Fresh Air

Weekdays from 3pm to 4pm and repeated at 8pm
  • Hosted by Terry Gross

Fresh Air is the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues from NPR hosted by Terry Gross. Though Fresh Air has been categorized as a "talk show," it hardly fits the mold. Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights."

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

This interview was originally broadcast on Nov. 15, 2012.

Tony Kushner spent years writing the screenplay for Steven Spielberg's film Lincoln, but that wasn't the only heavy lifting he had to do. It also took some effort to overcome Daniel Day-Lewis' reluctance to play the title role.

Wes Anderson, Creating A Singular 'Kingdom'

Feb 15, 2013

This interview was originally broadcast on May 29, 2012.

Director Wes Anderson has many credits to his name — The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, Bottle Rocket and Fantastic Mr. Fox among them — but Moonrise Kingdom was his first film to open the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1960s, Ku Klux Klan activity boomed. That fact itself may not be surprising, but in the introduction to his new book, Klansville, U.S.A., David Cunningham also reveals that, "While deadly KKK violence in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia ha[d] garnered the lion's share of Klan publicity, the United Klan's stronghold was, in fact, North Carolina." North Carolina, Cunningham writes, had more Klan members than the rest of the South combined.

Delicate phrasing, with both voice and guitar, has always made Richard Thompson a musician worth hearing — and sometimes even liking on a personal level. For a man who can make such pretty music, it's to his credit that he prefers to show his thorny, stubborn, cranky, even mean side in many of the songs in his solo career.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are the ancient manuscripts dating back to the time of Jesus that were found between 1947 and 1956 in caves by the Dead Sea. Since they were first discovered, they have been a source of fascination and debate over what they can teach — and have taught — about Judeo-Christian history. In his new book, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography, Yale professor John J. Collins tells the story of the scrolls, their discovery and the controversies surrounding the scholarship of them.

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's quartet can sound like it's cross-pollinating Indian classical music and vintage Captain Beefheart. That befits a bicultural saxophonist who grew up in Boulder, where his Hindu family had a Christmas tree. For a long time, Mahanthappa resisted combining jazz and Indian music — it was almost too obvious a trajectory. But then he got serious about it.

New York Times reporter Scott Shane and colleague Jo Becker reported last year that the Obama administration has a list of terrorists targeted for drone attacks, and that the president personally approves such strikes.

The administration has been trying to keep details of its drone program under wraps, arguing that to make it public could threaten national security. Shane has reported numerous such stories.

Over the past week or so, I've mentioned James Lasdun's new book, Give Me Everything You Have to a bunch of colleagues; they've all heard about it already and they're all dying to read it. What Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was to parenting a couple of years ago, Lasdun's Give Me Everything You Have may well be to teaching: a controversial personal reflection on the professor-student relationship — except Lasdun, unlike Chua, really has no advice to offer; no certitude, nor help for pain.

For some, Detroit may be a symbol of urban decay; but to Charlie LeDuff, it's home. LeDuff, a veteran print and TV journalist who spent 12 years at The New York Times, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2001, returned home to the city after the birth of his daughter left him and his wife — also a Detroit native — wanting to be closer to family.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

This interview was originally broadcast on Oct. 15, 2012.

Whenever Tyler Perry is in front of the camera, he's usually behind it as well. A screenwriter, director, producer and star, Perry grew up poor in New Orleans, but he has become a movie phenomenon — he was described in the New Yorker as the most financially successful black man the American film industry has ever known.

In the early '80s, Italy's Taviani brothers, Paolo and Vittorio, made one of the true modern masterpieces, The Night of the Shooting Stars. Set in the last days of World War II, when Germans laid mines all over Tuscan villages and Fascists loyal to Mussolini killed their own countrymen, it was a very cruel film.

Bradley Cooper, who is nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as the bipolar Pat Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he and director David O. Russell approached the role with the idea that Cooper would "play as real and authentic as [h]e could."

The role is informed by Russell's son, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Says Cooper: "I definitely felt that anchor for [Russell]."

Clarinetist Anat Cohen is one of a handful of Israeli jazz musicians making a mark on the American jazz scene. She's been voted Clarinetist of the Year six years in a row by the Jazz Journalists Association, and her most recent album, Claroscuro, showcases the range of her talents and musical influences, from New Orleans-style jazz to Israel to Latin music — particularly that of Brazil.

Cohen says that the clarinet's somewhat old-fashioned reputation may be the result of the very thing that attracts her to the instrument.

The Irish novelist John McGahern once remarked that his country stayed a 19th-century society for so long that it nearly missed the 20th century. But in the mid-1990s, Ireland's economy took off, turning the country from a poor backwater into a so-called Celtic Tiger with fancy restaurants, chrome-clad shops and soaring real estate values. The country was transformed — until things came tumbling down during the 2008 financial crisis.

For her latest album, Broadway soprano Rebecca Luker brings her live show — featuring songs by legendary theater composer Jerome Kern, recorded at the Manhattan club 54 Below — to the recording studio. The album, I Got Love: Songs of Jerome Kern, features 14 tracks and classics ranging from "Bill/Can't Help Loving That Man" to "My Husband's First Wife."

Michael Apted, Aging With The '7 Up' Crew

Feb 5, 2013

Every seven years since 1964, in what's known as the Up series, Granada Television has caught us up on the lives of 14 everyday people. The subjects of the documentary series were 7 years old when it began; in the latest installment, 56 Up, they are well into middle age.

The original idea behind the series was to examine the realities of the British class system at a time when the culture was experiencing extraordinary upheaval.

In her new book, Sugar in the Blood, Andrea Stuart weaves her family story around the history of slavery and sugar in Barbados. Stuart's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather landed on the island in the 1630s. He had been a blacksmith in England, but became a sugar planter in Barbados, at a time when demand for the crop was exploding worldwide. Stuart is descended from a slave owner who, several generations after the family landed in Barbados, had relations with an unknown slave.

Yo La Tengo wouldn't seem to be very rock 'n' roll, given that it's a very stable and long-lasting operation. Since 1991, the lineup has consisted of a married couple — drummer Georgia Hubley and guitarist Ira Kaplan, along with bassist James McNew — and all three play additional instruments as needed. Yo La Tengo has been with the same label, Matador, since 1993. But if the band lacks rock dramatics, I would argue that it knows as much about the modes and manners of rock 'n' roll as anyone who has ever played the music.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

The Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers centers on Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but from an unusual vantage — not the Palestinians or Israelis on the ground, but six men at the pinnacle of the country's security apparatus: the former heads of the security agency Shin Bet.

This interview was originally broadcast on January 24, 2012.

Today the Glock pistol has become the gun of choice for both criminals and law enforcement in the United States.

In his book Glock: The Rise of America's Gun, which came out in paperback in January, Paul Barrett traces how the sleek, high-capacity Austrian weapon found its way into Hollywood films and rap lyrics, not to mention two-thirds of all U.S. police departments.

On a new box set collecting the first four albums of Jack DeJohnette and his band Special Edition, two discs are gems and the other two have their moments. DeJohnette's quartet-slash-quintet was fronted by smoking saxophonists on the way up, set loose on catchy riffs and melodies. The springy rhythm section could tweak the tempos like no one this side of '60s goddess Laura Nyro.

Spacey And Fincher Make A 'House Of Cards'

Jan 31, 2013

Ten months on the road playing Richard III in theaters around the world is a good way to prep for playing a ruthlessly ambitious politician and Washington insider — according to Kevin Spacey, at least.

Just before he took the role of Francis "Frank" Underwood, the fictional majority whip of the House of Representatives who hatches a plan to take down the president in the new Netflix original series House of Cards, Spacey spent nearly a year playing Shakespeare's murderously ambitious king.

This week brings two new high-profile drama series. One is The Americans, premiering Jan. 30 on the FX network; it's about sleeper KGB agents living in the U.S. during the Reagan era. The other is House of Cards, a new series premiering Feb. 1.

In culling through albums released late last year that I still play with pleasure, Paloma Faith's Fall to Grace was a real keeper. In contrast to my joy, Faith was singing about her agony: her broken heart, her wracked sobs about ruined affairs, her choked goodbyes to lovers who'd left her. She made all this sound tremendously intense and exciting. Not for nothing did she title her previous album Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?

William H. Macy Is 'Shameless' On Showtime

Jan 30, 2013

William H. Macy is the first to admit that he has played his fair share of losers. His latest role, as the alcoholic, narcissist Frank Gallagher — the single dad of a dysfunctional six-kid family — on the Showtime series Shameless, adds to the list of hapless characters Macy has portrayed on screen and stage.

In a new book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, journalist and author Fred Kaplan tackles the career of David H. Petraeus and follows the four-star general from Bosnia to his commands in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Central to the story are ideas of counterinsurgency. Kaplan says that while counterinsurgency is not a new kind of warfare, it's a kind of war that Americans do not like to fight.

On March 16, 1968, between 347 and 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians were gunned down by members of the U.S. Army in what became known as the My Lai Massacre.

The U.S. government has maintained that atrocities like this were isolated incidents in the conflict. Nick Turse says otherwise. In his new book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, Turse argues that the intentional killing of civilians was quite common in a war that claimed 2 million civilian lives, with 5.3 million civilians wounded and 11 million refugees.

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