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'Deborah Norville Tonight' for June 16

Read the complete transcript to Wednesday's show

Guest: James Lipton



DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Inside the Actors Studio.  Hollywood‘s A list. 




NORVILLE:  Mega stars. 

ROBIN WILLIAMS, COMEDIAN:  Don‘t come in here with a Donna Karen scarf. 

NORVILLE:  Oscar winners. 

SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS:  Well, think about it. 

NORVILLE:  To legends. 

BETTE MIDLER, ENTERTAINER:  Oh my God.  Are we going to bring out the Kleenex already? 

NORVILLE:  And the occasional international man of mystery. 

MICHAEL MYERS, COMEDIAN:  And I got a little veklempt (ph).

NORVILLE:  And they‘re willing to bear their souls to this man. 

JAMES LIPTON, “IN THE ACTORS STUDIO”:  Are there still footprints on your ceiling?

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

JACK LEMMON, ACTOR:  I‘m an alcoholic. 

MELANIE GRIFFITH, ACTRESS:  I used alcohol and cocaine in order to cover up the pain. 

NORVILLE:  How does he get so many of them to dance?

And what‘s on those blue cards?

STEVEN SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR:  That‘s a very good question. 

SHARON STONE, ACTRESS:  It‘s all about love. 

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS:  Did you call my mother?

NORVILLE:  The actor turned producer, director, choreographer, writer and lyricist who‘s become the hippest talk show host in the biz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a pleasure to eat your lead. 

LIPTON:  Never ask the question the answer to which you do not already know. 

SPIKE JONES, DIRECTOR:  Let me just answer.

LIPTON:  I know.

MYERS:  James Lipton is neither a lip nor a tongue. 

NORVILLE:  Tonight, we turn the tables on the dean of “The Actors Studio.” 

WILLIAMS:  A little TV tray. 

NORVILLE:  And ask James Lipton a few poignant questions. 

CRYSTAL:  You look—Who is this?

ANNOUNCER:  From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.


NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.

Ten years ago, James Lipton sat down with Paul Newman to tape the first “Inside the Actors Studio” for Bravo.  That was more than 100 episodes ago, and since then he has interviewed some of the world‘s most accomplished actors and directors: Robert De Niro, Sally Field, Anthony Hopkins, Susan Sarandon, Steven Spielberg, and that‘s just the tip of the iceberg. 

They‘ve shared their craft with a studio audience of drama students and television viewers in 125 countries. 

And on Sunday, James Lipton celebrates 10 years of “Inside the Actors Studio” with a two-hour special. 

Joining me now is James Lipton, who is also the dean of the Actors Studio Drama School as well as an accomplished actor, director, lyricist and dancer himself.  The list goes on and on.

Nice to see you.

LIPTON:  Nice to see you.  Thank you.  

NORVILLE:  Congratulations.  This is quite a milestone. 

LIPTON:  Ten years.  Ten years in television, huge milestone. 

NORVILLE:  It is a huge milestone.  But before there was the television show, there was the Actors Studio Drama School.  Tell me what that‘s all about, because that‘s really the genesis of the program. 

LIPTON:  Interestingly enough, the Actors Studio Drama School precedes the television show by only two weeks.  The Actors Studio, which was created in 1947, preceded it by 47 years.


LIPTON:  And then we created the Actors Studio Drama School of New School University, of which I became dean.

But in the beginning, I had teachers, members of the Actors Studio, to teach our students, master‘s degree candidates, who could give me 30 weeks.  I had people who could give me five days, six weeks in a row, but I had one category left. 

So I sent a letter back into the world from which I had come, saying, “Look, give me one night of your lives.  Come and teach our students in a seminar at the university.” 

And that‘s when Paul Newman, Arthur Penn, Sally Field and Dennis Hopper, people like that answered me.  And that was when I sent word back into the community from which I had come and said, “Look, there‘s a possibility somebody may say something worth preserving.” 

NORVILLE:  Would it be OK if we taped it?

LIPTON:  No.  But be OK for a university is different from be OK for a television network. 


LIPTON:  I needed five cameras.  We couldn‘t afford them, and the Bravo network, to their eternal glory and credit, said, “We‘ll take the chance with you.” 

NORVILLE:  The idea was as dean you wanted to broaden the curricula, and you wanted to do it in a way that would connect with the students.  And who better than the people that they aspire to be? 

LIPTON:  Exactly.  We are a three-year MFA, a very rigorous, difficult program.  These are master‘s degree candidates, and they have to work their tails off for three years.

And I thought, “Well, what if every other Monday night during the school year we let them look through a telescope—forgive me I‘ve got a cold.  That‘s why I sound like this—we let them look through a telescope and see what‘s out there at the other end.” 

For some of them, not for all.  They will rise to varying degrees, but I wanted them to understand that even when people become rich and famous and celebrated and gifted, and terrific, they‘ve had to work like dogs.  And that‘s what the seminar is all about. 

NORVILLE:  Talk about working like dogs, I understand that you spend two solid weeks researching whoever Monday night‘s guest is going to be.  And you literally start at the very beginning of, in some cases, their lives and follow step by step, quite methodically through their career. 

Why is it so important to be so thorough?

LIPTON:  Well, what you see on the air is an hour, or in the case of this special, two hours.  What happens, really, is five hours.  On our stage, about three hours with me.  And it is...

NORVILLE:  Question and answer from the students?

LIPTON:  I‘m sorry.  I didn‘t realize. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  We‘re just looking at some of the many actors that have come on here.  Harrison Ford, we saw Sir Anthony Hopkins. 

LIPTON:  I heard the voices. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, right.  That‘s OK.  That‘s fine.  Because one of the great things is you have such a myriad of stars.  And yet there‘s this—something weird happens, and I wonder if they open up because they‘re on stage with you or they truly feel these people in the audience, these drama students who want to do what I do when they, quote unquote, grow up need to know my whole story, warts and all, because you hear some pretty amazing personal things coming out of these folks. 

LIPTON:  What happens on that stage for five hours is three hours with me and then two hours with the students.  They are talking to the students.  They know they‘re talking to the students.  They come there to teach. 

NORVILLE:  And there was one incredible moment during this 10-year period, there have been many, but one I want to share with the audience, and it happened when Jack Lemmon was on the show.  And you quite innocently asked him to recite the opening lines from “Days of Wine and Roses,” and this is what happened. 

Pretty amazing stuff.  Take a look.


LIPTON:  He stands up in the A.A. meeting and with a simplicity that I commend to you all, every actor in this group, he says to them, the first lines at the A.A. meeting.  Do you remember?

LEMMON:  My name is and I‘m an alcoholic. 

LIPTON:  It is as simple as that. 

LEMMON:  Which I am incidentally. 



LIPTON:  Are you talking as Clay now or as Jack Lemmon?

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


NORVILLE:  That had to just put everybody cold. 

LIPTON:  There‘s a 10-second pause after that, and we simply look at each other.  Afterward in the green room, his wife Felicia said to me, “That‘s the first time Jack has ever said that in public.” 

NORVILLE:  And for someone who‘s struggling with alcoholism, that had to be a tremendous personal step that he took on your program. 

LIPTON:  He made a decision to say it.  We this year won the Prism Award, which is given to the program that most directly and, they think, effectively faces the question of alcohol and drug abuse.  We won it, and we‘re very proud of it.

And we‘ve dealt with this question with Drew Barrymore, with Robin Williams, with Jack, with a number of our guests, and they‘ve been incredibly frank, no one more than Melanie Griffith. 

NORVILLE:  And we have a clip from Melanie, and you talk about frank and raw and just so exposed.  Listen to Melanie Griffith on “Inside the Actors Studio.”


GRIFFITH:  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.  And then you play other parts all the time, so I can fill another character great, but I don‘t know how to fill myself. 


NORVILLE:  Is that something common among actors?  I can fill another character great, but I don‘t know how to fill myself?

LIPTON:  It depends on the actor.  Some actors do hide inside their characters.  Others are quite open in their private lives. 

The surprising thing is how many of the actors who have come to “Inside the Actors Studio” are very private people and don‘t reveal that kind of thing.  The fact that they do on our show, we consider one of the great honors that they give us. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  One of the things that the critics have said about your show is it‘s a haven for artists who seek to discuss growth, as opposed to gossip.  There‘s some areas you just won‘t go to. 


NORVILLE:  That other talk hosts would just jump in with both feet. 

LIPTON:  No.  When I started the show, I made two decisions.  One was that I would do my own homework and there‘d be no pre-interview. 

The other was that we would stick to craft, and I thought it would make us rather dull.  I thought it would limit our audience.  I mean, 76 million homes in America and 125 countries later, I realized I was wrong. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) seen in a lot of places. 

LIPTON:  Yes.  And I—and I thought that it would limit us.  And limit our audience. 

The truth is that by focusing on craft, by focusing on those moments in your life, in yours, Deborah‘s life, that shaped you, that were the turning points in your life, that shaped you as a person, as an artist and if you go back and start to tell me about them, something is liable to happen. 

Those are the moments that mean the most to us, and that‘s what happened on our show to my absolute and utter surprise. 

NORVILLE:  And I know it is to your surprise, because one of the things, having at one point in your career thought you wanted to be a lawyer...


NORVILLE:  ... you sort of operate on the, you know, don‘t ask the question unless you‘re sure what the answer is going to be. 

LIPTON:  That‘s from the art of cross-examination.  Do not ask the question the answer to which you already know, famously demonstrated in the gloves in O.J. Simpson trial. 

NORVILLE:  The O.J. Simpson, yes.  And yet, some of the magic on your show has come precisely when you didn‘t know what was going to happen. 

LIPTON:  Exactly.  Exactly.  Because there‘s no pre-interview, it can go anywhere.  They don‘t know what‘s coming next, and I really don‘t know what‘s coming next. 

The way I‘ve thought of it and some of my guests have thought of it, it‘s as if that theater at New School University is a circus tent.  We come out on the stage.  Each of us goes up a ladder, and we meet over the middle on the top of the stage on a tight wire with no net for three or four hours.  That‘s the fun of it. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  But you know what would be really fun is it if we could see the whole four hours, because you know, because you have to edit it. 

LIPTON:  I know.  You will some day.  Something called DVD. 


We also love commercials and, unfortunately, we have to take one right now.  We‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back, more with James Lipton and some of the most memorable moments from 10 years “Inside the Actors Studio,” when we return. 


CRYSTAL:  Jim...


CRYSTAL:  I‘ve got to tell you...

LIPTON:  I do not look marvelous. 

CRYSTAL:  No you do, but you look studious. 




WILL SMITH, ENTERTAINER:  I started the show, came out here today, had no idea what I might say, whether I‘d be hot, whether I would sink or swim.  I knew I‘d have a ball with my big man Jim. 


NORVILLE:  That‘s Will Smith rapping with Jim Lipton from an episode of “Inside the Actors Studio.”  Did he plan that out, or was totally off the cuff?

LIPTON:  That is extemporaneous. 

NORVILLE:  That is cool.

LIPTON:  But that is what rappers can do. 

NORVILLE:  Which is why they‘re rappers and the rest of us sit around and listen. 

LIPTON:  Which is why so many turn into good actors.

NORVILLE:  Because they‘ve got the cadence.  They‘ve got the rhythm.

LIPTON:  Because they‘re used to being spontaneous. 

NORVILLE:  When—When you‘ve done the show, one of the things that people notice is you never ask your guests about the flops.  You talk about the hits.  You talk about the great movies, the Oscar-winning performance here and there.

When Barbra Streisand was on, you don‘t mention the show that didn‘t go so well.  Robin Williams was on, you don‘t mention “Patch Adams.”  You talk about “Mrs. Doubtfire.”  Why?

LIPTON:  Oh, yes I do.  Of course I do.  I told you; they‘re with me for five hours.  It‘s a classroom.  What we‘re after in that classroom is the things that our students can take away from it to use in their own lives, to learn from.  One learns from the successes.  And that is the strategy of the show. 

NORVILLE:  Don‘t you learn from failures too?

LIPTON:  Sure.  Of course you do.  And we have talked about failures on the show. 

But for the most part, when I‘m reducing from five hours to one, I‘m not going to spend 15 minutes talking about a movie that didn‘t succeed for a lot of reasons.  When I can spend the 15 minutes talking about two movies that famously did. 

It‘s a classroom.  I‘m a dean of a school of a graduate drama school in front of master‘s degree students.  And my job is to get from my guests information that our students can use, and that‘s what I‘m after. 

If people criticize me because I‘m being too easy, too soft, my answer is, “Hey, I‘m not a journalist, and my job is not to ambush anyone.”  The day I ambush someone on that show and make them feel tight like this, is the day when things begin to change on the show forever. 

The idea is to relax them, not by praising them, but by asking them to describe those events in their lives that meant the most to them.  And it will surprise no one that the events that meant the most to them were probably the ones that worked out the best. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, yes.  I don‘t know, I find that I‘ve probably learned more from the times I‘ve fallen on my face than the times they‘ve handed me a little statue and said, “Hey, you did a great job.” 

LIPTON:  And—And we do, and some of that stuff is on the air.


LIPTON:  But because we focus on the things that worked and how they worked and why they worked, then it seems like a preponderance of good stuff. 

NORVILLE:  I wonder if there‘s a difference in the audience.  You know, the students are supposed to come to X number of lectures, but they can‘t probably make all of them. 

And I know you had Tom Cruise on.  I want to just start with a little bit of tape from when Tom Cruise was a guest and ask what the audience was like, as opposed to when some of the other people were on. 

Here‘s Tom Cruise with James Lipton on the actors—“Inside the Actors Studio.”


LIPTON:  No one has been more generous to our students than the guest I‘m delighted to encounter again as we celebrate the 10 years of “Inside the Actors Studio.” 

Tom, welcome to Actors Studio West. 

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR:  That was very generous. 


NORVILLE:  Is it different when someone like Tom Cruise is on? 

LIPTON:  The piece that you just showed, there were no students there.

NORVILLE:  That‘s from the anniversary show.

LIPTON:  That‘s from the anniversary show this Sunday.  And that was at Actors Studio West, but when Tom is there, sure there‘s a difference. 

There‘s a difference when Meryl Streep is there.  There‘s a difference when Ellen Burstyn is there. 

In short, these are master‘s degree candidates, not movie fans.


LIPTON:  And they‘re after something, the students are. 

The best moment in that respect, I think, happened when Steven Spielberg was facing the classroom.  And one of the students said to him, “Mr. Spielberg, you know that you‘re rich and famous, how do you deal with it?  How has it changed you?”

And he said, “Isn‘t it true, don‘t you know?  You‘re rich and famous,” said the student.

And Steven said, “Of course I do.  Every month when I pay my American Express bill.”  But he said, “The day that I look at me through your eyes every single one of you at this moment is the day that I should stop directing and get out of the business.”  And I thought that was the best answer we ever had. 

NORVILLE:  Are some of the kids in there auditioning for jobs?

LIPTON:  No.  They know better than that. 

NORVILLE:  They know better.  What would happen if they were to?

LIPTON:  You mean audition with whom?

NORVILLE:  With—let‘s say you‘ve got a director.  Yes, one of your guests. 

LIPTON:  It just wouldn‘t happen.  They wouldn‘t think of doing it, and it wouldn‘t be an audition.  An audition is an audition, and they would -- they‘d look like dopes. 

NORVILLE:  They‘d look like dopes. 

LIPTON:  Yes.  They‘re much too sophisticated for that. 

NORVILLE:  Well, can I tell you what?  You look like Mr. Cool because 10 years of “Inside the Actors Studio,” you have become the hot hip guy, which is probably not such a bad thing at this stage of your career. 

LIPTON:  May I tell you a story?

NORVILLE:  Please. 

LIPTON:  I like to go to the “Vanity Fair” party for the Oscars, and this last year I was there. 

And “Inside the Actors Studio” is now the show of choice when someone thinks he or she may have a chance to get an Oscar nomination, so they come to us and then we put it on during the voting period. 

This year all four, best supporting, best actor-actress, all four of the people were on our show.  So we were celebrating at the “Vanity Fair” party.

And while I was talking to Mike, this clutch of wonderful happy actors clutching their Oscars, a guy comes up to me, tall, beautiful man and says “Excuse me.  I‘m sorry to interrupt you.  I know you‘re busy.  Would you mind if I shook your hand.”  Shook hands.

He said, “I just want to tell you, I love your show.  I never miss your show.  I love your style.  You are so cool.”

And I said to him, “Who are you?”

And he said, “L.L. Cool J.”

NORVILLE:  Awesome!

LIPTON:  Yes, awesome.  And I said, “For the rest of my life, nobody ever has to tell me I‘m cool.  I‘ve got the endorsement from the official person.” 

NORVILLE:  You‘ve also got the endorsement by becoming a character, a parody on “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.”  Let‘s roll the tape, Will Farrell as James Lipton. 


WILL FARRELL, AS JAMES LIPTON:  What is your favorite word?


FARRELL:  What is your least favorite word?

LIPTON:  You. 

FARRELL:  What turns you on?


FARRELL:  What turns you off?

LIPTON:  You. 

FARRELL:  Well played. 


NORVILLE:  And now he‘s not on the show anymore.  You can‘t be on anymore. 

LIPTON:  I‘m heartbroken. 

NORVILLE:  It must be.

LIPTON:  The day he left SNL, I left SNL.  So I got him on my show once to do me as me or to do him as me; I can‘t figure it out.  We were both there at the same time. 

NORVILLE:  And “The Simpsons” have also had their way with James Lipton. 

LIPTON:  That‘s right.  They assassinated me. 

NORVILLE:  Well, you keep getting killed.  Because you got killed on


LIPTON:  That‘s correct.  I got killed by Billy Bob Thornton. 

NORVILLE:  What does this tell you that on “The Simpsons,” on

“SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”? LIPTON:  Maybe I should think about it?

NORVILLE:  We‘ll take a short break.  We‘ll let you think about it in the commercial. 

More with James Lipton as we talk about “Inside the Actors Studio.”  It is just the latest in a many chaptered life of his.  And we‘ll get into more on his background and turn the tables a bit in just a moment. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right, Mendosa, I give you the Maxwell circuit if you put down my daughter. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh—It‘s a pleasure to eat your lead, good sir. 





WILLIAMS:  I am very angry that I can‘t find my own cape.  I go into the ring, the bull just looks at me like, “What the (expletive deleted), are you kidding?  Don‘t come in the ring with a Donna Karen scarf.”


NORVILLE:  And you wonder why the “Inside the Actors Studio” sessions are always so full to the brim.  James Lipton has been doing the program now on Bravo for 10 years.  The 10th anniversary program will be this weekend, Sunday night on Bravo. 

Robin Williams, I know you that you didn‘t plan that. 

LIPTON:  That was completely spontaneous.  What‘s more, I‘ll give you a scoop. 

When I asked him, “What are you doing?  Why—are you thinking faster than the rest of us?  You‘re at warp speed.  How—what are you doing?”

He said, “I‘ll try to show you.”  And he went down, and that kid in the first row, the young woman, beautiful young woman, my goddaughter, and the pink scarf that he took from her happened to be the scarf that we had given her, my wife and I, at Christmas at our Christmas dinner. 

NORVILLE:  How sweet.  And he grabs that and suddenly it‘s his prop. 

LIPTON:  Turned it into a five-minute improvisation, that is without question the most famous five minutes in the 10-year history of the show. 

NORVILLE:  It must be very interesting for you to be interviewing actors and directors about their craft, because at an earlier point in your own career, that is what you did.  You came to New York as a young man, thinking you‘d go to law school. 

LIPTON:  Thinking I was going to be a lawyer. 

NORVILLE:  And acting seemed like a good way to make pocket money. 

LIPTON:  It was more than pocket money.  I needed to pay the rent. 

But the track was so fast in New York, and so I realized I couldn‘t do it. 

I had done Michigan, where I was a big fish in a little pond. 

And so I said, “I‘d better study.  These people are good.” 

And I walked into a room with a woman named Stella Adler, and my life changed. 


LIPTON:  I realized that I didn‘t have to be a lawyer.  I was going to be a lawyer because my father was the famous beatnik poet, Lawrence Lipton, and he was such an eccentric that I thought if I went into the arts, I‘m going to be just like that.

So I‘m going to be a nice, straitlaced, three-piece suit lawyer.  But the day that I met Stella and signed up for those classes, from that day forward I never thought again about being a lawyer until I came onstage the first time in “Inside the Actors Studio” and began to draw from what I had learned. 

NORVILLE:  Were you worried about becoming your father?  Your father left you when you were a little boy. 

LIPTON:  Six, I was 6.  I wasn‘t worried about becoming my father.  It was that being the son of a working poet means that you don‘t eat all that often.  My mother was a teacher, a librarian.  We had a very hard life.

And—and I remembered that very vividly.  And then he was gone.  And then we struggled very, very hard.  I started working when I was 13.  And I thought, Well, that‘s a hard life.  That‘s a difficult life, and I don‘t think I could manage it.  I‘ll be a lawyer.

NORVILLE:  And most actors struggle.  I mean, there are gosh knows how many members of SAG and AFTRA who are serving you your dinner, waiting for the next audition that‘s going to be the big lucky break for them.

LIPTON:  And one of the perks, if you will, of being the host of “Inside the Actors Studio” is that I get wonderful service in restaurants from waiters and waitresses because they‘re all auditioning.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  And one audition turned out great for you.  You ended up on “The Guiding Light” for chose to a decade.

LIPTON:  Yes.  Yes.  That was—I played Dr. Dick Grant, golden hands, all of that.  I was a kid.  I began on the show has Cathy‘s (ph) high school basketball...

NORVILLE:  Look at you!  You‘re a baby there!

LIPTON:  That‘s Cathy, that‘s Dick, and I was her high school boyfriend because that was how young I was then.  And I was only supposed to be on for a couple of weeks.  I broke her heart and left.  But Irna Phillips, who wrote “The Guiding Light,” had a penchant—when she liked an actor, she‘d bring him back.  And so about a month later, the doorbell rang.  Cathy answered the door, there I was.  She said, Dick, what are you doing here?  And I said, I‘ve come here to fulfill my medical residency at Cedars Hospital.  I had gone through—I‘d finished high school, gone through college, medical school, and was in residency in four weeks.

LIPTON:  Amazing how the magic of television can make these things happen, isn‘t it?

LIPTON:  Are you impressed?

NORVILLE:  That‘s incredible.  What a—what a prodigy you were!

LIPTON:  But it—but it—it was my subsidy...


LIPTON:  ... while I was directing, while I was writing, while I studying two-and-a-half years with Stella Adler, four years with (UNINTELLIGIBLE), two years with Bobby Lewis (ph), while I was studying modern dance and ballet and voice up to the operatic level, although you wouldn‘t be able to tell from this cold.  But in fact, that‘s how I subsidized my education.

NORVILLE:  But you eventually said, for all the lessons, For all the studying with the top people in the business, I‘m not the right guy for this.  And you turned to the other side of the stage as directing, as a producer, and a playwright creating...

LIPTON:  Writing first.

NORVILLE:  ... works for Broadway.

LIPTON:  You see, my father taught me to read when I was 1-and-a-half.  When I was 3, I was writing the world‘s worst epic poetry.  When I was 12, I wrote three novels.  That‘s how I was brought up.  I was meant to be a writer, and that was what I was running away from.  But in the end, when you study acting, when you study voice, singing, when you study ballet and modern dance, what does it add up to?  It adds up to musical theater.  And finally, I couldn‘t resist it anymore and I began writing musicals for Broadway.

NORVILLE:  And you wrote one musical that had great promise, opened 37 years ago?  Am I right?

LIPTON:  Thirty-seven years ago.  It was my second Broadway musical.

NORVILLE:  Called?

LIPTON:  It was called “Sherry,” and it was based on “The Man Who Came to Dinner” by Kaufman and Hart.  And we were—we were the fair-haired boys.  We were very young, the composer and I, who‘s name was Lawrence Rosenthal, and we thought everybody was going to be swell.  We got George Sanders to play Sheridan Whiteside, the man who came to dinner.  But out of town, we discovered just before opening that George‘s wife was dying and had three months to live.  We had to get him out of the show, cut the show down to virtually nothing, opened in Boston with that skeleton of a show, got terrible reviews.  The word came back, Forget what you heard about “Sherry.”  It‘s a disaster.  We had to keep him in the show until we could replace him.  We opened again in Philadelphia, finally replaced him about - - we had two weeks to get a new cast, a new Sheridan Whiteside.  With a new director, we opened on Broadway, didn‘t make it, and then came the great tragedy.

NORVILLE:  And what they do on Broadway, when a show tanks—and I didn‘t know this...

LIPTON:  We didn‘t tank, we just didn‘t run very long.

NORVILLE:  OK.  Well, you didn‘t run very long.  But either way, there‘s no future for you, and they‘ve got to do something with the set, and they literally take it out somewhere and they burn it.

LIPTON:  Oh, even if it‘s the biggest success on Broadway, “Cats,” whatever, the set is always burned in New Jersey, trucked out there and burned.  The score, which is all the orchestrations, tens of thousands of pages of music, is kept in the pit on the musicians‘ stands, and that is carefully packed into a trunk and sent to your publisher.

NORVILLE:  In this case, it languished for years, and then an amazing thing happened.  Listen, if you will, to Nathan Lane singing “Sherry” from the musical from 37 years ago.


NATHAN LANE (singing):  Why does the whole damn world adore me?  I‘m just an insignificant genius, nothing more.  I‘d give my soul if they‘d ignore me.  You‘d think the Simple Simons had never seen a Renaissance man before...


NORVILLE:  Long time since you heard that.

LIPTON:  Oh!  That‘s my hero.  When the score was lost, apparently—we thought it had been burned with the set -- 34 years later, a guy called me named Robert Scheer (ph), and he said, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I said, Forget it.  Anyway, he eventually went to the Library of Congress, which is a great repository of the American musical theater, looking for a few sheets of music that would get us started again.  And he called me and he said, Are you sitting down?  I said, yes.  He said, It‘s there, Jim.  The trunk is there in the Library of Congress.  We took it out, we reworked it as it had never been seen or heard before, and then in the summer of 2000, we played it for Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Carol Burnett, Tommy Tune, Mike Meyers.  They all said yes.  Angel Records said yes.  We went to Europe, we recorded the orchestral tracks with 67 musicians, brought it back, recorded it.  And it‘s now in the—in the stores.

NORVILLE:  And here is the final product of all of that work.  It‘s called “Sherry,” and it‘s got has caricatures of all of the great singers who were a part of it.

We‘ll take a short break.  More with James Lipton in just a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There is no word to describe its perfection, so I‘m forced to make one up, and I am going to do so right now.  Scrumtrelethan.




LIPTON:  You said, I was constantly fighting for some self-esteem.

BETTE MIDLER, SINGER/ACTRESS:  Oh, my God!  Are we going to bring out the Kleenex already?  That‘s, like, the third question!  Oh, my God!  Yes, I was constantly fighting for some self-esteem.  And you notice I got some.


NORVILLE:  Self-esteem or Kleenex?  That was Bette Midler on “Inside the Actors Studio.”

Back now with James Lipton, the show‘s host.  Sometimes you just do go right at it from the beginning, and yet you said you don‘t want to disarm people.

LIPTON:  Do you know what happened with Bette—And it‘s in the special this Sunday—is that she said to me a moment after that—well, something about, too soon, and I said, Actually, I thought you were going to cry on page 26.  And later, when I asked her about something, she suddenly burst into tears—I mean sobbing.  And she said to me, Is it page 26?  And I picked up the card and I said, Actually, Bette, it‘s page 27.  And it was.

NORVILLE:  Oh, my gosh!

LIPTON:  We don‘t try to make them cry.  That‘s—that‘s silly.

NORVILLE:  What is your objective as an interviewer when you sit down with someone?

LIPTON:  Very simple.  Very simple.  What does this person have to teach my students?

NORVILLE:  And what have you learned?  Having been an actor yourself, how are you different as a performer?  Because you do still act.  I know you did “Arrested Development” this year.

LIPTON:  Yes.  That was kind of a bit of a stunt.  I don‘t act the way my students act...


LIPTON:  ... or the way these people act.

NORVILLE:  But what have you learned...

LIPTON:  I‘m not in their league.


LIPTON:  but it has changed me as a person.  My God, how it‘s changed me as a person!  Being a dean of the Actors Studio drama school of New School University and being exposed to the way we‘re being exposed to each other right now for 167 guests has changed me totally.  I mean, how could I not have learned?  I‘d have to be deaf, dumb and blind.

NORVILLE:  And how do you think you‘ve impacted—because one of the things about television—forget the class now, this is the TV part of what you do.  One of the things about television is we come into people‘s lives, we ask them questions, we leave, but the impact of that interchange is always with the individual with whom we had it.  How do you think your interchanges have changed the 167 guests that you‘ve met with?

LIPTON:  Because we‘re there for five hours, we become (UNINTELLIGIBLE) We‘re, like—we‘ve been—it‘s as if we‘ve been through a war together.


LIPTON:  Also because I don‘t eat the whole day before the show because I‘m going to be there for five hours.  It would be like eating before going into a boxing ring or a basketball game.

NORVILLE:  Yes, you don‘t feed your guests, either.  Barbra Streisand was looking everywhere for Kit-Kats.

LIPTON:  She was fabulous.

NORVILLE:  She was dying!

LIPTON:  She got them.

NORVILLE:  She got them.

LIPTON:  But the point is that at the end of the evening, I‘m famished.


LIPTON:  And I will say to the guests, Do you want to get something to eat?  And often, we do.  We go up to Elaine‘s restaurant and we‘ll sit there until 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning, just kind of coming unwired after that.  And there is a kind of comradeship that‘s developed on that show.  I can‘t explain it, but you‘ll see it on Sunday because when Tom Cruise comes back, when Melanie and Antonio come back, Billy Griff—Billy Crystal comes back, when Robin Williams comes back, Susan and Ellen, it‘s like family!

NORVILLE:  Kind of like old home week.

LIPTON:  It‘s family!

NORVILLE:  One of the things on “Inside the Actors Studio” is James Lipton always has his big pile of blue cards.  I‘m wearing pink.  I got the pink cards.


NORVILLE:  We‘re going to do the cards in just a moment.  We‘ll take a break.  More with James Lipton right after this.


MIKE MEYERS, ACTOR:  I‘ll give you a topic.  James Lipton is neither a lip nor a ton!



LIPTON:  What is your favorite word?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hope.  Esperanza.

LIPTON:  What is your least favorite word?






NORVILLE:  That‘s one of the trademarks on “Inside the Actors Studio,” James Lipton‘s rapid-fire questioning of guests.  How‘d you come up with the idea?

LIPTON:  It‘s Bernard Pivot.  He did it in France for 26 years.  I watched the show.  Here in America, it was never translated or subtitled.  I had to watch it in French, and he is the best talk show host, with all due respects to everybody else, including you, the best who ever lived.  And I so admired him that I wanted to borrow his questionnaire in order to say his name so somebody would subtitle his show in America so people could see what this amazing man does.

NORVILLE:  And did they ever get around to subtitling him?

LIPTON:  No.  I failed.

NORVILLE:  Keep saying the name, I guess.

LIPTON:  But I was on his last show in France...

NORVILLE:  Oh!  Oh, that‘s tremendous.

LIPTON:  ... when he ended his career with 12 of his greatest guests, and he had me over there, and two of us answered the questionnaire together but in French.

NORVILLE:  It‘s always the same questions, too.

LIPTON:  Always the same questions.


LIPTON:  Because when you put them side by side, it becomes a Rorschach test.  It becomes a psychological test that reveals so much.  You‘ll see that on Sunday.  We get to the curse words, for example, where the men won‘t swear and the women will, or when I ask you what‘s your favorite word, and then you hear 20 people say their favorite words one after the other.


LIPTON:  My God, what a psychological test that becomes!

NORVILLE:  But how much of a test is it?  Because after 167 guests, they know it‘s coming.

LIPTON:  I know what you‘re going to say.  They don‘t.

NORVILLE:  They forget?

LIPTON:  No, it‘s not that.  They don‘t prepare it.  They want to be spontaneous.  And the reason I can prove it to you is if I would show you the raw footage, they stop and think and think and think.  I speed it up in the editing.


LIPTON:  But they—nobody has ever come in with this memorized, not one person in 167 guests.  We sit there in the Green Room with my 450 cards.  Not one person has ever asked to look into the cards.

NORVILLE:  Well, you have your blue cards, I have my pink one.  And my questions are completely differently from yours.


NORVILLE:  No, you won‘t.  what‘s the first pet you remember?

LIPTON:  I never had one.

NORVILLE:  You never had a pet?

LIPTON:  I didn‘t even have a goldfish.  We were poor!


LIPTON:  My father was a poet.

NORVILLE:  We had...

LIPTON:  We would have eaten the goldfish!



LIPTON:  That‘s the truth.

NORVILLE:  Who‘s the one person that you hope really sees your success today?

LIPTON:  Sees it?


LIPTON:  Oh, without question, my mother.

NORVILLE:  Your mom.  Did she live to see your success?

LIPTON:  No.  She died shortly before we began the school.  And she was such a tremendous influence on me and would have enjoyed it.  When I did Jimmy Carter‘s inaugural, and then I was doing stuff in the white house, when the Education Department became part of the government in the cabinet independently for the first time, I staged a huge evening for teachers.  I said to Mr. and Mrs. Carter, My mother was a teacher.  They said, Invite her.  She came, and I have pictures of my mother and me and my wife, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Rosalynn Carter, all of us in the White House.  She was the best.

NORVILLE:  Isn‘t that when it‘s really good, when whatever success you‘ve had in life, you‘ve been able to share with your family?  Mom, come on to the White House with me.

LIPTON:  That is—you bet.  And now, of course, the person I want most to please, without question, is my wife, Kelly (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

NORVILLE:  Yes.  I‘ll bet she‘s pretty happy.

LIPTON:  I think so.  Though she‘s a good critic.

NORVILLE:  That‘s funny.

LIPTON:  She tells me I don‘t smile enough.  She says, You‘re so solemn, she says.

NORVILLE:  Interesting followup that this should be not question 26, but what‘s the one thing you wish you‘d said to your mom that you never did?

LIPTON:  That‘s a hard one.  I wish I‘d said—I used to say—we never said, I love you, to each other.  I called her Mother.  We had a very formal relationship.  We were very close.  And we didn‘t say, I love you, enough to each other.  We said a lot of other things.  She was a brilliant woman, and she taught me so much.  And we used to talk about literature and art and things like that, but I don‘t think we ever flat out—maybe a couple of times—said, You know what?  I love you.  And I think I didn‘t do that often enough.

NORVILLE:  Oh.  That‘s a lesson for all of us, isn‘t it.


NORVILLE:  If you were advising the president, what one thing would you tell George Bush he ought to be doing?

LIPTON:  You really want to get into politics?

NORVILLE:  Yes, for half a second.

LIPTON:  I would say to him, Please be a compassionate conservative, sir.  Please be a compassionate conservative.

NORVILLE:  And what would you say to John Kerry?

LIPTON:  I would say to John Kerry, Make up your mind about what it is that you believe that George Bush does not.

NORVILLE:  And stick with it and be public about it.

LIPTON:  Well, it isn‘t really flip-flops.  I don‘t—I think that‘s a false charge.  But I would say to him, If you are identical to Bush in certain things, then say so.  If you‘re not, then for heaven‘s sake, say so.  People want a choice.

NORVILLE:  That‘s me with my questions.  On the anniversary show, Tom Cruise takes a stab at the questions.  So let‘s take a little look at Sunday night‘s anniversary special on Bravo of “Inside the Actors Studio” with Tom Cruise.


CRUISE:  What turns you on?

LIPTON:  Words.  It is our most precious natural resource.

CRUISE:  What turns you off?

LIPTON:  Humiliation, especially toward a helpless child.

CRUISE:  What sound or noise do you love?

LIPTON:  Silence.  The most underestimated quality of our lives.


NORVILLE:  That‘s pretty cool, Tom Cruise grilling you.

LIPTON:  Deborah...

NORVILLE:  Oh, the cards!

LIPTON:  Turnabout is fair play.

NORVILLE:  All right.

LIPTON:  I answered your questionnaire.


LIPTON:  OK, are you ready?

NORVILLE:  Yes, sir.

LIPTON:  Deborah, what is your favorite word?

NORVILLE:  Effervescent.

LIPTON:  What is your lease favorite word?


LIPTON:  What turns you on?


LIPTON:  If that‘s an answer, I‘ll accept it.

NORVILLE:  OK, I‘ll give you that.

LIPTON:  What turns you off?

NORVILLE:  Insensitivity.

LIPTON:  What sound or noise do you love?

NORVILLE:  My children‘s laughter.

LIPTON:  What sound or noise do you hate?

NORVILLE:  My children‘s screaming!

LIPTON:  I don‘t know if we can do it.  What‘s your favorite curse word?

NORVILLE:  I can‘t.  I‘m not like those ladies.  They‘re laughing at me in the studio.

LIPTON:  You‘re not allowed to say it on—what if—what...

NORVILLE:  No, we‘re cable.  I could say it.  But I can‘t say it. 

Deborah can‘t say it.

LIPTON:  If it‘s your favorite curse word?

NORVILLE:  No.  I mean, I screwed up on the air the other day, and I said, Golly gee Moses.  I mean, how pathetic is that?  That‘s not really good.

LIPTON:  Compared to most of the women on our show, it‘s pretty pathetic.  The men don‘t curse, but the women—oh, my God!

NORVILLE:  But I bet they don‘t say Golly gee Moses!

LIPTON:  No, they don‘t.  What profession other than your own would you like to participate in?

NORVILLE:  Oh, what profession other than this?  I‘d be a writer.

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

NORVILLE:  Bricklayer.

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

NORVILLE:  We‘ve been waiting for you.  Come on in.

LIPTON:  Right.  What a friendly, nice God.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  That‘s it.  That‘s great.  And when you look ahead to what, hopefully, will be the next 10 years of “The Actors Studio”...


NORVILLE:  ... what would you like the actors, the directors, the producers who come on your program to tell you is different about the business that they work in at that point in time than it was back in 2004?

LIPTON:  I would like them to say that we‘re free to make the pictures that we want to make from our hearts and our souls and the depths of our beings.  That—I think that would be a good answer.

NORVILLE:  Do you worry about commercialism?  Do you worry about the political pressure that we sometimes see exerted?

LIPTON:  You mean on our show or elsewhere?

NORVILLE:  No, on the industry, on the film industry.

LIPTON:  No.  Art has always been commerce since the Medicis.  That doesn‘t surprise me.  But I can tell you the person more than any other that I would like to get on that stage, in that chair.  The day that one of my graduated students has achieved such eminence that he or she walks on that stage and sits down opposite me will be the best moment of my life.

NORVILLE:  Come back and talk to us when it does happen.  I‘m sure it will.

LIPTON:  I would love to.

NORVILLE:  James Lipton, good to see you.

LIPTON:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  Congratulations on the anniversary.

LIPTON:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  Once again, the 10-year anniversary special “Inside the Actors Studio” airs on Bravo on Sunday night.

When we come back, presidents past and present and a look ahead to one man who knows it all.  We‘ll be back in a moment.


NORVILLE:  We love to hear from you.  Send us your ideas and comments to us at  Some of your e-mails are posted on our Web page.  That address is  And while you‘re there, you can sign up for our handy-dandy newsletter.

That‘s our program for tonight.  Thanks so much for watching.  I‘m Deborah Norville.  Coming up tomorrow night, a look at the presidents, laying one to rest, Ronald Reagan, the soon to be published memoirs of another, Bill Clinton, and as the Iraqi handover approaches, how is George W. Bush faring, all from one man who knows something about presidents, Sam Donaldson.  He has covered so many of them for so many years.  Tomorrow night, Sam Donaldson joins me.

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  I‘ll see you tomorrow.  Thanks for watching.


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