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Syria's COVID Pandemic; Interview With Beanie Feldstein; Interview With BioNTech Co-Founders Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 12, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're lifesaving. They're game-changing for our country.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The COVID-19 vaccine and the pioneering couple behind it. I ask Drs. Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci how variants and vaccine
skeptics harm a pandemic-free future.
Then: Syria's nightmare, where there are no vaccines, just a surging Delta variant. We get a report from Idlib.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEANIE FELDSTEIN, ACTRESS: Please, this is my real life we're talking about. And I'm scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: From Monica Lewinsky to "Funny Girl," actor Beanie Feldstein joins me on her breakthrough moment.
RON HOWARD, DIRECTOR: The tone of around a set, it was crass. It was cowboy.
AMANPOUR: From child actors to adult successes. Ron and Clint Howard talk to Walter Isaacson about growing up on TV, how they navigated fame, and
their new, "The Boys."
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Now, if the world is starting its crawl out of the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have my first guest to thank for that.
Drs. Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci changed the course of history when their company, BioNTech, alongside Pfizer, developed the first clinically
approved COVID-19 vaccine. The data then blew expectations out of the water. The shot was found to be 90 percent effective in preventing disease,
higher than anybody ever imagined at the time.
And then the vaccine was thought to be the silver bullet, the key to a world free of COVID. But that hope was somewhat dashed by vaccine hesitancy
and also the deadly variants. Even so, the work of Drs. Sahin and Tureci have saved countless lives. And now they're working to save even more by
turning their focus to booster shots and other deadly diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.
The two also have a fascinating personal story, and they are here to discuss all of it in an exclusive interview from their headquarters in
Welcome, Doctors, to our program.
Can I ask you, Dr. Tureci, what would our world have looked like if mRNA had failed, what's behind the Pfizer vaccine?
DR. OZLEM TURECI, CO-FOUNDER, BIONTECH: Well, mRNA vaccines have been now administered to hundreds of millions of people, and came just in time.
So the world would have looked very different if we would not have to have been able to vaccinate so many.
AMANPOUR: And, Dr. Sahin, when your vaccine first hit the market, you did say this could be the beginning of the end of the COVID era. I'm wondering
whether today you think the same.
DR. UGUR SAHIN, CO-FOUNDER, BIONTECH: Yes, I think vaccines are still the only way to end this pandemic or to control this pandemic. Without
vaccines, we will not be able.
But it does not mean that vaccine alone is a sufficient. Of course, we need to address all other kinds of measures. Vaccines are supportive to provide
immunity, to prevent infections, to prevent further spread.
But if not a sufficient number of individuals are vaccinated, we can't get immunity. And if we can't -- if we don't get herd immunity, we can't
control the pandemic.
AMANPOUR: So it does seem that is the bottom line. I mean, we know now that there are boosters that are being given out. We know that some public
health officials, in fact, many, are suggesting that COVID could be like flu and require boosters every single year or certainly regularly.
And we know, of course, about the variants. Is that what you see and foresee down the line?
TURECI: Yes, this is what we foresee, that boosters will most likely be needed.
We, however, have to decide this based on data. And this data needs of a passage of time as we continue to observe how over time immune responses
induced by vaccines and the protection develops.
AMANPOUR: You know, you talked about skeptics, about vaccine hesitancy, about a lack of herd immunity. You have seen it. You have seen it with
world leaders, people like Donald Trump, certainly President Bolsonaro of Brazil.
At one point, he basically exaggerated any side effects of Pfizer, and he suggested that your vaccine -- quote -- "might turn people into
crocodiles." And, famously, a parliamentary inquiry in Brazil said that the Ministry of Health had simply ignored, like, more than 100 e-mails from
Pfizer way back then offering millions of doses for people there.
How much of a problem has that kind of modeling from the top been in terms of achieving herd immunity, Dr. Sahin?
SAHIN: It is difficult for us to assess that, because we are primarily focusing, of course, on the technological advance, and on the manufacturing
of sufficient vaccine doses.
I think we have to understand that, first of all, it is important to provide sufficient number of vaccine doses to people who need the vaccines
and who are willing to take the vaccines. And we are still in a situation where a large proportion of people worldwide didn't get the opportunity to
get vaccines, and that's our primary focus.
AMANPOUR: OK, so I'm going to talk about that in a moment. But I still need to try to figure out for people why is it that even double-vaxxed
people -- and we're hearing more of it, let's say, just here in the U.K., anecdotal evidence and public health evidence -- that the Delta variant is
surging that here, anyway, in schools, the most vulnerable people are between the ages of 10 and 11.
But what is it about coronavirus biology that makes it so hard to fight even with a vaccine like yours and the others on the market, Dr. Tureci,
SAHIN: Oh, yes.
TURECI: I didn't get that either.
So it's -- we have to dissect this a bit. On the one hand, we have variants which occur. But the data which is available, not only from our own
studies, but also from real-world data, shows that the current vaccine is, in principle, also protective against those variants, including the Delta
variant, if the immune response is still high.
And high immune response requires that there -- that boosters are used, because, over time, the immune response wanes. And this is in particular
the case for those who have been immunized as the first ones, meaning the vulnerable ones. So, this is one effect.
And the other effect is that we still have a portion of unvaccinated people. And this is exactly the population in which we see outbreaks and
infections with the Delta variant.
AMANPOUR: You know, it is incredible what you achieved and the fact that you were the first on the market, the first to get approval. What did you
feel -- Dr. Sahin, what was -- I mean, did you think it was a miracle when it was taken -- put on the market and proved by the testing to be so
SAHIN: Yes, so, in principle, we can, of course, name that as a miracle.
But at the end of the day, we have to acknowledge this is a combination of many things which came together, first of all, the combination of 20 years
or more than 20 years of research, which provided the foundation to build a vaccine in record time.
The second is the wonderful collaboration that we had with our partners from Pfizer, ending up or coming together in a perfect partnership, where
we could combine the strengths of both companies and work together 24/7, yes, to come up with a highly effective vaccine.
And third, of course, the technological advance allowing us to scale up the manufacturing. Just to recall, we wanted -- our plan was to produce about
1.3 to 1.6 billion doses in 2022. But the teams really managed, by working hard and coming with new inventions, to scale up the vaccine amount to more
than three billion doses in 2022, which is -- which is of course, if we listen just the numbers, at three billion doses produced in about one here,
this is like a miracle.
But, at the end of the day, it's a combination of science and human efforts.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you about the human? Because your personal story is incredible as well. The two of you met, I think, while studying to be
And it's a great story, because I think when you first started your company, you were also working on cancer cures, treatments, drugs,
vaccines, et cetera. Then you had to pivot to coronavirus. Tell us -- just take us back to when you first met and what is it about your work that has
kept you together in this lane.
TURECI: We are both trained physicians. We are scientists by passion.
And in -- these two rhymes. We are on the one side learned that the standards of care for cancer patients are not sufficient. However, science
promises so much more there. Our technologies, if we could translate them to medicines right away, they would address a lot of human suffering in
particular for cancer patients.
And this gap was what we -- what motivated us to found companies in order to enable development of science towards survival. And this was also why
BioNTech was built with the concrete vision to develop immune therapies against cancer, meaning enabling the patient's immune system to fight this
We started our clinical cancer trials, meaning really testing our inventions in patients, already in 2012 in cancer patients. And when the
pandemic hit, we had already treated more than 400 of cancer patients with mRNA vaccines, including highly personalized ones, where each patient would
get their unique composition on demand produced of an individualized cancer vaccine.
And this was the foundation which we could build and pivot towards COVID-19 vaccine development.
AMANPOUR: And now the next pivot seems to be malaria and tuberculosis.
Particularly interested in malaria, which is such a massive killer, certainly in many parts of the world. The WHO has just approved or
authorized the first malaria vaccine on the market. And you want to get in on that as well.
Talk to me about that, because you're also talking about really trying to help with the production and all the necessary way to get that out there by
investing in Africa as well, where it's such a deadly disease.
SAHIN: Yes, we believe that the mRNA technology is suitable to address diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.
And this is not just based on using the same technology that we use for COVID, but also in combining our immunological know-how and also the
learnings of the scientific community in the last 30 years. The scientific community researching malaria made a lot of progress in the last 30 years.
And we understand now much better how this pathogen overcomes the immune system.
And what we want to accomplish is to really use this knowledge and understand how to come up with solutions based on targeting specific
malaria antigens which were not yet tested by the existing malaria vaccines.
And we believe that there is there is sufficient scientific rationale that could make it possible to come up with a completely new generation of
malaria vaccines which are not only effective, but could also enable high duration of protection, which is needed for eradication of malaria.
AMANPOUR: That would be incredible.
Can I ask you also then? As you know very well, there's a controversy around the world about should patents be shared? Should these doses be
given free to so many people who can't afford it? And you know very well that such a tiny minority of people in the developing world have been
vaccinated against COVID, compared to in our rich developed world.
So, you guys are willing, particularly in your investment in South Africa, to share manufacturing technology on the malaria side, but not patents on
the COVID side. Speak -- talk to me through that. Is there an ethical dilemma there? Why not? Does it matter?
TURECI: We have, in principle, the same concept also for COVID-19.
The solution, if you want equality of distribution of a vaccine, are not patent waivers. It's -- the solution is enabling by technology transfer, by
first building the facilities for plants, by training people on site in those regions on this technology, which is not trivial, to then become
independent at some point to produce vaccines of this kind on their own.
And this is the overarching plan that we have a stepwise strategy to build plans, knowledge and an ecosystem which is self-sufficient in regions such
as on the African continent. This -- the plan is the same for COVID as well as for malaria.
AMANPOUR: And, finally you have said, I have seen you quoted recently as saying you still are somewhat worried about the progress of COVID,
particularly the fact that there could be other receptors in the body to this virus. Right now, apparently, it's lungs, it's nose, it's mouth.
Tell me what you mean, Dr. Sahin, and what we should be looking out for with COVID going forward.
SAHIN: So, we are dealing with a virus which is now adapting to humans and to the human immune system.
And at the moment, the rules of evolution are just based on mutating the receptor and trying to -- the virus -- the virus is escaping or starting to
escape immune responses. It is just beginning, because the first set of mutations were about increasing the affectivity of infection.
And we don't know. This is a relatively big virus, yes, with a number of molecules, and we don't know if during the evolution certain other
molecules might be involved in uptake of the virus and entry of the virus into human cells. So we need to be prepared for also unexpected evolution,
yes, and we cannot rule it out.
And, therefore, one day to the deal with that is to continue to research all new coming variants and understand if simply neutralizing the spike
protein is sufficient to prevent infection.
AMANPOUR: It's an incredible story. It's a drama, really.
Thank you both so much, Drs. Sahin and Tureci. Thank you for joining us from Mainz.
Now, if COVID-19 has been a public health crisis here in the West, its impact, as we said, our more vulnerable parts of the world has been
catastrophic, for instance, Syria, where after a decade of war and bombardments, deaths by COVID have now been surging over the past few
And one of the country's last opposition strongholds, Idlib, was previously spared the full brunt of the pandemic due to its relative isolation, but
that is rapidly changing, as Jomana Karadsheh reports.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Grief is no stranger to this part of Syria. But, this time, it's not the bombs and bullets. It's
COVID-19 that's claiming more and more lives.
The White Helmets, known for their heroic rescues, pulling countless bodies from underneath the rubble of bombed-out buildings, now bury Idlib's dead.
No one really knows how many lives COVID-19 has claimed. But every day since August, they have been digging new graves. When they're not ferrying
the dead, the White Helmets are still trying to save lives, transporting hundreds of patients to the few hospitals left standing after years of
Russian and regime airstrikes.
Hospitals treating COVID-19 are overwhelmed. Oxygen is in short supply and so are doctors. Officials here say there are only 200 doctors treating
COVID-19 patients in Northwestern Syria. Years of war have left this last major opposition stronghold, home to more than four million people, with
only 900 doctors.
This nearly isolated part of the world was spared the worst of the pandemic, but health workers say the Delta variant is wreaking havoc. With
limited testing capabilities, it's hard to know the real extent of the spread.
Medical NGOs say the situation is catastrophic, with a positivity rate of more than 50 percent.
DR. IBRAHIM ABOUD, AL-ZIRA'A HOSPITAL (through translator): Over the past six weeks, the curve started increasing slightly with the Delta variant. We
felt the danger and prepared ourselves at the hospital and the logistics and schedules. We prepared the work force, but didn't expect that this wave
was to be this strong and this severe.
KARADSHEH: It's not just the Delta variant. Vaccines have been slow to arrive here. Less than 1 percent of Northwestern Syria's population is
It's hard to believe that these are the streets of a city facing its second and worst wave of the pandemic. But this is a population that has lived
through hell. People here have been craving the normalcy this past year's relative calm has brought.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): People have suffered a lot from airstrikes, from chemical attacks, and we have lived through many wars. So
we have developed immunity, emotional immunity and permanent immunity.
KARADSHEH: While many parts of the world prepare for a post-pandemic life, Syria's latest nightmare may be just beginning.
AMANPOUR: Jomana Karadsheh reporting there.
My next guest stars in the latest dramatized version of a story that grabbed global headlines and led to the impeachment of then President Bill
Clinton, but, this time, "Impeachment: American Crime Story" on FX, has the full backing of Monica Lewinsky herself, the central figure in this real-
On screen, Lewinsky is played by the actress Beanie Feldstein. Here's a clip of an exchange with Linda Tripp, the career civil servant and
supposedly Monica's close friend, who betrayed her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FELDSTEIN: Promise me, please, if they ask you anything, you just say: I don't know. I don't recall.
I promised him that I wouldn't tell anybody.
SARAH PAULSON, ACTRESS: That is a crime, Monica.
Monica, you are asking me to commit a crime.
FELDSTEIN: It's not lying.
PAULSON: And, also, this isn't only happening to you. It is also happening to me. I'm a single mother. I'm a political appointee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Feldstein is best known for her roles in the movies "Lady Bird" and "Booksmart." And with this series in the can and on the air, now she's
taking her talents to Broadway, starring as Fanny Brice in the first ever revival of "Funny Girl," which was made famous by Barbra Streisand.
And the actor Beanie Feldstein is joining me now from New York.
Welcome to the program.
Beanie, what inspired you to take this role?
FELDSTEIN: Of Monica?
AMANPOUR: Yes. Sorry, of course, Monica.
FELDSTEIN: I think that, as an actor, it's always been my dream to portray complex women.
But I also studied sociology in university. And so, for me, it's always been important to find rules that are impactful socially, and I don't know
if you could find one more impactful than the Monica Lewinsky story, because it was so -- she's so deeply misunderstood by the public because of
the way she was portrayed in the media and our society in the '90s.
She was really food for society and the media to feast upon. She was picked apart for her weight and the way she sounded and how she grew up and just
everything about her. And so, for me, it was -- to be a part of retelling her story, giving her story back to audiences and hopefully really
reframing the ideology through which they look at her was incredibly meaningful to me.
AMANPOUR: So she basically said that, having met you -- and I know it was quite difficult to have a lot of together time during COVID and even before
when you were working on this -- that she was -- quote -- "in good hands with Beanie as an actor."
How much of I suppose guidance from her did you get? What was it like actually the few times that you did meet? What did you -- what was
necessary for you to have those meetings to portray her in this series?
FELDSTEIN: Every time I see her, it feels sort of surreal for both of us.
During filming -- we filmed for 10 months, so it was quite a long process. And she texted me once, we haven't spoken in a long time. And I was like, I
talk to you every single day. I talk to you in my head as I'm brushing my teeth, when I'm going to bed, when I'm driving to work.
There wasn't a moment in sort of these 10 months that I wasn't constantly in communication with her just by myself in my own head.
So, when we are together, it is incredibly surreal. But, because she's a full producer on the project and the subject of the piece, one of the
subjects of the piece, it was important for me to do my own research independently, so that, when I did come to her, I wasn't making her rehash
these very traumatic, terrifying moments of her life for me over and over again.
I wanted to come armed with research and armed with knowledge so that, by the time I met Monica, it was just a human-to-human interaction, and all
the questions that I was asking her were much more specific, so things that I could never find in my research.
So her best friend's name is Catherine. I was like, do you call her Cathy? Do you call her Cat? Like, these little details that I just wanted to make
sure were exactly correct.
But Monica was deposed 22 times by the Office of Independent Counsel. So the amount of conversation and detail that she had to give them during that
time was so extensive that I had so much to sort of arm myself with before I even met her.
AMANPOUR: It's been suggested that because Monica herself is a producer, because the writer of the series is a woman, because the actual series
focuses more on the friendship/not friendship between Monica and Linda Tripp, that it has a certain feminist bent to it, different than the way
you're describing it, as we all know, the way it's been dissected in the past.
Do you think that's the case?
FELDSTEIN: I definitely do.
I think this story was so often viewed as Kenneth Starr vs. Bill Clinton, these sort of -- this very male gaze into which to look at the story. And
it was important to Ryan Murphy and to Sarah Burgess, our incredible writer, and all of the producers from the beginning to reposition the
narrative and to focus on the women of the story.
So the story is really from the vantage point of Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones, and these women that were integral to this huge
historic event, but were often cast off and pushed to the sidelines and character -- made to be caricatures and really flattened. They weren't
given any sense of humanity, complexity, depth in their portrayals as it was happening.
So it was very important to us as producers to reframe that and adjust where the spotlight was pointing.
AMANPOUR: I want to play another clip. Now, it is again Monica -- well, you and the actress playing Linda Tripp, where she's trying to get her
friend, who she thought was her friend, to support her and not spill the beans.
Here is that clip and then we will talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULSON: It always comes back to what's best for him.
FELDSTEIN: No, Linda, it's me. This is for me. And all you have to do is say that you have never seen the president behave appropriately with
anyone, because that is 100 percent the truth.
PAULSON: I need to think about it.
FELDSTEIN: You keep saying that. You have thought about it.
PAULSON: I know.
FELDSTEIN: Linda, please. Please. This is my real life we're talking. And I'm scared. All I need is for you to say that you just won't tell them
about me, please, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: She always said it was a consensual relationship.
That scene is so hard to look at because she was so betrayed by so many people. Bill Clinton, the former president himself, said in the 2020 Hulu
documentary "Hillary": "I feel terrible about the fact that Monica Lewinsky's life was defined by it, by this event, unfairly, I think. Over
the years, I have watched her trying to get a normal life back again. But you got to decide how to define normal."
Let's pick that apart a little bit. Does Monica feel that she's got an apology? Does she want an apology? What do you make of what Bill Clinton
has said? And do you think now that she has a normal life back again? Is this part of owning it and moving on finally, finally, finally?
FELDSTEIN: Yes, I could never speak for Monica. It was my job to portray her at that time, but I could never speak for her now.
But I do think that her life was defined by this. It was often referred to as the Lewinsky scandal, the Lewinsky years. It was never -- all the
responsibility and all the ownership was put onto Monica, who at the time was a 22-to-24-year-old woman, young adult.
And I think that, just as you said, that their relationship was completely consensual, but that does not mean that there wasn't a power imbalance at
play. I think anyone who's in their workplace and sees someone on the lowest end of the hierarchy dating the boss, that's a clear power
But I think that Monica's life, unfortunately, has been defined by this and, you know, part of why it was so meaningful for me to make (INAUDIBLE)
part of this series, well, there's an actor and a producer, was to reframe how Monica is seen by the public.
Because, you know, there was a woman that came up to me pre-COVID when -- it should have been announced when we hadn't started filming and she said,
I'm so ashamed of what I thought about Monica inside my own head at the time, not even out loud to anybody but just how I thought of her by myself,
alone in my room, in my own brain. How could I let myself think these thoughts about her and I'm just so sorry to her and I've never met her. So,
I'm going to tell you that. And I think it was incredibly meaningful for me.
And I think the woman has already done a lot of the work that we shop the show will do, but for those that haven't come to that realization, that
haven't had that sort of change of heart, we hope that by portraying the actual true humanity of what these women have to go through, all of their
mistakes, all of their mishaps and all of their triumphs, you know, just full complex human portraits of three women that people might start to
rewrite the narratives in their own minds.
FELDSTEIN: And I think it's important because I think she's always scared out on the street, she's -- you know, she's always singled out. But I hope
that, you know, as people turn their heads now, they might be thinking something differently as they turn them.
AMANPOUR: So, we even do a hard turn back to the future, so to speak. You are going to take on the role of Fanny Brice on Broadway, made, you know,
legendary famous by Barbra Streisand. What made you want to do it? I mean, it's such a great role. It's the first time it will be, you know, redone on
FELDSTEIN: Yes, back to Broadway for the first time since 1964, it's sort of surreal. I grew up a very unique child in that I asked my mom if I could
be Fanny Brice for my third birthday. That was my -- I asked her if I could have a Funny Girl themed birthday party. So, my mom, at the time, was a
costume designer and she made me a Fanny Brice costume but for the size of a toddler.
So, Fanny Brice was sort of my first idol. I think she, you know, intrinsically -- I couldn't put this into words, the time, but I think she
was the first woman that I ever connected to in a story. I saw myself in her somehow. My grandparents are all from Brooklyn. They're Jewish -- you
know, the Jews from Brooklyn. And I think I just understood that the banter, the humor, the community, it was in my bones somehow.
So, for me to take on the legendary role of Fanny Brice has truly been my lifelong dream and I'm so honored to sort of reintroduce Fanny's life story
back to, you know, 2021 audience.
AMANPOUR: We just saw a little bit of the original with Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice. We're going to play a tiny little 15-second clip of the
trailer of your performance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FELDSTEIN: Hello, gorgeous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's great. And it says, of course, I read, they told her she'd never be a star. Did you ever have any of that sort of negativity in your
life? Do you feel like, you know, you're showing them what you're made of now?
FELDSTEIN: You know, I think I was so lucky in that I grew up with the most supportive parents and community of family and friends. So, on a
personal level, no, everyone around me was incredibly championing of, you know, me wanting to be an actor.
However, I think, specifically in the world of musical theatre, I was often sort of pigeon holed into playing certain types of roles because of the way
I looked, and I rejected that very early on. So, I was so often asked, have you ever played Tracy Turnblad in hair spray? And that was sort of the one
role that anyone could see me as because of my size.
And from a very young age, like seven, eight, nine, I just thought, Tracy is a wonderful part. There's -- you know, it's -- I love hairspray, but I'm
more than just this one role. I can by more than this. And so, in that way, I do sort of feel really excited and honored to be expanding the idea of
how people see Fanny Brice.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Great. Beanie Feldstein, thank you so much indeed for joining.
And, of course, "Impeachment: American Crime Story" does air on FX on Tuesday nights in the United States and on BBC2 here in the U.K. on the
19th of October.
Next, we turn to two Hollywood brothers who made their names in some of America's best loved family classics. Ron and Clint Howard were the child
stars of hit shows like "Happy Days" and "Gentle Ben." Now, you might not know Clint as well as Ron but they both had successful individual careers.
Despite that, it's their decades of brotherhood that they've chosen to celebrate in their new joint memoir "The Boys" as they explained to our
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And welcome, Ron and Clint Howard, welcome to the show.
RON HOWARD, ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING FILMMAKER AND CO-AUTHOR, "THE BOYS": It's a pleasure, Walter. Good to see you.
ISAACSON: Congratulations on the book, which is a wonderful memoir of both of you growing up, but there's actually a deeper thing. I think your
daughter, Ron, says it in the intro, which is about the unbreakable bond between two very different people who happen to be brothers. Tell me about
forging that bond. I'll start with you, Ron and then Clint.
R. HOWARD: Well, you know, it began as with a lot of things. We began -- we discovered working on the book with our folks, you know, kind oof
earthy, very logical grounded midwestern people who fell in love with the idea of show business and somehow, they made that dream become a reality
for them and then extended it to us.
But they weren't in it for some kind of sense of glamour or even money, particularly. They just loved being part of the business. And they loved
each other. And they taught us to not be overly dazzled by this world that they'd invited us into and guided us through, but to instead cherish, you
know, most of all, our relationships and our love with one another.
And when Clint and I would get into fights and carry on and I'm five years older, you know, dad would pull us apart and he'd say, you're going to have
a chance to be something very, very special and very precious. You're going to have a chance to be friends the rest of your life. It's not automatic
just because you're brothers. You've got to make it be that way, and I think you ought to start right now. And it rubbed off.
CLINT HOWARD, ACTOR, PRODUCER AND CO-AUTHOR, "THE BOYS": Well, you know, listen, I love my parents dearly, and dad was so special. It wasn't
necessarily what he said, it was the way, he said it. And I just -- listen, I was best friends with my dad. He was dad, but I was best friends with and
I had bonus time because I had this great big brother.
You know, we wrote about it in the book about -- I -- my very first memory is laying on his back as he was reading me the "L.A. Times" account of the
Dodger games, and there was just -- you know, it was a real physical thing and I just -- you know, I loved Ron and I still do and I cherish the
R. HOWARD: Speaking of physical, I've got to point out, Clint's got his boxing tapes on there. We're catching him at the gym. OK. Anyway --
ISAACSON: Clint is coming to us from a great gym. And, Clint, you all began this book right when your dad died, I think, about four or five years
ago. Tell me why that prompted you.
C. HOWARD: Well, I had -- Ron and I both had tried to control dad into writing a book about how he dealt so beautifully with us. He had no desire
to do that. But with him gone, Ron and I were orphans. And his story, everybody loved mom and dad. We both felt their story was untold and we
just felt like this is a wonderful opportunity for us to not just talk about ourselves, but talk about what influenced us, which 90 percent of it
was mom and dad.
R. HOWARD: I mean, people would ask if we wanted -- you know, if I wanted to do a book, I never had, you know, much interest in that. But I actually,
one day, talking to Tom Hanks about it, who is an excellent author, I said, is this something I should tackle? And he said -- he thought about it, and
he said, yes, but only your childhood. We all want to know how you and Clint did it. We want to know how you made it through.
So, we recognize that there's nostalgia, there's curiosity, but we also, as Clint would say, recognize, this is really an opportunity for us to share
with people this sort of very distinctive unique kind of approach that our parents took to this challenge and, you know, what it meant to us.
C. HOWARD: Dad had this midwestern Zen sort of thing and mom was just a tornado of energy. She was a ringmaster and a leader and everybody that she
was in -- came in contact with, she -- loved her. And I wrote this in the book. You know, mom could seriously make friends in an elevator in two
floors. And, you know, I just -- they were great people and, you know, I hope people get a glimpse of that after reading the book.
ISAACSON: Well, it comes across in the book, they are Oklahoma farmers and they fall in love with show business. They meet, I think, in theatre class.
They drop out. They go to New York to do T.V. then to California. And then, they start with two child actors. Ron, why don't you tell me about how at
age three, your father trained you?
R. HOWARD: Well, he was directing theatre, you know, and he was delighted with the fact that, you know, he was able to make a living in this
business. He never quite reached the Gary Cooper, Gee Notrill (ph), you know, level of his dreams but he made a living and worked as a character
actor and also as a director, directed a lot of summer stock theatre.
And when I was two and three, my parents would both be working on these plays all summer and I would just be hanging out. And they, slowly but
truly, they began to realize I was mimicking the actors. I was picking up on the dialogue. And they thought that was funny. And one of my earliest
memories is actually doing a scene that we memorized from the play, "Mr. Roberts", that my dad had been in on Broadway with Henry Fonda, and we
would do this scene and he would play the Henry Fonda part. And if you know the movie, I would play the Jack Lemmon part.
And I remember getting laughs, you know, just kind of in our living room doing the scene for people. And one day, when he was making the rounds in
New York, which is what actors used to have to do in those days, he stumbled upon a casting director's lobby filled with kids for a movie
called that MGM was making called "The Journey" starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. And he couldn't get in to see the casting director himself,
which was a goal, but he leave a message and wanted to try to say something memorable.
So, he said, Rance Howard stopped by, blah, blah, blah. By the way, I have a son who's a fine actor. So, lo and behold, he got a call back saying,
well, bring your son in. And I went in and I did this thing where I played the Jack Lemmon part in "Mr. Roberts." And they laughed and they said, do
you think he can learn anything else? And my dad said, I've got to tell you, I have no idea.
ISAACSON: Clint, you have something about your father knowing that there was a third way to teach and coach a kid to act, not just to sort of mimic
the lines, not just -- but to actually be himself. Tell me how he taught you that at age two?
C. HOWARD: You know, we're somewhat of a circus family, you know, and I just learned how to walk the highwire as I was learning how to walk. So, I
don't really remember the details. But I'll tell you what, dad was very simple. Honesty. Look other characters in the eye. Know where you've been.
Know what you want. And know where you want to go. And he would boil it down.
It wasn't a matter of learning the dialogue. It was learning the emotion of the scene. And, you know, we called it homework, but it was fun. It was a
fun exploration. And I really, really enjoyed being a child actor. It wasn't until I hit adolescence to where I started to develop the
insecurities that, you know, 99.9 percent of the actors have. You know, as a kid, it was -- I was -- it was all confidence and it was mom and dad,
they were responsible for that.
ISAACSON: But you say in the book that you had some emotional scar tissue from that period. Explain that.
C. HOWARD: Listen, you know, getting emotional is something I think there's a little pay that you got to -- you know, it takes a little bite
out of you. And crying and delivering those emotions, dad taught me how to get there.
The one particular moment that I had where there was scar tissue is when I was required or asked to kill a buzzard on film, to pick up a buzzard by
the back of the legs and smash his head against a rock until he was dead. And I was 13 years old. And, you know, I did it. I took one for the team.
Just like it was explained to me that the buzzard was going to take one for the team and we were making this fairly important movie. It was "The Red
Pony." And that, in particular, was something -- it still haunts me. It still -- it's hard for me -- I love that movie, "The Red Pony." I got to
act as Hank Fonda, Maureen O'Hara, Ben Johnson. And yet, there is one scene in that movie that I basically have to turn away from because, you know,
listen, I'm not that guy that I picked up a buzzard and killed it.
R. HOWARD: A thing like that would never be allowed to happen today, what Clint's describing. The tone, you know, around the set, it was crass, it
was cowboy, it was sailor talk. It was, you know, Uber masculine to a toxic degree. And, you know, there are many things that I'm incredibly grateful
we've evolved out of as a culture.
Yet, there is this fundamental collective effort to tell a story, to maximize the potential of the story. Dad taught us that. So, that we
weren't performing. We weren't play acting. We were understanding and engaging. And it earned us a lot of respect within -- among adults. Can you
imagine what that means to a child's self-esteem to recognize they can actually function in this environment?
Yes, later when you're a teen, the rug can often get pulled out from under you and that can be emotionally brutal. The business is kind of designed to
generate some emotional wreckage. But if you can get through it, you know, there were so many valuable lessons to be learned and so many little
fundamentals, that's what I built my adult career on and sort of built my family around.
ISAACSON: Ron, what piece of advice did your dad give you about playing Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show"?
R. HOWARD: He didn't really directly give me any advice, but he did reach out to Andy Griffith early in the show, probably the first episode that we
were doing. He gained enough respect that he could have this conversation and he basically said, look, right now, there -- I can see that that
they're writing the Opie/Andy relationship the way most sitcom relationships are written between fathers and sons. He's kind of a wise
ass. He, you know -- and he outsmarts the dad and it's kind of funny. And Ronnie can do that.
But what if it was different? What if Opie actually respected his father? I think you can find comedy in that truth as well. And I didn't know this at
the time. Andy told me this story when I was about 38 years old, that this is the way the Opie/Andy relationship was tailored and shaped was through
this conversation, and then, Andy saying to the writers, let's write Andy/Opie the way we see Rance/Ronnie.
AMANPOUR: There was one week in American when "Gentle Ben," which you were in, Clint, and the "Andy Griffith Show," which you were in, Ron, were
number one and number two in the ratings. How did you all avoid developing a rivalry?
C. HOWARD: Well, listen, you know, a healthy competition, I think, is good. Listen, "Gentle Ben" was the little show down in Florida that was
trying real hard and we rose in the ratings that year. And, you know, I would be lying to tell you that I didn't want "Gentle Ben" to top out one
week, you know, but it was an absolute thrill when I think, one week, we were one in four and then, one week, we were one and two, and that was a
good week to be a Howard.
R. HOWARD: And I found the variety, Hollywood variety that had the ratings, and I was parading it around the set showing it to Andy and
showing it to everybody. I was, you know, so happy about that. That was a thrill.
ISAACSON: When those shows ended, did you have to face some professional insecurities?
R. HOWARD: I definitely -- well, I didn't feel insecure at that time, but I was in for a rude awakening. Which was, yes, I'd always gotten pretty
much every role I ever went on. Now, when "The Andy Griffith Show" ended, I cried like a baby, which is pretty embarrassing when you're 14 years old,
but those people meant that much to me.
In another couple of years, I would fall into that that difficult period where people who are over 18 who can work non-stop hours with no
restrictions whatsoever start to get your roles, and that is a time when child actors who are also dealing with acne and, you know, all kinds of
insecurities and identity crisis and everything you can imagine, are then suddenly finding themselves kind of persona non grata or certainly limited
in terms of the industry that had been so welcoming, so celebratory. You know, suddenly, they're -- they kind of turn their backs on you.
I definitely suffered through that period. And I also began to dream, more than ever, about having autonomy, creative autonomy, professional autonomy,
and it led me, fueled me, not only to recognize I was going to have to compete for jobs as an actor, if I wanted to do it, I would have to make
the rounds the way my dad did. I would have to be assertive but I also wanted to control my own creative destiny and professional destiny. I
wanted to be a director.
ISAACSON: Clint, there is a part in the book where you talk about a little bit of an envy of Ron in which he has a girlfriend, you know, he's doing
well. And you say that pot, you started smoking pot and then, into harder drugs and alcohol, that that became your girlfriend. Tell me about that
dissent into drugs and alcohol.
C. HOWARD: Well, I'll tell you, Walter, you know, listen, I loved smoking weed. I mean, in fact, listen, I don't know, check me if I'm wrong, but
it's a little odd when a fellow is so anxious to smoke marijuana that he takes the pencil shavings from his pencil sharpener and twists up a doobie
and smokes it. You know, I don't know where that came from. I had good self-esteem when I was, you know, 14 or 15, 16 years old. I was having a
little trouble with, you know, getting dates and having female relationships.
I looked at Ron and he had this solid thing going on with Cheryl. And I'm not sure envy was the right word but I guess if you want something that
somebody's got, that's envy. But, you know -- and again, the way I did equate it was, you know, smoking dope became my girlfriend and it was, you
know, a nasty trap and I paid a pretty heavy price later on in my life.
You know, I don't regret the past. I don't want to shut the door on it, but I certainly don't want to go down that road again.
ISAACSON: Clint, a lot of child actors' stories are -- they end up being tragedies. I think you use pretty strong language about how, you know,
waiting to be a tragedy. How did you and Ron avoid that?
C. HOWARD: I had great, great role models. I had dad and then, I looked over to my left and I had this beautiful big brother that loved me and he
will always include me in games of over the line and Wiffle ball. And, you know, it was -- I had the best of both worlds. From my chair, it was -- you
know, life was beautiful, life was great.
Let me just back up and say one thing. I had a great perspective of watching my brother break in as a director because I saw how little
credibility he was given. And from my perspective, from very early on, I thought, this dude's got the goods to do it. He's good -- at 15 years old,
he could have directed television. Without a doubt. You know, there was not -- he was as good as anybody.
And listen, with the Opie shaming, listen, that's probably the worst thing Ron ever dealt with, was --- well, maybe not the worst thing, but, listen,
I would not have wanted to have been Opie. It was just, you know, too easy to get picked on, and the cheerleaders of the other schools, Opie, Opie,
you know, and I watched him have this dream to be a director and I just knew, I knew, man, my big brother is going to kick ass.
And all through my early adulthood and Ron in his early directing career, I was so freaking proud that, look at him. You know, yes, he's kicking ass,
you know, I was going to say, I'd say so from the beginning.
ISAACSON: Clint Howard, Ron Howard, thank you all so much for joining us.
R. HOWARD: Pleasure, Walter. Thank you. Thanks for having us.
C. HOWARD: This was awesome. Walter, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The story of two brothers. And finally, we've already heard from one game changing female scientist. But let's take a moment to reflect on
another born over 200 years ago. Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of women's achievements in science, technology, engineering and math,
otherwise known as STEM. Named after the woman often credited as the first ever computer programmer.
Her notes inspired work on modern computers, and Ada happens to be the daughter of the poet, Lord Byron, and it's thought that her mother pushed
her to study math because she worried that she would inherit her father's volatile poetic temperament. Two centuries later (ph), Ada remains an
inspiration to women in science and, no doubt, to men as well.
That's all for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.