Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Monday, October 27, 2003
Another review of PoMC with an interesting tidbit
Los Angeles Times
October 26, 2003 Sunday Home Edition
Book Review; Part R; Page 2; Features Desk
A nebbish in search of true love;
The Pleasure of My Company, A Novel; Steve Martin Hyperion: 166 pp., $19.95
Michael Harris, Michael Harris is a regular contributor to Book Review.
A friend who used to be an exotic dancer told me this story: On one of her nights off, she and a fellow dancer put on their best clothes -- these were working-class women -- and went to one of Marina del Rey's spiffiest waterfront restaurants. They sat at the bar and nursed their expensive drinks and shot the breeze with a well-dressed, good-looking man who had prematurely gray hair.
The man was intelligent and polite, and the talk flowed until one of the dancers asked, "Hey, aren't you Steve Martin? The actor?" The man denied it, but the women were unconvinced. An invisible wall sprang up between them -- the wall that separates celebrities from ordinary people -- and the conversation died.
Who knows? Maybe the man was telling the truth and he wasn't Steve Martin, just a look-alike. But the real Martin, trapped inside his celebrity just as bank tellers are shielded by bulletproof glass, seems acutely aware of such barriers, if we can judge from his ventures into fiction. His 2001 novella "Shopgirl" is about an ordinary young woman -- she sells gloves at Neiman Marcus -- who attracts the attention of a rich older man. Is he savior or predator? How can she tell, when his wealth stands between them like a double-sided mirror, reflecting back each person's stereotype of the other but blocking any view of reality?
In Martin's second novella, "The Pleasure of My Company," the barrier exists in the mind of the 31-year-old narrator, Daniel Pecan Cambridge. He is bright but crippled by neuroses -- a mix of agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. His life is hemmed in by elaborate "rules" that he can violate only at the cost of panic attacks. For example, he is afraid of curbs and can cross a street only if he finds two driveways directly opposite each other.
Over time, more and more of Daniel's life retreats inside his head. He loses his job, stops driving, watches no TV. He spends his days counting ceiling tiles in his Santa Monica apartment, composing "magic squares" (of numbers that add up to the same sum, whether vertically, horizontally or diagonally) and writing an essay on the ironic theme of how "average" he is, for a contest sponsored by an apple-pie maker. Twice a week he gets therapy from Clarissa, a psychologist-in-training. Checks from his grandmother in Texas pay the bills.
Martin, who has also written a collection of comic pieces titled "Cruel Shoes," another called "Pure Drivel," and a play, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," is a skilled writer, and he makes Daniel's predicament more amusing and interesting than it deserves to be, given that Daniel isn't a character so much as a literary-workshop exercise.
How did Daniel get so messed up? For a long time we have no clue, and when Martin finally provides one -- Daniel's father didn't love him -- it seems too little, too late.
Daniel craves love, of course, and Clarissa, despite her professional distance, seems a possible source of it. So is Zandy, a pharmacist at the neighborhood Rite Aid; Elizabeth, a real estate agent who shows apartments across the street; and Philipa, an actress who lives upstairs from Daniel.
He finds ways to ingratiate himself with these women -- for example, by giving Philipa drug-laced health drinks to ease her stage fright -- but mostly he can only observe them. He is nice enough so that his voyeurism doesn't seem too creepy, but he is absurdly limited in what he can deduce about them from mere appearance.
Daniel is capable of realizing at one point that "my curb fear had been an indulgence so that I might feel special." Contemplating his sad-sack fellow finalists in the essay contest, he reflects that their "decency ... had not really been earned. It was a trait that nebbishes acquire by default because of our inability to act upon the world with a force greater than a nudge." He is so smart and funny, in fact, that his self-paralysis comes to seem less and less credible, and we wait with growing impatience for him to snap out of it.
The outside world, finally, does the snapping. Daniel's grandmother dies. Clarissa turns out to have a lovable 1-year-old son and an abusive ex-husband. Daniel finds himself on the road to Texas with a surrogate family, and a happy ending looms on the horizon as unmistakably as a saguaro. cactus. That the happy ending proves not to be the one we expect is a sign of Martin's cleverness -- but also a sign of the slightness, the arbitrariness, of the story.
Whether we're looking in from the everyday world, as those dancers did in Marina del Rey, or looking out at it, as Martin does here, the wall between movie stars and the rest of us isn't breached all that easily.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
M A R C H 2 3 | 2 0 0 1
Oscar scenes I'd like to see; Steve Martin's new shoes
Shinan Govani's DAILY DISH
Just two more days until Hollywood's annual pagan rites -- Oscar Night is like New Year's Eve meets the Super Bowl meets all those gory parts of ER where you want to crunch your eyes but you can't help but look anyways. ....
Shoe Time: Host Steve Martin, who looks like a big, cuddly Q-tip with his shock of white hair, will reportedly be wearing a custom-made pair of Hush Puppies. Let's hope he's as good on his toes as he is comfortable on them.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
More on the Conservancy
Los Angeles Times
October 19, 2003 Sunday Home Edition
Sunday Calendar; Part 5; Page 3; Calendar Desk
VERBATIM; Gala brings out the building bloc
Michael T. Jarvis
The quietly dramatic architecture of Union Station in downtown Los Angeles was a fitting setting for the 25th-anniversary gala of the Los Angeles Conservancy on Oct. 11. The group -- the largest membership-based local historic preservation organization in the country -- counts an eclectic crowd of architectural junkies, fanatical historians and artists among its thousands of members and supporters. What brought out the requisite celebrity contingent?
Steve Martin: "I thought I was receiving an award."
Diane Keaton: "I'm a member of the Conservancy, and I'm on the board. I'm here for the 25th anniversary. I'm very excited. We're also trying to rally support for the Ambassador Hotel. It's in danger of being lost."
Ben Stiller: "I'm from New York. I've lived here about 12 or 13 years. It just seems like Los Angeles' history, as a city, relative to so many other cities in the country and the world, is so much shorter. Besides the aesthetic thing -- the architecture is just really beautiful -- the buildings are worth saving."
Still, it wasn't hard for guests to single out at least a few buildings in L.A. that it wouldn't hurt to lose. What's on the hypothetical hit list?
Keaton: "Universal City."
Christine Taylor (married to Stiller): "I think we could do without a few of the mini-malls that seem to be going up just nonstop... They go to no end to just make it as tacky as possible."
Stiller: There's like a big structure going up at La Brea and Santa Monica like a giant mega-mini something."
Taylor: "It's a Target store."
Friday, October 17, 2003
Steve out on the town with Diane Keaton
REMINDER...for Saturday (Oct. 11)
Conservancy's yearlong celebration of preservation, advocacy and education culminates in special Anniversary Gala: "The Grill at Union Station"
Come "Make History With Us" as the Los Angeles Conservancy celebrates its 25th anniversary on Saturday, October 11, at Union Station, the last of L.A.'s great railroad stations. The star-studded Gala -- including Conservancy supporters Diane Keaton, Steve Martin, Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor attending -- will feature cuisine by The Grill on the Alley of Beverly Hills, Hollywood's premier power restaurant.
The Grill's chefs and staff will recreate their signature restaurant in Union Station's historic Ticket Concourse. Returning to the glitter and glamour of L.A.'s golden age, guests can sample cocktails and hors d'oeuvres from the menus of celebrated Hollywood haunts, such as Chasen's, Brown Derby, Ma Maison and Scandia. World-class Latin jazz ensemble "The Estrada Brothers" and legendary jazz entertainer "Smitty" a.k.a. Howlett Smith will perform live. Capping off the night is dancing, desserts and drinks at Union Station's famed Fred Harvey Restaurant.
The Los Angeles Conservancy, the largest membership-based, local historic preservation organization in the country, is dedicated to the recognition, preservation and revitalization of the architectural and cultural heritage of greater Los Angeles. Gala tickets are $250 per person and may be obtained by calling 213-623-CITY, or by visiting www.laconservancy.org.
WHO: Los Angeles Conservancy
WHAT: 25th Anniversary Gala:
"The Grill at Union Station"
WHEN: Saturday, October 11, 2003
6 p.m. - Press Check-in, followed by
red carpet arrivals
7 p.m. - Cocktail Reception
8 p.m. - Dinner & Entertainment, followed
by Dancing & Dessert
WHERE: Historic Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles
800 N. Alameda Boulevard
A new short from Steve
Timothy McSweeney's Don't You Even Think About It
Accessed: 17 Oct. 2003
Today, we are pleased to introduce a new recurring feature, Short Imagined Monologues, with a contribution from a special, first-time contributor. Lest it not be obvious: this piece does not intend to make light of recent events. It and future installments will be fictional forays into the consciousness of well-known personalities.
M O N T E C O R E A N D R O Y
BY STEVE MARTIN
"Why'd you do it, sweetie? After all these years? I'm the one who played with you, took care of you, snuggled and fed you. And yes, I suppose, clothed you. But our natures were there on stage hanging out, my soft neck and your sharp teeth. Remember sweetie, the night I introduced you? It was your first time on stage, I said. The audience shivered with apprehension. The next night I introduced you with the same line and the audience shivered again, so we kept it in. Just between you me and Siegfried. We're magicians: we fool the audience for their own pleasure."
"I knew somehow it was coming; it wasn't to be bred out of you. You told me so in the Secret Garden. But I wanted to believe that I had reached you. And I loved you so much it was convenient to think that you
"I would like to vanish you one more time, wave my hand with illusory power, us working together, boy and beast. Seconds later to reappear on the other side of the stage, you in the box with the light and the smoke, you far on the other side of the stage, though not near Siegfried, near me. Don't take him, Montecore, take me, because I'm the one who played with you, took care of you, snuggled and fed you."
Steve Martin's most recent book is "The Pleasure of My Company," available from Hyperion.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Variety's take on the Panther
October 13, 2003, Monday
NEWS; Pg. 4
LION TRACKS NEW 'PANTHER'
MGM has offered Steve Martin the lead role in "Birth of the Pink Panther," hoping that Martin will spearhead the rebirth of the comic franchise originated by Peter Sellers. Len Blum wrote the script for Montecito partners Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock. MGM's Toby Jaffe is shepherding the pic.
Studio sources said they expect discussions to turn to negotiations shortly.
Sources close to Martin aren't as convinced, because the actor-turned-author is unsure if he wants to tackle such a well-formed and famous character, made famous by Sellers. But a big payday would be in the offing, and if a deal can be worked out Martin would star in the film in 2004.
MGM has been trying for years to rebirth the "Pink Panther" franchise, which placed bumbling crime fighter Inspector Clouseau in high-level crime situations that always resulted in strong pratfall and farcical comedy.
Blum's prequel script has the inept sleuth assigned to solve the murder of the nation's soccer team coach while investigating the disappearance of the legendary Pink Panther diamond. That bauble, the national treasure of the Eastern state of Lugash, frequently disappeared in the earlier Panther pics.
The studio once courted Mike Myers for the Clouseau role but balked at paying him $ 20 million. More recently, the studio did a reading with "Rush Hour" star Chris Tucker.
Martin, who just published his latest novel "The Pleasure of My Company," would seem a natural to play Clouseau, both because of his impeccable physical comedy skills and because of renewed bankability from the smash comedy "Bringing Down the House."
Martin followed "Bringing Down the House" by toplining the remake of "Cheaper by the Dozen," and is starring with Claire Danes in the Anant Tucker-directed "Shopgirl," an adaptation of Martin's novella.
NOW we know why he's doing the Pink Panther - $$$$$$$$$
At today's rate, that's $23,347,800 in real money.
October 14, 2003, Tuesday
NEWS; Pg. 8
STEVE'S POUNDS 14M ROLE
COMIC Steve Martin, 58, will get pounds 14million if he accepts Peter Sellers' role as Inspector Clouseau in a new Pink Panther film.
The Hollywood Reporter
October 14, 2003, Tuesday
Actress after Martin's eye in 'Shopgirl'
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras has joined the cast of "Shopgirl," the Hyde Park Entertainment comedy that stars Steve Martin.
Wilson- Sampras will play a makeup counter worker who competes for Martin's attention in the film, which is based on a Martin novella. Touchstone Pictures is distributing the film domestically, while 20th Century Fox has picked up the majority of international territories.
"Shopgirl" centers on a girl who sells gloves and other accessories at Neiman Marcus. Feeling useless in her job and unfulfilled by a romantic relationship, she is bowled over when a rich, divorced older man enters her life. The film is being directed by Anand Tucker and co-stars Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman.
The "Shopgirl" role marks a return to acting for Wilson-Sampras, who had taken some time off after having a baby. Her credits include such comedies as "The Wedding Planner" and "Billy Madison."
Wilson-Sampras is repped by Brillstein-Grey Entertainment and Endeavor.
October 15, 2003
LETTERS; Pg. 48
MARTIN SHOULDN'T TRY TO COPY THE COMEDY GREATS
DON'T do it, Steve Martin. The onetime Hollywood funny man should forget trying to resurrect his career by playing Inspector Clouseau, the role made famous by Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films.
After the badly-received Sgt Bilko, in which he tried to replace Phil Silvers and failed, you would have thought Martin would have been a bit wiser. It's almost impossible to play a role that's become an icon to so many people across the globe.
Maybe a massive paycheck has removed any of Steve's doubts?
Pink Panther some more
October 15, 2003
NEWS; Pg. 31
AS STEVE MARTIN GETS SET TO PLAY INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU IN A NEW PINK PANTHER FILM, PURISTS SAY HE WON'T BEAT PETER SELLERS AS THE BUMBLING DETECTIVE; THE HARDEST ACT TO FOLLOW
WHAT do Sir Peter Ustinov, Sir Roger Moore, Alan Arkin, Steve Martin, Kevin Spacey, the madcap Italian actor Roberto Benigni and the black American comic Chris Tucker all have in common? Let me rephrase that.
Whurt do zey urll 'ave in cur-murn?
Now you're getting the idea. They have all been linked with the role of Inspector Jacques Clouseau.
It may come as a surprise - a burmshell, even - to discover that the bumbling, incomprehensible French detective who left hilarious havoc in his wake in the Pink Panther films is associated with any name other than that of Peter Sellers, the zany British actor who made the part his own and became hugely wealthy in the process.
This week it was announced that Martin, the star of comedy hits including The Jerk, The Man With Two Brains and Father Of The Bride, is to play Clouseau in a Pink Panther movie to be made by Ivan Reitman, director of Ghostbusters and Kindergarten Cop.
The news came as a shock to Sellers's lifelong friend, actor Graham Stark, who appeared in the original Pink Panther series. "It's ludicrous to try to replace Peter. He played Clouseau with real dignity and no one can duplicate that. Without him, there's no Clouseau, " he told the Express.
Anyone who has seen Sellers spreading his own brand of chaos in the Panther films will doubtless agree but it is easy to forget that the role of Clouseau has never belonged exclusively to the high-living ex-Goon. He was not the first choice for the part, nor did he completely own it while he was alive - and there have been several attempts to bring back Clouseau in other guises since Sellers's premature death nearly a quarter of a century ago.
The actor lined up to play Clouseau in the 1963 film The Pink Panther was Peter Ustinov. In the original script, the central character was to be David Niven, as the gentleman jewel thief Sir Charles Litton. "As it was written, Clouseau was just an incompetent version of Agatha Christie's Poirot, or a slow-witted Sherlock Holmes, " says Roger Lewis, whose controversial biography of Sellers is being made into a film biopic starring Australian actor Geoffrey Rush. "Ustinov would probably have done it as he later played Poirot in Death On The Nile."
However, Ustinov wanted Ava Gardner to be in the film and when director Blake Edwards refused, he backed out.
That was how Sellers, fresh from his Oscar-nominated role in Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, got the part. He promptly set about making it his own.
"The first time I met Sellers was when I picked him up at Heathrow and drove with him into London, " says Edwards, in a magazine interview published this month. "We kind of got to know each other. We found out we were both great fans of early physical comedy, in particular Laurel and Hardy. We discussed how we could change the character enough so that it wasn't the Ustinov concept but something more akin to what would make Sellers happy and we both fell on the idea of making Clouseau more like Stan Laurel."
It was Sellers who decided that the detective should wear his trademark hat and Burberry trenchcoat, and have a moustache. He also made Clouseau disaster-prone and gave him a comedy French accent which none of the other characters could understand.
Amid the comic creativity, however, tension was rife. Herbert Lom, who played Clouseau's boss Chief Inspector Dreyfus from the second Panther film, A Shot In The Dark, onwards, has said of Sellers and Edwards: "They could go for weeks without speaking to each other."
Sellers was a notoriously fiery character. He once pulled a gun on his ex-wife Britt Ekland and he famously left his three children just a few hundred pounds from his GBP 4million fortune. For the Pink Panther director, time has not healed the wounds of working with this unpredictable character - who Lewis has characterised as insane.
ASKED what it was like to work with Sellers, Edwards says: "It was like being lost in a mental institution. One minute you were talking to a manic, very funny, unpredictable, co-operative, not mean person. Then the next minute you were talking to an arrogant depressive." He adds:
"You know, if I go to hell, the only thing I'm afraid of is if Sellers is going to be there."
Neither Edwards nor Sellers took part in the 1968 film Inspector Clouseau, in which American actor Alan Arkin managed to sound like a real Frenchman. It took the old director/ actor partnership more than a decade to get back together, for The Return Of The Pink Panther in 1975. Then came The Pink Panther Strikes Again the following year, and The Revenge Of The Pink Panther in 1978. As with many a sequel franchise, the lure of boxoffice returns was greater than the creative input.
"The plots were getting more contrived, stealing bits of James Bond, and they became crude and slapstick, " says Lewis. "Most of the elaborate scenes were all done by stuntmen, so Sellers himself was barely to be seen."
Edwards admits: "Greed got me and I was able to be coerced by the production company which wanted us to do another Panther film because they were so hot."
Sellers died suddenly in 1980, at 54. He had been developing a script for another Panther film, intending to write, direct and star in it. That was never made but the death of his lead actor did not deter Edwards. In 1982 he made the abysmal Trail Of The Pink Panther, using a series of out-takes and clips of Sellers. He quickly found himself ensnared in litigation with the star's estate.
Even that was not enough to kill the series off. The old cast, including Niven and Lom, were reunited in Curse Of The Pink Panther in 1984, in which American actor Ted Wass played a bumbling detective on the trail of the missing Clouseau - who eventually turned up, post-plastic surgery, in the guise of Roger Moore. Finally, 30 years after the series began, Edwards made his seventh and last Panther movie, Son Of The Pink Panther. It starred Roberto Benigni and it bombed.
EDWARDS seems now to have bowed out but Hollywood never likes coming up with a fresh idea if it can recycle an old one, and a remake of the 1963 original is now on the cards. The plan was first announced six years ago, and Kevin Spacey, Gerard Depardieu, Austin Powers star Mike Myers and Chris Tucker have all been linked to the role of Clouseau. The script goes back to the original plot of a diamond theft, and the film will retain the Pink Panther theme tune by Henry Mancini.
The notion of Steve Martin taking on the role is not as outlandish as it first sounds. A thoughtful comedian who studied philosophy at university and has been trying to develop a career as a serious novelist and screenwriter, Martin is a talented actor who has sometimes been out of luck in choosing his roles. The film version of Sergeant Bilko, in which he played the part made famous on the small screen by Phil Silvers, was not a box-office success but Martin's performance was critically well received.
"The remake might work, " concedes Lewis. "After all, the Pink Panther characters had a new life in a long-running cartoon series, so this new version might be all right.
But I don't see why they can't think up some new detective comedy without having to go back to stuff that's 40 years old."
Another Pink Panther article
October 15, 2003 Wednesday Final Edition
Entertainment; Pg. C1
Brace yourself for more minkey business: Martin touted for role of Clouseau in remake of The Pink Panther
LOS ANGELES - Superstar comedian Steve Martin is in negotiations to play the bumbling, lovable and often incoherent Insp. Jacques Clouseau in a remake of The Pink Panther.
Martin is expected to make a decision about the role shortly, after talks with movie studio MGM, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The role was originally filled by Peter Sellers, who took six turns as the character. The original Pink Panther, released in 1964, pitted Clouseau against an elusive jewel thief.
Mike Myers had previously been linked to the role.
Canadian director Ivan Reitman is producing the remake and is also expected to direct. The original films were written and directed by Blake Edwards.
Martin's last feature film, Bringing Down the House, made close to $132 million US at the box office to date.
Martin is currently filming Shopgirl which is based on the novel he penned.
The role of Clouseau has previously been played by Alan Arkin in 1968's Inspector Clouseau, and by recently knighted Sir Roger Moore in the 1983 film Curse of the Pink Panther.
Monday, October 13, 2003
A must see site
This is a great site for trailers to Steve's movies. The picture is very clear. Check it out.
Even more Pink Panther
MGM Wants Steve Martin for Pink Panther
Monday, October 13, 2003
MGM has offered Steve Martin the lead role of Inspector Clouseau in Birth of the Pink Panther, hoping that Martin will spearhead the rebirth of the comic franchise originated by Peter Sellers. Len Blum wrote the script for Montecito partners Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock. If a deal can be worked out, Martin would star in the film in 2004.
MGM has been trying for years to rebirth the "Pink Panther" franchise, which placed bumbling crime fighter Inspector Clouseau in high-level crime situations that always resulted in strong pratfall and farcical comedy.
Blum's prequel script has the inept sleuth assigned to solve the murder of the nation's soccer team coach while investigating the disappearance of the legendary Pink Panther diamond. That bauble, the national treasure of the Eastern state of Lugash, frequently disappeared in the earlier Panther pics.
More Pink Panther speculation -- another version
Steve Martin Thinking 'Pink'
Mon Oct 13, 2003 9:30 AM ET
Reuters to My Yahoo!
By Chris Gardner
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "The Pink Panther" is sliding toward Steve Martin (news). The actor has emerged as MGM's top choice to play Inspector Jacques Clouseau in a redo of the 1964 feature.
A studio spokesman confirmed that MGM is in talks with Martin about toplining the project, and sources said he read the project over the weekend and is expected to decide shortly.
The original "Pink Panther" starred Peter Sellers (news) as the bumbling French detective on the trail of a slippery jewel thief. Sellers kept the franchise going in four subsequent features, while Roger Moore (news) and Alan Arkin (news) also took turns in Clouseau's trench coat.
Ivan Reitman (news) and his Montecito Picture Co. are producing the remake with Reitman attached to direct. Martin, last in theaters with the hit comedy "Bringing Down the House," returns on Christmas Day with Fox's "Cheaper by the Dozen."
Steve as Inspector Clouseau?
New Inspector Clouseau: Steve Martin?Monday, October 13, 2003 Posted: 9:13 AM EDT (1313 GMT)
Steve Martin: Filling Peter Sellers' shoes?
LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- "The Pink Panther" is sliding toward Steve Martin.
The actor has emerged as MGM's top choice to play Inspector Jacques Clouseau in a redo of the 1964 feature. A studio spokesman confirmed that MGM is in talks with Martin about toplining the project, and sources said he read the project over the weekend and is expected to decide shortly.
The original "Pink Panther" starred Peter Sellers as the bumbling French detective on the trail of a slippery jewel thief. Sellers kept the franchise going in four subsequent features, and Roger Moore and Alan Arkin also took turns in Clouseau's trench coat.
Roberto Benigni played "Jacques Clouseau Jr." in 1993's "Son of the Pink Panther."
Martin, last in theaters with the hit comedy "Bringing Down the House," returns on Christmas Day with Fox's "Cheaper by the Dozen."
Ivan Reitman and his Montecito Picture Co. are producing the remake with Reitman attached to direct.
Steve interview on CNN about PoMC
CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN 22:00
October 6, 2003 Monday
Will Allegations of Arnold's Sexual Misconduct Change Outcome of California Recall Election?
GUESTS: Robin Wright, Steve Martin
BY: Aaron Brown, Candy Crowley, Jeff Greenfield, John King, David Ensor, Miles O'Brien, Frank Buckley, Beth Nissen
BROWN: A customer from La Jolla, California, leaves this review of Steve Martin's latest novel on Amazon.com. "It's one of the best books I've ever read," he writes. "The only other one that made me feel this good is Will Durant, Ariel Durant's 'History of Civilization'." "And," he adds, "this one is a lot easier and more enjoyable."
The book is called "The Pleasure of My Company," just one volume, not 10, a breezy 163 pages. The Durants have nothing to worry about.
Steve Martin joins us from Los Angeles tonight. We're pleased to have him on the program.
To be honest, it's little hard to know where to begin, the images of the war-wounded piece still in our minds.
STEVE MARTIN, AUTHOR, "THE PLEASURE OF MY COMPANY": Yes, it's very humbling to follow such tragic stories, not only these young soldiers, but also Roy Horn in Vegas. And I want to express my sympathy for all of those people we've seen.
BROWN: Thank you.
Talk a bit about the -- this book is built around a central character who is a character.
MARTIN: A central character, a young man, who is complicated, who has certain -- we'll call them neurotic compulsions. But they're benign. They're just -- they really only affect his life. And he has essentially isolated himself from life and friends.
And it's the story of how he breaks through these walls and also how other people break through to him. And it's...
BROWN: I'm sorry.
He does seem to have this kind of -- he so wants to break out and sometimes seems so afraid to break out.
MARTIN: Well, I think that, in life, we -- in the book, obviously, the things are extreme that this character does. But, in life, I think we all have little subtle things we do to defend ourselves, essentially.
And he doesn't express a desire to get out. He's very conscious of his own walls and knows why they're there. In that sense, he's very self-aware. So he can have a sense of humor about it, too. And so that's his story.
BROWN: And it is a funny book.
MARTIN: Yes. That's what -- I intended. I'm sorry. I'm a little distracted, because I'm watching myself and there's a delay.
BROWN: I know. I hate that.
MARTIN: It's very odd. It's why you have to turn off your radio when you call a talk show.
Yes, it's a funny book. And all these little quirks of his lead to extraordinary situations. And he's definitely not, for example, the most average American.
BROWN: No, he's not.
MARTIN: But he does win the most average American contest and has to give a speech. And, of course, the reader knows that he's absolutely insane.
BROWN: He's lonely. Your characters tend to be lonely. Is there -- I'll bet you get asked this a lot -- is that something of you?
MARTIN: Well, I don't know.
Talk to my shrink, I guess, and he could tell you. But I don't feel lonely, no. I have got thousands of fans who really love me.
BROWN: Yes, they do.
MARTIN: Yes. It's really true love, too.
BROWN: Yes, it is. And it lasts forever.
MARTIN: Certainly, it's true of these two books.
But you're not lonely if you think you're not. And, certainly, the character in this book does not think he's lonely. He thinks he's having a great, great life. And he does have friends. And people do eventually climb into his life. And I think he's -- this character, Daniel Pecan Cambridge, is a kind person, too. And I think kindness actually does lead to friends.
BROWN: He's a lovely character, I'd say.
How often do you check Amazon.com to see how many books have been sold?
MARTIN: Well, let's see, I'm a little crazy right now because it's been almost three minutes.
BROWN: OK. Thank you for the honest answer.
Why write a book? You have had a hugely successful career. Why do you write books and risk people rejecting you?
MARTIN: Well, I think, in entertainment, you always risk being rejected. That just goes with the territory. Whether it's a movie or a song or a book or Oscar hosting, you're always on the edge. You must know that. Well, you're not really -- I wouldn't call you an entertainer. I guess that
BROWN: But I know about being rejected, so it's OK.
MARTIN: We all know about that.
It's nice to have you. The book's terrific fun. Good luck with it.
MARTIN: Thank you very much.
BROWN: Nice to talk to you. Thanks.
MARTIN: I have to go now check Amazon.
BROWN: We'll be doing it for you, too. Thank you.
BROWN: I hope it spiked a little. The will be a good sign for us, too.
MARTIN: OK. Great.
BROWN: Thank you, Steve Martin.
And morning papers after the break. We'll be right back.
Sunday, October 12, 2003
Steve sighting -- the Ambassador Hotel
This is where the recent pic of Steve with Gary Shandling and Ed Limato came from.
October 7, 2003, Tuesday
NEWS; Pg. 19
Crowd rallies for the Ambassador
"I'll try to keep this brief because, really, this my idea of hell," Diane Keaton, wearing her trademark tinted spectacles and a brown felt hat, told the celeb-studded crowd by Ed Limato's pool Friday night in BevHills.
Keaton overcame her fear of public speaking to talk about the need to save L.A.'s storied Ambassador Hotel from demolition. Thesp spoke passionately about the hotel, once the stomping grounds of Errol Flynn and Rudolph Valentino and home of Cocoanut Grove, during the L.A. Conservancy fundraiser.
Fellow event chair Curtis Hanson then reminisced about shooting key scenes for "L.A. Confidential" at the hotel, which gained notoriety when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated there.
Among those who gathered around the pool for the cause were Steve Martin, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Penny Marshall, Winona Ryder and Page Hamilton, Phillip Noyce, "Buffalo Soldiers" director Gregor Jordan, former gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffingon, ICM chairman Jeff Berg, Ellen DeGeneres Jim Gianopulos and Ashok Amritraj.
A quote from Steve on PoMC
Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
October 9, 2003 Thursday, Home Final Edition
FEATURES - ACCENT & ARTS; PEOPLE IN THE NEWS; Pg. 02F
BIGGEST CELEBS HAVE IT EASY
Happy writer has it nice
Funnyman Steve Martin has found the perfect antidote to being an actor: writing novels. The new line of work allows him to stop feeling like he's "for hire," the Internet Movie Database reported. The Roxanne star's second novel, The Pleasure of My Company, was released in its hardcover edition last month, and Martin is waxing lyrical about the joy of being a writer. "I just love sentences, and I love shaping paragraphs. It's a love of the ring and the rhythm and the sound of words. I like doing this," he said. "I like going inside my own head and I don't feel like I'm for hire, whereas in movies I am. It's great to find something that you do feel artistic and uncompromising about and not cynical."
Review of PoMC
scopophiliac: one who is a peeping tom or who objectifies people as something to be viewed rather than as people with their own subjective reality and existence.
In Freudian terms, it is the "pleasure in looking; taking other people as objects; pleasure in surreptitious observation of an unknowing and unwilling victim."
The San Francisco Chronicle
OCTOBER 12, 2003, SUNDAY, FINAL EDITION
SUNDAY REVIEW; Pg. M6
Likable nut redeemed, despite his neuroses
Reviewed by David Kipen
The Pleasure of My Company
By Steve Martin
HYPERION; 152 PAGES; $19.95
The ending of Steve Martin's new novella is so sweetly sentimental, it'd give John Steinbeck an ice cream headache. This doesn't spoil the book -- or even the ending, really -- but hard-bitten and hard-boiled readers beware: Martin's a softie at heart.
Luckily, "The Pleasure of My Company" is funny enough to make the sentimentality moot. The book is a character study of narrator Daniel Pecan Cambridge, an obsessive-compulsive former "business communique encoder" for Hewlett-Packard whose nuttiness does not stop with his name. Variously self-described as either 31 years old, 33 or "say, 35," Daniel passes his days spying on neighbors from the window of his Santa Monica one-bedroom and suffering from what might be called "anti-paranoia."
This isn't the more commonly remarked subspecies of anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything (a condition not many of us can bear for long). It's more the delusion that other people think you're out to get them -- or at least that you want watching very closely, just in case. For Daniel, this delusion leads him to conspicuously "pause" and "deliberate" before doubling back during a walk and to try inflaming the desire of a total stranger via, shall we say, fallible means:
"This was my opportunity to meet my objet d'amour. Or at least give her the chance to see me, to get used to me. My plan was to walk by on my side of the street and not look over her way at all. This, I felt, was a very clever masculine move: to meet and ultimately seduce through no contact at all. She would be made aware of me as a mysterious figure, someone with no need of her whatsoever. This is compelling to a woman."
Daniel isn't insane, just laughably neurotic. On the lower frequencies, he probably speaks for anybody who's ever tried to rationalize away his shyness as "mystique." Daniel is so normal, in fact, that he manages to qualify twice for the finals in a "Most Average American" essay contest sponsored by a pie company -- once as himself, once under a pseudonym. "So the real me and a false me were competing against each other," Daniel says.
You could easily read the whole novella as the story of this competition between real and false Daniels. The real Daniel is the nice, lonely man whose father wanted a little girl instead, and withdrew from his young son after getting one. The false Daniel is the pathetic basket case who (shades of Holden Caulfield) finds street curbs impassably vertiginous, can't turn out his bedroom light without turning on a bulb of equal wattage in the living room (a big dating no-no, it turns out) and contemplates suing Mensa for underscoring his IQ test.
The real Daniel eventually triumphs over his shadow self, thanks to the same deus ex machina that rescued the two solitary protagonists of Martin's previous novella, "Shopgirl": namely, love. However, as in "Shopgirl," the love that jolts the protagonist out of his rut isn't the one he winds up with. Both novellas, in effect, are about the salutary effects of the transitional boy- or girlfriend.
It's ironic, then, that "Shopgirl" has proved in no way transitional for its author. "The Pleasure of My Company" is essentially the same book about healing broken people that "Shopgirl" was, just a bit funnier and with its heart more prominently on its sleeve. There's no shame in this, just a little disappointment for Martin's fans, who can only hope it doesn't betoken the same willingness to repeat himself that's marred his recent cinematic successes.
Besides "Shopgirl," another book "The Pleasure of My Company" may remind people of is Alain Robbe-Grillet's "The Voyeur," especially at first. The funniest book ever written without a single joke in it, Robbe-Grillet's "new novel" contains descriptions of procrastination-induced derangement so realistic that readers have been known to break out in sympathetic flop sweats.
Like "The Voyeur," "The Pleasure of My Company" focuses on a reclusive scopophiliac with a counting fetish. But while Martin flirts with "The Voyeur's" darkness, alluding to a neighborhood murder in which Daniel is circumstantially implicated, all the unreliable-narrator footwork is basically a red herring. Daniel's no killer, and, mercifully, his story is less an airless nouveau roman than the sweet old-fashioned romance of a creep redeemed.
The transcript for Steve's talk on NPR about The Pleasure of My Company
Fresh Air (12:00 Noon PM ET) - NPR
October 6, 2003 Monday
Steve Martin on his new book "The Pleasure of My Company"ANCHORS: TERRY GROSS
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest is the great actor and comic Steve Martin, the star of such films as "The Jerk," "All of Me," "Roxanne," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Parenthood," "LA Story," "Father of the Bride," "The Spanish Prisoner," "Bowfinger" and "Bringing Down the House." Steve Martin has also established himself as a novelist. "Shopgirl," the novel he published three years ago, was a best-seller. He's now adapting it into a film. He has a new novel called "The Pleasure of My Company." And if you're thinking it's a wild-and-crazy-guy kind of story it's not, but it is witty. It's about Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a man who has so many neurotic fears and compulsions that he seldom dares to leave his Santa Monica apartment. I asked Steve Martin to start with a short reading from "The Pleasure of My Company."
Mr. STEVE MARTIN (Actor/Comedian/Writer): This all started because of a clerical error. Without the clerical error, I wouldn't have been thinking this way at all. I wouldn't have had time. I would have been too preoccupied with my new friends I was planning to make at Mensa, the international society of geniuses. I had taken their IQ test, but my score came back missing a digit. Where was the 1 that should have been in front of the 90? I fell short of the genius category by a full 50 points, barely enough to qualify me to sharpen their pencils. Thus I was rejected from membership and facing a hopeless pile of red tape to correct the mistake.
Santa Monica, California, where I live, is a perfect town for invalids, homosexuals, show people and all other formally peripheral members of society. Average is not the norm here. Here, if you're visiting from Omaha, you stick out like a senorita's ass as the Puerto Rican Day Parade. That's why, when I saw a contest at the Rite Aid drug store asking for a two-page essay on why I am the most average American, I marveled that the promoters actually thought they might find an average American at this nuthouse by the beach.
This cardboard stand carried an ad by its sponsor, Tepperton's(ph) Frozen Apple Pies. I grabbed an entry form and, as I hurried home, began composing the essay in my head. The challenge was not to present myself as average, but how to make myself likable without lying. I think I'm appealing, but likability in an essay is very different from likability in life. See, I tend to grow on people, and 500 words is just not enough to get someone to like me. I need several years and a ream or two of paper. I knew I had to flatter, overdo and lay it on thick in order to speed up my likability time frame, so I would not like the sniveling patriotic me who wrote my 500 words. I would like a girl with dark roots peeking out through the peroxide who was laughing so hard that Coca-Cola was coming out of her nose, and I guess you would, too. But Miss Coca-Cola Nose wouldn't be writing this essay in her Coca-Cola persona. She would straighten up, fix her hair, snap her panties out of her ass and start typing.
'I am average, because,' I wrote, 'I stand on the seashore here in Santa Monica and let the Pacific Ocean touch my toes, and I know I am at the most western edge of our nation and that I am a descendent of the settlers who came to California as pioneers. And is not every American a pioneer? Does this spirit not reside in each one of us in every city, in every heart, on every rural road, in every traveler in every Winnebago, in every American living in every mansion or slum? I am average,' I wrote, 'because the cry of individuality flows confidently through my blood with little attention drawn to itself, like the still power of an apple pie sitting in an open window to cool.'
I hope the Mensa people never see this essay, not because it reeks of my manipulation of a poor company just trying to sell pies, but because during the 24 hours it took me to write it, I believed so fervently in its every word.
GROSS: Thank you. That's Steve Martin reading from his new novel, "The Pleasure of My Company."
Well, your character, although he's writing this essay on why he's the most average American, is very not average, wouldn't you say?
Mr. MARTIN: Very not. He's a young man in his early 30s. He's unclear in the book about his real age, which he doesn't reveal until the last couple of pages for a reason you'll find out later. And he's isolated. He's kind of a benign neurotic. He has certain rituals. He can't cross the street at the curb. He has to find two opposing scooped-out driveways. He has to keep the wattage in his apartment constant at 1,125 watts. For example, if he turns out a light in his bedroom, he must turn on a light in the living room or kitchen, and it's only a three-room house. And this is a story of how his life opens up, finally opens up as he describes himself, that he has narrowed his life down to keep everything out. In fact, his stated goal was to have so many rules and conditions that he could control everything that was coming into him, and then he would slowly open the doors one at a time.
GROSS: Now your character wants to get into Mensa, and he thinks they made some kind of clerical error in leaving off the number 1 before his 90. You also wrote a piece for The New Yorker about Mensa.
Mr. MARTIN: Yes. As I say, there was precursors to this.
GROSS: Right, right.
Mr. MARTIN: And I think that I needed to start that way in order to kind of go back to that essay, revisit that character in my head and kick it off from where I left it off before.
GROSS: What does Mensa mean to you? I mean, it's this group of people with high IQs who get together.
Mr. MARTIN: Right. I always saw it in this way. OK, well, you might have a high IQ, but what have you done lately? And I think the real stroke of genius is in what you do and not in some score. So I looked at it a little bit cynically. I have no, you know, cynicism toward any Mensa member, but it was just a way I looked at the world, that accomplishments are what matters and not scores.
GROSS: Steve Martin is my guest, and he has a new novel called "The Pleasure of My Company."
I'd be interested in hearing why you want your writing to be writing for the page as opposed to writing for the screen.
Mr. MARTIN: Well, I started writing in 19--probably--60--What?--'5 when I wrote little essays in college that later became a book I published called "Cruel Shoes." And then I was writing for my comedy act throughout the '60s and '70s. And then in the late '70s, I started writing screenplays, co-writing them with, you know, other writers, "The Jerk" and "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" and "The Man With Two Brains."
GROSS: Of course, right. Right.
Mr. MARTIN: And in the mid-'80s, I started writing solo screenplays; "Roxanne" and "L.A. Story" and "Simple Twist of Fate." And then--I really have written a lot of screenplays, "Bowfinger," too.
And then in the early '90s, I really got a call from The New York Times asking me to write something on this--there was a discovery of a Michelangelo statue here in New York City. So I wrote a little parody of that and went into The New Yorker ultimately. Actually, the truth is, I really enjoy writing for the page because it's an utterly different thing. You know, screenplay is description and dialogue.
Mr. MARTIN: And a book is really about sentences and paragraphs and their structure and their rhythm and the use of words, the exact, precise use of words. You know, a screenplay can be--you know, I remember one year, I, you know, saw a little list in a magazine of the, you know, best lines from the movies this year. And they were all, like, 'Come on, let's get out of here.'
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: The catchphrases.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, it's just a very different--what your best line in a movie is is very different from a best line in a book. So it's a completely different enterprise.
GROSS: You know, as an actor, particularly early in your career, your persona was usually very extraverted. As a writer, like, your two novels are about really introverted characters, and I think that's an interesting contrast.
Mr. MARTIN: Right. Well, I think actually that without, you know, being too boring, analyzing my sort of stage act, that character--sorry to talk about that in that way, but he was a bit crazy. He was a little--I was, on stage, very similar to this character. Really, it's like, on stage, I was really just expressing a perverse thought on the way the world worked. And I remember this one bit I did was that I was so mad at my mother--I used to scream it, of course--because she wanted to borrow $10 for some food. And you know, there's just some kind of link here between this character, who just sees things in the odd, odd way.
GROSS: All writers talk about, you know, facing the blank page and so on, but it really is true that the difference between being an actor and being on the set and being--you know, working with other people is so different than staying at home and writing.
Mr. MARTIN: Right. You bet.
GROSS: Do you like that? Do you like that more isolated process of writing?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, you know, they compliment each other so well, because, like you say, movies are active and social and physical, and writing is solitary and personal. And I never wanted to be an actor who sat home and waited for scripts to come through the door. I mean, that would drive me insane, waiting and hoping. And so I always wrote. I always did comedy, and I just like the activity of it, you know. I just find that when I'm idle, which I always enjoy, I always find that something comes up. Something pops up, so I'll get out the computer and start typing. You know, having the working...
GROSS: Did you think you approached writing with a different personality than the one you approach acting with?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, I would have to say yes, because, you know, it's just so different. They are completely different. But I really think that my acting has influenced my writing, because as an actor, you finally, as you get a little better at it, you realize you're observing character. And you realize that it's the details that make character. It's the little tiny actions. And so in writing, I think I realize, or at least I like to pick up those details that determine character.
GROSS: And those are the same kinds of things you have to pick up when you're acting, too, aren't they? I mean, you're not describing them.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah, absolutely. That's what I'm saying.
GROSS: You're doing them, yeah. Yeah.
Mr. MARTIN: Right. It's from acting, but the strange thing about acting is it's also what you don't do. I mean, it's almost a thought process in your head that is so expressive. So the more you can detail it in your mind, and without, you know, what we call in acting indicating an emotion--I remember once, the director, Herb Ross, he was mad at an actress. And I said, 'What's the matter?' He said, 'Well, she supposed to be mad. She's supposed to be mad.' And I said, 'Well, she's yelling.' He says, 'Yes, but anger has a thousand faces,' and I always remembered that. It's, like, 'Oh, yeah.' Some of the angriest moments I've ever felt are when I did nothing or said nothing and expressed nothing.
Mr. MARTIN: So there's always those choices in behavior.
GROSS: My guest is Steve Martin. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Steve Martin is my guest, and he's just published his second novel. It's called "The Pleasure of My Company." And his first novel, "Shopgirl," is being adapted into a film.
You know, I think it's hard when you're so accomplished at something to try something that you're new to, as you were new to writing novels.
Mr. MARTIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yes.
GROSS: And, you know, when you're at the top of your profession in one thing and then you're brand-new to something else, you can fail. You can be flawed, and you can be very insecure. You have no track record. So did starting to write bring out insecurities that you weren't used to? Because...
Mr. MARTIN: Oh, yes, absolutely. But there's a trick when you first start writing, is that...
GROSS: Teach it to me, please.
Mr. MARTIN: Well, you don't have to show it to anybody.
Mr. MARTIN: When you're sitting there alone, and you haven't, you know, made a deal with somebody to deliver a book, you're really on your own. And it's like putting your toe in the water. You can have written something, and you give it to a friend, or you ask someone's opinion. So you always fool yourself, because--you know, the reason I say you fool yourself, ultimately, you do want it to be out there, but you fool yourself by saying, 'It doesn't matter. It can be lousy. No one will ever see it if it's lousy.' And, of course, they do see it, and sometimes it's lousy.
GROSS: So you would agree that self-delusion is an important part of writing.
Mr. MARTIN: Very, very important. I really do. I think it is. Like, I remember the first night I previewed my play, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," I had never written a play. I had written screenplays. But I was in Melbourne, Australia, and now it's 10 minutes before curtain, and all I could think is, 'What have I done?' I didn't know if there was going to be a laugh, you know, anything. It could have been so humiliating. But then only, you know, 40 people would have seen it, and I could have gone home with my tail between my legs. But I just want to add that I really don't have a tail. It's just a figure of speech.
GROSS: Do you write many drafts before publishing?
Mr. MARTIN: What I do is I write without inhibiting myself, and then I will--draft is not quite the right word in my head. I go through, and I start editing. I start reading it, and I start reading it over and over and over, which can get very tiresome, so sometimes, I'll put it down for three months, come back, read it again. Then I'll read it aloud to myself. And then I'll read it to my dog. And I find that reading it makes you catch every word. And to me, every word is important, because I'm a reader who gets bored quickly, so I need to have these sentences on the move and be interesting all the time. So I try to catch everything.
GROSS: Is your dog helpful when you're reading to him?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, he's my audience. I'm not looking for his response.
GROSS: You just need somebody to read to?
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah.
GROSS: Did you feel an obligation to be funny when you started writing, 'cause that's what people expect of you?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, no, because the first book, "Shopgirl," although it has funny moments, I wouldn't call it a funny book.
Mr. MARTIN: But in "Pleasure of My Company," I actually wanted the book to be funny, and I knew that I had a character who could be funny. And, you know, whenever you start, whenever I start even a New Yorker essay, I have the idea, I think, 'OK, what is the potential of this?' I have no idea what the individual bits will be or moments or anything, but does it seem rich or does it seem I'm going to run out of steam in a couple of paragraphs? And I felt with this character, he could really keep going. And it's a cliche to talk about the discovery of character as you keep writing, but I found that my mind retains little details of things I've written 40 or 50 pages ago. And so something that you wrote that was very, very casual, a little aside, a little something he did comes back at a certain moment, and it becomes big, because now this tiny little thing impacts something else. And it's like weaving a web or weaving something else, a caftan, I don't know which I'm weaving. But that's what I really like, is where the details start to add up.
GROSS: Well, you know, you've had your success in the book world and the film world, and you've been on the best-seller lists, and you're probably the only person to have hosted both the Academy Awards and the National Book Awards?
Mr. MARTIN: I guess I am.
GROSS: Yeah, I think so.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. I'll have to stop any Oscar hosts from hosting the National Book Awards, so I can keep my uniqueness.
GROSS: So, I mean, I think that would probably give you a good seat as to some of the differences between the two worlds, the film world and the book world?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, the differences--you know, the book world is much, much slower than the film world. I mean, the film world is so oriented to promotion and getting the word out in certain ways, getting the word out in very vibrant ways and very specific soundbite ways. And, for example, I mean, here I am talking to you for 40 minutes about my book. This would never happen about a film, I mean, in terms of the way a film is generally promoted. But it's the way books are promoted. They're talked about in depth, in much slower, slower ways.
GROSS: Well, and the numbers are so much smaller, too, aren't they?
Mr. MARTIN: Right, right.
GROSS: Like a best-selling book probably doesn't come close to the ticket sales of a mediocre-selling movie.
Mr. MARTIN: Probably, yeah. But you know what I found is that when I started writing for The New Yorker, I noticed I got more reaction from one essay--and I'm talking about actual reaction that I could feel--I mean, people saying things--than I did for movies. Like entire movies that cost millions and millions of dollars to come out, and I would hear, you know, very little, or somebody would say, 'Nice movie,' or something. But these essays, they started to--I guess because they're so intimate with the reader, they're so intimately involved, that it stays with them longer. You know, a movie, sometimes I walk out, I've forgotten it, you know, as I'm exiting the lobby.
GROSS: Steve Martin. His new novel is called "The Pleasure of My Company." Here's a scene from the film "Bowfinger," which he wrote and directed. Martin plays a would-be director who has a movie script he believes is finally his ticket to success, so when Kit Ramsey, the big star he needs for the film, refuses to even read it, Martin lies to his cast and crew, telling them Ramsey is on board. Here he is explaining his plan to his cameraman, played by Jamie Kennedy.
(Soundbite from "Bowfinger")
Mr. JAMIE KENNEDY: You told them we're gonna make this movie?
Mr. MARTIN: That's right, I did. That's what I did.
Mr. KENNEDY: So you're gonna have to tell them.
Mr. MARTIN: Tell them what?
Mr. KENNEDY: That we're not gonna make the movie.
Mr. MARTIN: What do you mean, we're not making the movie? Dave, I made them a promise.
Mr. KENNEDY: But how are you gonna make the movie with Kit Ramsey? He said no.
Mr. MARTIN: You don't think I thought about that? You don't think I worked that out? We're making this movie with Kit Ramsey, except...
Mr. KENNEDY: Except what?
Mr. MARTIN: Except he won't know he's in it.
Mr. KENNEDY: What?
Mr. MARTIN: We secretly follow him around with a camera. We have our actors walk up to him and say their lines, and he's in our movie, and we don't have to pay him.
Mr. KENNEDY: Well, what's he gonna say?
Mr. MARTIN: What difference does it make what he says? It's an action movie. All he's gotta do is run. He runs away from the aliens, he runs toward the aliens. He runs away from the aliens, he ru--come here, I want to show you something. Got this all worked out, I think. There are six major scenes with Kit. Those are the ones in red. He's not in any of the other scenes, so we just shoot those with our own actors on our own time and bingo, we've got a movie.
GROSS: Steve Martin in "Bowfinger." He'll be back in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: Coming up, we continue our conversation with Steve Martin. And on the eve of the California recall, linguist Geoff Nunberg considers an item on the ballot that nobody seems to be talking about.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with comic actor, director and writer Steve Martin. His many films include "The Jerk," "All of Me," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Parenthood," "Father of the Bride," "The Spanish Prisoner," "Bowfinger" and "Bringing Down the House." He's also the author of the best-selling novel "Shopgirl." Now he has a new novel called "The Pleasure of My Company."
Well, I'd like to mention an essay of yours that I particularly liked, and it was a personal essay about your late father.
Mr. MARTIN: Yes.
GROSS: And, you know, it was about how he had wanted to act and had done some amateur acting when he was young, and how you had, you know, kind of rocky relationship. And one of the things you talk about is how you decided to take your parents out to lunches every Sunday so that you could get to know them better, and you realized that they were bickering all the time when you took them out to lunch, so you really weren't getting anywheres.
Mr. MARTIN: Well, yeah, they were contra--right.
GROSS: And then you...
Mr. MARTIN: They were contradicting each other, so I decided with them to take them out alone each, you know, one at a time.
GROSS: And that worked.
Mr. MARTIN: And without the other person there, I could get stories and, you know, anecdotes and opinions and attitudes that I never would have gotten if they'd been there together.
GROSS: I thought that was so smart to think of that. And then you also wrote about how your father, when he was basically on his deathbed, said to you, 'You did everything I wanted to do.'
Mr. MARTIN: Right.
GROSS: I thought, wow, that's--what a zinger for...
Mr. MARTIN: Well, it's quite a moment, really.
GROSS: Yeah. Did you ask yourself whether he would think it was OK to say that, you know, to write that? I guess one of the questions I'm asking is, do you think the standard does or should change when someone that's no longer with us--about what's too private to say about them? You know what I mean?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, I did not feel that that was too personal. I was very particular about what I said. In fact, I ran the essay by my sister to get her opinions on anything that might be too personal. But I didn't feel that it was too personal because he was really demonstrating kindness there at that moment.
GROSS: Because he'd been so critical comparatively in the past of you.
Mr. MARTIN: Right, mm-hmm, yeah.
GROSS: Right. You haven't written a lot of personal stuff. Most of your stuff is--most of your writing is fiction or humor. And there's something that you wrote in an essay in The New York Times that really meant a lot to me. I mean, I wrote it down and stuck it in my computer so I could refer to it. I've mentioned it in a talk. And this was in the context of talking about why you decided to have a show of art from your art collection, something you used to be very private about. And you said, 'Being a celebrity can cause an accidental cheapening of the things one holds dear. A slip of the tongue in an interview and it's easy for me to feel I've sold out some private part of my life in exchange for publicity.' I really thought that was so well-put, and I'm in the position, you know, of asking the questions usually. And I know that that's always a possibility--Do you know what I mean?...
Mr. MARTIN: Well...
GROSS: ...that both the interviewer and the interviewee risk cheapening things. And at the same time, I mean, I don't want that to happen; that's, like, the unintentional occasional result. But, you know, I think you try on both ends to be really sensitive to that, but I thought you just put it so well.
Mr. MARTIN: Well, I think--you know, the problem with, you know, being interviewed as a celebrity is that, for example, you and I are talking now, we're talking on NPR, and it's a very special circumstance; it's much more detailed. It can be way more personal than, say, I would be on "Entertainment Tonight." But--and so I'm willing, much more willing to talk about private things in this circumstance. But what happens is this I might pay for three years from now in an interview with "Entertainment Tonight" because they will bring up maybe something I've said that's personal. Now actually that's kind of diminished because, you know, I'm at a nice stage in my career where, you know, I can get around and there's no sort of, you know, crazy invasion of privacy or--and I also learned to keep relationships to myself because I've realized that that kind of--I mean, I realized this a long time ago--that kind of focus on your personal life actually damages it.
GROSS: You know, at the same time, I'm sure when you're doing an interview, even if you just see it as a promotional interview, you want to be as interesting as possible. So then again there's the kind of trade-off between, well, this'll make it more interesting; on the other hand, it's personal, I'd just as soon not talk about it. So does that equation play out in your mind?
Mr. MARTIN: No, it doesn't, it doesn't, because there's almost no way for me to make an interview about a movie interesting. I've realized that. You know, I've listened to Howard Stern, and he always plays celebrities' interviews, and we all just sound ridiculous, you know. You know, and I know that as I'm giving these interviews, I am that person that will be mocked because there's just--you know, it's just not ultimately that interesting, you know. So you have to kind of make up things. And you know, it's just a funny business. It's like the worst day of your life, you know, when you have to go talk about the movie you've made, especially if it's a...
GROSS: You're making me feel terrible.
Mr. MARTIN: Pardon me?
GROSS: You're making me feel terrible, 'cause...
Mr. MARTIN: No, no, it's not you. I'm talking about the soundbite industry.
GROSS: Do you get obsessive about things where you really--once you get into it, you're into it?
Mr. MARTIN: Yes. But I think that's--there's other terms for that.
Mr. MARTIN: Well--yeah, well, I remember an article in The New York Times years ago called In the Zone(ph), and it talked about, for example, when a basketball player is hot and he's just sinking these, you know, baskets one after another. And they talk about people who are in the zone losing consciousness of time. And that--or if you're--I mean, we've probably all been stuck with a computer problem, and you've looked and suddenly four hours have gone by while you're trying to solve it. And that to me is what writing is. It just is so absorbing that time goes by; time goes by quickly, or it stops.
GROSS: Yeah, but the problem is with writing, if time goes by quickly and you don't like what you've written in that time, you feel like you've lost something. Maybe that doesn't happen to you.
Mr. MARTIN: Well, you know, I don't write unless I'm ready. So usually I find if you're in the zone, you usually like what you've written. And if I'm not in the zone, I generally don't write.
Mr. MARTIN: I will edit at that point using what we call the monkey mind.
GROSS: What do you mean?
Mr. MARTIN: Somebody gave that to me years ago. It was like the monkey mind was the--you know, there was your creative mind and then there was your monkey mind, and your monkey mind was really consciousness. You know, and the monkey mind should do the editing; it's the one that's not original; it's the one that's imitative. And that's just a term for doing the slave work of writing, when you're organizing...
GROSS: Boy, the editor community is going to be very angry at that description.
Mr. MARTIN: No, no. No, I rely heavily on editors. I really need response.
GROSS: My guest is actor, comic and writer Steve Martin. His new novel is called "The Pleasure of My Company." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Steve Martin is my guest. His new novel is called "The Pleasure of My Company." Martin has starred in many films, including the 1998 David Mamet movie "The Spanish Prisoner." Here's a scene from it. Martin plays Jimmy Dell, an apparently charming and wealthy man who befriends Joe Ross, played by Campbell Scott. Here Jimmy is giving Joe business advice.
(Soundbite of "The Spanish Prisoner")
Mr. MARTIN: (As Jimmy Dell) You know what the man said about verbal agreements; they're not worth the paper they're printed on.
Mr. CAMPBELL SCOTT (As Joe Ross): That's what my boss just said to me.
Mr. MARTIN: (As Dell) In re what? I mean, what, what is he talking about?
Mr. SCOTT: (As Ross) Well, I've got a--oh, thank you.
Mr. MARTIN: (As Dell) You're welcome.
Mr. SCOTT: (As Ross) I did something for the company, and they owe me something. I think I need to get it in writing.
Mr. MARTIN: (As Dell) I would. What do they owe you?
Mr. SCOTT: (As Ross) I think they owe me a lot of money.
Mr. MARTIN: (As Dell) What do you mean, you think?
Mr. SCOTT: (As Ross) I invented something for them. It's a work for hire; they own it. But it's...
(Soundbite of phone being dialed)
Mr. MARTIN: (As Dell; on phone) Hello, is Mrs. DeSilva(ph) in? (To Ross) Who told you it was a work for hire?
Mr. SCOTT: (As Ross) Well, they did.
Mr. MARTIN: (As Dell) You invented it?
Mr. SCOTT: (As Ross) Well, I...
Mr. MARTIN: (As Dell) I'm not a lawyer; I'm just a guy. Tell me, you invented it?
Mr. SCOTT: (As Ross) Yes.
Mr. MARTIN: (As Dell) Uh-huh.
GROSS: "Spanish Prisoner" was written and directed by David Mamet.
Mr. MARTIN: Yes, absolutely.
GROSS: Oh, it must have been a pleasure to read his dialogue.
Mr. MARTIN: Fabulous. I loved doing it. You know, his dialogue is a challenge for an actor because it's incredibly precise, including the 'ers' and 'uhs' and they way we speak going back o--retracing our words, just like I just did, or like I just did. And so it's really fun to do that, 'cause you really have to--you cannot, as you're speaking the dialogue, you can't get ahead of yourself. You have to actually forget at that moment what you're going to say next.
GROSS: What do you mean, that you have to forget it?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, in other words, if it's written that there's a hesitation or an 'er' and an 'uh,' if you come up to it and you're prepared for it, it's going to sound like (speaking deliberately) 'er, uh.' It's going to be very dead. So you have to talk as though you know what you're going to say but you don't. You have to forget what you're going to say at that moment.
GROSS: And then you have to remember it again.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah, well, it's acting. You know what it is.
GROSS: That's right.
Mr. MARTIN: You know...
GROSS: So do you feel like you learned any new things from working with Mamet?
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah, but it's--you know, he was a really good director for me because he kept reminding me--you know, my character was supposed to be very wealthy and very confident, and he kept reminding me of what that is, which is nothing gets to you; no one can get to you. And that was a great reminder, and it really provided me in the film with this kind of stillness and, you know, ease with everything.
GROSS: I sometimes think about what it must have been like for you and Ricky Jay, who was also in "The Spanish Prisoner," to work together, 'cause you used to do magic and Ricky Jay is, you know, one of the great living...
Mr. MARTIN: Right. Well, Ricky...
GROSS: ...prestidigitators? Is that...
Mr. MARTIN: Yes, yes.
GROSS: And, you know, master of card tricks and cons and the lore of magic and carnivals and--so did you--yeah.
Mr. MARTIN: Well, Ricky Jay and I go way back. We go back to the late '60s. He...
GROSS: Did you perform on the circuit together or something?
Mr. MARTIN: A bit, yeah. We actually met in Aspen, and he was working someplace and I was working someplace. And I remember he was a book collector and I was a book collector. And there was this beautiful rare book called "The Expert at the Card Table" by S.W. Erdnase. And it was written, published, I think, in 1907, and it was one of the early books that exposed ways to cheat at cards. And of course, the author, if he had been known, would have been beaten up. And S.W. Erdnase is Andrews written backwards, and that was the real author, and we both sort of fought over a copy of that book once.
GROSS: Who won?
Mr. MARTIN: I bought it, and then I gave it to him...
GROSS: Oh, you're so generous.
Mr. MARTIN: ...years later. Yeah.
GROSS: Do you remember the point in your career when people started to realize, 'He's smart'? You know, 'cause you played kind of stupid, you know, wacky personas, right? And then eventually people realized, 'God, he's really smart.'
Mr. MARTIN: Well, you know, it's something you can never say about yourself and believe it...
Mr. MARTIN: ...that you're smart. And so I don't--you know, I don't think of myself as smart. I don't know--I mean, I almost feel like if anybody thinks that, they're being cheated, because I also know people who actually are really smart, and I've been around them. You know what I am if anything, I'm diligent. But I've been around people who were smart, and I feel like my relationship with them is my dog's relationship to me.
GROSS: (Laughs) Your dog's a good audience, let's not forget.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. Well, you know, my dog, he gets--you know, if I say, 'Go get the tennis ball,' he knows to get the tennis ball. But if I say, 'Go get the tennis ball and take it upstairs and put it under the bed,' then he's at the point of 'Duh.' And that happens--I find that happening to me when I'm around really, really smart people, that there's a ceiling I hit of understanding.
GROSS: And you know, when--you're very funny on stage and on screen as you are. People expect that you're just going to be, you know, a laugh riot when you speak in person, too. And did you have to deal with the expectation that you're just going to be, you know, a real cut-up in person?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, you know, I guess a little bit, but sometimes I can be a cut-up. You know, there's a...
GROSS: Oh, no, right. No, I realize that.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, it's really people who don't know you who expect that, and I don't really find myself in those circumstances that much anymore, at least in private circumstances. I'm a, you know, pretty regular sociable person or social person, so I think I'm--you know, I couldn't do in private what I did on stage; people would not want to be around me, you know, if I was that hyper all the time. And, you know, I've kind of worked it out now, kind of figured out how to be.
GROSS: Well, you've had the responsibility of having to be funny at the Academy Awards when you were hosting right after the start of the war in Iraq.
Mr. MARTIN: Right.
GROSS: How did you work through in your mind how to handle that?
Mr. MARTIN: I'll tell you, it goes back--I was working--in 1963, I was working at a theater doing a comedy show at Knott's Berry Farm, California, and that day Kennedy was assassinated, and everyone was stunned and shocked. And of course we weren't going to go on. And then the owner said, 'We're going to do the show anyway.' And we just couldn't believe--we didn't even know how we'd get through it. Well, to my surprise--'This is going to be the worst show ever.' To my surprise, the audience was riotous; that they wanted to laugh or something took hold of all of us. And this memory of this tragic day stuck in my head, and I knew somehow that this could be overcome once the show started, and all I needed to do was to acknowledge in some way with exactly the right tone and then get on with it. And it was a tough day, because I remember just before the show began, I had just turned on the news for three minutes and turned it immediately off because it was one of the worst news days for our troops, and, you know, I didn't want to be infected or know until later. And we went on and did some acknowledgments and then went through with the show. And I really did feel at one point, I think one of the writers--I had some great writers with me--said, 'They will be watching,' meaning the soldiers will be watching. And that's when I thought, if I were they, I'd like to see a good, funny show.
GROSS: So how did you decide what your opening line should be? 'Cause that's the real icebreaker.
Mr. MARTIN: Oh, that was--there was a line about--I'd looked around at the, you know, Oscar set, which is always, you know, really overblown and I think I said something about, 'Well, I'm glad they cut back on all the glitz.'
Mr. MARTIN: And, you know, it was just that simple little release, and then I just went on with the show, you know, just something you think of and seems like the appropriate moment. It's not hilariously funny or anything, but it sort of gets you over that hump.
GROSS: What kind of guidelines are you given about, you know, not taking a stand or saying anything too political?
Mr. MARTIN: None.
GROSS: Oh, really? 'Cause it sounded like the actors were told not to be overtly political.
Mr. MARTIN: Oh, I think actually they--I don't recall what happened, but I was given no instruction at all. And you know, what I said and did was determined solely by me.
GROSS: Any thoughts on Michael Moore's speech?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, you know, we knew he was going to say something if he won, and so were--it was actually Dave Barry, the great syndicated columnist, who deigned to help me write some things, along with some other great writers. He said, 'I know Michael Moore, he's gonna say something, 'cause we saw him at this other thing, and he was this way, and he's gonna say this, and then we should have something'--but we didn't really come up with a line--you know, then he did his diatribe, which is--you know, that's what Michael Moore does. The audience response was mixed. They were booing, a lot of them. And if they were booing, I think it was because of the inappropriateness maybe at that moment, and not that they disagreed or agreed; I couldn't tell. I think the line we had was--oh, yeah, I came out afterwards, I said, 'Oh, it was so sweet backstage; I wish you could have seen it. The Teamsters were helping Michael Moore get into the trunk of his limo.'
GROSS: So you had that one ready to go?
Mr. MARTIN: No, we didn't have it ready to go.
GROSS: Oh, oh.
Mr. MARTIN: We had it after the fact. And we were watching, we were watching, we were watching, and then we had a team of writers and it just spontaneously occurred in the room and that's what we went out with--or I went out with.
GROSS: Listen, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. MARTIN: Thank you. I really enjoyed it.
GROSS: Steve Martin. His new novel is called "The Pleasure of My Company."
Coming up, linguist Geoff Nunberg on the rhetoric of color blindness. This is FRESH AIR.
Sunday, October 05, 2003
Another literary magazine that has Steve as a contributor
The piece in question is Steve's "Lolita at Fifty."
October 05, 2003, Sunday
The Literary Life
by Mark Sanderson
SUSIE DENT, a lexicologist with Oxford University Press, has long spent some of her time sitting in "Dictionary Corner" on Countdown, the word and numbers game broadcast on Channel 4 each weekday afternoon. Her role is to say "yea" or "nay" to words concocted from a selection of nine letters by the two contestants. Words not in the Concise Oxford Dictionary are disallowed.
A book called The Language Report, published next Thursday by OUP, reveals how Ms Dent spends the rest of her working hours. A "frontline report on what we're saying and how we're saying it", the book studies the latest entrants to our ever-growing vocabulary. "Bluetooth", for example, is no longer just the name of a Viking warrior: it is a form of wire-less technology used in computers and mobile phones. However, most of the words will be of little use to Countdown fans: "moblogging", "Enronomics" and "uberhacker", for instance, all have more than nine letters.
KEITH PRESTON, an American poet who died in 1927, is quoted just once in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. The quatrain comes from a poem called The Liberators: "Of all the literary scenes / Saddest this sight to me: / The graves of little magazines / Who died to make verse free."
If it was difficult to promote poetry in the 1920s, it is hardly any easier in the 21st century. However, the Poetry Library has had the bright idea of putting those little magazines that still survive on to the worldwide web.
From October 13, anyone logging on to www.poetrymagazines.org.uk will be able to read both the latest issues and back issues of a surprising number of publications. They range from well-known titles such as Poetry Nation and The London Magazine to those with rather more obscure names: for example, The Interpreter's House and Obsessed With Pipework. The service is free to all those with access to the Internet.
ZEMBLA , as readers of this column will no doubt know, is the imaginary homeland of Charles Kinbote, the narrator of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Pale Fire. It is now also the title of a new literary magazine. The first issue, just out, is a glossy affair marred only by the occasional exuberance, if not eccentricity, of its design. The magazine's motto is "Fun With Words" - which presumably explains why its editor has allowed Adam Thirlwell to review Politics, his own novel.
Contributors include established authors such as Steve Martin and Toby Litt, those anxious to make a name for themselves, and those with several names already. Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna and Sir Les Patterson, provides an entertaining curtain-raiser in which he asks "Am I the only person in the world who doesn't get the point of Harry Potter?" The boy wonder's adventures are, in his opinion, "just Billy Bunter with broomsticks".
Friday, October 03, 2003
A propos of nothing
In Cindy Adams column today, there is a quote from Steve sitting without any context. Where when how why was it said? dunno.
Di's Letter Back in Family
October 3, 2003
Steve Martin: "Good news. The doctor says I'll have a disease named after me." . . .
Thursday, October 02, 2003
Steve talks art in D.C. in his lime green socks
Names & Faces
Date: 10-01-2003; Publication: The Washington Post
Edition: FINAL, Section: Style, Page: C03
Steve Martin's Collect Calling
Steve Martin so impressed 700 of Washington's art aficionados Monday night with his fine-tuned knowledge of the subject that he received a standing ovation. (Or maybe it was his lime-green socks that won the crowd over.)
The actor/art collector was here at the request of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and happily showcased a slide show of his collection followed by a Q and A. After some slide mishaps (the first two were shown backward, whoops), Martin really held his own, we're told, especially in his conversation with New York Times contributor Deborah Solomon, with whom he shared the stage.
Martin touched upon why he's winnowing his collection (he's putting himself on restriction: only one painting per wall) and admitted even he has limits to what he purchases. "It's an expensive hobby."
"You really got the feeling that he was sitting in his living room going through his personal art collection, with tons of funny quips," one attendee told us. "He's definitely well read. There was no 'Oh, I really like the colors' explanation." What, like that's bad?
-- Compiled by Anne Schroeder from staff and wire reports
Author not available, Names & Faces. , The Washington Post, 10-01-2003, pp C03.
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
What Steve said
Today (7:00 AM ET) - NBC
October 1, 2003 Wednesday
Steve Martin discusses his new book, "The Pleasure of My Company"
ANCHORS: KATIE COURIC; MATT LAUER; ANN CURRY
REPORTERS: AL ROKER
KATIE COURIC, co-host:
Whether you're heading to the movies or to the book store, Steve Martin is about to be everywhere you look. In fact, he's right here.
Mr. STEVE MARTIN ("The Pleasure of My Company"): Yes.
COURIC: He has two films coming out by the end of the year. He's adapted his best-selling novella "Shopgirl" for the big screen, and now he's penned another tale. It's called "The Pleasure of My Company," and it's out in stores today.
Hi, Steve Martin. How are you?
Mr. MARTIN: Hi. How are you? Nice to see you.
COURIC: Nice to see you, as well.
Mr. MARTIN: I am surprised you didn't go for the, 'And thank you for the pleasure of your company, Steve Martin.'
COURIC: I know. Well, I should have.
Mr. MARTIN: No one has said that yet.
COURIC: I should have.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah.
COURIC: I've been trying to have fun with the title. Well...
Mr. MARTIN: You're not up on the latest cliches.
COURIC: Before we--and I like how you have...
Mr. MARTIN: Thank you. These are my banjo picks.
COURIC: Yeah, show people those because...
Mr. MARTIN: I put them on two weeks ago and forgot to take them off.
COURIC: It's a little unsettling, I have to tell you.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah.
COURIC: But anyway, first let's talk about...
Mr. MARTIN: It's a--it really gets the girls.
COURIC: ...the success of--of "Shopgirl."
Mr. MARTIN: Yes. Thank you.
COURIC: You must have been so delighted that this made such a--a splash because this was your first novella.
Mr. MARTIN: Yes.
COURIC: I mean, you'd written "Pure Dribble"...
Mr. MARTIN: Yes.
COURIC: ...which was the name of your book.
Mr. MARTIN: Yes.
COURIC: Not the--not the quality of your writing.
Mr. MARTIN: Thank you. Thank you for identifying that. It was a very exciting thing. People really responded to "Shopgirl." And--and, you know, "Shopgirl" is not a--a funny book. It has some humorous passages, but it's actually quite a--a poignant book. So that even made it more delicious for me. But the new book, "Pleasure of My Company" has--is--is a--a humorous book. It still has the kind of ring of melancholy to it, but it is a funny book, I hope.
COURIC: You--it is. It is funny, but it's also, like "Shopgirl," about sort of being isolated and lonely...
Mr. MARTIN: Yes, it is. Yes.
COURIC: ...and sort of trying--living in your own little world and trying to make a connection with the world outside your own, right?
Mr. MARTIN: Right. It's about a young man in his early 30s who has developed certain idiosyncrasies, we'll call them, or obsessive compulsions. I--I hate to go that far with it because it's not really that. But, for example, he cannot cross the street at the curb, he has to find two opposing scooped out driveways. That's the only way he--he's able to cross the street, which means any place he walks he has to find a very, very convoluted route.
COURIC: And he's also very upset that he likes a girl whose name is not an nanogram, right?
Mr. MARTIN: Yes. He falls in love with--with a girl, Clarissa, who can--whose name cannot become a nanogram, which drives him crazy. And he's a big counter. He counts ceiling tiles. He--he has to have the exact wattage in his apartment equal 1125. And if he turns off a 30-watt bulb in his bedroom, he has to turn on two 15s in the kitchen. And it's about how this--how his life changes by being introduced to certain people in his life and how he overcomes his problems through will.
COURIC: And his name is Daniel Pecan Cambridge. I wanted to know, is the Pecan pronounced the Southern way or Pecan, pronounced the Northern way?
Mr. MARTIN: I say Pecan because I'm from Texas.
COURIC: OK. Well, there you go.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. Yeah.
COURIC: How did you--what was the inspiration for this character? I mean, I--I love the passages where he--you--you kind of have a window into his mental musings, if you will, because he does have a very interesting take on just about everything.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. He--you know, when you're--when you're isolated, your--your mind tends to go to extremes, you're thinking all the time. And that's what he--that's what he asks about himself, 'Do I think too much?' And when he has these long passages describing people--I'm sorry these are scary, I know.
COURIC: That's OK.
Mr. MARTIN: There will be a reason for them.
Mr. MARTIN: You'll see later. He--he describes these long passages that get pretty convoluted and he'll always ask himself, 'Or is it that I think too much?'
COURIC: How much do you--well, first of all, I was going to ask you because there are similarities between the protagonists in your novellas--I guess they both qualify as novellas...
Mr. MARTIN: Yes.
COURIC: ...do you consider yourself a loner and somewhat...
Mr. MARTIN: You know, I've always been a loner.
COURIC: ...of an isolated personality?
Mr. MARTIN: I think--I think that's what--you know, remember Andy Kauffman, the comedian Andy Kauffman he always talked about being in his bedroom and working out his routines alone. And I--I think I did that, too. You know, I played the banjo alone, and you think up comedy alone, and--and entertaining you're--you're up there alone in a strange way. This kind of a--you're kind of in front of everybody, but you're also with everybody at the same time.
COURIC: Meanwhile, tell me about the way...
Mr. MARTIN: You're distant from them is what I meant to say...
Mr. MARTIN: ...but you're with them.
COURIC: ...what--about the writing process for you. And I know that you absolutely adore writing, and Esther Newberg, your agent, says you get involved in every sentence, every word, every...
Mr. MARTIN: I do go over it quite a bit. I--I found one--one good trick is after I've written a--say a novel or novella that I--one, I like to read it aloud to myself because, you know, sometimes when you read you skip over words. And if I can hear it aloud I can also hear the rhythm of the sentences. And I also read it to my dog who sits attentively and...
COURIC: And doesn't offer any criticism, right?
Mr. MARTIN: No, not criticism at all, just pure love.
COURIC: Well, you've gotten some very nice reviews. I was going to read a--a passage...
Mr. MARTIN: Oh, please do.
COURIC: ...from Publisher's Weekly.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. Thanks.
COURIC: Aren't you glad I picked this one?
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah.
COURIC: It says, "This novel is a delight, embodying a satisfying story arch, a jeweler's eye for detail"--I thought that was nice--"intelligent pacing and a clean, sturdy prose style. What's most remarkable about it though is its tenderness, a complex mix of wit, poignancy, and Martin's clear great affection for his characters. Many readers are going to love this brief big-hearted book."
Mr. MARTIN: Oh, don't stop.
COURIC: Agent Esther Newberg.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah.
COURIC: "Twenty-two hundred and fifty thousand first printing, major ad promo...
Mr. MARTIN: Thank you.
COURIC: ...including TODAY show appearance on October 1st!"
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. This is it.
COURIC: There you go.
Mr. MARTIN: I have to go with my contracts.
COURIC: Meanwhile, you wrote the screenplay for "Shopgirl."
Mr. MARTIN: Yes, I did.
COURIC: Claire Danes is starring in it.
Mr. MARTIN: Yes. We're starting in a week--two weeks.
COURIC: And, you know, as someone--someone--someone so intimately involved, obviously, in the writing of the novella, unless you plagiarized it...
Mr. MARTIN: Mm-hmm.
COURIC: ...and the--the movie itself, are you worried about--you know, movies are so disappointing compared to books, generally. Are you worried about that at all?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, I'm a screen writer, too. So when I adapted my own work, I--I really thought in terms of a movie. And...
COURIC: But the imagination is so much better than--no--no offense, anybody's vision when it comes to the big screen, don't you think?
Mr. MARTIN: Well, you know, we have a director, Nan Tucker, who directed "Hilary and Jackie" which was a beautiful, beautiful movie. And he has a poetic vision of this movie. And I believe that he will bring something to it, that could--you know, the words--words are one thing, but vision is another thing. And I think he has a vision for the movie.
COURIC: Well, I loved "Shopgirl" and I loved...
Mr. MARTIN: Thank you.
COURIC: ..."The Pleasure of My Company."
Mr. MARTIN: Thank you.
COURIC: Nice to see you, Steven. You brought your 1926 Gibson Banjo.
Mr. MARTIN: Oh, yeah. I did. Oh, that's right. How'd you know that?
COURIC: You can play us off the air as I tell folks that you can read an excerpt from "The Pleasure of My Company" by logging onto our Web site--don't show me, show Steve--at today.msnbc.com.
(Steve Martin playing the banjo)
COURIC: I want to hear the theme from "The Beverly Hillbillies." And we'll be back with more of TODAY, right after this.