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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interviews With Jeff Bridges, Anne Rice, Sir. Richard Branson, Larry Collins

Aired November 16, 2003 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Jeff Bridges, the handsome star of "Seabiscuit" is now taking you behind the scenes of Hollywood's dream factory.
And then, Anne Rice, how devastating personal tragedies inspired her best selling series of vampire chronicles.

Plus, Sir Richard Branson, the dashing (AUDIO GAP) targets America's teenagers.

And, best-selling author Larry Collins. He predicted Middle Eastern terrorism in 1980. Now he says nuclear Armageddon could be even closer than we think.

Also, Judge Jeanine Ferris Pirro, the D.A. of Westchester County, New York, takes on a system that she says coddles criminals.

And, Lyle Laliberte from the streets of Quebec to the top of the Vegas heap with Cirque du Soleil and they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin tonight with an amazing fellow, what a talent, Jeff Bridges. He's had four Academy Award nominations, still hasn't had a winner although "Seabiscuit" could be the one. I think he's going to get nominated. The acclaimed actor has a new book out called "Pictures," photography. Jeff, when did this -- were you a buff all your life?

JEFF BRIDGES, ACTOR: I started getting into it in high school, you know, had the dark room and all that but these pictures here in this book are really I started doing, oh I guess back during "The Last Picture Show" when I took, where I did that movie and "King Kong." I did quite a bit of...

KING: Shooting behind the scenes?

BRIDGES: Shooting behind the scenes. In "King Kong" I played a character that had a camera on him all the time so I said, oh I'll just throw some film in there and start taking pictures.

And then throughout -- through the years I've compiled these books that I give as gifts for the cast and crew at the end of the film and finally I had, you know, quite a few of these books like maybe 16, 17, and I decided well, why not put them together and (unintelligible). KING: And you're doing a very nice thing. The proceeds go to the Motion Picture and Television Fund, a non-profit organization offering care for film industry workers.

BRIDGES: That's right.

KING: You have a showing in L.A. right?

BRIDGES: Yes at the Rose Gallery at the Bergamot Station in L.A.

KING: And people can go in and buy prints?

BRIDGES: Buy prints. They can buy the books and, like you say, all of my proceeds go to the Motion Picture Television Fund.

KING: You're into a lot of charities, right? You like giving?

BRIDGES: Yes. Yes, it feels good. Yes, it feels good and also I'll tell you I went to visit the Motion Picture Television Fund just the other day and it gave me such a warm feeling. I was never so proud of my industry as, you know, being involved with this group because it's a group that takes care of its own, you know, and I think it's the only industry that really does that.

KING: Why do you like taking pictures?

BRIDGES: It's such a wonderful invention, isn't it, that we can capture light and shadow.

KING: How the hell does it work?

BRIDGES: It's amazing, isn't it? We're pretty much like the eye, you know. I mean the iris, you know, and the depth of field and all that. It's very similar. And then also it's the excitement of getting that proof sheet back. I love that. That's like, you know, Christmas.

KING: Don't you know what you have when you take it?

BRIDGES: Not exactly. You always get surprised.

KING: Really?

BRIDGES: And you also, you know, you forget. You forget what you shot.

KING: A good photographer is a good story teller too, right?

BRIDGES: Yes, that's true.

KING: A picture worth 1,000 words.

BRIDGES: That's one of the things I like.

KING: We're going to be showing some of these pictures now.

BRIDGES: Yes.

KING: This is?

BRIDGES: This one here, this is a shot of Bianca Jagger and this is a good example of what I love about this camera that I used which is -- it's called a wide lux (ph) and it's a panning still camera so the lens itself actually pans and gives you this very long...

KING: A Cinerama kind of.

BRIDGES: Yes, very much with Cinerama so you see a lot of different stories all happening in one frame.

KING: Wow, look at this backstage.

BRIDGES: Yes that's from -- yes, that's from -- this is the Tuckerettes (ph). They're about to go on. This is in "Tucker."

KING: That was a great movie.

BRIDGES: That was good, oh man.

KING: Did you like doing "Tucker"?

BRIDGES: Oh, yes it was a ball. Francis Coppola is just something.

KING: Now who's this?

BRIDGES: That's Peter Bagdonovich who directed...

KING: He's involved with this book right?

BRIDGES: He wrote the introduction the foreward and he also directed "The Last Picture Show" and he directed the sequel of "The Last Picture Show," "Texasville" which is -- this is...

KING: So, he's getting a look at how it's going to look from inside the car and you're inside the car shooting him?

BRIDGES: That's right. That's right. He's lining up the shot. Director's really do that funny thing with their hands, you know.

KING: And this is Robin, right?

BRIDGES: That's Robin during "The Fisher King" and Robin would often...

KING: Cracking up there.

BRIDGES: Yes, he would often just plant his feet and do, you know, riff for 20 minutes and God bless him. Terry Gillian (ph) would kind of egg him on, you know, so we all enjoyed that.

KING: And what a picture this is. BRIDGES: This is Ethan Emory (ph). It was one of the guys, one of the actors on "White Squall" and he's leaving the set there. He's rather happy about that.

KING: They young men and the sea.

BRIDGES: That's it.

KING: Is it, you mentioned the camera but I've had, I've interviewed a lot of great photographers and many have told me a great photographers with a brownie will take a better picture than an average photographer with the best camera in the world.

BRIDGES: Oh, yes, yes.

KING: Do you agree with that?

BRIDGES: Yes, I would think so.

KING: So it's still you.

BRIDGES: Point of view. It's point of view. That's one of the things, yes, I love about it is that, you know, being an actor you're directed all the time and everybody has, you know, you're kind of carrying out their good ideas but with photography it's just me and I get to, you know, place the box wherever I think it should be.

KING: Does this mean you'd like to direct?

BRIDGES: I don't know.

KING: Is that an extension of this?

BRIDGES: It probably is.

KING: Cinematographer?

BRIDGES: I don't know about Cinematographer. I think I'd be leaning more towards direction and maybe that will happen at some point.

KING: Do you appreciate Cinematography?

BRIDGES: Oh, yes. Oh, it's -- oh, it's wonderful.

KING: They're a director's key aren't they, their eye?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. It's so great and the way they, you know, work together so well it's -- it really makes all the difference in the world.

KING: We have limited time but did you think "Seabiscuit" would turn out the way it did, I mean to become the kind of cultish, larger than cultish hit it is?

BRIDGES: Well, I certainly hoped so. The book was such a big hit and so many people loved it and it really made me feel good that the people who loved the book also loved the movie, that the movie, you know, didn't stray too far from the book. We had to cut out some really great pieces that were in the book but the heart and the spirit of the book remain up there I think.

KING: Did you read the book after you'd gotten the part?

BRIDGES: Yes. Yes.

KING: That must be interesting, reading when you know you're going to be someone.

BRIDGES: Oh, oh it's great. Oh, and then calling Laura Hillenbrand the author of the book and, you know, she gave me all kinds of great tips. I even -- I got my courage up and I asked her, I said do you have something that Charles Howard might have carried with him?

She says well I do. I have this little wallet. I said would you lend that to me so I could have it and she said sure, okay, so I carried that wallet in my pocket throughout the movie and it was like a...

KING: Just to have it.

BRIDGES: Just to have it, you know.

KING: And the extraordinary choreography of the horse races. It was incredible.

BRIDGES: Oh, yes.

KING: The star never rode a horse in the race.

BRIDGES: Isn't that something?

KING: Chris McCarron told me...

BRIDGES: What's that?

KING: The kid.

BRIDGE: Oh, Toby you mean?

KING: Yes and he rode it in the paddock.

BRIDGES: Yes.

KING: He rode it out to the track but when we see a racing scene he was on a mechanical horse.

BRIDGES: Yes, probably most of it, yes. I wasn't in on that.

KING: I know you had nothing to do with that right?

BRIDGES: No. KING: You just watch.

BRIDGES: You just watch it but you know photographs was interesting in preparation for that film. Photographs is a great way for an actor or for me anyway, to prepare. You know you can look at a photograph of Charles Howard, the real guy and you get so much out of that and Laura Hillenbrand was kind enough to give me a lot of his, you know, photographs and that helped a lot.

KING: Do you think photography is an art or a skill?

BRIDGES: Oh, both I think. I mean, you know they're both things. I like to do all sorts of creative things and I approach them all in a similar way and usually my assignment is to kind of get out of the way. You know it's a kind of a corny thing to say but it's true. You just got to get out of the way and let it flow through you and usually, you know, your good ideas can kind of mess it up, you know.

KING: Do you ever think, as friends we often say this that you may be one of the more underrated actors ever, in other words when people sit and they talk about great actors and they'll say Sean Penn, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro. They don't mention Jeff Bridges but every time anyone sees you work they say wow. Do you ever feel like you should get more?

BRIDGES: No, no.

KING: No?

BRIDGES: I really like it the way it is. It's kind of great. Yes, there's a downside to, you know, fame and all that stuff not only can it hassle your private life but I think as far as the work goes I really enjoy kind of disappearing into the character, not having too strong a persona or to be so...

KING: That's why you play such (unintelligible) roles, right?

BRIDGES: Yes, I try. Yes, I try to do that. My father, you know, who was a buddy of yours.

KING: Loved Lloyd.

BRIDGES: He got trapped in the (unintelligible). He pulled off that skin diver guy so well that people thought he was a skin diver and then with "Airplane" which we were talking back there I tried to get him a job in this movie with me and mentioned, I said hey why don't you get Bridges to play it and he says well your dad's a great actor but he's really more of a comedian. I said what are you talking about? So, you got to be careful. I learned from him.

KING: You ought to be damned proud of this.

BRIDGES: Thank you. Thanks a lot, Larry.

KING: I'm going to get over to the gallery. BRIDGES: Oh, I hope you do.

KING: Jeff Bridges, the book is "Pictures." Thanks for coming.

BRIDGES: My pleasure.

KING: Anne Rice is next. Don't go away.

(VIDEO CLIP OF "SEABISCUIT")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It's now a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE one of my favorites. She used to come on my radio show a lot, Anne Rice, the "New York Times" best-selling author of 25 books. Her latest is "Blood Canticle" a new volume in her mega successful "Vampire Chronicles." What does the title mean?

ANNE RICE, AUTHOR: Well, a canticle is a song and it's just a blood song. It's a, you know, Lestat's last song and Lestat is my vampire hero and it really is his swan song in a way. It's the last of the chronicles.

KING: He leaves us.

RICE: He does. He doesn't say so in the book but you can read between the lines and you can see that it's the final book in the chronicles. I'm leaving behind the vampires and the witches. I want to go on to other things.

KING: You do away from the macabre?

RICE: No, I don't know that I'm going to leave the macabre and I'm not going to leave the supernatural but I want to go on to a new series, to a new type of character.

KING: Anne, why do you like vampires? Why do you like writing about them?

RICE: Well, my gosh, Larry. You know "Interview with a Vampire" was published in 1976 and I've been struggling with that question ever since that time. All I can say is that when I wrote about them in '76 and when I write about them now I feel like I can talk about everything that I feel. I can talk about my loneliness, my sense of being a little bit of an outcast, my feeling of being an outsider.

I can talk about good and evil, matters of conscience. I can talk about everything and, at the same time, I can tell a bang up story. I can -- I can look at the world through the eyes of these vampires and I can describe it in what seems to me to be a very exciting way.

KING: Do you know where you're going when you start?

RICE: No, not always. I sometimes have a structure. I have an idea of the end, sort of an idea of the end and then I begin the novel and once I feel myself really going at a rapid pace anything can happen. Novels have surprised me.

The last one, "Blackwood Farm," many things happened in the middle of that novel that I didn't expect. It got very exciting to me. And in this one, "Blood Canticle" the same thing happens. Characters pop up. Things happen. Lestat fell in love in this novel.

KING: Ah.

RICE: He didn't fall in love with young Mona Mayfair, the person I thought he would fall in love with. He fell in love with Rowan Mayfair (ph) an older character that I developed in a group of books that I called "The Witching Hour" series. The witching hour -- go ahead.

KING: You sell automatically, don't you? I mean you have large groups of people that just buy Anne Rice, true?

RICE: Well, that does happen, yes that's true.

KING: Followers.

RICE: The audience, the audience fluctuates from book to book. Some books they like better than others. Some books they take a long time to find. You know, I wrote a book called "Memnoch the Devil." There was a lot of protest about that book. People were disappointed in it.

In it my vampire went to heaven and to hell. He met with God. Things like that happened. The book was very successful but people were very angry about it. They didn't like things I did in it.

Now that I'm on a tour for this new book "Blood Canticle" all kinds of people are coming up with "Memnoch the Devil" and talking about how great it is. It's like the book took years to find its audience.

KING: Are you happy with how your work has been portrayed in film?

RICE: I was very happy with the movie "Interview with a Vampire." I felt that Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst did a fabulous job.

KING: It's a great movie.

RICE: That is the one film that I've been very, very happy with. I was happy with the miniseries on television that was based on "The Feast of All Saints." That wasn't a vampire story. That was a story about the free Creoles, the free people of (unintelligible) before the Civil War in New Orleans. Those two projects made me very happy. I haven't been so happy about the others.

KING: New Orleans is still home, right?

RICE: Oh, yes, New Orleans is home. It's moist and crazy and the food is delicious and the coffee is great. It's still the same.

KING: Has Stan's death affected your writing?

RICE: I don't know yet. I don't know. Stan died December 9th and I haven't completed a book since that time. I'm sure there's going to be a huge impact. We were married 41 years.

KING: I know. You were very, very close.

RICE: We were. We were. We had a great love affair that endured for 41 years.

KING: And how about you, you've had gastric bypass surgery?

RICE: I have.

KING: That was after he died, right?

RICE: I have. I had gastric bypass surgery in January and I've lost 95 pounds. I feel wonderful, absolutely wonderful. It's quite a transformation for me.

KING: Death played a part. You lost a daughter, which has to be the most horrific of all things to happen to someone.

RICE: That was terrible.

KING: That affected the writing of the first novel didn't it?

RICE: It seems that it did. I didn't realize it at the time but "Interview with a Vampire" was obviously in most respect about that loss. I didn't understand that. I just sat down and wrote this book, "Interview with a Vampire" and really got into the story and if someone had walked in the room and said to me you are writing about your daughter and your husband and your life I would have been blocked.

I had to go to a fantasy place to write about the pain and the loss. I had to be with my vampire characters. I created them at that time. It was quite an unusual thing. I don't think it was that unusual really for a fantasy writer or a writer who uses fantasy and imagination but it was unusual to be that out of touch I think with the fountain, you know, of one's work.

KING: Do you get better do you think as you judge yourself?

RICE: Do I get better as a writer?

KING: Are you a better writer?

RICE: Oh, yes I think so, definitely a better writer, certainly not able to please all of my audience all the time but definitely a better writer. "Memnoch the Devil" is a better book than "Interview with a Vampire." "Blood Canticle" has better writing in it, I think, than many of my earlier books. But, you know, I ask my audience and they champion various books. I mean when you write 25 books and they're so different one from another you're going to have all kinds of people responding to your work. It's a really wonderful thing. I'm very grateful.

KING: It's wonderful having you with us. Thanks, Anne.

RICE: I enjoyed it.

KING: Anne Rice, the book is "Blood Canticle." It's her 25th novel and she's, of course, one of the mega selling authors in the world.

One of the extraordinary figures in the world is Sir Richard Branson and he's next. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)


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