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CNN Larry King Live

Interview with Vanessa Redgrave

Aired June 18, 2005 - 21:00   ET


VANESSA REDGRAVE, ACTRESS (film clip): And I'm a woman and that's hard.
BOB COSTAS, CNN GUEST HOST: Tonight. A rare one-on-one with Vanessa Redgrave, the brilliant actress who is one of the world's most outspoken and at times controversial women. The one and only Vanessa Redgrave. An in-depth hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening to you all. Bob Costas, one of my periodic fill-ins for Larry King. After a week of all Jackson all the time I told the producers I could get them Reggie Jackson, perhaps the ghost of Joe Jackson. They declined. And so, thankfully, Vanessa Redgrave is with us.

Ms. Redgrave, you don't do many interviews like this and as we come together for this program your family, famous acting family, has had some travails of late. Your brother Corin has been ill just in the last few days. True?

REDGRAVE: Yes. That's right. He had a cardiac arrest after speaking at a rally for the gypsy and traveler community in Basildon, Essex.

COSTAS: And his condition now.

REDGRAVE: But he's now - he's now come through. It is after three days and we didn't know what was going to happen. He has come through and he is talking and he is feeding - the first thing is he came off the ventilator.

COSTAS: The prognosis is good then?

REGRAVE: Yeah. Yeah.

COSTAS: Sister Lynn Redgrave has battled breast cancer. What are her circumstances now?

REDGRAVE: Well, at the moment she has a checkup every four months and at the moment she is still okay. She wrote a wonderful book, actually, she didn't write it but her daughter took photographs and made a wonderful book and her daughter chose extracts in Lynn's journal while reporting on when she discovered she had got breast cancer to the time when - through chemo and radiotherapy and everything.

Yeah, she had a big battle, there is a lot of women going through these battles now and different cancers and I think Lynn's own experience being shared has made a lot of difference to them.

COSTAS: There is so much ground to cover here. And let's go to the very beginning. If I have got the story right, in 1937, upon your birth, Sir Lawrence Olivier, might not have been "Sir" at that time, but Lawrence Olivier announced from the stage, tonight, ladies and gentlemen, a great actress has been born. True?

REDGRAVE: I think it's true. My mother says it's true, but my mother wasn't there because she was giving birth to me. All of the stories go from the people who were in the company at the time that there were actors in the wings signally boy, girl, this, that. And I think it's very typical of Larry Olivier that he'd say some extravagant, warm-hearted thing for Michael. They certainly fought the fastest duel Hamlet and Laertes have ever fought ...

COSTAS: Just to get him out of there ...

REDGRAVE: Get him out of there quickly, yes.

COSTAS: Grandparents, accomplished actors, parents, including your dad, Sir Michael Redgrave. Daughters Natasha and Joely, son Carlo a director. Sister Lynn and Brother Corin actors themselves, and for that matter, your son in law, Liam Neeson, an accomplished actor.

Was it inevitable that this would be the area you would go into?

REDGRAVE: None of us considered it inevitable at all, no. I wanted to be a dancer. That was my ambition. Natasha, she wanted to be a show jumper originally. Is a very good rider. I think - and Lynn didn't dream of becoming an actress so it's funny that we have all ended up acting, yeah.

COSTAS: You wanted to be a dancer. Your height got in the way, right? You're nearly six feet tall.

REDGRAVE: Yeah. Yeah. You can call it six feet if you like.

COSTAS: All right, I will. Six feet tall.

REDGRAVE: Go for it.

COSTAS: Is it prohibitive or just an obstacle for someone that tall to be an accomplished dancer.

REDGRAVE: At the time it was very prohibitive. I was firmly told that - well, I couldn't certainly become a classical dancer and the great contemporary dance companies from America hadn't come over at that time. I didn't realize there was such a thing as contemporary dance, and anyway, my dream was to wear a tutu and dance in "Swan Lake."

So, anyway, I also thought I was way too tall to be an actress but I thought I could be a useful actress and I was told firmly by my drama school teacher that until I was 30 I would never get a chance to play anything much, because she said, as you know, you are far too tall, and I said, I know, I know. It's fine, I'll go for it just as it is.

COSTAS: As we speak - we are taping on Wednesday, airing on Saturday, so last night, as people view this, you opened at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Hecuba, the Greek tragedy Euripides play. Give us the background.

REDGRAVE: Well, the background is it was written about 2,420 years ago. Actually, it wasn't even written, because they didn't write them first. Performed early in the morning and Euripides story is a very - was quite a controversial writer and he was a very questioning writer and he took the situation of the Trojan War, which had happened at least 1,000 years before and turned the story of a woman who was the queen of Troy, all of them, Trojan men, had been massacred by the Greeks and she pleads for justice first from one of the Greek generals, Odysseus, and then from Agamemnon.

She has some wonderful words to say which - I think they're extraordinary, may give an indication of what Euripides is about, she is pleading for just retribution against the murderer of her son to General Agamemnon. And she says, I may be a slave and powerless, but even the lowly are allowed the law. Our beliefs, our codes are all the search (ph) for law. The only way we know what's right from wrong. If we hurt ruthless people, trash them all and we don't punish those that kill their guests and violate the holy places, there is no safe center in the life of men.

COSTAS: Obviously Euripides was not acquainted with either George Bush or Tony Blair, but some people, given your politics, have seen a possible metaphor here. Greece as an imperial power of its day.

REDGRAVE: It was, yes.

COSTAS: And perhaps America and Britain's adventure in Iraq. Antiterrorism policy. Is this coincidence? Obviously this is a classic play that the Royal Shakespeare Company would undertake under any circumstances, but the connection has been made by some. Is it a valid connection in your mind?

REDGRAVE: I think as far as I know it was kind of an accident. I don't think any of us quite realized but here it is, this great Greek, as far as - I think the point today, whatever anyone's views about the war, I think that the main issue is justice. What is the basis of democracy? It is access to law, it is the rule of law, it is the upholding of judicial review. It is the upholding of habeas corpus and I'll never forget - stop me if I go on too far ...

COSTAS: I am only going to stop you because we need to take a break.


COSTAS: But we will pick up on this. I think I know where it's going and we might as well go there right after this.

REDGRAVE (film clip): Very kind, very gracious, very loyal. Fidelity is one of the most dominant traits of my character, but I am in love.

Then let him make his will and say his prayers for I shall hang him before tonight.

I am going to speak for them and sing for them and dance for them.

Not the house that you were born in. You'll never find that again.

We can save 500 people, maybe a thousand if we can ...


REDGRAVE (film clip): We will be as harsh as truth, as uncompromising as justice. On this subject we will not speak or think or right with moderation. We will not excuse. We will not equivocate. We will not retreat a single inch and we will be heard.

COSTAS: Continuing now with Vanessa Redgrave. You were talking about the upholding as the rule of law. As a counterargument, whatever the mistakes or misjudgments in the view of some in American policy, one might say, wait a second, the whole idea in Iraq is to establish democracy and legitimate rule of law and had not fanatic Islamists poured across the border and some from within, the United States would have gone in Iraq, quickly deposed Saddam, an evil and murderous dictator, and proceeded about reconstructing the country and letting them establish a democracy.

REDGRAVE: Well, I know this is said to be the idea of the whole axis - I think my main concern is - and I think everybody's main concern including American and British lawyers and American and British judges and justices of very high legal authority that there is something in America called the constitution and the president is bound under the constitution to defend the treaties of the United States.

We don't have a constitution. And that constitution upholds certain values that were declared in the Declaration of Independence. It was Americans led by Eleanor Roosevelt at the time that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. President Truman fought for it against a number of Republican members of his own party ...

COSTAS: Truman was a Democrat.

REDGRAVE: Sorry, against a number of Republicans, I beg your pardon. You are quite right. And subsequently a number of conventions, including the Geneva Conventions which take care of the protections of both civilians and combatants in war and a number of other conventions, the Convention on Torture, civil and political rights, have now been ridden over by the American administration and by the British government. This means that the rule of law is being attacked, quite simply.

And if you have - what I am talking about, I guess, is Guantanamo.

COSTAS: Guantanamo.

REDGRAVE: Is the most visible symbol. There are many other Guantanamos and interrogation centers where torture is being used.

COSTAS: No one denies that there have been missteps and many who are not as far left as you certainly believe that much of American policy is mistaken. On the other hand, the detainees at Guantanamo, many would say, are not covered by the Geneva Convention. They don't wear a uniform. They don't represent any sovereign nation, and most importantly, they themselves would never observe the slightest aspect of the Geneva Conventions.

These are evil people who would slit my throat or yours if they had a chance is the way that argument goes.

REDGRAVE: Well, the only way that you can find out if someone has committed an evil act is to charge them and put them on trial. That's the only way that humanity has found and it's found some major progressive steps along the way and America led the way on that. And that is why millions of people looked to America and should be able to continue to look to America for that.

How can there be democracy if the leadership in the United States and Britain don't uphold the values which my father's generation fought the Nazis, millions of people gave their lives against the Soviet Union's regime, didn't they? Because of what? Democracy. And what democracy meant. No torture, no camps, no detention forever or without trial, without charges. In solitary confinement. Those techniques which are not just alleged, they have actually been written about by the FBI. I don't think it's being far left - I hope that I'm wrong to consider that it's far left to uphold the rule of law.

COSTAS: There's ...

REDGRAVE: To uphold the constitution.

COSTAS: There's little doubt that what happened at Abu Ghraib and some of what's happened at Guantanamo has hurt American interests, has hurt America's image and little doubt that we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than our enemies. But without being overly argumentative, I think some people, given what they know about your background, would want me to ask this question.

Even given the mistakes or perceived mistakes of American policy, what is the greater evil in the world, America and its policies or America's enemies?

REDGRAVE: It's an important question. One of our most respected judges and highest up in our judicial system said that laws which detain indefinitely without charge, without trial, without defense, without prosecution, without evidence, without cross examination, are a greater evil than terrorism, and I feel the same, actually.

COSTAS: You do? REDGRAVE: Mm-hmm.

COSTAS: You feel that Guantanamo ...

REDGRAVE: Terrorism has to be - what do we do about it? There are a lot of things that have to be done, clearly, but to abandon the rule of law, I don't think that can solve terrorism for one moment.

COSTAS: A number of reasonable people say, all right, we understand the objections to certain American behavior. Let's say as one example, at Guantanamo. But where is the proportion over outrage over possible mishandling of the Koran or questionable interrogation techniques that set up violent protests in the Muslim world, some resulting in death, where at the same time radical Islamists blow up mosques, attack the funeral processions of Muslims. How can those not be greater desecrations of the Koran and everything that Islam is supposed to stand for, and where is the outrage from a certain portion of the political spectrum over that? There is no proportion here.

REDGRAVE: Oh, I am sorry there is great - If you read, as I am able to do, and work with the human rights movements in all the different countries. I work with my friends in Russia. Torture is now endemic in Russia because of the war in Chechnya and has the United States or Britain - they have made certain representations but democracy in Russia is hanging by a thread because political repressions have come back and the Soviet secret services are back, according to statistics my Russians friends give me, they are back into 60 percent of the seats of powers in all the ministries and in all fields, business, culture, let alone military and intelligence, etc, etc.

We have a very difficult situation in our world, there is no doubt about it.

COSTAS: Vanessa Redgrave, so much to talk about, and I am beginning to realize, so little time. Back after this.


REDGRAVE (video clip): The British and the American government are about to destroy all hopes for peace anywhere in our world forever. Forever.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are not fit for the high office to which you were born.

REDGRAVE: And you madam, who hate me and wish me dead and fear to kill me. You are mortal enemy. I have noted since the day you denied me a passport to England all the blows you have struck against me. I glory in your hatred. It is clear to me that Elizabeth, the bastard, the heretic, the usurper is cursed by God and must be too old to die and child and will die a solitary old woman. Above all it is clear that Elizabeth fears marry. But whatever my fate my son here will rule in time.


COSTAS: We continue with Vanessa Redgrave and I promise we will talk about her stage and film career but so many things left hanging and I realize if we were on the stage some place in front of the Harvard Debate Society or whatever, three hours, four hours, five hours, it could go into the night.

Do you recognize that regardless of what problems that you may have with British or American policy, that there are forces of evil and irrational hatred in the world, many of them now aligned against American and British interests, that would be essentially unchanged even if American and British policy changed.

REDGRAVE: I'm not talking about policy unless we're referring to a policy to abandon the rule of law. That's what concerns me more than anything else in the present situation.

COSTAS: And again, without speaking for you, I hear you saying that in order to combat the legitimate threat of terrorism and the other forces around the world that should be a legitimate concern for Britain and the United States.

REDGRAVE: Yes, indeed.

COSTAS: They must hold themselves to a higher standard. They must go about fighting a good fight.

REDGRAVE: You put it perfectly. It's got to be a good fight. If any of us make a mistake, like some - or I or anybody who made any mistake, we have got to be made legally responsible. We can't be immune.

COSTAS: Last thing about politics. When you accepted the Academy Award, oddly enough for "Best Supporting Actress" in a title role. You were Julia and somehow you got "Best Supporting Actress." You made what you view as a distinction between Israeli people, Jewish people and Zionism. You spoke out about the importance to - and opposing anti-Semitism. But you spoke of Zionist thugs, as you put it then. There was quite an uproar. Now we're more than - almost 30 years down the road. Again, let's clarify.

Regardless of distinctions about policy, do you support Israel's right to exist.

REDGRAVE: Yes, I do. I was in Israel and in Palestine last summer.

COSTAS: Do you accept the notion that even though the settlements and other aspects of Israeli policy are subject to dispute, those policies were undertaken in response to Arab and Palestinian aggression and terrorism, and if the Israelis could be sure that would go away, they would roll it back to pretty much the pre-'67 borders.

REDGRAVE: We have seen quite clearly, let alone what my Israeli friends who lead the fight for human rights for the Palestinians and in Israel, we have seen that the Israeli people want peace and they have voted many times that the Palestinians should have their rights and land and we know that the Palestinians have a right to that.

I think we have to look at some of the very important judgments that the Israeli high court and international high courts have made on the question of this wall and so on. Hopefully a number of politicians are going to try and make sure and the media can help in that, of course, by helping publicize the efforts and the actual words of people who are striving for peace.

I hope very much that both the Israelis and the Palestinians will have their rights and will have peace, but again, you have to have the rule of law.

COSTAS: Vanessa Regrave back on LARRY KING LIVE back after this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you had an ounce of Jewish pride you wouldn't call such a monster beautiful.

REDGRAVE: Don't try to make her ugly, she is beautiful and she is human. What disgusts me is that a woman who is so beautiful can be doing such things. We are of the same species. That is exactly what is so hopeless about the whole thing.




COSTAS: All right. Let's make a turn here and talk about acting with Vanessa Redgrave, one of only 12 performers in history to win acting's Triple Crown, as it were. Tony Award, Oscar and Emmy Award.

Here is an interesting quote I came across. Concerning your dad, Michael Redgrave. He used to have a terrifying actor's nightmare in which the greasepaint slid off his face.


COSTAS: And took his features with it.

What is your nightmare? I'll let you - rather than read it, I'll let you tell us about it. You have an actor's - a recurring actor's nightmare?

REDGRAVE: All actors have one nightmare which comes up now and then and that's that you turn up for the play and you're surrounded by scripts but you can't find out what the play is or where the script of that play is. My worst nightmare is nothing to do with acting, it's to do with fire because of the Second World War and seeing ...

COSTAS: You remember the fire bombings of London?

REDGRAVE: Oh yes, I certainly do. And I remember seeing Coventry in flames. The whole city burning. We were taken up to look at it where we were, evacuated in the country, from the cities, with bombs all falling. And for many, many years I had a trauma because of that. Although I had been under bombing. We had been under cellars and our parent's relatives friends had looked after us children, sang songs and so on. But to actually see a whole city in flames is very traumatic.

It helped me understand, as I have been with UNICEF in recent wars in the '90s all over what was then called Yugoslavia that it helped me understand what a number of the child psychologists were saying about trauma and how they're trying to help it for children in war.

COSTAS: Were you ever blacklisted, or maybe in modern times it's more like gray listed, because of your political views? You ever lose roles?

REDGRAVE: I'm sure I have but you don't get to know about them so much but I have fought a couple of cases in that question.

COSTAS: Lets make a real turn here. You have been recently in the television series, "Nip/Tuck" with your daughter Joely and plastic surgery is the backdrop of all of this.


REDGRAVE: Look at me, Julie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God, what are you doing?

REDGRAVE: You can exercise years off your body, and I have, see. But crunches can't tighten the skin under your chin.


COSTAS: Your thoughts about the present fixation, almost, with physical perfection, or at least as some people perceive physical perfection.

REDGRAVE: I'm not sure and I think basically the program has begun to explore and I think and believe may explore other possibilities. See, there is this wonderful side to cosmetic surgery which means children or women or men who have been tremendously damaged, whether in a car accident or a building accident or war or whatever it is that they can be completely ...

COSTAS: Reconstructive surgery.

REDGRAVE: ... transformed so that they are no longer disfigured in frightening ways, frightening for themselves and frightening to other people and their families. That is a wonderful side to it. So I suppose it is inevitable that sometimes it moves over to the side where people feel despair because they have got pimples or because they haven't got a nose that looks right or whatever. And I have to tell you I had eye bags done way back in '85.

COSTAS: So you've had a little bit of work?

REDGRAVE: Oh, sure. Yes. It can be - what is terrible, I think, and the only thing that worries me is young people spending a lot of money trying to look like some model and not being able to believe that actually how they look is beautiful in itself. That troubles me.

COSTAS: In one of your first breakthrough roles, in "Blow-Up" you played a young woman who was photographed having a tryst with an older man and especially at that time, in the 1960s, caused quite a stir, treatment of sexuality in film. What do you see as the differences between the way sexuality or profanity was dealt with at one time when you were a younger actress and the way it is perhaps exploited today.

REDGRAVE: Well it is horrendously exploited and it has led to some very delicate places and still is.

COSTAS: We will continuing with Vanessa Redgrave on LARRY KING LIVE on this Saturday night right after this. And by the way, Larry is here tomorrow night with a special Father's Day program with multiple members. There is a huge King clan and they will all be here tomorrow night for Father's Day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can smoke if you like. Slowly. Slowly. Against the beat. That's it.




REDGRAVE: You must have been waiting all night for it. If you want to come in with me you'll have to fight him, won't you?


REDGRAVE: Yes and the winner will drag me off and have me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still waiting to bash your skull in, Napier.


COSTAS: Back with Vanessa Redgrave. Interesting situation. In 1967 both you and your sister Lynn were nominated for "Best Actress" Oscars. You for "Morgan," she for "Georgie Girl." Maybe it's a good thing that neither one of you won. Elizabeth Taylor did for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf."

REDGRAVE: She deserved it.

COSTAS: What was the anticipation like? You go up there and maybe you win. You win over your sister. She wins. She's got to almost apologize to you.

REDGRAVE: Fine either way.

COSTAS: Either way?

REDGRAVE: Yes. Absolutely. And fine that Elizabeth got it. Because she did a fantastic performance.

COSTAS: Jane Fonda almost idolizes you. Named her own daughter Vanessa after you. You and she appeared together in "Julia" and obviously there are some similarities between the two of you with being politically outspoken and perhaps paying a price for it. What are your thoughts about Jane Fonda? Have you read her recent autobiography?

REDGRAVE: Yes I have. I think it is very, very good. Yes, she sent me a couple. I was very thrilled. It is a difficult thing to write.

COSTAS: Did she confide in you during the Vietnam War when she was speaking out as she did, catching some flak for it. Did she commiserate with you?

REDGRAVE: No she didn't commiserate with you, I rang her up and I said, Jane, I'm starting to work with GIs here in England, can you tell me what you've been doing and how you're doing it because we were all involved against the war in Vietnam.

COSTAS: What would you say to her regarding those, and they may have good reason, who no matter what Jane Fonda does, as an artist or as a person, no matter her good works and good deeds, they will never forgive her? She will always be Hanoi Jane. And there were some who will never forgive you for what they perceive to be your stances through the years, no matter what you do.

REDGRAVE: And you want me to answer that?

COSTAS: What would you tell her about dealing with that?

REDGRAVE: I think she deals with that very well. I mean, at my point of life and I guess, us two, we have led very different lives in many respects but I've come to see through the course of my life people haven't know really what I was up to or maybe I didn't explain it well or whatever, whatever, I come to see people understand what I've tried to do, however inadequately I do it. I'm very capable of bring (unintelligible), you know, but I've just found people have come to understand me and be glad that I tried to do what I tried to do. And I do feel very inadequate about it but I feel I must try other ways. As one wonderful Soviet dissident said who suffered terribly in the Soviet psychiatric prison, had just made a film called "Russia, Chechnya, Voices of Dissent" and she was asked, well, why did you go into Red Square on August 25th 1968 against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and she said simply, well the Soviet government said the whole of the Soviet Union rejoiced in saving their Czechoslovakian brothers and since I was a Soviet citizen I wanted to show that actually there was a couple - some at least, Soviet citizens who were horrified at what their country had done and she said I would have felt ashamed if I hadn't made a protest.

And I think that any citizen can understand that whatever mistakes they feel anybody has made that you must raise your voice and do the best you can to speak out.

COSTAS: Ordinarily I don't like to get into these personal things, but it's in your autobiography and it's a delightful anecdote. There was a time when you were in a relationship with Timothy Dalton who at one time played James Bond and you right that among your first arguments was a five or six hour marathon about what Hamlet meant when he pondered "to be or not to be." True?

REDGRAVE: Absolutely true.

COSTAS: Who had the better points? Who won the argument?

REDGRAVE: I don't remember. But it was a good discussion. Shows how alive Shakespeare is today. Doesn't it? If you can actually have that long an argument.

COSTAS: More with Vanessa Redgrave when we continue with LARRY KING LIVE after this short break.


REDGRAVE: A man that is going to take care of you has just come into the street. He will make sure you get on the train safely and there will be someone who will stay with you until you get to Warsaw Saturday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to leave you and I want to stay with you a few more minutes.

REDGRAVE: No. Something might go wrong. We can't be sure who anyone is anymore. Now I want you to stand up, take your hat, listen to me, put your hat back on, say goodbye to me and then go.



REDGRAVE (video clip): It's a very big question you are faced with, Susanna. The choice of your life. How much will you indulge in your flaws? What are your flaws? Are they flaws? If you embrace them, will you commit yourself to hospital for life? Big questions. Big decisions. Not surprising you profess carelessness about them.

COSTAS: Bob Costas in for Larry King on this Saturday night on LARRY KING LIVE and continuing our discussion with Vanessa Redgrave.

Who among the current crop of actresses impresses you?

REDGRAVE: All over the world?

COSTAS: Well, at least that our audience would be familiar. Don't give me a stage actress from East Botswana.

REDGRAVE: Well, there are some wonderful stage actresses in Africa.

If you are speaking of America and Britain, then, well, I think of the younger generation, I think a lot of Angelina Jolie because she was wonderful in detepartener (ph), a film that I produced that hasn't been shown yet.

COSTAS: That's interesting because most at this stage in her career would view her as a movie star but not an accomplished actress at this level. That's an interesting observation.

REDGRAVE: Oh, she's a superbly accomplished actress and she got an Oscar, remember, for "Girl, Interrupted," which I had a weenie part in.

COSTAS: Just a tiny part.


COSTAS: Who else. Who else is on your list?

REDGRAVE: Contemporarily, oh my gosh, you have asked me one of these questions that my brain has blown.

I admire - in Britian I think that my contemporary Judy is wonderful.

COSTAS: Judy Dench.

REDGRAVE: Judy Dench, yeah. I am in awe of what Maggie Smith does. She is kind of unique. I love Daniel Day Lewis and his work.

COSTAS: How about historically, are you in the Brando camp like most ...

REDGRAVE: Oh I loved Brando's work. I was an actor. Early on, when I was very young, of course, I thought he is just about the most handsome man I have ever seen on screen.

COSTAS: Most handsome or most magnetic. He had that animal magnetism. Other men were prettier.

REDGRAVE: Well in those days we used more sober words like "handsome." We were a different generation. COSTAS: Other men may have been prettier in an 8x10 glossy but he was dynamic onscreen.

REDGRAVE: He was very magnetic, he was very dynamic, he was. But I think he was also a great, great film actor. I never saw him onstage.

COSTAS: I understand you got a kick out of Barbra Streisand in "Meet the Fockers."

REDGRAVE: It's one of the greatest films I have ever seen.

COSTAS: "Meet the Fockers" is one of the greatest films Vanessa Redgrave has ever seen.

REDGRAVE: Well, it is, yes. I mean it's extremely funny, but I think brilliant. Brilliant acting, brilliant script, brilliant story. I think it should have won the Academy Awards last March with all respect to all the films that did get it.

Comedy is the most difficult of anything to do and a brilliant comedic story that has all sorts of insights to what goes on in our world and what goes on in families and what goes on in individuals. I thought all of them were brilliant.

COSTAS: There is such a broad range in your work. Countless Shakespearean roles and on film, "A Man for All Seasons," "Seven Percent Solution," we mentioned "Julia," "Howard's End," "Murder on the Orient Express," "Isadora," but more recently a broader audience saw you in "Mission: Impossible."

Do you like to do that kind of thing simply because, hey, I read the script and it's appealing or is it useful to reach a broader audience then it empowers you to do whatever it really is your heart desires?

REDGRAVE: No, I don't think that at all but I was really thrilled to ask to do "Mission: Impossible" because the villain was British for a change. Thank God, yes, a British arms dealer. I was playing a woman British arms dealer. Obviously I loved working with Tom Cruise and Brian De Palma.

COSTAS: As you appear in "Hecuba" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, there should be plenty of family time because your daughter Natasha is in "A Streetcar Named Desire" right now.


COSTAS: And your sister Lynn is in "The Constant Wife" so much of the family is onstage somewhere in the New York area.

REDGRAVE: Yeah I saw Natasha's "Streetcar Named Desire" with John C. Riley and Amy Ryan and Chris Sparrow (ph) and it's a wonderful production. She is superb. It is one of the greatest plays that was ever written which brings me back to the wonderful American playwrights who blazed a trail that is still performed all over the world.

COSTAS: Since you mentioned it, that playwright, Tennessee Williams, speaking of "A Streetcar Named Desire" had a very high regard for you.

REDGRAVE: He did, didn't he?

COSTAS: He found in you something close to perfection.

REDGRAVE: Oh I don't know. It's apocryphal, maybe. I loved him dearly. I loved his work. He was very loving to me at a time when I was in a very great difficulties and I think he's the great American poet in drama. He says the most important dreams of America, dreams of looking - protecting the defenseless and he rightly won a great success early on. I got to know him at a time when nobody would put his plays on at all.

That was the time I got to know him and we tried to get finance for a film of his. Funnily enough we all don't seem to value enough some of our own great local people. We put on more Williams, Miller, perhaps - or did during their lifetime in England than took place in America.

COSTAS: Back with our remaining moments with Vanessa Redgrave on LARRY KING LIVE after this.


REDGRAVE: Who are you and what are you doing here?

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: I need $150,000.

REDGRAVE: Oh, really.

And you thought if you showed up I might give it to you.

CRUISE: Why not, you gave Joe 125.

REDGRAVE: The penny drops. You are not Joe.




REDGRAVE: Will you come with me to "Howard's End"?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I would so much like to.

REDGRAVE: Come with me now, come with me now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it is too late, surely.

REDGRAVE: There's a train from St. Panquist (ph) at five o'clock if we hurry. I want you to see it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I want to see it. It sounds such a glorious place. So redolent.

REDGRAVE: Yes. Yes. I lived there long, long before I was married. I was born there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But might I come some other day?

REDGRAVE: Yes, some other day.


COSTAS: Bob Costas back for Larry King, privileged to spend the hour with Vanessa Redgrave. In the time remaining.

REDGRAVE: You don't (ph) need to say privileged.

COSTAS: I need to pull a little bit of sports in here.


COSTAS: In a TV movie you played Dr. Rene Richards, who was Dr. Richard Raskin, underwent a sex change operation and became Dr. Rene Richards, the tennis player. What, if anything, did you learn from playing that role?

REDGRAVE: What a lot of ignorance and prejudice I had.

COSTAS: That you had.

REDGRAVE: That I had. Yeah.

COSTAS: Did you approach it as if this must be a freakish person?

REDGRAVE: No, no, I approached it because I had read the book and felt this a remarkable book and the book had set me asking myself a lot of questions and then in the course of preparing the film I met a lot of women who had had the operation and finally become released and become men.

And I realized just what a lot of prejudice and ignorance.

COSTAS: In her case it was the reverse.

REDGRAVE: It was the reverse but I met both sexes because it happens both ways. In her case it was a man who was really a woman and I learned a very important lesson - for me, anyway, definitely which was one that I had a lot of prejudices and I thought I was a very unprejudiced person and two that nature and human society is full of infinite differences and that's the glory.

COSTAS: Your work spans such a broad range and so perhaps this question is unfair. Can you think of ...

REDGRAVE: You want to be unfair. COSTAS: Can you think of a single moment onstage or onscreen where you said to yourself, this is it, right here, this is as good as I can do, I am in the zone.

REDGRAVE: As good as I can do?

COSTAS: Yes, as good as you can do.

REDGRAVE: Ah, I'm not sure. Certain nights I know it is as good as I can do when I am playing Hecuba. Onscreen I don't really know. I go by what the director feels. If he feels it's as good as I can do then unless I am feeling very strong that maybe there is something I can do but usually the director is right.

COSTAS: What's the most perfect moment you have seen onscreen or onstage from another performer?

REDGRAVE: Well, right now I can't help remembering "Meet the Fockers" and it was Hoffman's moment in which he is saying, remember the sixties.

COSTAS: "Meet the Fockers." You are just fixated on "Meet the Fockers."

REDGRAVE: I am fixated on the Fockers.

COSTAS: Is there any role, any great role onscreen or stage that you haven't played that you thought you would be good at and you wish would come your way.

REDGRAVE: Well, I think and hope that maybe it will come my way. I would like to play Constance in "King John." That's another play in which the playwright, Mr. Shakespeare, has expressed his horror at what war does to people.

COSTAS: Vanessa Redgrave, appearing in "Hecuba" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from yesterday, it began as this airs, until - how long will it run? How long will the run be?

REDGRAVE: Unfortunately it ends on Sunday, June 26th.

COSTAS: So very brief. A couple of weeks.

REDGRAVE: We had one performance in Delphi on the mountainside, the Parnassus.

COSTAS: That should be wonderful.

REDGRAVE: One last performance. Yeah.

COSTAS: Thank you for being with us.

REDGRAVE: Thank you.

COSTAS: Vanessa Redgrave. Larry King is back tomorrow night on the occasion of Father's Day with virtually his entire family. That's tomorrow night's LARRY KING LIVE. Thank you for being with us. From New York, Bob Costas, good night.