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Interview With Ewan McGregor

Aired January 13, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he's a wizard of the rings on screen and a gay knight at a British (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the remarkable Sir Ian McKellen. And she'll probably get her sixth Oscar nomination for what she does "In the Bedroom." Sissy Spacek walked away from movie stardom to be a mom. He sings and dances at the "Moulin Rouge," also swings a life saver. Joining us from London, Ewan McGregor.

Then, she broke into movies before her teens. Now blossomed into a dramatic actress generating a whole lot of buzz, Jennifer Connelly from "A Beautiful Mind." And, how do you play a one-of-a-kind character like Howard Cosell? John Turturro knows. He nailed the part for "Monday Night Mayhem." Then, Yolanda Adams (ph) with the musical message: never give up. All next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Good evening and welcome to a very special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND with five top actors and actresses as our special guests. You'll be hearing lots about them at award time come March.

We begin with Sir Ian McKellen. He joins us from New York. He plays Gandalf the wizard in "Lord of the Rings," the movie that has -- just going to break every record known. It begins a three-part trilogy. Sir Ian, why did you take this part?

SIR IAN MCKELLEN, ACTOR: I was asked. I had never read the book on which it's based. You know, the Tolkien books that were best sellers right through the last century. But once I read the script and -- and canceled the amazing enthusiasm of Peter Jackson, the director, I felt that it's a wonderful part. One of the best I've ever had, and a wonderful range.

KING: Are you surprised at how well it's doing?

MCKELLEN: I think everyone's surprised, frankly. Of course, there was always going to be that rock bed of fans of the book that were going to want to see what Peter Jackson had done with them. But, of course, if they hadn't liked what they saw, then we would never have heard anything more of the movie. But it's gone -- crossed right over to people who have never had any intention of reading such a long novel, and all ages too. And the reason it's worked, I think, is because it's -- it's an amazing adventure story told in a rather old fashioned way, you know. Filled with cliff hangers and excitements, as well as comedy.

But nobody could have seen it coming, you know. And there were many people who thought this movie could never be made. And some of it -- most experienced producers in Hollywood turned down the opportunity. And after all, it's -- this first movie is one of three. You don't even find out what happens at the end and it's still a success. It's against all the odds that it's worked. And there are no international stars in the movie, you know. And it's just Tolkien; Tolkien is the star and the story.

KING: And you, you're the most famous name in it. Are the -- are the other two done?

MCKELLEN: Yes, we were down in New Zealand for over a year and we filmed the next two movies. We're going to have to go and do a few pickups I suppose, but -- and some of the sound is a bit roping (ph). You know the studios down in New Zealand don't have proper sound installation and they're right next door to the airport in Wellington, so we had to dub the entire first movie, and I expect we're going to have to do what we did with that movie with the other two.

KING: He was not the most likely director for this. How well did he do?

MCKELLEN: No. I mean, he's directed, what, a half dozen movies and he's got a cult following amongst people who like blood and gore, which I don't particularly. And, in fact, if I had seen his movies before, then perhaps I wouldn't have been so quick to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But "Heavenly Creatures," you know, Kate Winslet's first movie, was very good indeed.

He has got kiwi determination. You know New Zealand he is to the very core. He doesn't wear shoes; he wears the same clothes everyday. He's totally dedicated to the job and got a wonderful temperament. He never loses his temper. Very ready to accept suggestions from all departments unnoticed (ph). And he played (ph) the team with him and created almost from scratch a fully-fledged film industry down there. It was the biggest employer of anybody in New Zealand (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we were filming.

And it was very sweet, when they had the premier down there in Wellington, the government actually changed the name of the capital city to Middle Earth (ph) for the day. And we're on the stamps in New Zealand. You know, it's a really big thing. And...

KING: You even got tattooed, did you not?

MCKELLEN: You're not going to ask me to take my clothes off on your show?

KING: No, no, no, I'm not. But you did get tattooed?

MCKELLEN: Well, the fellowship of nine, yes. I think it was Elijah (ph) Wood's idea, who plays the main hobbit. We all went down to a rather seedy tattoo parlor, but then all tattoo parlors are seedy in Wellington. And we had nine in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) somewhere about our bodies. Mine was on my shoulder here. And now Peter Jackson having heard about it has been persuaded to have his own tattoo, but his says, "Ten." KING: Sir Ian, is it -- is acting acting to you, or is it -- is Shakespeare more difficult than doing a thriller?

MCKELLEN: If the script is good -- and that's my only criteria when accepting a part whether it's on stage or a film or TV -- if the script's good, it's going to support you and you'll be OK. And it doesn't matter whether it's an Agatha Christie script or whether it's by Shakespeare. But there's a big divide between acting on stage and acting on film. And it's -- I've been acting for 40 years now. I've had to learn how to act in movies. And when I adapted Richard III for the screen, that was a big test for me to see whether I could actually carry a movie. That having been done, I then felt confident to go on to do "Gods and Monsters" and other films too.

But it is the same process to a certain extent. There has to be a moment when you discover the character. You do that during rehearsal for a play. But when you're filming, you have to discover the character as the camera is actually rolling. That's the trick of it, it seems to me. And if you can do that, then you're going to appear to be real and in the moment. So there is a difference; they're connected there.

KING: Do you think it odd that since you came out of the closet you've gotten more roles?

MCKELLEN: Well, let that be a warning or an example to other people who feel that they might lose their careers if they come out of the closet, whether they're actors or politicians or scout masters. But it is surprising to some people, but not to me. I think what coming out does for you, as a person, is to give you immense self- confidence. At last, you join the human race and you walk about the world as your own master. And that's what I am.

And there's nothing more important for an actor than self- confidence, you know. And so maybe that's reflected in my work. I don't know. I feel more in touch with my emotions in my private life, as well as in my profession, and that helps too. And I'm very pleased that in Hollywood, as elsewhere, no one seems to give a damn that I'm gay. And it's not reflected in the parts I play. I play gay, straight, young, old, anything that's going.

KING: Do you think people should come out as a general rule in today's society?

MCKELLEN: There is no should about it. But they would feel better about themselves if they did. That is the overwhelming experience of everybody who's ever come out of the closet. They do not regret -- regret it even if it was painful for people around them at the time. Parents, for example, having to adjust. But those adjustments can be made. And once they're made, families grow closer together; people become more confident, and the world becomes a richer place because we admit that there's a variety in the world. And variety is the spice of life.

KING: The wider the scope of the roles, do you like that better?

MCKELLEN: I beg your pardon?

KING: The wider the scope of the parts you play.

MCKELLEN: I tend to like a part that I'm not absolutely certain that I can play. So it's a challenge. Now, if it's Shakespeare, you know there are going to be terrible mountain peaks that you're going to have to climb and have a great deal of experience if you're in hope of even looking at the top, letting alone getting to it. But in Gandalf, I wasn't certain that I could be convincing of the age of the man, or that I could convey his warmth as well as his sternness (ph). And I wasn't certain -- still -- still, I feel I'm new to films, and I was going to be carry off, you know, such an important part.

But in can be a range in many ways. In can be a range of different sorts of characters. There's a wide difference between Magnito (ph), let's say, and Gandalf. But there's also a wide range in working for the camera and working in a small theater, or working, as I'm doing on Broadway at the moment, in a large theater. So it's variety, difference and a challenge, that's what keeps me going, I think.

KING: Always great seeing you. You're one of the masters of the trade.

MCKELLEN: Thank you.

KING: Sir Ian McKellen, on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. He's Gandalf in "Lord of the Rings," a runaway hit. When we come back, Sissy Spacek is next. Don't go away.



SISSY SPACEK, ACTRESS: She's not divorced yet, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the same thing. Maine has crazy laws, that's all. Anyway, he loves her boys.

SPACEK: I'm glad you don't think he wants to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he's not going to marry her.

SPACEK: Well then what's he doing with her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She probably loves him. Girls always have. Let's just leave it at that.

SPACEK: Well, he won't listen to me. I've asked him three times to dismantle that swing set.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh leave it up. It looks like a young couple lives here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We now welcome to this special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND, Sissy Spacek, maybe the most talked about woman in Hollywood today. She stars in "In the Bedroom;" it recently won the American Film Institute Award -- she won, for best female actor of the year. Also has a Golden Globe nomination for the role. Five best actress Oscar nominations, and won one for "Coal Miner's Daughter." And a lot of people are saying "In the Bedroom" itself will get an Academy Award nomination. Should it as a film?

SPACEK: Absolutely.

KING: Yourself excluded, is this movie worthy of that high a praise?

SPACEK: You know, I -- I try not to think in those terms. But it's -- it's a wonderful movie, and we're -- everyone who worked on it is very proud of it. But I try not to go there. It's just a little safety mechanism that I've -- that I've developed over the years.

KING: The movie is considered what they call in Hollywood a sleeper, right? No one -- there wasn't a lot of advance buzz on this, and then suddenly the critics have been tremendous. Did you like it right away?

SPACEK: I loved the screenplay. When I read -- when I read the script I was just shattered by it and surprised. And I hadn't felt that way about a script in a long time. So I was -- when I was sent the script, it was an offer. So I waited...

KING: So you didn't have to say -- if you said yes, you got it?

SPACEK: Right. So I thought, "OK, now, I'm going to be very cool." So I waited about 10 minutes and then I called and I'm very happy I did.

KING: Are you at all surprised at the reaction to it?

SPACEK: You know, reaction like this is always a surprise, because you -- you don't ever want to take anything for granted. And I found that it's best to always focus on the work. And then when you finish your work, let go of it. And then whatever happens happens, because it's things that we don't have control over. It's thrilling that the critics have responded the way they have and that people are responding the way they are. Because it's your hope of all hopes that people will go to the theater and see the film. And so, yes...

KING: So when other people say it's worthy of seeing, that's the highest praise you can get, right?

SPACEK: That's the highest praise you can get.

KING: You feel like -- what was it like doing it? We know what it was like reading it, and we know what it's like finished. What was it like day to day? SPACEK: It was a wonderful experience. We were -- we were all there for the right reasons. Nobody was getting rich making this film. And we were all passionate about it. And Todd Field (ph), who wrote the screenplay with Rob Fessinger (ph), who also -- Todd (ph) also directed it. And he did -- oh, he was wonderful to work with.

He made every actor feel like we were the only actor in the universe and that he wanted to know everything that we thought and felt, no matter when we chose to talk to him about a seen. And, quite frankly, I chose to talk to him very late at night sometimes. And he would, I'm sure, would wake up and answer the phone.

KING: You mean you would just call him about a shoot the next day and what you thought about it and...

SPACEK: I would. Or, about something we'd already done. And he would act like -- like he as waiting for my call. That probably won't happen the next time, because...

KING: He's going to be on top. Are -- you liked working with Harvey Weinstein (ph), the Miramax people?

SPACEK: I loved working with Harvey (ph).

KING: They're very -- they roll dice.

SPACEK: Now, what do you mean?

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they take chances. They're not too...

SPACEK: Well, I think they have good taste.

KING: Yeah.

SPACEK: They have good taste and they -- they really hustle, they really work hard. They really hard work for your films, and you better be ready to work hard with them, because, you know, we roll up our sleeves and go. It's kind of like -- it's kind of like the old days.

KING: Do you see a lot of scripts for someone -- I mean, you're what, 52? I think you've said that, right?

SPACEK: Did you have to say that, Larry?

KING: Well, I think you've said it, that's why. How would I know it unless you -- you said it.

SPACEK: Not in recent years, no.

KING: Do you see a lot of recent years at that age?

SPACEK: You see scripts. Of course, you don't see as many as you -- you do when you're in your 20s and your 30s because it's a youth-oriented industry, and I've already played so many roles that are -- that... KING: Good God, have you.

SPACEK: So, no, but, you know, I feel really fortunate that I have seen so many wonderful screenplays in my long career.

KING: It's hard to believe "Carrie" was 26 years ago.

SPACEK: Well time flies when you're having a good time, doesn't it?

KING: You left the business, too, for a while, didn't you?

SPACEK: Well, no, I read that. But I didn't...

KING: You did not?

SPACEK: Well, no. What is it they say, the -- the rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated. Well, the rumors of my retirement were greatly...

KING: Well you did (ph) movies (ph), though, right?

SPACEK: I did movies (ph) when we had our oldest daughter and -- just to get a little bit more elbow room.

KING: And she acts now, right?

SPACEK: She does. She does. She's been acting since she was just a wee tot.

KING: Did you encourage that?

SPACEK: But now she's acting in the movies. I didn't encourage it, but I -- I didn't discourage it. Because I feel like if I -- you know, I don't want to be a hypocrite. The film industry has been good to me. And, you know, I think that if I -- I would have done it regardless. And I think that you can't take that away from people. If -- I think she's doing it for all the right reasons. She's done more theater in her short life than I ever have, because I've -- I've not (ph) done any.

And when she, at about six, told us she wanted to act in films. We said, "Well, honey, if you want to act, you can do theater," thinking she'll get it out of her system. But she did everything and was just quite wonderful. So, hopefully, she's doing it for the right reasons.

KING: What do you -- when people say to you, "This woman in 'In the Bedroom', who is she? How would you describe her?"

SPACEK: You know, I would describe her as an average woman, mother, happily married, living in a wonderful part of the country with a -- with a career. She's a music at the local school. She and her husband are happy; they've raised a wonderful son. She's not unlike the rest of us. And what I loved about her, and what I loved about this character in this piece in particular, is it's an ordinary person put in extraordinary circumstances.

KING: What happens to people when extraordinary events occur? A lot of people remember that from recent events, too.


KING: Thanks, Sissy.

SPACEK: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Sissy Spacek, she stars in "In the Bedroom." When we come back, Ewan McGregor joins us, and he stars in "Moulin Rouge" and "Black Hawk Down." Don't go away.


SPACEK: Oh my God, what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, hold still.


SPACEK: This was her husband, wasn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ex. He just dropped in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to press charges?


SPACEK: Well what's to stop him from doing it again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, did you hit him at all? Come on, tell me you hit him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I touched him. Ahh, Jesus, dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then what are you going to do?


SPACEK: That is not the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom, you know you like her.

SPACEK: I like a lot of people.



KING: It's now a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING WEEKEND from London, England, Ewan McGregor. He costars with Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge," nominated for a Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a motion picture comedy or musical. He's also in "Black Hawk Down," one of the great war movies ever made. And he plays the young Obi Wan Kinobi (ph). He'll be in the upcoming "Star Wars II, Attack of the Clones" (ph). Did you like this "Moulin Rouge" project right from the start, Ewan?

EWAN MCGREGOR, ACTOR: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It was hugely exciting and -- to be involved -- to be able to sing and dance while you're telling a story is incredibly challenging and exciting. And to work with Baz Luhrmann, really, and Nicole, you know, it didn't get much better.

KING: When you saw the finished product, were you at all surprised at all the techniques used?

MCGREGOR: No. I mean, we spent such a long time working on it. We were rehearsing for over four months. And we shot for, I think -- everyone's a bit vague about this, but between five and six months. So it was nine months of intensive work. And during the four months rehearsal with Baz, you know, we were kind of drawn into the world that he was going to create. So when I saw the finished product, it was a very familiar -- it was very familiar, you know. It was exactly as he described to me in our first meeting.

KING: Were you first a singer who then took up acting, or did acting -- was it acting, then singing or both?

MCGREGOR: Yeah. No, I've always -- I've always been -- been an actor. I was always going to be an actor since I was about nine. And I just always sung along the way really. But I had to sing in this film in a way that I haven't done before. I've sung in other films I've made; however, there's always been a kind of get out clause. You know, my character might not have been a great singer.

And -- but in this, because the singing had to tell the story, you know, it had to be a high level, I guess. So I worked very hard on that with Andrew Ross (ph), who's a great singing coach in Australia. And he kind of drew a voice out of me I didn't realize I had, I suppose.

KING: What was it like working with Nicole Kidman?

MCGREGOR: A nightmare. Very, very difficult everyday. No, no, fantastic. Fantastic. I mean, I had met Nicole only once before at a premier, you know, where they kind of -- they ask you to stand next to another actor and you -- for your photograph. And then in the magazines it looks like you're great friends. So we had met only once in a situation like that. And then we met in Australia and had lunch with Baz and he -- he kind of -- he loves to talk about it. He told us all his expectations and hopes and what were going to -- what we were to try to achieve with the film.

And then we were taken to this room and there was a pianist and a piano and we were given sheet music and we were singing to each other moments later. So you kind of -- we had to throw ourselves into it, you know. And we kind of came up with this little pact to just allow each other to be as inhibited as possible, you know. Because we had all this great stuff to do. And we got on really well. She's such a laugh, you know.

KING: Yes, she is.

MCGREGOR: People wouldn't (ph) be aware that she's actually a very funny girl, you know.

KING: "Black Hawn Down" is now opening wide in the United States. I saw it; it's an incredible war movie. One would gather it was a difficult shoot. Was it?

MCGREGOR: Yes. Every film has its own challenge. I mean, I think Ridley's challenge in this film was to -- the whole film is the battle, you know. And it's all based on true events of what happened that day. And so the story is the whole battle. And to try to shape that -- I think there's probably 15 minutes or 20 minutes of kind of getting to know characters, and then they go in. And from the moment they land on the ground until the end of the movie is a battle, a pretty (ph) long battle.

And to try and -- to try and pitch that and put color in that -- light and shade -- must have been incredibly difficult. However, Ridley Scott has absolutely achieved that. You just -- it sustains your attention and your horror, in fact, you know, from start to finish. It's the most -- I would say it's the most accurate -- or the only, maybe, portrayal of modern day urban warfare. We don't get to see those pictures on CNN or on any news channel, because there's no one in there.

And so this is our first look, really, at what these soldiers -- what their work is, you know. It's horrific and shocking. And at the same time, it was a story that needed to be told, I think. You know?

KING: I agree. Now what about playing Obi Wan Kinobi (ph)? You get the thrill of swinging that thing around. Is that pure fun or hard work?

MCGREGOR: It's hard work. It's quite hard work. As an actor, there's very little there, and so there's a lot of blue screen work and that's very difficult. And, in fact, in some instances you're playing to a character who's not there. In my case, a lot of the time, it seemed, especially in the second episode.

So you're playing into mid air, and your job as an actor is very often to react. However, so -- because there's nothing there, I'm reacting off what I imagine that character might do. And it's just very complicated. However, there's a great -- you know, there's a pleasure in that; there's a challenge in that as an actor. It's -- it's unlike any other films I've -- I've made.

KING: Sure.

MCGREGOR: And so that -- there are the skills that you adopt, you know.

KING: And then when you see the final result...

MCGREGOR: And it's great to be in them. The best thing -- well, that's the thing. The best thing about it is being in them, being in "Star Wars", being Obi Wan Kinobi (ph) is a huge kind of thrill. As a young boy, I watched all the -- the first three films. So to be Obi Wan Kinobi (ph) is kind of weird. I still haven't got used to that.

And to be in them, you know, it's like watching someone else do the film because none of it was there when you did it. So you kind of don't remember any of the -- the scenery or anything, because it wasn't there. And kids, I love it when kids come up to ask me questions about it. It's really lovely, you know. Kids come up and say, "Did you really cut Darth Mull (ph) in half?" And, "How does your light (ph) saver work?" And I love that.

KING: It's going to be a big year for you, Ewan.

MCGREGOR: Adults ask me the same question, and that's very weird.

KING: It's going to be a big year for you. We hope you'll prepare for it. You deserve it.

MCGREGOR: Thank you very much. Well I'm as ready for it as anyone, I think.

KING: Ewan McGregor, you'll see him with Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge" and "Black Hawk Down." He is something else. Ewan McGregor from England.

When we come back, the wonderful Jennifer Connelly, who's in an equally terrific movie called "A Beautiful Mind." She's next, don't go away.



JENNIFER CONNELLY, ACTRESS: I'm wondering, Professor Nash, if I can ask you to dinner? You do eat, don't you?

RUSSELL CROWE, ACTOR: On occasion, yes. A table for one; Permetheus (ph) alone chained to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) bird circling overhead. You know how it is. I expect that -- that you wouldn't know. Leave your address in my office. I'll pick you up Friday at eight and we'll eat.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING WEEKEND. We hope you're enjoying this evening with some great talent. And, hey, nobody's better than this lady. Jennifer Connelly, she costars in "A Beautiful Mind," based on the life of the Nobel prize-winning mathematician John Nash, who descended into madness, paranoid schizophrenia, and won the Nobel Prize. She won the American Film Institute award for the best featured actress for her role as Alicia (ph) Nash. Nominated for a Golden Globe as well. Certainly heading for, I would guess, an Oscar nomination -- how did you get this part?

CONNELLY: I worked with Ron. He was my...

KING: Ron Howard?

CONNELLY: Ron Howard. He was a producer on a movie I had done called "Inventing the Abbots (ph)" a long time ago. And so I had a meeting with him first, and then I auditioned for it with Russell. I went in and read a number of scenes. They put me through the gamut.

KING: Did they put a lot of women through this?

CONNELLY: I don't know, I kind of stay out of that part of it and just sort of do my gig.

KING: Did you like it right away?

CONNELLY: I loved the script right away. It was one of those rare scripts that you read and it just seemed to have all of the elements. It was, you know, a beautifully written story; it's very compelling. All the more intriguing because it's, you know, based on a true story.

KING: So you wanted this part?

CONNELLY: I really wanted to do it. I thought, you know, if only I get to do this, I'll never ask for one of these special parts (ph) again.

KING: Please, God, I won't make a request again, huh?

CONNELLY: I promise I never will. And, you know -- and, of course, then you're spoiled then. And it was remarkable; I loved working on it.

KING: Was the doing as good as the expecting?

CONNELLY: It was better. It really was.

KING: Because?

CONNELLY: Because, you know, I loved -- I loved working with Ron. He really respects his actors, and thereby commands a lot of respect. I never felt that I came away from a scene not having been able to explore something I wanted to. Russell is great to work with as an actor. He's as...

KING: Because? He gives?

CONNELLY: Because he gives you a lot -- there's a lot to work with there. He's very spontaneous, he's very present, he's very available; he's thoroughly prepared, but then likes to sort of find things as he gets on to the set.

KING: Can that throw actors?

CONNELLY: I don't' know.

KING: It didn't bother you?

CONNELLY: I can't speak for others, but for me it was really exhilarating, you know? Because nothing was ever the same; nothing was ever predictable. It was like nothing was just on paper. The room was just always very dynamic. So I really enjoy that.

KING: The woman you play is a living woman.


KING: She's up at Princeton, New Jersey, right now.

CONNELLY: They're together and...

KING: Did you meet her?

CONNELLY: I did. I wanted to meet her before we started shooting, even though -- you know, just as our film is inspired their lives, and so our version of Alicia (ph) is fictionalized, I still wanted to meet her. I felt -- it just felt right to me. I was looking for some jam (ph) of wisdom and insight and inspiration, I guess.

KING: Was it difficult to play someone who is both heroic, steadfast and puts up with a lot?

CONNELLY: I felt it was really -- I felt it was really important that she be human and plausible, and not turn into some kind of impossible martyr hero. And I was really happy that you see her kind of devolve into her own chaos and struggle with this choice. You see her kind of wrestle with her own grief and self-doubt. I loved that section of the movie. I think without it, it -- you wouldn't have sort of stayed with her or believed her choice to stay with him.

KING: Are you surprised at all at how well it's being received? I mean, this is not your everyday pop movie.

CONNELLY: I don't know. I mean, it's -- but it is, because it's a love story underneath it, you know. And it's a story of human triumph and of human will and a sort of miraculous recovery. And so, you know, I guess there's a part of all of us that wants to see that. You know?

KING: Did you learn more about schizophrenia doing this?

CONNELLY: I did in my research. I read -- you know, I read a lot.

KING: It's a puzzling disease because it never -- it's not curable, right? You can arrest it. CONNELLY: Some people have -- you know, have recovered from it, but it's rare. You know?

KING: Now you've been doing movies a long time.

CONNELLY: A long time. I've got two kids (ph) now.

KING: What did you -- were you a kid actor?

CONNELLY: I was a -- I was a kid in movies. I don't know if I was an actor. It took me...

KING: Well, what was your first movie?

CONNELLY: "Once Upon A Time in America." I was eleven.

KING: The Jewish Mafia movie.

CONNELLY: It was 20 years ago.

KING: James Woods, Robert De Niro.

CONNELLY: James Woods, Robert De Niro. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) directed it.

KING: Who did you play?

CONNELLY: I was -- Robert De Niro's character is in love with this woman Deborah (ph).

KING: You played her as a child.

CONNELLY: I played her as a child. Elizabeth McGovern played her as an adult.

KING: That's right. Oh, I remember the scene where he looks over at a little...

CONNELLY: I was dancing. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) flower songs (ph).

KING: Yeah, she dances.

CONNELLY: That was me.

KING: That was her. Were you living -- were you living in L.A.? Were you like a young...

CONNELLY: No, I'm a New Yorker. I'm born and raised in New York. I always lived there; I still live there.

KING: Always wanted to act?

CONNELLY: I didn't want -- I had no aspirations to be an actor as a kid. It just -- I sort of came in the back door, it was a haphazard kind of beginning. I had to really re-choose it, since I sort of took it for granted that that's what I did. Because I sort of somehow kept working through the years.

KING: New York stage?

CONNELLY: I never have.

KING: Want to?

CONNELLY: I do. I'm a little intimidated. It seems a very different kind of medium. I have no experience, but I would like to.

KING: Well now, obviously, this movie's going to lead to -- I mean, let's be obvious. It's going to lead to enormous things for you, one would guess. I mean, but being objective, you're going to get a lot of offers. Have you already signed on to do another film?

CONNELLY: I'm going to work with Ang Lee (ph) next, who I think is fantastic.


CONNELLY: "The Hulk;" he's doing "The Hulk." A very interesting choice.

KING: Do you play Mrs. Hulk?

CONNELLY: I play Betty Ross (ph), who's a scientist and his partner. I'm really looking forward to it. I think he's -- you know, he has quite a vision.

KING: Who's in it?

CONNELLY: Eric Banna (ph), an Australian actor, who was in "Black Hawk Down" now as well, and was in an Australian movie called "Chopper," which I thought he was fantastic in.

KING: Do you like to take risky roles?

CONNELLY: I do. I like to challenge myself, you know. I -- that's -- it feels like that's what I like. That's what I look for.

KING: Are you excited about all of this, this year? I mean...

CONNELLY: It's fun. You know, I love to work. It's my favorite part of it is just, you know, doing the rehearsals, doing the research, being on the set, and...

KING: Right. Let me say, it shows in the finished product.

CONNELLY: Thank you.

KING: You're terrific.

CONNELLY: Thank you.

KING: Jennifer Connelly, you won't see better performances this year than we're talking about tonight. And she is magnificent in "A Beautiful Mind."

We're going to close it out with John Turturro in a moment. He plays an old friend of mine, Howard Cosell, in a made for TV movie, "Monday Night Mayhem." John Turturro is one of the best. He's next. Don't go away.


CROWE: May I present...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Professor, please, you and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CONNELLY: Wait a second, I'm sorry. I want a copy of this first big date and all. So you guys (ph) need to look good, which is not the state you found yourselves in altogether (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Here. I'm surprising him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just keep on surprising...




JOHN TURTURRO, ACTOR: I know you're hiring (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And, OK, we've done a lot together: '68 in Mexico City, Ali, all the fights for racial equality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, Howard.

TURTURRO: I have been the main instrument of your crusade to eradicate the kowtowing to the poobahs (ph) of sports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surely an eloquent instrument.

TURTURRO: And now when you're starting up the biggest venture in the history of ABC Sports, I'm on the outside looking in. It's unjust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Howard, I had to get all the pieces of the Monday night package in place. And don't you realize, Howard, that I just couldn't risk hearing a "No," from the one man who could make this the most distinctive sports show in the history of television ever: Howard Cosell?

TURTURRO: Oh, well, OK then.


KING: We wind it up tonight with one of my favorite people: John Turturro, one of the great actors. And he's going to play Howard Cosell in "Monday Night Mayhem." It's a made-for-cable drama, starring him and the others, featuring that Monday night football crew. It premiers on TNT this coming Monday night, tomorrow night, January 14th.

How did you get this part? You, to play Cosell?

TURTURRO: Well, somehow they sent me the script and they thought, "Well, maybe, you know, you can do it." So I was flattered, because I grew up, you know, watching Howard like everyone else on "Wide World of Sports" and the Olympics and then "Monday Night Football." So it was a big challenge.

KING: Now is it difficult when someone knows someone so well, as so much of the population knew Cosell, if (ph) you were going to act it, rather than imitate him?

TURTURRO: Yes. I think it's -- the difference between an impression and a performance is that there has to be many more colors in a performance, and you have to have a certain musical variety. An impression is more of a sketch. And a performance is more of a detailed painting. At least, you would hope that.

And I think the fun thing about it is you have to deal with the outer accouterments of a guy like Howard, because we all know what he looked like and sounded like and the way he stood. But all the inside things, and the things that drove him and made him tick, those were the fun things to, you know, to try to discover as much as possible. And I had a fair amount of preparation time.

KING: Having known him well myself, he was a complicated man. Not just what the audience saw, it was a lot deeper than what they saw, right?

TURTURRO: You know, I think there's -- you know, a lot of people didn't know he was -- he was a family man, he was tremendously patriotic. He was passionate about civil rights. I think he was very insecure, in some ways, because he was a pioneer. And there was a tremendous contradiction to him. Almost sort of a walking contradiction. There was -- he was the sort of person who could be gentle, and I know he's quite, you know, romantic and loving towards his own family. And then on the other hand, you know, he could be quite superior and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at times.

KING: And, of course, he died very bitter. The movie doesn't take it to that, does it?

TURTURRO: No, no. It takes it to when he just -- when he left the show, you know? No, it doesn't go to that -- it doesn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Now we know that John Voigt (ph) plays him for Michael Mann (ph) in the movie "Ali."

TURTURRO: Yeah, right.

KING: That had to be a tremendous kind of makeup job they did. Were you considered for that part? TURTURRO: Well, I had read it, and I think Michael's a great director and I think John's (ph) a -- you know, a great actor. So I was sort of looking to stay closer to home, because my wife was pregnant and we're going to have our second child. And when I received this script, I thought, "Wow, this sort of explores many different facets of Howard." And that's what appealed to me. It's harder to do a movie, sometimes, made for television, because the schedule is shorter. But I had a tremendous amount of preparation time, so that was an advantage.

KING: Do you -- do you like the term when people refer to you as a great character actor?

TURTURRO: Well, you know, I grew up loving Edward G. Robinson, and other guys like James Cagney, too. And so to me, everyone -- every character I play is a character. I don't -- you know, I come from the theater. I like playing different kinds of roles, whether they're dramatic or comedic or, you know, theater of the absurd. I like doing different parts, and I think every part is a different character.

KING: Certainly, "Barton Fink" was wild.

TURTURRO: Yeah, that was -- that was definitely out there, and my work with those guys.

KING: How about "Quiz Show," working with Redford?

TURTURRO: "Quiz Show" was a great experience, because Redford, you know, came to me early on, and I had put on -- I decided to put on a bunch of weight there. And he was -- you know, we got along wonderfully well. And I was sort of the only actor cast for a long time because he couldn't make up his mind. He's a very interesting man. I'm very -- I'm very fond -- I have fond feelings towards him and working with him. He was -- he's a very funny guy.

You know, he's a real black Irishmen in some ways. And I never -- I never knew that. You know? But he was endlessly interesting. He was very -- I mean, it meant a lot to him, the film, because he lived through that period of time. And Herby Stemple (ph) was a fascinating person to explore. A person who had a...

KING: And you explored him perfectly, I might say, John.

TURTURRO: Oh, thank you. Thanks so much.

KING: "Monday Night..." -- are you happy with "Monday..." -- is this your first TV movie?

TURTURRO: No, I've done one for HBO years ago, "Sugar Time (ph)", where I played Sam Giancono (ph). And then one many years ago.

KING: Oh, I remember that.

TURTURRO: Yeah. So, no -- yes, I'm very -- I'm very pleased with the -- the final outcome of it. And I think Erin Stickerson (ph) did a terrific job. And John Heard (ph), as (UNINTELLIGIBLE), he's tremendous in it. And my brother Nicholas (ph) plays Chet Forty (ph) and he's really -- he's good in it too. And Eli Wallach is in it and Patty LePone (ph). So it's a very good cast.

KING: Does Patty LePone (ph) play your wife?

TURTURRO: She plays Emmy (ph). That's right.

KING: And your own brother plays Chet -- the late Chet Forty (ph), who directed those shows.

TURTURRO: That's right, the director of it. And I think it's really entertaining and humorous and it has other -- and it has dramatic aspects to it. And I think there's -- you get certain, you know, aspects of who they were and the pressure that was under -- they were under, and how they created the show.

KING: Did you do any shooting in stadiums?

TURTURRO: Yes. We shot in Giant Stadium, outside of Yankee Stadium. We shot the whole film in New York and New Jersey and the surrounding areas.

KING: And what's next, John?

TURTURRO: Well, I have a couple of films coming out this coming year. I star in a movie with Adam Sandler called "Deeds." It's a remake of "Deeds." That was a lot of fun. And I'm going to probably be doing another film come this February. And I hope to direct my -- my third film this summer.

KING: You are one of my favorite people, John. I'm looking forward to tomorrow night.

TURTURRO: Oh, well thanks very much. And I'm really honored to be on the show.

KING: John Turturro, he plays Howard Cosell in "Monday Night Mayhem." It premiers tomorrow night on TNT.

When we come back, gospel great Yolanda Adams (ph) will stir your soul as she sings "Never Give Up." But, first, we want to pay tribute to Dave Thomas. The founder of Wendy's old-fashioned hamburgers and its premier TV pitch man died Tuesday of liver cancer at age 69. Dave Thomas was much more than a terrific business man, an outspoken advocate for adoption, creator of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. He transformed a personal shame into the source of a lot of public good. He told me about it in March of 2000.


DAVE THOMAS, FOUNDER, WENDY'S: Yeah, I didn't want anyone to know that I was born out of wedlock. And I didn't want to know anyone -- or let anyone know that I was adopted. I mean, I just didn't think that, you know, it was really important to me. And I was at a manager's meeting one time and I was just talking to our people and I said, "Look, how many of you have seen your mother and father?" I said, "I've never seen my mother and father. And if I can do this, you can do it." And a manager came up to me -- one of the young men -- he says, "Why don't you talk more about adoption?" And I said, "Well, if it will help, I'll do it." And so that's the reason why I went public.



KING: We close tonight with the wonderfully talented Yolanda Adams (ph). Boy, can she sing. Her newest album is titled "Believe." She's going to sing a song tonight called "Never Give Up." You were doing a photo shoot on September 11th?

YOLANDA ADAMS, SINGER: I was doing a photo shoot on September 11th and we were scheduled to be in New York. And, as you know, the Millennium Hotel was one of the hotels that was destroyed, and we usually stay there. So, you know, I have to thank God for that.

KING: Was it tough to even do any kind of work through it?

ADAMS: It was very tough. It took us a good seven hours to like regroup. And then after that, we finally got the shoot on, but it was tough.

KING: Now you also took part in the John Lennon tribute concert in New York, right?

ADAMS: Yes I did. Yes.

KING: That must have been fun.

ADAMS: Oh, it was wonderful. First of all, it's an honor for any gospel artist to be a part of such great musical structures like that, you know? And for Yoko Ono to be there during the rehearsal, it was -- it was wonderful.

KING: Thanks for doing this.

ADAMS: Oh, thank you for having me.

KING: Yolanda Adams (ph) closes it tonight with an appropriate tune: "Never Give Up."





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