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Interview with James Lipton

Aired December 27, 2002 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he got Jack Lemmon to reveal a very person secret.

JACK LEMMON, ACTOR: ... and I'm an alcoholic.

KING: Made Melanie Griffith open up about doing drugs.


KING: Caused Tom Hanks to cry without a cue.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: and He's right there.

KING: And coaxed Roseanne into dancing.

James Lipton, host of the award-winning "Inside the Actors' Studio," intimate talk about incredible talents, next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE tonight, special guest, James Lipton. I've admired him for quite some time. He's the executive producer, writer and host of the award winning television series "Inside the Actors' Studio" in the United States. It is seen on Bravo, it's seen around the world on various satellites outings.

He's a life member and vice-president of the Actors' Studio, dean of the new drama school at New School University. Here's a quick clip of our guest James Lipton and his guest for the Actors' Studio at the New School, Jack Lemmon, watch.


JAMES LIPTON, HOST, "INSIDE THE ACTORS' STUDIO": He stands up in the AA meeting and with a simplicity I commend to you all, every actor in this group, he says to them, the first signs of the AA meeting, remember?

LEMMON: My name is -- and I am an alcoholic. LIPTON: It is as simple as that.

LEMMON: Which I am, incidentally.



LIPTON: You talking as Clay (ph) now or as Jack Lemmon?

LEMMON: No, as Jack Lemmon. I'm an alcoholic.


KING: You were shocked at that.

LIPTON: To say the least. There was ten seconds of silence after it. Afterward, in the green room, his wife, Felicia, said to me, that's the first time Jack's ever said that in public. It was an extraordinary moment for us.

KING: You were talking about him playing an alcoholic.

LIPTON: I thought he was acting. I like to try to get them to do the lines that are the most famous. I tried to get De Niro to say, "You lookin' at me?" Wouldn't do it. I did get Tom Hanks to say, Life is just a box of chocolates.


HANKS: My mama always says life's a box of chocolates.


LIPTON: And I was trying to get him to say that line, the way he said it in the movie. I thought that was what he was doing.

KING: Is it true when you thought you started out you thought inviting these actors to come to answer your questions and the questions of students as television would be on the dull side?

LIPTON: I thought we would have at most an audience of 5,000 devotees because I made the decision to stick to craft, not to gossip, not to be interested in any of the juicy stuff that they talk about on other shows, but stick to the question of craft.


JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS: And so I was going to have to sort of improvise my way through this. And Gary's version of telling me to do this is be funny, action!

And Richard's doing the thing and he's doing the whole romance thing and it suddenly occurs to me the absurdity of romancing a prostitute. Basically sort of struck me suddenly. And Elaine always says this thing where she says, let me give you a tip. He is doing the whole thing and I said, let me give you a tip. I am a sure thing. OK. This is all really nice and whatever, but, obviously you're going to score.


LIPTON: What I didn't know that by sticking to craft we would blow open some doors that I never saw opened before.

KING: Meaning?

LIPTON: If I were to ask you for example right now to go back with me and define those moments in your life that shaped you as a person and you began to reexamine them, something would happen. Without question. I am sure right now you can think of two or three things that would make interesting conversation.

KING: I always felt that craft is more interesting than who you slept with last night, to me.

LIPTON: I agree with you. I think that anybody's craft is fascinating. A taxi driver talking about taxi driving is going to be very, very interesting.

KING: How do you get them to come? And the list is, and we'll be showing some clips, but -- we've been fortunate to have everyone on this show that you've had, except De Niro who keeps telling me he is coming.


KING: ... and Reeve and Roberts and Crystal and Bacall and Goldberg Stone and Spielberg and Stallone and Spike Lee and Paltrow and Roseanne and Burt Reynolds and Kevin Costner. How do you get them?

LIPTON: When it began I wrote this passionate letter to people I knew, studio members, of course, and other people with whom we have worked over the years and I said come and teach our students.

The first people who responded were Arthur Penn and Sally Field and Dennis Hopper and Alec Baldwin and Paul Newman. And I thought, my God, there's an off chance that they will say something that's really worth preserving and there is one way to do that and I knew what it was because I come from television.

KING: Paul Newman was the first.


KING: We'll be right back with James Lipton, host, producer, writer -- he's everything -- at "Inside the Actors' Studio" on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "INSIDE THE ACTORS' STUDIO") PAUL NEWMAN, ACTOR: If you start at one place and you wind up someplace else, and you feel at least a little more satisfied with that way you are able to use your instinct, and you look at yourself scrapping endlessly on this violin in your early films, and you just -- it's very difficult to look at it. And to feel comfortable with it, I think that's -- nagging the satisfaction is the very thing that keeps me on my toes.



GENE HACKMAN, ACTOR: My dad left us when I was about 13, I guess.

LIPTON: Was it easy? Hard?

HACKMAN: No, it was tough.

LIPTON: Tough. I read that there was a casual wave good-bye.

HACKMAN: Yes I was down the street playing with some guys and he drove by and kind of waved and that was it.

LIPTON: But you saw him occasionally presumably. Were you close to your mother?

HACKMAN: Yes. Excuse me.

LIPTON: Did life change...

HACKMAN: It has only been 65 years or so.



KING: Our guest is getting famous. He is a regular on "The Simpsons" now. Recent issue of "TV Guide" did one of his interviews. He also authored "An Exaltation of Larks." This contains a whole bunch of explanations of why we say certain things like "temperance of cooks" or "a lash of carters" or "a blackening of shoemakers." I love this.

LIPTON: Those are the old terms. From the 15th century, yes.

KING: Let's do another example of the way James works. Here he's talking with Melanie Griffith and they get into drug abuse. Watch.


LIPTON: How does it happen that you put yourself at such risk?

GRIFFITH: I think that what happens with us is that -- at least I can speak for myself, I am a sensitive, and in that I mean that I feel everything really strong and it makes me want to cry. I feel things very strongly, and I think in my youth I used alcohol and cocaine in order to cover up the pain that I felt.

LIPTON: What pain?

GRIFFITH: Any kind of pain. Like the pain of the emptiness inside that you don't know how to fill, really.


KING: We see an hour, but the whole class lasts how long?

LIPTON: Nearly five hours.

KING: As we're taping today, tonight you're going to do Dennis Quaid, right?

LIPTON: That's right.

KING: He will submit to five hours of a class?

LIPTON: Well, I would like to think he's not submitting to it, but yeah...

KING: I mean, no, it's a long time.

LIPTON: It's a long time, as you know.

KING: What are they paid?


KING: Nothing at all?

LIPTON: Zero. We pay for their transportation.

KING: Yeah.

LIPTON: Usually they're there for about -- it's about two hours with me on stage, because we're covering the whole career.

KING: And then the questions.

LIPTON: And then we break for a bit, and then the Q&A with the students. They control that. They can answer as many questions as they want. Some hold the record. I threw Spielberg out at 12:15 in the morning. Spielberg and the students. Coppola, out at 12:15. Billy Joel out at 12:15 in the morning. That's enough; the students have to go to school tomorrow. Anthony Hopkins would have stayed all night.

KING: Oh, prince.

LIPTON: All night.

KING: You do enormous research, right? No pre-interviews. LIPTON: That was my fatal and fateful decision.

KING: I hate them.

LIPTON: Look, you're famous for improvising. I wanted when we began this to have a conversation, the kind that you're able to have, and the only way I knew how to do it was not to have a pre-interview. I have been interviewed on all the talk shows, most of them, and there was always a pre-interview. And I thought if I don't pre-interview -- first of all, we couldn't afford it -- but the second thing was it would force me to do my own research, which takes two weeks.

I was originally going to be a lawyer, and the only thing I remember from the art of cross-examination is -- you can see this one coming up Sixth Avenue -- never ask a question the answer to which you do not know.

KING: Except in a good interview, I like never knowing the answer.

LIPTON: Yeah, but I didn't have that option, because I want to go through the whole career. I've got to know what happened to them.


SHARON STONE, ACTRESS: I get asked to come and see the movie in a room full of strangers. Not how a director would normally bring you in and show you the movie yourself. And I saw it. I just -- I could not believe it. I just could not believe it. And I left and I went back to the projection booth and I slapped Paul and I left.

And then I called my lawyer and I said, what are my rights? And he said, SAG can arbitrate and stop the release of the film. And I called Paul, armed with this. I can stop the release of this picture, how dare you? You know, I told you I'd do anything, I did everything. I mean, I was insane. And he said, you will not stop this. You will not stop this. This is what this movie is about. This belongs in this movie. You will not stop this!


KING: You're tracing a whole career, so you've got to know...

LIPTON: I am going somewhere with them. And in order to get there, I need a kind of road map.

KING: Here's another example. Let's watch Tom Hanks while talking -- watch this -- he's talking about doing "Philadelphia" and about AIDS. Watch.


LIPTON: I read a statistic that there were 53 gay men who appeared in various scenes in that movie, and within the next year do you know the end of that statistic?

HANKS: There's only a handful that are left.

LIPTON: Forty-three died in the next year. And you must have known some of them very well.

HANKS: In the first transfusion scene I happen to be seated next to a guy who, he was really, he was way down the line. And I was asking about how he was living and what it was like, and where he worked. And he worked at a noodle company. He worked in a factory and he made noodles, and he said they have been the most wonderful group of people you can imagine. It's a hard movie for me to watch now, because I remember the guy, and he's right there.


KING: Quite a moment for someone who was just dealing with craft. But you were dealing with craft.

LIPTON: I was dealing with craft, and that's the surprising thing, the number of people who have literally broken down on our stage, because when you're talking about the thing that is most important to someone, they're liable to feel something strong.

KING: Why do you like actors so much?

LIPTON: Because they're brave and because they're profoundly misunderstood.

KING: Why?

LIPTON: Because -- Bobby Lewis said this once to us in class, the better you get, the less credit you'll get. Because the better you are, the more it looks like walking and talking and everybody thinks they can walk and talk.

KING: On this program, Brando put it down. A lot of actors enjoyed watching it.

LIPTON: That's his thing (ph).

KING: Some did not like hearing him say it.

LIPTON: He gave you a kiss, too.

KING: He did. Can't get him out of my -- never mind.

LIPTON: Never forget him. You're still dating?

KING: Do you think he's kidding or do you think he means it when he says, good director, anyone can act?

LIPTON: No. I wish he weren't kidding. He was trained by the same person I was, Stella Adler, and he, I know what he does, because I know what she taught and I know that he is completely a product of Stella. He is putting acting down because at a certain point he spit the bit. And...

KING: Stopped acting?

LIPTON: No, it wasn't that he stopped acting, he can't stop acting because he's a genius. But he spit -- he didn't want to be serious about it any more. He thought it was beneath anybody's notice, and that was when he started using the cue cards and reading off cue cards. His work did change. It isn't as good now as it once was. He calls me, he has called me twice to tell me why he won't be on the show, and then we were on the phone for 45 minutes. I say, why do you keep calling if you don't want to be on the show?

But he -- now, by the way, I hear that he is teaching, and if he is teaching, he's not putting acting down. It was a personal thing, and I think that it did injury to the greatest actor of our century.

KING: But he does believe the craft is easier than we make it out to be?

LIPTON: Geniuses always think it's easier than we make it out to be. Geniuses -- it's like Willie Mays, he can't tell you how to swing a bat. Ted Williams had to learn how to do it. He can tell you how to do it. Willy Mays just swung the bat and it was perfect. Geniuses don't -- Stanislavksy, he took notice of it. He said, look, he said you may say to me that you don't need this craft, this technique and that you act by the grace of God -- that's fine, as long as you act by the grace of God well. But what happens to you on those occasions when you act by the grace of God badly? That's when you need technique.


KING: Olivier -- Gleason said it was technique, said just use your intelligence.

LIPTON: Olivier was another case of a genius, who couldn't understand why anybody would have any trouble doing this, because for him it came so easily. The definition of genius, really, should be that that person can do what the rest of us have to learn how to do.

KING: We'll be right back with more of James Lipton, the host of "Inside the Actors' Studio." In the United States, it's on Bravo. We'll be right back.


HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: Live in front of people. Live in front of people. Let them see the good, the bad, the ugly, the weak, the strong, the conflicted, the terrible. One of the things about acting that gives me the greatest satisfaction is the opportunity for that emotional exercise. That investment to the point where it produces true emotion.




LIPTON: On Logan Street.

HACKMAN: How do you know that?



HELEN HUNT, ACTRESS: Tom Hanks e-mailed me and said "You would bring up "Swiss Family Robinson."

LIPTON: Did he really?

HUNT: Yes.


ANTHONY HOPKINS, ACTOR: Boy, you've done your homework.



MICHAEL DOUGLAS: Boy, you have done your homework.



LIPTON: I'm very interested in diaries.

MEG RYAN, ACTRESS: You can't read it.



GEENA DAVIS, ACTRESS: This is much too in-depth.


KING: We're back with James Lipton.

Have you had those -- frankly, you don't have to name them -- who disappointed you?

LIPTON: Honestly, no and I'll tell you why. It sounds like an easy answer. It sounds like an evasion. It's not.

My criterion for being on "Inside the Actors' Studio" is quite simple. It can be summed up in one sentence. Does this person have something to teach my students? No one has ever let us down.

They change. They're different. There are no two alike, that's the miracle of it. But if they have something to teach the students. You can see them writing during the show.

KING: Here's an example of Lipton's work. Watch Julia Roberts.


LIPTON: You had a brush with death that might have reverberated when you played that role in -- what happened to you? You'd been swimming in the...

ROBERTS: Did you call my mother?




LIPTON: Genevieve (ph). Or it's Genevieve (ph), I guess. She appears in your journal, it seems.

FIELD: Have you been reading my journal?




BILLY CRYSTAL, ACTOR: We ran this record store. My uncle Milt was a pioneer of jazz recording.

LIPTON: Gabler.

CRYSTAL: Yes, Mile Gabler recorded everything -- you're scary. Recorded...


KING: That was Julia Roberts and Sally Fields and Billy Crystal, in one composite. All of them surprised at how much work you do in learning about them.

LIPTON: Yes, on the show we call those the Oh, my Gods. How do you know that?

The only reason, Larry, that I'm able to do that is because I do my own research. I -- the material is given to me now by Jeremy Kerrickan (ph) on a disk. But it's raw data. It's immense.

And then I work with Powerpoint and I actually create these blue cards now in the computer and as I am going along, I will find some things in there that are really obscure. I usually do those quite early in the show.

KING: Obscure. Like, is it true you once drove a bus?

LIPTON: Yes, or who is Miss Smith?

KING: My second grade teacher, how did you know that!

LIPTON: You got it. You got it. And those are -- I usually do them early because I want them to understand that I've done I did my homework and that wherever they want to go, I will follow them.

That's the purpose of this. I had something called the back of the chair test. Where I sit, we don't sit like you and I do. I can see a sliver right behind them and they come out and they sit like this like god students and they don't touch the back of the chair.

Usually when we get to this point where I say, how did you know that? I see the sliver of light disappear and from then on we're going.

KING: Here's an example of some more of his work. Well, this is a little bit of a guest taking over a little. Here's Robin Williams. Watch.


ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: Look at what you have there. A little TV tray. Let's see what's on the television. Looks like that revolves around. We're all like, Welcome to Disney's Hall of Presidents.

A lot of cards there.

I see.


KING: Five hours you did with him.

LIPTON: Yes, actually a little more than five hours.

KING: Mostly funny or he went serious too?

LIPTON: Oh he was very serious at times talking about his problems with drugs, talking about his children, talking about things like that.


WILLIAMS: It was great to have full sentences again once I cleaned up. It was also great to be aware of the experience of a child and watching him grow, which is another amazing experience. It's, I think all around you, all these incredible human things to be aware of. Very stimulating.


LIPTON: For the most part, he was on. I've never seen anything like it. The best question I've asked in seven years, I think -- now nearly eight was I said to him, Look, when Billy Crystal was here I noticed you people are thinking faster than we are. Something is going on inside you. What the hell is it?

And he started to laugh and then he said, I will try to show you and he did a 15-minute improvisation with a young woman in the front row who was carrying a scarf. He took the scarf from her and improvised for about 15 minutes.


WILLIAMS: I came to Bombay last year. You know I have directed 15 movies in Bombay.

My name is Robert Van Shovel (ph) and I would like to welcome you to the first openly gay show (ph).


LIPTON: I have never seen anyone like it in my life and I probably never will again.

KING: He got that from -- of Jonathan Winters, who was his hero.

LIPTON: Was his hero. I've worked with Jonny (ph) on the "Bob Hope Show."


LIPTON: Oh, God. He is the only person I ever saw who made Bob Hope laugh. I mean, really laugh. You know how comedians don't really laugh?

KING: Bob Hope never really laughed.

LIPTON: Comedians don't laugh. They're too busy analyzing why it's funny or not.

KING: That's right.

LIPTON: But I saw him once in Pensacola when I was doing one of the birthday shows with Bob, which I executive produced. Bob had to leave the rehearsal room and I found him on his knees in the hotel on the floor with people standing around watching Bob Hope nearly expire because Jonny had started ad-lib and Hope just -- none of us could resist it.

KING: Back to Robin Williams.

There are critics -- and I guess you read them -- who seem to be angry at him for doing movies, like, where he plays the good doctor or the sad movie or the prison camp in the Holocaust. Do you criticize him for doing that? Sentimental...

LIPTON: I criticize those critics. The reason being that they're doing one of the worst things that ever can be done to an actor, which is to say, Look, you do what we like you to do or else.

Cary Grant spent an entire career being light-hearted and suscient and a wonderful leading man. He tried once in his career to do a serious part and they excoriated him and he never went back to it the rest of his career.

KING: Brando told me the best ones -- actors are risk takers. They will take the shot.

LIPTON: Absolutely.

KING: Right?


I ask people very often what's the most important thing to you? Risk In choices. And risk comes out first, by far. They will take a role that scares them over a role that doesn't. That's another thing I like about actors.

KING: Me too. Yet they might get ripped for it. So what?

LIPTON: Well, of course, so what. I mean...

KING: It's easy to be a critic. You don't have to do anything.

LIPTON: Well, it is. Worse -- some critics you don't have to know anything.

KING: Or like anything.


KING: We'll be right back with James Lipton, the host of "Inside the Actors' Studio."

Don't go away.


LIPTON: When you choose a role, what are your criteria, Sharon?

STONE: You know, they change.

LIPTON: For example.

STONE: Now, I have to feel it, feel -- feel it and I have to be afraid. I have to know that I'm risking everything. That I could fail or it isn't worth it. I just...

LIPTON: I understand.




LIPTON: Once upon a time, for reasons that will not be stated tonight, I did some research also on the subject of prostitution. This was in Paris. And...


LIPTON: But I learned that -- that the whores that I knew in Paris were...


LIPTON: Come on, I am going somewhere with this.


KING: We're back with James Lipton, the executive producer, writer and host of the award winning TV series "Inside the Actors' Studio." How about those actors that you've had on who don't go through Method, who just go through, who just have the skill of the craft?

LIPTON: Yeah, an externalized technique.

KING: Yeah.

LIPTON: Oh, I've had many of them.

KING: Can they teach well?

LIPTON: Of course. Look, the full purpose of this school is to produce a rounded actor.


GRIFFITH: I mean, that's what happens when you work with a camera. It's different from being on stage. The camera -- I don't know who said it to me in the very beginning of my working, suggested to make sure that the camera loves you. And so I always worked sort of that way. Like the camera was my friend. You know? Sort of my confidant.


LIPTON: We are the only school in America, drama school in America that trains actors, writers and directors side by side for three years in a master's degree program, and we want them -- to expose them to everything. They're currently learning comedy from a great teacher who's came down to us from Second City in Toronto, who was recommended to us by Mike Myers. So they learn the Stanislavsky system, of course, that's our specialty, but they learn everything. They learn stage combat, they learn dialects, they study voice. They start in the mornings at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) American Dance Center, learning (UNINTELLIGIBLE) technique, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We teach them ballroom dancing, because for so much of their careers they will be partnering each other the way you and I are right now.

KING: You mentioned Mike Myers. Let's see an example of Mr. Lipton at work with Mr. Myers.


LIPTON: You and I have something in common. "Coffee Talk" and "Inside the Actors Studio." I think sometimes the public probably can't tell the two shows apart. How did you become a talk show host? How did that happen to you?

MIKE MYERS, ACTOR: The first time I saw you and you came out and you were born, pink as gum, I loved you. I saw you there talking to Christopher Walken and I got a little veklempt (ph). I'll give you a topic. James Lipton is neither a lip nor a tongue.


LIPTON: That's him doing his mother-in-law, Linda.

KING: That's funny stuff. There's a lot of fun in this.

LIPTON: For me, joy.

KING: When professional actors, a working theater actor who may have gotten great reviews and is doing well comes to Actors Studio to brush up, is that like Tiger Woods going to his golf pro?

LIPTON: The studio is meant to be always a place where, first of all, they can be out of spotlight, and second, where they could work with a peer group on parts that they might not have played otherwise. It's like a dancer who begins every day with demi-plies, the same steps the dancer did when he or she was 6 years old. Pacino for the last year and a half at the studio has been working on "Oedipus Rex."

KING: Yeah, I know. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) told me that.


KING: And works hard, right?

LIPTON: He is a great actor and a hard worker.

KING: Is film acting different from stage acting?


KING: Much? Apples and oranges?

LIPTON: No. No, no. The foundation for film acting is stage acting. The difference -- the fundamental difference between theater acting and film acting is that film acting is disjunctive. It doesn't have an arc. You and I will be here for an hour, we'll talk for an hour, we'll go from A to B to C to D to E. In films, you go to A to Q back to B to Z.

The reason that so many great actors, film actors, have come out of the studio, people like DeNiro and Pacino and Harvey Keitel and Duval and Dustin Hoffman, the list is endless, is that the particular emphasis of the studio by Lee Strasberg was on what is called sense memory and effective memory, which is a terrific device, a wonderful acting device for arriving at a very private, personal moment, and that is perfect for film, where you're in the trailer and they say, OK, come on out, we're ready for you now, you come out and you're ready.

KING: Because on stage, you have to project.

LIPTON: Not just project, but on stage, you have to begin at the beginning and end at the end, and you're out there, you can't stop for anything. In film, you stop constantly.

KING: Here's another example of Mr. Lipton at work, speaking of a man who knows film. James Lipton with Steven Spielberg.


LIPTON: Your father was a computer scientist, your mother was a musician. When the spaceship lands, how do they communicate?

STEVEN SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR: That's a very good question. I like that. You've answered the question.

LIPTON: They make music on their computers and they are able to speak to each other.

SPIELBERG: You see, I'd love to say, you know, I intended that and I realized that was my mother and father, but not until this moment.


KING: Do you have a rougher time when you don't like your guest and you can't like everyone?

LIPTON: Yes, I can. I'll tell you why, I don't invite the ones I don't like. They don't answer the criterion, do they have something to teach our students. But there's never been anyone -- if they're there, it's because I believe they have something to teach the students. And we're after something, we're after something. The two of us are in pursuit of a rabbit, and we're there for maybe three, four, five hours and we continually pursuit that rabbit.

In the Stanislavsky system, there is something called an objective or an action, which is that you've decided what it is your character wants to achieve at any given moment, and if you focus on that and try to achieve that objective, nothing can distract you. Canons can go off.

KING: We'll be right back with more of James Lipton. And in our final stance coming up in a little while, we're going to play the 10 question game with each other. Don't go away.


FIELD: My anger because I realized as life went on that I wasn't just an angry little person, I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I was so deeply angry. And the more I could become in touch with how furious I was, the more it drove me forward. And I was very shy. And it just gave me an attitude that I didn't care, I had to get in there.




LIPTON: You were completing a portrait that had been indelibly drawn by Brando in the first "Godfather" picture, only two years earlier.

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: I wasn't intimidated by it, I just said that it's a problem that -- kind of like the fact that I had boundaries and I had to connect it to something. It wasn't like I had to look for something. It was there, I just had to continue it.

And so what I did was I got "The Godfather I" and in those days you had these reel to reel video cameras. And we went into the theater, me and the producers, held the camera to the screen and they had this copy of the movie and then I would play it over and over. All the Brando stuff. And that's what I did.


KING: We're back with James Lipton. Brando is on the list and who else are you trying and haven't gotten so far.

LIPTON: Nicholson. Dusty Hoffman hasn't doesn't yet, but mainly because his schedule forbids it. Morgan Freeman. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Why doesn't he do it? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LIPTON: He works all the time.

KING: Nicholson doesn't like it.

LIPTON: He doesn't want to do television.

KING: Doesn't like talking about his craft. But De Niro doesn't either, and you got him.

LIPTON: Yes. And it was Harvey Keitel who came and then talked to De Niro and said, Look, you got to do it. And he said, No, no. No matter how well it goes live, they kill you in editing. And since I edit the show, Keitel said to De Niro, Jim won't betray you.

And he came. And when he walked in, I said, Look, we don't discuss anything -- just like you -- we don't discuss anything that's going to happen. My blue cards are sitting on the table and in 7 1/2 years nobody has looked into them.

And I said to him, I'm very glad you came. I appreciate it. I know that this is not something -- he said, don't worry, I'll go anyway you want me to go. And he did. And he's very shy.

KING: And very bright. LIPTON: Well on our 100th when we did the craft section I included his section on craft, he was brilliant.

KING: Gene Hackman was your...


LIPTON: ... distinguished member of the studio, I felt it had to be a studio member and because he is the person, I think, most often referred to by our other actors as their favorite actor.

KING: What is his greatness? What does Hackman do that makes us like him so much or give in to him so much?

LIPTON: Hackman -- we have an expression, "in the moment." If you look at the credits at the end, it's called "In The Moment Products" On "Inside the Actors' Studio."

Hackman is able to live in the moment which means there is nothing for him at that split second than what is occurring in the scene. And he also is enormously accessible to himself. He is very honest, he is very simple. Very pure actor and he is touched by genius, I think.

KING: Here's an example of tables turning. Will Ferrell on the "Actors' Studio." Watch.


WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: You once wrote, if my hairline ever recedes, I am going to compensate by growing a neatly trimmed beard in hopes that no will notice.

LIPTON: How do you know that? have you been reading my diary?

FERRELL: I wrote your diary, remember?



KING: Like kidding yourself. What do you do on "The Simpsons?"

LIPTON: I am going to play myself on "The Simpsons."

KING: How do they work this?

LIPTON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) They're Watching television and I am interviewing the ham actor on their show, Rainer Wolfcastle, and he shoots me.


UNIDENTIFIED VOICE ACTOR: All right, Mendoza. I'll give you the maxwell circuit if you put down the panda cub.



LIPTON: This has been my season for being assassinated. Billy Bob Thornton, when he did -- with Will Ferrell -- when he did a parody of me, they've done six now. He assassinated me. They chased me down, chased Will down Broadway...

KING: Why do people want to kill you, James?

LIPTON: I don't know, just recently it's happened. There's a rash of it.

KING: Do you ever want to go to commercial. "The James Lipton Show." Syndicated and cable.

LIPTON: We're in 125 countries now, if you can believe it.

KING: But you're regarded in the Bravo mode.

LIPTON: Bravo is a commercial network.


KING: ... get into the hubuv of broadcasting list. Hey, this was your number last week.

LIPTON: No. I don't think I could. I don't think anybody would want me to do it. I am do what I do and I am happy to do what I do. I'm sure happy at Bravo. We just signed new contract with them. And by the way we do get ratings.

KING: Is acting the primary of interest, then? You wouldn't want to do politicians or lawyers?

LIPTON: There are things I could do, perhaps. I would like to do. Harvey Weinstein recently grabbed me by the shoulders and said, you got to do a show that you talk to everybody. I don't think I would be able to do it. I can't do what you do.

KING: Our guest is the very honest, forthcoming James Lipton. When we come back in our remaining segment, we're going to play his Bernard Pivot questionnaire back and forth.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE with James Lipton. Don't go away.


LIPTON: What is your favorite word?

LEMMON: Passion.

LIPTON: What is your least favorite word, please?

LEMMON: It'll work. (LAUGHTER)

LIPTON: We've all been hoist with (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

What turns you on, excites you, inspires?

LEMMON: I think the sound of children laughing.

LIPTON: What turns you off?

LEMMON: That's easy. Nails on a blackboard.


LIPTON: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?

LEMMON: It's about time.




LIPTON: What profession other than yours, would you like to attempt?

STONE: I would like to be a fireman.

LIPTON: What profession would you not like to participate in?

STONE: Oh, autopsies. I keep getting offered that part.

LIPTON: Yes, right.


KING: All right. Bernard Pivot was the famous -- you did his last show, right?

LIPTON: Yes. Pivot for 26 years dominated the European scene. He was the great intellectual on television. Had all the great minds of the last half of the 20th Century on his show and I think, with all due respects to you and to everybody else and certainly to me, is the best talk show host who has ever lived.

KING: And he used to have these questionnaires, right?

LIPTON: Yes. He borrowed it from Marcel Proust and he would ask at the end of his show, when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or whoever his guest was, to -- it was a kind of a Rorschach test. He would ask these questions.

KING: Questions. And I am going to play with you.

LIPTON: I am honored. I have never answered in English before.

On -- at his last show last June, in Paris, which all of France watched, it ended with him, for the first time in 26 years, me for the first time in then seven and a half, answering the questionnaire. I answered it then. It was on my 100th show. But it was in French with subtitles. So this is the first time I have ever answered in English.

KING: You speak French.

LIPTON: A little bit.

KING: What is your favorite word?

LIPTON: Honor.

Larry, what's your favorite word?

KING: Royalty.

What's your least favorite word?

LIPTON: Changes from time to time, currently it certainly is terror. A useless act and a useless emotion.

KING: Sentimentality.

What turns you on?

LIPTON: Words are our most precious natural research. What turns you on?

KING: Eyes. What turns you off?

LIPTON: Humiliation, especially toward a defenseless child and there is no child who is not defenseless. Yours, sir?

KING: Stinginess.


KING: What sound do you love?

LIPTON: The most underestimated quality of our life: silence. What sound do you love?

KING: Toast popping.

What sound do you hate?

LIPTON: The din that passes for fun in so many public places these days.

KING: What sound do I hate?

LIPTON: What do you hate?

KING: Phony laughter. And I know it when I hear it.

LIPTON: Everybody does. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) makes fun of me, my phony laughter.

KING: What is your favorite curse word?

LIPTON: My favorite curse word, unlike the favorite curse word of most of my guests, is not obscene, it's not scatological, it's profane. When I am really upset, I say Jesus Christ. What is your favorite curse word?

KING: My wife would faint. You see that's to her, the worst curse word. Because she's a believer.

My curse word is the standard one, the four letter one. It's great to say and as Lenny Bruce used to say, it has so many meanings.

LIPTON: That's the F-word.

KING: Yes, that's the F-word.

KING: What profession would you like to attempt?

LIPTON: Other than my own?

KING: Yes.

LIPTON: I would love to be a classical dancer. A classical dancer -- Will Farrell will get me for that one. A classic dancer, but with the provision that I would always be young and always be uninjured.

What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?

KING: I would like to be a criminal defense lawyer arguing to the jury the case of a man on trial for his life.

LIPTON: An innocent man, presumably.

KING: An innocent man, presumably. It doesn't necessarily have to be, but I would love to do that argument.

What profession would you not like to participate in?

LIPTON: Easy. Executioner. I'd kill myself first.

KING: Same on.

LIPTON: Hot dog.

KING: Forget it. Forget it. Pass. Whacked out. Could never -- could never attend one or do it.

If heaven exists, what would -- and this was the questions that Bernard asked?


KING: If heaven exists, what would you like to...

LIPTON: He said -- by the way, he said, if God exists, but if I felt for the American market I had to soften it a little.

KING: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear guards say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

LIPTON: You see, Jim, you were wrong.

KING: Same thing!

LIPTON: I exist. But, Jim, you can come in anyway.

KING: Yes, I'd take that. Larry, you were wrong. They're all here waiting for you, the family and the friends.

LIPTON: And, for the two of us, wouldn't it be nice if God said, and you can continue your show up here and I have a couple guests for you. Shakespeare, Moliere, Plautus, Aristophanes. Oh, God. That would be paradise.

KING: And also Marilyn Monroe, because I got this girl.

LIPTON: Oh, you know, that's an old joke.

KING: That's an old joke but -- Do you, like you're doing a show tonight with Quaid. You've worked on Dennis Quaid for...

LIPTON: Two weeks.

KING: Two weeks.

LIPTON: I worked until Saturday -- I worked at night when I stopped deaning for the day.

KING: Do you agree he is an underrated actor?


KING: People talk about actors. They don't mention Dennis Quaid among great actors. Never seen him bad.

LIPTON: The reason I think he's underrated is that I just spent two weeks looking at -- I have a five-foot stack of videotapes in my study and I have gone through them in the last two weeks and when you look at somebody's work that way, you gain an enormous respect for them. He is a very honest, very, very good actor.

KING: What do you think of a guy now getting wrapped, Kevin Spacey, suddenly up and now they're criticizing him for what they used to like him for.

LIPTON: Kevin Spacey, of course, was one of my most extraordinary guests. KING: Great guest.

LIPTON: A great guest. He -- with the students he actually acted with one of our students in one of our famous moments in the classroom, with a kid asked him to play "Glengarry Glennross" with him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I work here. I don't come in here to be mistreated.

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: Go to lunch, will you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to work today. That's why I came.

SPACEY: The leads come in, I'll let you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why I came in.

SPACEY: Just go to lunch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to go to lunch!

SPACEY: Go to lunch, George.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you get off talking with (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

SPACEY: Would you take it outside? We have people trying to do business in here.


LIPTON: He is one of my heroes. It is a sad fact of contemporary life in the world, I suppose, but certainly in America, that people really love to see the mighty fall and he won an Oscar under improbable circumstances for a movie that should never have been considered under ordinary circumstances, but it was so extraordinary and he was so amazing and then there are people who wait to pull him down.

He's going to do different things. The better an actor is, the more he will -- what was the word we used before? Risk. And the minute you risk, they're going to get you.

KING: And a recent guest of ours. How good is Russell Crowe?

LIPTON: Russell Crowe, I think, is a very, very good actor. He's classically trained. He comes from the British tradition and he is Australian, as you know. I think he's a very, very good actor. Certainly the difference between his Oscar-winning performance last year and the one for which he will probably be nominated for this year is extraordinary. Goes from being a warrior to being a schizophrenic.

KING: You are extraordinary. Thank you, James. LIPTON: You are extraordinary for having me. Thank you very much.

KING: James Lipton, the host, the writer, the producer, director, everything of everything of "Inside the Actors' Studio." You see it internationally and you see it in the United States on Bravo.

Thanks for joining us and good night.


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