Transcript:

Speaker When you were growing up, seven, eight old. Sure. What were you watching? What was on TV? What were you watching?

Speaker Well, there was the one big night of television which was kind of hard to remember all the shows, but I think it was all the family. I think there was maybe Mary Tyler Moore. It was the big CBS lineup. I think it ended with laughing. But there was a lot of really great shows in the middle of Bob Newhart Show was there. But it was a funny thing that was real family watching at the time everybody sat around. There are only three networks people forget and you all sat around the TV and you watched specific shows. All the family was very, very big part of my growing up. I was born in 61. I don't know when the show came out, but 70, 72. So I was like 10 or 11 years old. So that was a very big part of our growing up, our family.

Speaker What about so what did you guys discuss about it in terms of your your family?

Speaker Well, it's a funny thing. You got to remember the time we're talking about when it was coming out, which was just at the end of the 60s, and it was really at the end of what had been a really tumultuous decade and the decade which we took on, you know, the drug counterculture. We took on sexual revolution, we took on racism, we took on women's rights, all these things sort of Vietnam and the Vietnam War movement. And quite honestly, the whole country had moved considerably to the left away from the Vietnam War, away from sort of that movement. And so what now when you see the show feels really extreme and really out there wasn't so extreme. I grew up in Kentucky. You know, we were probably left central kind of family, but now would be extreme left kind of family. But at the time, there was no there weren't great discussions about Sammy Davis Jr. kissing Archie Bunker. You know, that wasn't that wasn't such a big deal for us socially because the whole country in many ways had was was coming to terms with that, you know, so it was like ghosty. Sure. I mean, you know, it was funny. You got to remember that the trick to everything Norman's done in his life is that he didn't preach. He made it funny. And funny is how you how you how you learn and how you grow. Right. You can't stand up on a soapbox and say, you listen to me, I'm going to tell you what's right with the thing. You actually take a guy and make him, you know, a bigot that you recognize from your hometown and then you have him say all those things you've heard that same guy say, and then you show him to be as ridiculous as as the same guy is in your hometown.

Speaker But you're not making fun of this, is it?

Speaker No, you're not making fun of them. In fact, I think that Norman liked him and I think that that was, you know, part of it. There was always a you know, you didn't show Archie with no humanity. You showed him as just a guy who grew up in a different era and was ill informed and wasn't he was holding his shoulder against progress, trying to keep it from pushing its way in.

Speaker How how diverse was your community that you grew up in?

Speaker Well, it depends. We moved a lot. I went to five schools, five different grade schools that I said we moved when the rent was due for a while. And then so by the time I got to high school, we'd moved to Kentucky to a small town in Kentucky, and that was not very diverse. Obviously, we had one African-American family live behind us, but the rest of the town of 11 other people were pretty much we all looked pretty much the same. But I'd grown up and my father was an anchorman on the news. And before that he had his own talk show. So I'd grown up in a very in a time where I remember my father when I was a young guy saying, you know, was 16 years old, my dad, why don't you date any black girls? And that's like there aren't any in town. So we didn't grow up in a very close minded town, quite honestly, was a very open town, even though it was Kentucky.

Speaker So tell me about that journalism versus a sitcom or entertainment serving social commentary. Well, something that you were that everyone was comfortable with or like. Did your father think did you have an issue with that?

Speaker No. I think that you have to remember what news on television meant at that time when television first started. And it's an important thing that people sort of forget. These airwaves were rented to these three networks and they were the public airwaves. And part of the deal was that in doing that, you owe a service to the country, meaning that you can make money during the period of time that you show these television shows. But you owe us the news and the news you will lose money on.

Speaker But that's the service you pay for getting these airwaves and being allowed to rent these airwaves. So the news is always a loss leader. It wasn't entertainment. It was really straight news. And then as time went on. People figured out really sort of toward the end of the late 70s, mostly, they figured out way we could actually program the news. I mean, Paddy Chayefsky writes really well about it, a network, what he talks about when he sort of shows the the the programming department taking over the news department.

Speaker So news was slowly, you know, adopted by the programming environment.

Speaker And that changed everything and has obviously changed the way we look at news. In the meantime, social commentary was everywhere. It wasn't just on you know, it wasn't just on sitcoms, although it was it was everywhere you went. We were in the midst of a revolution of talking about ideas and truly at the forefront of that would be mainstream television was one of the last things to jump. And the first person to force it over that hill was what was known that it was going you know, everything else was moving quicker, that, you know, that's sort of why it's sort of where Michael ends up being sort of the forward thinking hippie on the show is because that had happened already. You know, the news was I mean, the the TV was slow to do it. You know, they were still guys with their hair parted over wearing thin ties. But Norman was pushing all the envelopes there.

Speaker What about did you were you at all aware of this thing that Norman had to deal with, called the family that were sort of all the program practices?

Speaker I wasn't at the time, you know, because honestly, that that was not something you focused on in Cincinnati, Ohio or Kentucky or something. We did understand what that sort of version of it was, but we didn't understand what it is and what he was dealing with and what he was the restrictions that were put on him.

Speaker Um.

Speaker So when did you when you first meet our friend Norman, Norman ran a company called NBC Television and in 1984. Right. 1984, Alan Horn was the head of NBC television, who's now the head of Disney. And I had auditioned for a sitcom starring Elliot Gould called E.R., which was a believe it or not, 10 years before the other E.R. and it was about a Chicago hospital. And I played a young intern on the show and I got the job. And that was an NBC television show. And I met Norman then.

Speaker And then the show got canceled after a year and they spun me off, basically pushed me on to the Facts of Life, which was also an embassy television show, which I did bits and pieces for a couple of years. So I spent time. Then Norman would show up with his famous hat on the set every once in a while. And I got to know him only as sort of the iconic figure of, you know, he was already Norman Lear by a long shot at that point. So it was just fun for me to go up and shake his hand and say I was always the kindest guy in the room.

Speaker So did he ever indicate to you that he thought you were some special talent because this is coming up over, he's discovered so many people?

Speaker Oh, well, I tell you, there's a funny thing about Norman. There is no one he meets that doesn't think that they know him best. There isn't anyone he meets that doesn't get the sense that he and I are really good friends and really close. And I think that's the grandest quality you could have, is that he looks everyone in the eye and finds the things about them that is unique and is interesting and asks questions. Here's a funny thing. How does Norman. Ninety three years old. I need to. There is a tendency for people when they get older to tell us about their lives and to tell us about themselves, which is an interesting thing and fun to do, but they've lost their curiosity. They've now gotten to the point where they're going to regale us with great stories and they're great storytellers because they grew up in the era of radio, not television. So if you had to tell story and they're fun and they enjoy having sitting around the fire and having all their family listen to stories, but they stopped asking questions and they're not learning anymore. And Norman, you know, having dinner with them in two nights and I can guarantee you the conversation will mostly be him trying to ask questions. He's interested in people on life. And so everyone who was on those sets with Norman would come over and talk to you while all the people that you meet say, you know, Norman was, you know, saw something in me. He sees something in everyone. And that's what is what makes him so unique as an individual.

Speaker How I got this job. Exactly. Oh, yeah.

Speaker It's an interesting thing. The there's an awful lot of Archie Bunker of of that show. There's an awful lot of a lot of the shows from that period of time that not only hold up, but you couldn't do now. I mean, there's a lot of stuff on that show, soap, soap. So you couldn't actually do now on television, on network television, you could do it on on, you know, other versions. You're Breaking Bad and stuff like that. You do. But Network TV, you'd still have a hard time getting away with a lot of this specific kind of stuff. Well, I mean, you know, some of the words of the racial words and there you could never do it was a different time. And there was the ability to there was there was an ability to talk about things a little bit better. I think there was a willingness to talk about things a little bit better, but very tricky to use that kind of language on network TV. Very tricky. It's the most important issue, which, of course, is a big deal. You know, Norman said to me that when they first aired it, The Mod Show, having the abortion, it wasn't a big deal. It wasn't a highly rated show. It was highly rated show. It wasn't they weren't all the protests and my know it was the reruns when they got together and decided that's now we're going to we're going to you know, we've got our act together when we come after them. Right. You yeah. I'm not quite sure. I think it was you know, it was the pro-life, the early versions of pro-life because it wasn't that long after Roe versus Wade. It's an what I love about this is that this is all taking place in a period of time where we were at our probably our greatest change socially. You know, if you think about where we were like this show 10, 15 years earlier is in black and white, there would be some of the same melodrama of a twilight zone. There'd be some of the yelling and the passion and, you know, and Twilight Zone was very you know, they went after some big subjects, too, and talked about them. You'll see, I'm the they called me black and shows like that where it's about, you know, the anger towards the death penalty and the anger towards Vietnam. You see those kind of things. But they were so much more subtle done this. Norman was able to say, OK, now it's time and just kick the door open, say we're going to talk about all this in our homes. And it does force families to talk about things. It doesn't make you make decisions and force you to talk about things. And I think that's what he's always been able to do as a storyteller. And I'd say you have to believe this, but you have to talk about it. And I think that's a we're watching those is a beautiful thing to see.

Speaker We're actually interviewing Carl Carl Reiner tomorrow, my hero, Dick Van Dyke. Yeah, yeah, the family of the 70s.

Speaker Carl has the same quality, though, as I done all the ocean's films with Carl. And we're friends and I love him. And again, the same quality, which is probably somewhere in his 90s. I don't know where has that same interest in other things. We would sit around the whole ocean's cast would sit around and we would just surround Carl and we'd ask him to tell stories. And all he would do is ask everyone else questions and then sort of formulate stories through that. Again, another person who was greatly interested in not just in telling stories, but interested in humankind there there are good duos to go sailing there.

Speaker And you do. Yeah, little kids.

Speaker TV's more afraid now and and part of it is we are more polarized as a country and some of that reason, a good portion of that reason is because we have sort of dedicated our watching of television now to our own sort of beliefs. When I was growing up, there were three networks.

Speaker There was ABC, CBS and NBC. So let's say you're watching the news and you want to watch Walter Cronkite on CBS or you want to watch ABC TV News or you want to watch.

Speaker I can't remember. It was it Brinkley was doing it.

Speaker It was Howard K. Smith and Harry Reasoner on ABC. Basically, those three networks gave you basically the same information, which was what they could glean from their reporters. And they had more reporters then. But it was basically the same information. And you took that into your home and you use that information to come up with your version based on your political beliefs, your religious beliefs, your social standing you came up with where you stood on these subjects, the Vietnam War, racism, anything. You came up with those subjects. But it was all within the pattern of we're starting with the same fact base. We now sort of now we've gotten to a place where you designed the facts that you want to get by going to the station that best represents your point of view. So your fan bases are starting from such different levels that you can go to many of my friends who are very close to in Kentucky, and we could talk about subjects when I was a young man and we could talk about subjects like this. And there wouldn't be this great disparity because the facts would sort of start from here. And we go, well, I believe this. I believe this. You can talk about it. But now you go, well, if you want to talk about Iraq, it's because those guys bombed us in 9/11. That's a fact to a good many people because that's what they were told by the place that they went to for information and from others from another direction. So we are more polarized because of it and not getting any closer. And so it's very hard for us. I mean, look at our our version of having to try to talk about things that should be easily talked about race in America, which still exists. The problems that you can't just say that's just gone. You know, when you look at the world, you look at the inequality of it, you can't just say, well, it's just done. Of course it's not done. It's not going to be erased overnight. And, you know, we the third rail in Hollywood, you can't talk about Israel and Palestine. You can't talk about it because any version of that conversation is explosive. We found these sort of third rails now everywhere that used to be you could have a legitimate conversation about it without it being completely explosive. And I miss that conversation. And he was very good. Norman was very, very good at saying let's talk.

Speaker So news is being spoon fed.

Speaker Sure. What about. Well. What about entertainment? What about.

Speaker Not what I think there's a great democratization of entertainment lately, and it's come because you can make your own shows. I mean, YouTube in many ways sort of helps that now. It means there's a lot of crap out there. There's a lot more crap out there and there isn't. But I'm very hopeful in the idea that some of the things that get filtered through this can be really interesting and sort of take away the idea of this very old fashioned state. Kind of this is storytelling or this is this is what you should see and what you shouldn't see.

Speaker I find that all those off networks that used to not you know, the AMC is into all of the channels that used to not matter. Are doing really interesting shows now, and I think it really sort of started with The Sopranos on HBO being able to push the limits as well as original programming. And now it's all over the place and you see just great programming off network, which forces the network to push the limits and get away from some of the old standards of practices that kept them down.

Speaker Right. So there is actually advancing in a way.

Speaker I think so, but it's you know, you've been going through a lot of dreck along the way, too, you know, because honestly, it happens in all industry happens in the film industry, too. When you find something that works, you how many stars can you have and how many you know, how many action heroes you have in movies? Once it works, you just keep doing it until people stop doing it.

Speaker But never, never. Well, it's going to go on forever. So we actually went off. I was going to ask you about our characters here. Right. Sorry to avoid that, but.

Speaker So.

Speaker Do any of these characters resonate with you?

Speaker The ones, the George Jefferson, for instance, Norman says the character that he most identifies with. And that is most like him, that he based on himself, Isabel and Stanford, is not close. Yeah, that might be true.

Speaker Oh, and there's for me that makes me love him. Yeah. You.

Speaker Well, it's a funny my funny because she was so much meaner than Norman. You know, Norman, there may be some little part in him somewhere that has that kind of I want to get you, but there's such a kindness to him and it's such a like just thump you. But my a really good one. I'd like to think about the characters. It's spun off of all the family. How many shows that spun off of that show. Florence came off of that. The Jeffersons came up with that modicum of I don't know, there was there was when I was growing up on.

Speaker Let me think of the ones the shows that I really I mean, we watched them all, you know, JJ was our favorite because he was outrageous and fun. But I wasn't very I wasn't outrageous like that as a young man growing up, more like his angry daughter. Angry sister. Yeah.

Speaker I don't know that you're the really young one. Remember the really young when who would just be mad all the time?

Speaker I don't know. No, you know, I, I didn't I guess I was too young to relate to any of the characters, but but I could see how Norman would relate to them.

Speaker That makes total sense of. So we were just we were getting into it a little bit, which is about the activism you guys share. Um. And I know all the stuff just went down recently where you were frustrated that people have no balls.

Speaker Oh, you mean the Sony hacks and stuff?

Speaker Yeah. Yeah. So where is there is Hollywood a place that. We can count on for. Activism and for standing up for stuff it can't be.

Speaker I mean, the beautiful thing is Hollywood isn't what it used to be, which is it used to be, you know, seven studios that sort of controlled their press and controlled their stars and and was very much decided kind of what would happen, really, the films from probably between nineteen. 64 to 76 sort of changed the way Hollywood looked at things, you know, 64 because it was Dr. Strangelove and the spy who came in from the Cold and Fail-Safe and 76 because it was all the president's men and bound for glory and taxi driver and know, pushing the envelope way outside of what Hollywood had, you know, come to know.

Speaker And all the films in that sort of 12 year span sort of pushed everything out. So it's not really Hollywood anymore. You can't really call it. It's such a different beast. It's it's all sort of flowing, ebbing and flowing. But I find that the community itself and there are parts of it that I feel really are a community, will abdicate their responsibility whenever when real risk is involved. And I've seen that happen personally and I've seen it happen to two people in the business over the years. We did it during the blacklist. You know, you can look at Garfield, you can look at actors like that. They were just gone. You know, they were just finished because it was important not to. To to see them, I found a telegram. A woman asked me to come over and go shoot a bunch of artifacts that belonged to Sinatra and to a bunch of the Rat Pack guys, I think because I'd done Ocean's Eleven and she said, I have all this stuff. I found an old telegram from Dalton Trumbo to another to an actor. I think maybe the Frank or I can't remember who it was, but anyway, in the letter he said, thank you for coming over and shaking my hand. He was at the Brown Derby. He goes, but Andy Dalton Trumbo had been blacklisted at this point. And he said, but let's but let's just say from now on that you and I both know that we're friends and you don't have to come over and shake my hand in public. And and the idea that that was that scary time for people in Hollywood, it's only scary for people in Hollywood when people in Hollywood allow it to be, you know, if you're only works, if you sort of everybody around, you get scared. And that's what happened recently with the hacking scandal at Sony, was it wasn't just that, you know, that the press totally dropped the ball and were covering salacious, stupid stories that who gives a damn about it was that they weren't covering the story. That was the most important one, which was that someone outside of our country was trying to to influence the content that we were putting out and that all of the rest of the studios who were afraid of their, you know, their films were not coming out or their films being at risk at those theaters or their emails being hacked or their emails with Sony being released completely walked away and the NBA walked away. And we were there in the middle of it all and watched it. And I was shocked to see it. So the community needs leaders and I don't see a whole lot of that coming out right now. I see it. You know, I don't see a lot of normal leaders out there saying, let's all stand up and go fight these fights. It'll happen, you know, ebbs and flows again.

Speaker But right now, I don't see what is government's reputation in terms of being someone that is a leader, an activist or. Well, people go to Norman. I feel like he's like some sort of Mafioso.

Speaker I swear he's the Godfather. The Godfather of comedy. I mean, something, you know, tell the children that he and Mark, he. He hears the thing every time he walks on any stage anywhere, every time he walks into any restaurant anywhere, people stand up and applaud. He has that kind of respect and that kind of love. It isn't just the the idea of getting old and you automatically get love, which some people get. They truly love him for what he has done for the country. And that's not just the stories he's told, which have been great. It's also People for the American Way, which has done amazing things. And then he goes out and buys the copy of the Declaration of Independence and takes it around so kids can see it, puts it on a bus and takes it around because he says, you know, you've got to see this thing. You've got to you've got to be next to it and read it and understand what these guys were talking about that was so important. I remember went to his house and he said to me, I got to show you something. I walked upstairs and underneath a bench in his office, which is sort of a bench you just hang out on. He pulls out this big glass thing and there's the Declaration of Independence. And you're like, I can't believe someone was for sale somehow. But the idea that he felt he had such a responsibility to make sure that kids saw it and understood from where they came and what this meant and what these people were fighting for.

Speaker I just can't tell you what that man has meant to all of us in the country.

Speaker So what is that kind of patriotism that you're describing to me? Do you have it? Do you?

Speaker Well, we all fall short if you're going to compare yourself to Norman, because.

Speaker I didn't fight in a war to start off my life, and I didn't and I didn't spend my days and nights fighting as hard as he has, and I haven't succeeded nearly anywhere near as much as he has. But he certainly is a goal. He certainly is somebody that you look to and go, well, if. You know, if I'm 92 years old and I've done half of what he's done, it's been a successful life in terms of moving the ball forward, because that's all you can do is just try to inch it forward and progress. If you think about his lifetime time, he was a young man. You know, blacks are sitting in the back of the bus. You know, women had very few rights. There was an awful lot of the world has changed considerably since he was a young man. And he can take pride in the fact that he led a great many of these movements alongside many others. But he was one of the leaders in those movements.

Speaker There's no TV. There's no TV to do with radio. Um.

Speaker So. Let's go a little bit more into the activism and what we have covered here.

Speaker When did you personally start realizing the power of your medium in terms of.

Speaker Well, I grew up in an era that did that. You know, I mean, honestly, if you didn't participate when I was. You know, 10 years old, when I was Bobby Kennedy was shot when I was seven and my father sort of famously my father had a talk show that famously tells a story of how I, you know, brought all my toy guns in in a bag and gave it to my dad and said, I want to play with these anymore. And that was seven. You know, you we were as a country and particularly as a family, very much involved in the idea that you have to be part of the discussion. It was a period of time, though, when you were concerned with not just your doorstep and not just your town and not just your state or your country, but the world.

Speaker We were all involved in that discussion for a period of time, little time after Watergate, basically when cynicism really took over. We moved it closer and closer and after sort of the Reagan era, you know, for good or ill, I'm not judging. I'm just saying by the time it got smaller, it suddenly became just you voted on things that really only affected you personally, your doorstep. And we're still in that era. And that's a that's a bad time because we're losing the idea of the collective and we're losing the idea of what we all these gains, all the things that we fought so hard to gain Social Security, the social safety nets that we worked so hard to gain, all the rights that unions worked so hard to gain. We're looking at giving those all back after all this work. And so, again, growing up in a period time when all of those things were part of every person's responsibility, right or left. And look at I mean, if you look at the people that were leading the charge and a lot of different places, it wasn't sort of the left, it was as much of the right. There was a real forward thinking of like we have a responsibility to one another, which has faded, too. We have a responsibility to our family, which is good, but not enough.

Speaker Do you do what you're describing? Would you call that patriotism?

Speaker I would I would consider patriotism as as not just that your family isn't the only element in in a collective in the country that there is, although it is the most important thing to you, it is also very important to. I believe this, I believe, as people have said before, that we should be judged as a country by how we look after the people who can't look after themselves. I believe that's the greatest way to judge you. If you look at us as a country and say, well, there was a group of people who who didn't need a handout, need a hand up, but weren't going to make it without us. I believe that's how we are judged. You know, if they're if we you know, you go to Washington, D.C., which is a really amazing city, because you can be some of the most beautiful monuments in the world and some of the most powerful places in the world.

Speaker And you can drive less than a mile to some of the poorest people living, sleeping on the literally sleeping on the streets. And so and that's Washington, D.C. It's a real actual microcosm of how we we must be diligent in keeping the focus on the idea that we are responsible not just for our own well-being, but for our well-being as a community, as a country. And and I think that that's that gets lost. It gets lost every once in a while. Again, we go through these waves, it gets lost and we get it back and we'll get it back. And I have no fear that we will.

Speaker But it is an unfortunate time right now that. OK, pretty close.

Speaker Oh.

Speaker So do you have any good stories negative would be good.

Speaker Well, let me just start off by saying this. I've never really met the man, but I hear he's very nice, the hat thing I could live without. And I don't want to get into all his things, but he he drinks a lot. And I caught him stealing. And I thought that was what surprised really, because he was in my car and he was taking all the change out of the car. And I thought, you know, if you need some money, I can help you out. Yeah. He's been to my house a few times in Italy and stayed with us in Italy with his son Ben and with his wife Lynne and all. He brought the whole clan once. And and it's such a funny lively. The kids are brilliant and fascinated and fascinating. And Lynne is this extraordinary person. They do this thing that I try to steal from.

Speaker That couple of people in Hollywood were really good at it, sort of the Hollywood version of the Algonquin Table. Gregory Peck and Virani did it. And I was lucky enough to be part of that, which is they have they put groups of people together that may not necessarily know one another and may not necessarily even completely get along and have dinners at these long tables where they ask questions and talk and have a discussion show, movie, talk about it. It is unbelievably, every time you come from their home, you're wide awake and alive and and you feel like you've learned something. There's a famous line in a movie, I think Robert Mitchum says, where he says, I never learned anything by hearing myself talk. Norman is the first person to create a conversation.

Speaker Is he a good basketball player?

Speaker I've seen him shoot. Listen, he's 93, so I can take him, you know, because he can't take a charge anymore. I mean, I if you put your knee up, hit him right in the chest, goes down like that. His son Ben talks a good game. And he lost two, didn't he, even when he brought his young friends? We do. We played basketball in coma. We had a we had a lot with Norman, with his his son, Ben, and a couple of his buddies from college. And that was fun because it's a bunch of 50 year olds and we beat him. It would be bad. And honestly, there's a few things that bring me more joy than, you know, beating the young guys in bars because, you know, literally for weeks I live off of that.

Speaker But, yeah, he's a big fan of that big basketball game that.

Speaker OK, just a couple more questions about. What have you had any involvement with people?

Speaker I was I was given an award by Norman for people for the American way. It was right in the middle of, you know, we were in the middle of freedom fries and everything else. And people for the American way was sort of singled out as another of those, like ACLU kind of groups that was clearly traitors to the country. I still think we really took we changed the word in Washington, D.C. at the White House. We changed it from French fries to freedom fries. This is, you know, forgetting like Yorktown and the French sort of saved us from forgetting that they gave us the Statue of Liberty and now they freedom fries and now they're our best friends. And so there was an it was an interesting time to be be there and to be celebrating with him because there was a moment there, you know, they were picketing movies that I'd done and I think was intolerable cruelty. I remember Bill O'Reilly and a bunch of people did a bill, did a show, half an hour show on why my career was over because of my you know, because me being against the war in Iraq, there was a good portion. There was a moment there where the men were calling my dad and saying, am I in trouble? And my dad was like, do you have a job? I said, Yeah, do you have money in your shop grow up? You know, a lot of people risk a lot more than you have. But there was a period time for a minute there that they were doing the deck of weasel's. There was cards for all of us cowards. You know, we were cowards because we thought it maybe not a great idea that you said 150000 kids and to get shot at and in a country that never attacked us. So it wasn't that. I mean, I wrote good night. Good luck because of that. In answer to that, I think that there was a that's sort of where Norman and I became really close was through that period of time we had showed him. Good night and good luck. I should like to march. He was the first person I showed to him. I wanted to have I wanted to be part of the discussion with him on a lot of subject matters in the world. And he very bravely stood up and said, I'm not you know, you're not going to scare me. I've been through much worse than this. And and led the way for a lot of us to understand that it's the only reason you're scared is because, you know, this is a moment in time and that moment in time will pass, you know?

Speaker I hope so.

Speaker It does. Yeah, it did. It did pass because clearly now saying something bad about the war comes from the right, you know, I mean, the diversification that created ISIS, you know, suddenly that was a bad idea, really. You think? But, you know, times change.

Speaker So it sounds like you and Norman have that's about the same thing.

Speaker You are both deeply.

Speaker We'll say, sounds scary, which I don't know, maybe, I don't know, know more seems to be.

Speaker Pretty rare that Hollywood will scared is a funny thing, you know, it is this thing that you feed and it really works, you know, when you're scared, it's like, oh, once you're scared, it's amazing how much but how constricting that can be. And it's amazing how freeing, not being scared is. And for me, it happened very early on in my career where there was a producer who was a real jerk and I was a fifth banana on a TV show, was screaming and yelling at somebody.

Speaker And and I just said, that's enough. And he turned and yelled at me and I thought my career was over because he said, you know, I said I quit and he said, you're fired. And I walked off and I was 27 years old and literally needed the job.

Speaker And in doing so, because actors oftentimes come from a real place of fear, you know, you walk into an office with your resume in your hand, so automatically you're kind of down here like me. And the goods that you're selling are yourself. It's not an encyclopedia. So if they don't like it, they just thought, you know, I've got more encyclopedias over here. It's actually you physically. So they go, no, I like it. It's like, oh, so everything comes from this place. If you're afraid, you might lose your job here, please. Like me, there's all this kind of thing. And once you get to that point where you go, oh, I don't care.

Speaker At some point I'm a guy from Kentucky, you know, who cut tobacco for a living and I'll find a way to make a living. And you can't. At some point, you just go, OK, well, no, now, I mean, it was a funny moment with this producer where he was yelling and screaming and I'm like, I quit, you're fired. And suddenly it stopped being this big, powerful producer who produced all these TV shows and a sixth banana on a TV show. And suddenly it's two guys in a room, literally one guy a lot taller and a lot younger than the other guy standing there going, what did you say to me? And so suddenly the fear changes completely. And you go, oh, it was he was only powerful because I made him I allowed him to be powerful. So. Norman's done that his whole life, if you think about what he's done and the things he's taken on, he's just never been scared. You know, he wasn't scared when Nixon was taping everybody. He wasn't scared when McCarthy was blacklisting everybody. These were terrifying times. If you look at the reactions from everybody else, Norman was never scared. And that's that's a quality that I, I admire almost more than any quality. And I find to be something that I wish I was better at than you know, than I am, but something that he's the best.

Speaker Is there anyone out there who can fill his shoes? We need more, more.

Speaker Writer, producer, the people like that are just enormous. More people. Oh, I don't know. Yeah, there's a lot of people out there like Norman. They might not be. One of the greatest of all time television writers, comedy writers, they might not be that, but there's tons of people out there that that believe that standing up for what's right is more important than anything else. I find it quite often in life. I you know, I, I don't find it to be shocking or surprising. I just am happy when I see it.

Speaker I think we're good. We have we need to do the green screen, so let's get our.

Speaker One last thing that basically you guys kind of touched upon that talking about the level where you and Norman have both in your careers where you can pick and choose your products. Right.

Speaker And talking about the social responsibility that that having that privilege or what you already.

Speaker What is that talk about the social responsibility back to storytelling?

Speaker Well, it's an interesting thing. You get to a play, I believe you get to it. There is you have to factor into all of these sort of discussions, the idea of luck, right? Because luck is a huge player in all these huge player. Norman would say the same thing for me. It was a huge player on the idea that I'd done 13 television pilots and seven TV series. And then I got here on Thursday night at 10:00. There had been two shows in 16 years there, L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues. It was the Cradle of Love timeslot. And we happened to have a great show. And it became, you know, 40 million, 45 million people a week watching the show, it's mind boggling now to think of the kind of numbers from that. I was given an opportunity that I hadn't been given before. It's not like I was any better an actor than when I was on some really crappy shows or worse, an actor. You know, you're sort of growing through it. The opportunity then became, OK, well, now I'm here. Easier for me because I was older. I was 33 when he started. Once it became clear that I was going to be responsible not just for my performance in a film, but I was going to be responsible for the film being made itself and I was going to be reviewed as such for films. They'd be like, yeah, there's a crappy movie wise George in it and, you know. You realize then that you're going to be responsible for the films you make, not just the parts before that you're just an actor taking apart. So now you can be responsible for the films. So then it comes down to, well, what stories do I want to tell and what do I want to be involved in? What are the choices of films that I want to make and along with entertainment, which is what they all have to be. It also became because remember, I'm a child of the 60s. It also became the idea that. You have you have things you want to talk about, so we produce Michael Clayton because we want to talk about corporate malfeasance that we do. Good night. Good luck, because we want to talk about responsibility of the Fifth Estate, not to drop the ball specifically. We do we produce and do Syriana because we want to talk about how these people actually end up hating us so much and how did that really come about and what what part oil plays in these things. And we do. And we constantly start doing films about we did Ides of March to talk about how we elect people and the games that we play to to do that. And these were all things that I felt like if we can make them an entertainment, then then it is your responsibility. It's like this. They give you the keys to the toy chest and you don't get to keep it. Anybody who thinks you get to keep it for a long time is an idiot. But while you got the keys, you use all the toys, do everything but, you know, try stuff, take chances, push all of the limits you can possibly push. Because either way, whether you do really safe blockbusters or you do really risky films, they're going to take the toys away and they're going to take the key and hand it to somebody else. So while you have it, push it as hard as you can. And and there are a few actors who are friends of mine who do the same thing. And I'm very proud to call them friends and watch what they do. Norman has always done that. It's just been I've got a network show. I'm going to talk about race, abortion, war. I'm going to talk about all the things that are truly third rails, you know, along the way. And those are the lessons you learn from people like Norman buy from Norman specifically.

Speaker I think what I'm hearing you say in. The question is that not everybody well, they've had the look, they've had the success, quite the responsibility, right?

Speaker Well, not everybody was, you know, raised by, you know, a journalist, father and mother who, you know, ran a story and then ran for politics and grew up in a time where almost everybody, literally almost everybody in my world was an activist of some form, you know? So it may be an age, it may be all of those things.

Speaker But also, I think, you know, sometimes people can't see it, you know, until you do it. And you have to do it a couple of times and see if you need somebody who's done it before. That's why Norman is so important to us, is because Norman has done it. And you see. Well, he survived. He did OK. It didn't take everything away from him, you know, just keeps on doing this thing. As long as you readjust what your expectations are, you know, you can't say, well, I've done good night, good luck. I think it'll make two hundred million dollars, you know, you understand it. You do it for responsible price. You do it for six million. And if it makes 40, then everybody wins and you've done what you're trying to do. And I think that that's the secret along the way, is adjusting your expectations to.

George Clooney
Interview Date:
2015-02-08
Runtime:
0:48:17
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
N/A
MLA CITATIONS:
"George Clooney, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 08 Feb. 2015, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1044
APA CITATIONS:
(2015, February 08). George Clooney, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1044
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"George Clooney, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). February 08, 2015. Accessed January 23, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1044

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