CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Interviews With Robert Shapiro, Ben Kingsley, Robert Wuhl and Warren Chistopher
Aired June 2, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: He's a real-life legal eagle turned courtroom novelist. Dream Team attorney Robert Shapiro joins us in L.A. And then Oscar winner Ben Kingsley talks about starring in a movie called "Sexy Beast." Plus, his hit series "Arliss" takes a behind-the-scenes look at big-money sports: actor and comedian Robert Wuhl. And, he was Al Gore's leading point man in Florida during Election 2000: former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, reflecting on politics, personalities and chances of a lifetime.
They're all next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
We begin tonight's roundup of great guests with Robert Shapiro, friend, attorney, author. His new book, "Misconception," co-written with Walt Becker, just published, caused fame for the renowned member of formation of the Dream Team for O.J. Simpson. Robert Shapiro sent me a copy of this book when it was in Galley (ph). I got a chance to read it. I really loved it. For a first effort, I thought it was extraordinary.
ROBERT SHAPIRO, AUTHOR, "MISCONCEPTION": I wanted to use my real-life experiences, but have a little dramatic license with them. And so the characters are fictional, but the people who read it seem to know and recognize the people in the book.
KING: Who came up with this idea of dealing with the really heady issue of abortion as you treat it in this book?
SHAPIRO: It -- Walt Becker is a screenwriter. And he was writing a novel at the time. And he was working with Greg Davis, who was producing films. And they were both in the same building where my law firm, Christensen Miller, is located.
And they called on me one day and said, "You know, we have an idea for a movie. But we really need to get some real legal drama into it. Would you be interested?" We started talking about it, and I said, "You know, I think it's a great idea. But I'd really like to take a shot at writing a novel with this."
And Walt was writing a novel. And so, two and a half years ago, we started this project...
KING: Now how did it work, writing fiction as two people -- who does what?
SHAPIRO: You know, it's a collaboration. First, we developed the storyline. And then we outlined the chapters, had the lead characters, and each of us took a crack at putting it on paper. And...
KING: So you might have written two pages, he might have written the next three? I mean, it worked that close?
SHAPIRO: Yeah. It's very, very close. We worked on a -- on a daily basis on this. And he would do a writing, I'd do a rewriting; I'd do a writing, he'd do a rewriting. And at the end, we came up with a controversial legal thriller.
KING: And a wonderful read. I must tell you...
SHAPIRO: Oh, thank you.
KING: ... it's a page turner for a first time out. You ought to consider writing more. I hope you do write more.
SHAPIRO: I'm going to try. It was a wonderful experience, a great learning experience, a tremendous discipline. But also, on top of a read, I think what I wanted to get across was to be a facilitator for an issue that hasn't been discussed yet.
KING: Which is?
SHAPIRO: And that issue is the potential for abuse of the RU- 486, and in this case, as a murder weapon.
In Louisiana, nominee to be the Surgeon General of the United States gets involved with a female patient. She becomes pregnant. She has a miscarriage, which turns out to be the result of the RU-486. And he gets tried for murder in Lafayette, Louisiana.
And it raises a moral issue that is going to take place, and a legal issue that will take place, but hasn't yet. And that is if it is not against the law for a mother to have an abortion against the wishes and desires of a father, is it, or should it be, against the law for a father to cause an abortion against the wishes and desires of the mother?
And it seems like a simple answer. But when you start to think about it, it becomes very, very complex.
KING: How did you choose that title?
SHAPIRO: We wanted to do two things. Number one, I wanted to talk about the misconceptions in the legal system. For example, the presumption of innocence -- here's a doctor, he goes on trial, he has no presumption of innocence. He is assumed guilt. The assumption of guilt takes over.
We just saw -- in the Brazill case, in Florida, a 13-year-old tried as an adult. Did he have a jury of his peers? These are the misconceptions that we deal with on a day-to-day basis. How does a lawyer represent somebody who he may believe is guilty of a crime? Or she -- in this case, the lawyer is a female defense lawyer.
So that was part. And the second part was Walt Becker and I wanted to use a play on words for the birth process...
KING: How do you like inventing characters?
SHAPIRO: I think it's terrific. Obviously...
KING: You feel like a chess master, right? I mean...
SHAPIRO: You know -- first of all, you're going to see -- and I think you saw in the book -- certain characteristics of...
SHAPIRO: ... people that are known in the public.
SHAPIRO: Whether they be media, people in Congress, people in the FBI. So it's very interesting. It allows you to express yourself in ways that you couldn't do because of attorney-client privileges...
KING: Course, you also had a bestseller, with your real-life book on the...
SHAPIRO: Yes. Yeah.
KING: ... O.J. Simpson trial, right? So I mean, obvious you went from one to the other. Was this more fun?
SHAPIRO: This is much more fun. The first one was a tremendous burden.
SHAPIRO: It was -- yeah -- and it was trying to free myself of things that had been said, things that took place -- letting my spirit and my belief in the legal system -- and explaining the difference between legal justice and moral justice, which people had a great deal of difficulty with. In this book, you're pretty free to do anything you want.
But what I wanted to do -- and Walt and I were committed to -- is even though it's legal fiction, it's legal reality. This is not legal fantasy.
KING: Should make a good movie.
SHAPIRO: You know, everybody who's read that says this. For some reason, people in the motion picture business are a little bit afraid, I think, of the issue of abortion... KING: Really?
SHAPIRO: ... and the controversy with this. But there is a prominent actor and actress who are very, very interested in playing the lead roles.
KING: That can usually get it done.
SHAPIRO: So, we'll see. First we want to get on the bestseller list.
KING: It deserves it.
We'll be right back with more Robert Shapiro. The book is "Misconception," co-written with Walt Becker. If you don't like it, something wrong.
We'll be right back.
KING: Want to touch some other bases with Robert Shapiro. The new book is "Misconception."
You recently had a case involving an asylum -- or Chinese -- what happened?
SHAPIRO: You know, first of all, I'm so honored to be on the same show with Warren Christopher. And I had a chance to meet with the Secretary before this show. And I was discussing this.
I represented one of the largest leaders of Chinese dissident group in the People's Republic of China. His name is Zhang Hongbao. And he has a group called the Zhong Gong, very similar to the Falun Gong, which is an exercise meditation group. He had one other element to it. He had an economic element, which dealt with health and well being.
And the People's Republic of China became very, very concerned that these groups would eventually have political power. So they outlawed in 1999 the Falun Gong as an evil cult.
And they were doing the same thing with the Zhong Gong. And he was threatened with all types of political persecution, including death. So he left China.
And he went around the world, and he ended up in Guam, entering illegally with a fake passport. And he was detained by the United States government. And he sought political asylum.
For 13 months, he was in custody when I came into the case. Because his political asylum application -- which should have been granted, because clearly, he was...
KING: He was under threat. SHAPIRO: ... he was under threat -- the judge said, "I'm going to grant this." And then, the People's Republic of China sent letters to the United States government, saying that he is wanted for 20 rape cases. The judge, obviously, became very concerned, and asked that the State Department and the Library of Congress look into this. Both then...
SHAPIRO: ... and came back with an analysis which said, probably the charges that have been filed on their face are fraudulent. They are certainly very suspicious. And this is a common tactic that is done by the Chinese Communists for political dissidents.
In any event, he is denied asylum before I come into the case. But he's granted wrongful withholding; that is, he can't be sent back to China.
Both sides appeal. And he asks for release on bond. He's not going to go anywhere, because they're going to kill him if he goes back to China; that's the last place he would go. And for some reason, the United States government, at that time, would not acquiesce to the release.
KING: So what did you do?
SHAPIRO: I came into the case, and I went to Washington. And I started talking to political leaders. And eventually, we were able to get the support of then Majority Leader Trent Lott, who sent the letter to Attorney General Ashcroft.
SHAPIRO: And as a result, two days after the United States plane was released from China, Zhang Hongbao came back to Washington that night, so...
KING: He's a free citizen now?
SHAPIRO: He's here. Both sides are still appealing. But it's very clear to me that he will remain here. He's anti-Communist, pro- American. And quite frankly, it's one of the best things I've ever done, as you're aware.
KING: You're proud of this.
SHAPIRO: Yeah, very proud of it.
KING: We're going to have -- somebody going to be arrested in the Bakley murder? Who knows?
SHAPIRO: Who knows?
You know, one of the things...
KING: You only got less than a minute. SHAPIRO: One of the things is we shouldn't speculate. Let's not -- let's give him the presumption of innocence.
KING: How about...
SHAPIRO: And thank you very much for calling it the Bakley murder, not the Blake murder case, which...
KING: Yeah. She was killed. Yeah.
SHAPIRO: Exactly right.
KING: Robert Shapiro.
SHAPIRO: Always a pleasure, Larry.
KING: The book is "Misconception," written -- co-written with Walt Becker. And you will really like this one.
And next, one of my favorite actors, Ben Kingsley.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SEXY BEAST")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Your cigarette, you have to put it out.
BEN KINGSLEY, ACTOR: Cigarette? What, this? No, I'm not going to put it out.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You must.
KINGSLEY: Why is that?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: If you don't we can't take off.
KINGSLEY: Well that's your problem, isn't it. It's your move.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I'm afraid you can't...
KINGSLEY: Now, I'm not going to put it out, you're just going to have to wait until I finish this; simple as that.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Why don't you just put the cigarette out?
KINGSLEY: What's that, sancho? Do you want me to cut your hands off, use it as an ashtray? Yeah, I'll put it out, provided you're prepared to let me stub it out on your eyeball. I'll put it out; agreeable?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE one of my favorite actors and extraordinary talent, Ben Kingsley. He's won the Oscar, of course, for "Ghandi." Appeared in such great movies as "Schindler's List," "Searching for Bobby Fisher" -- he even appeared with me in "Dave." He was -- he was OK in that.
And he stars in a new movie called, "Sexy Beast," which they're describing as neon noir. What is, Ben, "Sexy Beast" about? And is it you?
KINGSLEY: Wow. I'm -- I think "Sexy Beast" is a bit like "Hydra"; you know, it has many heads. And they're not quite sure which one occupies that title at any given time.
There's several sexy beasts on the -- on the -- in the film, you know. And the baton seems to be passed from one character to another.
KING: Basically, it's about?
KINGSLEY: It's about basically -- it could have taken place 2,000 years ago, inasmuch as it's about tribal honor. And if you -- if you refuse to honor a certain tribal code, then the tribe will turn against you, will alienate you, will exile you, will destroy you.
And my job on behalf of the tribe -- and they happen to be British criminals -- is to elicit the services of one man who can do this job for us, and no other man can. And I'm sent to recruit him from retirement. And it's that struggle to get him back into our tribe.
KING: Who plays that role?
KINGSLEY: Ray Winston plays the man I have to get back to London to do this job.
KING: But you could have set it in any time...
KINGSLEY: I believe so, Larry...
KING: ... at any time?
KINGSLEY: ... because it -- because the -- it's so well written that the characters are archetypal. And I love archetypal mythology. And it's like -- it's like an ancient Greek myth. It takes place on the Mediterranean anyway, in this great, white blast of white light throughout most of the film.
KING: Set in what time period?
KINGSLEY: 1999, 2000, you know...
KING: And the title?
KINGSLEY: "Sexy Beast."
KING: Was it always that title when you got the script...
KINGSLEY: Always that title.
That's a kind of expletive in England.
KING: Oh, really?
KINGSLEY: Yeah. And it can be used descriptively for someone you find dangerously attractive and sexy.
KING: The British made...
KINGSLEY: "Oh, sexy beast," yeah. Yeah.
KING: Opening in the United States?
KINGSLEY: In about two -- well, on the 16th, I think it is, of this month, maybe a little earlier.
KING: When you say, "neon noir," does that mean this is a small hit? In other words, it's...
KINGSLEY: I haven't...
KING: ... designed for a genre?
KINGSLEY: I haven't come across this phrase.
KING: That's what it said here. Film is described as neon noir.
KINGSLEY: Well, I couldn't hear it from better lips than yours, which is the first time I've heard it.
KING: First time I've heard it...
KINGSLEY: I like it. It's very catchy, neon noir. I think it probably means it's an extremely contemporary film noir. KING: How do you select your roles? I mean, is there a method -- do you...
KINGSLEY: There is.
KING: ... say, if I like it...
KINGSLEY: There is a method. I mean, I can't always apply it, because sometimes I have to work. Because I've got four children, et cetera, et cetera.
If I recognize the man, or if I'm curious to know more about the man, then I'm well on the way to saying yes to the role.
Now, Don in "Sexy Beast" is an extremely violent, dangerous character. But there's something about him that I recognized, and something about him that made me very, very curious.
KING: Do you enjoy evil parts?
KINGSLEY: You know, where I find Don was very playable was that instead of playing the evil, I played his wound. Because his wound was -- is what triggers his rage attacks. His wound is, "I love you; why don't you love me?" It's the sort of classic wound of unrequited love.
KING: So the evil person doesn't look in the mirror and say, "I'm evil."
KINGSLEY: Strangely enough, there are scenes in this film where I act in the mirror. And that was a very interesting exercise. I shave, and I come out with this stream of invective into the mirror. I've never done that before; I found it quite frightening.
KING: Was "Anne Frank" -- I don't want to say fun to do -- well done...
KINGSLEY: It was...
KING: ... I mean...
KINGSLEY: It was...
KING: ... did you enjoy doing it?
KINGSLEY: I did it in Prague, which had a profound effect on me, anyway; being in that city, and the people I met. I worked with Robert Dornhelm, who's an extraordinary, gifted director.
And Anne Frank, Hannah Taylor-Gordon, is one of the greatest leading ladies I've ever worked with in my career -- centered, gracious, intelligent, generous, and totally gave herself to a very harrowing journey throughout the film -- privilege. KING: Was a perfect script.
KINGSLEY: A privilege, privilege to do it.
KING: Certainly gave us a new view of that story.
Our guest is Ben Kingsley. His new film is "Sexy Beast." He's never disappointed me.
Back with more after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SEXY BEAST")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I've not got lots of money. I got enough. I'll do anything not to offend you. But I can't take part. I'm not really up to it.
KINGSLEY: Not up to it?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, I'm not. KINGSLEY: I see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "SEXY BEAST")
KINGSLEY: Are you saying no?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No.
KINGSLEY: Is that what you were saying?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Not exactly.
KINGSLEY: What are you saying?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I'm just saying -- thanks, and all that. Thanks for thinking of me. But I'm just going to have to turn this opportunity down.
KINGSLEY: No, you're just going to have to turn this opportunity yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I'll tell you how good Ben Kingsley is. He played a man I knew. You played Meyer Lanksy.
KINGSLEY: Did you know...
KING: And Bugsy. I knew Meyer in Miami Beach. You had him down.
KINGSLEY: Good heavens.
KING: That was just the way Meyer was.
KINGSLEY: That's the best review I've ever had in my career.
KING: That was him.
KINGSLEY: I had letters from his family, from his widow and from one of his nephews, I think...
KING: Son is dead.
KINGSLEY: That's right.
KINGSLEY: Who said, "You honored him, and we were very pleased with your performance." I breathed a...
KING: Did you like that role? KINGSLEY: ... huge sigh of relief.
KING: Did you like that role?
KINGSLEY: I did. The great patriarch, a man who clearly was brought up in the Shtetls, was used to pogroms, was used to learning that if you do not look after your own, no one else will. And I'm sure that, again, rather than play the criminal, I played -- I played...
KINGSLEY: ... the patriarch, the man who learned through adversity to look after his own.
KING: When you get a role like "Ghandi," one of the problems with that, I guess, is can you every surpass that?
KINGSLEY: It's -- it was clearly an extraordinary collection of events. It was my first major feature film. I worked with an astonishingly gifted director. And in turn, receiving the Academy Award was a key into a career that I honestly didn't think I would have. Because I was -- I was very happy in the theater, which I now...
KING: You were a stage actor.
KINGSLEY: I was a stage actor. I scarcely returned to it. Because I find that the camera and its scrutiny, and the technique of acting for the camera, forces me to be as economic as I humanly, possibly can in light of...
KING: Opposite of theater.
KINGSLEY: ... stillness. Stillness, stillness, stillness.
So I often speculate as to whether -- how I would feel if I was standing on Sunset Boulevard, and somebody said to me, "Ben, you see that chap over there? He played Ghandi," I'd feel sick. I'm so glad it was me. I am...
KINGSLEY: ... glad it was me.
KING: ... even though you're always compared to it, and...
KING: ... even though they'll say, "Well, whatever you do, it'll never be `Ghandi.'"
KINGSLEY: Well, he was such a completely unique silhouette, anyway. You know, there are no -- there are no -- he's not a genre. There are no roles like him, you know, that walk around...
KING: That's right. What do you use for reference?
KINGSLEY: ... scarcely clothed, and, you know, and...
KING: How did you -- did you play him as less than big?
KINGSLEY: Again, if you are -- if you are offered an heroic role, like Otto Frank -- completely heroic man, a great patriarch, a mensch, as I would say. And the -- I played him as the greatest dad in the world, not a holocaust survivor.
And with all my roles, I try and -- I try -- for example, if the man is supposed to be supremely good, look for the flaws, look for the...
KING: Did you look for a flaw in Ghandi?
KINGSLEY: Absolutely. Yes, and Simon Wiesenthal -- all the great -- all the great and wonderful men that I have played. I think it's respectful to them and honest to them to acknowledge that it's the flaws that make us; it's the cracks that make us...
KING: You've had some great roles.
KINGSLEY: I have. I have. I hope I haven't thrown too many of them away.
KING: Do you miss the theater?
KINGSLEY: The last thing I did was "Waiting for Godot." I loved doing it.
KINGSLEY: I did that four years ago -- tough play -- lyrical, extraordinarily...
KING: Did you understand it?
KINGSLEY: Greatest -- I did. It seemed to be utterly relevant to where we are right now in the 20th century. We seem to be waiting for something. We don't quite know whether technology is going to give us the answer, whether our gurus are going to give us the answer, whether mass organized religion is going to give us the answer, whether we'll find the answer in our diet, in studying the ecology -- boy, are we waiting for something.
KING: You will take small roles, then? Because you're one of those rare -- a leading-man character actor, Academy Award winner who's also can be the fourth or fifth star of a movie.
KINGSLEY: I'm very happy to do that if I've -- if I -- if I know that I'm going to love the company of my fellow actors, as I did recently in Baltimore. I didn't play a huge part in "Tuck Everlasting." I played the part of the devil. And he's a -- he's a very, very strong, recurring theme in the film. And I had the most wonderful time playing him. KING: How about "Schindler's List?"
KING: Tough to do.
KINGSLEY: Very, very tough, pushed me -- pushed me to the edge of my patience on many occasions.
KING: I'll bet.
"Sexy Beast" -- is it going to receive well, do you think? Are you good at guessing how a picture will be received?
KINGSLEY: So far, in England and Europe and at the Toronto Film Festival, it has done extremely well. So...
KING: It's been an honor having you with us.
KINGSLEY: Oh, sir, you're very kind. My honor, too.
KING: Ben Kingsley -- the new movie is "Sexy Beast." We thank him very much for joining us.
One of my favorites, Robert Wuhl -- he stars and is executive producer of the hit on HBO, "Arliss."
He's next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SEXY BEAST")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I've had enough of this crime and punishment bollocks. Well, maybe...
KINGSLEY: I won't let you be happy! Why should I?
Friday, the Groverner (ph) -- you'll be there.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I won't.
KINGSLEY: You will (UNINTELLIGIBLE) doing it. Don't you show me up.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, I won't be there.
KINGSLEY: You will! You missed the Roundtree!
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No.
KINGSLEY: Yes, Roundtree!
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No.
KINGSLEY: Yes, Grovener (ph)!
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, Don. KINGSLEY: Friday!
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I won't be there.
KINGSLEY: You will!
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, Don.
KINGSLEY: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ARLISS")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Arliss, forgive us for surprising you. We have something to tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Something important.
ROBERT WUHL, ACTOR: Rita, would you excuse us.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No, Rita can stay. This concerns her too.
WUHL: What's wrong? What did she do?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Wrong -- nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Everything is wonderful. I'm retiring.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Not now, but in a few months.
WUHL: In a few months? I thought after last night everything was just fine.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: It's fine.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Wonderful.
WUHL: Great! Then why...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Oh, my God, they're having a baby!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Next, one of my favorite people, Robert Wuhl the actor and comedian. More than that, he did a lot of writing for the Academy Awards when Billy Crystal hosted them. He won Emmy Awards for that writing. Robert Wuhl stars and is executive producer of -- HBO has a lot of great things. My favorite is "Arliss" the behind the scenes look at the high pressure world of big money sports. Are you surprised, how long has this been on now?
WUHL: We're going into our sixth year.
KING: This was a role of the dice wasn't it?
WUHL: Yes, it was originally supposed to be a six episode miniseries. And it had branched out and we broadened the show and it went much deeper with character and the stories and it's gotten better every year.
KING: Do you base it on anyone?
WUHL: Not one person, no.
KING: Where did you get the idea, where ideas ever come from, to do a thing about an agent?
WUHL: This was 1991 and Michael Toland had approached HBO with an idea about doing a "Spinal Tap" of sports events like the super bowl and Wimbledon. And HBO I had done a lot of work with so they approached me and I said, Mike, I don't want to do this, I've seen this. But I'd like to do a 6 episode miniseries, a satire on the world of sports and tell in through eyes of one and that should be a sports agent. This is pre-Jerry Maguire, too.
KING: And so "Arliss" was born. Anyway you pick the name? I love the name.
WUHL: Well, I wanted a unique name because like Lee Steinberg or Orrin Tellum (ph) are the only unique names. And when I wrote the name down Arliss, because I new of an actor Arliss Howard, I realized I could make dollar signs with the s's. That's really all it was.
KING: And the show has evolved, has it not, in into deeper subjects than it started with.
WUHL: We started as a big broad comedy, and we still have big funny. I'm first and foremost a comedian, but to me comedy has always been one of the two masks under drama -- comedy and tragedy.
KING: They are close.
WUHL: Yes, it's all drama, so when you get into some morality plays, when you get into the issues and I can explore those issues on HBO. I don't have to be PC. I can tic off advertisers because there aren't any. And we got into abortion, we got into steroid abuse, but we won two awards this last year: One for domestic abuse about a client who was a long time friend who I find out is a wife beater, and from the Alzheimer's Federation because we did a show about Ed Asner who played a long time baseball announcer who was starting to suffer from Alzheimer's.
KING: I loved every "Arliss". That may be my favorite, but it's hard to say but -- that was extraordinary.
WUHL: He was wonderful. I called Ed and he and his wife -- he and his watch the show. I knew his wife was a big fan. We started shooting on Monday. On Thursday I called him and said, Ed, you're playing this part and she said, Ed, you're playing this part.
And he had to learn a lot. He had to do a lot in that and it was also based on my experiences with my father in law who suffered from Alzheimer's at the end of his life.
KING: You brought my friend John Miller in too.
WUHL: I did indeed.
KING: Not bad. Do you -- is this a year to year thing? Do you have to wait every year for HBO to say we're a go because there was a rumor a year ago you weren't a go, and you panicked.
WUHL: Three years ago we were canceled.
KING: Time flies.
WUHL: Three years ago we were canceled.
KING: You were off?
WUHL: Never officially, but it was happening. And all the e- mails -- it was the beginning of the people who used e-mail. If it happened now it wouldn't make a difference, but e-mails and people wrote in and called in, and Chris Albrecht really went to the mat for the show. And now this week we are having this retrospective.
KING: Yes you are, right?
WUHL: Yes, part of the Toyota Comedy Festival on Tuesday night in New York City they are doing a tribute to "Arliss." And all the cast is going to be there.
KING: That's great. You get shifted around in the promo department when they have "The Sopranos" and "Sex in the City" and "The Costas" and "Gumbo," right. You feel like they don't promote you enough -- be honest.
WUHL: Well, yeah.
KING: They should promote you more.
WUHL: But at the same time we are the third highest rated series in the history of HBO just behind "Sex in the City" and "The Sopranos" in the history. Sure, you would like to get a little more but I've also learned that before I got into this, I never realized that sports isn't treated with the same respect.
KING: It's the monkey department.
WUHL: It's real interesting. And the show is really not about sports, it's about characters in the world of sports which is totally different. And of course our characters have branched our. Sandra was just great.
KING: Ben Bradley used to tell me that "The Washington Post" looked often at the sports pages as the comics. That's why sports writers get away with a lot.
WUHL: Did you ever notice sports writers doesn't have an opinion about anything?
KING: No news writer could have an opinion about the secretary of state on page one. With a sports writer...
WUHL: Always have an opinion.
KING: But you were also a terrific stand up comic and you're quite an actor. Hey, I remember "Batman."
WUHL: They're all successful.
KING: You were in the really successful.
WUHL: I was in the first one. Tim Burton gave me a great part. I've been very fortunate to work with great people.
KING: Does this now limit you? Do you not get calls to do other things?
WUHL: Well my time, because I'm so control of the show. I'm involved in every facet of it. They used to joke I control the ply of the toilet paper on the show.
KING: Do you write it?
WUHL: I supervise all the writing.
KING: Direct some?
WUHL: Yeah, direct some. Again as executive producer you supervise and I'm in the editing room constantly and in the mixing stage.
KING: Was it always from the get go, the idea that you would use real people in the series?
WUHL: No, it happened as part of casting. In the first episode we had a part of a team owner and we said why don't we just cast Jerry Jones, see if he'll do this. And so we did that we said using, you know, HBO, I like the blur of the line. It gives great texture. It's nothing new. Lucy did it. Lucy had William Holden and John Wayne.
KING: Not every week.
WUHL: No, but Fred Allen might have Jack Benny step in. So this is not a new concept. Donna Reed would have Don Drysdale and Colfax show up. But it was great for our thing because them for texture. You can't ask them to carry plot, I mean, they're not actors.
KING: Wonderful texture, including -- Shapiro was on.
WUHL: Bobbie Shapiro has been on a couple times. KING: We will be back with more of Robert Wuhl, the actor/comedian who stars and is the executive producer of terrific HBO series "Arliss." They are going to do a retrospective of it Tuesday in New York. You'll be there for that.
WUHL: I'll be there.
KING: We will be right back with more of Bob Wuhl after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ARLISS")
ED ASNER, ACTOR: Some of you might have noticed I've made a few errors lately. Not that I've been drinking -- on duty, anyway -- no, the doctor calls it Alzheimer's. Now it doesn't mean I'm getting ready to go in the home just yet, but it's just going to get worse. And you fans, people I love deserve to have the best. So, this is going to be my last call. I just want you to know that I've loved every moment of it. Even during the rain delays.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ARLISS")
WUHL: I am going Edmonton to present an offer to a client, no matter how big, no matter how small.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hockey is a religion in Canada. You better not let anybody know what you're doing up there.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Gele (ph) seems happy with the extension, so why...
WUHL: Why? Because I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about Canadians. I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about their fans. I'm an American. W.S. Walcott is an American buyer who will move the team to an American city, thereby creating hundreds of American jobs. I'm doing my part for the economy. I'm a patriot.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What about your Mercedes?
WUHL: That's entirely different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You've worked in films. You were in "Bull Durham," we said "Batman," you were in "Good Morning Vietnam." Would you like to do more movies?
WUHL: Of course. I like working with great people. Those movies you mentioned, it's Barry Levinson, it's Ron Shelton, it's Tim Burton. I've been very fortunate.
KING: You like writing too though, right?
WUHL: Oh, I love writing.
KING: You're sort of like an everyman. And when someone is that it's hard to pin it down, don't you think? Multi-talents often have problems.
WUHL: Yeah, I suppose, but as long as I'm collaborating with something great I mean, with "Arliss" I get to do the best of all worlds because I'm a story teller at heart and I get to tell these stories anyway I want to tell them and it's everything.
I get to do a half hour independent film a week and it's just, to have the people come up to me, I had Neil Simon stopped me on the street in New York City, this is one of my heroes and he stopped me on the street and he said, you're doing good work. And I said the best thing is Neil, I said I don't have to write down to the audience. He said enjoy that while you can. And then the other day David Milch from "NYPD Blue" I met him at a mixing stage...
KING: Not at the track?
WUHL: No, it was at the mixing stage and he said I really appreciate what you do, because whether you realize it or not, what you're doing on HBO, you and the other shows is you're really pushing the envelope for the networks. And I said I realize it but the first thing is the story.
KING: You also got to almost make love to Cynthia Sykes, Katerina Witt, Andrea Thompson.
KING: You write yourself good deals.
WUHL: It's good to be the king.
KING: Good to be the king. There was one critic who got a little angry at you.
KING: Mushnick's a critic -- does Mushnick ever leave his house?
WUHL: I don't know.
KING: He just sits there and watches television all day. Somebody said that the shows were a little harsher, tougher.
WUHL: Darker, they are darker, yeah, they definitely are darker.
KING: That was done by design.
WUHL: Yeah, oh sure.
KING: Mushnick in new York doesn't like the show. WUHL: Oh, no. He talked about how the show was at one point he goes, it's a show that takes advantage of women. And the show he was talking about was one we just won the thing on domestic abuse about. It's very bizarre. He is a moralistic person.
KING: Did you let it bother you?
WUHL: Only in the sense, you can't let it bother you totally, but you take everything a little bit personally.
KING: The television critics have almost no effect. Because it's a free medium.
WUHL: Right, but they do have effect with HBO.
KING: It's a pay medium.
WUHL: It's a subscription so if the subscribers like you then they'll stick with you longer, but we've had a great champion, Marvin Kitman. Karen James has been wonderful.
KING: By the way, HBO, and we are part of that same family, it is AOL TIME WARNER, they give you more liberty than anybody could, right?
WUHL: Oh, of course, of course.
KING: Driving NBC nuts.
KING: You have no language barriers?
WUHL: No, it's not language and -- we use language and we have some nudity although none this year really. It's more subject matter. It's the stories you can tell. You don't have to be PC. You can take the other side. You can take the unpopular, you can take the realistic side. You can take, it's not -- you can go into areas that you're not going to go into, that athletes do beat their wives and they get away with it.
And athletes also get women pregnant and you have to pay for abortions. They do get away with it, and you can go into that area.
KING: You going to touch things like "Law and Order" taking actual real cases and sort of fictionalize them?
WUHL: Well we do it anyway. All the agents rat out their clients. I'll talk to agents and they'll rat them all out. They tell me all these stories, and I say gee, that's a great story. We'll twist it around, we won't make it the same sport, we won't make it the same type of person but we use the same basis.
KING: Have most athletes cooperated?
WUHL: Oh everybody, otherwise they wouldn't be on the show. KING: Clemens, you get everybody.
WUHL: Clemens was great. Roger is an old friend to begin with. And they trust us now. They say that the toughest thing to get in advertising is a brand name, and now it's become a brand name.
KING: Get Barry Bonds?
WUHL: Barry's been on a few times.
KING: When does "Arliss" start shooting again?
WUHL: We wrapped shooting, we premier next Sunday night, 9:30 on HBO following "Sex in the City."
KING: OK. That's right, you were -- I'm lost in time. So I didn't make it this year. I'll make it next year.
WUHL: You'll make it this year -- although you're in the retrospective.
KING: I am?
WUHL: Yes, you are.
KING: Thank you, Robert
WUHL: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Robert Wuhl, an old friend and deserving of all this success. The star and executive producer of "Arliss." "Arliss" debuts nest week and they get treated at the Toyota Comedy Festival in New York on Tuesday.
Next is Warren Christopher, former secretary of state, thanks for joining us with Robert Wuhl. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ARLISS")
VOICE OF COMPUTER: Good morning. You are headed West. The temperature outside is 3 degrees centigrade.
WUHL: "Ootside," "ootside" my ass. How far am I from Jasper?
VOICE OF COMPUTER: You are 240 kilometers from Jasper.
WUHL: Kilometers! This isn't France.
VOICE OF COMPUTER: Bonjour!
WUHL: No, no, English, English, English!
VOICE OF COMPUTER: Shhh. Lower volume. No need to shout.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Michael's office. Hello?
WUHL: Rita, talk to me! Talk to me!
VOICE OF COMPUTER: You are about to run into a deer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING WEEKEND an old friend and extraordinary American public servant, Warren Christopher, the former secretary of state and author of a terrific new book, "Chances Of A Lifetime." These are personal reflections and impressions of leaders and event that shaped the second half of the 20th century and you knew most of them, right?.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I did, Larry.
KING: In fact, did you know everyone you write about in the book?
CHRISTOPHER: Yes, I know all the people I wrote about.
KING: Where did you start in government?
CHRISTOPHER: I started really with Pat Brown here in California, the Edmund G. Pat brown who was governor from 1958 to 1968.
KING: Who beat Nixon in '62.
CHRISTOPHER: Had such a tremendous career here. Really launched California in the great prosperity we have now -- the water plan, the education plan.
KING: Amazing guy.
CHRISTOPHER: He was an amazing guy.
KING: Did you always go back between private practice and serving government?
CHRISTOPHER: Yes, I did. It was one of the lucks of my life that I was able to go in and out, Larry. I was able to combine a private practice with public service.
KING: Now, some of the great people that you include in this, I was reading through the clip notes at the beginning of the book, you cover everyone from FDR down, right? Pretty much. You start with Pat, right?
CHRISTOPHER: When I was growing up FDR was president so I saw something of him at that time. Of course that was before I was in government.
KING: Who surprised you? CHRISTOPHER: Well, I think probably the person that surprised me the most was William O. Douglas. I law clerked for William O. Douglas right after law school. That was a tremendous experience and he surprised me so much, Larry, by being a bit chilly to me when I was working for him, and distant, but then when I left his employment he could not have been more generous and helpful to me in my career.
KING: He was also as Supreme Court justices go, public, right? He would probably have appeared on this show?
CHRISTOPHER: He probably would have. You know he wrote 20 books or more. He traveled around the world during the summers so he was a very public man and the time of course was rumored to be President Roosevelt's choice for vice president.
KING: Was he brilliant?
CHRISTOPHER: He was one of the most brilliant people I've ever worked for, Larry. He worked so fast, some thought too fast. It just came out of the end of his pen almost perfect prose.
KING: And very strong on the environment, was he not?
CHRISTOPHER: Very strong on the environment, very strong on the First Amendment. Probably the greatest defender of the First Amendment that we've had in the last half century.
KING: Does a clerk learn a lot? Or do they give the clerks a lot of leeway?
CHRISTOPHER: From my standpoint it all went one way. I learned from him, I learned from my fellow clerks and I learned from the other justices. It really made a great difference in the rest of my career because they kept recommending me for things. I was a fellow from California, sort of a non-crazy fellow from California, and so they recommended me.
KING: Now, you worked in the Johnson, Carter and Clinton administrations, as well right? For Johnson doing?
CHRISTOPHER: I was deputy attorney general, the number two spot at the attorney general period. That's the last days, the last two years of Lyndon Johnson.
KING: Working under?
CHRISTOPHER: Working under Ramsey Clark.
KING: Another outspoken...
CHRISTOPHER: Extraordinary man.
KING: Progressive man. Still going at it.
CHRISTOPHER: Still going at it, right. KING: Our guest is Warren Christopher, the former secretary of State with an extraordinary new book, "Changes of a Lifetime." Boy, he's had them. Don't go away.
KING: Our friend Michael Beschloss said about this book and the author: "Warren Christopher is the kind of public servant the founders imagined, a man of principle, integrity, modesty, loyalty and public spirit."
Did you like working with Johnson?
CHRISTOPHER: I liked it very much. He was a powerful, big man, and I think history will be kinder to him than they were right after he left. What he accomplished, Larry, in the civil rights field is just awesome to me, getting out legislation through in the mid-1960's when the country was still segregated, is really an enormous accomplishment.
Of course, he will always be shadowed by Vietnam, but nevertheless I think he was a tremendous president in so many ways.
KING: You were deputy undersecretary under Carter, right? Of State?
CHRISTOPHER: I was deputy secretary of State, the number two spot.
KING: Under Carter?
KING: And Carter, in fact, as was reported, recommended you strongly to Bill Clinton?
CHRISTOPHER: He did. He did.
KING: And Bill Clinton -- did you know Clinton well?
CHRISTOPHER: Well, I had worked for him during the period leading up to the election. I had helped him choose his vice presidential candidate, Al Gore. These stories are all in the book. It's a book driven by people and events. It's not a policy tome.
KING: How is history going to treat Clinton?
CHRISTOPHER: Better than I think people feel right now. You know, the worst time to judge a president, Larry, is right after he leaves office. Johnson and Carter were rated down at that time.
KING: Truman, way down.
CHRISTOPHER: Way down. So, you know, I regret that Clinton gave so much ammunition to his critics as he left, but I think he will be known as a president who, in terms of domestic economy and in terms of what he did internationally and economic terms, very, very impressive.
KING: Couple of other things. Any reflections back on what you might have done differently in Florida for Gore?
CHRISTOPHER: No. I don't think that anything that we did could have changed things. Obviously, we would like to have one more vote in the United States Supreme Court, but you know, we pressed that as hard and as far as we could.
A number of things have come out of it that are quite impressive, how America accepted that result, our institutions are so strong, and one of the things that is going to come out of it, Larry, is we are going to have a reform of our voting procedures in the states of the country, and that's important.
KING: The comics who say Bush was elected 5-4, are they right?
CHRISTOPHER: Well, that what an extraordinary Supreme Court decision that basically took the issue away from Florida, took the issue away from counting, and finished the matter up there.
I think probably Justice John Paul Stevens, the senior justice on the court, was right when he said: "We may never know who won in Florida, but we know who lost, and that is the judges of the United States who will be regarded for some time as being partisan."
KING: What do you think of the proposal to end the ABM treaty and build a shield?
CHRISTOPHER: Larry, on that, I have an iconoclastic viewpoint. I think we ought to find out if we can do it before we undergo all of the foreign policy disadvantages, take on all the cost of deciding to build it. Whether we can actually do that, whether we can succeed, I'm not sure. Hitting a missile with another missile is a very awesome thing to try to achieve.
KING: Do you have, Warren, a favorite among the extraordinary people you write about? Is there someone that just jumps out?
CHRISTOPHER: Well, you know, that's very hard to say. Among the world leaders, putting the United States leaders to one side, Yitzhak Rabin, who I have worked so closely within Israel, was the real favorite of mine. You know, a stern man, a taciturn man, but there was a sense of confidence he had, and I think we are seeing how much we miss him now in the Middle East.
KING: And Clinton was very close to him, right?
CHRISTOPHER: Clinton was very close to him. I was with Clinton at the moment we heard that Rabin has been assassinated, and I must say I've never seen anything affect Clinton quite so much. I could just see really the effect on him. Maybe he was thinking that, you know, this is one of the costs of being a world leader.
KING: Is that problem insoluble? CHRISTOPHER: No, I don't think it's insoluble, but it's going take some time. You know, some progress has been made, Larry. Look at the fact that there is treaty between Jordan and Israel, which is, you know, standing the test of time. Israeli troops are out of southern Lebanon, so there are lots and lots of problems, and this is a huge setback.
I must say I think it was not wise for the United States to try to stand down on this. I think we need to be involved there. Presidents have for 40 years.
KING: Is Colin Powell a good choice?
CHRISTOPHER: Colin Powell is a very good choice. He has a great chance to be a distinguished secretary of State, and he ought to be able to do better on Capitol Hill than I did, because he's a general.
KING: Your career is -- stands on its record.
CHRISTOPHER: Thank you.
KING: Warren Christopher, the former secretary of State, and the book from "Scribner's" is "Chances of a Lifetime".
Thanks for joining us on this very special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Good night.
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