INTERVIEW — TAPE #46, SIDE #2
Q: Mark Russell Bell
ELISABETH LEUSTIG MEMORIAL INTERVIEWEES
J: Jim Hatch, a friend of Elisabeth
R: Robert Altman, film director
E: Elizabeth Moorehead, actress
D: Darryl Marshak, talent agent
H: Daryl Hannah, actress
B: Benicio Del Toro, actor
F: Floyd Red Crow Westerman, actor
“I was unprepared for what happened. Almost instantly, I somehow knew that I had opened a door into something unknown but very powerful. I remember uttering a curse. My field of vision was immediately a dark ink-black, which then rapidly filled with brightly colored swirling phosphorescent ‘sparkles.’ This vortex built in intensity . . . and luminosity until it coalesced into a sort of ball of intense light into which I was swallowed up. This light or energy was completely overwhelming; it roared like a tornado . . . like being at the center of a nuclear explosion without being consumed with pain or annihilated. I felt This is God, and for the first time, I could sense the power that this Creative Force actually represented. I was totally in awe. Yet throughout the whole experience, I was not able to keep a grasp on my own personality. I was just a thread of freely running consciousness, holding on for dear life to this screaming freight train of energy that was tearing through the cosmos. At the same time, I had the realization that this light was God; my body was filled with a feeling of ecstasy or love.”
“I—my drashta, the Looker—became separated from my body and mind. This was Atman . . . And then the Looker witnessed everything in the world, this ground, these trees, this mountain, and all people, and all other things, the light, the energy, and also itself, myself — all were Shakti, the primordial energy of the universe. There was no Seer and seen, no Looker and looked — they are One — that is Brahman, the Absolute.”
Three accounts of religious ecstasy with incredible similarities. Yet their authors were separated by centuries and cultures. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the first report, an account of his experience in a New England wood in his 1836 essay Nature. The second comes from a neuropharmacologist and professor at a large American university who recently experimented on himself using extract from a psychoactive plant. The third is a description by a Hindu yogi about his own practices.
To these we could add testimony by schizophrenics about their hallucinations of becoming God, reports by shamans of their out-of-body experiences, accounts of Dionysian rituals in ancient Greece, and quotations from poets and visionaries like William Blake and the Biblical prophets. But all describe a similar clinical picture . . .
Q: Clinical? Why do we always have to go back to that? God can obviously do whatever He wants whenever He wants to do it. So it will be interesting when all these scientific people read my book. A separate section of this article is entitled “A Short History of Consciousness”:
Q: You can say that again. There’s also “A seven-day program for glimpsing the infinite and expressing the spirit within you” in an article by Keith Harary entitled “Spirit Exercises” that includes photographs by Duane Michaels. There’s a quote that’s highlighted that says:
Q: This is an interesting article to read. Maybe Omni will reprint this issue now that I’ve mentioned it in my book. (“BUT”) Day one is “Life Lines. Consider the ways in which you have changed as a person from your earliest childhood to the present time.” On day two, it says: “Some people identify so strongly with the physical self that they consider the body and soul to be virtually synonymous . . . To practice this exercise, you’ll need to position yourself alone in a darkened room with a full-length mirror and a candle.” Basically, you imagine “the image of your body changing as watch it in the mirror.” And ask yourself “how you would recognize yourself if you had an entirely different physical appearance. Is there an ‘inner you’ that transcends the external image you have of yourself?” Day three is “The Primordial Self.” Basically, it’s another exercise to “get in touch with this fundamental dimension of your inner self” (“E”) known as “the essential ‘you.’ . . . If you can arrange to spend some time in a flotation tank this would be ideal. Day four has to do with “The Remembered Self” and exploring “this concept of the soul. . . . (“THAT”) the deeds we leave behind confer a kind of immortality and are the soul of our existence.” Day five: “The Power of Love. As Mother Teresa inspires us to recognize, few experiences hold as great a potential for spiritual transformation as the act of selfless love. Thus, your goal for day five is to perform a series of selfless acts for others. . . . If you pass a homeless person on the street, for example, don’t just assuage your conscience by handing him or her some loose change. Buy this needy person a brand-new blanket or a hot meal with all the trimmings. Hide a $20 bill in the lunch bag so the individual will discover it long after you’ve gone. To be truly selfless, the act must be performed without seeking the recognition of other people and with no obligation on the part of your beneficiary.” Day six: “The God Factor. In many traditions, the concept of a divine creator is an integral element of spirituality. . . . Begin by finding a quiet outdoor location in which you can safely meditate without being disturbed. . . . Envision the universe you have ‘created’ in as much detail as possible . . . The seventh day” entails a “first mission” that entails observing “the manner in which human beings have attempted to overcome the forces of nature.” The “second mission is to locate evidence of nature’s inevitable ability to overcome even the most concerted human efforts. . . . To complete this exercise, go for a walk and immerse yourself in your surroundings.” That’s a nice thing to do on a Sunday. “. . . spend an hour exploring your creative potential in whatever manner you deem appropriate — write poetry, cook a new and exotic dish, draw a picture, or take artistic photographs.” I like that. So let’s see. (“THERE’S AN”) “Interview” with Michael Gazzaniga. This has to do with the brain. (“AND”) You know how God doesn’t like people fooling around with His brain. I mean — as if they know what they’re doing? I mean come on. This is very scary. (“THINK”) People actually think that they know what they’re doing when they deal with the brain. So I don’t think I’ll say anything at all about this article. Except I see highlighted: “‘People ask, “Why are you taking the mysteries out of life?” It seems to me one wants to know what a species does, what it really means. Knowing doesn’t make you any less a victim of life or enjoying it.'” Well, that takes a lot for granted. (“NN”) I think that this is the most interesting part of the article. There’s a little box (“IT’S HARD”) with a picture of Michael Gazzaniga holding a model of a brain. His job is “Director, Center for Neuroscience; Professor of Neurology and Psychology, University of California, Davis.” “On consciousness” — he says, “‘It’s a feeling, one that never seems (“TO DIS”) to disappear.'” I’m supposed to be impressed by that statement? “On unconsciousness: ‘Let’s face it; ninety-nine percent of what our brain does is not available to us in terms of consciousness. Certainly the cortex is doing all kinds of out-of-consciousness computations.’ On intelligence: ‘It’s a function of specialized systems that represent activity of local circuits, and most of them are in your left hemisphere, the hemisphere of choice by Mother Nature.'” It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. I think I’d be very worried right now if I was reading this book and I was Michael Gazzaniga. But you know what? You can always find redemption by helping others and performing good services for mankind because that’s how you earn God’s love. (“VVE”) There’s a UFO update but, obviously, this magazine is several years old. It’s a quite interesting 15th anniversary edition of Omni. Also, in the Calendar of the Los Angeles Times today there is an article about Art Bell who “sets his national radio show apart with a mix of the topical and unsettling.” Apparently, when he was doing this interview, he had a major power failure in his home. (“WHERE”) Basically, he transmits his radiocasts. It says, “For one thing, multiple fax machines, computers and a television—all key tools for Bell’s everyday, essential news gathering—are out cold. For another, there’s no knowing how long the outage will last.” Well, obviously, (“LA[ST]”) long enough for God to make a point. (“TTT”) In the headline section, there’s a large interview with the First Lady. I don’t know why she’s talking so much about Whitewater if there’s nothing to talk about. There’s something wrong. (“I NEED”) She needs a better P.R. person, I think. This whole thing is so ridiculous. There’s an article about the “Christian Right Extends Roots in Iowa.” “. . . Pastor John Palmer of the First Assembly of God Church” appealing “to those ‘stressed-out over life’ to join him in prayer with Iowa’s largest congregation.” The article is by Stephen Braun and Nancy Holtzman, Times staff writers. All these ‘evangelicals’ are going to have to get a new life after my book comes out and start doing things to help their fellow man which is what they should have been doing all along. There’s an article on page three about Mitterrand: “Forsaking Cancer Medication, Mitterrand Writes Own Final Chapter.” There’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s see. Okay, now here’s page A6 and the First Lady is still talking about Whitewater. The article starts (“SSS”) getting into a lot of interesting areas: for example, the murder of Vincent Foster. Of course, that’s not the word the article uses but even before I had my religious experience I was convinced that Vincent Foster had been murdered. Just ask my friend Tom Avila if you don’t believe me. When people are upset with Washington and want to get a new job, they don’t kill themselves. They write bestsellers. On page A8 there’s an article entitled “Clearing Mines Meant For Each Other. Under U.S. Supervision, Former Bosnian Combatants Work Together.” Well, that’s sort of nice. (“CCE”) But I don’t know. It’s just that in the picture of the captain and other soldiers, they’re all laughing and having a good time. Something is wrong with this picture. There have been so many articles about Serajevo and Bosnia. The “New Russia Foreign Minister Talks Tough.” “Israeli-Syrian Differences Narrow . . .” Well, that’s hopeful. I don’t know. Some of these articles are very depressing. In the business section, there’s an article about Maybelline. “Maybelline May Get Takeover Bid Topping That of L’Oreal.” God probably just did that for my book. (“KKK”) For the week it just says that the Dow Jones (“ENDED” “WENT”) lost 120.31 points for the week. (“KKK”) I’m glad I’m no longer gambling on the stock market. Anyway, that’s enough for today. I have to get ready to go to the memorial.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: THE REMAINDER OF THIS TAPE SIDE WAS RECORDED AT THE PARAMOUNT THEATRE.)
Q: So the memorial was very lovely. It was probably the nicest memorial I’ve ever been to. (“AND I’M”) I feel so lucky that I could have known Elisabeth (“DIE”) Leustig. (“I’M HERE” “LIKE THING” “MY ATTORNEY” “WOOD” “MAYBE” “I CALL”) I wrote a message for Jack even though I had never known him. I only had really met Elisabeth a few times (“ONE”) when I was an agent but she really did (“ME” “I”) make a difference in my life. She certainly was one of the casting directors I felt closest to — (“MY FRIEND”) and I always enjoyed (“SHE HAD A” ) speaking to her on the phone. It’s very intimidating when I come to one of these events but I’m very glad that I was able to (“AA”) know her (“DIE” “HE PLAY”) and (“THEY”) I’m now able to mention her in my book. She really was an inspiration. She was an angel godmother to many movies and (“YEAH”) just how magical she was is known by those who worked with her and knew her. (“THEY”) She helped Kevin Costner and Anjelica Huston get their Screen Actors Guild cards. And the list is endless. I was sitting next to Robert Altman’s wife and Robert Altman (“WHO GAVE AN”) who was one of the speakers. (“THEY BLAME”) And they all gave very touching (“WHO” “THEY” “THEY KNOW HE” “THEY”) remarks. (“SHE” “I”) I especially was (“I”) emotionally affected by Craig Sheffer’s comments. (“REGARDING”) He had written a beautiful letter to her — (“THANKS” “THAT”) was very comparable to the way I feel about my relationship with Mighael. (“I NEED”) So it was very nice to hear. (“IT IS”) So it’s like, “I want to change my book.” The events that I go to are far more beautiful than anything I could ever write about. They did actually videotape the service so it would be nice if that tape could become available to people because it really does capture the true spirit of filmmaking and the collaborative and magical art that filmmaking is. (“P” “I WANT THE”) The other speakers were Jennifer Shull, Graeme Clifford, Darryl Marshak, Adam Isaacs, Jim Wilson, Floyd Westerman, Howard Hesseman, Amy Madigan, Benicio Del Toro. It was beautiful. There was a short film at the end. (“IT”) It just reminded me how much like a movie life is. And I’m so glad that the one I’m living brought my path into hers. As I wrote in the book to her husband: “I’m sure you’ll be together again.”
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: I DECIDED TO INTERVIEW A FEW MEMORIAL ATTENDEES.)
Q: What’s your name?
J: Jim Hatch.
Q: How did you first (“MET”) meet Elisabeth?
J: Jack and I worked together at the California Shakespeare Festival, putting together a set in its first year up in Vicelia and that’s how we met (“HAS BEEN”) twenty years ago.
Q: And what does Jack do now?
J: He’s a producer and a director.
Q: Because I didn’t know him. (“KEN”) I just knew her.
J: And (“BLIND DATE” “IS”) he’s a — (“HI”) she was just (“YEAH”) everything everybody said she was. (“TO BE”) She was pure light (“NO”) and joy. (“DIE”)
J: And fun. Just absolutely fun to be with. (“A”)
Q: And she didn’t care if you were from a big agency or a little agency.
J: I was always just a friend. That’s a lot.
Q: Exactly. She was not a snob.
Q: She took everyone at face value.
J: And they had to take her that way because that’s all she was.
J: She was out there.
Q: What did you think of her casting ability? Would you say that she had a psychic gift for casting?
J: Yeah. She was brilliant. (“SHE”) She just really (“SHE INS[TILLED]”) so loved what she did that I think she had (“DD”) divine help. I really do.
Q: Exactly. (“[E]XACTLY”) Thank you.
( . . . )
(“I” “WHY YEAH”)
Q: Hi, Mr. Robert Altman. I was sitting next to you and your lovely wife. I was an agent and I knew Elisabeth. (“JUST WHEN YOU THINK IT” “CALL” “FAE”)
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: WHEN I WAS TRANSCRIBING THIS AND HEARD THIS MESSAGE, I CALLED MAXINE WHO TOLD ME THAT FAE WAS NO LONGER STAYING AT THE HOUSE AND HAD MOVED OUT SOME TIME AGO. HOWEVER, WHILE I WAS TALKING TO MAXINE, FAE ARRIVED FOR A VISIT. DURING THIS CONVERSATION, I LEARNED THAT THE SEGMENT FROM THE ABC SPECIAL ABOUT THE FAMILY HAD AIRED IN AUGUST ON “20/20.”)
Q: I’m writing a book about Hollywood at the moment (“THEY”) and I was wondering if you had an impression about Elisabeth you would like to share very quickly. (“MONEY”)
R: I said what I —
Q: Exactly. (“THE”) In one line (“FOR MY”) for my book? (“MAY” “VAN GOGH”) I’m sort of the Geraldine Chaplin of this event.
R: I don’t know what to say. I mean I don’t know how to be glib about it. (“FOR WHO”)
Q: You said it very beautifully. I just wish they’d make the tape available (“YEAH”) for everyone. (“THANK YOU JACK” “WELL I”)
R: I’m sure Jack will. But I just don’t know what to say.
Q: Yeah. (“AND I”) You can’t express these things. (“CAN”)
R: And I don’t think they necessarily should be capsulized — I mean I don’t want to capsulize —
Q: Right. (“SAVING” “SO”) Exactly.
R: — in one line or — you know.
Q: Exactly. (“OH RIGHT”) It’s nice meeting you. You’re also one of my personal heroes.
R: Thank you.
Q: I love “Vincent and Theo.” (“GOOD”)
R: Thank you. I like that movie too.
Q: Yeah. All of your films I love. (“BY THE WAY”) I once saw you speak at USC when you brought that beautiful film. Oh, what was it called? (“NO”) The science fiction film with Paul Newman?
R: Oh, “Quintet.”
Q: “Quintet,” yeah. I loved that movie. (“I” “THAT”)
R: You either loved it or you hated it. (“OR THEY MIGHT” “I THINK”)
Q: I think critics can be very wrong and that movie proves it.
R: Well, the public didn’t get it either. Critics (“NO”) don’t mean anything.
Q: Well, I got it.
R: Read what the critics today are saying about these films that are out there. Did you read the criticism for “Heat”? Have you seen “Heat”?
Q: No. (“OKAY”) Okay, — (“AND”) well, thank you very much, Mr. Altman.
R: Thank you. (“AND” “SECONDS” “TOP” “CIRCLING”)
( . . . )
Q: In the spirit of Elisabeth, I’m talking here with a young pretty actress who never had the fortune of auditioning for her, unfortunately. But (“I THINK”) if she were here she would say to young actresses and actors to do theatre and what do you think she would say? (“WHO”)
E: It sounds like doing theatre was her motto. I think she would also say, “Believe in yourself. No matter what happens.”
Q: Exactly (“DAMN”) And what’s your name again? (“I”)
E: Elizabeth Moorehead.
Q: As in Agnes?
E: Um-huh. (“ARE YOU”)
Q: Related to her?
Q: Not that you know of.
E: No. (“HA HA” “F A”)
Q: I bet if you go down that family tree you’ll find something.
E: Maybe. It would be helpful if I did.
Q: That’s another one of the themes in my book.
E: Oh, how we’re all related or have —
E: Yeah. (“THE THE”)
Q: The family tree of life — (“NO”) tree of man — you know. (“SON OF MAN”) We all come from Adam and Eve. (“JACKIE”) Unfortunately.
E: (small laugh) (“NOW”)
( . . . )
Q: I’m speaking to Elizabeth Moorehead’s agent, Darryl Marshak.
Q: He gave a very beautiful speech. (“K”) They were all very beautiful speeches. Would you just share with us a few (“LL”) sentences about Elisabeth to preserve her memory?
D: I think she was probably one of the most gifted, passionate individuals I have ever met. I think that her truest gift as a casting director and as a human being was being able to see inside people and get their essence very quickly. I think that’s why she had such passionate connections to people and why obviously all the people in this room felt the way they felt about her.
Q: It was interesting how they said she was almost clairvoyant in being able to find the stars before they (“I”) became stars. (“CAN’T YOU”)
D: I think it’s just about (“O”) what stardom is. And stardom is, in many cases, great gifts and wonderful talent which she could spot better than anybody. (“OH”)
Q: Thank you very much.
D: My pleasure.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: WHILE TRANSCRIBING THIS TAPE, I NOTICED A LETTER FROM DARRYL MARSHAK IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES SUNDAY CALENDAR COMMENTING, AMONG OTHER THINGS, “IT’S A SAD STATE OF [INDUSTRY] AFFAIRS WHEN ONE BIG AGENCY’S CLIENT RECEIVES $20 MILLION ON A FILM AND EVERYONE ELSE GETS SCALE! THE MIDDLE-CLASS ACTOR IS BECOMING EXTINCT . . . WE THE MID-SIZED AGENCIES FARM THE STARS OF TOMORROW ONLY TO HAVE MANY LURED AWAY FROM US. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT WE ALL HAVE ACCESS TO THE SAME PEOPLE. THE GRASS IS NOT ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE — JUST SLICKER! INSTEAD OF PEOPLE DECLARING ‘OPEN SEASON’ ON CAA, HOW ABOUT SOME HEALING STATEMENTS SUPPORTING EACH OTHER? OOPS, I FORGOT I’M IN HOLLYWOOD!”)
Q: I’m speaking to the lovely Daryl Hannah who I’ve bumped into once in a while over the years. And (“WHAT”) what did you think about Elisabeth?
H: I think that Elisabeth is probably the most warm (“I”) human that I’ve come in contact in Hollywood (“IN”) within the industry. I mean she was probably the most human (“THE”) person. She didn’t discriminate (“T”) amongst people whether you were successful or not. Or anything. She was just truly a (“I”) good person filled with heart and (“AA”) she was just a rare jewel. (“MICHAEL”)
Q: Did she hire you for any films? (“YOU’RE GREAT” “NNN” “SAY” “I”)
H: Yes, she did as a matter of fact.
Q: When you were starting out?
H: A French film — no no no. (“WAS THIS”)
Q: Which one?
H: I just knew her mostly as a friend. It was something very recently. I don’t know what it ended up being called. It was a French film.
Q: Okay, well, thank you very much. (“YEAH”)
H: Thank you. (“DOES SHE KNOW YOU”)
( . . . )
Q: You did a great speech about her.
B: Oh, thank you. (“AND H[IRE]”)
Q: Did she hire you for one of your films?
B: Yeah. “China Moon.” (“IIIIIII”)
Q: And how long did you know her?
B: I’ve known her since 1991 — ’92. (“UM”) That’s four or five years.
Q: Unfortunately, (“VIDEO” “S”) the video that they did is not going to be released to the public. Um, could I maybe ask you real quick to say just a few lines about her? (“WHY”) I’m doing a book on Hollywood —
B: Oh really?
Q: — and about people who go unnoticed behind the scenes. Will that be alright?
B: Sure. (“JUST A QUICK”)
Q: A few lines.
B: Be really quick. I — get — get — put the thing down.
Q: Oh, okay. (“YOU KNOW” “ONE” “ONE”)
B: I’ll just say, basically, that she was one hell of a casting director.
Q: Exactly. (“YOU THINK WE HAVE”) What you said is it’s like (“WANT TO” “YES”) she was an angel. (“MA[N]” “YOU’RE A” “SWIM”)
B: She was. She was a (“I GOT YOU”) real fighter. (“YOU BY”) A real fighter. A real (“YOU KNOW”) positive person. (“WE LIKE”) Great taste. (“BEN” “WE MISS”) And (“UH-HUH” “NO”) one of those people, like I said up there, (“ONE TWO” “UH-HUH”) one of those people that take you for who you are no matter what. (“I BELIE[VE]”) She wouldn’t try to change you — just who you are. (“PEOPLE” “I” “WE COULD”)
Q: We meet very few of those people (“A”) in life (“THEY DO”) who will accept you in that way.
B: Thank you.
Q: Well, I’m sure she’s here with us right now. (“NO”) So what would you say to her?
B: I’d say, “Leustig!”
Q: What’s that?
B: Leustig. That’s her last name. (“OH”) The way she said it.
Q: Oh, okay. That was your nickname for her. (“A” “HOW”) Okay, well, thank you.
B: Alright. (“HOW WE ACT”)
( . . . )
Q: Amy Madigan wouldn’t give me an interview. She must be press-shy. But I spoke to Ed Harris. (“MY”) I told him I worked on the press kit for “Milk Money.”
( . . . )
Q: Hello, I’m speaking (“NO”) to (“THE”) Floyd Westerman.
F: Floyd Red Crow (“ZIP”) Westerman. (“YOU” “POE”) I’m a Dakota Sioux.
Q: And can you just tell us a little bit (“THEY CALL HIM”) about what you spoke about (“THEY”) today since that won’t be made available (“I”) to the public?
F: Well, what I said was — and because we felt her spirit there that she was just on the other side there with us. (“I”) The spirit world is the most (“GUY” “IMPORTANT”) important world. (“GREAT”) That’s the real world (“HE’LL DIE”) because (“HUH”) this is just a temporary (“WINDOW” “TIME”) part of that world and we’re all part of that journey there. (“SEARCH BY”) Everyone of us — we’re all part of that journey and we all share her right there. (“CHUCK IN”) So we became part of the journey together. Everyone of us in the room. And for that brief moment she was coming through everybody. (“ME”) When they imitated her she was there.
Q: We were all channeling her.
F: Yes. And she was right there then and people got to know that was the spirit world right there. (“THAT WAS HER”) That was her.
Q: It’s too bad that more people don’t realize that the spirit world is the major world and this world is just a preparation for that world.
F: Yeah. We’re just on that journey. We’re just a few winters on this life. In this Earth. In this way. Then, we go to that spirit world. We’re on that journey to the spirit world.
Q: And did you work on “Dances With Wolves”?
F: Yeah. She cast me as Ten Bears in “Dances With Wolves” so we became very good friends and the last time I saw her was when we sat, (“DAY”) had coffee and we were working on “Five Hundred Nations” with Jack. And she was as full of life and willing to be part of who — our way of life and thinking and she sat in a sweat lodge with us (“CASH” “FEW YEARS AGO”) a couple of times before “Dances With Wolves” and then afterwards.
Q: Notice that her career also took her to “Rapa Nui”/Easter Island. (“THEY OWE”)
F: Yes, which then — (“FAVORITE”) it’s all the same belief — the way the indigenous world is. We believe the spirit world (“IS”) is the real world and this is just a few winters here.
Q: This interview is a lot more substantial than the —
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: TAPE #46, SIDE #2 ENDS HERE.)