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Larry King Live Weekend

Meet the Oscar Contenders

Aired March 18, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, it's Oscar countdown in Tinseltown. And we're talking with stars who could take home the gold next Sunday. Joan Allen, a three time nominee, up for best actress in "The Contender." Juliette Binoche, already has a supporting statue. Will "Chocolat" give her the best actress honor as well? Ellen Burstyn won a best actress Oscar in the 70s.

The six-time nominee could get the nod again for "Requiem for a Dream." Also vying for the coveted prize, Oscar newcomer Laura Linney, star of "You Can Count on Me." Spain's Javier Bardem earned his best actor nomination for "Before the Night Falls." Past best supporting nominee, Willem Dafoe, is in the running again for "Shadow of the Vampire." And Marcia Gay Harden is up for her supporting role in "Pollock." Plus, the man in charge of staging Hollywood's most glamorous show, award winning producer, Gil Cates.

They're all next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

We begin this night with a great group of talent nominated for Oscars in best supporting and best feature roles. And we start it off with Joan Allen, best actress nominee for "The Contender." I'm honored that I think the thing to put her over the top was her scene with me. In fact, she's used to this set.

JOAN ALLEN, ACTRESS: Without a doubt. I know that's the...


KING: ... would-be-vice-president, right?


KING: Were you happy with the way it finally came out?

ALLEN: I was. I was extremely happy with it. You know, I think the thing that surprised me the most about it is that it felt like a thriller, almost, that you couldn't wait to find out. And it's a very talky movie, really. It's a lot of words.

KING: Not moving action?

ALLEN: No, but it's very -- lots of words, lots of you know, just situations that -- but then the way it was unfolding and the way it -- the information got revealed from scene to scene, it kind of kept you like going, "What's going to happen next? What's going to happen next?" And I was surprised by that.

KING: You worked with some pretty good people.

ALLEN: Oh, great. The cast was incredible.

KING: Gary Oldman maybe should have got a shot, too, right?

ALLEN: Yeah, he's wonderful in it, absolutely.

KING: And Jeff Bridges?

ALLEN: And Jeff is just fantastic, certainly. Everybody, even the smallest small parts were great, too.

KING: This is your third?

ALLEN: Third nomination.

KING: You were nominated for "Nixon."

ALLEN: Mm-hmm.

KING: Right? Also, "The Crucible."

ALLEN: Mm-hmm.

KING: Were both disappointments in that you didn't win?

ALLEN: Oh, I think you can't have but have a moment at least. But I try to remember things like, you know, Martin Scorsese's never won an Oscar. And he's like -- had to cheer myself up.

KING: That's how long it took Spielberg.

ALLEN: Yes, yes. There are a lot of -- so many talented people who, you know, really haven't won. So I, you know, maybe feel a little disappointed, but then count my blessings.

KING: Now how does it feel when you read it looks like Julia Roberts is a cinch? If there's an upset chance, it's Joan Allen.


KING: How do you -- what, is that mixed emotions, what?

ALLEN: I don't know. You know, I think she's done a wonderful job in the movie. And you know, and I know -- you know, she's a star of incredible stature. You know, she's arguably the biggest movie star in the world.

KING: So she's got to be the favorite, I mean if you're -- logically, right? ALLEN: And she's, you know, of course ever people want her in their magazines. They -- you know, she's beautiful and talented and she's very, very good in this movie. So you know, I just sort of take it with a grain of salt. And I saw her perform tonight. I did think she was great.

KING: You have to though, in all honesty, be thrilled with your career.

ALLEN: Oh, yes. I have no complaints, absolutely none. You know, I've worked with some of the most amazing people in -- that I can imagine.

KING: You're a theater actress, right?

ALLEN: I did a lot of theater work for many years before I started doing films. I didn't do my first film until was like 28 years old, which is kind of old these days to start in movies.

KING: It sure is. So winning is not the -- it's not your goal in life is to win? I mean, well actually, you know, they say this: In this kind of case, with all the movies made, a nomination's just good.

ALLEN: A nomination's pretty incredible. So I'm happy with that.

KING: All right, how did you approach this role and this woman is getting knocked around by this committees in politics, is nominated by her president to -- I remember working with you that night.

ALLEN: I know, it was so fun.

KING: And you would sit there and say, well: What was it like to be a guest on the show? And this is early in her nomination process.


KING: What was it like to do?

ALLEN: It was actually a lot of fun. I mean, I think one of the biggest challenges of the role was to not make the character seem too saintly to -- I wanted her to be three dimensional because she was standing behind her convictions so strongly and taking a stance that most people, you know, would be unable to do that. And so, it was really fun to be able to play that and work on that. But it was a balance of having that and not having her be so perfect, that she's -- that people can't relate to her, you know. And I didn't want to have that happen.

KING: Do you have to like the people you play?

ALLEN: I think you have to understand them at least. You may not have to like them, but I remember when I did this movie a long time ago, "Ethan Frome." And people on the set kept saying, you know, "The character is -- she's so mean. She's a witch. She's a witch. She's a witch." And I said, "No, she's not really." I said, "She's just be sick a lot and she's really unhappy."

KING: You're finding...

ALLEN: But you find ways. So usually people who are mean or crabby or horrible usually have something that's causing them to be that way. They've been hurt when they were a child. They, you know, were picked when they were a kid and they're getting revenge or something like that. So there's usually a reason why people are that way. And so, that's kind of what I tend to look for if I play a more...

KING: What happens in the area of career offers to a nominee?

ALLEN: I think, you know, it certainly doesn't hurt. I think you get a lot more scripts that maybe come your way and things. But it's, you know, it's a little bit tougher for women, but I'm still getting interesting things to read.

KING: Going to be nervous Oscar night?

ALLEN: Oh, I'm sure, to a degree. Yeah, hopefully, not overly.

KING: You're one of the great people, Joan.

ALLEN: Oh, thanks, Larry.

KING: One of my honors to have worked with you.

ALLEN: Thanks.

KING: Joan Allen, best actress nominee for "The Contender."

Juliette Binoche is next. Don't go away.


KING: Cheyenne, Wyoming, you're on with vice president- designate, Laine Hanson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey Larry, how are you?

KING: I'm fine, thanks for calling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I was -- I just wanted to say, Senator, that all of Cheyenne is with her, that we think that she's absolutely great for the country and for this administration. And congratulations.

KING: What's the question, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to ask the Senator, if she could pick one person from history to serve as her model for how to behave in office, who would that be?

KING: Good question, Senator.


ALLEN: Wow. That sounds like a question I should have...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry to barge in on you.

OLDMAN: No, no, no. I'm just watching your girl.

KING: First female prime minister.

ALLEN: Well, they were great.






JULIETTE BINOCHE, ACTRESS: Am I breaking any laws? Tell me. Am I hurting anyone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you asking me my opinion?

BINOCHE: If you're expecting me to just shrivel up and blow away, you're going to be highly disappointed.


KING: Next, on our Oscar nominee lineup tonight is Juliette Binoche, the brilliant actress who was nominated for best actress for "Chocolat." Now this is not new to her, because she won best supporting actress, right, for "The English Patient."


KING: So is like old hat to you already?

BINOCHE: You wouldn't call it old.

KING: But that was a big surprise that night, right, because everyone thought Lauren Bacall would win.

BINOCHE: Yes, and I was thinking the same thing.

KING: When they announced your name, what was that like?

BINOCHE: Well, like my God, I have to get there. You know, because people were screaming around me. So I had no idea. And suddenly, I thought, "Well, I have to go there." So I took myself by the hand and I went there. And it was just a beautiful illusion, a beautiful dream.

KING: How did you get the part in "Chocolate" or "Chocolat"?

BINOCHE: "Chocolat." I read the script, loved it. And I went to see Harvey. And I say, "I'd like to do it." So...

KING: Weinstein?

BINOCHE: Harvey Weinstein. And then I -- he said to me, "Well, if you want to do it, you have to ask for it." So "Mr. Weinstein, I do this film because I really loved it and I feel like doing it." And he said, "The film is yours."

KING: Why did you like it so much?

BINOCHE: Because she's kind of therapist.

KING: Mysterious?

BINOCHE: Mysterious therapist. She's a wanderer. As actors, we know the feeling of it. She has a child and the relationship with the child. And her mother being somewhere else said, and yet very light in her -- inside of her in her life. And I liked that. Also, the changes, you know, the lifting of the spirits in each person. I really was attached to that. And at the end, you know, the circle at the end is that she's going to change more than the others in a way, and because of the others.

KING: Did you learn a lot about chocolate?

BINOCHE: I knew a lot about chocolate before I did it anyway.

KING: Did you -- are you -- do you like chocolate?

BINOCHE: Oh yes, of course.

KING: Chocolate is the mysterious of most of all foods, is it not? It's a romantic food?

BINOCHE: It is. It is. And also the taste of it is different in Asian or in Africa or in Venezuela. And it's something I didn't know. That's something I discovered.

KING: And there is like dark chocolate and light chocolate. Did you learn how it was made, too?

BINOCHE: Yes, I did. Yes, I had to -- and white chocolate. And I'm still, you know, before I came here, actually I opened a box of chocolates. And I was just scratching my head and got the right one before I came here.

KING: Is it true that the Oscar hasn't gotten you a flood of roles? BINOCHE: Well, you know, I've -- I wouldn't say that. Just my choices were, you know, whether it was in English or in French, it didn't matter to me because it was about telling a story and sharing a story with people, you know, on a set. So for me, it wasn't about the purpose of being more famous or having more money or whatever. It was about telling a story. So maybe what I did after "The English Patient," I did some theater in London. And then I did four films in France. And then I just came back with "Chocolat" and...

KING: So you didn't say, "Boy, I got an Academy Award. I'm going to sit back and wait for all these big offers and only star in major..."

BINOCHE: Well before that, I had some beautiful offers, you know, in America. It's just a matter of -- you recognize that this where I belong. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to share.

KING: Did you turn down anything you regretted?

BINOCHE: No. What's that?

KING: Did you turn down anything you feel sorry about?

BINOCHE: Never feel sorry.

KING: No, you didn't turn down a role where you said, "I should have done that"?

BINOCHE: No, because I admire how it's been done. So I feel good. Can you imagine as an actress if you had to do all the roles, it would be a nightmare. You'd have to share it.

KING: Then you'd really be crazy.

BINOCHE: Exactly.

KING: Do you think you've got a shot to win?

BINOCHE: Oh, I'm sorry I don't understand that.

KING: Do you think you have a good chance to win?

BINOCHE: Oh, the good chance to win. No, no good chance to win. No.

KING: Because of Julia Roberts?

BINOCHE: Oh, yes.

KING: So you think that's what -- remember, you beat another one who was going to be automatic.

BINOCHE: Yes, well, yes.

KING: We shall see. BINOCHE: But maybe it's better that way, to think that way.

KING: Yeah.

BINOCHE: But I -- it's what I believe, too. You know, I'm not forcing myself to believe.

KING: Thank you, Juliette.

BINOCHE: Oh, you're welcome.

KING: Juliette Binoche, the star of "Chocolat," nominated best actress.

Another best actress is coming aboard, one of my favorites: Ellen Burstyn.

Don't go away.


JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: What is that?

BINOCHE: Your favorite.

DEPP: My favorite?

BINOCHE: Mm-hmm.

DEPP: Is that right? OK.


DEPP: I'm undone -- but not my favorite.


DEPP: I'll come around some time and get that squeak out of your door.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ada told her. It's torture.

ELLEN BURSTYN, ACTRESS: We're going to make it a little darker tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why darker? BURSTYN: To go with my red dress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but now it's looking like Madonna.

BURSTYN: This is not Madonna. And neither is this, but soon, I'm going on a diet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What diet are you on?

BURSTYN: Eggs and grapefruit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I was on that. Lots of luck.

BURSTYN: It's not so bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long you been on it?

BURSTYN: All day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All day? It's 1:00.


BURSTYN: So? I'm thinking thin.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE the brilliant Ellen Burstyn, best actress nomination for "Requiem for a Dream." Been nominated five times and won the best actress award in 1974.

BURSTYN: I'm afraid so.

KING: For "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." Why -- this was such a tough role, "Requiem for a Dream." You're the mother of a heroin addict. You come -- you get hooked. Why'd you take it?

BURSTYN: Because of Darren Aronofsky. I saw his first film, "Pi," and I knew when I saw it that he was a new young genius on the scene and I wanted to work with him.

KING: And did you like the script, too, as well? I mean, did you like everything or was it he that...

BURSTYN: It was mainly Darren. After I started working on the script, I fell in love with it. And then I read the book by Hubert Selby Jr., which is a classic, and fell in love with that. But my first attraction was to working with Darren.

KING: What was the toughest part about playing it?

BURSTYN: Well...

KING: Other than being physical? Or did it knock you out, right? BURSTYN: It had a high level of discomfort all the time because I was always either in a fat suit, fat neck, a wig. I mean, I was just physically uncomfortable. And then I had to go to really dark and deep and disturbing places emotionally. So the combination meant that my concentration had to be like a laser beam in the midst of all of this disquiet.

KING: And other than the nomination like, what's the reward when an actress gets that kind of role?

BURSTYN: I think the role of a lifetime. I mean, it demanded so much of me. And when I started working on it, I wasn't really sure that I'd be able to take it to the height that it was necessary to go and to be able to achieve something that you're afraid you can't do, and then to do it, I think there's nothing more satisfying.

KING: Did you expect a nomination?

BURSTYN: Not while I was doing it. I don't tend to think in those terms. You know, we were shooting in a little old, dirty warehouse in Brooklyn. And my trailer was a construction trailer. I requested one day that the broken glass be cleared from the gravel on the way from my trailer to the set. So I wasn't thinking Oscar.

KING: But when it came out, you had to be think of it, with the reviews you got and...

BURSTYN: Well, everybody around me started saying Oscar, so you know, it's like wherever went, I heard "Oscar, Oscar, Oscar." So...

KING: Do people still associate you with "The Exorcist?"

BURSTYN: Oh, yes, I would say...

KING: You'll never get over that?

BURSTYN: No, no, no. That's what I'm best known for.

KING: That was an exceptional film.

BURSTYN: I know.

KING: I mean, they did a great job with it, right?

BURSTYN: Yeah. I saw the rerelease, you know, at the premiere in Hollywood -- I mean, L.A. And I was really impressed with how well it held up. It doesn't look dated at all. It could have been made now.

KING: The -- when you get a nomination, now this is your fifth?


KING: That's right. You've had five. This is -- you always remember that, right?


KING: Does it ever get to be another walk in the park?

BURSTYN: Not at all. I don't know why. I can't even tell you. It's just the most exciting thing that can possibly happen to an actor. It's wonderful.

KING: When you get that call?

BURSTYN: Yes. I was watching it on television with my son on the telephone. He was in New York and I was in California. So we heard the announcement together and...

KING: So you were up early?

BURSTYN: 5:30 in the morning, I got up to wait for it.

KING: Is the -- now you've won and you've been nominated. Is the nomination still a big kick?

BURSTYN: You bet, because you know, they pick five performances out of -- I don't know how many -- but in a year, thousands, certainly. So to be one of the five is already something. And only one of us can win, but I think that we all are winners for being in the top five.

KING: Do you look at it as a competition?

BURSTYN: Somewhat, yes. Sure, it's a competition. But I also try and remember that I've already won just being here, being nominated.

KING: You sure have. You've won being you.

BURSTYN: Thank you.

KING: Ellen Burstyn.

BURSTYN: Thank you.

KING: We share one great thing in common: a friendship with Jackie Gleason.

BURSTYN: That's right.

KING: You worked with Jackie?

BURSTYN: I worked with Jackie. He was my comedy teacher.

KING: You learned from the best.

Laura Linney is next. We'll be right back.


BURSTYN: Your father's gone. You're gone. I got no one to care for. What have I got, Harry? I'm lonely. I'm old.






LAURA LINNEY, ACTRESS: ... know what the church's official position is on fornication and adultery these days. And then I felt really hypocritical not saying anything to you about it before. So what is the official position these days?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's a sin.

LINNEY: Good. I think it should be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we try not to focus on that aspect of it too much right off the bat.

LINNEY: Why not?


LINNEY: I think you should.


LINNEY: I mean, maybe it was better when you came in here and they screamed at you for having sex with your married boss. They told you what a terrible thing it was. They were really mean to you.


KING: We now welcome Laura Linney to this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, a very special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND -- Larry -- I'll run into myself.

Laura Linney is nominated best actress for "You Can Count on Me." It's her first Oscar nomination. You saw her with Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show." She's worked with Clint Eastwood in "Absolute Power." Terrific in that, by the way.

LINNEY: Thank you.

KING: Richard Gere in "Primal Fear." Quite a young career for a young lady.

LINNEY: I've done much better than I thought I would. That's for sure, yes.

KING: How did you get "You Can Count on Me,"- which by the way, shared the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival? How'd you get the role?

LINNEY: I -- it's a boring story actually. I got a phone call. A script was sent. I read it and then I went in and auditioned.

KING: Simple as that?

LINNEY: Simple as that.

KING: Why, when you've done successful films and you've been around, do you have to audition?

LINNEY: Well, I think there's several reasons for it. And actually, I like to audition. I know a lot of people have a hard time with it. And it's not that I enjoy it, but I think there's a part of it that's important because you're auditioning them, too. They're not only checking me out, I'm checking them out as well.

And are these people who I want to spend three months with on location somewhere? Can we work together? Am I the right person for the job? Are they the right person for me to work with? So I don't mind going into a room and meeting those people.

KING: Did you like this character right off?


KING: Because?

LINNEY: Very much. Because she's trying her best. She's just trying to do the best she can. And she has wonderful qualities and she has some foibles and some problems. And she's just so desperately trying to grow up. And there's something that -- and she's big- hearted.

KING: Had to be happy with the reviews?

LINNEY: Oh, sure.

KING: You have great reviews.

LINNEY: That was very nice.

KING: Were you surprised at the nomination?

LINNEY: Yes, thrilled, thrilled, but sure.

KING: How did you learn?

LINNEY: I was asleep. I had worked all night the night before in Pittsburgh, had flown to New York.

KING: Doing a movie?

LINNEY: I'm making a movie in Pittsburgh right now with Richard Gere called "The Mothman Prophecies." And I was there, flew back, and the phone rang in the morning and it was Gena Rowlands, who was -- who I had just worked with and become good friends with. And she and her friend Bob Forest (ph) were screaming on the other end, which sort of tipped me off. And we all screamed together. And that was the beginning of a day that was really filled with hilarity.

KING: You graduated with a degree in theater at Brown?


KING: Right? One of the great schools and -- is it equal to its reputation right away?

LINNEY: I think so, absolutely.

KING: So early on, you wanted to do what you're doing?

LINNEY: Yes, I grew up -- my father's a playwright. And I sort of grew up in and around the theater and was a real theater buff, as one of those...

KING: You went to all the matinees?

LINNEY: I went to plays. I went to matinees. I had the Broadway posters in my room. I did all of that.

KING: Did you do a lot of theater yourself?

LINNEY: I did a lot of theater -- not professionally, but certainly in school and really loved to study the theater.

KING: What was your break?

LINNEY: That's hard to say. I think people point to different things as my break.

KING: What do you point to? Is there a film that you think attributed?

LINNEY: I -- well, no, I think it's been a combination of things. I think for me it was -- my break has been running into the people who I've been lucky enough to learn from. That's been my break. I had a wonderful education, which I'm so grateful for. I had fantastic teachers at Juilliard, where I studied school. And then I just have been guided from one magnificent experience to the next. So it sort of has just layered.

I think a lot of people point to "Tales of the City," which is one of my favorite jobs. "You Can Count on Me," certainly now people are looking at. "The Truman Show," people say. "Primal Fear," people say. So I'm sort of someone who's sort of just been around, but hasn't.

KING: Did you like working with Jim Carrey?

LINNEY: I did like working with Jim, very much. He's a sweet, sweet man.

KING: Very.

LINNEY: Very sweet guy.

KING: That was a heck of a movie, too.

LINNEY: It was a really -- Peter Weir's a genius.

KING: Do you feel up against it in your category with the Julia Roberts thing?

LINNEY: You know, I don't. And everybody asks that naturally. So I can't tell you how thrilled I am.

KING: To be there?

LINNEY: At all of this. I mean, just thrilled out of my mind. And you know, I'm thrilled for all of us. I'm thrilled for Ellen. I'm thrilled for Joan. I'm thrilled for Juliette. I'm thrilled for Julia. I'm ecstatic at myself.

KING: And for Laura?

LINNEY: And for me, yes, absolutely.

KING: Good luck, Laura.

LINNEY: Thank you very much.

KING: I love your work.

LINNEY: Thank you so much.

KING: Laura Linney. Javier Bardem is next. Don't go away.


LINNEY: I've been working here for seven years.


LINNEY: You know, and if I were you, I'd be a little nervous about firing an employee I just had an affair with, OK?

BRODERICK: Well, hey, don't threaten me.

LINNEY: I'm not threatening you.

BRODERICK: I'm not threatening you.

FEMALE: Well...

BRODERICK: I just -- I think it's an area that we ought to explore.

LINNEY: You explore it. I'm going back to work. Oh, and I have to pick up Rudy today because there's no one else who can do it. I'll find someone else when I have time.

BRODERICK: Oh, yes, fine. Why don't you just take over the whole bank?









KING: Continuing our salute to Oscar nominees, we welcome Javier Bardem, the best actor nomination for "Before Night Falls," his first Oscar -- his first American film?


KING: How did you get this part?

BARDEM: Well, Julian called me at 3:00 in the morning. He woke me up.

KING: This is Mr. Julian Schnabel.

BARDEM: Yes, Julian Schnabel. And he woke me up and said, "Would you want to play Reynaldo?" And I said, "No." I hang up the phone. And then after that, I realized my great mistake and I call him back and then I went -- I came to New York and I talked to him. And I thought it was a great role. So I couldn't...

KING: Why did you initially say no?

BARDEM: Because it was too much responsibility for me. I mean, the language, which I don't really speak very well, as you well notice right now.

KING: Doing great.

BARDEM: And Cuban accent, which is not the same accent that -- Spanish accent. And also, playing a real person who really existed is something that I was really concerned about being respectful with the people that knew him. And they're still alive.

KING: Do you have any problem that he was gay?

BARDEM: Not at all. I'm from Spain. I mean, sex in movies, you know in Spain is something that really -- we don't have any problem with that. We have problems with violence in movies.

KING: What did you -- were you surprised you got nominated?

BARDEM: Very much, very much. Everybody in Spain was, like, shocked.

KING: How did you find out?

BARDEM: I was watching TV. And I was expecting not be -- to appear in the TV, but then my name came up and I was like surprised.

KING: Surprised that you were considered?

BARDEM: Yes, because all the actors voted for me. And that's a great honor. To be voted for the actor is something that's a lot for me.

KING: Well, you did get great reviews. And you knew the picture was well received, right?

BARDEM: Yes. I think it deserves. I think it's a great movie and it's an important movie. And the issue of the movie is something that people want to watch, that people likes very much. And I think it's -- Reynaldo Arenas is a symbol of many great things. So...

KING: All right, how did you adapt for the language?

BARDEM: Working as a maniac 10 hours every day for two months. And...

KING: Did you have a tutor?

BARDEM: Yeah, I had a coach. I had a coach, great person, who worked hard really with me. And he's Cuban.

KING: Because English is not an easy language.

BARDEM: I think it's easier than Spanish because of many...

KING: Really?

BARDEM: Yeah, I mean, many linguistic forms. But I grew up listening to rock 'n' roll music, watching American movies. So in a way, my -- I can understand very well English. For example, in French, I cannot do anything against that. I mean, I cannot talk French.

KING: Have you been in films a long time in Spain?

BARDEM: I've been working 13 years in Spain. And...

KING: Did you do theater, too?

BARDEM: Yes, I've done some place like for fight place.

KING: And the character, Mr. Arenas, he is important why? BARDEM: I think he's important because many things. I don't know. I don't know which one will be more important, but maybe because of the faith he had in his work. He was great in even knowing that maybe it was impossible for some people to read his work. So I asked to myself: Will we -- do I love that much my work that I will play -- I mean, on the stage without an audience? I mean, that's what Reynaldo did. He was writing without knowing that one day somebody will read his work.

KING: Are you nervous about the Academy night at the Oscar night?

BARDEM: I'm overexcited, because, even if you try to avoid to think that you have a chance or whatever, people remind that to you. So...

KING: Do you look at yourself as, "I'm not going to win"?

BARDEM: I think it's difficult for me to win, but...

KING: Because they don't know you, right?

BARDEM: They don't know me, and -- but I hope I win. I would like to win, of course. And...

KING: Why not?

BARDEM: Well, of course.

KING: Good to say that. That's Spanish: I want to win.

BARDEM: I want to win. I want to win. Because if I win, the movie wins. And I think this is an important movie to be watched by the people.

KING: Do you like or not like comparisons to Banderas?

BARDEM: I do not like at all. I think it's, in a way, unrespectful for him, because he -- I mean, he has done this huge career here. And we want to compare me with him. And it's absurd. I mean, we are different people. We are from Spain and we both worked with Almodovar. But I really do admire a lot what he has done in this country.

KING: For this role in "Before Night Falls," you lost 35 pounds?

BARDEM: I don't know in pounds: 18 kilos, yeah more or less.

KING: It might be 35 pounds.


KING: Was that hard?

BARDEM: No, it's just eating fish and salad without salt and oil. I mean, it's not... KING: You think you can handle that?


KING: What's next?

BARDEM: Well, nothing yet. So...

KING: You're kidding?

BARDEM: No, where is the camera? I won't say...

KING: You got a...

BARDEM: Well, could you offer me a role?

KING: You've got an Oscar nomination. You haven't gotten any offers?

BARDEM: Not really, not very much. Well, I mean, I'm expecting. But I know my condition. I'm a Latin actor, so I think it's not very easy for a Latin actor to work here. So...

KING: Well, you've got to find -- well parts would be less, right?


KING: You go back to Spain after the awards?

BARDEM: Yes, yes.

KING: Javier, a pleasure.

BARDEM: Thank you very much.

KING: I wish you the best of luck.

BARDEM: Thank you very much.

KING: Javier Bardem, best actor nominated for "Before Night Falls." Of course, his first Oscar nomination, his first American film.

The great Willem Dafoe is next.

Don't go away.


BARDEM: I wanted to get up and beg her forgiveness. I wanted to say, "Mom, how pretty you are today. You look like one of those women that you can only see on Christmas cards." But I said nothing because nothing I thought.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was very nice. What's your name? BARDEM: Reynaldo Arenas.


BARDEM: I did. It's my own from my novel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what do you call this novel?

BARDEM: "Singing from the Well."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you a student?

BARDEM: Yes, I am an agricultural accountant.






JOHN MALKOVICH, ACTOR: There you are. It's incredible, no? I wish you could all see your faces. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Max Schrek, who will be portraying our vampire, Count Orlock. As you no doubt have heard, Max's methods are somewhat unconventional, but I am sure you will come to respect his artistry in this matter.


KING: We now welcome to our special Oscar nominee show, Willem Dafoe. Willem's one of my favorite people, as you well know. He's nominated this year: best supporting actor nomination for "Shadow of the Vampire." This is, what, in nominations for you?

WILLEM DAFOE, ACTOR: Second, second.

KING: It gets old hat after a while, right?

DAFOE: Exactly. It's been a good 15 years since I last was nominated.

KING: Were you surprised at the nomination?

DAFOE: Yes and no. I mean, I did a lot of publicity for this movie. And to be frank with you, we went to a lot of festivals, and a lot of publicity, and...

KING: So you knew they were...

DAFOE: Well, there was an Oscar -- part of doing the publicity was people asking you about Oscar buzz. So I had an awareness of it. And I was hoping it would happen. So I can't say I'm...

KING: Shocked.

DAFOE: Shocked.

KING: I know good actors like to get into a role, feel a role. Well, how do you think: vampire?

DAFOE: Oh, you don't. But I had -- you know, it's -- I don't think of...


KING: You had no friends to go off, right?

DAFOE: No, but I had this wonderful model, because it's really based on the -- it's a movie within a movie. So I'm really working -- using Nosferatu as a model to start from. And I don't think so much as him being a vampire as he's just like a person with very special needs.

KING: Did you like the role as soon as you read it?

DAFOE: I did. I thought the simple conceit of a story that this guy -- the director played by John Malkovich is such a perfectionist that he hires a vampire and passes him off as a method actor, that's a source of a lot of good humor here.

KING: What about working with him?

DAFOE: John?

KING: Yes.

DAFOE: He's an actor that I've always liked, even though I've never worked with him. I feel some affinity with him just because he comes from the same part of the country.

KING: Midwest, right.

DAFOE: He's worked a lot in the theater.

KING: You're Wisconsin, isn't it?

DAFOE: Right, right.

KING: And he's -- he's also...

DAFOE: Illinois, yeah.

KING: I remember Dustin Hoffman saying that he delayed doing "Death of a Salesman" for a year, just to get Malkovich to play Biff. Do good actors help other actors?

DAFOE: Absolutely, absolutely. You're always looking for good people to work with, because you feed each other. That's all.

KING: You often play a lot of offbeat people, right -- like a sort of a Christopher Walken kind of...


KING: You get those kinds of part. But you yourself have said that you're not that -- you don't even think that way, right?

DAFOE: I don't. I mean, one thing that I do know is that I'm usually attracted to stories that are told about, you know, the perspective of people on the fringes of society because I think that's where the most interesting stories are, because the people in the middle, generally, a lot of their life is consumed with kind of holding up things as they are.

So it's often the disenfranchised or the alienated people that are afforded a fresh look. And sometimes it's out of those stories that you kind of get back in touch with what's really going on.

KING: Why did you want to be an actor?

DAFOE: You know, it shifts. When it starts out in the beginning, I think it's purely a social thing.

KING: You try?

DAFOE: The thing you get reinforcement for, it's a way of acting out. It's a way of getting attention. It's a way of just fitting in socially. And then, as I get older, it transforms into something else.

KING: Which is?

DAFOE: It's hard to say, because it's always evolving. But I think it's a kind of practice that I enjoy. It's a place where I really feel engaged and I like to state that I'm in when I'm performing because I feel sort of a super awareness. And everything drops away. And it's a good way to constantly address what feels important, what feels vital.

KING: So it's a learning process then, too?

DAFOE: Always, always.

KING: I know you don't want to tap yourself on the -- aren't most really good actors pretty smart?

DAFOE: I don't know about that.



KING: I won't ask you to name one.

DAFOE: Sometimes I think...

KING: There are some actors that are dumb? DAFOE: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, you know, there's different kinds of intelligence that I -- it's very clear that a lot of people that have really strong instincts as actors are very often inarticulate.


DAFOE: No -- are very often inarticulate and aren't very intellectual. Sometimes, you know, classically, if someone's very intellectual, they aren't as connected to the doing of things. And the doing is really the key to finding the emotionality and the spirit of things.

KING: Best supporting actor nominee for "Shadow of the Vampire," Willem Dafoe. Always good to see you.

DAFOE: Great, thank you, Larry.

KING: When we come back, Marcia Gay Harden of "Pollock." Don't go away.


MALKOVICH: You will stay away from her. You will stay away from my crew. I will finish my picture.

DAFOE: This is hardly your picture any longer.






MARCIA GAY HARDEN, ACTRESS: Is this a dream? Even if it's a dream, it's still what you see. It's life. You're not just randomly putting paint on the canvas. You're painting something. You can't abstract from nothing. You can only abstract from life, from nature.

ED HARRIS, ACTOR: I am nature.

HARDEN: If you only work from inside yourself, you'll repeat yourself.

HARRIS: Why don't you paint it then?


KING: Continuing our salute to Oscar nominees, we welcome Marcia Gay Harden, the best supporting actress nominee for "Pollock." She's one of my favorite people ever since "Miller's Crossing," "Meet Joe Black." You did a lot of great roles. HARDEN: Thank you.

KING: Where did you get the Brooklyn accent for this? Because I'm from Brooklyn.

HARDEN: Hold on now. I studied with a guy. His name was Sam Chwat. And I had to say when I first heard his name, I thought, "I can't possibly study with this man." Then they spelled it: c-h-w-a-t. He's a voice and a speech coach in New York. And we phonetically scored the script. And then I just took the accent home. My husband said, "Honey, you need to do that 24/7, so you can just feel the..."

KING: Phonetically scored the script?

HARDEN: Mm-hmm.

KING: Meaning?

HARDEN: Well, you take each syllable and you write down the phonetic symbol for it, so that you can go back and read it and remember that -- "painting" -- you know, the way that she spoke.

KING: Because we do speak different.

HARDEN: Right, but it's very different than say, "Yo, Vinny. Yo, Vinny." It's a very specific accent for the Jewish Brooklyn lady, than it was for the "Yo Vinnys" of Brooklyn.

KING: How'd you get this role?

HARDEN: Well, I'd worked with Ed Harris previously in a play called "Simpatico." And I auditioned for it in the classical, traditional audition way. I...

KING: You still have to audition?

HARDEN: All the time. That's the one part of the myth that I just have to pop the bubble in. I'm always auditioning for roles.

KING: No kidding?

HARDEN: No kidding.

KING: Did Ed audition you?

HARDEN: Yes, he did. He had been with the project for 10 years. And it was a labor of love. It was a labor of passion for him. And I respect him for it. He needed to be very clear about who he was working with and whether the actress that he chose had the chops to go in that direction and whether she could be directed by him.

And so each audition was kind of an exploration. It wasn't walk in, "I hope you know what I want. OK, you don't. Get out." It was, "Wait a minute, now, let's work on this."

It was a sculpting period of time. And we worked really well together. I loved taking direction from him.

KING: His versatility is amazing. Opened this weekend in a big war movie. I mean, he's run the gamut.

HARDEN: I know, what can Ed Harris not do?

KING: What's he like to work with?

HARDEN: Brilliant. He's passionate and extremely brave and dedicated. And he would take the zipper of the scene and unzip it. And when it became raw is the moment that he felt it was the right moment.

KING: Did you have to learn to paint, too?

HARDEN: Oh, so badly. I tried desperately. And I just found out I'm not a painter. I don't have much to say with that particular medium. I'm a speaker. I like to -- I like being an actress.

KING: Did Ed paint?

HARDEN: Ed painted beautifully. He'd been painting for 10 years. He built the studio out of Malibu. And he really got the rhythm of "Pollock" down.

KING: Did you enjoy doing it? You know, sometimes you can like a character or like a script, but not necessarily enjoy the playing of it.

HARDEN: I loved it. It was a stretch. And I think actors yearn to be stretched and to be used and to be able to transform into a character. And that is an opportunity that's unfortunately more rare than not. So I loved it. I found it exhilarating to go home after a long day's work, and know that, you know what, I think you got it. I think you pinned it or I think you found something different, a different way to approach it. Anyway, you found truth. I loved that.

KING: Were you surprised you got nominated?

HARDEN: Over the moon.

KING: Despite those incredible reviews -- because you got incredible reviews.

HARDEN: Well, yes, but I was surprised. I was expecting to be a good sport on that day and a somewhat good loser on that day, to be very happy for other people on that day. And so, that I got to be happy for myself, you know. It's...

KING: Did you watch it on television, too?

HARDEN: No, I'm one of five people who wasn't aware that it was actually telecast. And when I got the news from my publicist, Karen McClure (ph), I had just screamed 959 times. And then I shook the room -- I hugged the room-service waitress because I was in a hotel. And she -- the room service waitress came in. And she and I did a little jig around the room of celebration.

KING: Think you got a good shot of winning?

HARDEN: I don't think so, but I don't know. You know what? I completely feel like I've won by being here, one of the five ladies in my category to share the room with...

KING: Yes, you sure have.

HARDEN: It's amazing.

KING: Thanks.

HARDEN: Thank you so much.

KING: Marcia Gay Harden, nominated best supporting actress for "Pollock." And we'll close things out with the man who put this whole thing together and will put it together again. Gil Cates, the producer of the 73rd annual Academy Awards, is next. Don't go away.


HARDEN: We are painters, Jackson. We don't have any money. We don't get by. We struggle., but you are a great artist. I believe in Jackson Pollock. There's you and there's the painting in you. You need. You need. You need. You need. And I don't want to be anywhere else. I don't want to be with anyone else, but that's all I can handle.






UNIDENTIFIED ASTRONAUT: We're very honored to assist in recognizing George Lucas, an explorer in his own right, who has bridged the boundaries of cinematography and science fiction, to excite imagination and to inspire young and old throughout the world about this field we call space.

Congratulations, George Lucas, from the crew of Atlantis.


KING: We wind up this special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND with the man behind it all, Gil Cates, producer of the 73rd annual Academy Awards. It's his 10th Oscar telecast. He has had 68 nominations and 17 Emmys for the last nine times he's produced these awards. And he's president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And as someone once said, he makes producing an Oscar telecast seem easy. What's the toughest part of it? GIL CATES, PRODUCER, ACADEMY AWARDS: Well, first thing, I ought to tell you, I'm not president of the Academy. I feel badly about that.

KING: What are you? It says here...

CATES: I'm the secretary/treasurer of the Director's Guild of America.

KING: I'm humbled. I'm humbled.

CATES: You're humbled, OK.

KING: You deserve to be president.

CATES: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

KING: Toughest part?

CATES: I guess the toughest part is just getting everybody there on the day, because it's very much like your show. It's not a movie where you know, slide a day or the theater. You're going to do a show the next day.

KING: It's live.

CATES: It's live. And at you know, 5:30 Pacific Standard Time here in Los Angeles, everybody's got to be there. We got to do the show.

KING: I saw Steve Martin last week. He said there were -- he's already into...

CATES: Oh. Oh.

KING: ... rethinking the whole thing out. Did you pick him?

CATES: I did. I did. I mean, and I say picked him, but obviously with the approval of the Academy and ABC and everyone else involved, he's amazing. He came up to the office to work with the writers. And he brought his laptop computer and typed, and, you know, said slow or faster. He's just an extraordinary guy to work with.

KING: Brilliant, too.

CATES: Funny.

KING: Some things people want to know: Who decides who sits where?

CATES: A lot of people do. But, essentially, we have two compartments. One is, the show decides where the star sits and have easy access to the stage. They don't have to make long walks, etcetera, etcetera. But everyone else, that's decided by the Academy. There is a guy named Otto Spoerr. That's a magic name with us. He's the person (CROSSTALK)

KING: That's not your job. That's his job.

CATES: No, thank goodness. They say, "Call Otto."

KING: And who directs?

CATES: Louis J. Horvitz, a terrific director. This is his fifth time with us.

KING: Trouble with crowds?

CATES: Sometimes. The people who come to the Academy Awards dress and behave, I think, usually very appropriately. They know it's a big event. It's the last event. It's the major event of the season. I think people come prepared to have a good time.

KING: Why do they run so late, Gil?

CATES: You know, I view the Academy Awards like the last game of the World Series. I mean, it is what it is. It takes what it takes. To me, the most important...

KING: But you're not happy if someone does their five minute acceptance speech?

CATES: Oh, no, no, no. No, what I meant by -- further by that is, I'm not happy if the show's not interesting. If the show's boring, then that's not good no matter what the length is. The show's got to be interesting, exciting. We have some surprises that we're planning and some surprises that will surprise us.

KING: Yes, you're always surprised, right? Somebody will wear something weird.


KING: Or something will fall off or...

CATES: Jack Palance dropped his one arm pushup. Or I remember when Anna Paquin came up and hyperventilated for five or 10 seconds. Those are our surprises.

KING: Do you have your own worst moments?

CATES: I have several.

KING: Any one you'd like to reveal?

CATES: I have several. Well, we had terrible moment when Jack Lemmon went to Moscow, the first show that I did, and there was feedback at the studio. We couldn't hear anymore. You know, once Madonna did a song from Dick Tracy: "I Always Get My Man." And she walked down stage and a microphone was supposed to come up three feet in front of her, beautifully set, wonderfully choreographed. And, of course, the microphone didn't come up. And someone had to hand her a hand mike. So we had our moments of anguish.

KING: Will we -- are we going to be surprised a lot this year? Billy Crystal always surprised us with his unusual beginnings and musical numbers.

CATES: Right.

KING: Are we going to have...

CATES: I think you're going to be surprised this year. I think this year Steve Martin has his own sense of what Steve Martin is. And I think that the audience is going to really adore it. I know I find working with him very beguiling. It's really...

KING: You pick the presenters?

CATES: Yes. Why, do you want to pick on someone?

KING: No, I was just asking.

CATES: Yes, I do.

KING: What, are you nervous, Gil?

CATES: I am.

KING: You are nervous.

CATES: Oh, I'm nervous. I'm nervous. I'm going to leave here with five press agents saying, "Why didn't you? How come?"

KING: Gil, you got the job.

CATES: Thank you, I'll take it.

KING: Gil Cates, producer of the 73rd Annual Academy Awards. He's won 17 Emmys.

We hope you enjoyed tonight's edition with eight nominees -- seven nominees and Mr. Cates. Well, we nominate him, too. I made him president; I'll make him a nominee.

Thanks for joining us for this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. The Oscars are one week from tonight. Good night.




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