Monday, June 26, 2006

Johnny Depp Returns as Jack Sparrow! (Q&A)

As mentioned in the Orlando Bloom piece below, I worked the Pirates of the Caribbean junket last week; here's what went down with the Johnny Depp segment of the whole thing...he's the man, really down to earth an' shite...

Q: So talk about your teeth.

Johnny Depp: About my teeth? Well, I've had many problems over the years, several root canals -- once they found an 8 mm tip of a drill bit in one of the canals, that was horrible -- that was a six hour ordeal.

Q: -- and for Jack Sparrow's teeth in the film?

JD: What they do is some sort of filing, they do something to make the surface of the teeth rough and then they hot-glue and laser these things onto my own choppers and the process of taking them off can be ugly. Sometimes they just shoot off and at other times you've got to really address the issue of [removal] -- you know, I don't even notice them anymore. I'm kind of used to them now.

Q: You wearing them now?

JD: ...only until we're done filming 3, then I'll have to go through that process of yanking them (out).

Q: What do you personally enjoy about playing Jack Sparrow?

JD: I kind of like everything about playing him. I feel like it's just good fun to play him. Ted Elliot, Terry Russo (writers) and Gore [Verbinsky] (director) certainly set a course, in terms of the story and all take the very solid bones of that structure and you get to run with it, play around with it a little bit -- add stuff and try things. And get away with it -- just to see what you can get away with...He's just a fun character. I certainly wasn't ready to say goodbye to him after part 1, there was a lot more that could be done, more fun to be had.

Q: Did you go back and look at the first Pirates movie to get continuity for the character at all?
JD: No, oh God no. For a while there, no so much these days, but for a while there my kiddies were watching Pirates a lot -- they're taking a break from that now and they've moved on to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, I sense them going on to Spider Man and stuff like that now -- but for a while there they were watching Pirates 1 and you sort of walk into a room looking for something and then suddenly you hear that familiar score and I'd just exit as quickly as possible so that I didn't have to see it again -- see me again, really. The movie itself is good fun, I just don't have the stomach to enjoy looking at myself onscreen.

Q: Does seeing you in movies effect the relationship that you have with your children at all?
JD: Not so much as you might think because to them it's normal. You know, seeing papa on television or a DVD cover. It's not weird to them at all. They can go from watching one of my movies to the dinner table and not mention the film at all. Then again there are other times where my daughter will say 'what was that line in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory about hepcats and motorbike riders?' I'll do that voice and that line and she'll go 'okay great, thanks' and she moves on to the next thing.

Q: Is that a rite of passage for you though, when your kids stop watching papa's movies and begin watching Spider Man?

JD: I'm fine with it, absolutely fine with it -- you know, they've got to branch out. They've got to explore other worlds. It'd be horrible if I walked in and was like 'hey, hey -- you put my back on. You put that film back on, right now!' (laughter)

Q: You were talking about seeing what you could get away with while playing the role and noticed a bit more of a spring in Jack Sparrow's step in this second wonders what was the perspective you were bringing to the portrayal of his personality.

JD: I don't know. All of the things that are happening in the world, or in your world, are effecting the way that you approach your day -- it can't help but seep into your work, I guess. It probably made it a litte easier that I wasn't getting the panicked, worried phone calls from the studios [asking] 'what in the hell are you doing? You're ruining the movie!' I didn't get those this time, so that might've helped add a little bit more of a spring to his step. I haven't seen the spring -- I haven't seen the film yet.

Q: What about when you're covered in that goo -- are you still able to focus on what you're doing -- how does that effect your acting?

JD: Oh, when I got slimed? Oh, you can still focus...when they dump a large amount of an incredibly foreign substance in your face and you don't know what to expect until it hits you -- you don't really rehearse for that sort of thing -- there's a part of you going, 'I hope this doesn't shoot up into my nostrils,' you just inhale this stuff -- drowned on slime. So that was a little bit of a concern.

Q: This weekend, you're doing the premiere for Pirates in town is it wierd at all seeing the billboards, etc. everywhere?

JD: Oh, it's totally surreal, teetering on absurd -- a kind of a great absurd, I'm honored -- at the same time it's like who'd ever thunk it, kind of thing. Who'd ever thunk? It's exciting, it's exciting. I don't know what to expect -- I'll just have to take the ride and see it. I don't know if that sort of thing will ever make sense, at least to me. It may make sense to someone else but not to me -- it's always a bit surprising.

Q: Johnny, you've been doing this for a long time --

JD: -- I should retire, shouldn't I?

Q: No, when you were a kid, maybe 9 or 10 years old what was it inside you that made you want to reach for the stars? Was it something someone said to you and if so what was it?

JD: There wasn't any one person or anything. I don't know what happened. When I was about 12 years old, I guess, was when I really found my calling -- when I started to play the guitar. I taught myself how to play guitar, I learned and got pretty good -- I had a good feel for it -- that, to me, was my life. I dedicated myself, then and there, to that. I felt like somehow, very deep inside, I felt like I was going to do good with it. And then somewhere in my early 20s that spun out and I was put onto a different road and I've walking that road every since. I don't know if I had anything to do with any of it.

Q: Was your family supportive of your choices?

JD: Oh yeah, yeah. They actually were, the guitar got me out of their hair, it got me through puberty. I remember puberty and I just remember playing and changing guitar strings and listening to records and learning songs and stuff.

Q: You feel like these commercially successful movies you've been in lately have validated you in the eyes of the studios in Hollywood, where -- I know Tim Burton fought to get you onto some of his projects --

JD: -- He sure did --

Q: -- how did it make you feel to get Academy nominations and to have the industry recognize you in that way?

JD: I can't lie and say it's not nice at the moment, you know what I mean? It is nice not to have the director fight tooth and nail to get you into his movie when he did for a number of years like Tim did. I don't know, I think I have a relatively sane outlook on all of it - I just feel like, it wasn't like that for a long, long time and, so, if it's like this for a bit then that's great. But the chances are good that at some time or another it will be like it was again which is okay too. Even when studios didn't want to hire me, you know when I was kind of box office poison and all that stuff, I was still able to do all of the things I wanted to do. I was still able to do all of those films that mean so much to me. So, if I'm a decent flavor of the week and then next week it changes, I know how to do that -- I've been there, it's okay.

Q: Back when you had the textbook "commercial success" with 21 Jumpstreet, you mentioned how that jarred you and you were concerned about how that would affect your approach to the work...can you mould commercial success into your artistic sensibility?

JD: I think people can say and think what they want but I know, for me, that as good as that (21 Jumpstreet) experience and opportunity was for me, in terms of the long run, that was my college. That was great training, five days a week, nine months out of the year in front of a camera. Learning, learning, learning -- it was great schooling. But also, they were pushing me in a direction that I really didn't want to. I really hated the idea of being a product on someone else's terms. I mean, I savvy enough to know that there's a business aspect to all of this but I swore to myself back then that I'll do the things that I need to do and if I fail, I fail; if it works it works but I'll stick with it. So for me, I know that doing Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory or any of these other things is totally consistent with everything I've done since Crybaby as far as I'm concerned. There was never a moment where I went 'this would be a good career move or I could make a whole slew of cash and escape for a little while' -- I haven't changed any of my processes or beliefs. I'm still dedicated to the same thing.

Q: There's been some talk about town of you and Tim Burton reuniting for Sweeney Todd is there any truth to that?

JD: ...that's something that Tim and I had talked about years and years and years ago. And we'd been speaking about it here recently and it's looking really good. Once Tim and I get together and talk about stuff then that sets off the whole domino effect of other people doing stuff that Tim and I don't know how to do -- it's looking very good, I actually hope it happens; that would mean that I'd get to go back and work with Tim again and it'd be our sixth movie together. It's very, very exciting.

Q: Jack Sparrow just looks gay in this movie -- was that the desired effect?

JD: -- well, thank you very much. [laughter]

Q: - did you make a conscious effort to --

JD: -- be more gay? [laughter] No, it just might be happening naturally...God only knows what's on the horizon. The Mae West Story...I didn't make a conscious effort to put a spring in his step or to try to make him more 'gay' -- but gay used to mean something else, didn't it? We'll have to see...maybe he is gay, I'll check in. I'll let you know...Again, for an actor, it's so important to challenge yourself, I think it's important to be right at the brink of absolute flopdom because otherwise you just become complacent. And sort of stick to a formula and say 'well, this is my niche and this works and I can stay on this and safely, as the clock is ticking, do my work and get out while I can. Who knows, I may be a horrible singer but that might work for the character, you never know.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest opens July 7th

Orlando Bloom (Q&A) -- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Last week I participated in the junket for the second installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy @ the Regent Beverly Wilshire; here 's what went down during the press gaggle with Orlando Bloom -- he's a funny kid, yo...

Q: What're you going to do this summer, now that everything's wrapped for a while?
Orlando Bloom: I'm going to -- that's a good question -- I might shoot a movie...might go on holiday but actually I'm still going to be breathing.

Q: Is it a conflict for you that Pirates of the Caribbean is opening around the same time that Superman is coming out?

OB: It's great, are you kidding? I just saw that film, it's fantastic! It's great and so is my girlfriend and it's awesome, you know? It's so important (to the industry) that when big movies are made, that they are successful (financially). Because, otherwise, I think audiences lose faith in big movies -- or in the movies period. So, I want them all to be great.

Q: How much fun was it to play Pirates?

OB: Arrrrghhh! How do you know when you're a pirate? You just arrrgghhh! [laughter] I heard that joke when my sister came on the set -- she walks up to Johnny and asks was great [acting in the film] I just love it!

Q: Talk a little bit about doing some of your own stunts and was there ever one particular stunt that where you thought 'you know what, [the studio] is getting their money's worth?

OB: Soaking wet, 6 in the morning with a flaming sword in your hand -- that's worth every penny. They're getting their money's worth.Believe me, it was hard work -- being wet and cold. It doesn't matter if you're in the Caribbean those rain machines pump out cold water, big drops and if it's night time it's freezing! All the wet suits in the world can't stop that feeling but, you know, when you see it on the big sceen you go: it was worth every moment. And Gore [Verbinsky, the film's director] nailed it -- that's what makes me really happy to see. Because in movies like this, you don't really know what you're doing -- you don't know...You just go, you've got a lot of grey suits around you, the grey suits are those [CGI created] Davey Jones/ pirate crew characters you see on screen -- all those guys all wore grey suits -- they were going to be painted in later. So, you don't have a visual and you see [the end results] and you go: I'm so glad I didn't overact because you could, easily.

Q: Do you think shooting on locations like the one in Pirates is one of the perks of show business?

OB:oh, it's was a gorgeous Island that they found to shoot on but there was nothing [on it] -- absolutely nothing. No good food, no good water nothing...Look, it was a paradise in one form or another, some people would go [probably] go on holiday there, spend two weeks to scuba dive and at the end of the two weeks they're like, 'yeah, I'm ready to go home'...we were there for six months, eight months and you can't go home. I'm not complaining, you just make it what it is -- it really was all about finding the most distant island -- some of that stuff, like the sword fight on the sand, was shot on an island in Gran Bahama. The tide would go out, so we had six hours to shoot it in a day- you had six hours of filming. By the time we got out to these two huge tankers where the makeoup trailers were and then we got ferried out on these little boats to where the water was about [2 feet deep] and then you have to get out and walk in your costume [across the beach] to the set. It was an adventure, it was very, very cool but v ery challenging -- in a good way. But you know, in six hours the tide would come up, we're like 'go,go,go - water's coming! Quick, everyone back on the boat!'

Q: You mentioned the swordfight on the wheel, was that one of those things that look good on film?

OB: -- and an absolute nightmare to shoot! It was mad, absolute nightmare!

Q: You have a favorite scene in this movie that you feel special about for whatever reason?

OB: I thought, when Johnny kissed Kiera, I felt something...I thought a special moment in the movie was when the giant squid ejaculated all over Johnny -- is that a rude word? That was one of my favorite moments. You know, to me, the really special stuff was me working with Stellan Skarsgard. I loved the stuff I got to do with Stellan because it's a father/ son dynamic that is at the real core of Will [Turner] -- that's his battle. The girl or my dad? The girl or my dad? What do I do? What do I do? He wants to have -- as a young man, you have to have a relationship with your father. He needs that and he's fighting for that. There was a couple of things but I just liked hanging out with him. He's a family man, he's a great actor, he's a great guy -- he was a great example for me of a wonderful guy to hang out with.

Q: Are you finished filming Pirates: 3?

OB: Not yet, we're going back in three more months.

Q: So, haven't this been a part of your life for several years? Is part of you ready to say goodbye to pirates?

OB: Good riddance. (laughter) No, you never really say goodbye -- it's weird, by the time you've done all the press and the movie's been released and they're out in the world and people come up to you and tell you about it, you never really say goodbye...It's like The Lord of the Rings, I was really sad to say goodbye to that but I don't really feel that I've said goodbye to it because Legolas is still a part of my life in one form or another. I still think about him -- he's still kind of out there, you know what I mean? It's like he's out in the world and so is Will. So, you never really say goodbye. But I will be very sad not to be walking up to set or flying down to the Caribbean and hanging out, even if it was a long time away from home, lovers and that type of thing -- girlfriends and family - but you know.

Q: Having been hurt in the past for performing your own stunts, does that make you fearful of doing them?

OB: I was fearless up until I broke my back, it's not like that disappeared, then I just realized that this physical form that I"m in is mine and I'm going to live with it until I die. I want it to serve me as well as it can -- I don't to be limping and in pain when I don't have to be. I've been blessed to be given a great physical form and I want to treasure it, you know what I mean? I was very close to not ever standing on my feet again. I was very close to actually dying. But the prospect not ever being able to walk out of the hospital would pretty much terrify anybody into having a new respect [for their bodies] and a new lease on life. I was 21 and still in drama school. I was just a young guy...I was very lucky, I feel very, very lucky because I was young enough to have awake up call that taught me to appreciate my life in a way that probably another young guy wouldn't necessarily get. And I was able to walk out of it. I was in a hospital and there was this young guy who was 18, so he's a couple of years younger than me, and he was a soldier -- a cadet in the army. He just dove into a lake [broke his neck] and he was never going to walk again. He had a cage around his head and that was that. He lived to go outdoors -- he chose a career in the army -- that's physical activity. So, there's a lot that I saw and it was a very humbling experience.

Q: So why do you continue to do the stunts that you do then?

OB: It's a controlled environment. A movie set is a controlled environment. I'm not putting myself in danger-- if I think I'm in danger, then I'll go to the stunt coordinator and say 'You know what? This doesn't feel right.' And then they'll say, 'let's make it feel right.' For the most part, there's a lot people employed to make sure that you're safe.

Q: Do you live in L.A. now?

OB: No...but, you know, never say never. When I'm here and I'm working, I'm here and I'm working. So normally I stay in a hotel and I go to work...You can get anything you want in L.A. -- it's anything. Whether it's food...a mystic healer...a great back doctor. In L.A. there's the weather [and] the fact that you can be in the ocean and then be in the canyons, wherever -- it's just great.

Q: So what's the most extravegant thing that you've bought for yourself?

OB: I'm a watch freak! I'm a watch freak and I love watches! I've purchased a couple of ridiculously expensive wactches in my time just because I love them. My grandfather was a watch guy. Well, he wasn't a 'watch guy' but he had these watches and when I would visit him and hang out with him -- he had two, one was like a dressy watch and one was a lucky watch. I just got so fascinated by the intricate movements inside them, I love watches!...[Mine] are not all accurate but that's what gives them charm.

Q: So, if we were to go to your house right now and look at your DVD collection, what are some of the titles we'd see on your shelf?

OB: Like, The Hustler, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, My Left Foot, The Boxer -- pretty much anything that Daniel Day-Lewis has done.

Q: Now that you've done three films with Johnny how do you categorize your relationship with him?

OB: We kiss and tongues, though. [laughter]

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest opens July 7th

Monday, June 19, 2006

Christopher Hitchens; Bernard-Henri Lévy & de Tocqueville

A few months ago when I pitched an editor on covering the (then) forthcoming Robert Altman film based on Garrison Keillor's radio show A Prairie Home Companion which stars Lindsay Lohan, Meryl Streep, Keillor, Virginia Madsen other A-list talent and is now in theaters -- she asked me why is this film so important to the readership - who consist primarily of the college-aged and twenty-somethings. I told her, "In a few months, there's going to be a groundswell of younger people looking for the real deal . Hindsight 20/20, my prediction was spot-on. Since covering press for it, I've noticed a couple of hipsters around town chatting about PHC -- crazy. (see Q & A below for interview)
[Pictured above: Christopher Hitchens and Bernard-Henri Lévy]

To be certain, the fact that Hollywood scenesters are talking about a 30 years-running radio show should not be heralded as an epic cultural sea-change by any means but PHC's not the standard Hollywood conversation patter, yo. I'd been listening to the show for years now (it's good to listen to while writing on the weekends) and became a fan of the show. Sure, some of the skits are corny and many of the jokes are aimed at the white, geriatric set who tend to wax romantic about the "good old days" which weren't so good for sepia-hued citizens -- and still isn't in many cases -- but it was still worth a listen, sometimes you could get a really sweet mix of un-trendy American music from jazz, to country, to blues to Appalachian bluegrass (long before O' Brother, Where Art Thou?).

In the film PHC, Keillor portrays the shambling and dour Minnesotan radio show host that he's embodied on the airwaves since the 70's, no great feat, some might yawn, but if you're a fan of the show who's been listening for a minute, it's cool to see how it's been done on the air after all this time because although the show's taken on the road from locations all over the country (sometimes from abroad from places like Iceland, Germany and Ireland too) -- as the press kit and billboards read: "It's radio like you've never seen it before." Once I started to check PHC on the regular, I've perused a couple of Keillor's books borrowed from the library; try to check the daily five-minute-long Writer's Almanac entries -- if I'm still awake when they air at about 5:00 AM in Los Angeles and, as mentioned in an entry below, got a chance to meet the big guy in the flesh during the press run for the film but more recently than that, I started to double-think on what I really saw/ heard in the author as it applies to my personal sensibilities...

A couple of days ago while reading Slate's online (this is another show I listen to on mornings during the week on public radio) I found an article by Sam Anderson which pointed out a couple of issues I'd been overlooking about the radio Keillor and the real guy, once a Talk of the Town columnist for the New Yorker, who got the zap on his dome to launch a radio show in the spirit of the Grand Old Opry after doing a piece on the Ryman Auditorium down in Nashville. The Anderson pieced delved a bit deeper into the man while pointing out the way he (sniffily?) left the New Yorker in the early 90's when Tina Brown jumped ship from Vanity Fair (and ushered in Graydon Carter's reign) and took the wheel of (the fictional frontman) Eustace Tilly's vessel -- like politics, you've got to continually read this shite to maintain perspective over the years. Anyway, the darker corners of the writer/ radio host's persona, that I've picked up before in some of his short stories in print and monologues on stage, came to the fore and Anderson's piece put a couple of fish hooks in me...who was this guy, really, that millions tune in to on a weekly basis? Some of the answers to that question came to me via a reaction that Keillor wrote in a review of a book written by a Parisian philosopher who tried to trace the path taken by two of his countrymen -- about 175 years ago.

As fate would have it, back in April I was watching Tavis Smiley's late night talk show on KCET (PBS) which featured a little back-and-forth with the internationally acclaimed documentarian/ writer Bernard-Henri Lévy and it pulled my coat on the Frenchman's new book called American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville, which he'd penned and was supporting on the televised coffee table circuit. Early last year I'd" written on here about Alexis de Tocqueville and the effects that his book Democracy in America had had when it was first published back in 1835 -- in 1831 de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont, both French aristocrats, were sent by the French government to report on the state of fledgling America's prison system. After spending just under a year shooting around the young country's prisons; taking observations on it's society; economic landscape and it's newly-christened "Democratic Processes" they returned to their homeland in 1832, submitted their penal report and wrote books; Beaumont wrote a novel about race relations in the United States and de Tocqueville penned his tome on American Democracy -- fast forward a century and some change.

More recently, while doing research for American Vertigo in the spirit of Beaumont and de Tocqueville, Lévy followed suit and came to the States; visited prisons, visited locales varied and sundry, took a gander at the political, economic and racial landscape and, like the 19th Century French aristocrats before him, went back to Europe and wrote about what he'd witnessed. After reading the book himself, Keillor wrote a review in the New York Times that Sam Anderson deemed "viciously funny," I found myself shrinking away from the Keillor I'd grown to expect via PHC broadcasts and found one of the old, set in their ways, bachelor codgers that he's poked fun at over the years in the fictional township of Lake Woebegone, Minnesota...out in the woods....the kind of folks that would string up what Billie Holiday called 'strange fruit'...careful how you pick your heroes, yo....

As often happens when gleaning articles online, while reading about all of the above, I found a linked piece written by Vanity Fair columnist Christopher "Hitch" Hitchens, another one of my favorite scribes/ personalities who, in print, hands GK his hat with a scathing counter-review and takes the dour Minnesotan to task -- give a mofo a column in VF and they think they're Michiko-fuggin'-Kakutani an' shite...Hitch opens his tsk, tsk-ing essay with this: "Every now and again you come across the real thing: a case of full-blown, corn-fed, white-bread American nativist bloviation...Not since the xenophobic patriots of World War I took to roughing up German waiters and announcing that sauerkraut was henceforth to be "Liberty Cabbage" has there been such a fiesta of all-American bullshit...Here, the Homer of Middle America shows that he sure knows how to sneer and that he's no hick but also knows where Paris is" -- OUCH!

I've been reading C.H.'s VF pieces for a minute now and he's one of the tightest, smartest scribes around -- hell, in this piece he called Keillor out with references to French thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Albert Camus -- to name a few. and makes short-and-curlies of the "Liberty-cabbage" tone of G.K.'s review/ rant -- good show Hitch, I raise my glass to you...I think I hear Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" cranking out of a speaker somewhere...Too, I'll add, it's very easy to get the gossamer partition of what's real and what's fiction blurred while working the entertainment circuit in this town -- seeing people you've just chatted with a few hours ago getting beamed at you from the TV becomes surreal at times. Still, I take pride in the fact that I enjoy learning new perspectives that might help me refine my own, so I'll continue to check out the Writer's Almanac and PHC broadcasts when I can because there's always something interesting going on in the minds of older people; there's no fool like an old fool...and I don't want to become one...Laters!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Meryl Streep, Garrison Keillor & Lily Tomlin: Prairie Home Companion Q&A

It's rare that we get to meet our heroes and she-roes in the flesh and when we do, more often than not, we choke. I've written on here about meeting HR, the front man for Bad Brains as a highschooler and I've kicked it with the likes of Christopher Walken and Danny Glover as well -- but those meetings were on a 1:1 basis. Last week I covered the press for Robert Altman's new film A Prairie Home Companion and found myself face to face with Garrison Keillor (who hosts the radio show the movie's based on; co stars in the film), Meryl Streep (the "first lady of American Theater as Jerry Seinfeld would say) and Lily Tomlin who she defied racial convention way back in the 80's in a skit with Daddy Rich on the Richard Pryor show and has been one of my fave comic actresses every since, so this was no regular press gig for me, it was a triple header, yo! I didn't get the chance for any one on ones; what's posted below is from the press conference, though, again, I managed to get some good queries in as I was sitting right across the table from all three -- too, after the conference I chatted with Garrison Keillor on the way to the elevators so I got a couple more questions answered. Here's what took place on 06/01/06 @ the Four Seasons, Beverly Hills, CA

Garrison Keillor: Where do I start the bidding on these tape recorders?

Q: How o these ladies shape up with the ones you normally work with?

GK: I don’t usually work with other people. I do the whole show myself. It’s an amazing tour de force. They were perfect and part of this picture before the screenplay was written. Meryl signed onto it somewhere around the second draft when it was still really kind of a crappy piece of work.

Meryl Streep: I don’t agree.

GK: Lily came on soon after so I had these two people in mind as I was writing these characters. It’s an amazing gift to a writer to have actors in mind. These two actors, I should say.

Q: How many drafts did you go through?

GK: I write on a laptop so it’s impossible to count drafts anymore. Many. Hundreds. Not worth talking about --

MS: -- that’s interesting. You don’t keep previous (drafts)?

GK: There are no previous things. You just keep turning.

LT: Oh, you should keep little hunks of things. (Their talking overlaps a la Altman).

MS: What are you going to give the University of Minnesota library when you (die), God forbid?

GK: I’ll give them my laptop, I guess. I don’t know. (laughter)

LT: That would be great. Just your laptop. Isn’t that great?

Q: Lily, you have you own distinct comic sensibility. Is it hard for you to master somebody else's or do you feel you have to?

LT: No. I’m a big fan of Garrison’s. I’ve listened to “Prairie Home Companion” for a very very long time. Except for one period where he went someplace and we didn’t know where he went. We felt abandoned. Anyway…

GK: She redid the whole part completely.

LT: (laughs) Oh yeah, I did. I redid hers (Meryl’s) too. I was very busy. I didn’t think about it. You think of yourself as an actor and you come in (and do it). I love Garrison’s sensibility anyway. It’s something I relate to and have a rapport with. You just want to do the part. You want to come in and do justice to your character and serve the movie. And the story and I don’t want to embarrass myself with Miss Streep.

MS: Or, if you do embarrass yourself you want it to be really funny [Laughs]. LT: I wanted to be just good.

Q: How did you get the chemistry between Lily Tomlin and yourself? Did that come natural or was it work? -- you do, kind of, look like [sisters].

LT: You want to hear something hilarious? Because I thought we looked so different. No one’s going to believe we’re sisters.

MS: I thought we looked so alike.

LT: I tried to make your nose like mine. I mean, I tried to make my nose like yours! I had noses molded and everything. But my nose is too wide. When I put it on...

MS: We both sort of have that long [nose].

LT: We do. Somehow, it was just an absolute blessing, wasn’t it? Bob (Altman) must have known. I don’t know how he would have known because I looked and thought, we just don’t look anything alike and who’s going to believe we’re really sisters. I believed that (the audience) would believe it but in my mind I had the doubts. Plus you have busywork to do so I spent a lot of time have noses sculpted.

GK: Which one do you look more like?

LT: I didn’t look like anybody with this prosthetic on. I looked like a … we don’t know what it was.

MS: An anteater probably.

LT: It was someone who had done a prosthetic for you (Streep) and I hired him.

MS: Kevin Haney, maybe?

LT: Yes, that’s who it was.

MS: He gave me a neck that made head go in the back (for “Death Becomes Her”) here.

Q: Do Lutherans send you hate mail for the way that you portray them on PHC?

GK: No. Lutherans would never ever send hate mail. They would think harsh thoughts of course, but they would treat you with elaborate poisoned kindness, and heap coals of fire on your head.

Q: (to Garrison) What's your background with the Lutheran Church?

GK: As an observer. A neighbor.

Q: You use a lot of gospel music. Is there a reason for that in the radio show?

GK: I love gospel music. It’s what I grew up with. It’s got big full four-part harmonies. It just suits me.

MS: And the rights are easy to get. (Lily laughs)

LT: And they don’t mind if you change the words.

GK: Within reason.

LT: Alan Lerner doesn’t come and send you a big letter.

Q: Meryl, I believe that this is the first time that you've worked with Kevin Kline since "Sophie's Choice." Can you talk about working with him again?

MS: Well, actually we did 'The Seagull' and I wrestled him to the ground in that in Central Park about five years ago. And he's a good old friend and so when you say that you haven't worked with him it seems more like he's never been out of my life. But I love working with him...I really loved watching him do this part because it's like Kevin unleashed. It's like, 'How can I make my part bigger?' He's endlessly inventive and shameless and it reminded me of the first time I'd ever seen him perform which in Pirates...

LT: -- of Penzance?

MS:--no, iIt was “On the 20th Century,” which was a play on Broadway and I thought, 'Boy. This guy should be drummed out of Actor's Equity for what he just did.' He was hamming it up and pushing it so far. People were screaming with laughter, but on film Kevin’s not really known for that kind of thing. So it was really great to see him do it.

Q: Meryl, you've been singing since you were a young girl. What was it like for you to sing in this film?

MS: I didn't prepare too much. We just had like three days to get ready and I like to sing and it's just really fun to sing and I don't get to much. And at my house I'm not allowed to because your children can't stand it when you sing --

LT: -- or show any kind of happiness or joy. (laughter)

MS: -- or anything really - just don’t really be there. So it's been hard to wait until everybody’s out of the house because there are a lot of them, and sing. Anyway, I was really glad to be able to do it. It was so much fun, so much fun. Pure joy.

Q: Can any of you share a Father's Day Memory or [something about working with the fatherly] Robert Altman?

LT: (to Keillor) You’re a father, you should have something to say about something.

GK: I was hoping you would say it first, since I’m the father. I’m supposed to sit here and sort of blush.

LT: And get new ties.

GK: Father’s Day is a day on which the most collect phone calls are made in America. Mother’s Day is the top day for sales of flowers. These are facts.

LT: Is that so? These are things you need to know as a writer!

Q: Garrison, you've been doing your radio show for 30 years, was it hard to get in front of the camera?

GK: Altman’s camera is moving around so much and you’re not so aware of it. I had written my part for myself, which is a great advantage really. So you stay well within the boundaries of what you can do. I wrote a small, supporting role for a tall, sort of clumsy, dour person, and I was adequate at doing that. When you’re with a cast of terrific actors, people would think this is intimidating, but actually it’s much less so than if you were with a group of rank amateurs. People as rank as yourself, this would be terrifying. It would be absolutely terrifying, but when you’re with Meryl, Lily and Kevin, you just bob along in their wake. You’re drawn along. You react. Be appropriate, that’s all you need to do.

Q: The consensus seems to be that this film was a blast to make. Can you share an experience from the set while you were shooting it?

MS: Immediately I go dead when I get asked that question.

LT: Same with me. Like when you’re on a talk show and they want a funny story.

MS: What's the funny thing?

GK: Lindsay Lohan did a scene with the three of us and a few others backstage where after a character has died, she is upset that I’m not going to do a little memorial on the show for him. I’m not going to do a speech about him. And Lindsay sits in an old, wooden armchair, and rises out of it she comes towards me accusing me of being cold-hearted. We shot that six times. And you (Meryl) were there too, and kind of came at me hard. I really felt bad. I had written the lines myself and yet they really sting when they’re put to you. And each time she had tears in her eyes. I have no idea how people do that. She had tears running down her cheeks, and Meryl and Lily comforted her and wiped her eyes and she kept weeping. It’s a whole other line of work than the one I’m in. Or it’s just an innate talent that women have.

Q: (To Meryl) How was it playing Lindsay Lohan's mom? She seems to have a sort of darknesss to her in this character.

MS: I don't think she's any darker than any of the other teens that I’m close to (laughter). In fact, it’s very easy to feel motherly towards her, and in fact she is younger than three of my kids. I feel it's so hard for these young actors. I mean, she turned 19 on our movie. It's a different world that they're coming up in and there is so much money to be made off of their personal lives. People are bound and determined to make that money and I felt protective of her. I felt bad that this world that we've given this generation of kids.

LT: And I wanted to go to a rave club. (Meryl) was maternal, but I couldn’t believe that (Lindsay) didn’t relate to me as a contemporary.

Q: How would you rate Garrison Keillor as a dancer?

MS: He's very tall.

Q: Garrison, when you set out to write the screenplay, what did you want to say that you haven't said already in your radio show?

GK: I wanted to finish a piece of work on time and have it not be embarrassing. That was my goal. I was really working on assignment from Mr. Altman. He wanted to make a picture about a radio show. I was enlisted to write his movie. I volunteered to do it in order to keep somebody else from doing it. (Meryl is laughing throughout.) Because I could think of people I would not want to write a screenplay about “A Prairie Home Companion” so I was a sort of a dog in the manger act on my part. It had very little to do with wanting to express something. Anything you want to say you can say on the radio or almost anyplace.

Q: (To Meryl) You have two movies coming out this summer. So, are you gearing up for a whole summer press tour?

MS: Yeah. [exaggerated unexcitement]. I've been trying to convince them that I've been talking about 'The Devil Wears Prada' all during 'A Prairie Home Companion' thing so that I can get out of some of it.

Q: How do you prepare for something like that when your craft is acting? [not publicity]

MS: -- and not selling, exactly. I don't know. Who prepares for that, you know? Q: Are there certain [genres of] shows that you're more comfortable on?

MS: You just try and get out of works pretty well.

GK: A moment of honesty!

Q: Lily, you've worked with Altman several times in the past and he often gets labeled a "misogynist." (Meryl gasps.)

LT: That’s not my interpretation.

MS: Where did you get that? Not on our movie. Wow, that’s weird.

Q: It comes up in film criticism.

MS: Ah, well I don’t read film criticism.

Q: They're kind to you actually...

MS: (testily) Oh good.

Q: Lily or Meryl, had either of you seen a live production of “Prairie Home Companion?”

LT: I’ve only seen it once live. I saw it last summer at the (Hollywood) Bowl. And Garrison is so funny. Because on the radio you don’t get to see him. His expressions standing up there, I thought, this is so good for the movie. I said, this show’s even funnier live than it is on the radio. The sound effects, everything that went on that night at the Bowl was so hilarious -- doubly hilarious.

GK: It didn’t look that way watching you in the audience. You looked sort of glazed over.
(Lily laughs)

GK: I was watching you like a hawk.

Q: Is tomorrow's performance going to be filmed?

GK: God forbid. (Lily says she was invited to perform at the Bowl but she has a prior commitment in San Jose)

Q: Garrison, how many of Woody and John C. Reilly's jokes did you write?

GK: Many of those jokes were their contribution. Mr. Altman really wanted this to be a PG-13 movie. And it was during “bad jokes” that this became a PG-13 movie. He was very grateful for that. My mother went to see the St. Paul premiere and she sat there 91 years old, watching. I couldn’t remember whether Altman left in the PMS joke or not, but then you’re never sure when your mother at the age of 91 remembers what PMS is. (laughter)

MS: I don’t think they identified it until recently.

Q: Meryl, is "The Devil Wears Prada" a character that you relished portraying? Was there any restraint involved?

MS: (She sighs) I don't know how to answer that at the “Prairie Home Companion” (junket)...yeah, it’s fun. And the movie’s really fun. It's an eyeful, that’s for sure. I was incredibly restrained. I restrained my inner Verago. It’s all pulled back, because that’s the way really really powerful people behave. I experienced (something) minimally. And that's her. It was so nice to do this character in 'Prairie' because it's like the opposite, the unzipped woman.

LT: Literally.

MS: (laughs) This one was really fun, much more fun for me to play. The other was more money though.

LT: (at the same time) The other’s more like you, don’t you think.

Q: Were either of you nervous during the Oscars this year?

LT: Don’t even ask.

MS: Thank God we erased those emails.

GK: It was a scream. It was hilarious.

LT: I’m saying we were nervous. It could have been a total fiasco. When we walked out there, I went into a total suspension of belief. I had no idea we were at the Oscars.

MS: You were great. You’re a rock. I’m Iran, you’re Iraq.

LT: Oh, geez.

Q: In your role as the Johnson Sisters were you emulating anyone from the Lawrence Welk days?

LT: The fact is the backstory that didn’t make it to the screen is as little girls, the Johnson girls, of which we originally were four, auditioned for Lawrence Welk, and we didn’t make it.

MS: We had a bird medley. When the Red Red Robin Goes Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along. See, I remember that.

LT: We didn’t make it and my character has been bitter ever since. She’s (Meryl’s character) has gotten over it and more philosophical and stoic but I still resent 50 years have passed and I’m convinced that we didn’t make it because they were envious of us and we were better than the Lennon Sisters. That’s why we didn’t get on the show.

GK: And the Lennon Sisters were communists.

LT: Yeah, the Lennon Sisters were communists. Why did we lose that? We should have been in the cutting room.

Q: Garrison, how easy or difficult was it to give authority over to Robert?

GK: It was a pleasure to have somebody else be the boss. It wouldn’t have been so much fun any other way. He’s been around and he’s a lot of movies and he’s a great straightforward person to work for. It was a pleasure to see the people pick up characters you’d sketched out loosely on paper and make them into something fascinating. It’s hard to do that on paper. Hard for me, anyway. It was an amazing experience as a writer to be in the middle of the maelstrom. And have a good time.

Q: Garrison, did you know that Meryl was going to kiss you at the end?

GK: No. She threw that in -- God knows what motivation there was. Some kind of electric impulse or something. It’s nothing we need to discuss at a calm moment.

MS: He was always trying to recede off into the shadows and lurk around and watch and not be in it. And I didn’t think that was fair.

LT: She ran out there and dragged him on.

MS: I went over and dragged him on.

Q: Garrison, does the ending of this movie fortell what's soon going to happen with the real radio show?

GK: No, no, no. I just thought it was a terrific ending. The moment I saw Virginia Madsen’s walk, I saw it on a monitor screen, I just wished it would be longer. Walking past those rain streaked windows. We don’t get to do that in radio. We don’t get to have rainstreaked windows and a woman with that long Boticcelian hair. That was really stunning and the look on her face as she stood in the doorway. And the looks on our faces...

Q: Garrison, you wrote and performed a Christmas story a few years ago about when you first got to NYC, in it, you got turned down and, as a result, went back to Minnesota and started A Prairie Home Companion. Is there any truth in any of that or was it just a story?

GK: No, I went to New York to try for the job at the New Yorker -- they were interested but they weren't ready to hire me as a Talk of the Town reporter. I went back to Minnesota and I got into radio. But this show [PHC] came about as a result of an article I wrote for the New Yorker about the Grand Old Opry -- I wrote if for them in the spring, late winter of '74 when the Opry moved from the Ryman Auditorium out to Opryland U.S.A.

Q: Have a nice show at the Bowl tomorrow.

GK: Thank you, take good care.

A Prairie Home Companion opens nationally on June 9th.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Virginia Madsen & John C. Reilly: A Prairie Home Companion Q&A

I've written on here about Garrison Keillor and his radio show A Prairie Home Companion which I've been listening to for years now. I was delighted to find out last year that Robert Altman had started a production of a feature film (click header for official web site) based on the show and promptly pitched it to one of my editors. Last week I went to a screener and later did press coverage with most of the cast which included Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Garrison Keillor, Virginia Madsen and John C. Reilly. In the invite, Robert Altman was slotted to show but couldn't because he wasn't feeling well -- he's getting up there, yo. And, instead of one on one's, I did a press conference sort of set up over at the Four Seasons -- I got there early and got a couple of good questions in and luckily, there were a couple of collegues who were working their angles in the creative direction; sometimes others can pull up questions you forget to's what took place when Virginia Madsen and John C. Reilly came in and started chatting...

Virginia Madsen: Doesn't if feel like we're in a seminar or something?

John C. Reilly: You know, I think I did a reading in the room before for a script -- for Anchorman. I did the Anchorman reading in here! (laughter) It was packed in the hallways (with actors) ....Alright, so here we are. I hope you liked the movie because it'll make things a lot easier...(laughter)

Q: How was (easy) was it for you to sing (on camera)? I'd heard you singing an Irish tune on a PHC broadcast from Iceland a few weeks back.

JCR: I've been singing my whole life, so it's nice to be able to do it in public these days. Yeah, -- he's talking about the radio show I did , the Prairie Home Companion, live from Iceland a couple of weeks ago. We're going to do [PHC] at the Hollywood Bowl tomorrow night -- it's nice to be able to be able to sing. (for an audience)

Q: Virginia, what're you playing tomorrow night?

VM: I have no idea...You know what? I have no idea what Garrison's going to make me do but I'm sure It'll be both horrifying and exhilirating at the same time.

Q: Will you sing?

VM: I hope not. (laughter) I don't think anybody wants to hear me sing.

Q: Did you see, or did Robert Altman speak to you about Brewster McCloud?

VM: Not really but I asked him about it -- if there was a comparison (with PHC and McCloud) -- and he said "no."

[inaudible side question]

VM: ..that stuff happens by accident. But I think when he saw it, he went: "Yeah, I like that." And that was it. I was like: 'oh, okay, well...' and then after that he said "the only similarities is that [the characters] are both angels." Maybe because he didn't want me to focus on it too much or something.

Q: What was it like for each of you when you got the call about this? Where were you...what was your first reaction when [Altman] called you about this?

JCR: (to VM) after you.

VM: Well, you know, my agent called me and he has this funny, kind of, "trying not to be nervous sound" in his voice -- when I know it's a good job -- and then he says "you know, Bob Altman wants you to call him." And I said "okay..." and then I say (whispers) "but I can't call him Bob" and his assistant calls and says "Virginia, I got Bob Altman on the phone!" and I was like "I can't call him Bob!" (laughter) and she's like, "yeah you can -- everybody calls him'll see when you meet him. He's Bob." Well, he was Mr. Altman and Sir for about a week -- he didn't want me to call him that. And so then I just didn't call him anything -- I just responded (to his directions) and, the thing is that, after -- very quickly -- when you're around him, you realize that he is Bob. He's very amiable...he's a man of great power and you can sense that, he's really that, sort of, alpha male. And in that way you just want to follow but there's something about him that also has..(pauses to think) know, there's a light about him that makes you feel very relaxed and not intimidated at all...and you want to be creative. So, it took a while but he became "Bob."

Q: How about you John?

JCR: I was doing A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway at the time and I was thinking about what I wanted to do next. And I though, "ugh, I'm tired of doing this eight times a week -- I think I'll do a movie next, if I can." So I made a list of directors that I wanted to work with at one point -- that sounds like a phony story but the first name was Robert Altman on that list. And then three days later after I'd made that list, he called me and said: "wanna come do this picture?" And I was like: "Yes! What is it? Where? Whatever, just tell me where and when." So...yeah, it was pretty amazing. I remember that I finished the play and the next day -- I'd finished the play on July 3rd -- I flew to St. Paul (Minnesota) on July 4th and then started working on July 5th. So it was just a shot-out-of-the-cannon kind of feeling. And I was really nervous before I went -- I kept calling Bob and [asking], you know, "what's your idea for the overall concept for the cowboys?" And he was like "John, when you get here, you are just going to see how we work and everything's going to be just fine." And I hung up the phone and I was like: "that didn't make me feel any better." (laughter) And then as soon as I got there, I realized what he'd meant. Like, you'd just walk onto the set and it's already alive -- it's so fertile, you know? It's not like -- on a lot of movie sets there's this pressure. I just never felt like I could make a mistake, honestly...Bob was just so happy to have me there. And any time I had a question while we were shooting, he has this great habit of just bouncing [the idea] back to you. You can say: "Well, what should [my character] do?" And he'd go "I don't know, [that's why] I hired you! What do you think he should do? That's why I hired you, so that you'd be able to do that work. I don't want to do that work." (laughter) He's really -- I think actors love him so much because he gives people their own power. He lets you collaborate in the process as opposed to [performing like] a marrionette. He really encourages you to fill out your character.

Q: Can you expound on that, both of you, on what it's like to work with Robert Altman versus a -stick to the lines, don't improvise, only one person talks at a time sort of director?

VM: Well, I think it's -- just even the way you put that -- you know, it's clear that in this situation, on an Altman set, you have creative freedom. And you can, sort of, dare to be's like, he's not going to let you be bad. And I think if someone were that rigid, they probably aren't all that confident (with their capabilities). You know, I mean Altman is such a man of confidence that --

JCR: -- you mean he's a "con" man? (laughter).

VM: ...(laughs) No, but he loved other people's ideas. He liked everyone's input because he's so confident.

Q: Was there ever an instance where you didn't know what was going on in the storyline?

VM: Yeah,it was -- not ultimately -- but when I first got there because I too had many, many questions about [choices in portraying her character, Asphodel] You know: "why am I doing this and why am I doing that?" And he's just he's like..."well -- I was just asking so many questions, you know? -- "because you're dead! (laughter) ...of course there were many more discussions like that because I had such a confusing...weird...strange role to play. But ultimately, I just felt really at ease to just experiement.

JCR: Actually, I've worked with director in the past that work in similar ways (as Altman) -- you know, every director has their own way of making a movie -- but Paul Thomas Anderson encourages a lot of improvisation. Lasse Hallström, when I did What's Eating Gilbert Grape would say "just get these basic ideas across and how you get to that place is up to you." So, I've worked with a lot of directors before that let you improvise. It is exciting but it's also a big responsibility because you're, in essence, writing the script on your feet so it's actually a big responsibility. But I like to work that way -- as long as I have a confidence [in] what the character's about, you know -- I feel like I can improvise in an organic way -- and not just layering an idea on that I'd just thought up, then I like it. But honestly, with this movie, I was more intimidated by walking into Garrison's group, you know all these musicians and having to perform music in front of [those] guys and coming to St. Paul -- and even though I'm a mid-westerner, Virginia and I are both from Chicago -- there were a couple of days there where I wasn't sure. Like, how was St. Paul going to take to all of these people coming in to make a movie. And they couldn't have been nicer. I had this amazing -- it just sounds so phony when you hear us talk about it in these kind of circumstances. When you hear actors say "Oh, it was WONDERFUL! She was wonderful! He was wonderful! It was wonderful, we loved it -- wonderful! (laughter) But it was really true. Like, I lived in St. Paul with my family -- they came out with me -- and people were inviting us to barbeques, our neighbors were babysitting for us. It was amazing. It was really an amazing 28 days or whatever -- we shot it really fast.

VM: It seemed like not long enought [before] we had to go...(to John) you must've felt really at home because there was a lot of time between takes, (Reilly) would start playing Elvis and the rest of the band would join in and, the audience members, you and Woody really kept them going. It's hard enough to get a lot of extras (into a film) and, of course, in Minnesota they lined up in support. But then, to get them to stay for hours on end...and you guys were ready for them -- I mean there was music always on the set, all day long.

JCR: Yeah, I don't know. I just had that feeling, as a performer, that if you're standing on a stage and there's a few hundred people in front of you -- you better do something to keep them interested. It's sort of the contract between people, between the audience and a performer. And me and Woody were just thrilled to have -- we could just pluck out a song as best we could [on guitars] -- these guys were just filling it out in the most amazing ways. So, any song we covered would sound really good because we had this incredible band behind us.

Q: How involved was Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) on the set?

JCR: Well, because of Bob's age and at this point in his career, it would fit that he had a backup director -- should he ever not be able to make it to the set. The insurance companies insist (on) that. So, they asked Paul to do it and Paul jumped at the chance to because he lives with Maya Rudolf (Molly) and they were having a child at the time -- he needed to be there anyway...He was a real facilitator, though, I never saw Paul make a decision. It was always him carrying out what Bob wanted to do or, oftentimes, Bob would be sitting at the very back of the theater when we were on stage and --

VM: -- there was scaffolding and all that back there --

JCR: -- yeah, it was all this equipment in the way and it was just a pain in the butt to get up on the stage so Paul would be the runner... he'd be like [trotting back and forth with message from Altman] "Bob says blah-blah-blah." (laughter) and he had a director's chair that read: "Pinch Hitter" on the the back of it. Luckily, the 'official' purpose for Paul's being there never came to be. He was just there because he wanted to be there and, in fact, he didn't have to be on the set but he was just there because, why wouldn't you want to be on a Robert Altman set - especially if you're a film maker?

Q: You talked about being in "Garrison's group" and in dealing with a subject so close to him, what did you talk to him about? Like before you started and while you were shooting.

JCR: I was calling Garrison too -- as I said earlier, I was calling Bob while I was still in New York trying to get answers -- like, I was calling Garrison and they were like: "oh, he's in Chicago with the show today. Oh, no, they moved to Souix Falls -- they'd be travelling and we'd alway be missing each other. But Garrison was just incredible -- he plays Left on the radio show, my character. So, I felt like "I'd better check in with him." I'm kind of doing his character. He was incredibly generous, you know, allowing me to interpret the character as I saw fit -- he never once said "that's not really appropriate." I would say, 'what about this?' And he'd say "do you want to do that?" and I'd say 'yeah, I think it'd be good' and he'd say "Well, perfect, then -- do it." Garrison is so modest and humble, I don't know if he's been in here yet, but you'll see. He can be somewhat cryptic -- you run out and you want to get some chit-chat out of him and get him to say something and he just doesn't go there. It's like he knows what he believes and he's very confident (in that) and he's not one for idle chatter --

VM: -- yeah, definitely. But he (eventually) opened up a lot though, I think...he's around all these crazy actors and...

Q: So John, what was your impression of your character, outside of him being a performer?

JCR: My impression of (Dusty and) Lefty?...I think those guys are -- they're, like, a living performance. (laughter) that was one of the wonderful things that Garrison did with that character. Rather than make him an onstage personality and then back stage they're these totally different people. I, personally, like playing characters that believe in some alternate reality, you know, people that believe who believe in a dream and with Dusty and Lefty, they're living the cowboy dream. So, it was a lot of fun. Luckily, I'd already had a similar relationship with Woody (Harrelson) -- we worked on A Thin Red Line together so I already had, like, this teasing relationship with him. The way we acted with each other as Lefty and Dusty was very similar to the way that Woody and I treated each other.
Q: Had either of you seen an actual production of Prairie Home Companion before shooting the film based on it?

JCR: Not in person, no but I've been listening to the show for twenty years now.I saw a DVD of the 30th anniversary -- they made a DVD of an actual broadcast -- so I was familiar with the layout of the stage, it's very similar to the movie. I mean, there's more production value to the set and the costumes, obviously, but [the way] it all unfolds is kind of similar to the way they do it for real.

Q: Virginia did you ever feel disconnected from the other actors because of the role that you play in the film?

VM: Yeah, it was very odd in the beginning because I didn't get to join in and I wanted to. I wanted to play in the sandbox with everyone else and instead I had to stay on the swings...I thought I'd just, kind of, haunt the theater. I told the props department that I wanted a camera with a big telescopic lens so that I'd just be always around watching from a distance. And you know, it's just such an actor's trick -- I mean, all of that stuff I threw out the window...I just loved being there. So I, ultimately, really felt like I was a part of things. I didn't get to do what [the other actors] were doing -- most days I just sat there behind Bob and watched him direct, watched everybody rehearse and there was a real feeling of [being in] like a theater company. It really felt like we were doing theater, everyday. Like, we were in rehearsal then we were in a performance -- it was so creative all the time, kind of like actor's camp. So no, I didn't get to participate much on camera but overall, I felt very much a part of everything.

Q: The Altman voice and the Keillor voice are both very distinctive, could you talk about how they dovetailed their talents for PHC?

JCR: I was really impressed, I have to say, given the two old men of the sea -- I think with age there comes a certain amount of, you know...I don't know, you're used to being the center of you universe, it tends to inflate your ego but I was amazed at how easily they ceded territory to each other. Bob, for the most part, because of the physical part of the production was out in the audience most of the time, unless we were [filming] backstage. And Garrison, for the most part, was sitting up there on the stage with us the way he does on the real radio show. I thought 'oh man, these are two strong personalities that are used to having total control over their respective kingdoms' and 'how was this going to work out?' It worked out beautifully. I think there's just a lot of respect. Garrison really respected Bob's work and Bob obviously respected Garrison's work or he wouldn't have taken the film. I was like 'wow, I hope I'm that generous and that cool with my peers when I'm that age.'

Q: What's up next for each of you?

VM: I'm taking a little time off and it's the first time for me, ever, that that doesn't mean unemployment. (laughter) You know, I got some movies coming out and I'm going to do a series for a year, in the fall...

Q: How nice is that feeling to be able to do it on your terms?

VM: It's incredible, absolutely incredible. You know, I just kept waiting for it to all just, sort of, go away after that year of Sideways and I was really prepared for it - you know, 'okay, I'm going to have to come down from all of that.' And 'there's going to be a big letdown' but there never was. I had an incredible opportunity and so I sort of remained in that same place that I was in before. Although just, maybe more confident now but always grateful, just really grateful. And I kind of feel like it's not always going to be like this -- because it never is -- especially acting, so as long as this goes on, I'm going to really, really enjoy it as much as I possibly can -- allow myself to take it in until it does change into something else.

JCR: Well, I always think of unemployment as vacation time -- it's just a matter of your perception, I guess. I got this other movie coming out later this summer called Talladega Nights (the Story of Ricky Bobby) with Will Farrell, I'm really excited about that, it's very funny, I think. And I'm doing a movie with Molly Shannon this month, Year of the Dog that Mike White is going to direct and then later this summer in Chicago, I'm going to do a movie called Quebec with Steve Conrad who wrote The Weatherman -- he's going to direct it --

VM: -- oh, you're going to film in Chicago?

JCR: Yeah! I get to film in Chicago

Q: This is just for humor, what did you think of the farting scene?

JCR; Me and Paul Anderson were just fooling around and Paul asked for a farting machine and then, ultimately, Bob thought it would be a good counterpoint to this very serious situation that's going on. Bob's way is always to subvert the sentimentality of things, you know? Allow it to be serious but then don't get too hung up on your own emotions....was it an homage to Blazing Saddles? Not a deliberate the pantheon of fart movies...and on that note...

A Prairie Home Companion opens nationally on June 9th