tv Tavis Smiley PBS December 13, 2014 12:00am-12:31am PST
good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with renee russo who starred in "tin cup" with kevin costner to films with pierce brosnan. "nightcrawler" takes us from the murky world of news to violent crimes that win the ratings race. glad you joined us. a conversation with rene russo coming up right now. ♪
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ over the course of her career, rene russo has starred in blockbusters such as "lethal weapon" "line of fire," and one of my all-time favorites, "thomas crowne affair," with pierce brosnan. "night crawlers" is a story of if it bleeds it leads, still sadly, rules the airwaves. it was written and directed by her husband, dan gilroy.
first a look at a scene from" nig-- from "nightcrawler." >> we find our viewers are more interested in urban crime creeping into the suburbs. what that means is a victim or victims, preferably well off and white, injured at the hand of a minority. accident, cars, buses, trains, fires -- >> blood? >> graphic. the best and clearest way i can phrase it to you, to capture the spirit of what we air, is think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut. >> i understand. >> so just whispering to you while the clip of running that a friend of mine has directed jake in another movie coming out next year. a boxing movie with forrest
whitaker, great people in the film. and you were saying, you whispered that jake is on his game rate n-- game right now. >> he is on his game. the part was written so beautifully. and i thought, okay, who's going to be able to fill this. it's so great. and he went above and beyond. and to watch him work was a beautiful thing. i've never -- it was like giving birth. and i could tell that he had to walk this tightrope and use so many colors at once. he was charming and repulsive and is he a sociopath is, he not. he had to do so many thing at once. you could see him struggle through that. it was beautiful. he -- he killed that part. >> i'm thinking, i hope no one ever refers to me as charming and repulsive. >> i don't think so. i don't think that's going to happen. >> quite a you doality. charming and -- duality. charming and repulsive. that's what actors get paid to do.
there's another thing i want to dig into here about the phrase "he's on his game." as an actor, when do you specifically know it -- when you're on your game? >> wow. gosh, it's really hard to describe. okay. you know when you first learn to ride a bike, remember that? and you realize, oh, i'm okay. i'm on, i'm on, i'm going. that's what it's like. and you can feel sometimes it's like doing a talk show. you hear your going, okay, that sucked. okay, you know, you're having a conversation. a real conversation. i think you just know. sort of like surfing, getting up on the surf board like, whoa, you kind of get in the pocket. sometimes you're good, sometimes you're on, sometimes you're not. i worked with every actor including myself. that sucked, can we do it again? it's not always good. >> that's on an individual or certain project. >> right. >> are there moments in your career -- i'm asking because you have taken a break here or there. look like where's rene russo.
you've taken a couple years off. are there moments you look back and go "i was on my game in this period"? >> i think it sort of depends on the film. like "the thomas crowne affair" i was on my game. >> yes, you were. yes, you were. >> thank you. >> that was a good time. that was of great. he was amazinamazing, john of py the best director i've worked with because he constantly busted me when he wasn't getting what he wanted. he would come up and say, no, you're using humor. i don't want that. he was on me all the time and got me through the role. "tin cup" was great because i loved the comedy aspect of it. that was good. there were other films that i was of pretty much cut out of so that was not fun. back to you -- so i guess you have high moments in certain scenes that you love and others that maybe not so much because you shoot out of sequence. and sometimes you just want to go back and reshoot a scene.
>> right. >> but yeah. >> i think where i'm going with this eventually is to get to what it's like to be directed by your husband as you were in this film. since you're talking about john mckiernan a moment ago, what kind of director do you work best with? what kind of direction is best if rene reducusso is your actor? >> specifics. i need somebody to be clear in what it is they want so we can marry the two together. real communication. john had me go see a madam before the film because he wanted me to sort of, you know, use my sexual energy. he said, "look, you lead with humor, went sexuality." i'm in the chair going, "okay, all right." he goes, "i want to bring that out in you." he says, "you leave that at the bedroom door, i can tell." i was like, wow, he busted me.
he could see through me. so that was great that he was smart enough to go, yeah, that's what i do. i sort of don't -- i'm not like -- i don't use my -- if marilyn monroe walked in the door, you'd go, okay. that's okay -- she's using it. she's got it. i'm not that person, and he wanted me to be that -- >> you had in the film, though, "thomas crowne," you put it all out there. >> he was on me. >> when i'm at home at night and am flipping channels and see you, i stop. do you stop sometimes? thank you for stopping. i don't stop. oh, my gosh. i've never seen a film unless i have nto go in and do adr, loop to loop. i'm too critical. i don't think it will help me, but i have to see the film because it's my husband. it would be completely civilise if i didn't. when all the press is gone, i'm going to get wine -- i don't
drink -- and sit down. >> now we've got to your husband here. how did the project come to be that you were going to star in it for him? >> so danny came to me one day and said he had this great idea, and it was set in a world that hadn't really been shown before, and that he was going write a part for me. i thought, great, but -- listen, how many projects get off the ground -- ground? i will never say, good luck with that. inside i went, oh, my gosh. okay, okay. i didn't really think -- the steeler interesting, but i felt like maybe it would be a hard sell. so -- so i mean, those were my feelings. two months later, he happened me the script just cold. and i read it, and i thought, oh, god, this is the words -- it's a brilliant script, i felt. i'm not always on his team.
sometimes he'll show it to me, i'll go, "that sucks." those are some of our greatest argument. you know, i need to be a little more delicate. i realized it was amazing. i said, "but the female needs a rewrite." he looked at me like i was crazy. the truth is not one word of changed, but i couldn't find her. i didn't -- i did afternoon -- it took me a long time to discover like her motivation. i didn't get it -- i mean, i'm not the kind of person that will step on people just to get where i wanted to be. but i have crossed moral boundaries when i have either been afraid or desperate. so when i sort of understood that or that's kind of what -- i had to find it in myself. any moral boundaries, it would be out of fear and desperation. when i found that, i was good to go with nisa. she's a desperate woman. ok'd -- could possibly lose her job, her health care, her -- her
everything. she's lonely, older. where is she going? and i think that that desperation was the thing that i needed for her to sort of -- for all of her little unsavory behavior to come out. >> you've given a good description of who nina is, the character you play. describe the film for those who are wondering what this "nightcrawler" is and see the advertisements. >> i had no idea but there's a world of nightcrawlers, stringers. they go out from 10:00 to 6:00 and film the most graphic of -- and grisly, everything from accidents to murders, and sell them to the news stations because they get great ratings. i didn't know these people existed. i like to drive around late at night because i love los angeles at night. now i'm looking for nightcrawler. you realize there's a lot of crime that goes on at night, but it sells, and we watch it. it steams somehow interest us,
you know. i've been asked to articulate -- why does it? i don't have a good answer. i think -- i think for me -- am i off? am i off topic? >> no. >> i mean that's kind of -- that is the idea of the movie set in this sort of -- set in this world of nightcrawlers and how they sell -- they sell sort of fear really to the news stations. then we as viewers watch it. >> i think you answered your question -- that's what sells. >> that's what sells. >> that's the answer. >> and it's -- you know, and then why does it? i think human beings are brave in a way. we wake up every morning knowing that the abyss, open under our feet. maybe for me the reason the 405 is backed up for an hour if there's an accident, we drive by, and somehow that's what that's like.
that's the terror that we always are with, i think. we can't be constantly thinking about it, you with there's reality to it. and how is this person dealing with this or that tragedy. it's close always. for me maybe that's why. >> the relationship between her character, your character, nina, and jake gyllenhaal will is -- >> interesting. >> yeah. that's one word for it. i'm letting you do this so i don't give much away. interesting is one word for it. >> complicated. i think we need each other. i know that i need him. i crossed moral lines because i made a decision that he was going save me somehow. >> i'm watching this, i originally bet that you were not going to cross that line. i'm not giving the movie away. >> right. >> as i'm watching, i'm thinking she's not going to do this. she is not going do this. >> exactly. that's what a lot of people thought.
and i -- i knew -- you know what i said to dan? i don't think i will do this. i don't think i will do this. and i had -- >> none of us wants to think that we would do this. >> right? and that's it. i think for me and the audience, i will hope that people would look at nina and think, would i do that? it's a hard world out there now. and it's interesting because i've had discussions with women and men. it's not always age specific or jenner specific. sometimes women not her plight better than, say, maybe men. not all the time. and less than older women who are facing these issues. yeah, you're right. i think there will be people in the audience going, wow, i did that, i crossed that boundary myself, i did this or that. i think fear and desoperate, i think you do thing that you wouldn't or nearly do if you were under that pressure. >> let me jump to the real life of rene russo.
share confidences or tell me something your husband doesn't know. what have you learned, though? i wrestled with this watching the film myself. >> right. >> because this film has -- your husband did a great job. the film raises a lot of questions. didn't always answer them, but it raises a lot of questions. i love that about the film. one of the questions it raises is how you we frame in our own lives, how we frame these moral dilemmas that we find ourselves in. >> right. >> and how we figure out what the answers are to those moral conundru conundrums. what have you learned in your own life about how you approach these moral dilemmas that we have to make decisions about? >> what a good question. you know, i -- i think in order to live with yourself, you have to justify it somehow. and i have not always been able to justify it, and that can
leave you in a really -- feeling bad about yourself. so i think for me i've come to a point in my life where usually in any moral boundaries i cross i've been afraid. that's not an excuse, but i can sit quietly and go, "rene, you are terrified right now. i wish i weren't terrified, but i'm doing something i wouldn't otherwise do out of just fear of loss." and so i think for me as i get older instead of just beating myself up, i'm living in denial. i've got -- >> i wondered what you were going for, but yeah. >> denial is a good thing -- >> sometimes. >> you know, i have -- >> as they say, it's not just a river in egypt, denial. >> there you go. i'm trying to give myself a break. i see things, ooh, that wasn't
right. rene, calm down. just calm down. you can't beat yourself up forever. >> i'm glad you said that. one of the things i thought about again after watching this film -- i've been on this book tour lately for a book i got out about the last year in the life of dr. king. it's a story about dr. king this most americans don't know and issue he faced, moral dilemmas that dr. king had to come up against starting with whether or not he's going to come out against the vietnam war if 1967. a lot of dilemmas. he used this line in the text, and i find myself wrestling with this. again, back to your film. king says, there's evil in the best of us and good in the worst of us. there's evil in the best of us and good in the worst of us. we're human. because we're human, we're fassible, we make mistakes. if i had been nina -- again, i don't want to give the movie away -- had to make a decision like the one she to make, if i
had made that decision -- not giving the movie away -- how, i live with myself after that. in another way, how do you make decision that's aren't always right and live with yourself and not beat yourself up for that decision for the rest of your life if you think you had no other choice? >> right right right. exactly. i think it's different for every person. i think for nina she crossed that boundary, and it was a slippery slope. suddenly is wasn't just about her health insurance. it was maybe i can save enough money now. this is what people want to see. i'm not asking jake too much. i don't want to know too much. i thank god i can work at the apartment, and out of there, there was accident for -- i know that that slippery slope and know that you can -- you have to justify thing. you're right.
we're not perfect, and it has helped me ton judge people. when younger people judge people, i'm like, wait for it. you'll see how you feel then. i'm careful. >> i've gotten in the same place. i was saying the other day that i finally got to a point in my life where i will not say, i will not say in any conversation what i will never do. >> i took the -- i love you. i love you. >> i would never say any did more what i will not do. >> i've judged people heavily on certain things and then found myself right there thinking, oh, my god. no, that's important. i understand that. i understand that whole judgment deal. i get that. >> your husband as director i think did a really, really good job of putting on film what night life looks like, what l.a. looks like when you're riding down the street.
it's aity inny night life. i think he nailed it flalg. -- nailed it. >> i did too. in los angeles, there's a spirit at night. it's hard to describe but he did -- he got. we're surrounded by ocean and desert. and there is a raw -- i don't know the word to use, with sfoirt los angel spirit from los angeles. it is a wilderness in a lot of ways. you feel that. >> yeah. when you were growing up in southern california is, this what you wanted top do? is this what you -- we know you're a wonderful, brilleand model. sally ford way back in the day. i love the story about how th ththi this -- >> so i was a high school dropout. i was going to a rolling stones concert. my manager who is my manager today, john crosby -- >> all these years later?
same guy? >> he was like a father figure to me. i wasn't raised with a dad and wouldn't have had the confidence to think i could be a model or actress. he got out of the car and handed me a card and said, "have your mom call me." he asked if i modeled our acted. i said, no. my mom call, and we send pictures to ford -- i lived at her house for a while. she sent me out on stuff. it worked for me. i didn't have an indication, and that worked. >> why did you drop out of michelle? >> you know, a lot of reasons. i was so sensitive, i wore a body cast and had scoliosis. i couldn't handle it. i really couldn't handle it. i couldn't concentrate and know you're like a geek, wearing the body cast, shoving your bra
filled with toilet paper because you're trying to fit in. >> i couldn't. i would try to listen and get my pencils sharpened and start with hope. and i will hear the joggy green giant. think -- jolly green titan. jnging i wore tights to school. i couldn't stay focused. >> every time i hear or read this, i think scoliosis, full body cast, forward model. it doesn't -- >> right. >> does not equate. >> no, no. i was fortunate to have something in my life where i, make some money and yeah, i mean, it's a transition. you know what, you're always sort of -- i think for me, i'm always in the body cast. that stays with you. it's not great. but i've got compassion, but i
don't think i could take out one ingredient and be me. you know, it is a tradeoff. i mean, i really do haveimity r empathy for people. >> that's key -- have empathy for people. >> that's key, fining your way, whatever route it is, to that compassion. that's the hard part. i meet so many people. we're all the sum totals of our life's experiences. and i meet so many people you can clearly see had issues when they were a child that at 40 or 50 they ain't got past yet. >> no. >> when kitts payment on i and treat you at a good age. they grow up with that in them and find it impossible to find a shovel. i will always be that little girl in the body koicast.
i will feet fight -- will be with me forever. if i have to go to a talk show and dress up, incent of that, it's not that. you can have all of the property, with me -- it's look because like i said, look, if i can help someonein from who's watching, dying, we of learn to overcome. you do. you have to. you -- you have to talk to yourself like shut up. you have to take to that voice. it's not easy, but there are nice things that can come out of it. you can help people. >> back to "night kraumer" before my times -- "night
crawler," before my times came about. is there a message that you think existed where you hope it fits in this son. how will dan answer that question? >> wow! i think more it's the questions which is what you're raising which is great. what are the questions? i think it's a good conversation. there's just so many. i will hope that people -- i don't know if there's an answer. i don't have a good answer for you on that. i really dwoeon't. >> in many ways, that's a sign -- >> it is. then what do we -- what are we doing? how you do we deal with that? there's so much to look at. >> when you go home, tell your husband i think you did a go job. fwhar it ae for what it's worth.
>> thank you very much. >> the film is "nightcrawler," an interesting film i think you will in love. congratulations on another great project. also all good to have you on board. so smart. thank you very much. >> that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on to's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me for a conversation on the u.s. senate. that's next time. we'll see you there.