TERRY GROSS, HOST:
GROSS: Why did you want to make this movie, “Moneyball”?
Me: Well, I didn’t want to make the movie. I think that was Brad Pitt, a lot of people get us mixed up though.
GROSS: It’s a very, like, dialogue-driven film, even though there’s a lot of, like, baseball scenes in it. But your performance, even though you’re basically sitting in a chair talking and making phone calls, your performance is very kinetic. You always seem to be moving, you know, chewing ice, eating, moving your hands, throwing something.
Is it challenging to do a kinetic performance in what is basically, you know, a managerial position kind of role?
Me: Again, Terry, that is Brad Pitt. I don’t even act. It doesn’t look too hard though.
GROSS: Let’s talk about some of your other films. Let’s start with “Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino’s recent film. It’s set during World War II, and you play Lieutenant Aldo Raine, who’s charged with putting together a team of, like, real killers to kill the Nazis.
So here you are explaining the mission to your team.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, “INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS”)
GROSS: That’s Brad Pitt in a scene from “Inglourious Basterds.” I like the way you say Nazis.
Me: I think I say Nazi just like everybody else.
GROSS: Did the script say to pronounce Nazis, Nazis?
Me: I’m not sure. I didn’t see the script. You can probably find it online these days. Try Googling “Inglourious Basterds+Script,” I’ll bet you’ll find it there.
GROSS: You have a scar on your neck in the film, and it looks like either you were strangled with a wire and survived, or your throat was slashed and you survived. Do you know what happened to your throat?
Me: Okay, I’ll just pretend from here on out that I am Brad Pitt since you can’t seem to separate the two of us in your mind. I hear there could be a prequel to explain the scar on “my” neck.
GROSS: Oh. And is that a possibility?
Me: Sure, I haven’t seen a script yet, but Quinton and I have talked about making it.
GROSS: Now, you grew up in Oklahoma and in Missouri. And your family was Southern Baptist evangelicals?
Me: Wow, who does your research? I grew up in Montana and California. My dad was a Presbyterian minister though.
GROSS: So what was your Christian background like? What was the emphasis like in church? How was that reflected in your upbringing?
Me: Well, you can expect that I went to church pretty regularly since my dad was the minister. Presbyterians, well most Presbyterians I know, are not the fire and brimstone type of Christians. We are more into the love and forgiveness aspect of Christianity. Since I was a PK [Preacher’s Kid] I did what I could to stay out of trouble, but I also did a lot of crazy things so the other kids would know I was a normal kid. Sometimes PKs have to step out there a bit to make sure other kids don’t think we are going to lead a prayer meeting or something.
GROSS: Now, you studied journalism in college. What did you expect to become?
Me: Finally, your fact checkers got one right. Yep, I have a Journalism degree. I was wanting to do sports reporting, but once I did an internship I decided it wasn’t for me.
GROSS: This is where?
Me: Whitworth College in Spokane.
Me: I just had a bad experience and near the end of the internship I was really disillusioned for about two weeks.
GROSS: Two weeks is such a – it’s the blink of an eye.
Me: It might seem that way sitting in your interview chair, but do two weeks of something where you don’t get paid and you have your soul crushed each day…two weeks is a long time.
GROSS: So you knew your mind.
Me: Yeah, I was done with journalism. I’m glad I made the decision to do something else.
GROSS: So you go to L.A. and then what? You get there, then what?
Me: No, I went to New Zealand for about three months. I worked in a factory for a couple months.
GROSS: In what?
Me: A factory. I made Formica tabletops, the glue made the day go by more quickly.
GROSS: You were an extra in “Less Than Zero”?
Me: Not that I recall. I don’t even like that movie. James Spader is cool, but I like him better now that he is on The Office.
GROSS: That must have been fun. I mean…
Me: Sure, I’ll bet being in a movie is fun. Better than making Formica tabletops.
BIANCULLI: Brad Pitt, speaking to Terry Gross in 2011. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BIANCULLI: Let’s get back to Terry’s 2011 interview with Jon Eekhoff.
GROSS: So you start getting in films and you get very famous. What was the strangest thing early on about actually – not only being successful, but being famous?
Me: You know Terry, when you are pretty tall, like I am, people tend to look at you all the time. I see them trying to guess just how tall I am and some of them even ask, “How tall are you?” It doesn’t bother me, but you don’t find people asking fat people how much they weigh.
GROSS: So did that make you want to be in the limelight any more or less?
Me: I don’t know if limelight is the right term for being tall. What does limelight mean anyway? Limelight…do limes give off light? Maybe there is a lime colored light when people are on stage that makes you look important. But like I was saying being tall gets you ready for people paying attention to you.
GROSS: About how much to share about yourself and…
Me: Yeah, once you feel like a mutant, you always feel like a mutant.
GROSS: So you live in a world where money is so weird. I mean like you were able to sell the first pictures of the first child that Angelina Jolie gave birth to for $4.1 million to People magazine. And then you, you know, you donated the money to charity, put the money to good use. But that’s just like so weird, to get that amount of money for a photograph.
Me: What? Okay, I’m married. My wife is probably going to listen to this interview. I did not have a baby with Angelina Jolie. I haven’t even met her. I don’t think she is my type, not that she’s a bad person…
GROSS: It’s crazy. It’s like values gone nuts. So…
Me: I’m sure there’s lots of pressure on her.
GROSS: Yeah. Especially what you’re trying to do is like at least try to take the values gone nuts and put it to good use, put the money to good use.
Me: Sure, I want to do good things with my money, but I’m a teacher and we aren’t exactly raking in the cash-o-la. I do try to do some good with the limited funds I have.
GROSS: So did it work? Did it head people off at the pass? Did it prevent you from being stalked in the way that you feared you would?
Me: I guess. I don’t really have any stalkers.
GROSS: So at least nobody else could claim that they had the first photo.
Me: Okay. Now I’m lost. What photo?
GROSS: That’s where the big bucks are. Right.
Me: If you say so.
GROSS: You know, I interview people for a living, that’s how I spend my time, you know, and I care what my guests have to say, I’m really interested in hearing how the choices people make when they’re living their lives, why they do what they do, how they do what they do. At the same time I don’t really understand why everybody needs to know the intimate details of your personal life or your children’s lives. And I imagine you don’t really understand that either. But it’s something you probably have to think about a whole lot more than I do. Do you have any answers to that? Like why do people feel that they need to know or that they’re entitled to know personal details like that?
Me: I think many people think other people’s lives are exciting. Most of us live pretty boring lives. I think the whole Hollywood fixation is strange. I like certain actors and actresses, but I don’t understand the thinking that makes those people more interesting than your neighbor.
Me: Maybe I’ll write a short story about that.
Me: A story about a neighbor who gets fired from his paparazzi job and decides to start taking candid shots of his neighbors instead of actors. Maybe the main character has discovered that actors are just boring people also.
GROSS: Are there actors you felt that way about when you first met them?
Me: Well, I haven’t met too many actors. I did meet John Denver once. That was one time I was star-struck. I really like him when I was growing up. He gave me five dollars for carrying his bags.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GROSS: So can I squeeze in one more film clip before we have to end?
Me: If you have to.
GROSS: Great. OK. So this is “Fight Club.” This became a real, like, cult favorite. And you star in this with Edward Norton. And he plays somebody who’s been traveling on business, meets your character on a plane and comes home to find his house has been destroyed. He calls you up and then you meet in a bar, and then you basically make a strange request to him. You say, hit me. Here’s the clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, “FIGHT CLUB”)
GROSS: That’s my guest, Brad Pitt, with Edward Norton in a scene from “Fight Club.” So the character says how much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight. Have you been in fights? I mean you’ve had to be in fights for movies. What about real life?
Me: Not that I can remember.
GROSS: But even when you were young, did you?
Me: Oh, sure, like elementary school age. Boys fight then.
GROSS: Mm-hmm. So did you and Ed Norton end up hurting each other at all during the making of this film?
Me: Ed Norton? Nope, I think you are confusing me with Brad Pitt again. I do think I could take Ed Norton though. He looks like he is in good shape, but I’m betting he is about 5’10” and I’m 6’6”. I would just pick him up and drop him on his head.
GROSS: So how many people walk up to you and say the first rule of fight club is not to talk about fight club?
Me: Just my son.
Me: Yeah, we really like the movie.
GROSS: It’s one of those like famous lines, which I think I just got a couple of words wrong in, but nevertheless.
Me: My son has the rules on a poster in his room. I’ll look later and give you a call.
GROSS: What do people say when they meet you?
Me: Do you want fries with that?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GROSS: Do you have to worry about that?
Me: Eating French fries? Yeah, I shouldn’t do it but you know…they are good.
GROSS: Well, thank you so much for talking with us.
Me: Thank you Terry. I really enjoyed talking with you.