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CNN Larry King Live

Interview with Paul Reiser, Peter Falk, Franco Dragone, Denise Nicholas

Aired October 08, 2005 - 21:00   ET


KING: Tonight, legendary actor Peter Falk and comic-turned-actor Paul Reiser from TV's "Mad About You," and the thing about his folks that brought these two together next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE two of my favorite people, Peter Falk, the five-time Emmy winning, four of those for "Columbo," two-time Oscar nominee and co-star of "The Thing About my Folks."

Along with Paul Reiser, stand up comic, TV actor turned movie star, who wrote, produced and stars in "The Thing About my Folks," now playing in limited release, soon to be in wide release, a great pleasure to have them with us tonight, terrific, heartwarming, funny, sad just great touch of life movie. How did this come about? This is your baby right?

PAUL REISER: This film is my baby, yes.

KING: This film is my baby.

REISER: It's my baby. This is -- this is the only idea I ever had that stayed with me. You get an idea and a week later go, ah, not so good. I always wanted to do a movie with Peter Falk. He reminded me of my dad. My dad loves Peter Falk so that's all I had. I had Peter Falk as my dad and over the years I kind of stayed with it and played with it.

And then after I had kids of my own, I said, OK, now I get it. Now, I know what this movie is about and it's about fathers and sons and family and husbands and wives.

KING: How true is it?

REISER: It's what I just said all true. Oh, you mean the movie? You know it's based on my parents but we made up a little bit, made up a lot of the story but it's about, I mean those are my parents.

KING: Are your parents divorced?

REISER: No, my parents were happily married. My dad passed away about 15 years ago. But the conversations of this movie were the conversations I heard in my house and, even if they didn't say it, I'm pretty sure they were thinking of it.

PETER FALK: I loved the story that you didn't tell him.

REISER: Tell him.

FALK: The story when he was writing and he was a little stuck. He wasn't sure, this, that and the other thing. And he went to visit his father and his father is watching TV and I come on the screen and every time I come on his father chuckles. Come on, he chuckles again, then he gets the idea.

KING: Ah ha.

FALK: Then he gets the idea.

REISER: That's where I got it.

FALK: That's the actor that should play my father. Now, I got hired for a lot of reasons down through the years but this is the most delightful reason of them all. The author has a fond memory of watching his father chuckle at me on TV and I get the job.

REISER: Absolutely.

KING: Did he go for it right away?

REISER: Yes, you know, over the years I worked on it and thought about it for ten, 15, 20 years and I met him once or twice but I never told him I was working on it because I figured I'd scare him. You know, he'd say either leave me alone kid or show me the script.

So the day, I finally sat down and wrote it and that night it was done I called him the next morning. I said, "Mr. Falk, I'd love if you'd read this." He called me that night. He said, "I'm on page 40, I'm in. Let's do it."

KING: All right, why did you like it? How do you judge a script first? And then what did you like about this one?

FALK: Well, just let me go back a little bit.

KING: Columbo you got to control everything, go ahead.

FALK: Just, just a little bit.

KING: OK, all right.

FALK: I was in a play. He came to see the play. He came backstage. He started talking about the play, I was wonderful, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I had something I wanted to tell him because coincidentally the previous week I saw an episode of "Mad About You" and I had one thing on mind to tell him.

I said, "Paul, you're a hell of a writer" and that's what I said and that's what I meant and to his credit he didn't say a word about his script. But when he finished it, then he sent it to me.

KING: Class.

REISER: Yes, well, I figured he's say, "Well, show me something" and I would have to go, I don't have it, Mr. Falk but if you give me another couple of months I will.

KING: All right, now you get it.

FALK: All right, now your question is what?

REISER: Answer the man.

FALK: I'll tell you. I'll tell you, Larry, the very first scene of my part is predominant in that scene and I thought it was my father. I thought it was my father. I was wrong. It was his father. But I mean my father and his father do have certain things in common, you know.

Number one they believed in work. Work was everything. And my father he had a dry goods store in Ossining, New York and he would open the door at nine o'clock for customers. So, he would get down there at 6:30. He swept the sidewalk until 7:00. What he did between 7:00 and 9:00 I don't know.

KING: They honored you in Ossining I read.

FALK: Yes. Yes, they did.

KING: Now, Ossining is famous for Sing Sing.

FALK: Right.

KING: Did he do the prison uniforms?

FALK: No, he didn't do the prison uniforms, women's and children's. He was in women's and children's.

KING: You grew up in Ossining?

FALK: Yes.

KING: Did you see the prison all the time?

FALK: We used to go down there actually and play ball against the prisoners, basketball. I never played baseball against them but I did play basketball against them.

KING: All right, so you liked it right away, the script, it's your father, you like it right away.

FALK: I did.

KING: How do you finance it?

REISER: Hello, we knocked on a lot of doors. One thing I'm very proud of this film was turned down by every studio. If we had gotten turned down by two or three, that feels bad but consistently.

KING: Saying what?

REISER: They said, you know what, it's a great movie. We love Peter. You know, you're terrific but we don't know who's going to come see this movie. It's about older guys.

I said, well don't you think grownups go to movies? They go, "Well, you know, there's no action. There's nobody under" -- this is literally what they would say, every cliche you would imagine. "There's nobody under 20. There's no action. There's no sex."

I said, you don't think that people would want to see just as a change of style a movie about actual people and feeling and family? And, what we found was we were right because we were going -- we had been all over the country in corners and pockets that I didn't know would love the film as they have, Texas and Nashville and Seattle.

And they all come over and they say what he said. "Oh no, that's my family" and they see their family in it and they're laughing and they're -- they leave weeping a little and feeling uplifted and usually what they'll say to us, they'll go, "You know what, I want to go home and I want to call my parents. I want to go hug my kids." And I thought you know what that's not a bad way to send them out of the theater. That makes us feel pretty good.

FALK: At every Q&A, question and answer, after it there's one woman who stands up and they say the same thing. "I want my husband to see this picture."

REISER: The mandatory (INAUDIBLE).

KING: There's a -- that's a sad statement about the business though that there's nobody young in it. I guess the only pictures that disproved that were the Lemon/Matthau movies, right?


KING: Oh, no, no they even had young characters in that. They had to have a young relationship.


REISER: No, but this is, you know, but this is very much when people I think why they're getting into it and responding to it is that it looks more like life than a movie, you know what I mean. It doesn't look like a movie.

This guy opens the film. His mug comes out and I watch the audience and everybody feels immediately comfortable. Oh, it's Peter Falk. I know this guy. He's my dad. He's been in our homes for 30, 40 years and that's the ticket in.

And suddenly it's about -- you go with this guy. If he's feeling sad, you're kind of feeling sad for him. When he gets a little cranky, you cut him some slack because it's Peter Falk. And, they're watching people go through what they go with their grown up parents.

And my guy, I'm in my 40s in the movie and in life and, you know, at that point you see your parents in one direction. You look behind you and there are your kids and suddenly you see it and you go we're all in the same boat here. KING: I'll ask Paul in a minute what's it like to play your own words? The movie is "The Thing About my Folks." It's terrific. We'll be right back.


FALK: What is it that we didn't do?


FALK: Me with you and the girls?

REISER: No, you...

FALK: What did we forget to do?


FALK: No, I'm curious.

REISER: I don't know. We never went camping.

FALK: Camping! Who the hell goes camping, sleep outside and crap in the bush!

REISER: All right, well then we'll forget about that.




REISER: These are the best seats I've ever had for anything.

ANNOUNCER: Batting next for the Saw Bellies (ph) number 22, Raymon Aspensela (ph).

REISER: Raymon Aspensela.

FALK: There's a name for you.

REISER: Raymon.


REISER: Sorry, no I wasn't talking to you. I was just -- go ahead, sorry. This is a very small stadium.


KING: We're back with Paul Reiser and Peter Falk. We're going to show you a clip from this terrific film, one stop on their road trip. Well, first let's explain the road trip, how that comes about in this tin Lizzie car. REISER: Yes, well the film starts. Dad shows up at my doorstep.


REISER: He's not sure -- yes. Mom may have left me the morning. I'm not sure but there was a note on the refrigerator. I think she's gone. And we assume dad's got it wrong and so we go out for a drive and one thing leads to another and suddenly we say, realize we've never spent this time together, so let's do more. Nobody is waiting for us.

And one thing leads to another and secrets come out about our lives. I didn't know anything about, you know, we don't know our parents before they were parents, so I'm finding out, I didn't know dad was funny. I didn't know dad could play pool. I didn't know half. I didn't know dad's side of mom's story.

And, we start to do the things that we've never done. We're driving all over the country. We go fishing for the first time. We stop in this town for a local baseball game is this tiny little town. And basically at the end of the trip they've each discovered stuff about themselves that they wouldn't have known and wouldn't have expected.

KING: Before we show the clip why that car?

REISER: Why that car?

FALK: That's because that's -- that was the car when I went to college I wanted that car. I wanted that car and my old man wouldn't let me buy it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rides like a dream.

FALK: You don't say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're interested, make me an offer.

FALK: I'm going to do just that.

REISER: You're going to do what?

FALK: I'm going to buy me a Ford Deluxe.

REISER: You're going to buy it?

FALK: Why not? Your car's all banged to bits. We're in the middle of nowhere. Excuse me do you take Visa?


REISER: But that was actually based on a thing my dad, like the last year or two of his life he shared a story that when he was in college he had a -- he went out and he wanted this car and he wanted this car but his dad didn't want him to have the distraction in college. He bought it anyway and when his dad found out he made him return the car, get his money back.

And my father told me he said "That's the only time I ever remember crying as a grown up, as an adult." And I thought oh, because you lost the car? He said, "No, because I went around my dad's back and I disappointed my father." I said, "OK, I get it now.

Now I understand what the whole thing with cars. I understand that you used to -- he used to be a 20-year-old, used to have stuff with your dad. I thought it was just me. I get it. We all have dads. We all have stuff." And that's really what this movie is about. You're looking at your parents and going, oh, they're just regular people.

FALK: But what I liked about the car it still had the original smell.

KING: Ah, I know that.

FALK: You know, right?

KING: Yes. On the stop on the road trip is a small town softball game where Mr. Kleinman, Peter Falk, gets a lesson in today's fashions. Take a look.




REISER: Yes, go Saw Bellies.

FALK: Explain that to me.


FALK: The holes in those jeans.

REISER: Uh huh.

FALK: They're on purpose?

REISER: That's right.

FALK: It's not because she's poor?

REISER: Huh uh.

FALK: And can only afford ripped clothes.

REISER: That's correct, sir.

FALK: And she doesn't mind that people see her looking like that? REISER: No, she does not. In fact, I think she would be insulted if you didn't look.

FALK: The last thing I want to do is insult.


KING: What's it like to play your own lines?

REISER: It's easy. By the time I get to work I'm already memorized. I got my lines. And, Peter, you know, I grew up memorizing loving Peter Falk movies, so I had his voice in my head. So, to sit and write things that you hope Peter Falk is going to say that's a dream. I wrote pages and pages of stuff that I knew we were going to never shoot.

KING: Was it easy to do?

REISER: Yes, it was a joy because you know he'll say something that's not funny on the page and you hear Peter Falk say it, it's funny.

KING: Were you a "Columbo" fan?


KING: What is it about "Columbo" that we could watch episodes again and again?

REISER: Yes. You know what I think you're just rooting for this guy because there's no air of pretension. He's just a -- he's a guy that you know. He's just a -- he's a guy that you know. He's (INAUDIBLE). He's you. He's me. And then it turns out he's the smartest guy in the room.

KING: Who came up with that idea?

FALK: Well, Link and Levinson, the original writers, you're talking about opening the door and turning around, just one more thing.

KING: One more thing to make him a (INAUDIBLE) to make him that you knew he knew the murderer.

REISER: How did you think of that to dress sloppily? Where did you come up with that idea?

FALK: All I knew is I very early before we ever had a script or anything, I was attracted to the idea of playing a character that housed within himself two opposing traits, on the one hand a regular Joe, Joe six pack, the neighbor like everybody else. But, at the same time, the greatest homicide detective in the world. Now that's a great combination and you can do a lot with that combination.

KING: Boy, did you.

FALK: Well, thank you very much.

KING: We sit there. We know the murderer at the beginning. We know he knows. And then he's got to deduce it and they were brilliant scripts. Now what about "Mad About You"?

REISER: Well there was no raincoat so I didn't have that and very few murders.

KING: How did that come to you?

REISER: That grew out of my -- look how he still laughs. That came out of my stand up act which was coming out of my relationship with my wife before she was my wife. And, you know, you say those things on stage and they'll laugh and you go, OK, this is not me, just me. This is not -- I'm not the only guy going through this and the audience laughs because they're going, "Oh, we're not the only ones. This guy is going through that same stuff."

And that's really also what's at the core of this movie and I hear people laughing and crying and going, "OK, you know, we have the same frustrations." Everybody wants to -- you want to be the best parents you can be. You want to be there for your own parents.

KING: You cast Peter Falk. Did you also cast Helen Hunt?

REISER: Yes, you know.

KING: You're a mogul.

REISER: Everybody I touch turns to gold. You know and that was one of those -- that was different because I didn't know Helen before. It was one of those things you just fall in love and it wasn't at all what I pictured. In fact, the only thing I knew was that the wife on TV wasn't going to be blond because everybody is blond on TV. We looked at 150 actresses and Helen walks in. We read it. There it is.

KING: You are a movie maker, a television producer, an entrepreneur.

REISER: And I have a dry cleaning business (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And dry cleaner and a comic. What first, what are you first?

REISER: You know this -- I don't know. I'm going to probably guess writer. I mean this -- this thing was something that I really wanted to write but I wrote it, I wrote it for him and I wrote it for Peter and I wrote it for me to play with him, you know. I knew I wasn't going to put somebody else in this. If I'm going to write this movie, I want to get to do it.

But to get to do that and to hear Peter sounding like him, we had -- you know we had -- the director, we had a terrific director named Raymond De Felitta and he said "We should rehearse it."

So, we sat down and for about a minute, 30 seconds, we started reading it and he said, "That's it. Stop. You guys got it. You sound like you're father and son. Don't bother."

KING: We'll be right back. The movie is "The Thing About my Folks" at a theater near you. Kick yourself if you miss it. We'll be right back.


HELEN HUNT: You were doing an absolutely beautiful job. Please go downstairs.

REISER: Ice and what, lasagna?

HUNT: Yes, do you want me to make you a list?

REISER: I don't need a list.

HUNT: And Brussels sprouts.

REISER: Oh, hey, you know, Brussels sprouts they'll say no.

HUNT: Come on. Fran's alone. Ryan is with Mark. She's feeling vulnerable and she loves Brussels sprouts.

REISER: So, let her eat a valium.




FALK: What did the doctor say?

OLYMPIA DUKAKIS: The doctor, he said I'm an old lady and this is what happens to old ladies.

FALK: Why wouldn't you tell me?

DUKAKIS: You think I tell you everything? You know you think you're going to live forever but you don't. You just live until one day and then suddenly you're done. That's their big forever.


KING: By the way, Olympia Dukakis and Elizabeth Perkins are also in this movie.

REISER: Right.

KING: Pretty good.

REISER: Stunning, stunning actresses. Olympia Dukakis...

KING: Incredible.

REISER: ...she is -- and she's not in the film for a long time. KING: No.

REISER: And suddenly she comes in but they're talking about her. The dads are talking -- to me it's a woman's film dressed up as a guy's film because you see the guys but they're talking about the women. And, Olympia shows up towards the end of the film and you see these two together and you don't doubt for a second they've been married for 47 years and they never met. They never met until five minutes before we...

FALK: I have never in my entire life in such a short time gotten so fond of anybody. I mean that Larry. We met maybe ten minutes before we shot this climactic scene and after the end of four or five minutes, I felt so comfortable with her. I knew that she was one a kind.

And, usually when I meet somebody that's one of a kind I get nervous because I think they're judging me but she -- you don't you get that feeling from her. She's remarkable and, boy, it was just great that last scene that we could play together after knowing each other for six minutes.

KING: Did you shoot in order?

REISER: No, you never shoot in order. You wish you can but you can't. And, the thing, I also learned so much as a writer because, you know, you try and get every word perfect and my favorite moments in the scene of Peter and Olympia and they're not saying a word.

They're just looking at each other and you see it in their eyes and you see it in their faces what these two have been through together, you know, what they've been through in all these years and it's just -- it gets me every time.

FALK: It was so comfortable. She made me so comfortable.

KING: Peter, you got two other projects I understand, one about a foursome of grumpy old men on a road trip to Vegas.

FALK: Oh, yes that's a picture called "Retirement" and the other one I have a picture called "Checking Out." "Checking Out" was based on a Broadway play, which was on Broadway in the '70s. Those are both modest, modest budget pictures.

KING: What do you got coming?

REISER: I got -- this is it. This baby.

KING: Is this it?

REISER: I'm putting it all on this. I'm getting out of the business.

KING: Career or bust.

REISER: Yes, no I got a couple of things that I'm writing and developing at home.

KING: Television?

REISER: Some TV projects that I'm not going to act in but I'm just producing and writing. And I have another movie that I want to write. Maybe we'll do the sequel to this if it works.

KING: How as mad about -- how many years was "Mad About You" on?

REISER: Seven years and we've been off for six.

KING: Still in rerun though right?

REISER: Yes, you can go to any country, pick a country, right after "Columbo" you see "Mad About You."

KING: "Columbo" still plays right?

FALK: Yes. Can I tell him about our "Columbo"?

KING: Yes, tell him. This is funny.


FALK: Can I tell him about our "Columbo"?

KING: I was supposed to be in a "Columbo."

FALK: Yes, sir.

KING: That he never did, the last "Columbo."

FALK: Well, but I'll tell you this is I think...

KING: Funny scenes.

FALK: This was -- the reason that I come to see you is because the murderer was being interviewed by you and you were interviewing on the date of the death. During a commercial break or maybe right after the show she went to a telephone down the hallway here and she made a telephone call to somebody, a female in Los Angeles and they talked for three or four minutes and at the end of that time that person in Los Angeles fell down dead. Now that's -- that's...

KING: But you come and you like me. You sit in my chair.

FALK: Like you? More than like you. I tell you the truth. I say, "I ask a lot of questions but you're the master." You're the master.

KING: So why didn't we ever do this?

FALK: I say that between the answer from your guest and your next question you can't get a razor blade between because you're not just listening. You're thinking. I study you. You're the best.

KING: Well thank you.

REISER: You don't suspect him right? You don't think he did anything wrong.

KING: (INADUIBLE). Why didn't we do more "Columbos"? Why don't we do -- forget me, why don't we do another "Columbo" now?

FALK: Right now? Well, we might very well do that.

KING: Could he be called in on a case?

FALK: Could I be called in?

KING: Columbo is a retired police detective in Los Angeles who's called in by the current chief of police.

FALK: That could be. That could be, sure.

KING: He's got a puzzling murder.

FALK: But I don't have to be called in. I could still be on the job either way.

KING: Why did "Columbo" go off?

REISER: It wasn't because of the police work.

FALK: Yes, that's -- that's a good question. Actually, we made one about two years ago. I'm trying to make this one.

KING: They're great scripts.

FALK: Thank you.

REISER: People are still dying right? I mean you'll have to investigate it.

FALK: Absolutely.

REISER: There's always something.

FALK: Absolutely.

KING: We'll be right back with more. The film is "The Thing About my Folks," Paul Reiser and Peter Falk. We'll ask them in order for it to work did they have to like each other? We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute you look like you're troubled. Is there some reason for your question?

FALK: It's your mail.


FALK: Isn't that funny how people are different? Now me if I found my partner dead, I'd never think of opening my letters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I just did it to distract myself. I mean you got to remember one thing that's a great shock.

FALK: Yes, oh that's understandable and bills are distracting. Listen, if anything comes up, I'll call you right away. Goodnight.




KING: You talked Paul how much a part of life this is. Tell about your mother and father meeting and how you worked that into this.

REISER: Well, that was -- I was working on this for years just playing with it and my mom casually shared a story with me, which I never knew, which became the basis of the story, which was she got -- she was supposed to go to the World's Fair, 1940.

She had just graduated college. Her parents said, "You've been out of school a week, it's time to go get a job." So, she went and got a job, got their first job where she met my father, stayed. They started going out.

He went to the army. She ran the company, got married, had kids. She said the kids all grew up and then she casually said, "Yes, I guess I never got to the World's Fair." And I thought, whoa, there's my movie. Thanks Mom.

REISER: ...first job where she met my father, stayed. They started going out. He went to the army. She ran the company, got married, had kids. She said the kids all grew up and then she casually said, "Yes, I guess I never got to the World's Fair." And I thought, whoa, there's my movie. Thanks Ma.

And, that was my parents. That was the, you know, I always wondered how do you go from 20 to 70, you know what I mean? At one point you're young. You're kissing in a car. Then you're falling asleep in front of the news. How do you go from A to B? Where does it go? FALK: At one point, you know, he says to me "Pop, tell me the first time that you and mom -- the first time you made it together tell me about that." I say, "Are you crazy? You're out of line. You're asking me to describe to you the first time I had sex with your mother. Take a walk."

REISER: But not as a father/son, as guys, two guys having a beer.

FALK: All right. Then I answer him. I say, "Oh, as a guy all right I'll tell you." Can you say..

REISER: You can't.

FALK: You can't say that word here?

REISER: No, this is television.


REISER: At home you can say that word.

FALK: All right.

KING: Is it true that you were one time the highest paid sitcom actor?

REISER: It can't be true.

KING: A million dollars an episode.

REISER: You know something you read about...

KING: That was -- I read about that.

REISER: You know people now making a million seven, million eight. In my day, Larry, if we made a million a week we were happy to get it, you know that? We wee happy with a mil. You didn't ask for more.

KING: Did you ever have to hold out?

REISER: Did I have to hold out?

KING: Did you ever have them by their, you know?

REISER: You know we were very low. We actually loved coming to work and they loved having the show. I don't remember a lot of the holding out.

FALK: I have an honor that has never been equaled.

REISER: What's that?

FALK: Before we started shooting, before we ever had a script...

KING: On "Columbo"?

FALK: On "Columbo," we were there on the lot maybe 20 days and I was barred from the lot. I could not come on the lot. That's the God's truth.

KING: Because?

FALK: Well, I think it had something to do with they're very talented guys and the whole world is indebted to Bill Link and Dick Levinson because they created this character Columbo but they thought I was a pain in the...

REISER: Really?

KING: Because? I know why. I read this somewhere. You were very, very fussy. Everything had to be right. Your complaint about television was, I saw a quote attributed to you once, "Television isn't about getting it right. It's about getting it done," is that true?

FALK: That's probably true. I don't know if I said those words but that was my feeling about it.

KING: Did you have a problem with that, that it was...


KING: He's a perfectionist.

REISER: But, you know what, he's a pussycat. Let me tell you. He has this -- he has this reputation as being tough and I always thought why is he so great? Why is Peter Falk in every movie and everything you see there's never a false moment?

And I found out the big secret. He just works really hard. That's the big secret. He shows up early. I mean it's that same, you know, work ethic. He's the first guy on the set. He's the last guy to leave. And, in the middle, he's going "Let's try it again. I think I can do it better."

KING: Wonderful Damon Runyon movie with Ann Margret and Glenn Ford.

REISER: "Pocket Full of Miracles."

KING: "Pocket Full of Miracles," when you were "Hey, come on." (INAUDIBLE) and great days with Ben Gazzara.

FALK: Right.

REISER: I found -- I found an old box of papers. I wrote an essay when I was 14 in high school reviewing husbands, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara.

KING: Best movies ever made.

REISER: And I thought what kind of 14-year-old goes to (INAUDIBLE). This is a pretty dark (INAUDIBLE). The man is...

KING: The son now directs.


KING: The film is "The Thing About my Folks." It's in a theater near you. We'll be right back.


REISER: Hold him up. Hold still. Hold still. So where are you going?

FALK: It's still alive.

REISER: Of course it's still alive. I just took it out. What are you hitting him for?

FALK: I'm not hitting him.


FALK: Poor thing can't breathe.

REISER: And what do you think hitting him is going to help him? Don't hit him.

FALK: Get me the thing.

REISER: Don't hurt it.

FALK: Let him catch his breath a little not (INAUDIBLE) you know what I mean. There little fishy you want to go, huh? You want to go, go ahead. We were just kidding.



KING: Tell me about the line dancing.

REISER: The line dancing scene, oh there's a lot of firsts. That's Peter's first dancing, also that's Peter's first nude scene we're very proud to say. Yes, we did some very...

KING: Country music.

REISER: Some beautiful country music line dancing. It's quite a spectacle and I want to urge the folks at home don't try it at home because we're professional dancers. We know what we're doing.

KING: And how about the bar fight?

FALK: Well, I just want to say one thing about what they claim is the nude scene. I wasn't nude.


FALK: I was wearing some talcum powder.

REISER: That's true. That was.

FALK: OK, what was the next thing?

KING: The bar fight.


REISER: All his own stunts. This man...

FALK: Oh, the bar scene.

REISER: No, does all his own stunts. I was taking the beating frankly but, no, that's all his pool shots too. People said did you get a stunt double? We said, no, Peter plays pretty good.

KING: Peter's going to be honored by the Santa Monica Theater, the American Cinematheque on October 14th, a special tribute to you and your work.

FALK: Oh, thank you that looks good.

KING: It's about time, an honor.

FALK: Looking forward to it.

REISER: This is going to be, if people get out and see this movie, this is going to be long overdue Oscar. This is such a great performance. I tell people don't even look at me. Just watch half the screen if you want. Watch Peter. He's just brilliant in this.

And may I say this, we're on the air, we are so happy and proud of this movie that we have a guarantee. We tell people go see "The Thing About my Folks" and if you are not genuinely moved, if you don't laugh and cry and feel great when you leave, we will come to your town the next week and we'll take you see "Wedding Crashers" because at least you're guaranteed something you'll enjoy.

KING: You're so kind Paul.

REISER: Yes, not everybody does that.

KING: And so giving.

REISER: We'll go see penguins whatever you want just something. I feel that confident they'll be happy with this film.

KING: You're the only person I've ever met that grew up in Ossining, New York.

FALK: Really?

KING: It's only famous for Sing Sing. When I read that I couldn't believe it, Ossining.

FALK: Yes, it was named after the Sing Sing Indians, Ossining, Sing Sing Prison, Sing Sing Tribe. That's where we got the name from and I knew most of that tribe. I knew them very well.

KING: How far from New York City?

FALK: Thirty miles, right on the Hudson.

KING: Most famous prison, well with Alcatraz and San Quentin.

REISER: They have a street that they named after him. It goes straight to the prison, a one-way street.

FALK: A street, yes.

KING: Peter Falk Street goes right to the prison?

FALK: Yes, Peter Falk's Place. That's what it's called Peter Falk's Place. And one day they took me -- I looked at the house. I said, wait a minute. That house wasn't white. What's the -- that isn't the house and somebody said you don't think they could have painted it?

KING: How did you lose your eye?

FALK: Three years old cancer. Yes, my mother told me she sent me to some kind of a pre-Kindergarten school and the teacher called my mother and said, "Your son when he looks at something he tilts his head in a funny way. Something might be wrong there."

So, my mother took me to a doctor and that doctor says that's cancer and that's got to come out. She took me to two more doctors that same day. They all three said the same thing and two days later I was operated on.

KING: And you had a glass eye when you were that young?

FALK: Yes. In those days it was glass. Now it's plastic.

KING: Do you change it?

FALK: The glass one you're supposed to take out every night but the plastic one that you can leave in.

KING: So you leave it in?

FALK: I leave it in, yes.

REISER: He goes for the killer questions right at the end there.

KING: No, no, no, it always fascinated me and we don't know many people that have that.


KING: You Paul...

REISER: There was a line in the movie, actually the line you see where the girl walks by and this young (INAUDIBLE) girl walks right a little close to his face and Peter goes "Oh, she almost took an eye out with that." And everybody says, "Oh, is that a reference to him?" I said, "No, it's a joke for God's sake."

KING: What are you going to produce next? You said you're in the works.

REISER: I am going to call you. I am writing a couple things and then I'll call you and I'll come on and I'll tell you all about it.

KING: Oh, it's called a tease, pulling a tease on me.

REISER: It's not a tease. I don't want to, you know, until something is done you don't like to talk about it.

FALK: He's the master.

REISER: Oh, he's very...

FALK: He's the best.

REISER: ...very good.

KING: Ever think of retiring?

FALK: Huh, no, no.

KING: Please don't.

FALK: No. Thank you.

REISER: His wife is against it by the way.

KING: Bring back -- bring back "Columbo."

FALK: Thank you.

KING: Go see this movie. Paul.

REISER: Thank you, Larry. It's good to see you.

KING: Peter, what an honor. Peter Falk, Paul Reiser, the film is "The Thing About my Folks." If you don't like this movie, take your temperature, take your pulse, you're dying. We'll be right back. Don't go away.



KING: We now welcome a true genius, Franco Dragone, the brains behind some of Cirque du Soleil's splashiest productions, the creator and director of Celine Dion's spectacular Las Vegas stage show, a New Day, an incredible talent. How did you start? What was the first thing you did?

FRANCO DRAGONE, DIRECTOR: Oh, for Cirque it was (INAUDIBLE). I mean but I began, I was 17. I was playing with toys and with friends. I love to -- I never learned to direct but with my friends I used to tell them what to do.

KING: Were you there at the beginning of Cirque du Soleil?

DRAGONE: Yes, one year after. It began in '84 and it was more mostly a festival and then in '85 they asked me to do a show for them. I did not know what it was but I felt that something important was happening in Canada, so I said yes.

KING: When did it boom?

DRAGONE: I think '87 because we brought the show in Los Angeles festival and really I remember we were in Little Tokyo and it was a fantastic success here and since then I mean we had the chance to do it.

KING: How many are there now? There must be Cirque du Soleil's everywhere right?

DRAGONE: Yes, we have I think Cirque du Soleil itself it's maybe eleven shows on road.

KING: Tour somewhere.

DRAGONE: Yes, yes.

KING: Now you were a -- did you come from Broadway to Vegas or Vegas to -- what's the connection? I remember we did that special in Las Vegas in which you said Las Vegas may be the pioneer for Broadway now.

DRAGONE: Yes. Actually, I came from Belgium to Las Vegas and in Las Vegas I began. I did my first show in Las Vegas in '93 with (INAUDIBLE). Then I did (INAUDIBLE) in '98 and then I created my own company and I did Celine Dion, a New Day. And now I've Le Reve with Steve Wynn but I've never been in Broadway. I will go in Broadway in 2007.

KING: Doing?

DRAGONE: Doing Carmen, a musical. This will be not so (INAUDIBLE) music between the original music and new lyrics and new look, which will be my first experience in Broadway.

KING: So, a new musical about Carmen, not the opera?

DRAGONE: No, no, I'll do a musical about Carmen, a new musical based on the book of (INAUDIBLE).

KING: How did you get that idea? DRAGONE: I mean it's a friend that actually to see Le Reve in May at Las Vegas and he told me about several projects and the kind of projects that people use to propose to me are always, you know, a kind of fantasy, surrealistic and he wanted to propose me another subject. And I told him why not this one, Carmen? I never thought (INAUDIBLE). Finally, he proposed me Carmen and I said let's go. Let's try.

KING: I'll tell you you're such -- the O Show is unbelievable. How did you get the idea to use water?

DRAGONE: The idea...

KING: And to build that theater.

DRAGONE: Yes, yes, at the beginning Steve Wynn wanted to do (INAUDIBLE) he wanted to do really a breakthrough. He wanted to do a very special show and at the beginning like usual he had more idea that -- I mean he wanted to have a big (INAUDIBLE), big like three football fields and I talked to him.

You know, Steve, imagination, sensation is imagination. It's stronger than sensation so let's do (INAUDIBLE) not do a stunt or let's not create a ride. Let's create a show. And so he accepted and we did O like this.

KING: Do you go and watch your shows?

DRAGONE: Yes. Two days ago I was in a New Day show to see how it was, so I went to see O and I was every day spending my time with Le Reve.

KING: How do you like working with our friend Celine?

DRAGONE: Oh, it was a beautiful time that we had. I was honored that she came to Belgium in my little town, so I think we are now close friends or I would say like she say we are part of the family, the same family as well. I love Rene. I love Celine. We had really a great time.

KING: During Katrina she was on with us before the show. W hat a night that was with her.

DRAGONE: Yes but I think it's Celine, so really I have to say that a lot of friends even from Quebec wrote me mail after this. They were all proud of Celine what she told that night.

KING: What is it like to work with her? She's a perfectionist isn't she?

DRAGONE: Yes, yes.

KING: It has to be everything right?

DRAGONE: Everything. She's a fast -- she learn very fast, so we teach them to dance. In ten minutes she knows her steps, so she is very disciplined. I think you cannot do what she does if you are not really talented, at the same time fast learner and at the same time very disciplined which she is.

KING: And works hard.

DRAGONE: Very hard every day (INAUDIBLE). She dedicated her life to her family now and to the show.

KING: And a wonderful little boy.


KING: Le Reve cost $100 million to build right?

DRAGONE: Yes. The show cost $100 million.

KING: But the farthest seat is 42 feet away?


KING: How did you do that?

DRAGONE: Yes, because I wanted to change. You have seen Celine and O show. It's a traditional theater. And I wanted to change the relation between the audience and the show, so I wanted to bring everybody close to the show in the show. The only way to do it is to have a theater in the round, very difficult to stage because everybody is seeing everything.

There is no real backstage, no corners, so but because of it we have really created a special relation. We are not anymore in a theater. We are more in I would say that was my dream to create a kind of sacred place where people can gather and during 90 minutes maybe just be relieved of what's happening outside.

KING: And we have a special thing to announce that you have joined Celine in donating $1 million for hurricane relief.

DRAGONE: Yes. It was more than honor and it's the least what we could do. I mean this is a little thing compared to what we have to do.

KING: Franco, you're an amazing man.

DRAGONE: Thank you, Larry, you too.

KING: You'll kill them on Broadway too.

DRAGONE: Oh, thank you.

KING: The great Franco Dragone a one of a kind talent, more after this.


KING: You know her as the award-winning actress for a TV series "Room 222" and in "The Heat of the Night." But she's a novelist. She's Denise Nicholas, the author of the new book, "Freshwater Road." There you see its cover. Usually a first book is non-fiction.

DENIS NICHOLAS, ACTRESS, AUTHOR: Kind of memoir, autobiography.

KING: Yes.

NICHOLAS: Yes. Well...

KING: Explain this.

NICHOLAS: Well it is inspired by the fact that I went to Mississippi in 1964 to work with the (INAUDIBLE) theater, the lead, the protagonist in my book of course goes there to do voter registration work.

So, in that sense, it is -- there was a note of autobiography in it because it definitely comes from -- it is inspired by -- let's put it that way, inspired by my experience.

KING: And a black girl turns up missing?


KING: Is that the key to this?

NICHOLAS: Yes, that's one of the -- one of the plots, yes, a young child.

KING: What does the title mean?

NICHOLAS: It's, you know, the place where I set the story, the small town, fictional town of Pineyville (ph), Mississippi and the road where this young woman stays with an older woman, Mrs. Owens, she comes from a middle class kind of background and she is there for the summer living in circumstances that she has never confronted before.

And there really is no fresh water there. It's a place where there's an outhouse. There's a spigot in front of the house that comes up out of a concrete platform and every day you have to deal with water.

You have to get water into the house, have to do water for drinking, water for cooking, water for bathing yourself. So, I don't know that that was all in my mind when I named it "Freshwater Road" but certainly...

KING: Why do you like fiction?

NICHOLAS: It gives me...

KING: You can do things right?

NICHOLAS: Yes, it gives you more freedom.

KING: You can send your characters anywhere.

NICHOLAS: It gives you so much and you can create. I created, you know, these people but also a town and a landscape I think in the imagery and to try to make people see something through new eyes, fresh eyes.

KING: Are you still acting?

NICHOLAS: Not really. I've been writing.

KING: Why not?

NICHOLAS: Well, I worked on this for the last five years. We'll see what happens. We'll see.

KING: You prefer writing?

NICHOLAS: Yes, I do. It's very...

KING: Because?

NICHOLAS: It's quiet. It's intellectual. It requires research. It requires all the things that I love now.

KING: Any characters surprise you?

NICHOLAS: I think they all surprise me because at the beginning I didn't even know -- I didn't know where the story was going. I did know this. I wanted the story to take place over the course of the summer of 1964 called Freedom Summer.

I didn't know very much else. I knew that the lead character would likely be a young woman from Detroit who was a college girl, who went south, as many kids did in 1964. Beyond that, I didn't know where it was going. So, there were a lot of surprises for me.

KING: So many in this country have so little knowledge of what that was like in 1964.

NICHOLAS: I've been finding that. I've been out promoting for one week and this is coming up every time I talk with people. We don't know. Our kids don't know. College kids don't know. High school kids don't know. I'm like...

KING: People lost their lives and people weren't allowed to vote.

NICHOLAS: Right. Exactly.

KING: And you can see that.

NICHOLAS: Yes, so I mean this, you know, is my tribute to that period. It's my way of lifting that period up out of the ashes of what we call education in this country so that people know what it was absolutely.

KING: Did it leave a lot of scars?

NICHOLAS: I don't know about scars. I think I learned a lot. I learned a lot about America. I learned a lot about racism in America and I think what I learned kind of has guided me through all the intervening years. Certainly I never forgot it. Certainly I brought it to every situation I ever was in whether it was theater or back to school, "In the Heat of the Night."

I brought it to Carol O'Connor. I sold a show to him about the woman in the fictional town that the show was about Sparta, Mississippi. I said, "Carol, somebody had to come down there and try to register to vote at some time because there was, you know, Sparta, Mississippi." And he said, "You're absolutely right."

KING: Did you know people got killed?

NICHOLAS: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

KING: Just for trying to get rights.

NICHOLAS: Yes, houses burned, churches burned, people beaten, people arrested. I mean it was insane. It was insane. But the summer of '64 it seems to me as in a through line with the end of slavery and the end of reconstruction because right at the end of reconstruction progress stopped and didn't pick up again until the modern civil rights movement.

KING: Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy's death.


KING: Shootings.

NICHOLAS: Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, you know.

KING: Yes.

NICHOLAS: Triggered, most of it triggered by the death of Emma Till in 1955.

KING: And they're still discovering things about that.

NICHOLAS: Exactly. Exactly.

KING: It's hard to believe. Are you going to write again? Going to write another book?

NICHOLAS: Oh, definitely. Oh, definitely.

KING: The same kind of genre?

NICHOLAS: I think I want to try to do a book. There are two things on my table. One is a book about my sister's life and death in New York. She died in 1980 in New York and she was murdered. It's a cold case. I want to do something as a tribute to her life and also I don't think I'll ever be able to solve -- to solve it but I want to know.

And the other thing that I want to write is a story with a guy as the lead character, a young man to see if I can do that, see if I can put myself in the mind of...

KING: Can you come back?

NICHOLAS: I'd love to. Thank you.

KING: Thank you, Denise, great seeing you.

NICHOLAS: Thank you.

KING: The book is "Freshwater Road." I'm going to read it this weekend. Denise Nicholas is the author.