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New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre.

The Manager of the New York Yankees, Joe Torre. He just clinched his third World Series as the manager of the Yankees. Torre is the author of the new book, "Joe Torre's Ground Rules for Winners: 12 Keys to managing Team Players, Tough Bosses, Setbacks, and Success" (Hyperion).


Other segments from the episode on November 30, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 30, 1999: Interview with Joe Torre; Interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman; Review of Nine Inch Nails' album "The Fragile."


Date: NOVEMBER 30, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 113002np.217
Head: "Flawless" Drag Queen: An Interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:30

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Philip Seymour Hoffman gave terrific performances in three of the more interesting movies of the past couple of years, "Boogie Nights," "Happiness," and "Next Stop Wonderland." He's in two films coming out soon, "Magnolia" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

Hoffman is currently starring the film "Flawless." He plays a drag queen who has a cabaret act. His downstairs neighbor is a homophobic retired security guard played by Robert DeNiro. Early in the film, the security guard is disabled by a stroke, which affects his facial muscles, making it difficult for him to speak intelligibly. When his physical therapist advises him that singing lessons will help him talk again, the only cheap and easy way to get them is to ask his drag-queen neighbor to become his teacher.

In this scene, DeNiro asks Hoffman how he became a drag queen. Hoffman explains that as a child, he was always miscast as big male characters in musicals like "The Snow Queen."


PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, ACTOR: We were all on stage, and they had made these dry ice kettles so that smoke could come out of them, you know. And one night, all of a sudden, one dry ice kettle exploded, and dry ice flew everywhere. Well, pretty little Miss No-Talent, who was playing the Snow Queen, you know, dashed off the stage screaming and pulling her hair out.

Well, the play must go on, I believe. And she had dropped a crown. Well, honey, I just picked up that crown, put it on my head, and I was the greatest damn Snow Queen in the history of P.S. 11, Paramus, New Jersey.

And I've been wearing dresses ever since.

But I don't like the term "drag queen," you know, because most drag queens want to, you know, parade around looking flawless, you know, and if they sing, you know, they lip-synch to records. And I'm a singer, and I'm a female impressionist. I'm an artist, you know? (laughs)

ROBERT DeNIRO, ACTOR: (inaudible) drag queen.

HOFFMAN: Oh, ah. Let me savor those lovely words for a moment, all right? What are you, channeling Jesse Helms?


GROSS: What did you do to try to make this character a real person and not just a stereotype of a drag queen?

HOFFMAN: Well, hey, I had a good story. I wouldn't have done it if I didn't feel like the story had the possibility of playing a real person. And I think that the story had that possibility because of the transgender issue, where I wasn't just going to be playing some, you know, entertaining flamboyant drag queen character, which isn't very interesting to me. What's interesting to me is this person that I really had to look at the fact that there was somebody who woke up every morning with a task at hand, which is, How can I be the best woman I can be?

You know, and that's his task from the minute he wakes up, you know. And I found him -- and that -- I found in researching this role and practicing this role, that it was very hard to be the best woman I could be, because physically and vocally, I was -- I had everything going against me.

GROSS: Like what?

HOFFMAN: Like that I have a very low voice, and I have a body -- I'm, like, five-10, I weigh 200 pounds, and, you know, I'm kind of built like a wrestler. So I didn't have much feminine about me to work from.

And so in going at this character, I realized the frustration I was coming up against was really the humanity of this character, it was the frustration and the task at hand every day, you know, how hard he was going to work at going after and being the thing he wanted to be and the life he wanted to live, and that that's really where I found this real person, you know, that that's what he -- every moment, he's kind of saying, Can you -- do you see me, do you hear me?

He's looking -- you know, Look at me, don't ignore me, you know, I want to be seen as the way I want to be seen, I want to -- you know, he's just working toward the life he needs and wants.

GROSS: Well, we can hear your voice on radio now, and -- which, as you say, is really quite deep. Tell us what you did with your voice for the character of Rusty.

HOFFMAN: I just -- you know, obviously manipulated it. But it was kind of a mesh. I just -- through documentaries and tapes I was watching, I found these three different gentlemen who were all in -- one of them actually was -- had gone through the operation, and he was the least flamboyant of the other two, because he wasn't in the entertainment world, he was an accountant or something, I can't remember. But then the other two characters were in the -- kind of the entertainment world, but not really, but they went to the drag shows and the balls and things like that.

And they were -- those two characters were extraordinarily feminine, the voice and the way that they carried themselves.

But the guy who was the accountant, or whatever he was, something like that, wasn't. He was struggling. And he had gone through the complete operation. And so they had a lot of -- they had some footage of him where he actually has a -- is holding a mirror up to his face, trying -- you know, saying, "Good morning," and, like, really trying to sound feminine, and the way he looked.

And that was the most fascinating thing, I think, I saw in my research, because what it told me was the effort and the time that they would put into, you know, not only, you know, the operation, but they had to actually practice.

And so the combination of these three characters is kind of where I found this voice, that I didn't really mimic, but it kind of informed and helped me get at something that I felt was accurate.

GROSS: What was it like to look at yourself as Rusty dressed as a woman, with lipstick and, you know, a woman's clothes? Was it interesting to stare at yourself in a mirror that way, or see yourself on film that way?

HOFFMAN: It's very interesting. Staring at myself in the mirror was going back to, you know, what I was saying earlier, that it just showed how bad a woman I was and how sad that was, to me, because there is this thing, because there's this pride of wanting to play this part, and you want to just kind of do yourself up and start acting this role and just be, like, wow, I'm hot, look at me, I'm a woman. And you know it's just the furthest thing from the truth.

And it helped inform who this guy was for me, and the struggle that he was going to go through.

But that was one thing. And then when I -- but then when I watched the film itself, I was just -- it was just kind of spooky, because I wasn't able to -- and this doesn't always happen. This rarely happens, actually. I wasn't able to remember doing it.

GROSS: You weren't able to remember doing the film?

HOFFMAN: Yes, it was -- well, I remember doing it, but I would be watching these scenes, and, like, what was I doing? You know, like, how did I do that? I didn't remember, you know, it was very -- a very weird experience, because it was just so odd to see me like that. I think that was what was happening, was -- it was odd for me to watch me like that. Because it is very different from me.

And I enjoyed it, I was happy, I was proud of it, but there was an odd feeling of, like, Did I do that? while I was watching it, kind of a surreal feeling.

GROSS: I think a lot of actors have the ambition of someday working with DeNiro. You both had to do things that were very physically different for you. He's playing somebody who had a stroke and is partially paralyzed, and you're playing someone who's transgendered, and then dressing as a woman.

So, like, you know, you're both having to really go to extremes in this. What was it like watching him work and get into his character, with a partially paralyzed face and body?

HOFFMAN: Well, that's exactly it, it's -- he does -- he does meticulous work. And he's a perfect example of kind of what I'm talking about. You know, he shows up to the set, and he's this very healthy man, DeNiro, you know, he's still got a -- he's got a very -- he's very strong, he's got a very young physique, you know, and a lot of energy. And he comes in the morning, and there he is, and then he starts to put on some prosthetics and do the work he needs to do. And all of a sudden, he's this guy who can't walk and can't talk.

And how he informs that role is beautiful. And -- but here he is coming in in the morning like, you know, more -- in better shape than I am.

So that's what it's like working with him, is seeing him do the meticulous work and the interpretive work that he does to get at what you eventually see, you know, and it did help me, because he's very calm about it and relaxed about it and step by step about it, and A to B to C about it. And that's how he should be, because movie sets move along so quickly, and there's a lot of panic and tension and Got to get the shot, we got to get the shot, we got to get done, we got to get done today or everyone will die, type mentality.

And so when an actor comes in of his stature and kind of says, I need to do what I need to do to get where I got to get, and he slowly does that, it's helpful to me.

GROSS: My guest is Philip Seymour Hoffman. He's currently starring with Robert DeNiro in "Flawless." We'll talk about his other movies after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Philip Seymour Hoffman, and he stars with Robert DeNiro in the new film "Flawless."

Let's talk about some of your early films, or earlier films. Let's start with "Boogie Nights."


GROSS: And just to recap our listeners' memories, Burt Reynolds stars as a porn director in the 1970s who wants to make the kind of movies where people come for the plot, not just for the sex. And Mark Wahlberg plays his young discovery who becomes a star in the porn world. And you're part of the film crew. You have a crush on the Mark Wahlberg character, and at a party, you kind of overcome your inhibitions, invite him to come outside to take a look at your new red sports car, then you give him a big kiss on the lips.

And I want to play the clip of what happens here after that. Here's Mark Wahlberg's reaction.


HOFFMAN: I'm sorry, Chris.

MARK WAHLBERG, ACTOR: What the hell is the matter with you?

HOFFMAN: I'm sorry, I...

WAHLBERG: Why did you do that, Scotty?

HOFFMAN: You look at me sometimes. I...


HOFFMAN: ... wanted to know if you liked me.

WAHLBERG: Well, of course, I -- yes, I like you, Scotty. I...

HOFFMAN: Can I kiss you?

WAHLBERG: Scotty, I don't...

HOFFMAN: Please, can I kiss you on the mouth?


HOFFMAN: Please let me.


HOFFMAN: I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to grab you like that or scare you or anything.

WAHLBERG: It's all right.

HOFFMAN: You want to kiss me, or...

WAHLBERG: Scotty...

HOFFMAN: No? Oh, all right, forget it.

WAHLBERG: What's the matter with you?

HOFFMAN: I'm just -- I'm really drunk, really, I am. I'm just -- I'm out of my head. I'm so waste -- I'm really wasted, really (inaudible). I'm really just wasted.

WAHLBERG: Yes, I understand.

HOFFMAN: I'm crazy right now. I mean, I'm really crazy, you know?

WAHLBERG: Do you want to go back inside?

HOFFMAN: Do you like my car? I mean...

WAHLBERG: Yes, yes.

HOFFMAN: Because I wanted to, you know -- I wanted to make sure that you thought it was cool, or else I was going to take it back.

WAHLBERG: Oh. It's great, Scotty.

HOFFMAN: Happy New Year.

WAHLBERG: Happy New Year, Scotty.

HOFFMAN: I love you. I really love you.

WAHLBERG: I love you too, Scotty.


WAHLBERG: Let's go back inside, OK?

HOFFMAN: All right. I -- All right.


GROSS: After that happens, you go into your new red sports car and you're crying, "I'm such an idiot, I'm such an idiot." Tell us about creating this character, someone who's surrounded by beautiful people, who have sex on screen, and he's very repressed, doesn't really accept his homosexuality, thinks he's incredibly unattractive and overweight.

HOFFMAN: I can't tell you how much fun we had doing that film, all of us. But, yes, I did up (ph) for the guy whose shirt didn't go over his belly and tight shorts and the long hair and stuff, but that was all my choice, you know, and I did that. But, you know, no one put me in those clothes. Those -- that was my choice, I did that. I did all those things, that character.

So, you know, I have to live with it, all the good things and all the bad things that go with it. But I do think that that's who he was, and that's kind of how, honestly, I wanted to play him. And I do think it was honest. And it was the only way I felt that character could be played with any depth to it.

You know, I just had a strong feeling that this character, who is my age, but basically he was 13, so I did a lot of literal expressions of that, the literal stuff was the costume. I mean, I basically wore a wardrobe of a 13-year-old. You know, I wanted to -- I remember when I was doing the -- trying on the clothes, I kept saying, Smaller, smaller, smaller, and they're going, like, Well, we're going into Macy's rack now, they said. That made me feel good.

Then -- but then (inaudible), it was just, you know, how does a guy from the, you know, from the Valley talk? You know, how does a guy who's really affected, doesn't know he's gay, from the Valley, talk? You know, and he's just -- I just came up with it. I just know -- I don't know how I -- I just had a lot of different voices in my head, and I kind of meshed them all together and came up with this voice. And it seemed right, and it informed how I moved my body.

And then I just do all the internal work which I always do, which is, you know, what's it like to just, you know, what's it like to obsess about somebody, you know, what's it like to want somebody so bad? What's it like to go through the day and not be able to think about anything else but this one person, you know. And it -- you just go from there and see what happens.

I'm proud of the choices we made there, and Paul was really helpful the whole way through. He was cautious at first when I brought in what I did, and then we just nurtured it together, and we both remember after shooting it and seeing it, I remember going to him and saying, Thank you for letting me do what I did. And I think we did right by this part you wrote.

GROSS: How did you start working with Paul Thomas Anderson? You were in his two first features, "Hard Eight" and "Boogie Nights," and now you're coming out in his film, "Magnolia."

HOFFMAN: Well, it was really a fluke. It was -- it wasn't a fluke, it was an accidental meeting between him and my manager at Sundance about six years ago. Because I -- about seven years ago, I had seen a short that Paul did there. It was really called "Coffee and Cigarettes." But I didn't know that was Paul. There was an actor friend of mine was in it, so I saw it, and it was this great short film that he has that he won't show to anybody any more.

And then the next year I wasn't at Sundance, I was home, and my manager calls me, he says, "I just ran into this kid, Paul Thomas Anderson, and he's got this script, `Hard Eight.' At the time, it was called "Sidney." "And he says he really likes you a lot and he wants to be -- do a scene in it." And Paul was, like, 24 at the time. "He wants you to do a scene in it." So, "I don't know, whatever, send me a script." You know, I didn't know what I was doing with my life either, so...

And I read it, and as I was reading it, I realized, Oh, my God, (inaudible) this reads just like that short film I saw a year ago. And so I called (inaudible), "Is this the same guy that... " Yes, it was the same guy. I liked the script. I said, "Sure, I'll do it." Paul called me on the phone. He was his typical Paul energetic self.

And then I met him on the set in Reno. That's the first time I met him, the night I did that scene in "Hard Eight."

GROSS: My guest is Philip Seymour Hoffman. Let's move on to another of your films, and this is "Happiness." Now, in "Happiness," everyone has some strange, usually unsavory quirk. And your character -- you play someone who's very repressed sexually, stays home and basically his only sexual companion is him -- is -- is himself. He makes these anonymous sexual calls.

At the beginning of the film, we see you with your psychiatrist, and you're telling him about the obsession you have with your neighbor, and you describe what you want to do with her, what you would do if you could get your hands on her. You'd undress her, you'd tie her up. And then you do a lot of things that I couldn't mention on the radio. And here's what happens next.


HOFFMAN: She doesn't even know I exist. I mean, she knows I exist. I mean, we are neighbors, you know. We smile politely at each other. But I don't know if I could ever really begin to talk to her. I mean, what can I talk about? I have nothing to talk about. I'm boring. I know, I've been told before, so don't tell me it's not true, because it's a fact. I bore people. People look at me, and they get bored. People listen to me and they zone out, bored.


GROSS: As you're saying this to your therapist, he's picking lint off of his pants very distractedly.

HOFFMAN: Yes, yes.

GROSS: And then he starts to mentally run through his to-do list, and his shopping list.


GROSS: Now, this is not the kind of role to make you think, Hey, he's perfect leading man material. (laughs)

HOFFMAN: (laughs) No, no, it's not.

GROSS: Did you have any concerns about that?

HOFFMAN: No, no, no. Because -- I think he's repressed in a lot of ways, this guy. This character kind of is in his own orbit compared to most characters I've played. So I had to play him. It was one of those had-to, had-to, had-to things. I read it, and it was just so fantastically written, and then when I was auditioning for -- I auditioned about a billion times, and Todd was so specific with me. And I just knew (inaudible) -- when I got the part, I remember my agent called me. He goes, "Well, you got it." And I had auditioned, like, five times. And I remember going, "Oh, boy!" That was the first thing I said, you know, (inaudible), I really want that.

And -- but I was kidding, meaning that I was excited, I was excited to play this part. It's just a great part, it's one of the best parts I've ever been given. I was lucky to get it.

GROSS: Now, you put a lot of tension into your voice for this part.

HOFFMAN: Yes, yes. And that again was another thing that just -- like I said, the nonliteral (ph) thing coming back up again. You know, how am I going to interpret how this guy behaves? I don't know, sometimes he talks just like me, sometimes he walks and acts just like me.

But sometimes when I was playing this part, I remember I was -- I don't know, I was just doing something one day, and I was kind of working on it., and I just knew that he was kind of caving in on himself all the time. And as with the shoulders over and the caving in in the chest, and just the voice, kind of -- the face kind of caved in too, and that's the voice that came.

I know that none of this makes any sense, it's just actor mumbo-jumbo. But that's kind of what happened, so I had this weird voice.

GROSS: Tension, no energy.

HOFFMAN: Tension, tension, yes, he's just kind of caving in on himself, you know, which made him sound different, that's all.

GROSS: Let me get to another great film you were in, and that's "Wonderland," real different kind of film, you know, a romantic comedy, and a really different kind of role. In this one, let's see, I'm going to play a clip from the opening scene, in which Hope Davis, who plays the girlfriend who you live with, comes home to find that you've taken all your things, you've packed the car with them, and you're ready to drive off and leave her.


HOFFMAN: Look, I didn't -- I didn't mean it to be this way. This -- every -- the reasons why I'm leaving are on this tape. It points out the six points of why I think our relationship is doomed and why I'm leaving. You can watch it later. I was going to mail it, but now I'll just give it to you now.

HOPE DAVIS, ACTRESS: Are you taking your VCR? Did you leave that (inaudible)...

HOFFMAN: I bought the VCR! I'm taking my VCR! It's the only thing I'm taking.

DAVIS: What is that on top of the car? Is that our futon on top of the car?

HOFFMAN: That's our futon. That's your -- that's my futon. I'm taking the -- can I please take the futon? Please?


HOFFMAN: Violence is not the answer!

DAVIS: Don't be driving back here in a couple days, OK? I'm not going through this over and over and over.

HOFFMAN: I'm not, I'm not, I'm not. That's on the tape. That's -- I think that's point number four, I -- on the tape, because I have my vision, you have your vision. And I'm leaving, because the Tantoonis (ph) need me.

DAVIS: The who?

HOFFMAN: The Tantoonis.

DAVIS: What (inaudible)...

HOFFMAN: It's an Indian tribe. It was in the newspaper, it was on CNN. You don't even watch TV, you don't read the paper. You don't know what's going on in the world. That's one of my reasons. That's point one.

DAVIS: You can't just walk out.

HOFFMAN: I know, I know, I'm...

DAVIS: You can't just walk out, Sean.

HOFFMAN: Listen, listen, I'm going to go, and I'm not coming back. I'm not -- I'm...

DAVIS: (inaudible)

HOFFMAN: Please take Fidel.

DAVIS: I'm not taking Fidel, Sean. I'm not taking...

HOFFMAN: Please take Fidel.


HOFFMAN: I don't have the time and energy to take care of the cat. I have to go and get something accomplished. That cat will be in the way...

Ow! I am a man of taste! You are a woman of violence! I'm not a man like (inaudible), and you're turning me into that man. That's, like, point number eight. I...


GROSS: This is real departure for you, because you're playing a kind of slightly magnified version of your standard self-righteous, insensitive boyfriend. You know, there's a whole genre of person who fits that category.

HOFFMAN: Yes, yes, yes, yes. No, it's funny, because every part you play, there's a genre. You know, that's what I found out is that every part you play, somebody's played that type of role 10 million times before. And that's kind of the job, is what new light do you want to shine on that part or that story? And (inaudible) "Wonderland," that was kind of my take.

GROSS: Philip Seymour Hoffman. He's now starring in "Flawless."

Coming up, Nine Inch Nails' new CD.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Philip Seymour Hoffman
High: Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as a drag-queen in the new movie "Flawless" which also stars Rober DeNiro. Hoffman also had parts in the films "Happiness," "Next Stop Wonderland" and "Boogie Nights."
Spec: Movie Industry; "Flawless"; Lifestyles; Philip Seymour Hoffman

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: "Flawless" Drag Queen: An Interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman

Date: NOVEMBER 30, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 113003np.217
Head: "The Fragile": Reviewing the new Nine Inch Nails CD
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

GROSS: Nine Inch Nails is the group name for Trent Resner (ph) and a shifting array of musicians. Resner's previous release, "The Downward Spiral" in 1994, set a new standard in high-volume hard rock. Rock critic Ken Tucker says that Nine Inch Nails' new double CD, "The Fragile," is an ambitious work that won't disappoint fans and may impress hard rock skeptics.


KEN TUCKER, ROCK CRITIC: Contrary to the chorus of the title song on "The Fragile," Trent Resner's music is all about letting things fall apart -- relationships, alliances, sanity. This is the bread and butter of loud rock and roll, music whose primary audience is adolescents who are undergoing extremes of emotion and who crave extreme sound tracks to accompany them through their turbulent lives.

Trent Resner may be 34 years old, but he seems to have no trouble slipping into the teen mindset to punch out a steel fist of a song.


TUCKER: A typical Nine Inch Nails composition builds slowly, quietly, at first. It takes its time, gradually increasing in volume to often ear-cracking intensity. The lyrics tend to be simple rants. That song I just played is constructed around the catchy chorus, "This is what it feels like to be wretched."

On another track called "Into the Void," Resner talks about, quote, "trying to save myself, but my self keeps slipping away."

It's this idea of the alienated self that his audience responds to most intensely, and it extends even to what might be considered a love song, called "We're In This Together."


TUCKER: Resner's music is bluntly effective, even if his lyrics don't quite scan. Sorry, but I think it's pretty funny when he bellows it out, quote, "Watching fate as it flows down the path we have chose." It's "chosen," Trent, "cho-SEN." Some of you post-adolescent listeners won't be surprised if I tell you that Resner has been heavily influenced by groups like Kiss and Pink Floyd.

"The Fragile" is, in a way, Resner's version of Pink Floyd's "The Wall." Resner even employed veteran hard rock producer Bob Esrin to rough up the final versions of a number of songs here.

The result is a strong, sure, if occasionally silly, piece of work, grandly ambitious, foolhardy, and vastly entertaining. Let's hope it also helps a lot of teenagers through the dark nights of their souls.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for "Entertainment Weekly."

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our engineer is Audrey Bentham (ph). Dorothy Farabee (ph) is our administrative assistant. Roberta Shorrock directs the show.

I'm Terry Gross.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Ken Tucker
High: Pop critic Ken Tucker reviews "The Fragile," a new double CD by the hard-rock group Nine Inch Nails.
Spec: Music Industry; Entertainment; Nine Inch Nails; "The Fragile"

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: "The Fragile": Reviewing the new Nine Inch Nails CD
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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