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Interviews With Oscar Nominees

Aired March 17, 2002 - 21:00   ET



HELEN MIRREN, ACTRESS: And I'm a good servant. I'm better than good. I'm the best. I'm the perfect servant.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, it's the wildest Oscar race in years. No telling who will go home a winner. We'll hear from some red-hot contenders. Russell Crowe of "A Beautiful Mind," will he take best actor two years in a row? Sissy Spacek, she nabbed her sixth best actress nomination for "In the Bedroom." Jon Voight's already got a best actor Oscar. Playing Howard Cosell in "Ali" could earn him a supporting gold.

Two other competitors in that category, Ian McKellen of "Lord of the Rings" and Ben Kingsley from "Sexy Beast." From the best supporting actress field, Jennifer Connelly of "A Beautiful Mind," Helen Mirren of "Gosford Park." Plus, best actor nominee Tom Wilkinson from "In the Bedroom."

They're all next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Oscar preview night tonight on Larry Kink Weekend and what a great pleasure to kick it off with Jon Voight, one of my favorite people, an Oscar nominee for the best supporting actor in "Ali," in which he played Howard Cosell. He has won an Academy Award before for "Coming Home," and has been nominated two other times.

What is it like? Does it get old hat?

JON VOIGHT, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR NOMINEE: No. It doesn't get old hat. It's -- this year is a speculator year for film. I was just talking to Helen Mirren, and we're just saying how -- so much wonderful work this year, and it's a big honor for me. And I know that there could be five other guys in this group. There was so much good work, especially in this category, but I'm very moved and grateful.

KING: By the way, congratulations, you're a grandfather.


KING: Your daughter and son-in-law, they adopted a Cambodian child.


KING: What's that feel like?

VOIGHT: Well I ...

KING: Make you feel old?

VOIGHT: No. Actually, it's wonderful. I think it'd be -- I think Angie will be great with that baby and I'm happy for them.

KING: Well when she was young, Angelina Jolie growing up, did she want to act? Did you know she ...

VOIGHT: Well, I have little moments that I remember of both children growing up and their mom and I both wanted -- just wanted the children to do what they wanted to do, you know, but of course they were around this business and they gravitated toward it. But I'll tell you one thing, what could be greater than working with my daughter? I mean, what could be greater than when you see this child and you're raising the kids, and then one day -- and I'm actor, and one day I get to work with my daughter, and she's a great actress.

KING: She sure is.

VOIGHT: And it's -- what could be better?

KING: Jon, when they offered you the part to play Howard Cosell, did you say this -- does this fit (ph) you?

VOIGHT: You'd say it.

KING: I mean, you don't look like Howard Cosell -- did you look like Howie? You don't look like -- I mean, you were fantastic and I knew Howard very well.

VOIGHT: Yeah. Well, I did go through that and I actually, you know, I was a little daunting. I said, how am I going to accomplish this thing? And I told Angie, I said Angie, you know, they asked me to Howard Cosell -- Michael called me up, Michael Mann, and I said, "I don't know how I'm going to approach it." And she said, "dad, you were friends with Muhammad Ali, you lived through this period, you deserve to be in that picture," she said. She put it on the -- on the level of an honor, and it is an honor.

KING: Did you ever ask Michael Mann why he picked you to play Cosell, which is definitely against type?

VOIGHT: I did ask him. He was asked that at a little interview session. And I was really focused on him and he said, well, he said: "I wasn't thinking so much of the physical. I was thinking of an artist who has a certain soul, and I thought if you get the right guy, the right feeling, it's going to work." And the way he said that, it seemed to me he wasn't so -- wasn't thinking of the complex hard work that would have been required. KING: You wound up capturing two people in the last two. You captured Roosevelt in "Pearl Harbor." What was that like to play Roosevelt?

VOIGHT: Well, you know, both of these guys -- FDR was somebody I really had a great regard for, and Howard Cosell I have a great regard for. I had an affection for him, but a real respect for this, tell it like it is. You know, that thing. Tell it like it is was something he really lived by.

KING: He sure did.

VOIGHT: And he took -- he took the flack from it as well. So ...

KING: Well, did you know -- you put a lot on yourself to play someone everyone knows, has seen.

VOIGHT: Yes, indeed. Both times.

KING: How do you avoid impersonation?

VOIGHT: Well, you -- the way I do it -- every time I start a piece, I kind of clear the tables of everything and then I go over things, do my research. In this case with Howard Cosell, I looked at a lot of -- you know, revisited footage I had seen before, you know, at the time, and then watched for the details and looked for what was motivating this guy, what animated this fellow.

And you know, you find a gesture that he would use or this or that, just the way he walked. The way -- here's this funny fellow who had very bad posture and a certain kind of nasal approach to language, but he was brilliant with language and he enjoyed being brilliant with language, and he enjoyed making statements. He used the forum. You know, he enjoyed that. And he had a swagger to him.

So you -- once you invest yourself in the research, you see, then these little pieces of gesture fall into place. You know why they're there, you know.

KING: Do you have to like him?

VOIGHT: Do you have to like -- well, you have to enjoy. In this case, it was not a problem. I really did like Howard, so.

KING: Normally, do you have to like the people you play?

VOIGHT: Well, you have to find something that you want to express.

KING: Because they don't -- they like themselves.

VOIGHT: Yeah. You have to find out what they're thinking, it's what they think. Some of the characters that you may play may not like themselves, and then you're dealing with that. KING: How do you react when people say Jon Voight after "Midnight Cowboy" should have been the number one star in the world, but what he was particular, and so instead of deciding to be a superstar he decided to be a character actor. Was that true?

VOIGHT: Well, it is to some degree true. I think that I was an idealist. I've always been an idealist, and sometimes that means that I was looking to make statements for the work that I did.

And I must say, in the past years, I've had the good fortune of being with a very wonderful family. And as managers, and, you know, and partners, and they've kind of -- they encouraged me to take more chances and have some -- a little more fun, give myself a little bit of a breather. And I think that was very good for me, because I was looking for things to be exact and perfect, and I said, well, they're not going to be perfect. I'll jump in and I'll do what I can, so.

KING: Because you were that way, right?

VOIGHT: I was. I was always ...

KING: I mean, to get an Oklahoma accent, you went to Oklahoma.

VOIGHT: Well, I would still -- I would still do most of that stuff. But I mean, it's my work.

KING: You marinate?

VOIGHT: Yeah, I do marinate. As -- I heard that word on your show.

KING: Jackie Gleason said it about Anthony Quinn. "You don't act. You marinate."

VOIGHT: Right. That's it.

KING: You become the person. What do you think of your competition? You've got Ethan Hawke, Jim Broadbent, Ian McKellen and Ben Kingsley. Pretty interesting group.

VOIGHT: Pretty wonderful group.

Well, as I said, there were a lot of great performances this year, but to be, for myself, I have to say a couple of things about that. One is that when I was a young fellow growing up and thinking about acting, I was inspired by the work of a couple of British guys, Lawrence Olivier and Alec Guinness, who are big favorites of mine and I was influenced by them. I had a book by Kenneth (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the -- I had little marks next to all of Olivier's great performances, and I used to read them over and over again because I was -- I was just -- I just wanted to -- I don't know what it was. I just -- I identified almost with the way he approached the big roles. Right?

KING: So now you're ... VOIGHT: So now I'm in company with three of the very greatest British actors of the day. Sir Ben Sir Ian and the great Broadbent. Right? And that's wonderful. That's an honor.

KING: Well ...

VOIGHT: And Ethan Hawke, I worked with him on a stage in New York. He's a wonderful stage actor. It was his opening on Broadway, and I've seen him grow into one of our best young leading men, and with this performance -- he's going to be around.

KING: There's no one better than Jon Voight. Thank you so much.

VOIGHT: Larry, thank you.

KING: When we come back, we'll meet one of the nominees for best actor. An incredible performance in "In the Bedroom." Tom Wilkinson is next. Don't go away.


VOIGHT: Cassius...

WILL SMITH, ACTOR: My name ain't Cassius Clay, that is a slave name, and I am a free man. I am Muhammad Ali.

VOIGHT: You know, I apologize. I apologize to you on the air. Your name is Muhammad Ali. You have a right to be called whatever you want. I apologize to you.

SMITH: You sure make a lot of mistakes for a so-called educated man. You really went to law school?

VOIGHT: Yes, Muhammad, and to think I gave up a lucrative practice for the likes of you.

SMITH: I'm the best thing that ever happened to you, Cosell! Without me, you'd be a tall white man with a microphone in his mouth.

VOIGHT: And without me, you'd be a mouth.

We'll be right back.




SISSY SPACEK, ACTRESS: This was her husband, wasn't it?

NICK STAHL, ACTOR: Yes. He dropped in.

TOM WILKINSON, ACTOR: Are you going to press charges?

STAHL: No. SPACEK: Well, what's to stop him from doing it again?

WILKINSON: Did you hit him at all? Come on, tell me you hit him.


WILKINSON: Just so he doesn't do this again.

STAHL: I think I touched him. Oh, Jesus, dad.

WILKINSON: So what are you going to do?

STAHL: Take karate?

SPACEK: That is not the problem.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING WEEKEND. He may be considered a dark horse in the field, because the names are better known than his competition, but you will not see a better performance this year than Tom Wilkinson as the father in "In the Bedroom."

How did you get that role?

WILKINSON: It was -- it was remarkably easy. A phone call did it.

KING: Really?

WILKINSON: One phone call from James Seamus (ph), who is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) whom I knew. He said, "I'm sending you a script in a couple of weeks. Will you read it?" I said yes. I read it. I thought, this is wonderful. They can't be serious. They're not going to offer it to me. But they did.

KING: Because you were the classic character act, right? You did many movies, plays, Shakespeare, right? I mean, you've done it all. You don't normally get that starring vehicle?

WILKINSON: No. No. No. No. Sometimes I do.

KING: Why did you like the character so much?

WILKINSON: I thought I could do it. There's a moment when an actor reads a script, which is a sort of, you know, Damascus road moment where you suddenly go, yes, I can do this. I know exactly how this works and I can -- I can -- I know how to do it. It plays straight to my strengths, and I've got a few extra things I can throw -- and there's a moment -- Russell Crowe said something interesting the other day. He said, "when you a script for the first time and you start doing the lines to yourself out loud, you know you're probably hooked." And that's what I did with this one.

KING: Why did we like that film so much? What was so special about these ordinary people?

WILKINSON: Well, the hallmark of any, you know, narrative art, a novel, a film, is the story. I mean, the simple crude fact of do you want to know what happens next. And I think when you walk out of a film, which I rarely do, but sometimes you feel like -- you know, because you feel bound by duty to -- but basically what happens very often in stories, books is you don't care what happens next. So basically what you do, film does at the beginning, is make you care about the people that that you -- you know, get you to invest something.

KING: Look at all the nominations that come out of this basically small movie.

WILKINSON: Yeah, five.

KING: Five. Incredible. Supporting and on top, and Sissy Spacek will be with us next. You worked with her. What was that like?

WILKINSON: Well, she's wonderful. She's a wonderful professional, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), got her priorities right.

KING: How did you hear about your nomination?

WILKINSON: I -- there was no spontaneity in it all. They're saying -- you know, I should be able to say, well, I was on top of a mountain in Austria when somebody signaled from the valley below.

KING: Call.

WILKINSON: Yeah. But, no, I was summoned to a hotel where there was lots of press in London, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hotel, and sitting -- you know, sitting around a TV and watch it.

KING: Did you expect it?

WILKINSON: I didn't. No. I didn't. It was a surprise.

KING: So you watched the nominations read off, as they do, and now we get to the best actor category, right?

WILKINSON: Yeah. And I thought, oh, I didn't realize it was they were doing it in alphabetical order, and of course mine was the last name up. And I thought, oh, that's it. And part of me, Larry -- and you have to believe me when I tell you, part of me was disappointed. Not -- you know, it's a thrilling thing to be nominated for an Oscar if you're an actor, of course it is. But there's also, in me, there was thinking, oh, I have to go back to L.A. and New York and London and do all this stuff again.

KING: You're lazy?

WILKINSON: I'm a lazy man. I realize ...

KING: Are you enjoying this stuff? WILKINSON: Yes. It's wonderful to meet you, and you get to meet the most remarkable people.

KING: Does it become competitive? There was a reason George C. Scott didn't take his, didn't want it, was that he didn't like saying I want to beat you out.

WILKINSON: No. You never have to say that. Does anybody say that?

KING: Don't you -- in your heart, you want to win?

WILKINSON: No. Well, I want to win, but it's a lottery and everybody knows it's a lottery, and who knows which name is going to come out of the hat. And in a sense, you know, the Oscar is full of bad movies that have won best picture and brilliant acting performances that have been neglected and wonderful actors who've gone a whole lifetime without winning -- winning an Oscar. So it's a lottery. As long as you know that that's what it is, then you just enjoy the ride. You just think how wonderful. There's Sydney Poitier. There's Richard Dreyfuss again. Hi, Richard.

KING: Are you getting a lot more offers now, seeing a lot more scripts?

WILKINSON: Well, I've been seeing a few scripts for a long time. The problem, of course -- there are lots of scripts get sent your way, and the last few weeks I haven't really had much time to read them. The problem is the good ones. You get lots of indifferent ones, and you know, there's nothing -- you pick up a script with a song in your heart.

KING: You want to love it.

WILKINSON: You want to. And you want to -- yeah, because then it's easy. Then all -- pick up a phone and say, yeah, I'd love to it. What do I have to do? But very often you go, oh, yeah, OK. Then you get up and make yourself a cup of coffee and you think, do I really want to finish this? And feel you have to, you're obliged to. The -- so it still has -- that's the perennial problem that all actors have is finding the good script.

KING: Have you found one? Are you going to do ...

WILKINSON: I have -- no, I've got a stack, and there's two or three things that are close to being what I'd really like to do, but I'm waiting for the one.

KING: Well, I -- it's going to be hard time topping this one. You are wonderful.

WILKINSON: Thank you, Larry. Thank you.

KING: My pleasure. Tom Wilkinson, Oscar nominee for best actor. "In the Bedroom." What a film. What a performance. When we come back, his co-star Sissy Spacek. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "IN THE BEDROOM")

SPACEK: She's not divorced yet, you know.

WILKINSON: It's the same thing. Maine has crazy laws, that's all. Anyway, he loves her boys.

SPACEK: Oh, God, you don't think he...

WILKINSON: No, he's not going to marry her.

SPACEK: Then what's he doing with her?

WILKINSON: She probably loves him. Girls always have. Let's just leave it at that.

SPACEK: Well, he won't listen to me. I've asked him three times to dismantle that swing set.

WILKINSON: Oh, leave it out. Looks like a young couple lives here.

SPACEK: Well, he needs his head in school, not in her.

WILKINSON: So to speak.




SPACEK: You can't admit the truth to me or to yourself. You encouraged him!

WILKINSON: Are you saying that I am the one responsible? I know what you think! That I let him get away with...

SPACEK: Everything!


KING: Welcome back. Sissy Spacek just won a Golden Globe for "In the Bedroom." Her performance in that movie also earned this Oscar-winning actress her sixth Academy Award nomination.


KING: You're self-excluded. Is this movie worthy of that high of praise?

SISSY SPACEK, BEST ACTRESS NOMINEE: You know, I try not to think in those terms, but it's a wonderful movie and we're -- everyone who worked on it is very proud of it. But I try not to go there. It's just a little safety mechanism that I -- I've developed over the years. KING: The movie is considered what they call in Hollywood a sleeper, right? No one -- there wasn't a lot of advanced buzz on this, and then suddenly the critics have been tremendous. Did you like it right away?

SPACEK: I loved the screenplay. When I read -- when I read the script, I was just shattered by it and surprised, and I hadn't felt that way about a script in a long time. So I was -- when I was sent the script, it was an offer. So I waited ...

KING: You didn't have to say -- if you said yes, you got it.

SPACEK: Right. So I thought, OK, now I'm going to be very cool. So I waited about 10 minutes, and then I called. And I'm very happy I did.

KING: Are you at all surprised at the reaction to it?

SPACEK: You know, reaction like this is always a surprise because you don't ever want to take anything for granted. And I found that it's best to always focus on the work. And then when you finish your work, let go of it. And then whatever happens, happens, because it's things that we don't have control over.

It's thrilling that the critics have responded the way they have and that people are responding the way they are, because it's your hope of all hopes that people will go to the theater and see the film. And so, yes.

KING: So when other people say it's worthy of seeing, that's the highest of praise you can get, right?

SPACEK: That's the highest praise you can get.

KING: You feel like -- what was it like doing it? We know what it was like reading it and we know what it's like finished. What was it like day to day?

SPACEK: It was a wonderful experience. We were -- we were all there for the right reasons. Nobody was getting rich making this film. And we were all passionate about it. And Todd Field, who wrote the screenplay with Rob Festinger, who also -- Todd also directed it. And he did -- oh, he was wonderful to work with. He made every actor feel like we were the only actor in the universe and that he wanted to know everything that we thought and felt no matter when we chose to talk to him about a scene.

And quite frankly, I chose to talk to him very late at night sometimes. And he would, I'm sure, would wake up and answer the phone.

KING: You'd call him about a shoot the next day and what you thought about it?

SPACEK: I would, or about something we'd already done. And he would act like -- like he was waiting for my call. That probably won't happen the next time because ...

KING: He's going to be on top.



IAN MCKELLEN, ACTOR: You shall not pass!


KING: Sir Ian McKellen's portrayal of Gandalf the Wizard in "Lord of the Rings" has earned him a best supporting actor nomination. I recently asked him why he took the part.


MCKELLEN: I was asked. I had never read the books on which it's based, you know, the Tolkien books that were best sellers right through the last century, but once I read the script and encountered the amazing enthusiasm of Peter Jackson, the director, I fell for this wonderful part, one of the best I've ever had, and a wonderful range.

KING: Are you surprised at how well it's doing?

MCKELLEN: I think everyone's surprised, frankly. Of course, there was always going to be that rock bed of fans of the books who were going to want to see what Peter Jackson had done with them. But of course, if they hadn't like what they saw, then we would never have heard anything more of the movie. But it's gone right -- crossed right over to the people who have never had any intention of reading such a long novel, and all ages too.

And the reason it's worked, I think, is because it's an amazing adventure story told in a rather old-fashioned way, you know, full of cliff hangers and excitements as well as comedy.

But nobody could have seen it coming, you know, and there were many people who thought this movie could never be made. And some of the most experienced producers in Hollywood turned down the opportunity. And after all, it's -- this first movie is one of three. You don't even find out what happens at the end, and it's still a success. So it's against all the odds. It's worked.

And there are no international stars in the movie, you know, and it's just Tolkien -- Tolkien is the star, and the story.

KING: You even got tattooed, did you not?

MCKELLEN: You're not going to ask me to take my clothes off on your show?

KING: No. No, I'm not.

MCKELLEN: No. KING: But you did get tattooed?

MCKELLEN: Well the fellowship of nine, yes. I think it was Elijah Wood's idea, who plays the main hobbit. We all went down to a rather seedy tattoo parlor -- but then all tattoo parlors are seedy, aren't they -- in Wellington, and we had nine in Elvish somewhere about our bodies. Mine was on my shoulder here. And now, Peter Jackson, having heard about it, has been persuaded to have his own tattoo, but his says 10 in Elvish.

KING: Sir Ian, is it -- is acting acting to you or is it -- is Shakespeare more difficult than doing a thriller?

MCKELLEN: If the script is good and I -- that's my only criteria when accepting a part, whether it's one stage or film or TV. If the script's good, it's got to support you and you'll be OK, and it doesn't matter whether it's an Agatha Christie script or whether it's by Shakespeare.

But there's a big divide between acting on stage and acting on film, and it's -- I've been acting for 40 years now. I've had to learn how to act in movies. And when I adapted "Richard the III" for this screen, that was a big test for me, to see whether I could actually carry a movie. And that having been done, I then felt comfortable to go on and do "Gods and Monsters" and other films too.

But it is the same process to a certain extent. There has to be a moment when you discover the character. You do that during rehearsal for a play. But when you're filming, you have to discover the character as the camera is actually rolling. That's the trick of it, it seems to me. And if you have can do that, then you're going to appear to be real and in the moment.

So there is -- there is a difference. They're connected, though.


ELIJAH WOOD, ACTOR: Take it, Gandalf, take it.

MCKELLEN: No, Frodo.

WOOD: You must take it!

MCKELLEN: You cannot offer me this ring.

WOOD: I'm giving it to you.

MCKELLEN: Don't tempt me, Frodo. I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand, Frodo, I would use this ring from a desire to do good, but through me it will wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.

WOOD: But it cannot stay in the Shire.

MCKELLEN: No. No, it can't. (END VIDEO CLIP)




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nash, taking a reverse constitutional?

RUSSELL CROWE, ACTOR: I'm hoping to construct an algorithm to define their movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Nash, I thought you dropped out. You ever going to go to class?

CROWE: Classes will dull your mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity.


KING: Welcome back. Russell Crowe is going to need a new trophy case pretty soon. He won best actor Oscar last year for "Gladiator." Just won a Golden Globe for "A Beautiful Mind," and that performance has won him another Oscar nomination. Russell joined us recently, along with the director of "A Beautiful Mind," Ron Howard.


KING: Why did you take this part, Russell?

CROWE: I tend to make my decisions pretty much the same every time. And it's all got to do with the material. I was actually in Texas, in Austin, in the middle of the summer, and I was down there for reasons other than feature films. And I got a call from my agent, George Freeman (ph). And then I got another call from Jeffrey Katzenberg, both of them enthusing about a particular script called "A Beautiful Mind."

So I sat in the back porch on one of those really steaming, hot Texas summer nights. And I read it, and I had, you know, a very big reaction to it. You know, I call it the goose bumps factor, Larry. And if I ...

KING: If you get it, you do it.

CROWE: Basically, yeah. I mean, it doesn't matter how good the pedigree of a gig is, if I read it, and I don't -- I'll begin to play the character. I'll begin to make decisions like -- no, I wouldn't say that, I'd say it like this. You know, or if I say that, this would (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and I just start working the script. So, at the end of the first reading, there is already notes. And I actually have had a physical reaction to it, you know?

KING: Russell do you have to like John Nash to play him? CROWE: No, there's a very old -- what I consider to be an old- fashioned attitude that some actors have. And when I say some actors, actually it seems to be in the majority, you know, that you must love the character.

Well, I've played a variety of different characters, some positive, some negative. You know, I played from a neo-Nazi skinhead to a anal retentive Welsh Baptist virgin to a Roman General. Or to someone like Jeffrey Wigand or to the latest. So lots of different feels. So not all of them -- their politics and the way they live their lives do I agree with.

And so I think you get into a problem as an actor if you love the character, because when you love something, you lose your objectivity. And the whole point of it is, exposure. And you can only really expose the emotional workings of the character if you are objective, and you are willing to say, well, at this point of time -- yes, you know, maybe he's not in the best of lights at this time, but that's his humanity. And that's what you have to give out.

So, I love my job, I love working on feature films, I love characterization. But I don't necessarily love the characters.

KING: Now, one might have said, Russ, that here's a story about a guy who is a schizophrenic. He's not the most likable person in the world. How are we going to sell this? What's going to attract the public to this anti-hero?

CROWE: Fortunately for us, that's not necessarily our job. It is a little bit more Ron's job, because, yes, he is, you know, a co- principle in Imagine. But for me, you know, all I'm concerned about is doing really good work. And, you know, on every day, doing the best I can. You know, I always get involved in the marketing of the film, and I try to be as responsible as I can.

KING: You took less pay.

CROWE: Yeah, but I ...

KING: You had to want to do it.

CROWE: Totally, right. Totally wanted to do it. There was devices built into the script, which, if Ron could realize the devices that the director, that the writer had put in front of him as the director, then it was absolutely going to get an audience.

KING: A very complicated man ...


KING: ... with a disease we don't know.

HOWARD: That's right.

KING: Ninety-eight percent of the population look at people like this and back off. HOWARD: Yeah.

KING: You see them on street corners, you cross the street.

HOWARD: It's very mysterious, and the other thing is that families who have to cope with it don't even know how to express their feelings about it. They don't even trust admitting to outsiders that anyone in their family is stricken with schizophrenia.

And one of the really amazing things about this film is I've had people coming up to me on the street who don't know me and saying, thank you for making this movie. You know, my brother is schizophrenic, my daughter is schizophrenic -- I mean, it is so moving to have this kind of interaction with people on the street. Because, you know, the movie, hopefully de-stigmatizes the disease.

KING: When you play someone like this, how do you -- you met him, right?

CROWE: Yeah ...

KING: You're playing a real person.

CROWE: He was in the plan -- it was in the plan to meet him a little earlier on. But, you know, you've got to prioritize pretty heavily on a film. And we had like three and a half weeks rehearsal ...

HOWARD: If that.

CROWE: .. interspersed with me having to go to Las Angeles twice in that time to fulfill other obligations ...

HOWARD: Like winning the Academy Award, yes.


KING: You were filming this while the Academy Awards took place?

CROWE: I was to start shooting basically the day after the Academy Awards, which was unfortunate for me, because I had to put celebrations off. And I'm, you know, I'm one for celebrations.

KING: I heard.

CROWE: It's a rumor, it follows me everywhere.


CROWE: No, apart from all of the, you know, the amazing things about Nash, the reality was for all of us -- which is something we didn't necessarily discuss until we were into it -- is the romance. The romance that is built into the story, the fact that these two people ...

HOWARD: It's a love story. CROWE: ... are still together. That was what made it important.

KING: There's no doubt. Jennifer was here last week. No -- this is a love story. She's ...


CROWE: You know, he does the introduction, and the cast to Jennifer. You know, and I haven't -- how much time did we spend with Jennifer? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with Jennifer was -- oh, my God. You know, you forget how absolutely gorgeous she is.

HOWARD: She's a beautiful woman.

KING: Are you in love with her?

CROWE: Absolutely, in a way. I think pretty much every actress that I've worked with...

KING: Fell in love with, right?

CROWE: ... you know, in terms of working on the character and getting involved in the character and the commitment that she gave to it. You know, I mean, she's a very special girl.


KING: How special is she? Well, stay tuned. Jennifer Connelly is next.


JENNIFER CONNELLY, ACTRESS: I'm wondering, professor Nash, if I can ask you to dinner. You do eat, don't you?

CROWE: Oh, on occasion, yeah. Table for one, Prometheus alone, chained to the rock, with birds circling overhead. You know how it is.

No, I expect that you wouldn't know. If you leave your address in my office, I'll pick you up Friday at 8:00 and we'll eat.




CROWE: Here we are. So, you may attend or not. You may complete your assignments at your whim. We have begun.


CONNELLY: Excuse me. Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey. CONNELLY: Hi. We have a little problem. It's extremely hot in here with the windows closed and extremely noisy with them open. So, I was wondering if there was any way you could -- I don't know, maybe work someplace else for about 45 minutes?


CONNELLY: Thank you so much.


KING: We're back. Jennifer Connelly's got to be thrilled about her first Oscar nomination. But she's already taken home some classy hardware in the form of a Golden Globe award. Her incredible performance in "A Beautiful Mind" is attracting a lot of attention.


CONNELLY: I loved the script right away. It was one of those rare scripts that you read and it just seems to have all of the elements. It was a beautifully written story, it's very compelling. All the more intriguing because it is based on a true story.

KING: So you wanted this part?

CONNELLY: I really wanted to do it. I thought, you know, if only I get to do this, I'll never ask for one of these special parts again.

KING: Please, God, I won't make a request again?

CONNELLY: I promised I never will, and you know, and of course, then, you're spoiled. And -- it was remarkable, I loved it.

KING: Was the doing as good as the expecting?

CONNELLY: It was better, it really was ...

KING: Because?

CONNELLY: Because, you know, I loved -- I loved working with Ron. He really respects his actors, and thereby commands a lot of respect. I never felt that I came away from a scene not having to be able to explore something I wanted to. Russell is great to work with as an actor. He's...

KING: Because?

CONNELLY: Because he...

KING: He gives?

CONNELLY: He gives you a lot -- there's a lot to work with there. He's very spontaneous, he's very present, he's very available. He's thoroughly prepared; but then likes to, sort of, refine things as he gets on to the set. KING: Can that throw actors?

CONNELLY: I don't know, I can't speak for others ...

KING: Didn't bother you?

CONNELLY: I can't speak for others, but for me it was really exhilarating. You know, because nothing was ever the same, nothing was ever predictable. It was like, nothing was ever just on paper. The room was just always very dynamic. So, I really enjoy that.

KING: The women you play is a living women.


KING: She's up at Princeton, New Jersey right now.

CONNELLY: They are together and ...

KING: Did you meet her?

CONNELLY: I did. I wanted to meet her before we started shooting, even though -- you know, just as our film is inspired by their lives, and so, our version of Alicia is fictionalized -- I still wanted to meet her. I felt -- it just felt right to me. I was looking for some gem of wisdom and insight and inspiration, I guess.

KING: Was it difficult to play someone who is both heroic, steadfast, and puts up with a lot?

CONNELLY: I thought it was really important -- I felt it was really important that she be human and plausible and not turn into some impossible martyr/hero. I was really happy that you see her, kind of, devolve into her own chaos, and struggle with this choice. You see her kind of wrestle with her own grief and self doubt. I loved that section of the movie. I think without it, you wouldn't have sort of stayed with her or believed her choice to stay with him.

KING: Are you surprised at all how well it is being received? I mean, this is not your everyday pop movie.

CONNELLY: I don't know. I mean, it's -- but it is, because it's a love story underneath it. And it's a story of human triumph and of human will, and the sort of miraculous recovery. And -- so, you know, I guess there is a part of all of us that wants to see that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you just put the cigarette out?

BEN KINGSLEY, ACTOR: What's that, Sancho? Do you want me to cut your hands off and use it as an ashtray? Yeah, I'll put it out, providing you're prepared to let me stub it out on your eyeball. I'll put it out. Agreeable?

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: He won an Oscar for preaching non-violence; now he's nominated for playing a character who kills for a living. Boy, is Ben Kingsley versatile. The best supporting actor nominee joined us in June to talk about his role in "Sexy Beast."


KINGSLEY: I think "Sexy Beast" is a bit like Hydra, you know, it has many heads. They're not quite sure which one occupies that title at any given time. There are several sexy beasts on the -- in the film, you know, and the baton seems to be passed from one character to another.

KING: And basically it's about?

KINGSLEY: It's about, basically, it could have taken place 2,000 years ago, inasmuch as it is about tribal honor. And if you refuse to honor a certain tribal code, then the tribe will turn against you, will alienate you, will exile you, will destroy you. And my job on behalf of the tribe -- and they happen to be British criminals -- is to elicit the services of one man who can do this job for us, no other man can. And I'm sent to recruit him from retirement. And it's that struggle to get him back into our tribe.

KING: Who plays that role?

KINGSLEY: Ray Winstone plays the man I have to get back to London to do this job.

KING: But you could have set it in any time?

KINGSLEY: I believe so, Larry, because the characters -- because it's so well written that the characters are archetypal. And I love archetypal mythology. And it's like an ancient Greek myth. It takes place on the Mediterranean anyway in this great white blast of white light throughout most of the film.

KING: Set in what time period?

KINGSLEY: 1999, 2000 -- you know...

KING: Now.

KINGSLEY: Now, yeah.

KING: And the title.

KINGSLEY: "Sexy Beast."

KING: Was it always that title when you got the script?

KINGSLEY: Always that title. That's a kind of an expletive in England.

KING: Oh, really.

KINGSLEY: Yeah, and it can be used descriptively for someone you find dangerously attractive and sexy.

KING: How do you select your roles? I mean, is there a method? Do you say, if I like it...

KINGSLEY: There is a method. I mean, I can't always apply it, because sometimes I have to work because I've got four children, et cetera, et cetera. If I recognize the man, or if I am curious to know more about the man, then I'm well on the way to saying yes to the role.

Now Don in "Sexy Beast" is an extremely violent, dangerous character, but there is something about him that I recognized, and something about him that made me very, very curious.

KING: Do you enjoy evil parts?

KINGSLEY: You know, where I find Don was very playable was that instead of playing the evil, I played his wound. Because his wound was -- is what triggers his rage attacks. His wound is, I love you; why don't you love me? It's a sort of classic wound of unrequited love.

KING: So the evil person doesn't look in the mirror and say, I'm evil.

KINGSLEY: Strangely enough, there are scenes in this film where I act in the mirror. And that was a very interesting exercise. I shave, and I come out with this extreme invective, into the mirror. I've never done that before; I found it quite frightening.


KINGSLEY: Get up, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lazy bastard!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of our room! Get out, Don! Get out!

KINGSLEY: I'll be downstairs.




MIRREN: What gift do you think a good servant has that separates them from the others? It's the gift of anticipation. And I'm a good servant. I'm better than good. I'm the best. I'm the perfect servant. I know when they'll be hungry, and the food is ready. I know when they'll be tired, and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.


KING: Our final guest tonight is Helen Mirren, Oscar nominee for best supporting actress in "Gosford Park." She recently won the Screen Actors Guild award for the Best Supporting Actress for that same part.

How did that feel -- the SAG award?

MIRREN: Oh, well, it felt great. I loved that -- you know, the award is really beautiful, actually. It is really a pretty little award. Some awards are not very nice looking, you know, they are a bit dodgy, some of them.

KING: You've gotten many.

MIRREN: I've gotten a few, not many. I think the Emmy actually could be used as a lethal weapon.

KING: You're right, I've got one.

MIRREN: I think you'd be arrested carrying one of those with you.

KING: You could kill with that.

MIRREN: You could definitely -- I got scratched by someone's.

KING: It's an incredible film, this cosmic piece of putting all these people together. You as a servant. Did you like this right away, this whole idea?

MIRREN: Oh, yes, of course. And I loved, I loved the concept that the whole of the upstairs world was seen through the eyes of the downstairs world. And I thought that was a wonderful set of humanizing -- way of humanizing the servant world, which so often in films, you know, the servant is just a kind of faceless ...

KING: Just sort of there.

MIRREN: ... person without a character, without a history, without a story. And I thought that was a wonderful concept. You know, and it was sort of more than an upstairs, downstairs story. I mean, amazing achievement to keep all of those -- all those characters and stories in the air.

KING: And was it more amazing, the fact that Robert Altman, the director, was American -- is American?

MIRREN: I think that that really was a help. I mean, I thought of it as this sort of a brilliant piece of fusion cooking, you know, like Chinese-Mexican food or something. Having this quintessential American filmmaker -- not just because he's American, but he is a quintessentially American, independently spirited, auteur type filmmaker.

KING: Maverick?

MIRREN: Maverick. You know, true American filmmaker, assailing this obviously very British subject.

KING: Did you like working with him? MIRREN: Loved working with him. We all did.

KING: How about that cast, when you get all these really talented people ...

MIRREN: Yeah, that was interesting ...

KING: ... talented and well-known.

MIRREN: I'll tell you, you know, the cast photo for that was more intimidating than going to the Oscar Lunch the other day. Walking on the set and seeing that array of actors, when we did the photograph. That was my first day on the set.

KING: Do you think it's -- you're hampered by -- by hampered to win by the fact that Maggie Smith is also nominated?

MIRREN: I don't know. They say that, but I don't quite understand how that works out, because what does it really matter? But the fact is, what does it really all matter anyway, Larry?

KING: Now that's the way the British look at it.

MIRREN: You know, I call it sort of, your own "Planet Oscar." You know, and it's a ...

KING: Planet Oscar.

MIRREN: ... wonderful planet Oscars, sort of the wonderful, magical, strange, parallel universe to the real world we live in.

KING: So you mean to say, when they are opening the envelope, you're not going to say, please be me?

MIRREN: No, but you know, the -- it's when it isn't you, your heart does go plump. Because I've experienced that, and there is this sort of funny little thing that happens in your heart. And then you feel incredibly stupid for feeling that way. And then you think, oh damn, I'll just have a glass of wine.

KING: So, you really have to look at it that way.

MIRREN: Yes, you have to.

KING: And the old, the old axiom that the nomination is big, is -- that's not slight in Oscars.

MIRREN: That's not slight in Oscars, and I've been nominated before, but I didn't realize that all this other stuff went on when you were nominated. I think I was in England then; I didn't sort of engage in this sort of, wonderful, party and celebration ...

KING: Do you like all of that?

MIRREN: Love it. I'm a girl. I love girly things.

KING: Do you like the attendant publicity and the pushing, the ads in the trades and the ...

MIRREN: I like that for the film. "Gosford Park," you know, was not a -- certainly not an expensive film. It didn't have a big budget, it doesn't have a big marketing budget. So, I think it's a film that deserves to be seen, should be seen by a lot of people. And any way that we can get the people into the cinema, the better. And I ...

KING: Do you think it has a chance to win best picture?

MIRREN: There are some fantastic films out there this year. I think all of the contenders for best picture are extraordinary pieces of work by really fantastic filmmakers. For once ...

KING: And very different.

MIRREN: ... I think there is a real serious competition for best picture.

KING: And very different, all five films.

MIRREN: And very, very different. And you know, requiring different energies in the directors -- amazing achievements. So, that's a difficult thing to say. But I certainly would love to see Robert Altman get an award.

KING: He's due, maybe.

MIRREN: Yeah, I think he's due.

KING: Is it true -- you also were in "Last Orders, right?

MIRREN: Yes I was, yes.

KING: Is it true that you worked in an amusement park?

MIRREN: Yes I did, as a blaggar (ph)?


KING: What is a blaggar (ph)?

MIRREN: A blaggar (ph) is a person who shouts out something nonsensical. "Excuse me sir, did you park in at the gate? Yeah, you, did you park in at the gate?" Use your question mark for nonsensical rubbish, and the guy goes, "sorry, what, what?" And so, you get them over to your darts and sort.

KING: Is that how you were discovered?


MIRREN: No, I wasn't -- I was kind of hoping that a Hollywood director would pass by and ...

KING: What was your break? MIRREN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but they never did.

KING: What was your break?

MIRREN: Well, my break, I think, was starting at the bottom, sort of, as a walk-on in "Coreolanus," and slowly, you know, working my way up. I didn't really have a kind of break.

KING: Great meeting you, Helen.

MIRREN: You too.

KING: Good luck.

MIRREN: Thank you.

KING: Helen Mirren, Oscar nominee for best supporting actress, "Gosford Park," recently won the Screen Actors Guild award for the same part.

Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Good luck to all the nominees. Good night.


EILEEN ATKINS, ACTRESS: All right, get on with your work.


MIRREN: Ah, Mr. Weissman, there you are.

ATKINS: I'm dealing with this.

MIRREN: What is it, Mr. Weissman?

RYAN PHILIPPE, ACTOR: Well, to start with, my name is Denton, Henry Denton.

MIRREN: You're here as valet to Mr. Weissman; that means you'll be known as Mr. Weissman below stairs for the duration of your stay. We stick to the old customs here, it saves confusion.





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