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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Interview with Meredith Vieira, Husband Richard Cohen; Interview With Simon Curtis, Michelle Williams
Aired November 21, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, she's covered the biggest stories in the world, and she walked away from one of the top jobs in television news.
But Meredith Vieira has always done it her way. Now for the first time since leaving the "Today" show Meredith gets personal. A life with husband Richard Cohen, the challenge of his multiple sclerosis, and her high profile struggles to balance career and family.
Plus Michelle Williams. Many say she was born to play Marilyn Monroe. So what does she say to this?
You must feel damn sexy when you're playing Marilyn Monroe, don't you?
MICHELLE WILLIAMS, ACTRESS: Honestly? No.
MORGAN: And what does Michelle think Marilyn's life was really like?
WILLIAMS: She created a kind of prison that she couldn't get out of.
MORGAN: Michelle Williams on being Marilyn.
This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Meredith Vieira has pretty much done it all. Her credits include the "Today" show, "The View," "Who Want to be A Millionaire", "60 Minutes" and the new "Rock Center" with Brian Williams.
Meredith and her husband, author and three-time Emmy-winning journalist, Richard Cohen, are featured in the December issue of "AARP" magazine. And they join me now.
Meredith, Richard, welcome.
MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC NEWS: Thank you.
RICHARD COHEN, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR & JOURNALIST: Thank you.
VIEIRA: What a stunning picture that was.
MORGAN: It was a stunning picture, I have to say. You scrubbed up surprisingly well, Meredith.
VIEIRA: Occasionally. How are you, Piers?
MORGAN: Well, I want -- let's just say I was well. I was looking forward to this enormously. And I was very excited. And I thought I'm going to pay homage to one of my favorite ladies on television and someone who's always been --
VIEIRA: As well you should.
MORGAN: Well, you've always been like this kind of epitome of kindness and humanity and decency.
COHEN: Oh, please.
MORGAN: And then I was shown a video --
MORGAN: -- of something that was done on -- something done on this new fangled technology thing called Tout. And apparently you recorded this literally minutes ago. And I've got to say, I am disappointed in you. And I'm going to show the viewers why. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIEIRA: I'm personally offended that a Brit is at the helm of an American show. I think it is wrong, it's inappropriate. He's got a weird accent. I don't understand a word he says, to be honest with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: You see?
VIEIRA: I don't understand what issue you have with that.
MORGAN: The whole tone of your voice dropped a few octaves to this kind of mean, hard, ruthless Meredith Vieira that I knew existed but I was surprised you'd be prepared to show in public.
VIEIRA: Well, why are you reading into that? No, that was just pure honesty. Really. And I -- you know, why are you there when we're here, by the way? What is that about?
MORGAN: Well, precisely for the reasons that that video has just shown me, which is that I should -- the further I am away from Meredith Vieira, the better for my career.
VIEIRA: That's probably true. That's true. I can't hold down the job.
MORGAN: The other thing, Meredith -- well, the thing is, Meredith, I saw you first hand in London. I remember this very, very, very clearly. Because it was the "Britain's Got Talent" auditions.
MORGAN: And Susan Boyle --
VIEIRA: With Susan Boyle.
MORGAN: She'd become this phenomenon. And you had flown in to get the big interview. And I was expecting as a judge on the show who had discovered Susan that I would get the interview, but no, no. Meredith Vieira and her ruthless Rottweiler team blew me away, snagged the interview, scooped me in my own backyard on my own show with my own auditionee.
VIEIRA: We did not need a Rottweiler with you.
MORGAN: And I realized then --
VIEIRA: We'd have done it with a Chihuahua. Trust me.
MORGAN: But I realized then -- I realized it, and I mean this in all sincerity, actually, that you were a -- at heart I saw a brilliant journalist and that's as I suspect how you would like to be seen, isn't it?
VIEIRA: Well, yes, I would. And Piers, you helped us get that interview, so I mean you're -- I mean you're the reason in large part that she trusted us to interview her because back then --
MORGAN: Yes. But more fool me.
VIEIRA: Yes. Exactly. But boy, back then, she really -- I don't think she trusted the media much at all because she was very shy, quiet woman and the fact that we had the chance to sit down with her was in large part due to you so, I still got it before you.
MORGAN: And Meredith, how are you feeling --
VIEIRA: I think that suck for you.
MORGAN: You did. You scooped me. And it still hurts, by the way. But tell me how life -- how life has been for you. It must be odd to be out of the news game, albeit temporarily, I suspect, after so long being in the forefront of all manner of news coverage. What's it been like for you?
VIEIRA: Well, you know, it's really weird, Piers, because when I left the "Today" show that was my decision. And I -- and it was the right one and I have no regrets about it. But when you're on something, and I was on it for five years, which is nothing compared to how long Matt's been on it. But five years to me is a long period of time. And then you get off, it messes with your identity even when you know objectively that the job does not define you, I think because it's television and you're doing it every day and you're out there and thousands of people are watching, to suddenly not be in that box is a weird thing.
And I had some trouble adjusting. I couldn't even watch the show in the beginning at all because it would make me sort of sad. You know? It's only recently that I started watching it again. And actually, I was on "Today" today doing an interview on Charla Nash, the woman who had been mauled by the chimp back in 2009 and is six months out to having a face transplant and doing great.
And it was nice to go back home again, but it's an odd feeling.
MORGAN: Well, I loved seeing you back there this morning.
I have to say, Richard, I don't want to cause any problems here, but I used to thoroughly enjoy waking up to your wife in the morning and I miss it.
COHEN: Well, you didn't wake up at 2:30 in the morning to a very jarring alarm clock. They were five long years. But they were great years.
Look, it was a terrific show. They were great people. They are great people.
VIEIRA: They are great people, yes.
COHEN: And it was a joy. It just wasn't a joy at 2:30.
VIEIRA: And I think for us that was one of the deciding factors. I mean, the lifestyle was extremely difficult.
MORGAN: But here's the weird thing. Why did you have to get up at 2:30 in the morning because you didn't have to be there until about 5:30?
VIEIRA: 5:00. Yes, I had to be there at 5:00 and I live outside of the city. But I'm little bit of a neurotic, I think, when it comes to this. So I would get up and immediately check my BlackBerry because inevitably the stories that you thought you would be doing would change overnight.
And I'm one of those people -- I don't want to come into work ill prepared. So it was better for me to spend that hour to an hour and a half at home getting up to speed on a story that I didn't know I had than to walk in at 5:00 and be thrown for a loop essentially.
And then I had my responsibilities. I always fed the -- we had a dog and two cats. And I would feed them every morning. And then I had to make my mark, you know, sort of leave my mark in the kitchen that mom had been here, whatever that was. So there was a lot of other stuff going on. COHEN: But I have to say that Meredith did not get up in a way that resembled a commercial for a sleeping pill. She didn't stretch and say, oh, what a great day this is.
COHEN: It took a crane to get her out of bed.
VIEIRA: Yes. Yes.
COHEN: It really. It took high explosives.
VIEIRA: And another shot of whiskey. It was ugly.
COHEN: It was tough.
MORGAN: And I'd always -- Richard, I'd always heard that Meredith was explosive in bed.
VIEIRA: Oh, geez.
COHEN: Well, I'm not going near that.
VIEIRA: Don't believe what you read on bathroom walls really.
MORGAN: What do you feel, Meredith? When you watch the news and you see things now which really annoy you -- because even before you always had to keep a kind of self-control, but now do you -- do you find yourself ranting about stuff? I mean when I -- for example, today when you heard that this Super Committee, one of the most ill advised titled committees I could imagine, had once again blown it and there was no deal to be done on the debt, for example.
When you hear that, do you now vent your spleen? Do you feel free? Do you feel liberated to have an opinion?
VIEIRA: Well, I have to be careful because I am part of "Rock Center" as well. You know, I'm starting that in January. So I'm still wearing the hat of journalist. But I mean I found that story sickening as a citizen that they couldn't figure this thing out. I think it's ridiculous. And it does make me crazy.
But I don't go screaming. And I don't go to 30 Rock and start yelling out windows. I guess, I could, but that could be pathetic.
MORGAN: I mean, Richard, you've always been mired in politics and news throughout your life in different guises. How do you feel about what's going on with your country, with America, with Washington, with the political process? Because to me as a Brit coming into this, I'm incredulous that so much taxpayer money can be wasted on going absolutely nowhere. It seems the whole year has been wasted on petty political point scoring.
COHEN: That's absolutely true. And you really could not write this as fiction. Nobody would believe it. I have to say that the -- that the failure of political institutions to deal with Simpson/Bowles, which I think was a credible commission, did a very fair, very tough job, should have been embraced by the president, by both parties, was abandoned by everybody because they didn't have the guts to do it.
And if they didn't have the guts to do it then, why would anybody have thought they would do it now?
MORGAN: But what is fundamentally wrong here? Is it Barack Obama being weak as president?
MORGAN: Should he have avoided saying, I'm going to unite everybody? Did that make him look weak to Republicans? Or is there something just fundamentally inherently wrong the process now that has to be dramatically changed?
COHEN: Well, I think you would get different answers to that. My answer would be that television has a great deal to do with this. That the 24-hour news cycle of cable news has heated up every issue. People are very polarized. The networks or these cable outlets are -- have political identities now, and that's driving people apart.
And people don't trust each other. People don't like each other. And people aren't giving an inch on either side. There's no compromise and there's no -- there's no sense that people are working for the public good. They're working for themselves.
VIEIRA: What I don't understand is why there's no incentive to compromise.
MORGAN: And Meredith --
VIEIRA: That's what I just don't get.
MORGAN: No, I was going to ask you, Meredith, I mean, you've been the sort of the sharp end of dealing with what I would call real Americans for the last five years. People that watch the "Today" show who lead an often this very normal live well away from all this who must be looking at this in complete -- I would imagine -- increasingly indignant bemusement saying what is happening here to the people supposedly charged with making our lives better?
VIEIRA: Well, I would think that people are truly fed up at this point and they're frustrated and they're hurting because of the economy as well. And then they see a Washington that is broken or chooses to be broken. It doesn't have to be. I mean it's like compromise has become a dirty word in this country. And I mean, you know, as a citizen, I have this feeling that you just throw them all out. I think a lot of people feel the same way because of the frustration level.
It's very hard to comprehend why we have reached this point given the fact that we are the great nation that we are. And it's an embarrassment, I think.
MORGAN: Yes. I couldn't agree more. Let's have a little break, Meredith. When we come back, I want to talk to you about exactly why you walked out of what many think to be the best job in TV news.
VIEIRA: Matt Lauer.
MORGAN: I want the dirt here, Meredith.
MORGAN: Well, I'd heard that. I heard that. Unbearable man in many ways.
MORGAN: That's Meredith Vieira's farewell to NBC's "Today" show in June. And Meredith is back with me now along with her husband, author and journalist Richard Cohen.
Meredith, it must have been a very emotional time for you leaving "Today." You were so inexorably linked to that show for so long. What were your emotions like?
VIEIRA: It was hard that day. I had no idea what they had planned. And that sequence that you saw when they led me through the plaza and everybody was out there with T-shirts. And it was a lot of love and a lot of support. And I really lost it.
And I didn't intend to do that, but it just hit me. The enormity of the job that I had held, of the love and the affection that I felt for these people.
You cannot do a show like that given the hours if you don't like the people. It's impossible. The chemistry, obviously, on air is essential. And behind the scenes as well. And it is a phenomenal group of people. I can't say enough about the crew at "Today" who are there, a lot of them start their day at midnight, if not earlier. And they're setting up and getting all the shots right, the producers who work so hard. And then obviously the on-air talent.
There's nobody that's more generous than Matt Lauer and Al and Ann and Natalie and Hoda and Kathie Lee and the whole group. I don't want to leave anybody out there. But it really did hit me that I was leaving my family. And yes, it had only been five years, but you establish bonds very quickly and they're very tight because of the work situation that you're in.
But I knew that I was doing the right thing. And it was a decision that I did not come to lightly. I mean, I had a year to think about it. And I finally realized that the best thing I could do for myself and for my family was to get off of that treadmill and to really sort of breathe a little bit and enjoy life while we have our health.
And that was an important step for me. And it was hard, but I'm convinced it was the right thing to do.
MORGAN: I mean what I remember you saying at the time was that many people were trying to make this big thing it was because Richard has multiple sclerosis and that part of the decision. But actually I remember you saying quite strongly no, actually it's a fact that he's been healthy recently.
MORGAN: Comparatively, that you wanted to make the most of that time with him.
MORGAN: And both of you fully aware of the longer term prognosis.
VIEIRA: Right. I mean things right now are great. And anything could happen. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow is the truth. But we -- I think we've reached a point in our lives where, you know, the grind was getting to both of us. About once a month we would do a piece on "Today" on sleep deprivation and how bad it is. And I'd be, like, sitting there looking, like, hello? Hello? I have that.
VIEIRA: You know? And I could have a heart attack and be obese and this, that and the other, and I was starting to get all of it or feel it all. So you know, I realized that that wasn't a healthy way for us to live. And a lot of people said to me, well, your kids are now all out of the house, or about to me, isn't this the time that you would want to hunker down and have that kind of a job.
And I said, no, this is a time where we can actually explore life together.
MORGAN: And Richard, I mean --
VIEIRA: And fortunately we still like each other.
MORGAN: Richard, you've had multiple sclerosis now for a very long time. In fact, you know, you've told Meredith, I think, on your second date 30-odd years ago that you suffered from this. What has it been like for you battling most of your adult life knowing that you have this awful condition?
COHEN: Well, I've had it for almost 40 years. And it certainly has become a large part of my identity. And struggling with it really has become second nature. I did very well. I had a career in the news business for a long time. And it didn't really catch up to me until the last 10 years or so.
And it's tough. Look, progressive diseases progress. And it's a one-way street. You know, you're not going to get better, and what you've got to do is make your peace with it as best you can and live as full a life as you can possibly, you know, pull off.
And I think it's all possible. I think that people give up too easily sometimes. I think people dig their own graves and we're not doing that. We're trying to have as good a time as we can, and I think we're doing pretty well.
MORGAN: Meredith, you've always put an incredibly brave face on this situation. You've completely avoid any sense of self-pity for either yourself or for Richard. But there is a reality here as Richard just said. I mean, this is not a normal situation that loving, married couples have to endure. You've had to live with this dark shadow for a long time.
How do you cope with it behind the scenes when the cameras aren't rolling and you don't have to be brave? Is it very difficult?
VIEIRA: Well, you know, I think you deal with it on a day-to-day basis. And when we're having a tough day, then that's hard. Sometimes you're angry, sometimes you're upset. But I think both of us have very good senses of humor. And I think that's what carries us through. You have to maintain a sense of humor in life whether you had an illness or not.
But it's being able to sometimes see the absurdity of a situation and laugh at it that helps ease you through it. And I think that has helped us tremendously. And we have three wonderful children. And I think because of Richard's illness, I think that they have become extremely empathetic young people, young adults, and I'm proud of the people they have become.
I wouldn't wish illness on any family at all, but I think it does something to the psyche. And I think that they're far more sensitive kids because they've seen what their dad has been through. And I think they appreciate life in a different way.
I know I do. He can be a real jerk, however, and I want to make sure that people understand that.
COHEN: But you also --
COHEN: But you also have to appreciate the lighter side of it.
(LAUGHTER) VIEIRA: Yes.
COHEN: And when we figure that out, we'll let you know.
VIEIRA: The levity behind the cane.
MORGAN: I mean, Richard, you've had to battle two bouts of cancer now, as well. I mean you've had it pretty rough health wise. How have you managed to stay as you appear to be pretty cheery about life?
COHEN: Well, look, it's a -- it's a long road. And the cancer was a tough blow, the second bout in particular, but I think you've got -- I think you've got to stand up and realize that this is your one shot at life, you know? And you've got to cope as best you can. And there are no -- there are no medals, no merit badges, no awards for coping. You know? A happy life, a great family and --
VIEIRA: And great friends, too.
COHEN: And being productive are their own rewards. And I think you got to keep your eye on the prize.
MORGAN: Let's take another break. I want to come back and talk about your children who I think probably you would both agree probably the pride of your lives.
VIEIRA: I would agree.
MORGAN: Back with my special guest Meredith Vieira and her husband Richard Cohen.
You've talked, both of you, very fondly obviously about your three children. They've all left the coop now. They're at that age when they're moving on to other things. But they must have shown extraordinary fortitude, I would imagine, and I'll start with Richard here, through all your battles.
When did you decide to tell the children that you had multiple sclerosis and how did they react to it?
COHEN: Well, we knew that at some point we were going to have to open up to them and tell them the truth. I had a bad accident and fell down the stairs, and they witnessed that when they were very young. And I think that precipitated having to go be much more open with them.
And what we discovered having done that was that, you know, if you want your kids to be happy, if you want your kids to be secure and at peace, don't keep secrets in the house. You know, they're the smartest people there. They just intuitively know when stuff is going on. And with both the MS and the cancer, we decided to be very open with them, to share and we did. And for example, when I had the cancer we sat down with them and gave -- our second kid said, I have two questions. One, are you going to die? And I said, I don't think so. And he said, secondly, do we get our Christmas and Hanukkah presents?
VIEIRA: It was around Thanksgiving when this happened.
COHEN: And I thought, you know, they're going to be OK. And --
VIEIRA: At least he asked the questions in the right order.
COHEN: That's right.
COHEN: But you know -- but you know, they just accept it as part of their lives. They watch out for me. I think they, in a funny way, take care of us as much as we take care of them.
VIEIRA: Absolutely. And I think with age comes wisdom. I think when the kids were little, there was a time I think when we were at school it was an open out -- open school night or whatever and Richard fell. And I remember the kids sort of cringing because they're little and they're wondering, are their friends seeing this and there's an embarrassment.
As they've gotten older, they see their dad as the brightest guy in the room. And the one -- our oldest son who lives in China now -- he graduated from college in June, he's now living in Shanghai. He calls Richard almost on a daily basis to talk politics because he'd rather talk to Richard than anyone else. And I think that they understand the value of a person in a different way.
MORGAN: Meredith, I mean, 400,000 Americans have MS, 200 people a week are diagnosed with it in this country. Do you think enough is being done in terms of research, in terms of funding? I mean obviously you've been in the direct light of this for a long time.
What do you think?
VIEIRA: Not nearly enough. And I defer to you because you know the numbers.
COHEN: Let me tell you something, I feel very strongly about this. The NIH budget, which has been frozen at about $30 -- $30 billion a year is inadequate. $30 billion a year pays for about two and a half months in Afghanistan. If you -- if one shares the belief that I think -- well, I'll speak for myself -- that I have, which is that we're going down the wrong road there, you have to wonder why we're not taking care of our own people, why our priorities are so skewed and why we're not spending more money on lots of things but one being medical research. You know 100 -- almost half the population, almost 130 million people have a chronic illness. There's a tremendous need for research. This is what's breaking the system. And we're not putting enough of our resources into medical research and taking care of our own people.
MORGAN: Meredith, several of Richard's relatives have also had MS. And there is a hereditary link here. Are you concerned about your family, your children? Do you know whether they are susceptible to getting this?
VIEIRA: Well, we're told that they are no more susceptible than the general population, maybe slightly more susceptible. Sure, when it's your own children, obviously you worry. But I remember quite a few years ago, Richard's mom at one point -- because Richard's dad had MS, as well as Richard's paternal grandmother. And Richard's mom was saying had she known that Richard was going to develop MS, then she would not want to have him, bring him into the world and develop this disease.
And Richard sort of looked at her and said, I like my life. I'm so glad I came into the world. So that's his attitude. I think that I feel the same way about our children. God forbid that they develop this illness. I hope that they do not. But they're wonderful, wonderful people. And if they were to develop MS, they would continue to be wonderful people. And I choose not to dwell on that.
MORGAN: They couldn't have a better role model than their father?
VIEIRA: Absolutely not.
MORGAN: Let's take a break. I want to talk to you about "Millionaire," both the show and whether you are one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless you, Meredith Vieira. God bless you. This is one of the best movies ever. It is Superman III, C, final answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Meredith and her husband Richard Cohen are back with me now. Meredith, you've done nine seasons of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."
MORGAN: You've made so many people happy, with the odd person utterly miserable. Do you just enjoy it?
VIEIRA: I love it. I really, really love it. It's one of the things that you do, a show where you leave at the end of the day and you have made people happy. You might have changed someone's lives. In the past few years, we have noticed that a lot our contestants are there not to win enough money for a vacation or a yacht or a sports car. They're there because they can't pay their mortgage or they have a child to put through college and they're so scared that they're not going to be able to pay the tuition bills and they are going to have to take their kid out of school.
They're hurting. They really are representative of folks all across America. So if you can help somebody, you know, pay that bill, keep them in their home, what's more rewarding than that? It's just a wonderful position to be in. And I feel very blessed to have that job. I really do.
I know it's a game show. But it does change lives. Even if it changes them just a little bit, that makes me feel really good about what I do.
MORGAN: For all these people who are desperate to be a millionaire, what's it like?
VIEIRA: You tell me.
MORGAN: Unfortunately, Meredith, this is my show and I'm doing an interview, so go on. Spill the beans. You can't host a show called "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and avoid the bleeding obvious.
VIEIRA: The bleeding obvious. Unless you're born with a silver spoon in your mouth and you work very, very hard -- and I have worked very hard my whole life. My parents instilled in me a tremendous work ethic that you don't take anything for granted. You have to earn it. And I've been blessed with some really wonderful jobs that come with some pretty nice salaries. And I've worked my tail off for that.
MORGAN: As somebody who has worked her way up the journalistic ladder, and done it the hard way and with great integrity and so on, how do you feel about the appointment of Chelsea Clinton as an NBC reporter, given that whatever her connections, whatever her background, she clearly hasn't done the journalistic hard yards?
VIEIRA: Well, people get in for all sorts of reasons. I think she's a very intelligent young woman. And I think she really does want to make a difference through her reporting. She probably has access that a lot of other folks would not because of her family connections. I've met her on several occasions and she's a very sincere person.
MORGAN: Of all the amazing moments you've experienced as a journalist, Meredith, in your career, if you could relive one again in the next five minutes, if I had that power, what would you choose?
VIEIRA: I would -- boy, I've seen a lot of places and I've done a lot of things. But it's the individuals that maybe nobody noticed before that I've had the opportunity to meet that have had the biggest impact on me. I tell this story all the time because it rings most true to me. It's about a little boy named Anthony that I met in Chicago many, many years ago, a seven-year-old.
He was living in a tenement. His mother was an alcoholic. His dad had left him when he was a baby. He was determined to make it on his own. He had a very bat stutter. He would say I --I -- I don't look for trouble; trouble -- trouble comes to me.
That tugged at my heart that a seven-year-old felt that way about his life. But he wanted to be better than those who had come before. When we left after doing that story -- we did it for a program called "West 57th," a news magazine show that I was on quite a few years ago.
I said to Anthony, if you ever need a lifeline, you call me collect. For the next five or six years, at least, Anthony would call collect. By the time -- that was "West 57th" and I moved over to "60 Minutes." And he continued to call. No matter who picked up the phone, Anthony's calling, they would answer it.
I think we provided a lifeline for him that he really needed. He became the first kid in his family to graduate from high school and went on to work in city government. That's a moment that I play over and over in my head when I feel, you know, is this the right career? Did I make the right move?
It's meeting that kind of a person, seeing that kind of human spirit, when all the odds are stacked up against them and that will to move ahead. And also being able to impact their life. And that will always be part of, you know, one of my proudest moments in journalism.
MORGAN: And Richard, I've always wondered who the lucky guy is who was married to Meredith, because she's one of my favorite people. What's been the love of a great woman like Meredith in life for you and your life particularly, given the challenges that you've had to face?
COHEN: She's sitting next to me.
MORGAN: Go on. Spill the beans, Richard.
COHEN: Now, you know, at the risk of being nice, Meredith's been there for me. Meredith's been supportive. Meredith bought into this a long time ago. We built a family. We built a life. And we weren't afraid of the future. And it was easy for me to do maybe. But probably not as -- you know, it was a more difficult position for her.
And I think we're proud of what we've put together. I think as you've said, we're very proud of our kids. You know, we've talked about illness for a good time here tonight. And I have to say we have a great life. You know, we have everything we wanted, everything we need, everything we dreamed of.
I've said before, I wouldn't trade MS as part of my life, as part of my identity. I think it's true for Meredith, too. We're very grateful. We really are. We're very happy. MORGAN: Well, you certainly come over that way. It's been an absolute pleasure to interview you both today. Meredith, Richard, thank you so much.
VIEIRA: Piers, thank you so much.
MORGAN: Coming up, Michelle Williams, how she got the role of a lifetime playing Marilyn Monroe in "My Life With Marilyn," which opens on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE WILLIAMS, ACTRESS: from the second that I stepped out of that cab and on to the creak, I was the instigator, you know. Girl caused problems and rocked the creak and upset the delicate emotional balance of Capeside. And I don't want Amy to be that person. I want her to belong.
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MORGAN: Eight years ago, Michelle Williams said good-bye to "Dawson's Creek." And since then, she's been nominated for two Oscars. And she may we be on her way to a third nomination with her new film "My Week With Marilyn," directed by Simon Curtis.
And Michelle Williams and Simon Curtis join me now. Welcome to you both.
SIMON CURTIS, DIRECTOR: Thank you for having us.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
MORGAN: Simon, you and I had a chat about this movie a few months ago in the garden of a well known British television executive. Let's not be any more detailed than that. You told me it was going to be a fantastic film and you had a fantastic actress. And there she is. Why Michelle Williams?
CURTIS: Because I've always loved Michelle's work. And I was really excited when she read the script and wanted to meet. And couldn't believe my luck when she signed on.
MORGAN: The part of Marilyn Monroe, she's such an iconic figure, not just in America but around the world. You've got to choose very carefully, haven't you? What is the decision making process as a filmmaker in choosing the right kind of person to play somebody so famous?
CURTIS: I think there's a lot of ingredients in that decision, if you like. Obviously, a physical resemblance. But really what always attracted me to Michelle's work is that she always brings such psychological detail to her characters. I knew that was the Marilyn that I wanted to portray in this film. MORGAN: Michelle, you immersed yourself into the world of Marilyn Monroe. I'm fascinated by Marilyn, as many people are. I've read many books about her. She was an incredibly complex character in many ways. What surprised you when you delved into Marilyn's life in more detail than before? What surprised you most about her?
WILLIAMS: Oh, gosh, I suppose the sort of -- the biggest discovery that I made along the way was that Marilyn Monroe was a character, and that how we commonly think of her, that was a part that she played. And she played it so well, you couldn't tell that she was acting.
And so we sort of allowed ourselves to think that that was maybe close to who she really was. And the truth is that there was a very complex human being underneath it all.
MORGAN: Let's take a -- let's take a little look with a clip from "My Week With Marilyn."
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WILLIAMS: You don't look old enough to drink.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 23, Miss Monroe.
WILLIAMS: Oh, it's Marilyn. I'm 30. I guess that makes me an old lady to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven years is nothing.
WILLIAMS: You know I've been married three times already? How did that happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're just looking for the right man.
WILLIAMS: They always look right at the start.
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MORGAN: I mean, that's weird, Michelle. You are Marilyn.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. Thanks.
MORGAN: Do you feel a bit weird when you watch it back there, just how convincing it is?
WILLIAMS: Oh, gosh, I don't know. I've sort of -- I don't really know who I'm looking at any more. It's just kind of a her. Whenever I see it, it's a she or a her. It's not me. And I wouldn't be audacious to say it was Marilyn. It's just some other being. I don't -- it's a strange relationship.
CURTIS: I would say it was truly thrilling to be on the set and watch this performance evolve over the weeks. And a truly magical experience to see Marilyn on our set and to see what Michelle was doing was fantastic. MORGAN: Michelle, what did you think of Marilyn as an actress?
WILLIAMS: I suppose that was one of my other big discoveries along the way, is that, more than anything, she wanted to be a serious actress. It was her greatest ambition. And you know, when we talk about the character that she developed of Marilyn Monroe, that didn't come quickly or naturally to her. She spent years working on that part, creating that part.
And that was such a huge part of her identity. But it was a secret identity because people couldn't really conflate, you know, Marilyn Monroe, this incredible sex symbol, with Marilyn Monroe the intellectual, the student, the artist. For some reason, those ideas didn't really gel.
So I think publicly it was difficult for her to have the chance to play different roles. People didn't really want to see her differently. Studios certainly didn't want anyone to see her differently. But people talk about this quality that she had.
MORGAN: The one thing that we do know about Marilyn was, by common consent, she was a bit of a diva on set. She used to turn up late quite regularly, if at all. So I think after the break, Simon I want to know whether Michelle Williams is equally as big a diva?
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WILLIAMS: Hello, boys.
WILLIAMS: Work hard. I don't want anyone whipping you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can whip me any time, Marilyn.
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MORGAN: I'm back with the star and director of the new film "My Week With Marilyn," Michelle Williams and Simon Curtis. Simon Kenneth Branaugh said about Michelle that she was naughty and twinkly and giggly. Anything else you want to tell us about her?
CURTIS: No, I think that's a very good description. I was just so grateful that I had Michelle playing Marilyn, because she wouldn't work harder and couldn't have been keener to deliver a great a performance. So it was a great luxury as a director to have that presence on the set.
MORGAN: Michelle, Marilyn was notoriously late for filming sessions, wouldn't turn up quite a lot of the time. Are you like that, or are you very professional about these things? WILLIAMS: In al honesty, I run ten minutes late every day, everywhere. But I don't think that's quite the same thing. But I do like to be honest, so I will tell you that.
No, I have to say, I was curious about that, because I didn't really identify with it. How can a person be so, well, in a way, disrespectful of the other actors and crew people that you're working with. After about three days into week one, I realized exactly how. When you spend three and a half hours sitting in hair and make-up, and then are required to transmit the kind of energy and vibration that makes people -- that makes people feel like you're sort of existing to give them pleasure, to put all that out on a consistent basis is exhausting.
And by Thursday, I had a pretty good sense of maybe one of the reasons that she wouldn't want to get out of bed and go to work.
MORGAN: I want to play you now, Michelle, a clip of you singing by Marilyn. That must have been an all together different challenge.
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MORGAN: I mean, admit it, Michelle, you must feel sexy when you're playing Marilyn Monroe?
WILLIAMS: Honestly, no. You know, maybe in those kind of moments -- in the moment with the bathtub or a scene with the school boys. But not consistently. Not in your every day life, not on the weekends when all that comes off, the hair, the wig, the costume. There's some sort of strange in between person underneath.
MORGAN: You said that you had never cried so much for somebody that you didn't know. Why did you find it so emotional?
WILLIAMS: You know, it -- I've never spent this long with a character before. I'm always kind of a bit nerdy doing my preparation I think because I didn't really go to school. I didn't go to high school. I didn't college. And so I feel like I am making up for it somehow now.
Arthur Miller said something about her. He said the thing about her was that her struggle was valiant. That always moves me, when somebody is bravely fighting against themselves or the outside world, but when there's real bravery involved in the fight. And that always got to me.
MORGAN: Michelle, tell me about your life now. You've turned 30, which has given you a huge boost of new confidence, made you a better actress, you feel. You've obviously been a mom now for a while. How is life for you?
WILLIAMS: It has a routine. It has a sort of -- patterns have started emerging, and I find that comforting. You have some idea of how the day is going to go, the month is going to go. You feel like -- I feel like I know more than I did before. I can - it doesn't sound like it the way I'm answering this question. But things -- it's settled. It's settled.
MORGAN: You're sporting a short cropped hairdo, not the Marilyn full flowing locks. I thought you might be tempted to keep the Marilyn look for a while.
WILLIAMS: No, it was a wig. It was a great wig, but it was a wig. And it takes a lot of bleach to keep that look up.
MORGAN: I heard you say behind your hairstyle. You said that no straight man in the world would like it, which I would like to personally detach myself from that statement you made.
WILLIAMS: Thank you very much.
MORGAN: Don't think you're entirely right on that school. But a certain person very important in your life liked your hair like that.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's true.
MORGAN: It's a stunning role, an amazing film.
Simon, congratulations to you. In your big directing debut, you must be excited?
CURTIS: Very, very excited. I'm really excited about the opening. I've been thrilled with the responses as we've been taken it on the road, people laughing a lot, people really impressed by Michelle's performance. So it's very exciting. .
MORGAN: Well, congratulations to you both. I can't wait to see it. And best of luck.
CURTIS: Thank you very much.
WILLIAMS: Thanks very much. Thank you.