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Carrie Fisher Dies; Japanese Prime Minister to Visit Pearl Harbor; North Korea Nuclear Fears. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired December 27, 2016 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:03]

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: She was 60 years old.

Fisher, of course, rocketed into fame with her portrayal of that tough-talking Princess Leia in "Star Wars."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK")

HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: Come on, admit it. Sometimes, you think I'm all right.

CARRIE FISHER, ACTRESS: Occasionally, maybe, when you aren't acting like a scoundrel.

FORD: Scoundrel? Scoundrel. I like the sound of that.

FISHER: Stop that.

FORD: Stop what?

FISHER: Stop that. My hands are dirty.

FORD: My hands are dirty, too. What are you afraid of?

FISHER: Afraid?

FORD: You're trembling.

FISHER: I'm not trembling.

FORD: You like me because I'm a scoundrel. There aren't enough scoundrels in your life.

FISHER: I happen to like nice men.

FORD: I'm a nice man.

FISHER: No, you're not. You...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: A short while ago, the "Star Wars" franchise released this statement, saying -- quote -- "Carrie Fisher, our princess, passes away." The president of Lucasfilm saying -- quote -- "Her groundbreaking role as Princess Leia served as an inspiration of power and confidence for young girls everywhere."

Fisher hailed from Hollywood royalty. She was the daughter of the pop singer Eddie Fisher and the actress Debbie Reynolds. Fisher's own daughter released a statement this afternoon saying simply: "She was loved by the world. And she will be missed profoundly."

I want to bring in CNN's Paul Vercammen, who has been following the news of her death from Los Angeles.

And, Paul, tell us about what happened on that flight last week.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Martin, I'm on Hollywood Boulevard, where they're all remembering Carrie Fisher fondly.

And when she was returning to Los Angeles for shooting in London about 20 minutes before that plane landed, she suffered a massive heart attack. She was then hospitalized. This is on Friday leading into Christmas weekend. She stayed in UCLA Hospital and never recovered from the heart attack.

And just a short time ago, Martin, behind me, one character dressed as Darth Vader, another as a Storm Trooper, observed a moment of silence. And we're getting a lot of reaction.

Billy Dee Williams, of course, was with Carrie Fisher in the "Star Wars" saga, most notably "The Empire Strikes Back." And he said that he is deeply saddened by the loss of his dear friend, whom he greatly respected, and he perhaps characterized what a lot of people are saying here on Hollywood Boulevard, and that is, Martin, that the force is dark today.

SAVIDGE: Yes.

I'm wondering, Paul, you know, obviously, that's a great place for people to come not only to share I guess their loss, but also just to reflect on how much Princess Leia and the whole "Star Wars" theme has played into people's lives over the decades.

VERCAMMEN: Absolutely. There are so many, including Steve Martin, who suggested that she was the most beautiful creature that he had ever seen. And Martin also went on to say it turned out to say that she was witty and charming.

I think what Martin is alluding to is so many had a schoolboy crush on Princess Leia. And then later, when she began to show her absolute skill at writing, through "Postcards From the Edge" and so many other projects, she garnered so much acclaim and so many people were surprised at the depth of her ability to write, her unvarnished confessions of fighting with addiction and being the daughter of Hollywood royalty.

And she just garnered more and more admiration. So here on Hollywood Boulevard, Carrie Fisher is one of the top icons. SAVIDGE: I also thought it was very -- and just a wonderful promotion

that she went from being a princess to a general, which showed very much about how that role that brought her to stardom is also one she made her own and made even stronger as time went by.

VERCAMMEN: That's absolutely right, Martin.

And, in fact, the president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, was talking about this. And I will quote from her. She said, basically, she defined the female hero of our lifetime. She was a pioneer in that respect.

We alluded to this, not only coming out and talking openly about being bipolar and facing addiction, but also in being that strong female role model, that heroine, and that's why she connected with so many fans, so many people, and is just revered.

You don't really hear a lot of tales of Carrie Fisher tore up this set or was completely out of control. They said that she was witty, that she was sharp, but unlike some people in Hollywood, she certainly didn't have that nasty girl reputation.

SAVIDGE: And you came to realize that the strength that she portrayed on screen came from within her. It was no act.

Paul Vercammen, thanks very much for joining us right there on Hollywood Boulevard.

Right now, we're joined by someone who interviewed Carrie Fisher multiple times.

[15:05:00]

That's Michael Musto.

Am I saying it right, Michael?

MICHAEL MUSTO, OUT.COM: Yes, Musto.

SAVIDGE: OK, Musto. Thank you. Sorry.

He's a columnist with Out.com. He's with us from New York.

And we appreciate your being here.

So what are some of the best takeaways from these interviews that you did with her over the years?

MUSTO: I found somebody who was earnest and sincere and a very decent person, but who kind of cloaked herself in this sardonic personality, somebody who was an acidic commentator on everything that ever happened to her. And she was absolutely brilliant, one of the funniest people you would ever want to meet and always had a trick up her sleeve or some stunt she would pull during our interview that I found hilarious. But she also was a very outspoken and honest commentator on the problems that she suffered in her life, from bipolar disorder to her drug addiction, which of course was a daily problem because she was a recovering addict. And her honesty helped defuse the stigma around those subjects for celebrities and really for everybody who was a fan of her work.

SAVIDGE: Yes. Just watching her in her interviews, how quick- thinking she is, and the humor that is so strong that comes out, I had forgotten about that. So, I was happy to be reminded of it.

You told Richard Quest, my colleague, over the weekend that some of the Hollywood gossip stories Carrie Fisher endured when her parents split made her not just stronger, but, as we just remarked, also funnier. So how did all of that shape who she was?

MUSTO: People don't maybe realize, but Eddie Fisher in the 1950s, her father, dumped her mother, Debbie Reynolds, for Liz Taylor. This was sort of the original Brangelina. It was the biggest gossip story of the entire decade.

And that's the world the that Carrie Fisher entered into. She had to deal with that. And she became a very funny observer of all of that. She did Broadway shows, novels, memoirs, interviews where she talked about her role in this showbiz triangle or quadrangle, if you include Liz Taylor.

And it just made her stronger and funnier. It really did. She developed such a keen eye. She was almost like a Dorothy Parker for the modern age. And "Star Wars" was such a small part of the mosaic of Carrie Fisher.

She increasingly came to think -- it was kind of absurd. She would look at the merchandise of "Star Wars" and think, what does this have to do with me, though she was grateful to it and very nice to the fans who recognized her from that.

But basically that launched her into a whole other existence basically as a commentator, not just an actress, but somebody who had a keen eye to everything happening in her life, good and bad.

SAVIDGE: She was also an excellent author, not only writing books, but I understand that she often could be called upon if a script looked like it was in trouble.

MUSTO: She was a script doctor, but, best of fall, she would write her own novels. "Postcards From the Edge" became a brilliant movie directed by Mike Nichols.

And of course Meryl Streep plays the sort of Carrie Fisher character. Shirley MacLaine plays the mother. You could say it's Debbie Reynolds, but Carrie told me it was not strictly autobiographical and she kind of resented that people wanted it to be a strict autobiography.

The mother in the movie is very insecure and wants the daughter to be famous, but not more famous than she is. That's not really Debbie Reynolds. Carrie and Debbie had a kind of combative relationship at times, but they were very close and increasingly they became even closer, to the point where they practically completed each other's syllables.

SAVIDGE: You talk about these interviews and you were very fortunate to be able to interact directly with her. I'm wondering, did you feel like even that person, who was being so open and candid, was the real Carrie Fisher?

MUSTO: I do. The real Carrie Fisher was honest. She had no fourth wall. She just delivered. And she felt safe with me because I was a kindred spirit to her.

I'm funny -- not to pat myself on the back, but I'm sardonic, but basically optimistic. And that's the way Carrie was. So, immediately, she opened up to me, and I felt I had gotten the privilege of knowing the real person.

SAVIDGE: A privilege indeed.

Michael Musto, thank you so much for coming by and talking to us.

Up next, history being made today. Soon, the Japanese prime minister will visit Pearl Harbor along with President Obama.

Plus, a warning from a former North Korean government official. Kim Jong-un wants nuclear weapons before the end of 2017 -- why he says the leader is going to stop at nothing to get them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:12:48]

SAVIDGE: Welcome back.

We're getting very close now to a moment that is a moment in history that some say the world needs now perhaps more than ever. Two nations once at war returning to the site where their conflict began, but this time together in peace.

For the first time, the leader of Japan will visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. He will be with President Obama. Moments ago, the two held a bilateral meeting as they were about to visit the sacred grown.

The Arizona Memorial is the final resting place for more than 1,100 soldiers and Marines that were killed in the 1941 attack that drew America into World War II.

I will turn now CNN's Athena Jones, who is in Honolulu.

Athena, sort of set the scene for us of these two leaders as they are about to take part in a remarkable healing moment of history.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Martin. It will be remarkable, as you mentioned, the first time a Japanese prime minister, a U.S. president are going to be visiting this memorial.

What you can see behind me, the USS Arizona Memorial, that is the next step today before the two deliver remarks. They will be laying wreaths at that memorial. And we expect Prime Minister Abe to offer prayers for the souls of those who died, not just there, but also throughout Pearl Harbor on the day of that attack 75 years ago.

This visit is coming seven months after President Obama made history, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima and deliver remarks there, pay his respects to those who died. And so now Prime Minister Abe is doing the same here, these two historic trips that are serving as bookends of a sort.

The White House says they symbolize the power of reconciliation, the ability for these former adversaries to now become the closest of allies more than seven decades later. President Obama in Hiroshima noted that back in 1941, right after Pearl Harbor, the friendship between U.S. and Japan could not have been imagined.

And now you hear from U.S. officials certainly when you're traveling in Asia that this is the most important alliance for the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region. So we expect to hear both leaders deliver remarks about 15 minutes each.

[15:15:00]

We expect to hear from Prime Minister Abe first. Before he kicked off this trip, the prime minister said this visit would be a visit to soothe the souls of the victims. "We should never repeat the ravages of the war."

We expect he will touch on those themes and others when he delivers his remarks. One thing we don't expect, Martin, is, we don't expect the prime minister to offer an apology for the actions of his nation here 75 years ago.

His press secretary tells us it's going to be a forward-looking speech that Abe delivers, much as President Obama delivered a forward-looking speech in Hiroshima and didn't apologize there -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Right. As much as I have heard it sort of said it would be expressing regret, but, as you point out, not expressing an apology.

Athena Jones, all right, we will be relying on you to bring us that moment when it happens.

And let's sort of take in this moment at Pearl Harbor and what it means.

With me now is Craig Shirley. He's a conservative political strategist who wrote the book "December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World." CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali, who once consulted in a Nazi war crimes investigation, and CNN military analyst Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

Craig, let me start with you.

Your book goes in-depth on what happened at Pearl Harbor, and now you see these two leaders paying tribute to Americans who died there and I'm just wondering your thoughts about this remarkable time.

CRAIG SHIRLEY, AUTHOR, "DECEMBER 1941: 31 DAYS THAT CHANGED AMERICA AND SAVED THE WORLD": Well, Martin, 75 years ago on December 7, the Japanese attacked not just hey Hawaii, but many other British and American installations.

And I like the idea of at least a few survivors of Pearl Harbor witnessing this historic event. Although I'm not fond of the word closure, I think it does give closure and reminds everybody of the time and events of 75 years ago with how many things have changed, is that Pearl Harbor was the linchpin of history.

Would there have been a President John Kennedy, a President Ronald Reagan, President Dwight Eisenhower? Would we have developed nuclear power? Would we have developed rockets into space? Would we have become the world's policemen? Pearl Harbor literally changed our lives forever.

SAVIDGE: That's right. Yes. I think in many ways we forget from war came a certain lineage we still enjoy in peace.

Tim, you helped the Japanese government look into war crimes, and now we have the moment when Japan's prime minister is visiting this memorial, which is extremely moving if you have not been. Anyone who has seen it can't help but be moved when you leave. As you know, it also comes seven months after President Obama visited Hiroshima.

I want to play for some you some of the president's words then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan forged not only an alliance, but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: So, Tim, here's what I'm getting at. Do you think the president deliberately kind of left this, this coming full circle with Japan, for the end of his administration?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, he couldn't stage- manage the fact that it was the 75th anniversary.

But I think for President Obama, this is closure, to use the term that professor Shirley mentioned. This is a form of closure for him, too. His last head of government visit is occurring in his home state of Hawaii. President Obama has tried to pivot the United States and focus us a little bit more on Asia. He understands that the United States has an essential role in helping to maintain security in Asia.

And for this to be the last visit and for it to be a visit of reconciliation makes sense, given the vision the president has. But I would also point out one other thing, which is that I can't imagine a more moving moment than for a democratically elected Japanese leader to come to Pearl Harbor to pay respects to those who died because an authoritarian Japan, an imperial Japan attacked us by surprise in December of 1941.

That not only talks about how our country and our relationship with Japan has evolved, but how Japan has evolved. So I think it's a beautiful moment, not simply for the United States and not simply for the Obama administration, but for Japan and for Asia. It's beautiful in many ways not just because of the weather. I wish I were there to watch it.

SAVIDGE: I do, too, very much so.

General, I wanted to ask you. Shinzo Aba -- Abe, rather, was the first foreign leader to meet with Trump after he won election. So I'm wondering now, Trump has repeatedly said during his campaign that Japan should pay more for, say, the U.S. military forces inside its borders.

[15:20:00]

How is this alliance going to change, or will it change? Will it remain as strong as it has with the new administration?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I certainly hope it remains as strong as it has been and has grown to be, Martin, because it has grown to be an extremely strong alliance.

I think, as Mr. Trump sees more and more the sharing of the alliance and the mutual security between the United States and Japan and other countries in the region, he will have a better understanding for how critically important these alliances are.

Now, you have two other historians on, and being the military guy, I tend to look at history in a different way. There's a lot of lessons to be learned that led up to Pearl Harbor, diplomacy, intelligence sharing, the ability to understand what other nations are doing, other nations in a region, what was going on with Japan that caused the eventual attack on Pearl Harbor.

We as Americans see this as almost a singular event, but this was in the coming for almost two decades prior to that date in 1941 when the U.S. lost sight of some diplomatic efforts and some intelligence sharing in the Pacific theater.

So I think what Mr. Obama has done over the last several years to try and pivot to the Pacific is an important thing. And the emotions will certainly be raw on that bridge that goes over that living tomb, which is the battleship Arizona. The last time I was there, there were actually some Japanese visitors with me on the bridge, and it was an emotional moment for a soldier standing there with some visitors. So I can't imagine what it will be like for that Japanese prime minister to be visiting with our president in terms of the bonds they have forged over the last several years.

SAVIDGE: Yes, of course.

Tim, how do you think this is going to go over in Japan?

NAFTALI: Well, I don't know, actually. The work that I did with the interagency working group on Nazi war crimes, Japanese war crimes, was for our government, who released a lot of material on Japanese war crimes. I wouldn't say that I'm an expert in Japan, but what I can't imagine -- I'm assuming that there will be some beautiful pictures of the Japanese prime minister at the USS Arizona that will come out of this.

And I hope they have an effect on the Japanese people. And the fact that our president is going to be with this Japanese leader together at that very touching and sacred side is extremely important.

I wanted to add something to that the general said. Yes, one of the lessons of Pearl Harbor is that intelligence matters and that you ought to read it, and the more and better it is, the more secure a country we are. That is really one of the lessons of Pearl Harbor. That's a very important lesson 75 years later.

SAVIDGE: Right, a lesson that all administrations, even the new one coming to power, should take heed forth.

Craig, let me ask you one final thing, and I think you started off talking about this, that it is important there are survivors from Pearl Harbor that are there. In other words, there's someone still alive from that terrible day to see this remarkable moment. And it's powerful to have, isn't it, to have that human connection.

SHIRLEY: Oh, absolutely.

In World War II, it's that you didn't go in and out of the out of service the way you did in Vietnam, where you went in for 90 days or three months or whatever, and it was just out. Once you were in the military, once you were in active duty, you were in unless you were injured or unfortunately killed.

But so many of these guys who were at Pearl Harbor did not come home. They went right into the fleet and fought all four years of the Pacific. So their stories and their battles and their experiences are the stuff of legend. And for them, it's especially I think deeply moving and deeply important, more so than we could ever possibly understand.

SAVIDGE: I look forward to seeing the pictures and hearing the words.

Craig Shirley, Tim Naftali and General Hertling, thank you all for joining me today to talk about this incredible moment.

Next, we are going to have more on the passing of Carrie Fisher. We will talk to a writer who spent an evening with the beloved "Star Wars" actress. He will talk to us about what it was like to meet with her.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:27:33]

SAVIDGE: We're going return to the sad breaking news that we started our program with.

Carrie Fisher has passed away. She was best known for her role as Princess Leia in "Star Wars." Her death comes just four days after she suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to L.A. She was taken off the plane and hospitalized and she apparently never recovered.

Back in 1990, CNN's Larry King asked Carrie about her transition into writing and her reaction to her own fame.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, "LARRY KING LIVE": When did you know you were a writer? Because we knew you first as an actress.

FISHER: Well, I was asked actually to write a book right after I got out of rehab about five-and-a-half years ago. And it came after I had done an article on "Esquire" -- in "Esquire."

KING: You didn't know before then that you could write? You didn't know as a kid you could write?

FISHER: Yes, I had started writing when I was about 13 or 14 really bad poetry, which I'll be doing a small series about someday. No.

I wrote very bad poetry and, I don't know, journals that I have to burn before -- if I ever get crushed in an elevator, so they don't come to public light.

KING: But never thought you would be a bestselling writer of fiction?

FISHER: No. No.

I had to be asked to do that. I don't think I ever would have had the nerve to suggest myself.

KING: Were you surprised at the success of "Postcards"?

FISHER: Very much so. I did it, I didn't think of it as a book. I thought of it more as a boop, so that I didn't have to take it seriously when I wrote it.

And it was more difficult writing the second novel, because I had to think of it as a novel, and I don't like to think of anything as a novel.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE: She is wonderfully funny, as well as wonderfully candid.

Joining me now on the phone is Steven Thrasher. He's a writer at large for "The Guardian" U.S.

And, Steven, thanks for calling in for us.

And you have also met with her recently. But before I get to that, I want to ask you something else. We know, of course, that she had this heart attack on a plane last week. And we really hadn't heard a lot, so I think we were fearing this, but what are you learning about the circumstances of her death?

STEVEN THRASHER, "THE GUARDIAN": I don't know anything inside.

She had started writing for "The Guardian," and so some of my colleagues had been in touch with her family, I believe. But I don't have any personal inside information. We were, of course, just pulling for her, and then had the delight -- I had the delight of meeting her and some of my colleagues to working with her.

And so we were, of course, very concerned and hoping that we were not going to have to be reminiscing today, as we are.

SAVIDGE: Right. Right. All right.

So, let's move on to this remarkable time that you managed to spend with her