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Piers Morgan Live
Interview with Michael Phelps; Interview with Sigourney Weaver
Aired August 11, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, she's the secretary of state, a wife of the former president and she ran for the White House herself. But she's not Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say we do all survive two years of campaign help, where does that leave our family?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ACTRESS: Hopefully, in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Sigourney Weaver doesn't just play a political animal on TV. She's got a few things to say about real-world politics, as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEAVER: I think if you look at individual senators, like Patrick Leahy, or like Olympia Snowe, like Chuck Schumer, there's so many individuals that I admire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Also, my one-on-one, very candid interview with Michael Phelps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL PHELPS, OLYMPIC SWIMMER: If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren't willing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
MORGAN: Good evening.
As the Olympics draw to a close, the games in London will be remembered as some of the most spectacular performances in history. Swimmer Michael Phelps is now the most decorated Olympic athlete ever, a remarkable 22 medals, 18 of them gold. I sat down with Michael Phelps before the Olympics to talk about his victories, his mistakes, both professional and personal. As you'll see, he speaks from the heart and holds back very little.
MORGAN: So, Michael, welcome.
PHELPS: Thank you.
MORGAN: You told me that if you're ever tired, you get a bit grouchy and the interview can be very short.
PHELPS: I do.
MORGAN: So how are you feeling?
PHELPS: Well, I feel all right.
MORGAN: Grouchy? Tired?
PHELPS: No, not yet. Maybe a couple questions and --
PHELPS: You get that, right?
MORGAN: Well, you also warned me, you've been answering questions all day. And if I just repeat the same old nonsense you've been asked all day, then you're going to give me less time.
PHELPS: I'll just be like a tape recorder, though.
MORGAN: Well, I take you at your word.
So London is my hometown. What's extraordinary is every American athlete that I've interviewed when I asked them to cite a role model, I'd say 90 percent say you. Feel like this kind of weird god-like figure to them. With that comes responsibility.
Are you aware of the status you have amongst your peer group? And what do you feel about that responsibility?
PHELPS: I mean, sometimes I feel it, but, I mean, I like to just think of myself as a normal person who just has a passion, has a goal and a dream and goes out and does it. And that's really how I've always lived my life.
MORGAN: See, I've seen you say that before. But come on, Michael, you're not a normal person.
PHELPS: I consider myself normal. I've spent 20 years in the pool. I consider that something that's normal.
MORGAN: That's not normal.
PHELPS: What do you consider normal?
MORGAN: Well, not spending 20 years in the pool.
PHELPS: I don't consider --
MORGAN: I spend about 20 minutes in the pool a day.
PHELPS: Well, that's not normal.
MORGAN: Well, what I was struck by with you was there are great athletes and great gymnasts and great swimmers and so on. I don't think I've ever seen anybody who did what you did, and confirm the statistics on this, that you trained for five years literally --
PHELPS: That's right.
MORGAN: -- every single day, 365 days, each of those five years, consecutively. That is incredible dedication to your sport.
Do you know anybody else that has done that?
PHELPS: No. I've never heard of anybody else who does that.
MORGAN: What is the motivation at the end of the day for that kind of extreme dedication?
PHELPS: I mean, if you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren't willing to do. And at that point, you know, we had thought that for every year, we get 52 other days of more training than anybody else gets, every single year.
And also in swimming, if you miss one day of swimming, it takes you twice as long to get back. So, you know, for example, for me after 2008, I took six months off. It took me -- probably it took me really about a year and a half to get back to where I was, like, really needed to be and should be.
MORGAN: When you were little Michael Phelps, was the dream to be an Olympic champion? Did you have other crazy dreams?
Did you think of -- being an astronaut or football, or whatever? What were the young Michael Phelps dreams?
PHELPS: Olympic gold medalist, world record holder, special athlete.
MORGAN: That was it? From what age did you know that?
PHELPS: I mean, I grew up. My sister was first in the nation, third in the world, when she was 14, so I was 9. And then I got to 10 and I saw, like, all the cool things that she got to do. Like travel all over the world and do this, do that, I was like, that sounds cool, like I want to do that.
MORGAN: And also, you're the younger brother. PHELPS: The baby, yes.
MORGAN: Thinking, why is my older sister doing better than me, right? Like all younger brothers.
PHELPS: We were all very competitive in everything that we do.
MORGAN: When you're at home playing, do you play board games together?
PHELPS: I would always try to. They wouldn't always let me play, like play games with them but --
MORGAN: I mean, are you just a ridiculously competitive family?
PHELPS: Yes. Everything that we do.
MORGAN: Try and describe what it means to be a great American.
PHELPS: Wow. You know, I think to be -- for me to be an American is -- you know, it's one of the greatest things in the world for -- you know, for me just because I've been able to grow up with everything. The freedom. You know, in my eyes this is the greatest country in the world.
And, you know, throughout my career, I've been able to, you know, to travel overseas and to represent my country the best way that I could.
And, you know, being able to wear the stars and stripes, when you step up on one of the blocks or, you know, when you step off of an airplane or when you hear the national anthem play, you know, it's one of the greatest feelings in the world because you know that there are people at home who are supporting you and watching you.
And you know, the stories that I've heard, you know, from people telling me what they were doing or where they were, you know, watching races from 2008, I think really shows how close we are as a country. And it's pretty special to just feel the support from all the fans.
MORGAN: Who are your sporting idols?
PHELPS: Michael Jordan.
MORGAN: Why him?
PHELPS: He changed the sport of basketball in my eyes. You know how -- you know, on and off the court. The guy, I mean, in my eyes, made basketball what it is. And you know what he did --
MORGAN: Have you met him?
PHELPS: I haven't. Never met him.
MORGAN: What would you ask him if you were able to meet Michael Jordan?
PHELPS: I've -- you know, I've had that thought a lot.
MORGAN: What's the thing you're most curious about with him?
PHELPS: I mean, I think part of me would ask him about what made him come back to the sport. What made him go to basketball and then decided to come back -- or excuse me, baseball, and then decide to come back to basketball.
You know, I think one of the coolest things that I love about him was it didn't matter what he had, you know, going on off the court or if he was sick or this or that. He never used it as an excuse. He came out every single night on the court. And he did what he had to do to get the job done. And that's what champions do.
It doesn't matter what else is going on. When you walk into your arena or your -- whatever you excel at, you're there to take care of the job that you have to do.
MORGAN: One of the downsides of his kind of success and indeed what you've enjoyed is you become celebrities. Not through choice. You just become exponentially more famous than you were before. How have you dealt with that side of things?
PHELPS: You know, I'm sure I'll be the first one to admit I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. And, you know, but I think being able to have the opportunity of being a "celebrity".
You know, it helps me achieve some of the things that I want to do with the goal to raise the bar on the sport of swimming. You know, I think, you know, one, people should learn how to swim more just for safety. But two, also try to get them involved in our sport.
And, you know, we have seen a significant change over the last, you know, 10 years. But in my eyes it can change so much more.
MORGAN: When we come back, Michael tells how he hit rock bottom after winning all that gold in Beijing.
MORGAN: More now with Michael Phelps. His low point might have come at the beginning of 2009, when a British tabloid ran a full page picture of him smoking pot. USA Swimming suspended him from competing for three months.
MORGAN: I mean, I remember when I was young, Mark Spitz winning his seven golds, and feeling incredibly inspired by him -- even though I wasn't a good swimmer then. I'm not a great swimmer now. But I remember feeling inspired to want to be Mark Spitz. He made swimming sexy for that generation.
And you've done exactly the same thing now. You know, you've made swimming a sexy sport and taken it outside of the pool. But with that, as I say, comes this kind of celebrity thing. And you touched on making mistakes.
To me, the mistakes you've made, they're not massive mistakes. They were made to be apparent massive mistakes simply because of who you were.
I remember the bong picture coming out. And I remember just laughing at people, saying, really? This is a scandal of epic proportions? And I saw the reaction. I saw people getting censorious with you. I saw sponsors getting twitchy and so on.
And I really thought it lost all sense of proportion. To me all I saw was a guy -- yes, all right, you probably shouldn't have been doing it. But I saw a guy who had spent five consecutive years in a pool, who probably just wanted to let his hair down.
PHELPS: I mean -- well, I guess, I literally have made a boatload of mistakes and, you know, that's a part of growing and learning and I guess becoming an adult. You know, you -- with every mistake that you make, you obviously have to pay for the consequences that come your way. And --
MORGAN: When you knew that picture was coming out, how did you feel?
PHELPS: Not too good.
MORGAN: Did you even -- did you lose your cool? I mean, did you feel -- what is that feeling like?
PHELPS: Like the worst in the world, you know, like I lost all the -- I mean, I think it sort of just -- yes, it's terrible.
MORGAN: I heard you say the worst thing was having to tell your mother. I can relate to that. I can imagine there's no harder conversation.
How did you get through that? How did you brace yourself for that?
PHELPS: You know, I think -- my mom has always been obviously how all moms are. You know, they're very supportive in their children. And you know, my mom growing up, you know, always would let us kind of see how we -- I guess choose the decisions that we wanted to but if we made those decision, we had to live with the consequences that came our way.
So obviously, I was very disappointed in the decision that I made but, you know, obviously, I learned from it and, you know, I mean I'll make a million mistakes in my life but for as long as I never make the same mistake again, I'll be able to learn and grow and --
MORGAN: Do you feel people overreacted a little bit?
PHELPS: Do you feel people overreacting?
MORGAN: Yes, I did, yes. Only because you're Michael Phelps, you set yourself on such a flint (ph) after Beijing, of just unbelievable achievement.
PHELPS: People build you up and they'll knock you down.
MORGAN: Yes. One the easier things must be the sheer volume of attractive women that would like to be associated with you.
PHELPS: I mean, I don't know. I try not to get myself into too much trouble.
MORGAN: Have you found you've got more attractive the more gold medals you won?
PHELPS: I think the biggest thing is you got to find who's real and who's not.
MORGAN: How many times have you been properly in love?
PHELPS: With what?
MORGAN: I was assuming a woman.
PHELPS: A woman would probably be twice.
MORGAN: Twice in your life. Have you been capable of proper love given the extraordinary --
PHELPS: In my eyes, yes.
MORGAN: Have you had your heart broken?
PHELPS: Sure, definitely probably, high school.
MORGAN: What was worst, having your heart broken or losing a race? A race you really wanted to win?
PHELPS: I mean, I don't -- I think they're both learning experiences.
MORGAN: I'm trying to get to the age old question about great champions. Does it come before anything? Does winning that gold medal repeatedly come above everything else?
PHELPS: For me, it's more about personal goals and things I want to achieve myself. I know that if I prepare myself the best way I can, everything else will fall into place.
MORGAN: Do you think you're going to retire after this or is it a crazy question to ask any athlete really? I remember Steve Redgrave -- one of our great, our greatest Olympic champion in Britain -- constantly retiring. He kept being lured back for the love of the gold.
PHELPS: I'm retiring and I won't be coming back. MORGAN: That will be it?
MORGAN: Will you literally give up all competitive swimming do you think?
PHELPS: Competitive swimming, yes.
MORGAN: That will be it?
MORGAN: Will you still swim a lot for fun?
PHELPS: Probably going to need to do something for exercise.
MORGAN: Is swimming still fun for you?
PHELPS: It is.
MORGAN: You could imagine just doing laps for no reason?
PHELPS: I think one of the biggest things after I do retire is, you know, now when I go to the ocean, go to the beach, I don't want get in the water. I spend so much time in the water, I'm like -- no, I'll sit here in the beach and you guys go have fun or I'll sit by the pool, you guys do what you want to do.
If I can look back with my career and say I've done everything I've ever wanted. No matter how many medals, no matter how many records, no matter how many this, that, or whatever, if I can look back on my career and say that, doesn't matter anything else. I consider my career a success.
MORGAN: Next, a rare look at the Michael Phelps very few people have seen.
MORGAN: Continuing my interview with Michael Phelps. We've all seen his public side, record-setting swimmer. Here's a side to him he's kept to himself, his work with kids who have been less fortunate than him.
MORGAN: A lot of young Americans who have gone off the rails a bit. I know you do a lot of this sort of talks in schools and stuff. What do you say to get inside their heads? What have you found makes or can make a difference?
PHELPS: I mean, the biggest thing is -- I mean, I talk about how I got to where I am -- a dream, a plan and I reach for it. That's literally all -- how I got to where I am. Sure, I mean, I'm human.
And that's literally just what I try to -- get across to the kids. Sure, my life hasn't been perfect. No one's is. I was raised by a single mother. And I'm able to kind of relate with them a little bit here and there.
And, you know, they see that and, you know, the cool thing is, being able to, one, hear the stories about things they've overcome. Two, the changes they've been able to make whether it's goal setting, whether it's eating healthier. You know, whether they become water safe.
It's all these things and when you see the excitement of them telling you the story, that's the coolest thing in the world.
It's like the best thing ever. So, to sort of being able to get those points across and really just being able to show anything is possible if you want it bad enough.
MORGAN: There's a whole side to you which I unraveled in the research, which I found really interesting. And it was a lot of stuff that you do very quietly.
Certainly, for young swimmers who for whatever reason haven't been dealt a lot of luck in life. There's one really poignant story I wanted to talk to you about, which is this young boy, Stevie Hansen, who is a young swimmer. And he became seriously ill -- and really devoted a lot of time, getting on planes to going to see him and encourage him and so on.
Tell me about this young man.
PHELPS: First time I met him, I went to a summer league. I went to one of his summer league meets to watch him swim. And I was able just to hang out. I was with his mom. I watched him swim. And we were playing basketball.
And he would be fine, then he would get sick. He would be fine and then he would get sick. And then I moved to Michigan. And I came back and, you know, he was just happy when he was able to sit and spend time with me.
MORGAN: He had a form of cancer, is that --
PHELPS: Yes. And he would just relax and it would kind of help him relax and take his, you know, his mind off the pain.
MORGAN: His parents have told the story of -- he suddenly took a dramatic turn for the worse and they contacted you. You got on the first plane you could. The plane was slightly delayed and by the time you got there --
PHELPS: I showed up at like midnight. I had to turn around and go home the next day.
MORGAN: You spent hours with him -- PHELPS: He was -- he was asleep, and didn't wake up at all. My mom and I sat there and just talked to him, and held his hand. Very shortly after, he passed away.
MORGAN: Do you feel there's a side to you that very few people know? Do you protect it?
PHELPS: There are things that are protected, yes.
MORGAN: Hearing you talk about Steve there and what you did for him and hearing what his parents have said, you see a very different side to the steely champion athlete.
PHELPS: Yes. I mean, you know, there are a lot of things that -- I mean, I would say people know about 90 percent of everything that happens in my life. The other 10 percent just no one needs to know.
MORGAN: There was a period your coach, your great coach, said when he thought he lost you. You stopped coming to training. Sometimes you went six weeks without coming to training.
And no one could blame you. You just won eight golds at the Beijing Olympics. You smashed all records. There was ostensibly nothing left to swim for and he thought really that that was possibly it. What was going through your mind through that period?
PHELPS: Nothing. I literally just -- unmotivated, didn't want to do anything, didn't want to get out of bed, didn't want to work out. Had no drive, had no goals. I had goals but I just didn't want to do anything about them. I'm just unmotivated.
MORGAN: Do you feel now as motivated as you've ever been?
PHELPS: I mean, I wouldn't say it was as motivated as I've ever been. But I am very motivated, after going through some of the races I've had happen over the last three years, I just don't want to lose, I'm sick of it.
MORGAN: You've got to win three to break the all-time world record of Olympic medals. Is that the real goal? Be honest.
PHELPS: I actually didn't even know that was the number until earlier in the year when somebody brought it up. I have personal things that I want to accomplish. And that's what I'm after.
I always want to do things that nobody has ever done before. So, just to be able to be in the same sentence with some of the Olympic greats that are the best and --
MORGAN: You are just able to be in the same sentence if you would win three. And there's a very high probability of that. You will be officially the greatest Olympian in the history of the Olympics.
PHELPS: Pretty cool.
MORGAN: Pretty cool? (LAUGHTER)
PHELPS: I'm laid back.
MORGAN: You would be the Michael Jordan of Olympics.
PHELPS: I would have been able to complete everything that I've ever wanted. If I can look back on my career and say I've done everything I've ever wanted, no matter how many medals, no matter how many records, no matter how many this, that, whatever, if I can look back in my career and say, it doesn't matter with anything else. I consider my career a success.
MORGAN: How would you like to be remembered? Whatever happens in Olympics?
PHELPS: Being the first Michael Phelps. That's really the only thing, doing something that nobody else has ever done before, changing the sports of swimming. That's what I hope to walk out of this sport with.
MORGAN: Michael, all the very best in London.
PHELPS: Thank you very much.
MORGAN: It's been a pleasure sitting down with you. I really enjoyed it.
PHELPS: Thank you.
MORGAN: Thank you.
MORGAN: Michael Phelps now says he's retired. He's future will certainly include major endorsements and possibly job as a TV commentator. He even told "Us Weekly" he wouldn't rule out appearing on "Dancing with the Stars".
MORGAN: Imagine a world in which a first lady divorces her philandering commander-in-chief, runs for president herself, loses to a less experienced rival, then becomes the secretary of state. Ridiculous!
Well, not quite that ridiculous. But anyway, this is the world of this summer's political guilty pleasure, "Political Animals". And who better to play that secretary of state than Sigourney Weaver? She's made over 40 films, she's grossed -- this is quite extraordinary -- $4 billion worldwide.
She's played the toughest female character in movies, in the "Alien" films, not to mention another longsuffering first lady in the movie, "Dave." And Sigourney Weaver joins me now.
WEAVER: Thank you so much.
MORGAN: I've wanted to interview you for a long time.
WEAVER: Oh, I'm very flattered. I'm delighted to be here.
MORGAN: The $4 billion woman. That must make you feel great, doesn't it?
WEAVER: I actually didn't know. So I'm -- now I'll know how to greet myself in the morning.
MORGAN: This should be your number one thing, your calling card.
WEAVER: I'll have a T-shirt made.
MORGAN: Resume: $4 billion at the box office.
WEAVER: What more do you need to know?
MORGAN: Let's talk about politics, because this TV show that everyone's going crazy for, it's very realistic and clearly most people assume it's loosely based on Hillary Clinton's story. Do you agree with that? It -- was that deliberate in your -- back of your mind?
WEAVER: You know, I think if it had been Hillary's story, I probably wouldn't have done it, as much as I admire her. But I actually -- as soon as I started reading it, I was -- I was hooked. I was hooked on Elaine Barrish Hammond and her entire family.
I think it's inspired not only by Mrs. Clinton but also by Madeleine Albright. You know, the idea that we've had three very capable women secretaries of state but we are not yet willing to entertain the notion of an actual woman president.
MORGAN: Why is that?
WEAVER: Well, that's one of the things our series is trying to find out. It's almost like when a woman actually says I believe I would be a good president, she's considered ambitious, which, in a woman, is unattractive. It's one of the things that comes up in our show, I think, in a very interesting way.
MORGAN: Do you think it will change? I mean, America is changing fast in all sorts of ways. You know, with gay marriage and all these issues, really gathering great momentum. Do you feel like the whole barrier to the concept of a female president may change very quickly?
WEAVER: Well, I suppose it could, but you sound more optimistic than I feel.
MORGAN: I am quite optimistic, actually. I think there's a lot of smart women around.
MORGAN: Hillary Clinton being a classic example of somebody that I can -- I could see being elected.
WEAVER: Oh, I agree. But the fact is that we have -- we are almost 51 percent of the population, and we have 16 percent of the representation. So the fact that women aren't even running for local office, although it's changing, it's a great shame, because I actually think women are very effective leaders, very practical.
We actually listen. We work together. We have a different approach to leading and participating -- and I think it's the kind of influence that would very good to have in Washington right now.
MORGAN: You have a fascinating background, because your father was an extraordinary character. He was Nelson Rockefeller's campaign manager long before he began creating some of the world's most famous television shows. Do you remember that period at all, his political life?
WEAVER: Well, I do. I do, because I was sent out into the street to campaign for Rocky myself against Nixon in the primary, when I was -- I think I was a teenager. And I wasn't really aware of too much going on. But I knew that -- I still am very aware that Rockefeller is the kind of Republican we don't really have any more, a sort of lefty Republican.
MORGAN: Right. And what did you make of Nixon? What did that do to your view of politics?
WEAVER: My father told us a wonderful story. He had some show called, "Make Me Laugh," and he decided for the first show to do it on Capitol Hill with three different senators. And I guess the third guest -- and the concept of the show was they would have different comedians like Henny Youngman, you know, pitching jokes and trying to make these guys laugh.
So Nixon was the last one, and they pitched one joke at him, no response; second joke, no response. Finally, the third joke, there was a pause, and then Nixon laughed.
And at the cocktail party afterward, Nixon came up to my father and said, "You know, Pat, I didn't really need to laugh. But I thought I'd look better if I did."
WEAVER: And you know, that's -- it's --
MORGAN: That's a great impression, by the way.
WEAVER: -- well, I don't know about that. But anyway, I've never forgotten that story, and my father, who was a Republican, called Nixon Tricky Dick every single time he ever referred to him. So that made an impression on me.
MORGAN: Was your father quietly smug when Nixon came crashing down, that his instinct about him had been proven right?
WEAVER: Oh, no, I think he was heartbroken for the country. Yes. No, he -- you know, he didn't want to see a Republican be that stupid, especially Nixon, who was a brilliant man.
MORGAN: It would be great to say America learned its lesson, that politics cleaned up its act, et cetera, et cetera, but of course, you know, right now, you look at it, you see Washington paralyzed.
MORGAN: And you see the emergence of what to me is surely a recipe for scandalous disaster, the super PACs being encouraged by the Supreme Court now to go out, under freedom of speech, and basically try and buy elections. This can only end in tears.
WEAVER: Yes. No, I -- it doesn't make sense to me because it means you're -- you have the wealth to buy more freedom of speech than people who don't. So to me, it makes it such an unfair competition and means that these special interests will be much more represented than the will of the people.
And I think that that's -- the people need us to be attentive to them, and that's one reason why I love playing Elaine Barrish Hammond. She has -- she has a strong moral compass. She has a big heart. She's sort of not afraid to say what she thinks in any situation and --
MORGAN: Sounds rather familiar, Sigourney.
WEAVER: Well, I'm not at all like that. I wish -- I wish -- I admire Elaine.
MORGAN: Let's take a look at Elaine in action. Let's watch a clip from "Political Animals."
WEAVER: Where do we look?
MORGAN: You look up there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elaine, your husband himself sent me to Mexico to negotiate the release of those American citizens.
"ELAINE BARRISH": That was Mexico? And two college students smuggling a Volvo of pot? This is Iran, accusing innocent American journalists of being spies. These negotiations won't happen over margaritas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Great line. It's a great line you came out with about why you took the role. You said, "After eating salad for a couple of years, I was offered a big, juicy steak. I took out my fork and knife and I went, right, I'm going for it."
I love that. Is that how it felt? Because this is your big first big TV role.
WEAVER: It is. I think it's the best role I've ever had.
You know, what's fascinating to me is you play this very eloquent, passionate woman, and who's so capable and then at the same time, you draw back the veil of their private life, and you're in the kitchen and living room and bedrooms of this family, and you know, as capable as she is, in the world, she's as powerless as all the rest of parents, you know, when it comes to her own family.
And you know, the family is -- you know, you fall in love with them. And I must say I'm part of a brilliant ensemble with Ellen Burstyn, Ciaran Hinds and Sebastian Stan, Carla Gugino plays this press person, who's out to get me or out to become friends with me, we don't know which, and Jimmy Wolk.
MORGAN: Do you have more sympathy for top politicians, having been through the process of making this series? I mean, do you feel more empathy with the pressures that go with that kind of job?
WEAVER: That's an interesting question. I don't think I do. No.
MORGAN: That's a good answer.
WEAVER: I don't think I do, because I think it's very easy to get subverted into all the polling. I think that what we expect from politicians -- which we don't expect from shallow celebrities like myself -- is that they do speak truth to power, and that they are consistent and that they have, you know, they have a real commitment to the big picture as they see it.
And to see -- to see candidates changing their history and their point of view depending on who's paying for the ads or whatever, it's -- it does make one very cynical.
When I was working on Capitol Hill as a student, I worked for a congressman. And I was in charge of gun control. And I was actually even then quite, in spite of "Alien," et cetera, I was quite passionately pro-gun control. And this guy sent out two letters, one to people who were pro-gun control, a similar but different letter to people who were against gun control. And it really was so shocking to me. It still is.
MORGAN: But do you see principle anywhere on Capitol Hill these days? You look at anyone and think, that is the kind of -- I mean, again, I've interviewed Justice Scalia this week, who said that he sees nobody in modern politics to compare with the Founding Fathers, compare with the guys that created the Federalist Papers.
It was a fascinating moment for me that this guy had been Supreme Court justice for 25 years, clearly believes there's a malaise in ability and principle.
WEAVER: Yes. Well, I think there probably is a malaise in the actual, you know, the body politic. But I think if you look at individual senators, like Patrick Leahy or like Olympia Snowe, like Chuck Schumer, you know, you -- there's so many individuals that I admire.
I don't know why they can't seem to get things done, but I know that, for instance, Senator Snowe is retiring because she said it was just -- it's just too discouraging.
MORGAN: How do you -- how do you think President Obama's done?
WEAVER: Well, I think -- I thought it was very interesting that he said he's really concentrated on policy, because that makes sense to me, with his character. And one of the things that's come up with this show is to what extent any of these people are political animals.
And I have a feeling that, for instance, Clinton, Johnson, maybe Nixon, some of these people were real political animals. I don't think Obama is. So I think --
MORGAN: More a legal animal.
WEAVER: He's a policy wonk.
WEAVER: I think he's trying, you know, in a -- very sincerely to get the policy correct for people, to support people. And then it's a different kind of political animal that puts it through.
MORGAN: I think that's the best observation I've heard about it, because I keep asking politicians why there's paralysis. But actually that is probably why. You have to play the game in a smarter, more malleable way, possibly slightly less principled way, you know, dark deals done in corridors.
WEAVER: Well, I -- you know, and I think you can't take it personally. And I think that's why I would make a terrible politician. I think that you have to have a very thick skin, and I think that, you know, for instance, Hillary Clinton has done such a remarkable job as secretary of state. I admire her so much. Hope the show doesn't irritate her, because it really isn't about her.
But you know, you must be -- have to be so thick-skinned to stay objective and diplomatic in these situations. You know, I go down to Washington to talk to congressmen about the environment or in favor of the arts, et cetera. And sometimes people say things to you that, you know, you could get into a fistfight about.
And you, you know, you can't do that, obviously. That doesn't help matters. But I admire people who can manage to just, you know, continuously drive their message through without getting emotionally involved.
MORGAN: Let's take a break. Let's come back and talk avatars, aliens -- all these other little weird things you've been involved with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ALIENS")
"ELLEN RIPLEY": Get away from her, you bitch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Sigourney Weaver in her first Oscar nomination for the 1986 film, "Aliens," and she's back with me now.
What was it like -- I mean, "Aliens" was such a huge phenomenon at the time. Did you -- you almost came out with a great line, "I've always regretted having such a serious career, because I'm really more of an idiot."
WEAVER: It's true. I was always the class clown and I much prefer comedy. I actually can't believe I'm in a serious television series, although we do try to get in as many jokes as we can.
But I think, yes, I mean, Ripley is a -- listen, I can understand it, but she's, you know, not a barrel of laughs. And so I'm still waiting for my comedy career to take off.
MORGAN: Well, I liked you in "Working Girl," and that choice bit from "Working," it was one of my favorite films, actually. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "WORKING GIRL")
"KATHARINE PARKER": And as such, we have a uniform, simple, elegant, impeccable. "Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman," Coco Chanel.
"TESS MCGILL": And how do I look?
"PARKER": You look terrific. You might want to rethink the jewelry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I love that movie. You got another Oscar nomination for that. And apart from Melanie Griffith's extraordinary hair in that movie, but that was a great -- that was a great comedy role, really, wasn't it? WEAVER: It was. I was so lucky. I was -- and I got to work with the great Mike Nichols as well. So --
MORGAN: You then moved on, "Avatar," I went to see "Avatar" here in New York, actually. I did the whole 3D experience.
WEAVER: Oh, really?
MORGAN: And I hate those kind of (INAUDIBLE). I'll be honest with you, I never watch anything horror, science fiction, any of that because I was absolutely transfixed by the cinema -- what do you call it?
MORGAN: No, what it was, it wasn't even magic. It was like this incredible experience.
WEAVER: Immersive experience.
MORGAN: I like that, immersive, yes.
MORGAN: What was it like to make? Is it weirdly disconnected? Because I keep seeing clips of all you guys in sort of very pale rooms.
WEAVER: Well, we were in --
MORGAN: And then they put you into this.
WEAVER: -- you were in a big empty room and you were in a little black suit with ears and tails and a camera. But in fact, at that point the science fiction sort of paused, because we were really just actors finding the scene, and Jim Cameron had this round camera in which you could see what your character would look like 7 feet tall and blue.
And all he would do -- he's transformed the business so much that he would only have to capture one perfect master and then he could come back in without any of the actors there and through what the cameras had captured do all the coverage. So he'd only have to shoot one --
MORGAN: It's amazing.
WEAVER: It's amazing. And I hope that's contagious and regular films can figure out how to do that as well.
MORGAN: A genius.
WEAVER: I think he is a genius. MORGAN: Talking of geniuses, your father, now he moved on from politics into television. He created the "Today" show.
WEAVER: He did.
MORGAN: And he created the -- what was the original "Tonight" show that became -- amazing --
MORGAN: -- badges of honor. He was running NBC at the time. Is this where you got the love of the business, do you think?
WEAVER: You know, I think I did. He loved -- he loved the business. He loved the people in the business. He especially loved comedy. He loved having, you know, mixing Bertrand Russell with, you know, a chimpanzee or what-have-you.
And I think that it was a sort of tough business, you know. I think I grew up thinking it was a great business but also knowing I -- you know, my father never got discouraged. But he did try to start a fourth network twice.
He did pioneer the first cable television network and was put one of business illegally by the theater owners. We got a lot of death threats when I was about 12. So I could see that it was a rough business as well.
MORGAN: When you see the sort of Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame coming to reality now, almost anyone could be famous for any kind of vacuous reason, does it depress you? Does it bother you? Are you not really fazed by it? Do you -- does it diminish what used to be stars on pedestals?
WEAVER: Well, I think fame is the least valuable thing that a successful career gives you. I think it's actually the one, you know, not to complain, but it's the one downside, I think, of being successful.
What do I think we have missed is that in the early days, we had so many great theater actors, so many international actors working in Hollywood and there was much more of a live experience of theater.
And I think the public really adored actors, could appreciate what they did, their training. And you know, I think especially in Europe, for instance, someone who could tell a compelling story and keep everyone, you know, calm or keep everyone entertained, that's power and that's a talent.
And nowadays, I think it's so much about looking -- making it look easy that it's very hard for the public to tell that it is hard. Acting is really hard. It really is challenging. It takes years for a lot of us to get it right.
But how can they tell? You know, how could they possibly tell that this is -- that this is something noble, you know, and difficult to achieve?
MORGAN: Your mother was English, I discovered literally seconds before we went on the air, very exciting moment when I discovered it. Clearly, all your talent comes from English blood.
WEAVER: Well, and --
MORGAN: She went to RADA with Vivien Leigh, you said.
WEAVER: She did.
MORGAN: I find that fantastic story.
WEAVER: Yes, she -- they used to have to wear -- provide their own costumes at RADA and Vivien was already married to a very wealthy man in Mayfair. And so, my mother's mother would send her these hideous costumes made by the village seamstress in Essex.
And so she would always beg Vivien to let her borrow the next act's costume, because it like one -- three different actresses in the year would play three different acts and the same character.
MORGAN: The only thing longer and more successful than your acting career has been your marriage.
MORGAN: To Jim Simpson, a filmmaker, 30 years you've been together. Is that right?
WEAVER: It's actually -- 28. So actually my career is longer.
MORGAN: Nearly 30.
MORGAN: You're in a business, you know, where divorce come and go like sort of Number 9 buses, how have you managed to avoid that pitfall?
WEAVER: Gosh, I don't really know. I think I was very lucky to find someone as -- I think he's a brilliant man. He's a theater director. So he understands what it -- what I'm doing, why I'm probably sometimes preoccupied by the work.
He's from Hawaii, so he's filled with aloha. He's very supportive. He's been a great father to our daughter. So, I mean, you know, I just got lucky and picked the right person, I think.
MORGAN: Sigourney Weaver, it's been a real pleasure. Thank you for coming in.
"Political Animals," Sunday nights at 10:00 on USA. It's a terrific show. Getting the applaud that it deserves. It's been a real delight to meet you.
WEAVER: For me, too.
MORGAN: Thank you.