is going to be another vote, these are things that need to be decided in the united kingdom. and i think what i was trying to say is they have to take the present situation after the vote last night as a given and start from there. then they can map out the future the way they want, and then they can come and talk to the rest of europe about this. and nothing is excluded. and i think the attitude of the european union should also be nothing is excluded. neither a no-deal brexit nor the possibility of the british people talking about this and coming to the conclusion that
there might be a second vote. >> so let me just ask you to respond to paul koogland who writes a lot about this, nobel prize winning economist for "the new york times." after this vote defeat yesterday, he talked about the european commission. he said if they had given even an inch pre the 2016 vote, brexit would never have happened. if they had thrown may a few crumbs, today might have looked very different. the arrogance of the ec completely untempered by the disasters of austerity is very much part of the british story. he has a point, right? >> no, he hasn't. i'm sorry, he hasn't. and i'm never very much impressed with iffy history, if this would have happened, if this would have been said, et cetera, et cetera. i think this was a thing a long time coming. i think this has happened in the uk. this is david cameron's responsibility. he called for the referendum. i think if you look over the last couple of years, we tried our best bending over backwards
to accommodate the request of the british government pre-brexit, working with david cameron in seeing what we could do, but also after brexit, then working with theresa may to get a good deal for both sides. so i don't think koogman is right when he criticizes the european commission on this. >> franz timmerman, thank you so much, vice president of the european commission. thank you for joining us. >> my pleasure. >> those are really important cautionary words right now from such a senior eu official. we tried our best. we bent over backwards to give britain what it seems to want. now it's up to them. and it does seem there is more politics even in art today than ever before, and we'll discuss that a bit with our next guest, the actor richard e. grant. he's the star of the cult classic "with knell and i," but now at 61, he's taken on a role
where he's clinking drinks with melissa mccarthy in, can you ever forgive me? it's based on the true story of author and forger lee israel. grant is playing israel's partner in crime. here's a clip. >> this is quite something. >> these are wonderful. >> i thought so too. >> name your price. >> we were looking at one month's rent. >> we have a couple of questions regarding the last letter i purchased. >> uh-oh. >> so like jack, the character, grant's own father was an alcoholic, a recipe for a sometimes very violent and always complicated childhood. and grant's personal story really strikes a chord. richard e. grant, welcome to the program. >> thank you very much. >> so we just had this robust discussion about brexit. you can see that nobody quite knows which is the way forward. we've heard from british mps,
from the europeans. does brexit resonate with you? are you political? i mean you're an actor. >> hugely. >> are you? >> yeah. i feel passionate about it. but i think that what's happened now is so -- i don't know. put it this way. i think there's something on the one hand -- in the dna of the british people and, on the other hand, fair minded, and i think those two things have absolutely revealed themselves today in what's gone on. we're not going to be told what to do by europe, and we're not going to be told to take this deal that the majority of people in parliament don't seem to agree with. so i think it's going to be alice in wonderland. >> can you see it being fodder for more -- i know films or tv series, one of your british colleagues benedict cumberbatch has just done brexit the film, and it's endlessly interesting as characters, right? >> i think so. on the other hand, i think people are sick to the back teeth of all this, you know,
turmoil that's been going on. they don't want to know about it. so i would be very surprised if that gets the viewing figures that they clearly anticipate that it will get. >> and that turmoil presumably you felt it when you were in the united states as well shooting this latest film, can you ever forgive me? >> i was there during the inauguration of donald trump, and people were so depressed on that friday, on the saturday morning there was this, you know, huge marches all across america. a huge women's march of almost a million people towards central park. there's a feeling like, yeah, we're going to take this on. >> and all these years later, you know, into his second year, we've got a government shutdown there. we've got paralysis of the government here. so let's move on and talk about your film that breaks through this distorted reality. in fact, let me just say "the new york times" quoted about the book that you made the film. it's a sordid and pretty damn fabulous book about her misadventures.
so it's based on the author lee israel. >> yes. >> give us the premise. >> lee israel was a successful best-selling biographer in new york in the 1980s, and she then fell on hard times. her book about estee lauder failed to sell, and she chanced upon a letter written by fanny bryce, the vaudevillian, and nobody would publish the book. nobody wanted to do a book about fanny bryce. it was old news. she then added a post script to a letter and sold it to a collector and realized there was money to be made as if being a literary event trill oh quist like forger. so she started imitating famous dead writers and she was very successful. i play a kleptomaniac, drug addict, alcoholic who worked in collusion with her. but she is an unapologetically
miss anthropic played by melissa mccarthy. >> with that in mind, here's the clip of when you first meet. >> lee israel. >> last time i saw you, i think we were both pleasantly pissed at some horrible book party. am i right? >> it's slowly flooding back to me. you're friends with julia. >> steinberg. she's not an agent anymore. she died. >> she did? that's young. >> maybe she didn't die. maybe she just used back to the suburbs. i've always confused those two. that's right. she got married and had twins. >> better to have died. >> indeed. >> so i mean it's funny. it's acerbic. you both play gay characters. she's an alcoholic. you're an alcoholic, and as you said, you end up hiv positive. what drew you to this film? and also what was it like
working with this irrepressible melissa mccarthy? >> well, that's what i was curious about because when i got the script and i saw this is a true story, which i was amazed i had never heard of it because it was really under the radar. it happened in the early '90s. i wondered whether this was going to be a vehicle for the comic persona that we know and love of ms. mccarthy. i met her last year in january, and she was wearing a gray wig showing the gray roots and very, very dowdy clothes. her voice was lowered, and i knew instantaneously that she was 5,000% committed to playing this character without a scintilla of sentimentality. for a leading comedy actress to take that on in a movie was a bold choice, i thought, and she does it absolutely brilliantly. >> was it fun? i mean you have a great rapport in the film. >> instantly, yeah.
>> in person? >> you hope for that. it's almost like -- i know that you're recently single, so you know that when you meet somebody, you hope that you're going to have a connection with th them. you think, well, on paper, there's this. as i said, we went on a friday. we knew we had to play all these vicissitudes that these people experience. it felt like lightning in a bottle. i knew we would be friends forever, and we are. >> it is awards season, and you have been nominated, and the film has been really well critically reviewed. you're kind of curmudgeonly both of you. >> i'm 61 3/4 years old. i've never been nominated for an award in my whole life, and i've now got 20 of them on my shelf. it's extraordinary. for something that took me 20 days to shoot and the rest of the movie is 26 days in total, that this should have happened is extraordinary. but, you know, we keep meeting
people that said this movie made us feeling. >> because loneliness is also the theme. obviously, you know, the sort of forgery and all of that. but this loneliness is really, i think, the theme of it and how you both try to comfort each other. >> they're lonely, and they're failures. so you think, well, who wants to spend an evening with two people doing that. but people have responded very positively to wanting to see it. >> as you said, we haven't gotten to the baftas, the oscars, so you're on a good run. you also have an amazing back story. you grew up in swaziland. >> mm-hmm. >> your father was a major personality in the education system there. >> uh-huh. >> but he was also an alcoholic. >> yeah. >> and you're not embarrassed or shy about talking about it. you talked a lot about how difficult it was growing up in that environment. of course you play an alcoholic in this character. >> and ironically i'm allergic
to alcohol. i cannot keep alcohol down whatsoever. but i think that what i saw, the toxic price that my father paid and we paid as a family by keeping all that secret. so i've made a movie about it 14 years ago in which gabriel byrne played my father. so i feel very, very strongly that secrets like that are ultimately toxic. in talking about them, you know, problem aired, problem shared, that old cliche. i really believe in that. it's saved me, and it's connected me with other people in the same situation. >> of course now there are so many, and people are more and more open about it whether it's about opioids or whether it's about any kind of addiction. and that's pretty good in terms of progress and trying to get help. but at the time you were a kid in, quote, unquote, a foreign land. i know you grew up there, but nonetheless, it was just a strange environment, and you talk about your father even
pointing a gun at you. >> well, you know -- >> and firing the gun. >> well, i was 15. i was very, very angry, and he was very drunk and violent. and so i emptied a crate of his scotch down the sink in the sort of deluded hope i could stop him drinking by doing that, by removing the source material. >> that's a very natural impulse. >> yeah. and he had a gun, and he came at me and cornered me in the garden and, you know, had the gun at my temple. i said, go on. blow my brains out. get it over and done with. and he pulled the trigger, but because he was so drunk, he lurched. so it fired off and just missed me. so, you know, i've lived to tell the tale. the thing is that with all addictions, i'm sure you've experienced with people you've interviewed before, that the person that i loved and adored who is my father was very, very quick witted and educated and incredibly charming person, by 9:00 at night, this jekyll and
hyde character would come out, and that wasn't the person i knew him to be. it was very clear to me that our lives were in two halves. >> it is extraordinary to hear that he actually pulled the trigger because you know there's a lot of threatening behavior that can happen, scary behavior like putting a gun to your temple. but he pulled the trigger. >> he did, yeah. he was furious, and i ran. when he missed, i then ran away from home for a week. i felt my life was really in danger. >> and given the title of this latest film, you know -- >> can you forgive me? >> could you ever forgive him? >> absolutely, i did, within a week because he blacked out and didn't remember that this had happened. so, you know, that's the weird thing about if you're -- you forgive your parents almost anything because they're the people that you love. and he wasn't like that all the time. >> and because of that, it must be so difficult for a kid. your mother also, you caught her
having an affair. >> i did. >> actually inflagrante. >> yeah, when i was 10 years old. >> how did that affect you? >> i started keeping a diary. i tried god. i got no response. i have no religion although i live by the ten commandments as best i can. so by keeping a diary, i thought this somehow makes it real. in the same way that, you know, i've just been on this huge press junket in los angeles and new york and san francisco for this film that when i meet people that i never thought i'd possibly meet my whole life, writing about it is a way of somehow making it real because then it's i actually did meet this person if i've written it down. so that's a lifelong habit. >> did you ever confront your mom? >> oh, yeah. >> i mean she said it was because your dad was a drunkard? >> no, no. because she fell in love with somebody else.
then he became a drunk. >> oh. you think he became a drunk because of that? >> oh, i know he did. and so he suffered, you know, unrequited love for her and basically drank himself to death at the age of 53. but after sort of three decades of estrangement, after i had really good psychoanalysis with an absolutely brilliant man in london, i then had a rapprochement with my mother. so it's all good. i've spiked -- skyped with her today. i skyped with her today, and i speak to her once a week. >> that really is wonderful actually -- >> oh, it saved my life. >> but i am interested, you say you're allergic to alcohol, and yet your breakout film, with nell and i, you play what? an alcoholic? >> i've played more alcoholics, drug addicts, cocaine heads almost than any other thing in my career. >> there must be a reason.
>> i don't know. >> i'm going to play a little clip just to show what you look like drunk. >> these aren't mine. they belong to him. >> you're drunk. >> i assure you i'm not, officer. i've only had a few ales. >> you play a good drunk. >> thank you. >> but i read that -- and now i'm worried about you because you say you're allergic, that they force fed you like foi, gras. >> they did the night before the final rehearsals. he said i had to have a chemical memory of what it was like to be completely lathered, so i did, and i've never done it since. passed out. >> here you are at the age, as you said, 61 3/4, suddenly receiving awards, never had done before, and you're in the prime of your life. how happy do you feel? >> i'm astonished because i'm --
a very kind and considerate actor called roddy mcdowall, i met him when i was researching a novel when i was 40. he said, how do you see old age? i said i hadn't thought about it. he said, from now onwards, diminishing returns, smaller roles, smaller recognition. do you go the bitter and twisted route like the majority of actors will become, or do you go, i'm the luckiest person to have met with, to have worked with, to have earned this? so the wisdom of that has really d if you told me 41 years ago that 41 years later i'd be in the final "star wars" film, which i've just been shooting, i would have said you're completely ininsane. so the fact i've had this upsurge at the age i am now, it's like what john lennon said before he was shot, that life is what happens in between making your plans. that really is what's happened to me, so i'm credibly gray gra.
>> richard e. grant, thank you very much. >> did you very much. >> such an insightful take there. next up, two-time emmy nominee and contagiously cheerful ellie kemper, star of comedies like "unbreakable kimmy schmidt," bridesmaids, and "the office." ellie has now put her wit to pen and paper in a new memoir. she joined our michel martin as kimmy schmidt, netflix happiest character, is ending her run. >> ellie kemper, thank you so much for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> congratulations on everything. >> thank you. >> i wanted to talk about your latest offering, your book, my squirrel days. as one would expect, you make fun of yourself for writing it. you suggest that you were required to somehow, that perhaps it's in the constitution, an actress at your level is supposed to write a book. why did you want to write the book? >> i had been writing for a while. i wrote for the onion, mcsweeney's, and i really wanted to write a more full book, i
guess, a collection of essays. and i wanted to give myself a deadline because the problem is it's also nice in theory to be able to write a book, but getting it down on the page is a different story. so actually when i found out i was pregnant, i was like, okay i'm going to be giving birth in july. i have no idea how my life is going to change after that. i know i have six months so i'm going to try to write as much as possible. i put together a proposal. we signed on in june, and i had the baby in july. then it took two more years to write the book. >> did you always dream of writing a book? is there something about a book that feels important or special? >> yes. there is something satisfying about having an actual, you know, bound copy of a book of things that i wrote. it's also terrifying because you can't go back and change it. but i also sort of wanted to demonstrate to myself that i could do something other than act. i wanted to -- i did set it up i think as a challenge to myself but also i wanted it to be entertaining. >> you also talk about the fact
that, you know, it's such a cliche, but in your case it's like one door closes and another opens. >> yeah. >> there was a job that you had desperately -- if you don't mind my saying. >> oh, no. >> would you mind telling us. >> the parks and recreation. >> yeah. >> i auditioned for "saturday night live." i did not get a part on "saturday night live," but the silver lining was that, you know, i guess to use a disgusting term, heat, i feel like when i auditioned for the show, my name was out there. so suddenly i started having meetings with like important agents and signing on with them. and one of these agents set me up for a meeting with greg daniels and mike shore who adapted the british version of "the office" to american television. i felt the meeting went well, and then a few months later i got called back for an audition. i didn't know at the time that it was for parks and recreation. i just knew it was for the new show they were working on. i had an audition. i thought it went fine.
my manager called me a week later to tell me i had not gotten the part. i felt so crushed because i felt, oh, this was my big opportunity and nothing came of it. but, oh, well, you can lick your wounds for a day but then get on with it. a few months after that, there was a story line in "the office," where pam was going to work at the michael scott paper company for a few episodes. so they called me in to audition to be the temporary placement, and i got the part. then that part ended up being extended and stayed on for the rest of the series. >> oh, for god's sake. >> planking is one of those things where, hey, you either get it or you don't. and i don't. but i am so excited to be a part of it. >> i don't know what the lesson is there. i think it's to take any opportunity you have and hope that timing and luck is on your side because so much of it is just good luck.
>> i just think that's true in life for a lot of people, but in your field it's so particularly true. your character, for example, on "unbreakable kimmy schmidt" is kind of a really super hyped version of you. she's super optimistic. >> super hyped, yes. >> let's be honest, it's true. it's sort of an amped up version of myself. there is only so much you can do with most things in life, i guess. you try to have control, but what control do you really have? i don't know. >> you can either curl up in a ball and die, or you can stand up and say, we're different, and you can't break us. >> hey, red, you're making me wish i was those jeans. >> well, i wish i was your yellow hat. look out, new york. nothing can stop us now. >> why are you on your last season of kimmy schmidt? did you feel you've said all you have to say about her? i think a lot of us are still interested in her adventures.
>> i love these characters. i love the story. i love their world. there is talk -- i don't have confirmation on this. there is talk there might be a movie for netflix. i hope that happens because it would be so wonderful to revisit these characters. i do feel like the creators and the studio and netflix felt like in this day and age, in like streaming times, you know, we had over 50 episodes of, you know, a long time in this day and age. i feel like we were so lucky to be with these characters -- it sounds like they're all dead. they're not all dead. but we were so lucky to be with these characters as long as we were, i personally hope we can do a movie so we can revisit them. but i think it was a wonderfully nice run with them. >> it's interesting to me that you -- again, this just might be your personality, you have an attitude of gratitude. but that you give credit to the people who gave you specific advice along the way. i notice you make a point of highlighting particularly women who gave you good advice or stood up for you or helped you
with opportunities. there's this one scene. you remember you were writing about the fact that a minute on "the office," you dyed your hair darker because they wanted you to look different from another character and she also had red hair. mindy kaling said, you're a good sport. i wouldn't dye my hair. >> well, first of all, i adore mindy kaling. i think her voice is singular. i think what she does is incredible, and there really is no one like her. i think she's incredibly smart, and she had been -- you know, she was writing on the show from the beginning. so when i joined as a newer cast member, i did certainly feel like on my second day of shooting at their house -- you know, this is not my house. i'll dye my hair brown. i'll do whatever you say. this is my big break. i thought there was such wisdom in her response. it was, oh, i wouldn't dye my hair if they asked me to. and i thought, oh, that's an option. i didn't have to say yes. i thought that was very
empowering in a way because you don't have to. you can say, you know, what you would prefer. >> so what was it like working on bridesmaids? >> that was the thrill of a life time. i actually auditioned for melissa mccarthy's part. i was cast as becca, which is probably closer to me in real life sadly. >> i don't know him. i'm sorry. >> do you want to go for a walk later? >> oh, i can't. >> all right. >> i can't. i'm not -- i'm not with anybody. >> let's start it again. i'm becca. this is my husband. you don't have a husband. sorry. >> that was crazy because when we were making the movie, i don't think anyone, you know, set out to, you know, change the world with like we're going to be all women.
we're going to make an empowering movie, four women. that was never brought up. instead, it was, here's a story we wanted to tell that kristen and annie wanted to tell about being a bridesmaid, having friends get married and how that changes lives. and then all of the hilarious moments that ensued and all of the emotion and comedy that surrounds that was brought into the story. but i think what was so funny was after the movie came out, when they were promoting the movie, i specifically remember one review saying, hey, it's a chick flick that doesn't suck. and i thought, okay, first of all, like where do i begin? >> excuse me. >> i know. the best thing that came out of bridesmaids is that i always knew women were funny. you always knew women were funny. everyone in the movie understood women were funny. i think it demonstrated to studios that a comedy, a huge comedy with an all-female cast can also make money. that was the best thing because
then studios think, oh, we'll keep making movies with all women in that case. >> what is it about improv that seems to give life to so many people? can you describe it to those of you who have like zero talent? >> oh, untalented you. but i actually -- >> tell me about it. i've never done it. what's it like? >> i love it. i started doing improv in college. i actually took a class in high school, but i joined the improv troop called quip fire. i love it because it's the opposite of stand-up. you are never on your own. the jokes do not, you know, begin and end with you. it's truly about the ensemble. and the best -- the best improv sets are those that serve the whole. so it's never about the individual. it's about the entire piece. at the central tenet of improv is yes and. you take the reality that your
scene partner is giving you. you accept that reality, and then you add something to heighten it. it's sort of this lovely way of interacting with people, and might i say the world would be a nicer place if we all obeyed the rules of improv. it's not nerve-racking because you have your teammates there not only to help you but to define the piece. so i just -- i love it. when i auditioned for my troupe in college, i did feel like it was something that i was good at, and i don't feel that way about most things. >> one of the things i really liked about the book is you are really honest about a lot of things. even though you're making fun of yourself through the whole way. but i'm appreciating the fact that you acknowledge that your parents paid your way a lot, that they created a foundation that allowed you to kind of get your start. you mentioned several times that you're really grateful to your parents. you just talked about why it was so important for you to say that. >> yes, first and foremost, i have two of the greatest parents, the two greatest
parents on the planet. they are supportive, caring, loving. but i also thought it was important to mention in my book because i didn't want to misrepresent what was going on. i knew when i moved to new york, my parents were supportive of the idea of me pursuing a career in comedy or acting or however it might play out, but also that i was able to take the time to take classes while working. it was important to earn money to pay the rent. i knew that if something went horribly wrong, i would be able to ask my parents for help. so i just thought it was important to mention because i wanted to be fair and realize that not everyone has that advantage. out it is kind of like a gift to a younger self. i mean it's like a roadmap for people who might want to do the things that you have done. >> thank you. >> it's very honest. i was wondering if when you wrote it, were you thinking it would have been nice to have a book like this when i was starting my career? >> yeah.
well, thank you for noticing that because i have to confess that the parts about, you know, doing improv, improvization in new york and trying to get an agent and doing commercials and stuff, to me, i thought, oh is this going to be boring? is someone going to want to read this? i thought of the very people reading it who might be looking, you know, for advice -- not advice necessarily, but -- >> well, it is advice. why wouldn't they look for advice? wouldn't you have liked to have advice when you were starting out? >> i remember -- i'm not comparing my book to tina fey's. i remember boss lady. she worked at the y and this is how she started. it's priceless information. so i hope that the stories that i told about starting out because, you know, any career as an artist is uncertain, and there isn't a set path. so that's the version i took and i hope it's interesting. >> what do you want to do next? you've been the star of a breakout hit. you've got a beautiful family.
you've got your book. >> i am trying to figure that out because this is the first time in my career where i will be making, you know, a shift, trying to find a new job while being a mother. when kimmy started, i didn't have my son james yet. now james is 2. i feel like striking that balance, which is impossible for any working parent. i have no idea how anyone balances any of it. >> ellie kemper, your latest book, your first book, my squirrel days, thank you so much for talking to us. >> thank you for talking to me. that was a pleasure. >> that is it for our program. thanks for watching "amanpour & co." on pbs and join us again tomorrow night. ♪ uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." bea tollman is synonymous with
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