Better Know a Guest: December 12 — 15, 2011
Just a short intro this week, as I’m a little overloaded after writing my taping reporT. I’m just going to say that this week’s guests look amazing. Let’s savor every moment of Stephen before the holiday break comes and takes him away from us for a little while! That may be at the end of this week or next, I’m not sure, but either way, that’s not many episodes before we’re Stephen-deprived.
So here are the lucky people we’ll get to see in the days to come.
Monday 12/12: Samuel L. Jackson
He’s the king of cool, the super-actor who sizzles on the screen. Now, Samuel L. Jackson is appearing on Broadway alongside the great Angela Bassett in The Mountaintop, a play about Martin Luther King, Jr. (Here’s the New York Times review, not too positive on the play but more so on Jackson.) I think this should prove a better experience for him than his first try on Broadway, as an understudy in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, which he claims led to a crack addiction. He’d originated the role in Yale Rep, but the person for whom Wilson actually wrote the play—Charles Dutton—appeared in the New York production. Jackson never got his opportunity to step in. In any case, Jackson even managed to spin that terrible situation into gold by using his insider knowledge to craft an incredible performance as a crack addict in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, which earned him a special award as supporting actor at the Cannes Film Festival. (Jackson ultimately did four films with Lee, who was instrumental in making audiences and the industry aware of his talent.) Fortunately, however, he is clean and sober now and has been for over two decades.
Thanks to the blockbuster franchises he’s starred in—Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and iron Man—as well as some highly successful indies, Jackson has just set a Guinness World Record as the highest grossing actor! His credits are amazing, encompassing both film and TV, including Do the Right Thing, Goodfellas, Patriot Games, and Pulp Fiction. He’s hard working too: take a look at his IMDB page to see what he has on the agenda. Jackson has several completed films for 2011, as well as others in various states of pre- and post-production—including Django Unchained, which will reunite him with Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino.
Since his youth, Jackson—who attended segregated schools in the south–has always been extremely involved in the civil rights movement. He and his wife, LaTanya Richardson, whom he met a Morehouse college when he was a student, have created a charitable foundation focused on education.
Follow him on Twitter.
Follow him on Facebook.
Heard about the surprise hit “goodnight” book, Go the F&$K to Sleep? Samuel Jackson reads it aloud!
Let’s enjoy a little clip from Pulp Fiction.
Here’s the website for The Mountaintop.
Tuesday, 12/13: Mark Whitaker
Real news meets fake news tonight. Mark Whitaker is the Executive Vice President and Managing Editor of CNN Worldwide. He formerly worked for NBC News (he became Washington Bureau Chief after Tim Russert’s sudden death) and Newsweek, where he broke barriers by becoming the first African-American head of a weekly news magazine. Whitaker has a new autobiography out called My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir. (If you follow the link to the publisher’s page, you’ll be able to read reviews and a chapter as well as buy it.) The story sounds fascinating: Whitaker was born to an interracial couple—his father was the grandson of slaves, his mother was French, although born in Cameroon and living in America when they met—during a time when such marriages were not common. The two lived a tragic love story, and Whitaker tells a tale of divorce, alcoholism, depression, and careers derailed. Yet he himself was able to achieve success in spite of the sadness. My Long Trip Home has won lavish praise from such illustrious names as Doris Kearns Goodwin, Anna Deveare Smith, and Tom Brokaw, as well as from the Washington Post, Library Journal, and Booklist, which gave it a starred review.
Whitaker has a Facebook page, but it’s not open. You can see if he’ll become your friend!
Read The New York Times review of My Long Trip Home. The first story it recounts from the book stunned me. And they say Harvard is a bastion of liberal politics! Ha. Note, by the way, that he met friend-and-interviewer of Stephen Jonathan Alter at Harvard, and they likely worked together in Newsweek.
Here’s an interview with him in Time, where he discusses the book. One of my favorite quotes here comes from Whitaker’s son, and his negative view of CNN’s never-ending graphics.
Huffington Post wrote this article on Whitaker, which includes a video link him discussing the book on CNN’s American Morning.
When he joined CNN, he spoke to AdWeek about his plans for the network.
Vanity Fair also published an article on the book.
Wednesday, 12/14: Gen. Raymond Odierno
Oh, no, General Odierno—don’t you dare touch that hair or you’ll have to prove your military prowess against a platoon of fangirls. And let me tell you, there’s nothing fiercer than a fangirl on the rampage.
Friend of the show General Raymond Odierno is back for his third visit. (His second was on the “Been There, Won That” episode welcoming back the returning troops. Aside from being Stephen’s “former hairstylist,” Odierno was the Commanding General of the Multi-National troops in Iraq. He now is simply the Chief of Staff of the Army, and looks the part so well, that central casting could have put him in that role. He is an impressive man, with a Master of Science in Nuclear Effects Engineering from North Carolina State University plus an MA in national security and strategy from the Naval War College.
Previously he served as Assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and advisor to Condoeezza Rice, and his awards are numerous. To name just a few, he has won the Abraham Lincoln Award, the USO Distinguished Service Award, US News & World Report: Best Leaders of 2009, and the Secretary of State Distinguished Service medal.
The Iraq War took a very personal toll on General Odierno: His son Tony, who enlisted and fought there, was seriously injured and lost his arm in an explosion.
BBC News wrote a profile of Odierno.
Like him on Facebook.
Here’s an older but still interesting article on him in the Washington Post.
General Odierno spoke about his father’s service in World War II and its influence on him.
This past September, he addressed the Conference of European Armies.
Thursday, 12/15: Daniel Craig
Bond—James Bond. Well, that’s just one of the notable roles that the ruggedly handsome Daniel Craig has essayed. Another is the much-awaited performance is on the horizon: as journalist Mikael Blomkvist in the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher and based on Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster novel. It’s out in theaters on December 21st, although a huge controversy has already burst over critic David Denby’s early review of the film. (Usually critics agree to wait till the film has been released to publish.) And that’s not all, because he also does a voice over in Steven Spielberg’s animated The Adventures of Tintin, which comes out on the very same day.
Born in Cheshire, England and raised in Liverpool following his parents’ divorce, Craig got his start in acting at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. Though he is best-known now for his movie blockbusters, the man has serious stage experience, having begun performing Shakespeare at just 14 years old. He joined Britain’s National Youth Theatre and, after a period of struggle (you know—the waiter years), he finally got accepted at the esteemed Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the Barbican. Prior to winning the much-coveted part of Bond, he appeared in both film and TV, and he has continued to choose a wide variety of roles to avoid typecasting. I saw him on stage in NY with Hugh Jackman in the two-man play A Steady Rain, in which they both played Chicago cops, and he was absolutely marvelous—including his American accent. But next on his agenda is a returnto Bond in Skyfall, filming now and set for release in 2012.
Here’s an article in the Huffington Post (excerpted from British magazines) in which he discusses Dragon Tattoo—and wins my eternal love by calling the Kardashians “fu&!*ing idiots.” You go, Daniel! (This means, by the way, that there’s no official Facebook page to like or Twitter account to follow.) His own wedding with actress Rachel Weisz was hush-hush.
Watch the Dragon Tattoo trailer.
Former Bond Pierce Brosnan has praise for his successor.
Craig is a good guy who does all kinds of charity work, from the Actors Fund of American to Worldwide Orphans Foundation .
Here’s an interview with Esquire, primarily on Cowboys and Aliens, his last movie.
David Denby did a two-in-one when he broke ranks with fellow critics over his advance review of Tattoo, and also critiqued Tintin.
See his filmography on IMDB.
And now, let’s check in with our good friend Jon!
Monday, 12/12: Anne Burrell
Food Network fans know Anne Burrell, long-time sous chef to Mario Batali (himself a former Daily Show guest). Now she has a show of her very own, Secrets of a Food Network Chef, and also appears in Worst Chefs in America. (I have not yet auditioned for that show, but I’m sure they’d take me if I tried.) Also out: her new book, Cook Like a Rock Star. Burrell, who used to serve as executive chef and NYC’s famed Centro restaurant, teaches at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York I think she’s really cool, although she has been sued for sexual harrassment. Yikes!
Tuesday, 12/13: Lawrence Lessig
Lawrence Lessig, an attorney who specializes in copyright law, particularly cyberlaw, and is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, as well as the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. Lessig has a new book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress…and a Plan to Stop It, and it seems very timely. If he’s a man with a plan, I hope he can find a way to carry it out. (Sorry, I know Jon will do a good job, but I really wish Stephen were doing this interview.)
Note: he does have a blog and website, but they were not responding. If they become available, I will add them later. Right now, it’s futile.
Read a Rolling Stone interview with Lessig about Republic, Lost. What I like about his analysis is that it’s doesn’t focus on the criminal, but on the problems inherent in what’s perfectly legal.
Here’s his profile on the TED website.
Follow him on Twitter.
He wrote this article in The Nation on getting our democracy back.
Watch him on Tavis Smiley.
Wednesday, 12/14: Melody Barnes
Melody Barnes is currently Director of the Domestic Policy Council for the Obama administration, which helps formulate our domestic policy and present it to Congress. However, she has decided to leave the White House at the end of the year in order to enter the private sector. (If I had deal with the current Congress, I’d probably give up, too.) Barnes worked on Obama’s presidential campaign, and earlier on, was chief counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy.
Watch her on Charlie Rose.
Here’s the Web page for the Domestic Policy Council.
As silly as it might seem, she made news by being the first woman to golf with Obama. (Basketball games are all-boys.) Actually, it’s meaningful, because out-of-office encounters like this forge alliances and friendships–and a network that tends to endure.
This past June, Barnes spoke out on why immigrants are an important part of America’s well-being–especially when we’re faltering economically.
Like her on Facebook.
Thursday, 12/15: Matt Damon
Matt Damon, along with BFF Ben Affleck, came to fame and Oscar success with Good Will Hunting–which the two wrote and starred in. Since then, the Boston-born actor has had an amazing career, alternating between blockbusters (like the Bourne trilogy) and more artsy indies. Just in time for the holidays, he has a new film out called We Bought a Zoo: A True Zoo Story, and it’s directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) From the synopsis, it sounds like a heartwarming story about a single dad who gives up his lucrative job and buys a house in the country in hopes of a simpler lifestyle–only to discover their new home is part of a zoo. Before long, he and his family are struggling to restore it. I expect a happy ending!
He was just on Saturday Night Live.
One of the funniest videos ever was Sarah Silverman’s “I’m F*$!king Matt Damon,” premiered on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
Damon is incredibly charitable and politically aware. One charity he founded is Water.org, devoted to getting fresh, clean water to those in need. In October, he won a big grant supporting it. And he got props from the Christian Science Monitor for the effectiveness with which it’s run. And that barely scratches the surface, because he’s done much more.
Here’s his IMDB page where you can look over his past and future film projects. One upcoming movie: Stephen Soderbergh’s Liberace, planned for 2013, with the title character played by Michael Douglas.
If you’re a Matt Damon fan, this is the site for you!
Have a great week, everyone! And let me know which guests you’re most looking forward to seeing.