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Jake Kasdan and John C. Reilly Learn to 'Walk Hard'

A couple of years ago, director Jake Kasdan woke up in the middle of the night, knowing suddenly that his next film would be a fake music biopic called Walk Hard. He went on to cast John C. Reilly as Dewey Cox, the putative legend at the heart of the story, who has trouble with women and drugs and who tries on a multitude of musical personalities. Walk Hard, due out Dec. 21, also features Jenna Fischer from NBC's The Office; it was co-written and produced by Judd Apatow. Apatow and Kasdan worked together previously on the critically acclaimed TV show Freaks and Geeks.




Related Topic

Other segments from the episode on December 3, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 3, 2007: Interview with John C. Reilly and Jake Kasdan; Review of the film "The Other Side of the Mirror."


DATE December 3, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: John C. Reilly, actor, and Jake Kasdan, director and
co-writer, on their new film, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

John C. Reilly is staring in the new movie "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."
It's a really funny send up of music biopics: movies that purport to tell the
life story of a musician but are usually fictionalized and kind of formulaic.
"Walk Hard" is inspired in part by recent moves like "Walk the Line" about
Johnny Cash and "Ray" about Ray Charles, as well as early rock 'n' roll films.
My guests are John C. Reilly, who plays Dewey Cox, and Jake Kasdan, who
directed the film. Kasdan co-wrote and produced "Walk Hard" with Judd Apatow,
with whom he'd previously collaborated on "Freaks and Geeks" and the film "The
TV Set."

John C. Reilly gets to do a lot of singing in the role of Dewey Cox. The
songs were all written for the film to evoke iconic performers like Buddy
Holly, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. Here's John C. Reilly singing the title
track "Walk Hard," which was written for the film by Marshall Crenshaw.

(Soundbite of "Walk Hard")

Mr. JOHN C. REILLY: (Singing) Walk hard
Hard down life's rocky road
Walk bold
Hard at my creed, my code
I've been scorned and slandered and ridiculed, too
Had to struggle every day my whole life through
Seen my share of the worst that this world can give
But I still got a dream and a burning rage to live

Walk hard

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's John C. Reilly from the soundtrack of "Walk Hard." The movie
opens December 21st, but the soundtrack will be released tomorrow. Reilly and
director/co-writer Jake Kasdan wanted to be faithful to the music biopic form.
Kasdan told me some of the conventions they wanted to follow.

Mr. JAKE KASDAN: For example, we knew that from his very humble beginnings
this genius would emerge, and that it would--his genius would be fueled by the
tragic loss of a relative as a child in combination with the disdain from his
father that naturally follows the tragedy. And that there would be a, you
know, ghost that continues to visit him throughout this life, that, you know,
there would be a certain pattern by which he is discovered and because of his
genius brought into a recording studio where he would appear to drop the ball,
but then would miraculously pull it together and sing a single perfect take of
the song that would change his life and the world...

GROSS: And the world, yes.

Mr. REILLY: That would alter...

Mr. KASDAN: We knew...

Mr. REILLY: ...the history of music forever.

Mr. KASDAN: Certain patterns we knew we could expect.

GROSS: John, describe the character of Dewey Cox.

Mr. REILLY: Well, yeah, Dewey Cox is kind of an amalgamation of a lot of
different musicians and their stories, and we start out in kind of the Roy
Orbison/Elvis Presley/Buddy Holly kind of, you know, Johnny Cash, early '50s
kind of guys, and then we segue into a lot of different people like Bob Dylan
and Brian Wilson and on into the '70s, Mac Davis and those kinds of guys who
had their own TV shows. And it's really kind of--we just sat around and tried
to think of every crazy rock story or legendary story about rock musicians
that we could come up with.

GROSS: You know, in these kinds of movies, everything's always like
telegraphed in advance, and there's this great moment before, as a child,
Dewey accidently kills his more talented older brother, and the talented older
brother, who's a child, too, just before he's killed, he's saying things like,
`Oh, I know I have a great, long live ahead of me, and there's so much I will

Mr. KASDAN: `Nothing terrible's going to happen today.'

GROSS: ..`in this long, long life.' Yes.

Mr. KASDAN: Yes.

GROSS: Yeah. `Nothing terrible's going to happen today.' And it's so funny.

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah.

GROSS: I mean, because so many movies, like, you just see it coming.

Mr. KASDAN: Well, that was...

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

Mr. KASDAN: ...the other thing we thought was really funny thing from the
very beginning was that a dialogue style where there's absolutely no subtext,
and people are constantly announcing the significance of the moment that
they're depicting. They say, like, `You got to understand, Dewey. It's the
'60s. Things are changing.'

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

Mr. KASDAN: `This is a different--it's a different time in America.' Then
you cut to footage of a march and everyone who enters the movie is a
significant, life-changing character, so it, you know, and always has a line
that sums up their character. Like, for example, `I don't know what to make
of it. Is it rock `n' roll? Is it gospel? I'm not sure.' You know, there's
this pattern of sort of people explaining themselves as clearly as they could
possibly explain themselves.

Mr. REILLY: `Look, the music business is changing. Kids are looking for
something different in their music. (Unintelligible)...that song.'

Mr. KASDAN: `You got to change with it, Dewey.'

Mr. REILLY: Yeah. You know, that said, Terry, there's so many meta-jokes in
the movie, if you will, like, playing with these cliches of biopics and doing
these famous, legendary rock stories and all that, I mean, I still had to play
a real character.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. REILLY: And so the job for me on this one was to like take all these
kind of meta-jokes and play it as honestly as I could, and the cool thing that
ends up happening, I think, in the movie is that the character of Dewey Cox
becomes more than just an amalgamation of all these famous stories and famous
people, he becomes his own creation and his own kind of character, and, you
know, as a result of all his experiences of his life.

Mr. KASDAN: With a very complete body of work.

Mr. REILLY: Yeah, yeah. So by the end of the movie, you end up, I don't
know, the biopic effect ends up kicking in. Like, you spend enough time with
any one person from the time they're 14 till the time they're 72, and you
start to feel something for that character, that person, and you want them to,
you know, survive or whatever, find their happiness.

GROSS: Well, we have to hear some more music, and there's a scene from early
in the film, it's kind of like the Buddy Holly moment where, like, you're
singing a song, and I forget if it's like a prom or a talent show.

Mr. KASDAN: It's a talent show, yeah.

Mr. REILLY: Exactly.

GROSS: The girls are going crazy and the parents are up in arms, like, `What
is this rock 'n' roll thing? It's Satan.'

Mr. KASDAN: This was one of the very first ideas Judd and I ever had about
this movie, was...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KASDAN: ...that there would be a sequence early on, you know, as a
teenager where he sings the world's most innocuous pop song and it causes a
riot, the proportions of which just seem impossible and does so impossibly
quickly, and the song would be called "Take My Hand" and it would be about,
like, holding hands with a girl and going for a walk.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

GROSS: And...

Mr. REILLY: It seems to happen with that rock 'n' roll and these biopic

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah, it's devil's music.

Mr. REILLY: Once the kids get that rock 'n' roll in them.

GROSS: And it...

Mr. REILLY: You know, it's a gateway music to other kinds of bad behavior.

GROSS: John, you want to say something about singing this and getting in the
moment to do this very 1950s song?

Mr. REILLY: Yeah. Like Jake said, this was an early idea for the movie, one
of the earliest songs that we conceived of, and I just remember, like, almost
like, picturing myself just in a room filled with corn syrup. It's so sweet,
and I was singing it, just trying to take out any trace of, you know, sexual
innuendo or anything, just literally like, taking a walk in the park and
holding hands and, like, going back to that kind of almost pre-teen idea of
love and, you know, the romantic puppy love, and that romantic kind of Ricky
Nelson kind of attitude.

GROSS: OK, so here's "Take My Hand," and singing it is John C. Reilly, and
this is from the soundtrack of "Walk Hard."

(Soundbite of "Take My Hand")

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) Take...

Unidentified Singers: (Singing) Take, take...

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) Take my hand...

Singers: (Singing) Take my hand...

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) We're going to walk to the park,
I promise to have you home before dark.

Singers: (Singing) Home before dark.

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) Oh, life would be so sweet
Walking with you down the street
Oh, baby, come on and take my hand

Singers: (Singing) Come on and take my hand

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) Don't you know I like you
You're pretty and nice
Walking with you would be paradise
Sharing the moment, me and you
Walking down the avenue

So, please

Singers: (Singing) Ooh, please, ooh, please

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) Take my hand

Singers: (Singing) Take my hand

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) You know I'm...(unintelligible)
So please take my hand

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's John C. Reilly in his Buddy Holly moment from the new biopic
satire "Walk Hard," and with me is John C. Reilly and Jake Kasdan, who
co-wrote, he conceived and he directed the film.

See, the great thing about the music is, first of all, John, you sound great
singing it, and also, do you know...

Mr. REILLY: Thank you.

GROSS: ...these are really good songs. I mean, they're catchy. They work.
So, Jake, what did you tell the songwriters for the movie? What did you tell
them to guide them to what you wanted them to write for you?

Mr. KASDAN: We were sort of starting with a half dozen songs in the movie.
We would have titles, like "Take My Hand" or "Guilty As Charged" and sort of
sequences that, you know, comic sequences that they would fit into. And we
would throw them to the guys and say, `Sort of try to describe the song as we
imagined it,' and give them sort of the hints from the script in terms of what
it was meant to do, and sort of see what they would come back with. And in
many cases, you know, we were dealing with, by the end of it, hundreds and
hundreds of songs. And John was involved in that whole process of developing
the music with us and then recording it. So we would get these demos, we'd
get, say, you know, a dozen songs called "Guilty As Charged" and we'd zero in
on one or two.

As we were sort of doing that and zeroing in on who the handful of guys were
that were really kind of nailing them, we started to introduce other ideas, or
they would introduce ideas. For example, Dan Bern out of nowhere one day sent
me a little MP3 of a song called "Hey, Have You Heard the News? Dewey Cox
Died" that was a song that Dewey theoretically wrote in anticipation of his
own death, sort of contemplating his mortality and remembering to celebrate
himself almost as though there were a danger that others might forget to after
he was gone.

Mr. REILLY: You know, Judd Apatow was saying to me the other day, he was
like, `I almost wish the lyrics weren't so funny because it's such a beautiful
song.' It opens up with this mandolin music and you think, `Oh man, this is
going to be a real tear-jerker, and then you realize it's about a guy
imagining how sad everyone will be when he's dead.

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear "Have You Heard the News? Dewey Cox Died"?

Mr. REILLY: All right.

GROSS: And this is John C. Reilly singing.

(Soundbite of "(Have You Heard the News) Dewey Cox Died")

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) Long black hearse,
Clear blue sky
Preacher says his words
Grown men cry
Women start to faint
Dark gray sky
Simple wooden box
Preacher asks, "Why?"

Hey! Have you heard the news? Dewey Cox died

Put him in the ground
Start to shovel dirt
Grown men turn away
Cannot bear the hurt
He fell out of a tree
Fell upon his head
Rushed him to a hospital
There pronounced dead

Hey! Have you heard the news? Dewey Cox died

No, say it isn't so
Dewey Cox died

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's John C. Reilly from the soundtrack of the new movie "Walk
Hard," which is a kind of send up of music biopics, and my guests are John C.
Reilly, who stars in the film as Dewey Cox; and Jake Kasdan, who conceived,
co-wrote and directed the film.

John, all the songs had to be written for you, for your voice, so what did you
do to convey to all the songwriters who were writing for this movie what you
were capable of? Because you were able to hit like really low notes when
singing a Johnny Cash kind of song...

Mr. REILLY: Right.

GROSS: ...and really high notes when singing a Roy Orbison kind of song.

Mr. REILLY: Well, it was more like they were hitting their marks in terms of
the type of song or the type of genre that we were in, and so then I would
push myself to try to hit it, and if something was just way too high for me
I'd say, you know, I would say, `Guys, I can do this but you got to transpose
it down at least, you know, one octave or something.' But that was very rarely
the case. And for the most part, there was this sort of happy...

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah. I mean, there was...

Mr. REILLY: know, medium in the middle.

Mr. KASDAN: I can honestly say having sat there the whole time, there was
never really anything that John couldn't do. What was more an issue and that
I felt--what was so great about the fact that we were all really in there
doing this together and that John was there for every minute of this and not
just showing up to sing but actually sort of authoring this process with
us--was that it made it so that--there was never anything about the songs that
was technically unachievable for John or really for any of them, anybody
playing or Mike or anything, what happened occasionally is, you know, John and
I would have conversations about, like, just, `Is this the right sort of tone
for the character and for the movie?' And so the process of sort of figuring
out the music ended up being the first kind of really comprehensive work on
building the character and...

Mr. REILLY: Yeah, it was almost like we found the character. By the time we
shot the movie...

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah.

Mr. REILLY: ...we'd already had long conversations about what the guy was
thinking or what he was going through or, you know, because we had to decide
those things as we made the songs, you know, as we decided what the lyrical
content would be or what the attitude up to a certain song would be. We had
to be walking through the story at the same time.

GROSS: My guests are John C. Reilly, the star of "Walk Hard," and Jake
Kasdan, the film's director and co-writer. More after a break. This is FRESH


GROSS: We're talking about the film "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," a send
up of music biopics. My guests are the film's star, John C. Reilly, and its
director and co-writer Jake Kasdan.

John, I remember when we were talking about making "Boogie Nights," which is
set in the porn industry, you talked about how you had to watch a lot of porn

Mr. REILLY: Did I?

GROSS: Yes. You didn't talk a lot about it, but you did mention it.

Mr. REILLY: I'm still doing research on that one, Terry.

GROSS: Well, in fact, you said you thought you'd never watch a porn movie

Mr. REILLY: Yeah. Well, that's true.

Mr. KASDAN: Well, it turned out not to be the case.

Mr. REILLY: Certainly not in the same way, yeah.

Mr. KASDAN: That's how he prepared for "Walk Hard" also.

GROSS: Did you go back and watch a lot of the rock and country biopics

Mr. REILLY: You know, the truth is I'd seen a lot of these biopics already,
so that's why I so sparked to the idea when Jake and Judd came to me. Because
I was already thinking the same thing, like, `Gosh, isn't it crazy how even
though Ray Charles and Johnny Cash are two very different people with very
different lives, how much their movies about them are so similar.' I mean,
certain things match up almost like Xerox, you know, it's bizarre. So I was
already in a place of thinking like, `Oh, you know, this would be fun to have
some fun with this type of movie.

But, yeah, the research I did mostly while getting ready for the movie was
looking at documentaries. Like I looked at a great documentary about Roy
Orbison and, you know, some stuff about Johnny Cash. I watched an amazing
sort of outtake film called "Eat the Document" that was about Bob--you know,
it was footage from "Don't Look Back" that was not used in the film. And then
I even got more bootlegs from that same era. I had an amazing video of Bob
Dylan and John Lennon in the back of like an English taxi. It was about 20
minutes long, and you just can't believe you're watching these two people talk
to each other in a candid way. I mean, number one, you don't see that kind of
footage normally from the '60s period, and then to see those--it's like
watching Superman and Batman have a conversation.

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah.

Mr. REILLY: It's kind of incredible.

GROSS: Yeah...

Mr. REILLY: So I focused mainly on documentary stuff because I kind of had
to forget the whole `we're making fun a little bit of the biopic thing' a
little bit because I had a character to play, you know? And I realized that,
you know, you can't just do a meta-performance. You have to have something to
play there emotionally and you have to have something for the audience to get
involved in.

GROSS: Can you talk about a specific moment or specific like posture or
attitude that you got from watching the documentaries?

Mr. REILLY: Well, this idea, you know, what struck me was--because going in,
I'm very modest person. I come from very modest background. My family has
nothing to do with the entertainment business at all, for generations. I
mean, I think I had an uncle who was a vaudeville singer at one point, but--so
coming into this, I didn't feel like, `Wow, a rock star. I'm just the guy for
the part.' You know? It's just like `Oh, God. Man, are people really going
to believe this?'

And then I realized from watching some of these documentaries and just from
the way people would behave around me when I was dressed as Dewey that it's
almost like a self-generating process. People start to mythologize you, so
you become a myth. People start to treat you like a rock star, and you start
to feel like, `Well, that's an appropriate way to treat me,' you know, like
people scream in adulation and you start to get used to it, you know? And so
that was an interesting process for me, like, getting into the character that
way, accepting that I could be this, you know, Elvis-like figure, even though
I'm a very modest person personally. Like, it became clear to me slowly how
it happens to someone. Because, you know, all these guys come from somewhat
humble beginnings, you know? And then they find themselves one day in a white
leather jumpsuit surrounded by people who that to have sex with them and give
them anything they want and never say `no.' You know, it's a pretty slippery

GROSS: John C. Reilly stars in the new film "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox
Story." Jake Kasdan directed and co-wrote the film. They'll be back in the
second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're talking about the new
movie "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." It's a send up of music biopics. My
guests are John C. Reilly, who stars as music legend Dewey Cox, and Jake
Kasdan, who directed and co-wrote the film. All the songs were written for
the film and are in the manner of iconic performers like Roy Orbison, Johnny
Cash, The Beatles and Bob Dylan.

Well, let's talk about Roy Orbison for a second. There's a great like Roy
Orbison-ish song in here that you do, and it's one of my favorite moments in
the movie because like your first marriage is completely falling apart...

Mr. REILLY: Right.

GROSS: ...your wife is like really bitter because you're never home and she
has like 1,000 babies of yours to take care.

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

Mr. KASDAN: As is her role as the first wife, her obligatory...

GROSS: That's right.

Mr. REILLY: A lot of tears and a lot of closed bathroom doors.

GROSS: So like the marriage is kaput and then you're on stage singing about
how you have the perfect life and the perfect wife...

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

GROSS: ...and it's this really like very Roy Orbison-ish kind of song. And I
was just really amazed at how well you pulled it off. I think it's a very
demanding song, and a really catchy one, too.

Mr. REILLY: Well, thanks.

Mr. KASDAN: A very demanding song.

Mr. REILLY: It is one of the more demanding ones that we did. Yeah, I'll
have to agree there.

GROSS: Do you want to say anything about the preparing for this, and also in
the manner of Roy Orbison, there's this like--they have a orchestra behind you
with like horns and strings and lots of drama.

Mr. REILLY: Yeah. Well, that was always our idea for the song was, you
know, somehow this is the moment in his life when his--the reality of his life
starts to separate slowly from the illusion of his life and he starts to
believe more in the illusion than he's interested in accepting the reality.
So, yeah, getting ready for the song I just, you know, the usual vocal tricks.
You just warm up as much as you can and try not to do it too many times in a
row, and...

Mr. KASDAN: The original concept for this song--it's a little bit different
than how it appears in the movie, although only slightly--was that we see
Dewey on stage singing this song about his wife called "A Life Without You (Is
No Life At All)," and it's this big Orbison-esque sort of, you know, soaring
ballad, like all the Roy Orbison songs that we love so much. Unlike Roy
Orbison, it was too--it conceived to be cut against a montage of Dewey on
stage singing this, you know, announcing his love for his wife and intercut it
with a montage of him...

Mr. REILLY: Depravity.

Mr. KASDAN: ...yeah, very quickly sliding down that slippery slope and
bedding everyone he sees, everyone in the band, everyone on the tour, all the
groupies. It's just that for Dewey on his first tour, drugs instantly equal
outrageous infidelity and depravity, and that that would be the montage. And
the way it worked out in the movie, the song was so pretty, and watching John
sing the song was so sort of enjoyable to us that we didn't want to cut away
to all of this horrible stuff. So instead what happens is the song ends and
we immediately see that what he was doing--what happened immediately after,
the aftermath, we see, is him sort of like sitting around the aftermath of an
orgy with a bunch of strangers who are all naked.

Mr. REILLY: This was the first song we recorded that I--when I played it
back in the final, you know, polished version back at home, it was really
stunning, like, wait a minute, like, this song almost could work in the top
40, like, my mom would really just like this song, like, we're so in--it was
in this kind of music from the '50s would just--it just fits right in there in
a really kind of bizarre art imitating life moment for me, like, wait a

GROSS: No, it's a good song.

Mr. REILLY: ...this is a good song. Yeah.

GROSS: It's a good song. It's a great arrangement and production and I think
we should hear it.

Mr. REILLY: We didn't mean to make a good song, but we did. Like, what

Mr. KASDAN: And this results again, Mike Viola wrote this song, and it was
one of those--this was sort of a lightning bolt moment for all of us, which
was we heard his original demo that was just Mike singing into a tape recorder
and we all kind of went, that's just undeniably great. We just have to--we've
got to do that quick.

GROSS: So let's hear it. So this is "A Life Without You (Is No Life At
All)," John C. Reilly singing, and it's on the soundtrack of the new film
"Walk Hard."

(Soundbite of "A Life Without You (Is No Life At All)")

Unidentified Singer: (Singing) Oh, my darling
Oh, my darling
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) I have the perfect life
You are the perfect wife
I don't know why
I sit and cry

And now I miss you so
Please don't let me go
I make mistakes and that is true
At least I learn each time I do

Darling, you must believe
I could never leave you if I tried
A life without you is no life at all

Singer: (Singing) Oh, my darling
Oh, my darling...

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's John C. Reilly from the soundtrack of "Walk Hard," which is a
send up of musical biography movies, musical biopics. And my guests are John
C. Reilly, the star of the film, and Jake Kasdan, who conceived, co-wrote and
directed the film.

There's one shot in the movie that, Jake, I have to ask you about and, John C.
Reilly, I have to ask you about to see how you kept a straight face during it.
It's during the kind of orgy sequence where, you know, you're in your hotel
room, your wife's been on the phone and she has no idea what's going on...

Mr. REILLY: Right.

GROSS: ...and you're just trying to keep it from her. And like the bands in
the room and all the groupies are in the room.

Mr. KASDAN: Which shot do you think she's talking about?

GROSS: And like you're seated on the telephone, and because you're sitting

Mr. REILLY: On the floor at the foot of the bed.

GROSS: On the floor, yes, and your naked roadie, I think, is walking past

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

GROSS: ...and because his crotch is at your head level all we see is his
naked crotch.

Mr. REILLY: It's a two shot of sorts. We would call that a two shot in the
business, yeah.

GROSS: And it's such a funny, almost like surreal scene because all we see is
your face and his crotch kind of walking by...

Mr. REILLY: Yeah. And we have a very mundane conversation about what time
we're supposed to leave the next day, and do I want any coffee or eggs.
Except you never see his face, you just see his...

GROSS: Naked crotch.

Mr. REILLY: ...well, his junk. Yeah.

GROSS: So I'm curious, Jake, how you came up with that shot, and, John, what
it was like for you to shoot it with a straight face because it's so funny.

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

Mr. KASDAN: You know, I still almost can't believe that I came up with it.
Of everyone involved in this movie, I can't believe that was my idea, but it
was. It happened because I was watching--you know, we were doing a lot of
research of all different kinds, and one night I was at--I was up at Mike
Andrews' house. Mike is, again, the producer of all the music and the
composer of the score. And he and his girlfriend--now wife--and I were
watching an old sort of obscure biopic--not that old, a few years old--called
"Stoned" that was an early Rolling Stones biopic. And there was this funny
detail of it, which was that, for some reason all of the Rolling Stones were
like full frontally naked at some point in this movie. And it was so kind of
odd, and the way that they were treating it just made us realize like how
rarely you see that and it made you really think about what would motivate you
to see that. And it was always sort of in that kind of context, like strange
depiction of decadence.

And so we had this idea that it would be funny to--we had already written that
scene. And the scene is basically after we've seen Dewey sing this song about
how much he loves his wife, we do this sort of slow reveal of that there's
someone else in bed with him, then that there's a few people in bed with him,
then that there's several--then there's 20 naked people in the room with him.
And then it suddenly seemed like the final topper to that that only made sense
and would feel like some strange kind of comment on the rock 'n' roll
lifestyle as told by this sort of moron filmmaker that we're pretending to be
in making a movie like this...

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

Mr. KASDAN: ...that would be sort of like a profound thing to do almost.

Mr. REILLY: He needed to have a conversation with a disembodied penis.

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah, that's right. That the penis would just sort of show up
and he wouldn't notice initially.

Mr. REILLY: Then he'd become so decadent that it didn't phase him one bit.

Mr. KASDAN: And that's what his life had become, and so it was partly...

Mr. REILLY: Meanwhile, she's talking about I couldn't get milk at the store
and she's holding the baby...

Mr. KASDAN: That's right.

Mr. REILLY: ...and she's reeling off all her domestic issues.

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah. `I miss you, Dewey, when you going to be home?' And

Mr. REILLY: `Oh, real soon.'

Mr. KASDAN: And he's meanwhile surrounded by a kind of decadence that
probably doesn't exist anywhere.

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

MR. KASDAN: But it seems like a funny conceit.

Mr. REILLY: Well, it goes back to that thing we were talking about before,
like when you become a rock star and you start to accept that that's who you
are and that this bizarre, decadent lifestyle is normal.

GROSS: So, John, was it hard to keep a straight face during the shot?

Mr. REILLY: Well, it actually--I have a weird thing, like when I feel like
I'm going to crack up it usually makes me get more serious. You know, to me
the funny part of having a full frontal male scene in the movie was not just
that, that penises are funny to look at, which...

Mr. KASDAN: Although...

Mr. REILLY: ...some would argue they are. But to me the center of that joke
was that it's just a mundane conversation that he's--it's having no effect on
Dewey at all, that he's just, `Oh, yeah, Burt, what do you need? Oh, no, I
don't need any eggs. Thank you. I'm on the phone here, could you give me a
minute?' Just staying polite and very normal, to me that's what made the joke
funny. So, you know, in those moments when I start to lose my marbles and
feel like I'm going to start to crack up, that is what I focus on, like what
is the central thing that the character's trying to get across in the moment,
you know. It usually helps me, although it doesn't always.

GROSS: My guests are John C. Reilly, the star of "Walk Hard," and Jake
Kasdan, the film's director and co-writer. More after a break. This is FRESH


GROSS: We're talking about the film "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." It's a
send up of music biopics. My guests are the film's star, John C. Reilly, and
its director and co-writer, Jake Kasdan.

Now, I want to play some more music from the soundtrack. And this time around
I thought we could play the Bob Dylan homage, which had the most twisted,
ridiculous lyrics, a perfect tribute to Dylan.

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

GROSS: So, Jake, what did you tell the songwriters for this that you wanted?

Mr. KASDAN: Well, these Dylan-esque songs were a really simple process,
which was we had this idea that it would be fun to do a sequence like this. I
called up Dan Bern, who is one of the main guys who was writing with us, a
really good friend of mine, one of the world's funniest songwriters, and I
said, `we're thinking about doing a sequence where he sounds really a lot like
Dylan.' And...

GROSS: Because he's gotten politicized.

Mr. REILLY: He's gotten politicized, but the way that his politics are
showing up in his music are in incomprehensible metaphors and, you know, long,
wordy songs. And Dan showed up at my house literally the next day with four
brilliantly conceived fake Dylan songs built on incomprehensible metaphors.
And this one is called "Royal Jelly."

GROSS: So this is John C. Reilly singing "Royal Jelly," from the soundtrack
of "Walk Hard."

(Soundbite of "Royal Jelly")

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) Mailboxes drip like lampposts in the twisted birth
canal of the coliseum Rim job buried, teapots mask the temper tantrum, oh, say
can you see them? The cabbage is the darling of the laundromat And the
sorority mascot said with the lumberjack, Prescient passion stinging, asking
big fabrications of his time The mouse would be over by, explain how the
rabbits were ensnared And the skinny, skinny silk grass, the apothecary
diplomats, Inside the three-eyed within inches of his toaster oven life

In my mind I'm half-blind My inner ref is mostly deaf I'm smell impaired If
you care

My sense of taste is wasted on the phosphorescent orange peels of San
Francisco axe-encrusted frenzy So let me touch you Let me touch you Let me
touch you Let me touch you Where the royal jelly gets made

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: And that's "Royal Jelly," John C. Reilly singing from the soundtrack
of "Walk Hard." And my guests are John C. Reilly and Jake Kasdan, who
conceived, co-wrote and directed the film.

Do you have any favorite moments from biopics that inspired either of you?
Inspired you because they were either so good or so ridiculous, and maybe you
didn't want to choose like one of each because there are some like wonderful
like rock 'n' roll movies from the '50s and '60s.

Mr. KASDAN: You know it sounds like a sort of phony thing to say when you've
made a movie that's kind of a clear parody in many ways, though not always.
But, you know, the truth is we never would have done this if we weren't all
kind of serious suckers for the movies that we're ripping on, because there is
something irresistible about those stories. And the truth is I go to every
one of those movies the week it comes out and will continue to even after
having made that movie. There's something about the format and movies about
rock music that are irresistible to me.

In terms of a favorite moment, John, does one pop to mind?

Mr. REILLY: Yeah, from "Walk the Line," that little romantic moment when
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash finally are able to love each other and it's
OK for their love to be a romantic love that--I don't remember exactly where
it happens in the movie, but they're on stage and there's...

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah, at the end.

Mr. REILLY: ...this big spotlight from the front.

Mr. KASDAN: That was just the two on stage.

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

Mr. KASDAN: Absurd stuff in biopics.

Mr. REILLY: What was that thing from "Ray" which we kind of rip on a little
bit in the movie where it's like, you know, he's going to get addicted to a

Mr. KASDAN: Right.

Mr. REILLY: He comes into the bathroom, you know this is going to be the
moment. And the character, `You don't want no part of this.'

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah.

Mr. REILLY: `You know, stuff.' I can't say what he really says on the radio,
but, `You don't want no part of this stuff, Ray. Get out of here.'

Mr. KASDAN: Yeah.

Mr. REILLY: You know, when, in fact, you're, you know, wait. He did
infamously, you know, get involved in drugs. So this is going to happen.

Mr. KASDAN: I think the thing that always makes me laugh in these movies is
probably the most direct inspiration, like it would be fun to do one of these
that kind of pokes fun at that, is the no subtext, say everything exactly as
it happens in the dialogue thing...

Mr. REILLY: Yeah.

Mr. KASDAN: ...where someone walks in and announces the next phase of
every--you know, `this rock 'n' roll, it's going places. I feel that this is
the beginning of something' or, you know, `people want something different
from their music now. They want their music to be about politics. They want
it to be about something.' You know, that kind of dialogue style, I think, was
what I was drawn to in the beginning.

GROSS: Let's end with one more song. And, John, let me ask you if there's a
favorite of yours that we haven't yet played?

Mr. REILLY: Gosh. "Beautiful Ride" would be a great wrap-up tune.


Mr. REILLY: Because it's a rare moment when an artist is able to sum up his
entire life's experience in one song.

Mr. KASDAN: Right at the end of his movie.

Mr. REILLY: Yeah, right before he goes home to Jesus.

GROSS: Thank you both so much for talking with us.

Mr. REILLY: Thank you, Terry.

Mr. KASDAN: Thanks so much, Terry, for having us.

GROSS: John C. Reilly stars in the new film "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox
Story." Jake Kasdan directed and co-wrote the film. The movie opens December
21. The soundtrack will be released tomorrow.

(Soundbite of "Beautiful Ride")

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) Now that I have lived
A lifetime's worth of days
Finally I see the folly of my ways
So listen when I sing of the temptations of this world,
Fancy cars and needles, whiskey-cushioned girls
And then in the end it's family and friends
Holding yourself but not only yourself
It's about the good walk and the hard walk and the young girls you may try
It's about making little music everyday till you die
It's a beautiful ride

Singer: (Singing) Beautiful ride

Mr. REILLY: (Singing) A beautiful ride

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Coming up, Ed Ward reviews a DVD of Dylan performances at the Newport
Folk Festival. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Ed Ward reviews the Bob Dylan concert film "The Other
Side of the Mirror"

With a new career retrospective of his recordings, a biographical film
starring actors impersonating him and a display of over 120 of his watercolors
in a German museum, Bob Dylan is in the public eye a lot at the moment. The
latest addition to the Dylan avalanche is a film released on DVD called "The
Other Side of the Mirror," chronically his performance at three consecutive
Newport Folk Festivals from 1963 to 1965. Rock historian Ed Ward says that
there's a lot more here than just a concert film

Mr. ED WARD: In 1963 Murray Lerner, a young filmmaker who paid the rent on
his Grenwich Village apartment making industrial films, packed up some gear
and headed to Newport, Rhode Island, to see if the Newport Folk Festival was
worth filming. One performer he made sure to capture every time he performed
was Bob Dylan, just beginning to make his mark on the folk world and drawing
large crowds of curious onlookers. The entire festival experience convinced
Lerner that the event should be covered. Several generations were meeting at
Newport from old folk singers who'd been rediscovered by the urban folk fans
to veterans of American's first folk revival in the early 1950s to the current
crop of college students who found this music speaking to them in a way the
era's pop music wasn't doing.

The next year he took a crew to the 1964 festival and began filming. He
continued to do this through the 1966 festival. And in 1967, his documentary
"Festival," still considered one of the great music films, was released.
Lerner went on to make films about Isaac Stern, Miles Davis and the Who, but
its "Festival" he's best known for. Telling the story of the folk revival
without narration, weaving together four festivals in less than 100 minutes,
it's got all the stars of the 1960s folk revival: Pete Seeger; Joan Baez;
Peter, Paul and Mary; and of course Bob Dylan. Not long ago Lerner realized
he had all the footage of Dylan's Newport appearances and wondered if there
was a film there. Needless to say, there was, and he titled it "The Other
Side of the Mirror."

The film's structure couldn't be more straightforward. It simply has three
sections for each of the three years Dylan performed and presents his
performances chronologically. The first glimpse we get of him is at one of
the festival's workshops as he plays "North Country Blues," a song about
unemployment and poverty in the mining country where he grew up. Looking on
fascinated we can see traditional banjo player Clarence Ashley, Ashley's
younger friend Doc Watson and a very young Judy Collins. Dylan, by this time,
was also Joan Baez's constant companion, and they spent some time on stage
together, although it must be said they're not the world's greatest duet.
Dylan appears just a little nervous, but does a good job of bluffing it away.

By the next year a lot has changed. He's got more hair and it's less
disciplined. His clothes are no longer the work shirt and chinos combination
from the previous year. He gets a strong endorsement from Johnny Cash, and a
humorous impersonation from Joan Baez. And although he performs "With God On
Our Side," a new abstraction has crept into his songwriting.

(Soundbite of "Chimes of Freedom")

Mr. BOB DYLAN: (Singing) Far between finish of sundown and midnight's
broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway as thunder went crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
And for each and every underdog soldier in the night
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

(End of soundbite)

WARD: This newer Dylan is also met with a new pop star sort of adulation.
And one of the most telling moments is after he leaves the stage, and poor
Peter Yarrow tries to interest the crowd, which won't stop cheering, in what's
coming next, Odetta.

Of course, for any Dylan fan there's a tension building for the film's last 40
minutes because we know that the 1965 Newport Folk Festival was the one where
Dylan went electric. And from the excerpt in "Festival," we know Lerner was
there. We get some acoustic material from earlier in the day and then a brief
glimpse at rehearsal and sound check which looks rushed and chaotic. Then,
without warning, we're there at the moment itself, the under-rehearsed band
thundering into "Maggie's Farm."

(Soundbite of "Maggie's Farm")

Mr. DYLAN: Let's go!

(Singing) I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
Well, I wake up in the morning,
Fold my hands and pray for rain
I've got a head full of ideas
That are driving me insane
It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more

I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more

(End of soundbite)

WARD: The tension on stage during this song has to be seen to be believed.
Nor do things calm much once Al Cooper stands up to take over on bass for
"Like a Rolling Stone," the second and last electric song of the set. Despite
what you hear from revisionist folkies, this song was already in the top 10,
so it couldn't have come as much of a surprise to the majority of people in
the audience. And the band's volume, which is palpable in the film, shocked a
lot of them. Once again poor Peter Yarrow has to deal with the chaos as
everyone rushes off stage. But he summons Bobby back for a conciliatory "Mr.
Tambourine Man." And finally the kiss off, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."

Lerner's done a great job assembling this from the "Festival" outtakes. And
what I found remarkable was that the film as story arc, which, for all that is
familiar to many of us, still retains its grip until the very last frames.
The entire 80 minute film is thrilling, and I also recommend the bonus
interview with Lerner, who's a very articulate man as he discusses what went
into the making. Dylan, he says, was perceived as a mirror on the part of
many in his audience. And Lerner believes he showed what was on the other
side from Dylan's perspective. I think he succeeded.

GROSS: Ed Ward lives in Berlin. He reviewed the DVD release of "The Other
Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival, 1963 to

I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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