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Interview with Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman; Interview with "Franklin" Actor Michael Douglas; Interview with "Mamma Mia!" Creator/Producer Judy Craymer. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 09, 2024 - 13:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The situation in Ukraine is desperate. Speaker Johnson has now sat on his hands for 55 days.


AMANPOUR: All eyes on Washington, as Congress decides whether to turn the key on aid to Ukraine, and now also Israel. I speak to Wendy Sherman, who

recently stepped down as Deputy secretary of state.

Then aid delivery turned deadly. We bring you a detailed investigation into the February killing of more than 100 starving Palestinians rushing to get

food in Gaza.

Then --


MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ACTOR, "FRANKLIN": He knew he was sort of a rock star. So, what he'd do is he played humility.


AMANPOUR: -- becoming Benjamin Franklin at the dawn of American diplomacy, Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas tells Walter Isaacson why now it's time

for his first ever period piece.

Plus --




AMANPOUR: -- "Mamma Mia!" creator and producer Judy Cramer, joins me to celebrate the global phenomenon launched 25 years ago on London's West End.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.

What leverage does America still wield, whether in Israel, in Ukraine, or beyond? And is it as good as its word? There is a rising sense that the

values America says it represents in the world are not reflected in some of its actions.

In Gaza, the ongoing death toll and the heartbreaking images local reporters bring us every day have pushed the Biden administration into

calling for at least a temporary ceasefire, but the flow of weapons from the United States to Israel has continued to pace.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the government there faces almost the opposite dilemma, ongoing public support expressed by the Biden administration, but

without sending the weapons and ammunition so desperately needed thanks to intransigent Republicans in Congress.

President Zelenskyy couldn't have been clearer warning this weekend that, "If Congress does not help Ukraine, Ukraine will lose the war."

For decades, Wendy Sherman has been at the center of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, serving under three presidents and five secretaries

of state. Sherman was Antony Blinken's top deputy until she retired last summer. And we want to welcome you back to the show from Washington. Good

to have you with us.


AMANPOUR: So, I have set you up for some tough questions, because the very real issue of America and its leverage, at least with its allies like, you

know, Israel, seems to the shock and horror of most of the world, to not be having any effect.

And there's, as you know, a rising call, even inside the United States, to at the very least condition continued weapons deliveries and, in many

areas, to suspend them. Why do you think this Biden administration has so little leverage with Netanyahu's government?

SHERMAN: Well, first of all, it's great to be with you, Christiane. And both you and I have seen many years of national security and foreign policy

and all of the changes that that brings. I think the Biden administration has a very tough job in front of it.

Israel is a sovereign nation. It gets to make its own decisions. You and I were around when I was very honored to lead the negotiation team with Iran

to get an Iranian deal to stop their advance in nuclear weapons. And then that got overturned by the Trump administration. So, things do change and

one must persist.

So, in this case, I think President Biden and the team are persisting. We certainly want to support Israel as a sovereign nation, as a democracy of a

sort these days in the Middle East. But at the same time, I don't think there's anyone left who doesn't believe, including the president, that we

need a cease fire now so that the civilian death toll does not continue, so aid gets in, so starving children are fed, all the while remembering that

this was started by Hamas, a terrorist organization against the state of Israel.


So, this is very complicated. We have a long history. We also helped to arm Israel as a deterrent to Iran in the region and to other nefarious actors.

So, this is a very complicated scenario. And I applaud the president for laying down in a very tough conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu that

there must be very tangible change followed up by Secretary Blinken saying there must be real results, not just steps, but real results. And we'll see

whether there will be or whether U.S. policy will change. And I expect that if there are not real results, policy will indeed change in pretty dramatic


AMANPOUR: OK. That's interesting. So, you've set out the -- you know, the Biden administration view and what's at stake. What is the dramatic fashion

that you think, in which you think, policy might change? Because let's just be frank, nothing has changed in terms of Netanyahu's public response and

maybe it's even his private response to the president about, let's just say, a counteroffensive on Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians

have been told by the Israelis to seek shelter.

And the Biden administration says don't do it. There's a huge op-ed. In fact, I'm going to read a little bit right now from the presidents of

Jordan, Egypt, and France in which they are saying, we warn against the dangerous consequences of an Israeli offensive on Rafah, where about one

and a half Palestinian civilians have sought refuge. Such an offensive would only bring more death and suffering, heighten the risks and

consequences of mass displacement of the people of Gaza and threaten regional escalation.

So, in other words, everything that could go wrong and could get worse could happen if that offensive happens. And Netanyahu has said no force in

the world will stop us. That is, I mean, thumbing your nose at your greatest ally who's actually supplying you with the weapons to continue

right now.

SHERMAN: Well, you're thumbing your nose at the entire world at this point, and it is why I think the United States abstained from the latest

U.N. Security Council resolution as opposed to vetoing it, because we know that the world is just stunned by what has happened by the tragedy, the

humanitarian tragedy, and the World Central Kitchen loss, which is heartbreaking, is one of over 200 aid workers who have lost their lives,

many of them Palestinian aid workers.

At the same time, let's none of us forget that there are still well over 100 hostages, hopefully, still alive that are being held by Hamas after the

most brutal attack on Israel. So, I don't think there's anyone left who doesn't think there needs to be change here.

The entire world is saying what was just said in that letter that you repeated, which in fact John Kirby and Matt Miller at the State Department

have said as well, which is a ground advance into Rafah is not something that the United States supports. We do not support that kind of offensive.

We understand that Israel wants to make sure that Hamas is never a threat to Israel ever again. But there are many ways to do that. Secretary Blinken

said today that, in fact, we expect Israelis to be in Washington perhaps as soon as next week to talk about other ways to approach the concern.

AMANPOUR: You know, everybody clearly always brings up the fact that this phase of this terrible war was started on October 7th and everybody agrees,

presumably, that any nation has the right to self-defense. But everybody, especially in the western world, also agrees that there are rules of the

road and that this Israeli offensive has stepped so far outside those rules that its greatest allies are very, very worried.

So, given the fact that many people say your best friend should help you if you're drunk, take the keys away from you, do not keep driving, if you were

the -- still the negotiator, still the point person, as you have been in many occasions, what would you say either to the Israeli prime minister or

whoever's involved about how actually to fix this? What is the way to stop this war as it's being wielded right now and to achieve the objectives?

SHERMAN: Well, I think that was the discussion that was taking place in Cairo this past weekend with CIA Director Bill Burns meeting with other

intelligence officials to get a cease fire that might not be permanent quite yet, but could be elongated into a permanent ceasefire, in return for

hostages coming back to Israel, and of course in response to that, prisoners being let out of Israeli jails back to the Palestinians. That is

a critical step that needs to be taken here.


Hamas said it didn't quite meet its demands, but would take it up and respond responsibly. It's sort of strange to think about Hamas being

responsible. But nonetheless, I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that, in fact, there is a step forward here that we can get a ceasefire, that we can

get humanitarian aid in, that we can figure out a longer-term solution here.

The ultimate solution here is a way for Palestinians to live in peace and dignity and for Israel to be assured of security. There were steps taken

along the way around normalization with Arab partners in the region. There's more to go in that arena, but I don't think anything is going to

proceed forward unless there's a future for the Palestinians. That future has to be supported by a Palestinian authority that reforms itself, that is


Right now, I don't believe that the Palestinian Authority is capable of governing Gaza. I think it will take a multinational effort for that to

happen. And obviously, the reconstruction, looking at the photographs that you're now putting up, which are just horrifying, that reconstruction is

going to take a very long time.

AMANPOUR: It really is horrifying. I mean, it's just -- and all the figures show that whether it's the deaths, whether it's the destruction,

this is the fastest in modern history. I mean, the number of deaths and destruction and now the starvation, it's just never happened in modern

warfare, that this amount of catastrophe is built up in such a short period of time.

And again, talking about Israel, most of its allies -- of course, its adversaries don't care, but its allies believe that it is losing the moral

high ground, it is incredibly isolated, it's what's caused Chuck Schumer, senior senator here in the United States, to call for new elections in a

different way of prosecuting this war.

So, you've talked about it a little bit. So, what happens, and what do you think is going to happen, when the next inevitable escalation comes, which

is the telegraphed response that Iran says it will have to make for the attack on its diplomatic facility and the death of its individuals there?

What do you think would be a proportional response, or a likely response, given your experience?

SHERMAN: I think Iran can do many different things. They can attack an Israeli outpost, maybe not even inside the boundaries of Israel itself. It

can launch a cyber-attack, of course. It can send more of its proxies against Israel. We are all worried about, of course, the northern border

and a widening war with Lebanon, led by Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran.

So, there's a very dangerous road here. And Christiane, as someone who, as you noted, has worked for three presidents and five secretaries of state,

one has to persist. We didn't have to be where we are.

I was looking back, thinking about this interview, to the first time I was assistant secretary for legislative affairs, and watched as Rabin and

Arafat were nudged together by then-President Bill Clinton to shake hands, and all the work that was done at Wye River in Shepherdstown and Camp

David, how close we were, and now how far away we are.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And of course, many people now are saying, you know, many people blamed Arafat for torpedoing the 2,000 Camp David, but many people

are also now waking up to the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu never wanted a separate Palestinian State, always worked to undermine the Palestinian

Authority and they're just saying, yes, I mean, this is the inevitable.

I just want to ask you one last question on this.


AMANPOUR: Do you also believe that there was -- I'm looking for the quote here right now, but basically, the United States appeared to be taking its

eye off the ball in a major way, certainly off the Palestinian-Israeli issue with its pivot to Asia and the idea that this was a much, much more

important and strategic thing.

Franklin Foer, who wrote a book about the Biden presidency, described the job of Brett McGurk, who's the special coordinator for the Middle East, as,

"keeping the Middle East off the president's desk as much as possible."

Was that a mistake? Would you have written that kind of memo?

SHERMAN: I don't know that it was kept off the table altogether. We clearly had ongoing discussions with Israel. We had Ambassador Tom Nides

and now Ambassador Jack Lew, both incredibly seasoned leaders as our ambassador to Israel. So, there was never a lack of conversation and



The Biden administration, as much as, of course, we disagreed with the Trump administration, continued the normalization efforts, trying to say to

the Arab States around the Middle East that they, in fact, had to dig in and take responsibility.

I believe that part of the reason that Arafat did not say yes at the end, even after promising President Clinton that he would say yes, is because he

was worried that he would not have the support of the Arab States. So, this normalization process was quite important.

So, I don't think it was a matter of taking our eye off the ball as a matter rather than having a different strategy, and that strategy was

undermined by Hamas' brutal attack on October 7th.

AMANPOUR: And let's just shift to Ukraine, which is massively hugely important. This is a major, imperialistic power, Russia, that's invaded a

sovereign, independent and democratic neighbor, the Biden administration, through all its moral and material support towards defending Ukraine, and

yet now we've got a complete and utter bottleneck logjam and cut off of these supplies because of the Congress.

David Cameron, the former prime minister and now foreign minister, has been in Washington. This is what he said today with Anthony Blinken.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: I come here with no intention to lecture anybody or tell anybody what to do or get in the way of the process

of politics and other things in the United States. I just come here as a great friend and believer in this country and a believer that it's

profoundly in your interests and your security and your future.


AMANPOUR: So, bending over backwards not to offend the MAGA Republicans or interfere in domestic policy, but he did do a pit stop to Mar-a-Lago and

Donald Trump.

What has to happen now, and how worried are you about what Zelenskyy said, that we are going to lose this war if we don't get any more help? What will

that mean? What will that look like?

SHERMAN: I think it is a complete and utter disaster. If Putin is allowed to succeed in Ukraine, he will not stop in Ukraine. He will believe that he

can act with impunity and that the world has allowed him to do so.

I hope that Speaker Johnson understands that the burden of history is whether he wants it or not resting on his shoulders. And it should not be

about whether he gets to remain speaker or not. It should be about what it means for democracy, for our own future, as well as the future of Europe.

None of us want to be back fighting any kind of a war in Europe, again a wider war in Europe.

We would indeed -- I'm sure Putin's next objective might be a NATO country, which means under the articles of NATO, we would have to come to the

defense of that country. And so, we would be all in with troops on the ground in a way that we are not.

Most of the money, your viewers should understand, that goes to Ukraine, actually goes to the U.S. military industrial complex to build weapons, and

very little of it goes to supporting the governing structure of Ukraine so that they can survive to defend themselves.

The stakes here are brutal and incredibly important. I'm glad that Foreign Minister Cameron, former prime minister of the U.K., has been having these

conversations with all parties, and I hope Speaker Johnson understands the burden of history is on his shoulders.

AMANPOUR: Yes, it appears to be make or break. Wendy Sherman, thank you so much indeed for being with us.

SHERMAN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Now, under stepped-up American pressure, more than 400 humanitarian aid drugs did pass into Gaza on Monday, the largest single-day

delivery since October 7th.

But concerns continue to grow as famine is setting in. And there is ongoing fallout from the IDF's attack on the World Central Kitchen convoy, where

seven aid workers were killed. So far, as we said, some 200 have died in this conflict, the vast majority of them Palestinians.

Now, perhaps no single incident captures the tragic violence around aid, as much as Israel's flour delivery on February 29th, which turned chaotic and

deadly. More than 100 desperate and hungry Palestinians were either shot or trampled to death.

In this report, investigative producer Katie Polglase gets access to never- before-seen footage to dig into exactly what happened that day.

KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER (voice-over): It's early morning on February 29th on Al-Rashid Road in Northern Gaza. Thousands of

starving people have gathered here to receive food. But as the aid trucks arrive, this happens. The night would become known as the Flour Massacre.


By morning, over a hundred would be dead, in one of the single biggest mass casualty events of this conflict. CNN investigated this incident, obtaining

never-seen-before videos of that night, collecting evidence from 22 eyewitnesses and tracing the aid itself all the way to a Muslim charity in

the U.K.

It was the IDF that was then responsible for safely delivering these vital supplies, but we found they opened fire on unarmed starving Palestinians at

close range as the aid arrived. Their explanation for the tragedy using this drone video was a stampede that called soldiers to fire warning shots

in the air. They later admitted to firing some shots directly at so-called suspects who approached them.

But the IDF footage is incomplete. It cuts between crowds surrounding the trucks and bodies lying on the ground. Even this reveals they were firing

in a densely packed area, likely to cause severe bloodshed. CNN requested the full footage from the IDF, but it was denied.

Jihad Abou Watfa was amongst the starving Palestinians and started filming as the trucks crossed into Northern Gaza.

JIHAD ABOU WATFA, EYEWITNESS (through translator): We decided to face the danger, to risk our lives to obtain any piece of bread for our families.

POLGLASE (voice-over): Videos from Jihad and another key eyewitness, Belal, indicate the gunfire started earlier than the IDF claimed. The IDF

published this timeline, saying the trucks arrived at the checkpoint at 4:00 a.m. They then crossed at 4:29 and only after that did the IDF fire

shots at the crowd.

But in Belal's video filmed seven minutes earlier at 4:22 a.m., gunshots ring out. He warns there is a tank. The IDF claim the convoy was still

stationary at the checkpoint at this time. Next Jihad begins filming. It's now 4:28 a.m. and there's a barrage of gunfire and the shots are close.

Analysis by weapons experts of the bursts indicate it is heavy automatic gunfire at 600 rounds per minute. Jihad keeps filming.

A tank is beside me. We're now under siege, he says.

Moments later you see a truck driving along the road. We spotted traces from the gunfire here. One could be seen ricocheting up here, according to

weapons experts.

WATFA (through translator): The feeling was totally indescribable, fear, confusion. You fear, God forbid, going back to your family as a martyr.

POLGLASE (voice-over): As day broke, the number of dead and injured that emerged was staggering. Interviews with survivors at hospitals afterwards

found some people had been shot in the upper body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Where were you injured?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In my chest, and it went through my back.

POLGLASE (voice-over): Amidst the devastation, CNN found a clue as to who had delivered this aid, this box with the writing Ummah Welfare Trust.

MOHAMMAD AHMED, UMMAH WELFARE TRUST: This was the first time that the aid had reached Northern Gaza and we were very, very excited and happy that

finally we had gone through.

POLGLASE (voice-over): They received the terrible news as to what had happened via WhatsApp.

AHMED: I woke up to some photos with cardboard boxes of our logo, Ummah Welfare Trust, with blood stains on them and it came as a shock. This is

the first time in 20 years where I've actually seen blood being mixed with aid.

POLGLASE (voice-over): In all, at least 118 died that day. With the U.N. struggling to access Northern Gaza, the IDF are responsible for ensuring

aid arrives safely. Despite this, the U.N. has documented two dozen attacks on Palestinians awaiting aid in the last three months alone.

For those like Jihad living on the verge of famine, it has led to a desperate fight for survival.

WATFA (through translator): The living take precedence over the dead. I must get food for myself and my children.

POLGLASE (voice-over): And now, that fight becomes more challenging than ever.


AMANPOUR: Katie Polglase with that investigative report. And a note, the IDF have not yet responded to our questions on these findings.

Next, we turn the clocks back in American foreign policy to someone many know as America's first diplomat, Benjamin Franklin. A new Apple TV series,

"Franklin," tells the story of his mission to France in 1776 to secure support for American independence.

Academy Award winner Michael Douglas speaks to Walter Isaacson about taking on the role of this founding father.


WALTER ISAACSON, CO-HOST, AMANPOUR AND CO.: Thank you, Christiane. And, Michael Douglas, welcome to the show.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ACTOR, "FRANKLIN": Hi, Walter, nice to see you again.


ISAACSON: You play Benjamin Franklin in France based on Stacy Schiff 's book "The Great Improvisation" for this new limited miniseries and Stacy

Schiff begins the book by saying, in December of 1776 a small boat delivered an old man to France and there's that scene where he's mobbed, as

he is going into Paris, why is he so famous?

DOUGLAS: Doing the homework for this show, it was stunning what this man had accomplished in his life. We know about him as a writer, and as

printer, and as a publisher, University of Pennsylvania libraries, post office, then all of the inventions, and I think it probably was

electricity, the fact electricity that kind of -- was the -- for the entire world just was something was so unbelievable from outer space that made him

so famous.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do they mean to attack us?

DOUGLAS: They need to see me. They have it in their heads that I invented electricity. Who am I to dissuade them?

DOUGLAS (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for such a warm welcome. And I am thrilled to be here in Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Follow me, please.

DOUGLAS (through translator): I am impatgient to meet you all, later.


ISAACSON: And in France is where they actually performed for the first time his electricity experiments on the lightning rod. So, they consider

him somebody who snatched fire from the heavens. So, it must have been fun to do it. Why would you do a period piece? I don't think you've ever done

one before.

DOUGLAS: I never -- no, I've never done any periodic piece, which was one of the basic reasons why I wanted to do it. This last year in my career,

I've been trying different things, comedy or green screen.

But, yes, Benjamin Franklin was like, wow, so I didn't really know much more since I remembered from my high school class, except in this whole

chapter which I did not know anything about and I thought was so fascinating, which was, you know, at 70 years old, after all that he's

accomplished and finishing up his work on this Declaration of Independence in July, signing July 4, 1776.

And seven weeks later, together they've decided they got to send Franklin to France because the country was broke. They're still in the middle of the

war with the British. You know, their army is ragtag. They have no weapons, no ships and everything else. So, they sent Franklin to France to get their

support. I mean, I found it so ironic that this new democracy would take one of the biggest monarchies in the history of world to support them.

And that's the one question I'm going to have for you, you know, how did he even imagine that he was going succeed? And as Stacy's book's title says,

"The Great Improvisation," with all that his had achieved, he didn't know what the hell he was going to do.

And so, he took his grandson, who he'd sort of nurtured with him, Temple. And six weeks after the deciding the declaration, he's taking a two-month

trip across the seas to France to try to rue the French to support the Americans in this new venture.

ISAACSON: Well, to answer your question a bit, one reason he succeeds is because he prints things. He becomes a propagandist almost, and his

grandson, Temple, is helping him with the printing press as they print the great documents coming out of America.


DOUGLAS: It's not bad, but swift with a lever. The impression must be even. Watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't do it this quickly.

DOUGLAS: You can if it serves as your livelihood. I could print 500 pages a day. But don't worry, boy. I've got other plans for you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I might have plans of my own, you know.

DOUGLAS: Such as?


DOUGLAS: No, I'm all ears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I intend to live pleasantly, to have entertaining friends and exciting adventures, to reside in a house like this and be

regarded as a wit and a gentleman.

DOUGLAS: Perhaps it would be best for you to learn a trade after all.


ISAACSON: Tell me a little bit about that relationship with Temple Franklin that I love.

DOUGLAS: Well, you know, Temple was sort of the bastard of a bastard. He was -- he didn't ever know who his mother was. He was growing up sort of

without any support in the U.K., in England. And because of his conflict with his own son, William, who maintained himself as a loyalist, you know,

as governor of New Jersey, and basically allowed his son to be imprisoned as a loyalist, I think that probably there was some guilt in Ben.

He took this young man over to be with him. With all the strengths that Franklin had, I don't think you could call him a really good family man,

per se. Certainly, I would not want to have been married to him. But he took him over, and it allowed us, in the eight hours, to do another sort of

subplot of a young generation, of a young person that hasn't traveled, being introduced and integrated into this kind of wild French society, a

lot of young, you know, people involved. And so, it became a good parallel to what was going on.

ISAACSON: Noah Jupe plays Temple, and I love those scenes because you watch him trying to have to figure out French society. In some way it's a

metaphor for the whole thing, is us trying to figure out European society then.

DOUGLAS: It was. I mean -- and I think the exciting part we had is not knowing who was on your side. Obviously, there's a tremendous number of

spies that existed all around. There are a lot of backstabbing. And I think that Franklin frustrated, certainly John Adams and a couple of other people

for the amount of time that it was taking him as Washington was struggling with his army, trying to keep our idea of democracy alive.

ISAACSON: George Washington said the game is pretty much off, that's in Stacy Schiff's book, when Franklin goes over there. And he has to do

something that we're not very good at today, which is a show both idealism and realism, sort of this balance of power game. So, he's very dexterous in

how he pulls them in. How do you try to convey that wyliness of Benjamin Franklin?

DOUGLAS: Well, hopefully with a look here or a look there, or people knowing how he actually feels about people and how he treats them, I mean,

his relationship with Vergennes is extraordinary. I mean, he brought him in like they -- they must have been like brothers.

ISAACSON: Yes, the French foreign minister we're talking about.

DOUGLAS: Right. The French foreign minister, who was really his point man in terms of dealing with the French government, and was so supportive of

Franklin, you know, in terms of how much money they were able to get.

The other thing that, you know, really struck home when we speak about him being 70 when he first arrived, in 1800, the average age for American was

39 years old. So, Franklin was already 70. I said, he made Joe Biden look really good. In my opinion.

I mean, for him to take on all this at that age and with the gout was very impressive. And I think just the years of experience and his ability to

read people, just to kind of get a sense of who they are and his willingness to seem very accessible. You know, people were not threatened

by him. He may be famous and a famous star, but he brought everybody in with his kind of -- his vulnerability.

I think it was a great performance. I don't think that's necessarily who he was. But it was one of the most amazing efforts I could ever believe, that

why this monarchy ends up supporting a democracy. And I must say, you know this better than me, it wasn't soon after this. I mean, I don't know if he

totally bankrolled the French government.

It's not a few years later when we have the French Revolution. So, it's another area where he played a key part, I think.


ISAACSON: And Franklin, you know, when he arrives, he doesn't wear a wig. He sometimes wears a fur cap as if he's a back woodsman. And you portray

him very well as if he's having a common touch, but also pretending to have a common touch.

DOUGLAS: Thank you, thank you for getting that, Walter. Yes, I really appreciate that because that was one of the things that I was really

fascinated about is how aware he was of his presence. He knew he was sort of a rock star. So, what did he do is he played humility. And especially, I

thought it worked out so well.

One of the things about production-wise that I loved about the picture was the extras. I mean, we're having four, 500 extras of the court, all in full

wigs and unbelievable costumes. And it really helped give (INAUDIBLE) a milititude (ph), and made him look like this plain and simple man.

And I think -- I was sort of curious to ask you too, I mean, you really could say Franklin was sort of the beginning of the middle class, you know,

He sort of represented a working class that could actually function and make money rather than royalty or poverty. And the cat was sort of picked

up by Daniel Boone, I guess, and Davy Crockett, but was his token to a simpler time and the rustic future that America held.

ISAACSON: You know, the opening episode sort of has a theme in which statecraft, you know, diplomacy is actually stagecraft. And there's been

Franklin not only being a diplomat, but playing a role, setting a stage.


DOUGLAS: Tell me, what sort of man is for Minister Vergennes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What sort? Yes. You see where we are? Here, one night you might play the lover, the next, the king, after that, a beggar.

DOUGLAS: But who are you really? You are what the rule requires you to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We understand each other perfectly.


DOUGLAS: I think you start at the beginning and you get a sense of the crowds when he arrives in Paris and how his notoriety and he creates this

humble being. And then, you know, he had such great wit and a sense of humor and kind of idiosyncrasies of the situation that he was in.

I admired his -- he seems to be kind of a logician where he kind of balances both sides. He's always evaluating situations. And I think this

served him very well as a man. I mean, as governor, you know, of Pennsylvania for England, he had some ideas of how to handle himself.

But it was really fascinating to watch him wind his way through the aristocracy up into the government. And it was. It was very well -- he

would have been a good actor.

ISAACSON: He was a good actor.


ISAACSON: And he said, and Stacy Schiff has it in the book, that diplomacy should not be conducted as a siege, it should be a seduction. And I think

you see in this series how he does that. And even metaphorically, he has Madame Brillon and Madame Helvetius, two of his, I guess we could say,

mistresses. Tell me about them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Why haven't you paid a call yet?

DOUGLAS (through translator): What a delight that we meet at last. May I present my neighbor, Madame Brillon?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I am familiar with the widow Helvetius.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): But she wishes she wasn't.


DOUGLAS: Well, I think -- well, first of all, I have to say, Walter, that -- and I appreciate Stacy's book. I've got a lot of information out of your

biography on Franklin, a lot of personal, you know, character stuff. And so, congratulations. It was a great job.

He had an eye for the women. He just loved -- he loved women, even at 70 years old when he was over there. So, I can't say everything was sexually

related, but he loved the sweet talk to women.

Madame Brillon was married and had a more ethereal presence. Helvetius was a little more carnal, I think. But I would imagine, just with the kind of

pressure that he was under, this was his way of relaxing, you know. He certainly liked to imbibe. We know that, too. But he loved the ladies, and

he enjoyed -- he knew how to speak to them. He was very, very friendly, even if it wasn't a question of, you know, going anywhere.

ISAACSON: It kind of appalled John Adams and John Adams' his wife, Abigail, because they're in Paris as well. There's quite a contrast between

them. What do you think about Franklin's character, how that helped him? I mean, the French had no reason to get in on our side during the revolution.

He almost seduced the men.


DOUGLAS: He did. And this was the hardest question to you in the beginning, the hardest thing to understand. John Adams sort of gave me the

parallels to some things going on today. And I was thinking as they were knocking their heads, you know, working out this Declaration of

Independence. And you really felt like two sides that were going on, almost like two different parties.

And you realize, though, how all their focus and concentration was on this form of government, creating a democracy. And working on the show made me

really appreciate how vulnerable, how fragile this sense of democracy was. And when you saw the two of them going at each other, you always knew it

was for the better. It was for it to create this state.

And today, you know, you feel like much more people going at each other trying to kill each other rather than work towards a better democracy,

because it's an imperfect solution. I mean, it's not an answer to it. It's always going to be evolving.

ISAACSON: Was this feeling about democracy, and your worry about democracy now, was that some -- one of the reasons you wanted to do this as it sort

of tied into today?

DOUGLAS: Not actually. Well, it happened, though, as it evolved. And I was working on it and sort of saw those comparisons. Things sort of like the

situation between Russia and Ukraine remind me of England and this new country, America. I was a couple of things.

So, it's important as we're coming in on our 250th anniversary at a time when I'm more aware of the fragility of what we have, autocracies seem to

be butting up all over the world, democracies are an endangered process and it's something that helps hopefully as a side note will help make people

aware of.

ISAACSON: Michael Douglas, thank you so much for joining us.

DOUGLAS: Walter, thank you, always a pleasure.


AMANPOUR: Looking forward to seeing that one. And finally tonight, "Mamma Mia!" It has been 25 years since the hugely successful musical first hit

London's West End. That's a quarter of a century of audiences dancing in the aisles to ABBA's enduringly beloved music. It's come to more than 60

countries worldwide and there have been two hit films.



AMANPOUR: The musical is the brainchild of producer Judy Cramer, who persuaded ABBA to take a chance on weaving a feel-good story into a musical

from those songs.

And I went to the West End Theatre to meet Cramer about these 25 years and also asking her how it took a village of women to make it all happen.


AMANPOUR: Judy Cramer, welcome to the program.

JUDY CRAMER, CREATOR/PRODUCER, "MAMMA MIA!": Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: It is a milestone breaker, it's not just 25 years, but it's broken all box office records and everything you want to measure it by.

Were you surprised that it lasted this long?

CRAMER: Of course, I'm always surprised at "Mamma Mia!" and its success, I mean, no producer sets out with a master plan of 25 years.

AMANPOUR: What do you attribute it to?

CRAMER: I think the magic is not only the music, of course ABBA's music is, you know, amazing, it's euphoric, but it's the story. It's very much

the story. The story of a mother and daughter, everything, the characters, I think people relate to themselves. "Mamma Mia!" is very relevant, it

tells a story of friendship, hope, second chances.


CRAMER: Love. I mean, it's got so many foundations and themes, and I think that's what sustained it.


AMANPOUR: Let's talk about the story, because it's not just, as somebody says, a jukebox musical, it's not like you've grabbed all the best ABBA

hits and decided to just write some lines between it to make a musical. What did you do along with your female writer and your female director?

CRAMER: Right from the beginning, when I, you know, learnt -- loved those ABBA songs and "Winner Takes It All" was my inspiration, that song, you

know, that woman's song.



CRAMER: I felt it compelled me that there should be a stage musical, but it should be an original musical that I really don't love the term jukebox

that people have used because it's putting popular music on stage. It's more a pop musical, if anything, but the songs had to earn their place. And

Catherine Johnson's story did that. She put those wonderful ABBA songs into context so you could laugh, you could cry. They became a dialogue.

AMANPOUR: And it's a dialogue that resonates. I mean, when I watched it, and I'm sure every night, it's multi-generational. It's not just those of

us who remember ABBA winning the Eurovision song contest in 1974. I was at boarding school, you know, "Waterloo."


AMANPOUR: And I wonder, you know, you have managed to have this relationship with ABBA, particularly the two men, right, who wrote the

songs and who are the main business leaders. How did you do that?

CRAMER: I think to become partners with two legendary, you know, pop icons, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, to me it seemed very organic at

the time, but I had worked with them in the '80s. So, they knew me. So, I didn't come from completely outside knocking on their door, but I had no,

you know, big track record, but they kind of trusted me and they kind of liked the idea, and basically, we worked out a plan. They would give me the

music if they were happy with everything and I'd put in the hard work.

AMANPOUR: Did they just trust you to do good with their music? Were they easy, difficult to work with?

CRAMER: We just have this -- we actually always kind of joke about the relationship because I think their caution was my drive. So, they'd

permanently be saying, no, Judy, we can't do that. And I'd be like, oh, OK. So, it was always meant to be starting as very little musical, maybe kind

of out of town, kind of off radar. And then we ended up opening 25 years ago in one of the biggest West End theaters.

No, we won't go to Broadway. No, we won't do a film. And so, that's our work.

AMANPOUR: It was all no, no, no, yes.

CRAMER: Always no, no, no, yes. And I think I've proved to them, hopefully now, that everything's working. But they were very collaborative, because

though they had a sense of caution, why wouldn't they? They have this incredible canon of work. They didn't want me to send it up in smoke.

AMANPOUR: And it's -- from what I read, it cost 3 million pounds at the time to put on. And it's now grossed 4.5 billion worldwide in 25 years.

What about the film? You've got two films. You know, famously you have the great Meryl Streep as the lead character Donna Sheridan, the mother. You

managed to get Cher for the second film. Tell us how you got, first of all, Meryl Streep.

CRAMER: When it came to casting the movie, Phyllida Lloyd, the director, and myself loved the idea of Meryl Streep. So, we kind of -- that was our

dream to get Meryl, and it happened that Meryl had seen "Mamma Mia!" on Broadway in 2001, soon after Dreadful 9/11, and she loved it. And she'd

written a note to the cast of the Broadway company saying how much she loved it. And, you know, her dream was to go on the stage of "Mamma Mia!",

much the embarrassment of her children, she said.

And so, when we approached her about the film, she was like, yes, I'm in. I am Donna Sheridan.



AMANPOUR: Did you know that she could sing? Because she's got a great voice.

CRAMER: Yes, we knew she could sing. I mean, you're never going to ask Meryl Streep to audition, as we didn't ask any of the leads.

AMANPOUR: And you didn't.

CRAMER: And we didn't. But we had heard -- and she sings at the end of "Postcards from the Edge," beautifully, and we knew she'd always wanted to

sing. She'd said so in interviews. We didn't know how well she could sing, and she had to sustain nine songs, I think she, she had. But we didn't


But although there was a moment when Benny went to a rehearsal room in New York to play the piano, to check her keys, and yes.

AMANPOUR: He gave her an A?

CRAMER: I think he gave her an A. I think he was -- she was daunted. He was really daunted, but it was an incredible moment.

AMANPOUR: And Cher must have been daunting to try to get her for the second film.

CRAMER: Yes, we definitely didn't have to audition her. We definitely could hear that voice in our head.


CRAMER: Cher loved "Mamma Mia!" She'd seen the show 25 years ago. I had actually asked her whether she'd be in the first film, but she didn't want

to do that.


She was -- before we discovered the wonderful Christine Baranski we thought of Cher but, you know, circle of life again and there she is now you know

in the last film "Mamma Mia!" "Here We Go Again" playing Meryl's mom.

AMANPOUR: Are you going to be doing a biopic, a project with Cher as has been reported on her life?

CRAMER: Yes, definitely. I mean, it's, you know, in the works as they say. But yes, very much. Again, based on trust friendship, we became pals after

the last movie and it's -- it'll -- you know, it's an amazing life. She's an inspiration as a woman. I mean, there's a lot there. Big life.

AMANPOUR: Can we just talk about women, because she's obviously a woman of a certain age. Meryl is now. It's really an explosion of joy by older

women, right?

CRAMER: I think -- when I think "Mamma Mia!" when it was created by me and then with Catherine writing it and Phyllida directing, you know, the two

generations of women was very much an important jumping off point, but I think that the audiences do see themselves, but I think it's been an

incredible vehicle for roles for older women or women over middle-aged in theatre and in the movies. And I think that's what the audiences love,

because they -- you can see the floors. You know, Judy Waters falling out of a dinghy or Meryl Streep falling in love or out of love, you know.

AMANPOUR: You did put this on October 2001 after Broadway had gone dark after 9/11. Did you think that it would be the right tone at that time?

Were you worried?

CRAMER: Oh, yes. I mean, it was the worst time ever, you know, watching the tragedy being in the city when it happened. I mean, all of the British

-- all of us Brits, the creative team were there, and it literally happened a month before we opened. We were in rehearsal. It was not just terrifying

for us, but, you know, horrifying and terrifying for New York. And we were kind of paralyzed there.

I mean, you know, what do you do? It seems so crazy that you're putting on an entertainment, that you're rehearsing something kind of so frivolous,

really. But it became a very kind of therapeutic time for the cast to be able to talk to Phyllida Lloyd, the director. Every day they'd go to her

rehearsals. They might not rehearse, but it became group therapy.

AMANPOUR: And how did the public react?

CRAMER: Well, the public was -- it was an incredibly warm feeling. It seemed in this horror that was unfolding, and we opened on October the

18th, nearly a month after, that it became a place that people wanted -- the Winter Garden, became somewhere where people wanted to come. We had the

firemen coming, the firemen and their families. We just wanted to be there, wanted to help, and that was the only thing we could do.

AMANPOUR: And I was just thinking myself watching it this week, we're watching it and marking the 25th anniversary of this incredible musical in

yet another period of terrible, tragic, awful wars and world events. And I wonder if you also think that this anniversary is happening at a time when

people need some joy.

CRAMER: People need joy, people need entertainment, live entertainment, and history goes before us saying that. I mean, you know, through wars,

theater has always kind of had its lights on. You know, the West End is an artery, is a heartbeat really.


AMANPOUR: Some people throughout the years, you know, the critics have been very dismissive about ABBA, oh, it's just pop, it's just happy clappy.

But actually, the lyrics are very, very profound when you actually listen to them, particularly in this kind of setting of the musical as a story.

CRAMER: Yes, I think they are. I mean, that was the attraction to me and the songs was that they fell into two generations. There were the younger,

happier songs and the songs we all danced to, "Dancing Queen," but the big emotional songs, "Winner Takes All," "Knowing Me, Knowing You." And also, I

think Bjorn wrote those songs with a kind of stream of female consciousness. He wrote them for Agnetha and Frida to sing. And you --

AMANPOUR: And they were married to them.

CRAMER: And they were married to them. Bjorn was married to Agnetha, Benny to Frida. And you feel that you're in, you know, the woman's psyche singing

those songs. Their songs are incredible.


AMANPOUR: Will there be a third film?

CRAMER: I hope so.

AMANPOUR: Working on it?


CRAMER: Definitely. Definitely. You know, they say no. I say yes. You know, we're all getting older. We've got to get on with it.

AMANPOUR: Well, thank you very much, Judy Cramer. Really an amazing anniversary and a great amount of joy and beauty you bring to the world. On

this fake Greek island.

CRAMER: Yes, on this. We're in the mothership. The mothership.

AMANPOUR: We are. We are.

CRAMER: We are. Yes, thank you.


AMANPOUR: It's a nice way to end for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And

remember, you can always catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media.

Thank you for watching, and goodbye from New York.