Angel on Death Row

film/book header
photo of Tim Robbins Tim Robbins Interview


Copyright 1996 WNET Educational Broadcasting Company
Journal Graphics Transcripts
SHOW: Charlie Rose (PBS 11:00 pm ET)
February 8, 1996

CHARLIE ROSE, Host: Tim Robbins returns to the director's chair with his new film, Dead Man Walking. It stars Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, and tells the story of a New Orleans nun who comes to the spiritual aid of a prisoner on Death Row. It is being praised for the fact that viewers are left not knowing where this director stands on the issue of capital punishment. Tim Robbins developed his passion for both acting and politics growing up in New York's Greenwich Village in the 1960s. Best known for his acting roles in Bull Durham, The Player, and The Shawshank Redemption, he made his directoral debut with the political satire, Bob Roberts. With Dead Man Walking, critics have placed him in the top ranks of the filmmaking generation. And I am pleased to have him back here for a conversation about this film. Welcome.

TIM ROBBINS, Actor/Director: Thank you.

CHARLIE ROSE: Great to have you back.

TIM ROBBINS: Thank you.

CHARLIE ROSE: Give me an overview before we even show a trailer of this film and, and the experience that you're going through now because of the reaction of critics to the film and the experience that you're hearing about of audiences who are seeing it because you said, 'What I want people to come away from- is a discussion, an engagement of ideas about capital punishment, not that I have a point of view or that the film has a point of view, but they'll talk about this issue in America.'

TIM ROBBINS: I wa- I wanted to open the door, you know. It's, it's a very- it's a serious thing, you know, that we're doing, killing people, and if we can't look in that door and, and, and, you know, see the specifics of wha- of what really happens, you know, there's something wrong. So basically what we're doing is, is, in an honest way presenting both sides of the issue and looking inside the door of the death chamber, and we're, you know, trying to reflect reality in there. And I think what's interesting about the reaction is that, is that people are coming away sometimes with the same opinion as when they went in, but that's okay, you know. It's good that they're talking about it. If we're going to, if we're going to do such a serious thing, we should at least be able to talk about it.

CHARLIE ROSE: How did the project come to you?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, Susan Sarandon found the book, and-

CHARLIE ROSE: She was in New Orleans making The Client and-

TIM ROBBINS: She me- and she met Sister Helen, and then she came back and read the book and brought it to my attention and asked, asked my company to, to pick up the rights.

CHARLIE ROSE: This is the famous havoc with pictures.

TIM ROBBINS: Havoc, yes. Where everything is havoc. And I read it, and you know, it's such an unbelievable book, and really, everything starts with this, this journey in the book. If there's any, you know, fairness in the movie, it's a reflection of what's in the book because she does, she does make you look into not only the, the door of Death Row, but the door inside the victims' families and, and see their story in an honest way, as well.

CHARLIE ROSE: Sister Helen [PRAY-gen]?.

TIM ROBBINS: [pray-ZHAWN].

CHARLIE ROSE: [pray-ZHAWN] [?] from Louisiana. In fact, some of the filming was shot at the place that she works-

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: -as well as Angola prison there. Evidently, the story is now that when they told her that Susan Sarandon was interested in the book and you were interested in the book, she wanted to see who you two were.

TIM ROBBINS: Right.

CHARLIE ROSE: And so she went to see Thelma and Louise.

TIM ROBBINS: And she thought she was Geena Davis.

CHARLIE ROSE: Geena Davis.

TIM ROBBINS: And then she saw Bull Durham, and her friend says to her, 'You mean, you mean that guy with the garter belt's going to direct your, your movie?'

CHARLIE ROSE: But you got to know her.

TIM ROBBINS: Yes. We, we met. And I was raised a Catholic, so I have a whole other perception of nuns than, than the one that Sister Helen gave me. I mean, mine-

CHARLIE ROSE: What is your-

TIM ROBBINS: Well-

CHARLIE ROSE: -perception?

TIM ROBBINS: -mine was, you know, having to do with getting whacked on the knuckles, and you know, slapped across the face. And so until I met Sister Helen, that was my, my, you know, perception. And after meeting her, I came to remember some of the other nuns I had, you know-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -which were, you know, nurturing.

CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me about casting. Was it automatic that this was a role for Susan?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, absolutely. She's the best actress working.

CHARLIE ROSE: But interesting, when you were making the film, you two lived apart.

TIM ROBBINS: Well, only when we were on location. CHARLIE ROSE: Because the director's role is so encompassing that-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, you know, I- we work 12 hours a day, then I look at two hours of dailies, and then I go ho- and then I have to rewrite for the next day or I have to work out some shot with the cinematographer or I have to meet with somebody. And so it- you know, if I get home at midnight and have to be out by six, there's really no point in [crosstalk].

CHARLIE ROSE: More disruptive than it is-

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. I just wind up waking people up when I come back.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. How about Sean Penn? Automatic?

TIM ROBBINS: Sean Penn was my first choice, and I think he's the best actor of his generation, and I just wanted to go to the best first. And I had heard he had stopped acting, but he responded immediately to the script and said yes right away.

CHARLIE ROSE: Did he tell you why he responded to it? TIM ROBBINS: He-

CHARLIE ROSE: What was it about this role of-

TIM ROBBINS: He said that when he read it, he, he cried, and he, he just felt that it was a, a good script, and he wanted to do it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. When you approached it, you wanted to create what? What did you want to give the viewer, other than a sense of what's surprising to many critics in a film like this that it so clearly reaches out, as you said earlier, to both sides - both sides, meaning not that they are adversaries, but the families of the victims who've been killed-

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: -and the accused, who faces capital punishment for killing them. Each have their own tragedies-

TIM ROBBINS: Yes. And all-

CHARLIE ROSE: -what led one person to commit murder and what led other people, feeling that the only justice is that that person gives up his life for taking their loved ones' lives.

TIM ROBBINS: Right. Well, I wanted to- you know, it's really- the bottom line on the movie is - and the story Sister Helen wrote - it's a, it's a movie about love and compassion, and also about violence and our own capacity for violence and our own capacity for revenge. And in, in dealing with this, I just felt it was really important to, to not make judgments, you know, because I had to address my own feeling about it, you know. And there- quite frankly, if I was in a similar circumstance, I would definitely have feelings of revenge.

CHARLIE ROSE: If someone murdered your children, you'd want to go-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, God forbid, you know, but you can definitely understand it. It's a very human thing. And, you know, the question becomes, well, you know, in the moment, of course. Of course you're going to defend your loved ones and, and be retributive to any violence that happens to them. The question is, is a, is a little more complicated when it's the state carrying it out, and it's, you know, six months later or six years later. But in- my own views on the, on the subject were, were not as, as important as telling this story the way it's written in this book. And it's complicated, you know. It's something you've got to be able to understand, and I didn't want to, I didn't want to pass judgment. I wanted to give these people dignity, you know.

CHARLIE ROSE: What do you think of the fact that some critics are surprised at that?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, it's interesting because it begs the question, 'Well, what do they think I am?'

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah, exactly.

TIM ROBBINS: You know? I guess, so- I guess if you speak your mind on issues, you become a propagandist or something.

CHARLIE ROSE: Or you only want to express your own ideas in your art rather than-

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. I guess. But you know-

CHARLIE ROSE: The creative expression.

TIM ROBBINS: -I don't think I've ever really been guilty of that, you know, other than taking a few stands publicly, which I thought was my responsibility. I've never in my, in my work, you know, been a propagandist or anything like that. I don't, I don't feel I have. So, it's interesting the reaction, you know, and, you know, I'm confounded. I don't know.

CHARLIE ROSE: But you accept it because it's all in- laudatory.

TIM ROBBINS: Absolutely. I always accept laudatory praise.

CHARLIE ROSE: Take a look at this. This is a trailer, but it gives you a sense in one fell swoop of what this film is about, some sense of the power of the movie. We'll see some clips later as we talk about individual performances, as well as more insight into this film. It is an important film, and it raises interesting and disturbing questions about capital punishment on both sides. Take a look at this. Dead Man Walking.

['Dead Man Walking' trailer]

CHARLIE ROSE: How did you get inside of her head - not Susan, but Sister Helen, to understand the story that she had told?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, I, of course, was going in with prejudices becau- because of my own experiences with nuns. So-

CHARLIE ROSE: Those nuns you've told us about.

TIM ROBBINS: My first draft- my first draft was a little bit-

CHARLIE ROSE: Young Tim.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. And I, you know, and I still had the voice in my head-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -so I wrote some lines that really weren't, you know, that good, and I got notes back from Sister Helen, saying, you know- with the little circles and lines to the margin thing. 'A little too nunnish.' So- and I guess that- you know, you didn't want- I didn't want to write a, a sanctimonious kind of holier than thou character, and so the first- when I- on my second draft, I just said, 'Okay, here's, here's the deal. She's a man. I'm writing as a man and a human being who makes mistakes, you know.' It was a tip I got from a screenwriter, Ron Shelton-

CHARLIE ROSE: Who made Bull Durham.

TIM ROBBINS: -who made Bull Durham. And he said, 'Write a woman's character as a man, you know, and then change any, any specifics, and you'll find, you know, there's very few things you have to change. And so I- basically, that was, that was the thing. And you know, also understanding - and Susan kept reminding me of this, as well, is that she did make mistakes. She's, she's in over her head, you know. She's a human being: She's not a saint.

CHARLIE ROSE: When you've got people like Susan and Sean Penn, do you do a lot of directing with them?

TIM ROBBINS: Not an awful lot. CHARLIE ROSE: What's your job as a director there? Just to capture in the best visual way the dynamics of what they bring? And since they're reading your work when they're acting- and your words.

TIM ROBBINS: Well, first of all, the writer goes. He's fired. Out, out of the picture, because, you know, one thing I learned at- with the Actors Gang in theater. We had to do plays-

CHARLIE ROSE: This is a group you created out in California after U-

TIM ROBBINS: Yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: -CLA?

TIM ROBBINS: And we would do plays in about three weeks from conception to writing to performing. And one I- one thing I learned was how to throw out whatever I held sacred as a writer and serve the director and serve the actors and serve the peace. And so, first of all, if an actor has a problem with a line, it's, it's got to go. It's got to be changed. The other thing is casting, you know, getting the right people and then basically letting the actors determine where the cameras are going to be based on what they're doing in the performance. And my major challenge with the cinematographer in this movie was to make a whole lot of scenes where they are sitting and talking different visually and, and somehow create some kind of metaphor to the distance that they are first in, and, and then slowly the barriers between them breaking away to-

CHARLIE ROSE: So you capture-

TIM ROBBINS: -to when that touch happens on the shoulder. That becomes a very very important moment.

CHARLIE ROSE: How hard was it to do that because you're shooting in such- an environment where you have two people-

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: -the two principal characters are interacting either with plexiglass between them-

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: -or in a very confined space. So you don't have a lot that you can do, other than flashbacks and those kind of things.

TIM ROBBINS: Well, we, we did a lot of tests with the grate between them, you know, and how it can be photographed, and how it dissolves if you're at a certain distance with the camera, and how- and whe- and the choice of when do we melt it away, when does it get dissolved, and when is it there, when is it- when, when can you ra- hardly, hardly see the face. It- but it was very frustrating for the first two weeks because we were in that first section of the movie with that grate, and I had these two amazing actors working off each other, and I could not get them in the same frame because of the geographical limitations. And so I did one scene in that set with them split screen, where you see them really going off each other, and you see- you get a, you get an idea of what was really happening. You know, because there was such a great chemistry happening between them, I didn't have to rely on, on cutitng, you know, to create the, the pace or anything. So that's how we came up with that plexiglass thing. We originally had had another mesh screen, so what we did there was we just, you know, said, you've got to see them both in the same frame. I've got to be able to hold on them to show the audience, to show how amazing these people are together.

CHARLIE ROSE: Because he goes through such a range of emotion-

TIM ROBBINS: Mm.

CHARLIE ROSE: -when she first meets him, when he is rebellious and when he is proclaiming his innocence.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: And then he comes to a difference point in his life in this experience, within a confined amount of time.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: Did you shoot it chronologically? Did you-

TIM ROBBINS: Yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: You had to.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: Or it made it work better?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, yeah. It was- because we were- that was all done on a set-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -so we, we had the luxury.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Set this scene up for me. This is, in fact, as, as we talk about it, this is where you have Sister Helen as she has come to the aid, the spiritual aid of this condemned man, she meets the family of the murdered girl.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm.

CHARLIE ROSE: What should we look for?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, this is, this is- which one is this?

CHARLIE ROSE: This is when the, when the family of the murdered girl is sitting on the sofa in the house-

TIM ROBBINS: Oh, yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: -and they confront her and, and they want her out of the house is what they want-

TIM ROBBINS: Well-

CHARLIE ROSE: -because they learn she has not changed.

TIM ROBBINS: Right. Okay. So what- so this was actually taken right from the book, and, and it's, it's one of the remarkable things about this journey that when she's confronted, she doesn't, you know, shy away from them. She goes and knocks on the door, tries to help these people, and what happens is one of, one of the couples is under a, a misconception about her-

CHARLIE ROSE: Thinking that she has changed her opinion because of the fact she's coming to see them.

TIM ROBBINS: Right. Right.

CHARLIE ROSE: And she's coming to see them in part because people said, 'How dare you just visit him-'

TIM ROBBINS: Right, right.

CHARLIE ROSE: '-and not visit the families-'

TIM ROBBINS: Right.

CHARLIE ROSE: '-of the victims.' Roll the tape. Here is that scene.

['Dead Man Walking']

1st ACTRESS: What made you change your mind?

SUSAN SARANDON, Actress: [portraying Sister Helen] Change my mind?

1st ACTRESS: What made you come around to our side?

SUSAN SARANDON: I just- I wanted to come and see if I could help you-all and pray with you. But he asked me to be his spiritual advisor to be with him when he dies.

1st ACTRESS: And what did you say?

SUSAN SARANDON: That I would.

1st ACTOR: We thought you'd changed your mind. We thought that's why you were here.

SUSAN SARANDON: No.

1st ACTRESS: How can you come here?

1st ACTOR: How can you do that? How can you set with that scum?

SUSAN SARANDON: Mr. Percy, I, I've never done this before. I'm trying- I'm just trying to follow the example of Jesus who said that every person is worth more than their worst act.

1st ACTOR: This is not a person. This is an animal! No. I take that back. Animals don't rape and murder their own kind. Matthew Ponsletti [?] is God's mistake, and you want to hold the poor murderer's hand? You want to be there to comfort him when he dies? There wasn't anybody in the woods that night to comfort Hope when those two animals pushed her face down into the wet grass!

SUSAN SARANDON: I just want to help him take responsibility for what he did.

1st ACTRESS: Did he admit to what he did? Is he sorry?

SUSAN SARANDON: He says he didn't kill anybody.

1st ACTOR: Sister, you're in waters way over your head.

1st ACTRESS: You don't know what it's like to carry a child in your womb, give birth, and get up with a sick child interviews he middle of the night? You just say your prayers and get a good night's sleep.

1st ACTOR: I'm trying to be respectful. My parents raised me to respect the religious. Sister, I think you need to leave this house right now.

SUSAN SARANDON: I'm s-

CHARLIE ROSE: That's acting, isn't it? TIM ROBBINS: I had such an amazing cast in this. That's B. Lee Ermley [?] and Celia West [?] and, and Ray Barry plays the other father, and Scott-

CHARLIE ROSE: Father of the son.

TIM ROBBINS: -Scott Wilson is the chaplin, and Robert Prosky and- across the board, just a tremendous cast.

CHARLIE ROSE: Frequently you go back to tell us what- to remind us of what had happened. How did you choose when to do that? There is a moment in which you're beginning to see the humanness of the condemned murderer.

TIM ROBBINS: When I was reading the book, the, the one scene kind of stuck out in my head, and it was this scene where she recalls being with a group of kids and attacking a possum when she was about nine years old. And for me, that was the key into this other level of the movie, which I felt was necessary, which is the, the dream, the imagination - where, where Sister Helen is when she's visiting this guy and driving back from prison, what's going through her head. And the flashes of violence at first obscure. As the movie progresses and she learns more about the crime, getting more specific, and then finally in the end, you see the reality. It felt- it was- It felt necessary to be able to go to that space in this movie.

CHARLIE ROSE: Poncelet is a composite character?

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: How much of it is one person? I mean, is it 90 percent, 70 percent.

TIM ROBBINS: Oh, geez.

CHARLIE ROSE: I mean, what's- you just took a series of people that, that she knew- that Sister Helen knew?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, there were two characters in the book, and I took elements of both of those character- characters. And then I also did some other research, reading some things about other Death Row inmates.

CHARLIE ROSE: Roll the tape. Here is Sean Penn, in which he's lashing out at Sister Helen for leaving him alone all day. Take a look.

['Dead Man Walking']

SEAN PENN, Actor: [portraying Poncelet] Where'd you go yesterday?

SUSAN SARANDON: They wouldn't let me come back.

SEAN PENN: You all right?

SUSAN SARANDON: Yeah. I'm fine. I-

SEAN PENN: I kept asking people what happened. Nobody'd tell me anything.

SUSAN SARANDON: [Crosstalk] What do you mean? You didn't know?

SEAN PENN: I thought you had a heart attack or something.

SUSAN SARANDON: Matt, they told me they were going to tell you what happened.

SEAN PENN: They took me out in that little room one time [unintelligible]. They was weighing me, measuring me.

SUSAN SARANDON: Measuring you? What for?

SEAN PENN: To see how big a coffin I need or something.

SUSAN SARANDON: Oh.

SEAN PENN: Then I come back, and you were gone. I spent the whole day alone.

SUSAN SARANDON: Oh. I'm so sorry.

SEAN PENN: You ever get lonely?

SUSAN SARANDON: Yeah. Sure. Sometimes on Sundays, when I smell the smoke from the neighborhood barbecues and I hear all the kids laughing and I'm sitting in my room, I feel like a fool.

SEAN PENN: [Unintelligible] You know, I, I used to sit at the bar, just drinking and listening to music. I'd dance till three or four in the morning. Now, I ain't going to lie. [Unintelligible]. Me and my lady friends, we'd grab a bottle, blanket, some weed, go out in the woods, and we'd do it. Something you missed.

SUSAN SARANDON: Well, let's face it, Matt. If I had a husband and a family, chances are I'd be with them right now instead of sitting here visiting with you.

SEAN PENN: Yeah, true enough. I'm glad you're here.

CHARLIE ROSE: You- are you responsible for his look, or does he-

TIM ROBBINS: No.

CHARLIE ROSE: -decide that?

TIM ROBBINS: He did that.

CHARLIE ROSE: And what's it about in his head [?]?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, it's based in reality, actually. If you go inside prisons, you-

CHARLIE ROSE: See a lot of goatees?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, you see a lot of goatees, and you see a lot of hairdos, too. There's a- you know, listen, they got a lot of time on their hands, and that's one of their only forms of self-expression. They obviously can't choose their clothing or shoes or anything. You know, it's- they spend a lot of time on their hair, and that's- you know, Sean has been inside prisons in, in a couple different capacities.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, he's-

TIM ROBBINS: And-

CHARLIE ROSE: -been there a couple of times, unwillingly.

TIM ROBBINS: And so that's pretty-

CHARLIE ROSE: [Unintelligible] law took him there and said, 'You'll be staying here for a couple of days.'

TIM ROBBINS: 'You're taking a little time out, pal.'

CHARLIE ROSE: 'You need to rest up.'

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. That's based on reality.

CHARLIE ROSE: But he also went to Angola to- did he go to Angola?

TIM ROBBINS: Yes, he did.

CHARLIE ROSE: To talk with her, with Sister Helen?

TIM ROBBINS: He took a trip with her, yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: And met inmates and met guards, and-

TIM ROBBINS: I'm not so- I'm not sure how many he met. I wasn't there.

CHARLIE ROSE: She's seen the film.

TIM ROBBINS: Yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: What did she say?

TIM ROBBINS: She, she loved it.

CHARLIE ROSE: I know, but did she ta- what did she say more than she loved it?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, she, she's, she's real, she's real excited that it's getting people to talk. She's- I, I called her at one point, and I said, 'Are you concerned at all that peo- some people are coming out of this film pro-death penalty?' And she says, 'No. You know, what we're doing here is we're plowing, and some dirt's going to land on this side, some dirt's going to land on the other side, but the important thing is the earth's been moved.'

CHARLIE ROSE: You went to meet with the families, the filmmaker, didn't you? Did you meet with the families of victims?

TIM ROBBINS: No. No.

CHARLIE ROSE: You didn't.

TIM ROBBINS: Not these- not the people in-

CHARLIE ROSE: But did you talk to families of victims at all?

TIM ROBBINS: I- yes, I did. Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: Because I thought I read somewhere that Susan did not want to meet with families of victims because of the portrayal that she was making. Am I wrong about that?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, she-

CHARLIE ROSE: But you did because of your role in terms of-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, I think what she was saying, she didn't want to meet these people specifically. Why? Because they've been through so much and they- you know, they've been through so much, and why reopen it, you know. It's, it's, you know- for an actor's ego to say that they did their research, you know? Do you have to put these people through the pain again, you know? It's all there in the book. There's the documentaries with people who have been through this kind of thing. You see it on the news every night, you know. It's, it's something that is, is easily researched without having to go to these specific people and make their mi- lives miserable.

CHARLIE ROSE: You have- I mean, you've had some important roles as an actor. You've also made films that were less memorable.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm.

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, I mean, you think of Bull Durham, and you think of Shawshank, and you think of, of The Player as three. I don't know whether your- they're your three. You may have three others.

TIM ROBBINS: Those are pretty good ones, yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. They're pretty good. But when you're making this, did you know you had something? You obviously start with a lot. You start with Susan and Sean and, and that- all the other cast. You start with a story that has drama. When did you know, 'This is some- this is a unique and special experience for Tim Robbins,' and that he was coming at this in his second directoral debut- or the second directoral effort?

TIM ROBBINS: I didn't really have any idea until I started getting these press reactions.

CHARLIE ROSE: Really?

TIM ROBBINS: And- Yeah, I, I-

CHARLIE ROSE: When you put this film on exhibition for people to watch, you didn't know- have any sense that, 'I've done- I mean, I-' - to use a Bull Durham metaphor, you had laid it-

TIM ROBBINS: No, I'm less-

CHARLIE ROSE: -right in the strike zone.

TIM ROBBINS: I'm less cocky than Nick Lelouche [?]. I, I was- yeah. I was petrified, actually. I just figured, you know, that we'd done our best, and here it is, and, and when the reactions started coming in, I was, you know- I, I was pretty stunned. You know, what the nicest thing is is the fact that people are actually going to see it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: It's- I'm really, you know, thrilled with all the press, but the fact that our box office keeps going up every week, you know, that's joust you know, usually they-

CHARLIE ROSE: After the first week, it's down-

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. So it's real- something's happening. You know, we tapped into something and that's, that's what's most exciting.

CHARLIE ROSE: Does this make you want to give up acting and- because you find directing so compelling and, and this experience has been so powerful for you?

TIM ROBBINS: No.

CHARLIE ROSE: Not at all.

TIM ROBBINS: No. Because it's so hard. Directing is so hard, and I, I just love acting, and it's an easy job to go in and you finish it, and you don't have to worry about it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Let somebody else worry about putting it together.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. This one, you stay with it for six months, and it tortures you, and you dream about it, and it's, it's tough.

CHARLIE ROSE: How will it be different next time for you, having done two films now?

TIM ROBBINS: Mainly-

CHARLIE ROSE: What have you learned in two experiences?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, I learned a lot about storytelling in this one, and, and trusting emotion. It's been, you know, in that- a lot of that comes from working with really great actors, you know - being able to allow a pause to sit, you know, and have the confidence that it's not- you know, that it's full of emotion, and that it's still telling a story. You know, that kind of stuff is invaluable learning for me. I don't know. I think the next one I'm going to do is going to be something- I don't know exactly what it is yet, but I think it'll be-

CHARLIE ROSE: Comedy?

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. I think it'll have music and be pretty large.

CHARLIE ROSE: Large? Meaning, like what?

TIM ROBBINS: Large, like telling a few stories. Like telling-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: I, I'm working on a script right now that tells about five different stories at once and has about 30 characters.

CHARLIE ROSE: Coming on after Shawshank, which was the last film that I- that was the last thing you did, right?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, I did a-

CHARLIE ROSE: Something that I've seen.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. I.Q.

CHARLIE ROSE: Oh, I.Q. I've seen that. I-

TIM ROBBINS: Actually Shawshank lasted longer than I.Q.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. I haven't seen I.Q. Pardon me.

TIM ROBBINS: It's okay.

CHARLIE ROSE: But I mean, you're on a roll, aren't you? I mean you must feel that you are at some place. I mean, here you are 35, 6, 7 - whatever you are, you know - that, that you've somehow both the creative impulse, I mean, you go back to- coming out at UCLA and then the Actors Gang. Is that what it was called?

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: The Actors Gang.

TIM ROBBINS: It's still around, too.

CHARLIE ROSE: You know- sill, you still do that? I mean, that- it's, it's still there.

TIM ROBBINS: They're still together, and I still fund them.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. You, you didn't believe in acting coaches, did you, or acting teachers?

TIM ROBBINS: Not really. I've, I've had bad experiences with some. I've had a couple of really, really good experiences, but you know, I think that at times they can be very damaging for, for actors.

CHARLIE ROSE: Because they stifle something?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, you know, what makes the best actors is instinct, and when- I've seen a couple people in college who had an amazing instinct, incredible comedic instinct-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -who started getting into the Method, and started getting into kind of remorseful acting, and I saw their spirit kind of all off, and that was due to their belief in an acting teacher. And so I- you know, I- if it's good for you, great. If it's not, you know-

CHARLIE ROSE: Whatever makes it-

TIM ROBBINS: Whatever gets you through the night, you know.

CHARLIE ROSE: Or what- yeah, right. As Kris Kristofferson said or somebody.

TIM ROBBINS: But if, if, if it's- so, you know, personally, I don't trust some of them. I think that a lot of it comes out of frustration, not being able to be actors themselves.

CHARLIE ROSE: When will you act again?

TIM ROBBINS: Soon. Soon. I- working on something right now.

CHARLIE ROSE: You mean, you're a- something-

TIM ROBBINS: I mean I'm-

CHARLIE ROSE: -you can't tell me about or some-

TIM ROBBINS: I'm working on getting something right now.

CHARLIE ROSE: You- what does that mean?

TIM ROBBINS: It means we're in negotiations.

CHARLIE ROSE: Oh, so if they can meet your price, then you'll do it, is that sort of where it's at?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, it's something to do with that, yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. Did you talk to Sean about directing, because when he was here- I mean, he's coming back. He's in Ireland now. I guess he's going to come back on his way back through New York, and we're going to talk about his role here. I mean, he said to me, he really- there are so few good roles, that he wasn't all that crazy about acting anymore, and that he got more satisfaction out of directing.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. I can understand that for- but I think I'm more- you know, I, I kind of like to do all kinds of different things, and you know, I'm not the one to- I haven't got anything figured out as far as acting goes, as far as what scripts to do and what scripts not to do. I, I want to do comedies. I want to do, you know- I want to take that chance. It's really tough to make a film funny, but, you know, there's-

CHARLIE ROSE: But you want to push that envelope, as they say.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. I want to, I want to mix it up, you know, so I don't get type cast.

CHARLIE ROSE: What is the problem you have- I can't get you and Susan on the same set. Now, is it because you think I want to talk about the relationship between the two of you, or what is the problem?

TIM ROBBINS: No. We'll do it. We'll do it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Oh, sure you will.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. We will. We did it for the first time recently.

CHARLIE ROSE: Oh, thanks very much.

TIM ROBBINS: Well-

CHARLIE ROSE: That's great to hear-

TIM ROBBINS: You, you were-

CHARLIE ROSE: -Tim.

TIM ROBBINS: -out of town.

CHARLIE ROSE: But wha-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, it's- you know, I mean, it has to do-

CHARLIE ROSE: I mean, she promised me she'd-

TIM ROBBINS: -with a few things.

CHARLIE ROSE: -come as long as you weren't here.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. Oh, well, nice of her. But no. It has to do with a few things. It has to do with wanting to maximize the opportunities when you're publicizing a film, and if we're doing it together, we're-

CHARLIE ROSE: Oh, so you want me to do seven fi- seven shows on-

TIM ROBBINS: Right.

CHARLIE ROSE: -on Dead Man Walking.

TIM ROBBINS: Exactly.

CHARLIE ROSE: We get Sean, we get Susan, we get you, and then maybe we'll do something with the ensemble cast.

TIM ROBBINS: Sure. Okay. Well, is that an agreement right there?

CHARLIE ROSE: And then we'll have Sister- Then we'll have Sister Helen come in to kind of wrap it up.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. Have her one. She's great.

CHARLIE ROSE: You know, and then we'll do another hour on the death penalty, using your film as, as, as-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, the problem is-

CHARLIE ROSE: -exhibit number one.

TIM ROBBINS: -you can't fit more than four people at this table.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. What was hard about this thing?

TIM ROBBINS: What was hard about-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -doing this movie? Editing it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Really?

TIM ROBBINS: Seeing it over, you know-

CHARLIE ROSE: Why would- I would think that the joy would be editing it for you because-

TIM ROBBINS: Most of the scenes were.

CHARLIE ROSE: -you had the brilliant performances.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: You had, you had cinematography-

TIM ROBBINS: Most of those- those were fine.

CHARLIE ROSE: -that, you know, you knew what you were doing. I mean, there was a sure hand at work.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah, but the- those were fine scenes to do. Revisiting the violence again and again-

CHARLIE ROSE: Was?

TIM ROBBINS: That's hard.

CHARLIE ROSE: And that was the toughest choice, too: when do-

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: -you do it; how do you do it so that you make the point that you don't want this audience to forget as they're going through the experience of identification, going- maybe going from one side to the other; maybe having some awarenesses come out that they weren't in touch with. You don't- you want to make sure you remind them of what took place here, that two young people were unmercifully killed, you know, in a dark woods-

TIM ROBBINS: Right.

CHARLIE ROSE: -by people-

TIM ROBBINS: Did not want to romanticize the criminal, you know. It's done too much.

CHARLIE ROSE: Or the, or the act-

TIM ROBBINS: Or the act.

CHARLIE ROSE: -of violence

TIM ROBBINS: Or the act. A lot of violence in films is very very romantic, you know, and-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -it's- the- violence has a cost, and its cost reverberates for generations. And it's, it's something you never forget, and so I wanted both acts of violence in the film - the execution and the murder - to resonate in an honest way, and I didn't want to take him into that- well, I don't want to give away too much.

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, you already had so I was coming right at it. So let's, let's talk about it.

TIM ROBBINS: Well, anyway, I didn't want- Turn your sets off right now if-

CHARLIE ROSE: See, I wasn't-

TIM ROBBINS: -you want a surprise.

CHARLIE ROSE: -going to raise it because it was very difficult for me sitting here because I know, having seen the film twice, wanting to, to talk about the two dramatic moments in this film.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm.

CHARLIE ROSE: The end, which we won't talk about, but also this condemned man, whose expectation is he's going to die of lethal injection, meeting with his mother. And that is a dramatic moment, and Sister Helen is there-

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: -and she felt like that was maybe the best scene, I'm told, because it captured a moment for her.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. She told me one of the details - the squeaking sneakers. That just kept- that, for me, was the central theme. This boy, the younger brother of the man that's been condemned, on the day of the execution when there was 20 minutes of silence and the only thing, the only sound was this boy who just had new sneakers, just walking - squeak, squeak, squeak. And it, for me, was so powerful, and you know, it's one of the things we don't think about, you know. We kind of accept this penalty, and we sit on our couches. And someone carries it out deep in a prison at midnight. We don't look at it. We don't see it. We don't want to see it. We don't want to think of these people as human beings, even though they've done atrocious things. We want to think of them, you know, we want to- want to think of them as monsters, as not having mothers, not having brothers, not having sisters. We don't want to think about the guard that has to walk the guy into the chamber. In the book, it goes into more detail than we could in the film, but there was this one guy-

CHARLIE ROSE: Because of the time or because of the-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, because of the time and because of telling the story, progressing. But there's this heartbreaking story in the book about this guard who came up there at one point and said, 'Sister, I've got to tell you I got a problem with this. You know, I'm, I- I'm a good man, and I've got to, I've got to take this guy and kill him, you know. And I don't have a problem with killing: I was in Vietnam, I served my country. But this is six guys dragging this guy out. He was whimpering and crying like a baby.' And I- this guy, she tells this story, and a year later he dies of a heart attack, totally overcome with, with guilt. And you know, you don't think about that. We don't think about there's actual people that have to do this thing, have to carry it out and have to live with it in their consciences and their dreams for the rest of their lives.

CHARLIE ROSE: That's the reason that they do all kinds of things so that the person who actually does it- I mean, you can be part of it. His pain was from being part of it. If you actually knew that it was your bullet or, or your-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, and to be fair, there are some people that like doing it. You know, there are some people that have no problem.

CHARLIE ROSE: Think that they're serving justice.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. But what about the-

CHARLIE ROSE: And that the condemned should die and that they're happy to somehow-

TIM ROBBINS: Facilitate that.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. Does it- does an execution, in the end, relieve the pain of the family?

TIM ROBBINS: I can't say. I, I don't have direct experience with that.

CHARLIE ROSE: Don't you know? I mean, don't you- I mean, these families, the ones that-

TIM ROBBINS: I- you know-

CHARLIE ROSE: -Sister Helen wrote about-

TIM ROBBINS: -I'm-

CHARLIE ROSE: -what it might have-

TIM ROBBINS: From my point of view, I think- I don't see how violence serves any purpose in any way.

CHARLIE ROSE: That includes war?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, if you personalize it, if there's an invasion, or if you want to draw the microcosm, if someone comes in my house, I have no problem with-

CHARLIE ROSE: Right.

TIM ROBBINS: -it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Defending your home.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. I don't have a problem-

CHARLIE ROSE: At- what, whatever means it takes to defend your family and your-

TIM ROBBINS: Right. I have a problem with it as economic wars-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. We talked about the Gulf war before-

TIM ROBBINS: -and religious wars.

CHARLIE ROSE: -the Persian Gulf war, and I know how you feel about that, and you were opposed to that war. But you're not a pacifist, as you just acknowledged.

TIM ROBBINS: Well, I guess I'm not. If someone comes in my house, you know, I'm not. But- and I like- I've got to say I like a healthy dose of violence in sports, you know. I'm-

CHARLIE ROSE: You like hockey.

TIM ROBBINS: I like hockey. I like crunching people into boards and stuff, but it's legal. I mean, no one's going to die, you know. It's a good-

CHARLIE ROSE: Crunching people into the boards. You mean in hockey or rebounding?

TIM ROBBINS: In hockey. I mean, it's a good, healthy way to get rid of that thing that's in all of us, this violence, you know. We've got it in us.

CHARLIE ROSE: Physical exertion.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. And the more you can get it out and play sports and, you know- It's wha- I see my boys. You know, they, they love it. They love being able to have a legitimate way to express themselves physically, you know, and it's, it's, I think, a healthy thing.

CHARLIE ROSE: Competition can be healthy.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. And then, you know, you have- I mean, one of these articles is just ridiculous, having to do with someone saying that I, I like sports, so I'm supporting the other opiate of the masses. I mean, what's that about.

CHARLIE ROSE: What's the first?

TIM ROBBINS: You know, well, dru- religion.

CHARLIE ROSE: Religion, right. Right.

TIM ROBBINS: So, so what does that mean, you know? I'd much rather have 50,000 people in a, in a stadium screaming for their football team than have- than not have that-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -and where that energy goes. I mean, sports is fun.

CHARLIE ROSE: How has fatherhood changed you?

TIM ROBBINS: Oh, well, I don't go to bars as much.

CHARLIE ROSE: You're not hanging out, are you? You're coming home at night now?

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. It's very strange to go to a-

CHARLIE ROSE: You and Susan have been together, what, seven years now?

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: You've got two kids, what-

TIM ROBBINS: Eight years now.

CHARLIE ROSE: Eight years now.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: You've got two sons-

TIM ROBBINS: We've got-

CHARLIE ROSE: -right?

TIM ROBBINS: -two sons.

CHARLIE ROSE: John and-

TIM ROBBINS: No, Jack Henry and Ian Miles Guthrie [?].

CHARLIE ROSE: Right.

TIM ROBBINS: And they're great kids, a stepdaughter, 10 years old. It's, it's changed me a lot, you know. It's very- I was- it's very strange to go to a new city on a publicity thing and to arrive in a hotel room and have this quiet. It's the loneliest feeling, just- it's horrible.

CHARLIE ROSE: Because you're used to going home with two kids and the whole-

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: -pandemonium in your house.

TIM ROBBINS: And you know, I remember not too long ago how going to a hotel room in a strange city and a bar downstairs was heaven, you know.

CHARLIE ROSE: Pleasures unbeknown-

TIM ROBBINS: But it's a whole different life now, and it's, it's- I love it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Does it affect your work?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, it affects where I work. I won't- we try not to be away from home too much, you know. So if someone comes with a script that's take pla- takes place in New York City, I'm going to read that right away.

CHARLIE ROSE: You're going to read it right away.

TIM ROBBINS: Absolutely.

CHARLIE ROSE: See if you can find some kernel of goodness there, you're going for it.

TIM ROBBINS: Absolutely.

CHARLIE ROSE: How about theater?

TIM ROBBINS: Theater? I still support the Actors Gang. I can't see myself doing it right now.

CHARLIE ROSE: Nothing. There's no role that would-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, not right now. It's a, it's a real tough one, because you lose your weekends. At least with films you have your weekends with your kids. It's a nighttime schedule so you get to bed around two or three in the morning. You're not very good in the morning for the kids.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: Right around when they're out of school is probably the only time you can see them, and then you're off at six o'clock. So I love the theater, and you know, I- you know, I'm- will get back into it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me about you in terms of misperce- there is this notion of you as you- maybe because you and Susan, you know, have- you've always articulated the notion that, that you as a citizen have a right to speak out about those ideas you feel strongly about.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: You have taken, you've taken the liberty of doing it at the Academy Awards and other places. And it presented this notion of you as sort of a liberal do-gooder.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: Is that true? You accept that?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, I don't know if I-

CHARLIE ROSE: Or would you use different terms- caring-

TIM ROBBINS: Oh, I don't know.

CHARLIE ROSE: -concerned citizen.

TIM ROBBINS: I don't know. I'm just a boy scout run amok.

CHARLIE ROSE: When did you run amok? About-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, in other-

CHARLIE ROSE: -30 years ago?

TIM ROBBINS: In other people's perceptions, I guess. The thing about the Academy Awards is very simple for me. It's a, it was a specific case - and I don't have any regrets about it - it was a specific case where there were two- about 262 people in an internment camp because they had tested positive to H.I.V.

CHARLIE ROSE: Refugees from Haiti.

TIM ROBBINS: Yes. And the government was supporting this, and Clinton had promised to close it down, and he hadn't done anything about it.

CHARLIE ROSE: And there were-

TIM ROBBINS: There was basically a brown-out in the news about it, no one was writing about it. And here we were in a room filled with people with red ribbons on, and if that's not relevant, I don't know what is, you know. This is about spreading information-

CHARLIE ROSE: [Unintelligible]

TIM ROBBINS: -about AIDS.

CHARLIE ROSE: Choice and AIDS, right. [Unintelligible]

TIM ROBBINS: And, and so the fact that there were people locked up because they'd been tested positive H.I.V. was totally relevant. But you know, listen, it, it closed down- they closed down the camp and let them out, and that's the important thing.

CHARLIE ROSE: You're supporting Clinton for reelection?

TIM ROBBINS: Oh, God, what's the option? You know, I'm looking for an option.

CHARLIE ROSE: Any misconceptions about you, though, when you read all this stuff about you and-

TIM ROBBINS: Oh, it's- well, I don't know. It's-

CHARLIE ROSE: I mean, is the figure you see the figure you know?

TIM ROBBINS: Listen, I think you, you have to accept that that's part of- people will write things that are untrue constantly, you know. I had heard Sean Penn wasn't going to act anymore. But-

CHARLIE ROSE: He told me that.>

TIM ROBBINS: -who knows? You know, I don't, I don't-

CHARLIE ROSE: Did he say that to you when you, when you called him up and said-

TIM ROBBINS: No. Not at all.

CHARLIE ROSE: He didn't say it at all. TIM ROBBINS: Not at all. But you know, you learn to take it, you know, and, and it's, it's cool. This- you know, people will have their misconceptions, you know. People think that you don't have a sense of humor because you're concerned, you know. People use words like politically correct to try to, you know, say, 'Well, what you're doing is sanctimonious or whatever,' and you know, I remember a time when this was a good thing that, that you were striving for compassion and, and for understanding and trying to spread information about people that don't have a voice. You know, the- it's, it's- there's definitely an environment to shut up, you know, there's definitely that message has been sent very clearly to people in my position in the business.

CHARLIE ROSE: From whom?

TIM ROBBINS: From various sources. From editorial columns to right wing pundits to, to- Listen, you know, it's, it's out there. That message is definitely out there, and you see less and less people speaking.

CHARLIE ROSE: There is also the notion among people on the right that Hollywood is a hotbed of, of leftist politics. Your view is different.

TIM ROBBINS: No, it's not a hotbed of leftist politics. No.

CHARLIE ROSE: What is it?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, there's-

CHARLIE ROSE: 20 Conservative, moderate-

TIM ROBBINS: Hollywood is-

CHARLIE ROSE: -business-oriented.

TIM ROBBINS: Hollywood is many different things. It's got many different people. There are some very very conservative people there doing movies, there are some liberal people there doing movies. It- I, I don't define Hollywood in any one way. I don't think it's, you know, a hotbed of lefties, you know. Certainly no. I, I personally am waiting for Bob Dole and Bill Bennett to endorse Dead Man Walking as something that- there's a positive portrayal of religion and a positive condemnation of violence.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why don't you ask them to look at it?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, here you are. Please look at it.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: Let's hear what you have to say about it. CHARLIE ROSE: Because of the condemnation of films that they say promote violence and therefore, I mean- especially Senator Dole-

TIM ROBBINS: Well-

CHARLIE ROSE: -took off after Oliver Stone's thing.

TIM ROBBINS: Well, you know, I, I agree with that to a certain extent. I don't think we should censor. I don't think- because once you censor it, you're, you're saying that no violence can exist, and you know, we had to have violence in this movie, you know, in order to condemn it, you know. But I think we're too cavalier with it. I think it's very- you- I think you- maybe in one percent of the movies, you see some idea of what a victim goes through.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why didn't you speak for three years of your life? Didn't you hardly talk the first three years of your life?

TIM ROBBINS: Oh, yeah. I didn't.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why not?

TIM ROBBINS: I have no idea. I was- I think I was five, actually.

CHARLIE ROSE: Didn't talk.

TIM ROBBINS: I, I- my father said that I just didn't talk. And then, I think when I was around five, he couldn't shut me up. I guess I was storing it up.

CHARLIE ROSE: He's the reason you got into the theater, isn't it? I mean, because he was an-

TIM ROBBINS: I saw him on stage.

CHARLIE ROSE: -entertainer. He was-

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: -a folk singer and- right?

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. It was, it was- I think it made a big impression on me seeing him on stage.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. And by 12, you had a little role here or there, or you began to-

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. I started working-

CHARLIE ROSE: -get the bug.

TIM ROBBINS: -started working in an experimental theater group in New York City, and I started directing plays when I was about 14.

CHARLIE ROSE: One of your sons is named Guthrie. Is that after Woody Guthrie, or is it some other-

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. Yeah, I've- I go- I got to be friends with his daughter, Nora, and they gave- she gave me a song that- and a version that Woody had sung for the end of Bob Roberts. And I just think that if there's a national anthem, it's got to be 'This Land Is Your Land,' you know. I mean, it's such a great song. He, you know, he was such a, an American poet, really.

CHARLIE ROSE: How, how were you shaped by your parents because- I mean, you lived in the Village, lived in a small apartment.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: You-

TIM ROBBINS: I survived Greenwich Village, yeah. My parents made me aware of what was going on, and they were religious- Catholics, and they, they- it was- they believed in fundamentally living it, you know-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -meaning that you had to, you know, accept Jesus for what he was, you know. Someone that was compassionate and someone that would speak out.

CHARLIE ROSE: Gave his life for things he believed in.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. And, you know, Sister Helen was an affirmation of that because, you know, here's a woman that lives in a very practical way and I think is living in the true spirit of, of Jesus.

CHARLIE ROSE: Did making this film change anything for you in terms of your perspectives or- I mean, what- did you come out of this experience, which was obviously very positive and the results now affirm that feeling- change any views, feelings, attitudes?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, I'm not going to direct again for a while. That's-

CHARLIE ROSE: Because?

TIM ROBBINS: Because of, you know, what we said before about it being very difficult. It's-

CHARLIE ROSE: Oh, so it was so hard that you don't want to do it.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's- I don't- I want to do it, but-

CHARLIE ROSE: But it-

TIM ROBBINS: -it's something you have to do. You need a rest after.

CHARLIE ROSE: How many years of your life did this take?

TIM ROBBINS: This took two.

CHARLIE ROSE: Two years.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: Of nothing but this.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: Eighteen hours a day.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. Yeah. But I have a- you know, a much- after this experience, I have a lot more respect for religion. I have a lot more respect for Susan as an actress and as a collaborator, and for the whole process. It was a very positive experience for me. The actors really are amazing.

CHARLIE ROSE: What amazes me is to watch it, and we'll see one last clip here- is to see, as you say, giving the actor room so that you don't have to come in and make an edit. And let tha- I mean, Susan, there was a moment where she- when she was talking to the family, and she realizes that they think that she's changed and she hasn't.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah, that moment's-

CHARLIE ROSE: And she's got to tell them.

TIM ROBBINS: -extraordinary, you know. What a great experience for me.

CHARLIE ROSE: You just let the camera sit there and watch her face, and her eyes.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: It is said of Sean that he had to use his eyes a lot here-

TIM ROBBINS: Well, he-

CHARLIE ROSE: -to tell his story.

TIM ROBBINS: Mo- both of them, you know, considering the confines of their environment, you know, all of it's really here, and for me, really, in the eyes, you know. And if you have a great actor like that, that's-

CHARLIE ROSE: Was there a moment you thought- did you ever at any point in this, in the beginning, think about putting yourself in it?

TIM ROBBINS: No. No.

CHARLIE ROSE: No role that you saw would be good for you and nothing-

TIM ROBBINS: No. I almost played the cop, the traffic cop, but-

CHARLIE ROSE: Because you played in Short Cuts or whatever it was?

TIM ROBBINS: No. It was just that we were having a little problem-

CHARLIE ROSE: Was it Short Cuts? What was the film you played the highway-

TIM ROBBINS: -with it. Short Cuts.

CHARLIE ROSE: Short Cuts, right.

TIM ROBBINS: And I was, I was- we were having a little trouble with it, and so at the last moment, you know- we had filmed it, and it was one of those things that early on in the movie, I wanted to give the audience an opportunity to laugh and know that they could laugh in this film.

CHARLIE ROSE: Where the cop pulls up in- a highway patrolman, and she's on the way back from the-

TIM ROBBINS: And-

CHARLIE ROSE: -and he-

TIM ROBBINS: And this is actually-

CHARLIE ROSE: -pulls her aside. She was speeding.

TIM ROBBINS: -really happened, except she got the ticket. But-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: But she's, she's really a very fast driver, Sister Helen.

CHARLIE ROSE: Really. Sister zooms up and down those-

TIM ROBBINS: She's nuts. So, so anyway, I called a friend of mine at the last minute, Clancy Brown [?], and asked him to bail me out. And he was kind enough to come in.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah, that was a great- the directors you've worked with.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: Robert Altman.

TIM ROBBINS: Mm-hm.

CHARLIE ROSE: Did you call him up? Did you- you've talked to him about directing and how to go about it and what- you know, having any- I mean, do you show it to them and take a look at-

TIM ROBBINS: Oh, I mostly learned- it was mostly on the job experience, you know, with him, watching him and how he treats people is- was my major lesson from him and how he, he runs the set.

CHARLIE ROSE: How does he treat people?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, with, you know, respect, and loves actors and makes it very comfortable for them and invites you to dailies and has food there and wine and beer after, after a shooting day and talks and hangs out with you.

CHARLIE ROSE: Ron Shelton.

TIM ROBBINS: A great, a great guy. Really gave me a big break. I- he's the godfather of one of my sons.

CHARLIE ROSE: But so is Gore Vidal.

TIM ROBBINS: And, and Bob Altman.

CHARLIE ROSE: And Bob Altman.

TIM ROBBINS: They split. Gore Vidal and Bob split the foreign and the domestic on-

CHARLIE ROSE: That's right. You need an international godfather, don't you? Gore Vidal remains a good friend. I mean, you-

TIM ROBBINS: Uh-huh. Yeah. I saw him in- last time he was through on his-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -book tour.

CHARLIE ROSE: Are your politics the same? Do you have the same view of America that he does, essentially?

TIM ROBBINS: Oh, I, I don't know entirely, but, God, he's funny. He's a real-

CHARLIE ROSE: He also- you gave him a new career in Bob Roberts, didn't you?

TIM ROBBINS: Well, yeah. He loves acting now. That's true.

CHARLIE ROSE: He does. That's what he said. I mean, he loves it.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. He does.

CHARLIE ROSE: And, and that was almost- I mean, that performance by- in Bob Roberts was, in a sense, you took a tape recorder and listened to-

TIM ROBBINS: To him.

CHARLIE ROSE: You just were talking to him behind the camera.

TIM ROBBINS: Yeah. Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: And what came out was so good, it was better than being scripted.

TIM ROBBINS: Well, I mean, it really also added a whole other dimension to that movie, that, you know, I'm really indebted to him for. Because he basically gives his view. I just said, basically, you know, 'You've been defeated. Talk to us about, you know, Bob Roberts. Talk to us about America.' And he just went on, and-

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

TIM ROBBINS: -it was great.

CHARLIE ROSE: It was good. It's great to have you here.

TIM ROBBINS: Hey, my pleasure.

CHARLIE ROSE: Congratulations.

TIM ROBBINS: Thank you.

CHARLIE ROSE: Dead Man Walking, as we go out. One last clip. Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and others. Take a look at this and go to your theater and experience this film. See you next time.

['Dead Man Walking']

SEAN PENN: [Unintelligible] before me. I sure hope they clean that thing before they put me on it.

SUSAN SARANDON: Was your daddy a racist?

SEAN PENN: What kind of question is that?

SUSAN SARANDON: You have to teach a child to hate, and I was just wondering who taught you.

SEAN PENN: I just don't like niggers.

SUSAN SARANDON: Have you ever known any black people?

SEAN PENN: Sure I did. They was all around when I was a kid.

SUSAN SARANDON: All around?

SEAN PENN: Lived around me.

SUSAN SARANDON: Did you ever play with a black child?

SEAN PENN: No. But me and my cousin got jumped pretty good once.

SUSAN SARANDON: What happened?

SEAN PENN: We was throwing rocks at them so the next day, they wait their chance to get a hold of our bikes, tear them up.

SUSAN SARANDON: Can you blame them?

SEAN PENN: Well, no. But look, slavery is long over. They're always harping on what a bad deal they got.

SUSAN SARANDON: The kids that tore up your bike?

SEAN PENN: All of them. I can't stand people make themselves out to be victims.

SUSAN SARANDON: Victims.

SEAN PENN: Yeah. They all victims.

SUSAN SARANDON: I don't know any victims in my neighborhood. I know some pretty cool people, decent, hard-working.

SEAN PENN: Yeah. I know a lot of lazy, welfare-taking coloreds sucking up tax dollars.

SUSAN SARANDON: You sound like a politician.

SEAN PENN: What's that mean?

SUSAN SARANDON: You ever been the object of prejudice?

SEAN PENN: No.

SUSAN SARANDON: What do you suppose people think about inmates on Death Row?

SEAN PENN: I don't know. Why don't you tell me.

SUSAN SARANDON: They're all monsters, disposable human waste, good for nothing, sucking up tax dollars.

SEAN PENN: Yeah, but I ain't no victim. They're going to kill me. I'm innocent. I ain't whining. I ain't sitting on no porch going, 'Slavery, slavery.' I like rebels. Some blacks is okay. Martin Luther King, he got his people all the way to D.C. to kick the white man's butt.

SUSAN SARANDON: You respect Martin Luther King.

SEAN PENN: He put up a fight. He wasn't lazy.

SUSAN SARANDON: What about lazy whites.

SEAN PENN: Don't like them.

SUSAN SARANDON: So it's lazy people you don't like.

SEAN PENN: Can we talk about something else?


The preceding text has been professionally transcribed. However, although the text has been checked against an audio track, in order to meet rigid distribution and transmission deadlines, it has not yet been proofread against videotape.



HOME || PROS AND CONS || INTERVIEWS || FEEDBACK


FRONTLINE / WGBH Educational Foundation / www.wgbh.org


web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Stickup KidDecember 17th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS