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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
One-on-One with Bill Maher; Bill Maher On Marriage, Overactive Libidos; Morgan Freeman On The Upcoming Nelson Mandela Day
Aired July 15, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Fasten your seat belts, America. Bill Maher is here.
BILL MAHER, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I'm against building mosques, church -- churches, synagogues, temples anywhere because I'm an atheist and I think these are places that perpetuate mass delusion.
MORGAN: Always outspoken.
MAHER: They gave all this money to the banks. No regulation, no strings, and these guys just basically stole it.
MORGAN: Always controversial.
MAHER: Every modern and just realized Western democracy is a hybrid with elements of socialism in it. It's not evil.
MORGAN: What on earth will Bill Maher say tonight?
MAHER: I want to feel like I broke into the studio and took over and made them mad. If I'm not doing that, I'm not doing my job.
MORGAN: Nothing is off limits on his show, but tonight he's on my show. I'm going to grill him about everything from the race for president, the government going bust.
Also tonight, Morgan Freeman with extraordinary 40-year career and his work honoring Nelson Mandela. Morgan Freeman is man Hollywood calls the voice of god. So of course I have to ask him to do this.
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
MORGAN: Bill, welcome.
MORGAN: I feel like I'm -- you are such an institutional guest for Larry before. It's the first time I've had the pleasure of you here.
MAHER: I was. It's great to be back in the time slot.
(LAUGHTER) MORGAN: I thought about the ways we could start this. And I think there's probably nothing more pertinent, I would say, than the state of America's debt. And I want to play you --
MAHER: A sexy topic.
MORGAN: A sexy topic. But probably, I mean, everyone talks about everything else at the moment.
MAHER: It actually is because there's a lot of drama in it.
MORGAN: And it's a key issue to me. I mean if America go bust, that's it. So --
MAHER: It's astounding to me that we're actually having an argument over whether America should pay its bills.
MORGAN: Isn't it? I totally agree.
MAHER: It shows you where the insanity has gone in this country. I don't think people realize it because I don't think people follow an issue like that, I think -- especially the people who are pushing to hold the line. And so what if the debt ceiling -- I think they think it's money that we haven't spent yet.
You know? That if we -- if we just cut it off, starve the beast, everything will be fine and we'll get our fiscal house in order. No. This is money we already spent. George Bush and the Republicans, they sat down and ordered a lot of food. And then they got up from the table before the check came. Now somebody has to pay that check.
MORGAN: Well, the person who's in charge of trying to pay it is of course President Obama. If I was a Republican the way to beat President Obama, the way that the job figures stand at the moment, 9.2 percent, the state of the economy generally, turmoil around the world continuing -- the way to probably beat him is to take him on on the economy.
The best way to paralyze him is to continue doing what they're doing. It's not in their interest to do a deal, is it?
MAHER: No probably about it. That's exactly what they're doing. Yes, I -- Ann Coulter was on our show Friday night and she had written a book called "Treason Once." Treason. You know? A little over the top. But I said as a long you --
MORGAN: I'm sorry, I mean she actually thinks we're bombing Egypt at the moment.
MAHER: Yes. Well -- but on this issue, you know, as long as you're going to be the one to invoke treason, I mean, are the Republicans really doing what's in the best interest of America or are they doing what's in the best interest of their party to win the next election? They know the economy has to stay sucky in 2012 for them to win. If the economy is doing a lot better, Obama wins going away. And I don't think they're doing anything. John Boehner tweeted to Obama the other day when he was doing his town hall on Twitter, you know, after record binge -- spending binge, where are the jobs?
Well, I don't know. You're in the Congress. Isn't it the Congress' job to present a jobs bill?
MORGAN: Well, I like this quote from Warren Buffett who says the way to get rid of the deficit, we should pass a law that says any time there's a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for reelection. And I like that.
MAHER: Well, you know.
MORGAN: But that's how a businessman would run his company.
MAHER: Well, that's another fallacy.
MORGAN: Depends on the business.
MAHER: Somehow, you know, businessmen are going to be good at running the government. They're not the same thing. You can't fire the Congress the way you can fire your board.
Mitt Romney is running on that silly idea that I ran a business. I know how to create jobs. No, actually what he did was fire people. You know he knew how to destroy jobs --
MORGAN: But isn't he doing that --
MAHER: -- to create profit. That's what business does. It creates profit.
MORGAN: But isn't -- in Mitt Romney's case, and we're going to come to the candidates in a moment. But I think it's quite a clever strategy by him to focus purely on economy and present himself as the guy that understands it. Isn't that clever? But at politics by him.
MAHER: Well, it's clever for a country that doesn't pay attention and where people don't think too much about any issue. But the truth is that government is there to do the things that are not supposed to turn a profit.
I heard Tim Pawlenty say the same thing. Amtrak. Amtrak doesn't make a profit. It's not supposed to make a profit. It's like saying why doesn't the Marine Corps make a profit? That's the difference between government and private enterprise.
MORGAN: But isn't America, though -- but America is a country that, unlike in Britain, we have the class system, where depending on where you went to school and what your parents did, and who you were bred into, that is, you know, often the way you get on in life.
In America, and I've spent, you know, probably four or five years now immersing myself into this culture, the class system is based around hard work, success and achievement. So it's all surprising to me that the people governing the country pander to that by this rhetoric of everything has to make a profit because that's the way you have a yardstick of success here, isn't it?
MAHER: Well, if you're talking about social mobility, yes. That is always what's been defined as the American dream, the ability of one generation to do better than the generation that spawned them. That was always something that was quintessentially American.
Well, we're tenth in the American dream right now. We're tenth in social mobility compared to other countries around the world which is like Sweden coming in tenth in Swedish meatballs or something, you know? It's just a shame.
MORGAN: Well, I find it interesting. I happen to be on Donald Trump. And I know your views on his presidency campaign pretty strike like many people's. I like him. I've been on one of his shows obviously. And when he went lashing into China, I thought he slightly missed the point.
I said this to him because it seems to me the trick that America should be now deploying surely as one of the great producers in the past is to produce stuff that countries like China need.
And the reason I say that again to you is there was a brilliant report this week that in China the need and demand for American crops, for example, corn, is absolutely going through the roof.
This is the way that America should be thinking. It should be identifying what these countries -- they're not emerging countries. China has emerged. What do they need that America can provide them? Put the foot on the gas. Don't say these people is a threat.
MAHER: Or green technology.
MAHER: Stem cell research. You know one of the reasons why America falls behind every year more and more is because we're a superstitious, hyper-religious, intellectually backward people at this point. Not compared to a lot of countries but compared to the leading countries in the world, we are.
If we could have had stem cell research, you know, there's so many patents for so many scientific areas that come out of that, but we're falling behind in that area, too, as we are because we don't put a premium on science anymore. Science is suspect in this country.
MORGAN: Well, China has now overtaken America in the production of unscientific research.
MORGAN: I found that staggering.
MORGAN: But you know, I know that, you know, in schools I've seen in Europe and so on, which are now full of, especially the private schools, of these very smart, very hard-working young Chinese who come in.
You know I played a game of soccer with my sons recently. And I managed miraculously to score a good goal. And I was doing my-dad- triumphant thing. Two of my sons spontaneously said dad, that was so Chinese. Now I thought it would be racist. This is the new school ground compliment around the world. Being Chinese is what being American used to be.
MAHER: I got to have kids to keep up with --
MORGAN: It is how you find out what the future is.
MORGAN: These kids use being Chinese as a compliment. This is the best compliment they could pay me. That was Chinese, dad. I found it an extraordinary moment.
MAHER: That's one of the scariest things I've ever heard in this time slot.
MORGAN: Why is it scary?
MAHER: Because it shows we're falling behind China.
MORGAN: Yes, but isn't it your own way of saying embracing all these new economies now rather than seeing them as some great threat? Can America afford to see everything economically, militarily and so on as a threat in the way it has before?
MAHER: But we would have to reconfigure all of our priorities. I mean what do we spend all of our money on? Debt, paying off our debt, and the military. I mean while they're talking about all this budget stuff in Washington and dickering over $100 million here and there, they just passed and nobody even questioned it -- the new Pentagon spending bill, $648 billion, which is more than I think the next 17 countries combined or something like that.
You know we could cut this in half, I think, and still be probably safe in the world. Who's the threat that's going to invade us?
MORGAN: See, many Americans, it seems to me -- I mean you say this stuff and I bet you get deluged with people calling you unpatriotic, un-American. These are not -- it's not American to admit that you shouldn't be spending money on the military, that you shouldn't be doing things the old American way.
But, I mean, is it time that America completely changed its philosophy on these things?
MAHER: What's patriotic is wanting your country to succeed. And our country is not succeeding right now because our military is too big. And by the way, people call it the military and then they, hands off, you can't -- you know what, it's not military. It's defense contractors.
It's welfare for people who make weapons that we don't need. Most of our weaponry is ridiculous. It's not -- it's for fighting the Russians in 1978. We don't need that. What would make this country stronger is economics. That's where the -- that's where the future is. That's what makes a country strong. If you're not strong economically you're not going to be --
MORGAN: That's where America is increasingly weak. So by any comparison --
MAHER: But this is one reason. You know we could solve this debt/deficit problem if we would do two simple things. Tax the rich like they used to be taxed. Not a hell of a lot more, just what they were under Clinton, for example, and bring the troops home. Not just from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we have a half a million troops on bases in over 100 countries across the world.
MORGAN: How many do the --
MAHER: This is --
MORGAN: How many do the Chinese have?
MAHER: None. I don't think.
MAHER: They don't have troops.
MORGAN: Hardly anything. They have no imperialistic ambition.
MAHER: Right. Because they know this is not the way you achieve hegemony in this world. This is not the 14th century.
MORGAN: I did a documentary in Shanghai recently. A fascinating time to be out there. And that this dynamism that you felt all around the city. But one young -- frosting young multi millionaire. There are 125,000 millionaires in Shanghai alone. I mean staggering statistics.
MAHER: How many?
MORGAN: A hundred and 25,000 millionaires in Shanghai. A city of 25 million people. And he just looked to me, and he said, look, we -- he said, I don't want to kill you. I don't want to take over your land. He said, I want to sell you a duvet. And he laughed.
And he said, we want to be number one in selling you duvets. I want to sell you everything in your home but I don't want to kill you.
MAHER: Right. And that's how they will be number one. You know they're building $300 billion, I think, of high speed rail. This country trying to get the money to build, I think, it's $8 billion? They want to lay it between, I think, L.A. and Las Vegas, which I think it's funny that those are the two cities that have to be connected, or maybe between L.A. and San Francisco. But we have none at the moment.
MORGAN: Well, we're going to have a little break. When we come back I want to ask you which of these two people, do you think, has the best chance of putting America back on its feet? Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann?
MAHER: Well, that's what they call a Hobson's choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: Stop comparing Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann just because they're both Republican women. And crazy.
MAHER: And know nothings. And Jesus freaks. Who claim to receive messages from God. Who both get their historical facts wrong all the time and both give off a sound that only animals can hear and make microwaves explode.
Seriously, stop comparing them.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was of course from your show "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO. I mean, come on, if you had a choice, a gun to your head, which one is it? Palin or Bachmann?
MAHER: I would need a gun to my head.
MAHER: I hope Sarah Palin gets in so that they split the MILF vote.
MAHER: But I guess Bachmann -- I don't know. Who could say? Because at least she's somebody who can read. You know she has a job. She was a lawyer. She's in Congress. She's not someone who just sits there and reads the prayers on her BlackBerry like Sarah Palin. I mean, you know, we're splitting hairs here.
MORGAN: Could Sarah Palin become president? Is it possible in the current climate?
MAHER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. People who say this one is a joke or this one is a joke. I remember when I was 12 years old in 1968 and Ronald Reagan was first considering running for president. And I remember what a joke that was. Ronald Reagan? You mean the bedtime for Bonzo guy? But I think he did become president. Yes, absolutely. Because if she could get the nomination, and anything can happen with -- I mean this Republican Party is not your father's Republican Party.
Somewhere along the line they got on a short bus to crazy town and if someone gets the nomination of one of the two major parties, especially in a bad economy, with a black president, yes, she could become president.
MORGAN: Is America more or less racist now since Obama has been in power?
MAHER: That's a great question. I don't know. I think it's more sneakily racist. You know? I actually have more respect for the old school racist like Strom Thurmond and Jessie Helms who are more upfront about it as opposed to the -- you know, the Rand Paul type guys who say things like, I would have marched with Dr. King.
Well, you don't get points for what you would have done in your imagination.
MAHER: You know? I would have helped Jesus escape but I wasn't around.
MORGAN: Are there other any of the Republican candidates so far that have emerged that you would see as potentially not life threatening?
MAHER: Well, you know, hopefully Mitt Romney. We depend on him to be a giant shape shifter and liar which he has always been. There's not an issue -- you can go down the line from when he was the Republican governor of liberal Massachusetts. There is not an issue he has not done a complete 180 on, from abortion to gun control, to campaign finance, whatever it is.
So I have to think that if he got into office, maybe he would be somewhat of a normal president, but you don't know because he has to answer to that crazy party.
MORGAN: Has there ever been a president in your lifetime who has been properly principled in your eyes?
MAHER: Jimmy Carter was an amazingly principled president. Did what he said. Didn't fire a shot. Did not fire a bullet, a missile while he was president. He said as world superpower, we have an obligation not to attack other countries unless we're attacked.
Yes, I mean I think history has not been kind to Jimmy Carter and that is the fault of history.
MORGAN: But is that part of the problem of being the guy at the White House, is that there is a -- I was reading George Bush's book.
MAHER: It attracts criticism?
MORGAN: Well, not that, is there's a kind of expectation from this mass populace that you have to do certain things. I read about the aftermath of 9/11, for example. When I actually read George Bush's account, I was more understanding -- not accepting because I kind of share your view of what went on afterwards.
But more understanding of why he is a guy from Texas, felt compelled to do what he did. He felt he had to do something for his American people.
MAHER: Well, yes, he did have to do something. He didn't have to do what he did. What he should have done is right after 9/11 when everyone was in the mood to sacrifice, ask the country to sacrifice. He told everybody to go shopping. That was his response and then attack the wrong country, a country he wanted to attack from the get- go to, I guess, avenge his father or whatever the hell the reason was.
But yes, he should have done something. He also should have learned about it. This is the man who said, at -- you know, at the point where they were thinking of attacking the country, and they told them about Sunnis and -- Sunnis and Shiites, and he said, I thought they was all Muslims.
Really? We're attacking the country. You're the leader of this -- of our country who's attacking a Muslim country and you don't know about the Shiite-Sunni thing over there? That's, to me, impeachable.
MORGAN: How do you think Obama is doing as president?
MAHER: You know I love him. You know you can't not. I mean coming in after Bush, first of all, you have him there, you have a guy you can relate to. He's intelligent, he can speak English. I don't think about George Bush at all anymore which is great. He's like an uncle who molested me and I blocked it out. You know?
MAHER: And you could just tell -- you know, you'd like to have dinner with Obama. He's an erudite guy, he's a constitutional law professor.
MORGAN: I mean he's a good front man, I think, for America, isn't he? In and around world. He's a good figurehead for the country.
MAHER: That, too. He's just terribly disappointing as a negotiator and as a liberal. You know it makes me laugh when they say he's a socialist. He's not even a liberal. He's a centrist at best. He's constantly voicing the Republican opinion.
Paul Krugman had a column about this the other day. He said, why is Obama carrying water for the Republicans Party? Why if they're having this giant discussion about the debt and the deficit, why is Obama saying the stupid things that they say?
We have to treat our government like a family does. Well, that's stupid. You don't treat -- a family doesn't run up a deficit whereas we know a certain deficit is good for a government.
The silly canard about how we're -- we have to like be super kind to the rich because they're the job creators which is BS also. And that sometimes you have to, even when you have a debt, spend more money so -- to get the economy going again.
MORGAN: But what -- I mean I agree that on one level, the criticism that seems most accurate to me is that he can be dissident in decision making. And that hasn't probably helped America get out of this economic strife. But then just when you think that he's dissident, he came out with that stunning strike with the Navy SEALs against bin Laden, which had it gone wrong --
MAHER: That's the low hanging fruit.
MORGAN: Is it, though?
MAHER: Absolutely. It doesn't cost anything. Everyone wanted to see it done.
MORGAN: But if you went wrong --
MAHER: Yes. Yes.
MORGAN: And a bunch of American SEALs has got killed. That could have cost him the election.
MAHER: No. He's got a pair on him. Obama.
MORGAN: That was audacious.
MAHER: But, you know, the editorial we did recently that got the most reaction I think was when I said it would be a shame if four years of Democratic rule came to an end in 2012 without trying Democratic policies. And that's the problem I think all progressives have.
MORGAN: What should he be doing right now?
MAHER: If a Democrat gets in and we don't attempt Democratic policy.
MORGAN: What does that mean?
MORGAN: I mean crystallize that for me.
MAHER: Well, stop talking about -- stop talking about the debt and the deficit. You know when Dick Cheney was in office and they were running up all the debt, and by the way you can look this up. There are facts outside of the FOX News bubble, actual facts and numbers.
Most of the debt was run up under Bush. Dick Cheney said, quote, "deficits don't matter." Why can't Obama say that? Why is it OK when Dick Cheney says it but not when president black man says it?
I'm not saying it's all race, but it seems a little -- a little weird that suddenly he gets into office and the debt and the deficit is intolerable. I mean the Republicans have some nerve. Bush came into office. The debt was $5.6 trillion. He took a surplus and turned it into a $10 trillion debt, almost doubled it, with stuff they didn't pay for.
They didn't pay for the wars. They didn't pay for the tax cuts for the rich, which should be called tax spending for the rich, because it is spending. The prescription drug program, all of that unpaid for. And then suddenly Obama comes into office and they act like he's Newt Gingrich's wife at Tiffany's.
He didn't spend -- what -- his big spending, the stimulus, was mostly a Republican spending plan.
MORGAN: How would you describe your politics? I mean are you a -- are you a socialist? Are you a liberal? Are you both? Are you --
MAHER: First of all, every modern government nowadays is a hybrid of socialism. I mean the Post Office, the Marine Corps, these are -- the Veterans Administration. So --
MORGAN: But what tag are you proudest of putting yourself to?
MAHER: I think I'm just practical. I think I'm just -- you know I don't think I'm an ideologue.
MORGAN: Well, you are -- your ideology is you hate Republicans.
MAHER: No. No, I don't.
MORGAN: You do that. You do that. You hate their ideology, don't you think?
MAHER: Of course. That's different. I hate stupidity. And I hate stuff that doesn't work. No matter what you call yourself. It's not because you're a Republican. I mean the fact that they all fall in line --
MORGAN: Are you a Democrat --
MAHER: There are Republicans who I respect. Mostly, there are Republicans who are out of office who are criticizing their own party. David Stockman, Bruce Bartlett, lots of these people, who are saying what has happened to the party that I knew? Where are these Republicans nowadays? Well, you can't --
MORGAN: But do you -- I mean you're a Democrat?
MORGAN: So you're not a Democrat. How would you describe yourself?
MAHER: I mean I'm certainly more in line with their thinking. But, you know, they disappoint me so much. If I was a Democrat, I would be resigning every other week.
MORGAN: Do you vote?
MAHER: Of course.
MAHER: Almost always.
MORGAN: Ever voted Republican?
MAHER: Yes. Absolutely.
MORGAN: Did you? When?
MAHER: I voted for McCain in the 2000 primary. I voted for Bob Dole in '96. That was a sentimental vote because my parents were both in World War II. And that was the last World War II candidate I could vote for. I mean if it was a close election, I would have voted for Clinton. But it was not.
MORGAN: Coming up, how Bill Maher has managed to avoid marriage and what he thinks of Charlie Sheen.
MORGAN: Back with my special guest Bill Maher.
Bill, how do you avoided getting married? I said avoided because so many entertainers plunged into, you know, pretty awful marriages and go through the inevitable breakdown, the expensive divorce, end up living in misery.
MAHER: Aren't you going to get in trouble with your wife for talking about marriage this way --
MORGAN: She would expect me to ask these kind of questions.
MAHER: No, but you're talking about it like -- you know, you didn't get caught and -- I mean that --
MORGAN: Well, I guess those things -- you've managed to preserve the right to behave how you like.
MAHER: You know what? One thing I was --
MORGAN: And not getting married.
MAHER: I've been never been a liar. There are lots of people who don't like me, and that's fine. I say things -- I never say anything purposely to piss people off, but I say what I feel. And you know, that will piss a lot of people off. But they can't say I'm a liar. And to me not getting married was part of that. You know?
If -- some people just have a very strong libido. And you just have to deal with it. And if I had gotten married, any time before now, you know, I couldn't have been faithful. So I just live the life where I could be true to myself.
MORGAN: Have you --
MAHER: And true to other people.
MORGAN: Have you aborted on being a sexaholic?
MAHER: First of all, there is no such thing as a sexaholic. That is something Dr. Drew made up to explain Andy Dick. There is no such thing. No, what I will say is that people-especially men, I can't really speak for women-but I know men have very different libido levels, some people are just hornier. Andrew Weiner, is just at a stage of his life where he's very horny. That will subside. I found it subsided a bit after I turned 50, or in my early 50s. It was a great relief, like getting a monkey off your back. Not that you can't still have a good sex life, not like this constant urging you have to take care of. I had Ray Curswhile (ph) on the show recently. I love Ray. And he says he's taking testosterone. He said, you should take some. Well, first of all, I wouldn't do that because I'm not sure what the repercussions are. I said, Ray, I just finally got to the point in my life I have not so much testosterone coursing through my veins running my life, I'd like to keep it that way.
MORGAN: When you look at somebody like Charlie Sheen , what do you honestly think of his behavioral pattern?
MAHER: I know Charlie a bit, you know? We have socialized a couple of times. I like the Charlie I knew then. I don't like the one I've seen lately. That's mostly probably the cocaine talking. I don't like the braggadocio. That is what I don't like. I don't like a rich guy, who was born on third base, and he was. The good looking son of a movie star, sort of rubbing it in other people's face that I'm winning. That's what I don't like about this Charlie Sheen.
I also think he should probably-look, I'm a libertarian when it comes to drugs and stuff like that. At the moment I got him ahead of Gadhafi in the dead pool. He really needs to watch out because he could wind up in a body bag.
MORGAN: Are you still attending the Playboy mansion on a regular basis?
MAHER: This always comes up. First of all--
MORGAN: Is it true that you honestly believe you only go there for the food?
MAHER: If I said that, it was a joke. First of all, I never ever went to the Playboy mansion more than a few times a year. I went when they had parties. They used to have parties- I mean, everything Hef does is like clockwork.
MORGAN: I went to the "Midsummer Night's Dream" once, unbelievable, back to Caligula times.
MAHER: Yes and no. I've never been in the grotto. Doesn't that say something for me?
MORGAN: I have.
MAHER: You went in the grotto?
MORGAN: I went in the grotto.
MAHER: I wouldn't get in there on a bet.
MORGAN: It was fascinating.
MAHER: There must have been diseases in there from when Columbus came over.
MORGAN: Around in every cave.
MAHER: Are you kidding? No, I-but I went when they had a party on New Year's Eve. I went to Hef's birthday, I think, in April. The Midsummer Night's Dream, Halloween. That is when I went to the Playboy-I mean, they make it sound like I lived there. I didn't go to the Playboy mansion that much. Bill Cosby is there more than I am. Why don't they get on his case?
MORGAN: You are beginning to sound a bit defensive about this, Bill.
MAHER: Well, just because it never, ever doesn't come up, whatever interview you're doing..
MORGAN: I don't think of you as a lesser guy for going to the Playboy mansion all the time.
MAHER: Of course not. But the fact it obsesses people, that I've been to the Playboy mansion parties. By the way they are just parties. It is just guy with a nice big backyard who is very generous with his liquor. And there are a lot of hot chicks around, I have been to other parties that could be described the same way.
MORGAN: We're going to break and come back and talk to you about this job, whether you wanted it.
MAHER: This job?
MAHER: Oh, I have a job.
MORGAN: Back with Bill Maher.
Bill, I was quite moved when you took part in Larry King's final show. It was quite moving. I've been a huge fan of his for years, as well. But I can see for you it meant quite a lot actually.
MAHER: It meant so much to me that he wanted me there. It also meant a lot to me that he wanted me to be the one who he announced that he was stepping down to. I got that call, like the day before. It was like, there is a secret, Larry is going to say something. I knew what they were talking about. They couldn't say it. Yes, I was on that show so many times, it was almost like my therapy. Every couple of months I would show up here and sort of unload and vent for an hour, and I felt a lot unburdened when I left.
MORGAN: Is part of the trick of show business knowing when to leave the party?
MAHER: Yeah. Absolutely.
MORGAN: Being able to choose and have your own destiny.
MAHER: But I didn't think Larry was diminished in any way. I think this is a youth culture, especially in television, especially with high-definition television, they're going to -- they're going to throw everybody out to pasture at some point. I mean, you can only do it for so long. And also every generation has to find its own, you know, person to fill that role.
I mean, Johnny Carson, I don't think was a diminished performer, either when he left the stage.
MORGAN: I heard you were tempted to possibly come and do it yourself, this show. Because you hosted it before.
MORGAN: Would it appeal to you, this job.
MAHER: What's that?
MORGAN: Wouldn't that appeal to you, this kind of thing? You used to do a nightly show.
MAHER: Appealed to me more than working with a leaf blower. I love the job I have. I find the job I have completely unique, completely challenging every week, the news changes, the guest changes. I am on HBO. I am a person more than most who needs to be on HBO, where you can say anything. Where there aren't sponsors. If I was doing a show here - I mean, every second day--
MORGAN: You would be off air, let's face it
MAHER: That's exactly right. I would because of the corporate overseers
MORGAN: May you remain gloriously uncensored on HBO. MAHER: Thank you. I appreciate it.
MORGAN: Love the show and I love you coming on.
MAHER: Thank you. You're doing a great job.
MORGAN: Thank you.
MAHER: You are a noble successor to Larry, I'll tell you that.
MORGAN: I appreciate that. Coming from you that means a lot.
MAHER: Yes, I mean it.
MORGAN: Thank you.
Coming up, the voice of God himself, Morgan Freeman on his incredible career and his work honoring Nelson Mandela.
(BEGIN MOVIE CLIP)
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: This is no time to celebrate petty revenge. This is the time to build our nation. You elected me your leader. Let me lead you now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Morgan Freeman, in the Oscar-nominated role of Nelson Mandela in the movie "Invictus". You could hardly make a movie in Hollywood these days without Morgan Freeman. The man has appeared in 60 hit films and he is still going strong.
He joins me now.
Morgan Freeman, Nelson Mandela is an extraordinary man. I had the great pleasure once of interviewing him in London. I don't think I ever met a man with more natural charisma, fire in his belly, a sense of mischief and sense of purpose than Nelson Mandela. Obviously, you met him as well a few times. What do you make of him as a human being?
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Gee, what a question that is. What do you make of Nelson Mandela as a human being? He may be the epitome of human beings. When you talk to him at length about who he is and the conclusions he's come to over the years in his life, you realize that he has give often a lot of thought to life itself.
He told me one time that 27 years in prison gives a man a lot of time to think. I think it's clear that he was thinking specifically while he was thinking also. Because I think Madiba always knew that at some point he was going to be called on to do something spectacular.
MORGAN: Madiba is the name South Africans give Nelson Mandela. I was in Johannesburg last year making a documentary in the Soweto Township. Aand I don't think I ever had a more inspiring experience than walking around the township. You imagine these poverty stricken people would be miserable. But the great thing that Mandela has given all, I think, is this sense of hope, there is a way out of this.
FREEMAN: Exactly. Yes.
MORGAN: They were some of the most inspiring people I think I ever met in my life.
FREEMAN: I first went to Johannesburg after he got out of prison, I think it was about a year after he got out, and the tone of all of South Africa was like electric. There was so much good tension in the air. I think people were all expecting to launch themselves forward with great purpose. Just got that feeling there. It was all because of him.
MORGAN: There's no doubt, I think, that South Africa still has problems, but in terms of its multi multi-culture, multi-racial status, now, I mean, nothing better exemplified this than the soccer World Cup. You can see quite tangibly how far that country has now come politically and socially and racially since Mandela was released.
FREEMAN: Heavens, yes. However, the biggest problem they have in South Africa is education. There are so, so many people there who are denied proper education, the first order of business, was to try and get as many of those kids educated as possible. I think that one of the holdovers-or one of the---OK, holdovers, of that whole problem is when they have elections. I'm going to get into trouble for saying this, but until there is a more educated electorate, they're going to have one party.
MORGAN: I know that it's a fairly contentious thing to say. I don't think any sensible person would argue with that.
Monday is Nelson Mandela day. He turns 93. It is his birthday. To celebrate his life there is this great idea you're involved with. Tell me about this. This is how people can actually make a difference on Mandela Day.
FREEMAN: Yes. Mandela Day, when Madiba heard, or got wind of the fact that a big to-do was going to be made for his birthday, he stated that he didn't want that to be, and I'll paraphrase, an excuse, to get off from work. So we came up with the idea that he'd spent 67 years in public service, so in order to celebrate his life, to celebrate his birthday, his life, we asked anyone who was interested in that celebration, to do so by donating 67 minutes of their time to some community service. Decide what that is that you want to do, and do at least 67 minutes of it, just as a tribute to Madiba.
MORGAN: It's a very laudable cry. I think I would certainly in my view take part in this and know how important he is. We will take a short break, Morgan. When we come back, I want to talk to you about your career, a dazzling successful. And dare I say it at 74 you look damn good on it. FREEMAN: Well, thank you, sir.
MORGAN: Right now my guest Morgan Freeman.
Morgan I said before the break you look remarkably youthful for a man of 74. What is the secret of your age-defying presence today?
FREEMAN: Stress. I think I am stress-free at this time in my life. I have no -- nothing to worry about at all. I'm well taken care of, and I take good care of myself. So, you know, life is going along quite nicely.
MORGAN: You've made over 60 movies. They've grossed $3 billion worldwide. You've had five Oscar nominations and won one for "Million Dollar Baby". Is there much left for you to achieve in movies? What's your motivation to keep working now?
FREEMAN: Well, it's all I've ever really wanted to do. Make movies. I saw my first movie when I was six years old. And I've been fascinated with movies ever since. And by the age of 12 or 13, I knew that in my life's work that was how I wanted to spend it. I knew I wanted to make movies. I wanted to be in the movies. I'm a movie freak from way, way back. So there's no reason for me to stop until the phone stops ringing.
MORGAN: Well, that's not going to happen. You were recently surprised at the American Film Institute by a special tribute you from the great Betty White. Let's take a look at this.
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SINGING: You feel the room swaying and yourself saying is that really Betty White with six black men? So even though you've made some crap, Morgan, don't ever (UNINTELLIGIBLE) again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was absolutely hysterical.
FREEMAN: It was. It was such a highlight that night. And I just love Betty so much. She's such a terrific woman.
MORGAN: Let me ask you. Obviously on the back of that night, many people, Morgan, were sort of speculating about the greatest movie of your career. What would be your personal favorite?
FREEMAN: I think the best movie I made was "Glory". The reason being that I think movies like that are the reason to make movies. I grew up I learned a lot of history, right or wrong, by going to the movies. And "Glory" was pure history. It was all factual. And I think a big feather in our cap. That is all of us involved in the making of it.
MORGAN: And many people revere you as one of the great actors of this generation. Who for you -- who rocks your boat in the acting firmament? Who have been the greatest male and female actors of your lifetime?
FREEMAN: Oh, heaven now you've got a long list. I'm going to start with the earlier ones. I mean with the later ones. Because one of my big acting heroes is Phillip Seymour Hoffman. There's Meryl Streep. There is Jack Nicholson. Clint Eastwood. There are so many.
MORGAN: Who have you had the most fun with on a movie set?
FREEMAN: Clint Eastwood.
FREEMAN: I mean, the most fun. Yes, yes.
MORGAN: What did you and Clint get up to that we don't know about?
FREEMAN: That's for me to know and you to find out. Isn't it?
MORGAN: The mind boggles. What do you make of modern Hollywood? Obviously you've been around the block if you don't mind me saying a few decades. What do you make of the modern Hollywood scene?
FREEMAN: Well, it's interesting. It's interesting to watch fluctuate just what it does. They're always looking for what works best. Right now we have a lot of -- I just read about this so I'm repeating it, a lot of Harry Potter kind of makeovers or attempts. And then eventually we will go back to other stuff, family drama, police drama, Westerns.
MORGAN: What would be the best piece of advice you would give to an up and coming actor?
FREEMAN: Act. Work.
MORGAN: Simple as that?
FREEMAN: Doesn't matter where you go to work. Yeah, simple as that.
Just, yeah, put your mind on doing that and do that. All writers, actors, dancers, painters, you very often have to do something else to put meat on the table and pay the rent. But it doesn't stop you from doing what you really want to do. Writers write. They can't help themselves. Painters paint. They can't help themselves. Actors? We need someone else in order to act. But, you know, you just keep going until you find that someone else who allows that.
MORGAN: Finally, Morgan, you've got four children. On a personal level, what advice would you give your children about life.
FREEMAN: No doubt it's unfolding as it should. That's what I mostly say.
MORGAN: Morgan Freeman, you've certainly been doing your best for a very long time and I'm an unashamed fan. I would love to interview you in the studio. But it's been a real pleasure. I hope everyone signs up to the Nelson Mandela project on Monday and does their bit for the community to repay him, and also you I think, as well. Because you've certainly earned all our respect. Thank you very much.
FREEMAN: Thank you, Piers. Nice talking to you. And I hope we do get in studio one day.
MORGAN: Thank you very much. I look forward to that. That was Morgan Freeman, a great man.
That is all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.