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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

The GOP Race; Iowa Caucuses in Two Weeks; Tim Tebow Up Close; Actor Kenneth Branagh

Aired December 20, 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: Tonight Newt Gingrich. Is the frontrunner star fading in Iowa?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You get enough negative ads, your numbers go down for awhile.

MORGAN: Are attack ads the price of admission in politics?

GINGRICH: I believe the people of Iowa are smart enough that they can see the difference between somebody who's trying to help the country and somebody who is simply running a negative campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I'll ask campaign insiders, do you have to play dirty to win?

Plus the phenomenal Tim Tebow. Superstar even if you know nothing about football. But who is he really? And why this obsession with a 24-year-old (INAUDIBLE) Christian quarterback?

I'll talk with former NFL coach and the man who wrote the book on Tebow.

Also Golden Globe and SAG nominee Kenneth Branagh. From "Shakespeare," to Hollywood's leading man.

This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Good evening. While the rest of the country is deep into holiday preparations, the political world is buzzing over the official opening of the 2012 campaign. The first in the nation Iowa caucuses are just two weeks away and the stakes couldn't be higher in the Republican field.

The latest CNN/ORC poll puts Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in a dead heat battling for the top spot. And Ron Paul makes a surprisingly strong showing in third place.

So with all of this back and forth in the polls, what will it take for a clear frontrunner to emerge in time to win?

Joining me now is former Republican presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty, the national co-chair of the Romney campaign, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to Newt Gingrich.

Welcome to you both.

Tim Pawlenty, let me start with you. Clearly, I would have thought a pretty good week for your man. Mainly good debate performance. Gone on the attack. Lacerating Newt Gingrich with these shocking TV ads. And you've gone on the offensive and it's working. Would you agree?

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA: Well, it's working for a variety of reasons, Piers, but what I'd satisfy is this. Look, you've got an economy that is reeling, you've got people that are hurting, and they're looking for somebody who actually knows how to get jobs growing again in this country. There's nobody in this field that's got the private sector, entrepreneurial experience and leadership and record of Mitt Romney.

And by the way, as a candidate and as a president he's also got a steadiness and a reliability about him that I think people expect. And that's why you've seen these other candidates surge for a week or a month. But when you get a full look at them, they can't sustain it. Mitt has been at or near the top of this for many months in part because of his steadiness as a person and as a leader.

MORGAN: Kelly, and let me bring you in. I mean obviously Newt Gingrich came from a position of apparently being dead to being frontrunner and the surge has temporarily hit the buffers, although he's still in joint lead with Mitt Romney. What's your reading of these fluctuations?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO NEWT GINGRICH: Well, there's durability in Newt's numbers based on what you've shown. And there are other polls that confirm the number that you showed, Piers, which is to say that Mitt Romney basically has been the frontrunner. He's been running for five years. And so he's had a slight uptick.

But a lot of these gains have not gone to him. They've gone to Ron Paul, they've gone to the undecided category, some of the former Herman Cain voters are still looking for a place, a comfortable place to park their votes. So they're up for grabs. And I think what you see is that the electability argument that was really propelling the Romney candidacy for years now, I can win, I can win, has been completely swept away because in these polls most voters, Republican voters say that either Newt or Mitt could beat Barack Obama and that's why they've got some credibility in the polls.

I'm just -- it's disappointing, though, to -- and I'm glad you use the word lacerate. That really is the best description I've heard for what's been happening to Newt. We've absorbed over $9 million in paid negative advertising. $9 million. And yet look at Newt's poll standings.

MORGAN: Well, that's -- well, that's --

CONWAY: And the reason --

MORGAN: Kellyanne--

CONWAY: The reason that he's still standing --

MORGAN: Now let me stop you.

CONWAY: -- is because he talks about issues, not other about other people.

MORGAN: OK. Let me stop you there. Let's play one of these negative ads to see what you're talking about and then we'll discuss it afterwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt has a ton of baggage. He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations and took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac before it helped cause the economic meltdown. Newt supports amnesty for illegal immigrants and teamed with Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore on global warming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Now I suppose, Kellyanne, the obvious question when you see that is, yes, it's negative. Yes, it's brutal. Yes, it's, as I said, lacerating, but it also has the benefit of being factually correct, doesn't it?

CONWAY: Not all of it.

MORGAN: Would you dispute any of the details?

CONWAY: Not all of it. That's not true. And look, those are all sound bytes. What you need are the facts behind all of those allegations. And they've been vetted beyond the comfort of somebody else's 30-second ad where they're just trying to scare the voters rather than inform them and engage them, enthuse them.

We have more faith in the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire and across this country. We think they can see through negative attacks and that they're far more interested in a candidate that wants to talk about ideas and solutions, particularly in these tough economic times, than talk about other candidates.

Everybody knows, I'm sure Governor Pawlenty knows, that Newt does not support amnesty for, quote, illegal immigrants. He's the only person out there talking about -- and he gave a very specific example. If there's somebody who's been here for 25 years and you're going to look at them in your churches, in your mosques, you're going to look at them in the grocery store and say go back? Nobody's ever had the courage to tell them to go back. It's heated political rhetoric.

MORGAN: OK. Let me bring back --

CONWAY: But he had the real solutions.

MORGAN: Let me bring -- let me bring Tim Pawlenty back in. I mean, Tim, these are negative ads. But a lot of people will be watching them going, well, they've got a point. You know most of this is pretty well on the money. I mean Newt Gingrich probably by his own admission, if he was here now, brings a lot of baggage with him.

PAWLENTY: Well, Piers, a couple of things. First, if I'm remembering that ad correctly it was done by a third party, not the Romney campaign directly. These third parties are not controlled, in fact legally can't be controlled by Mitt Romney or any of the individual candidates.

Number two, the excerpt that you just played is factually accurate. The statements that they made about Newt Gingrich in that case are accurate. And as long as it's focused on issues and it's not overly personal, you're going to have a campaign that's about the differences of vision and policy positions between candidates.

We're running -- these candidates are running for president of the United States. It's going to be hotly contested. That ad points out three or four factual things in Newt Gingrich's record that are supported. And so people can make a judgment.

CONWAY: So --

PAWLENTY: They can look at that and say well, do I -- does that concern me or not? And as people get re-introduced to these candidates who've surged, in this case Newt Gingrich, you see their numbers recede. And hat's what's happening now. And you're going to see Mitt Romney --

MORGAN: Kellyanne --

PAWLENTY: -- continue to --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Jump in there?

CONWAY: Sure, so Governor.

PAWLENTY: -- prevail because he is steady. He is steady and persistent.

CONWAY: Governor Pawlenty, Governor Pawlenty Romney calling Newt zany on national TV is not a personal attack? Him referring to Newt as unstable is not a personal attack? And that's the kind of rhetoric that you simply didn't use when you were running for president. We were all a better nation because of it.

You've had a very, like Newt, you had a very bold muscular pro- growth lower tax pro-entrepreneurial tax and economic plan. I would respectfully ask you to e-mail sort of it around the campaign because it was really bold. And it was about deregulation.

MORGAN: Well --

CONWAY: It was about flatter taxes. You were very positive.

MORGAN: Let me -- let me jump in again. Let me stop this -- let me stop this love fest between you and Tim Pawlenty. That's not really the point because he's no longer running. Let's discuss President Obama whose own poll ratings are beginning to nudge up again. He made a surprise appearance today at a press conference. Watch what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The clock is ticking. Time is running out. And if the House Republicans refuse to vote for the Senate bill or even allow it to come up for a vote, taxes will go up in 11 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That's President Obama today. And clearly this lockdown in Washington continues.

I mean I suppose I'll go to you, Tim Pawlenty. Do you get a sense that people in Washington just do not understand how fed up the American people are of turning on their television news and hearing they're still squabbling over this stuff and can never get anything done? It seems like the whole year has been spent with people wasting time.

PAWLENTY: Well, absolutely, and that's why we need somebody to be from outside of Washington as their next president. Mitt Romney has spent almost his entire life, save for four years as governor of Massachusetts, in the private sector. He's not from Washington. He's not part of that culture. He isn't a former lobbyist or advocate. He is somebody who's actually been in the private sector, started businesses, grown businesses, grown jobs.

And when people look at the experience differential, the leadership differential, and frankly the difference in world views between Barack Obama's government centric view of the world, an economy growth through government in his mind, versus what Mitt Romney has proposed and done cutting taxes in Massachusetts, cutting spending in Massachusetts, inheriting a deficit when he became governor, leaving a surplus. And, by the way, lowering the unemployment rate as governor.

MORGAN: OK.

PAWLENTY: Turning around --

MORGAN: We're just -- we're drifting slightly away.

PAWLENTY: It's not even a close call.

MORGAN: All right. We're drifting slightly away from my point. But Kellyanne, let me bring you in here. What is Newt Gingrich's view of this apparently intransigent position by the Republicans which is causing endless grief to everybody?

CONWAY: Well, if anybody wants to know Newt's views on anything go to Newt.org. And it's all laid out there and I would -- I would submit to you, Piers, that you're never going to see another candidate's name mentioned on the Web site. It's all about solutions including on this payroll tax cut extension.

I'm glad you mentioned, you know, do people -- do these candidates understand that folks are so upset with Washington? Congress now has an 11 percent approval rating. And many think they've earned it. You want to talk about solutions and having done things. When Newt was there as speaker we had welfare reform. That is the last major entitlement reform in our lifetimes.

That was real. And that was done with a Democratic president, Bill Clinton. They had a balanced budget for four straight years when Newt was speaker. A balanced budget is just a sound bite now. It's a total elusive dream in Washington, D.C. There were millions of jobs created when he was speaker.

So let's talk about not just a vision, let's talk about a track record. I can turn that very negative awful ad around and talk about the things that Newt has done as speaker. And by the way, you just can't parachute into Washington, D.C. as president of the United States, as leader of the free world, and pretend you're going to learn your way around just because you haven't been there.

MORGAN: OK.

CONWAY: I mean you need experience in the place.

MORGAN: Let me -- let me just turn -- let me jump in. Tim -- Tim Pawlenty.

(CROSSTALK)

PAWLENTY: Morgan, one other quick thing now. Mitt was the first presidential candidate on the Republican side to actually call for keeping and maintaining the lower employment tax reduction. In other words, embraced the payroll tax reduction and keep it lower.

MORGAN: OK.

PAWLENTY: Mitt was the first one to lead on the issue.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Let me ask you. Let me ask you a wider -- let me ask you a wider point, though, Tim Pawlenty, about Mitt Romney which is you said, look, he's been Mr. Reliable, Mr. Steady in the campaign. Hasn't put much wrong. And so on.

And that is true, but there is another argument. The reason he's been unable to break out of the shackles of his poll ratings at a certain level is that the Republican Party don't find him that exciting.

Let me play you a little clip from David Letterman's "Top Ten Things" that Mitt Romney would like to save the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Isn't it time for a president who looks like a 1970s game show host?

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Yes. Yes, it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I mean, I guess that could be a positive. Isn't part of the problem for Mitt Romney is that people do look at him and think '70s game show host?

PAWLENTY: Well, you know, first of all, none of these candidates are perfect. The fact that Mitt would make fun of himself on David Letterman, I think that shows a playful and joyful spirit. We should celebrate that, not pile on. But beyond that, look, Mitt Romney look -- I like this old saying, Piers, where the best sermons aren't preached, they're lived.

And you look at his life, not just over a couple of years of this campaign but his whole life. It's a life that's been of service, of leadership, character, integrity, steadiness, perseverance. Those are some of the characteristics you want this a leader. They're certainly the kind of characteristics you want in a president of the United States.

It's going to serve him well during this campaign which is a gauntlet. Certainly going to serve him well as president. And people are looking for steadiness. And you don't see that in the rest of the Republican field in many cases.

CONWAY: But steadiness also means that you haven't changed your mind on really core issues. And of course, that is Newt Gingrich. I'm glad that you showed what a comedian had to say.

PAWLENTY: Yes, he has. Newt has changed his mind.

CONWAY: Governor Pawlenty, we really don't want to have the debate, do we, about which candidate in this field has changed their mind?

MORGAN: No. You know know something? We actually haven't even got time for the debate unfortunately. So we've run out. Thank you both very much for a spirited exchange.

Tim Pawlenty, Kellyanne Conway, I'm sure we'll talk again soon. Thank you both very much.

PAWLENTY: Thank you.

CONWAY: Thank you.

MORGAN: Does your crowded Republican field need more candidates? I'll ask a couple of experts when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC BOLLING, FBN ANCHOR: It's not too late. It's not too late. Any chance we can see you making a play even after Iowa and New Hampshire? There's still plenty of time, Governor.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: You know it's not too late for folks to jump in. And I don't know, you know, who knows what will happen in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was Sarah Palin on "Follow the Money" from FOX Business. With an already crowded field do Republicans really need more candidates?

Joining me now is CNN political contributor Mary Matalin and Steve Deace. He is a syndicated radio host with the Salem Radio Network. He's co author of "We Won't Get Fooled Again: Were the Christian Right Went Wrong and How to Make America Right Again."

Welcome to you, both. Let me start with you, Mary Matalin, I mean is it too late for Sarah Palin?

STEVE DEACE, SYNDICATED RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you.

MORGAN: Technically is it too late?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Not technically. It hasn't been done. We haven't had a brokered convention for a couple of decades. But there's a lot of cocktail chatter about a brokered convention or a late entrant because of some of the issues you were discussing in the previous segment where no candidate's really broken above 30 percent or stayed above 30 percent consistently.

But more than that, we have never had on the Republican side this process where the duration that's going to be demanded by a front- loaded proportional allocation of delegates. So in other words, nobody can lock it up early and it stays sort of amorphous or in suspended animation as it appears to be for the moment. I don't think it's going to stay like that. And then that leads to conversations, and I do think they're cocktail conversations, about another entrant or a brokered entrance.

MORGAN: OK. Let me bring in Steve Deace. I mean, Steve Dace, clearly the Republican Party itself is still wrestling over the kind of candidate they really want to get behind. And they haven't decided yet. So what do you think? I mean is the field still open or are they in the end going to choose now from what would appear to be a narrowing field?

DEACE: Well, I would say this about Sarah Palin. If anybody could pull it off, it's probably her. She's been defying the odds, both good and bad, throughout her political career. And I think Mary is right that there's a lot of cynicism about the process in general. And I think she's right to point to the interview you just did.

I mean I once sat in my own office building and listened to Tim Pawlenty look me right in the eye and tell me one on one he was running for president so that somebody like Mitt Romney doesn't become the nominee.

And so here I am sitting waiting to come on your show listening to Pawlenty extol the virtues of Mitt Romney, the man -- I mean Tim Pawlenty is the guy that coined the phrase Obam-ney care. And I think, you know, if Tim Pawlenty thought Mitt Romney was such a great candidate, we all knew Romney was going to run again in 2012, why did Pawlenty put himself into debt, take months away from his family to run for president himself?

He could have saved himself and the American people a lot of time by just endorsing and supporting Romney from the get-go.

MORGAN: And Steve, you know Iowa well. Ron Paul is gaining a bit of traction there. Newt Gingrich slipping back a bit. Knowing the lay of the land there, how do you see things panning out in the next couple of weeks?

DEACE: I think that we are on a collision course with a Ron Paul victory in the Iowa caucuses. And I think the only thing, Piers, that's going to stop it at this point is some kind of coalescing of conservatives, particularly values voters, around one candidate, maybe even a team-up of candidates. I just think that this thing is so fractured now and the time is so remote and the clock is ticking that I think Ron Paul, as unconventional of a candidate as he is, he's done the most job of setting up -- the best job of setting up the most conventional campaign.

They do smart ad buys. He's got maybe the best political organization in the state of Iowa, that doesn't belong to Tom Harkin or Charles Grassley. And he's done it the right way. He has cultivated Iowa for years.

So I think barring a coalescing, we're going to see Ron Paul win the Iowa caucuses. And it just seems like the crankier he gets, the crazier he gets, the more crotchety he gets, people love him all the more because I think the majority of Iowans are so fed up with Washington and so fed up with the system, that even on the stuff Paul says on foreign policy, that a lot of conservatives view as very dangerous, they sort of view him as a way to hit control-alt-delete on the system. And right now he's the --

MORGAN: OK. Let me bring Mary back in.

Mary, let me ask you, I mean Ron Paul could well win in Iowa. You could see Mitt Romney win, say, in New Hampshire. You could see Newt Gingrich then win in South Carolina. I mean the way this has been structured now this year coming up with New York and California, a song coming much later, this process could go on for months and months and months with the leadership changing quite dramatically, couldn't it?

MATALIN: That's right. Or Perry, depending on how he does in Iowa, could make his mark in South Carolina. What I don't think is going to happen, and I'm loathe to make predictions in a cycle like this, is that Ron Paul is going to make much of a difference beyond Iowa other than the parts of his message that are really relevant, the Federal Reserve, the growth of government. He's a good message candidate in the way that several elements of the Ross Perot message was so important.

And long life -- long shelf life. So if he wins in Iowa, I don't -- that's not dispositive or predictive of anything else. Bob Dole and Pat Robertson beat my candidate in 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush who was only the vice president because he had won the Iowa caucuses in 1980 giving him the big mo, and then Reagan was forced to put him on the ticket and the rest is history.

So Iowa has -- I don't want to say a checkered history, just has a history of being Iowa and carefully vetting candidates that make sense to it and it does clarify a lot of positions. But there have been plenty of candidates who have lost Iowa or won Iowa, whatever the case the opposite.

MORGAN: Yes.

MATALIN: And that did not impact the future of the nomination.

MORGAN: That is completely true. And it may continue to be fluid for I think quite some time. Thank you both very much indeed.

DEACE: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: Coming up, America is obsessed with superstar Tim Tebow. I'll talk to the man who wrote the book on him when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: That is the man everyone is talking about. Tim Tebow making another miraculous run on Sunday's NFL on CBS. He's gotten national headlines for his play on the field and displays of faith off the field. He wrote about it in his book, "Through My Eyes: A Quarterback's Journey." And the (INAUDIBLE) edition is in stores now.

Joining me now is Tebow's co-author, Nathan Whitaker, and the former NFL coach and evangelical Christian, Tony Dungy.

Welcome to you both.

Let me start with you, Tony Dungy, because from a football point of view -- and bear in mind, it's not the football I'm massively expert in, so let me just put my credentials on the table right away -- but I watched the game on Sunday and his team didn't win. But I was fascinated by the phenomenon of Tim Tebow. And there was something extraordinarily compelling about him to watch, even if you're not a football nut. He's a fascinating character. Why is that?

TONY DUNGY, FORMER NFL COACH: I think it's really the words you used, character. He's got a ton of it, and that's what impacts people and affects them. He won a high school state championship here in Florida where I lived. He won two national championships at University of Florida. And you just get the feeling if he's on your team he's going to give you a chance to win a championship. And I think that's the phenomenon.

MORGAN: And from a technical point of view, how good is he? And what makes him special?

DUNGY: Well, what makes him special is his will to win, his drive, his desire. He's not a polished NFL quarterback yet, but he's a winner. He's the guy that is going to make the play that you need to win the game. And the other thing that he does is he inspires belief in his teammates. He's a strong runner. He's an athletic quarterback. He's a powerful guy, but all of that really kind of falls underneath the topic of that will to win.

MORGAN: Nathan Whitaker, you wrote this book with Tim Tebow. And you know him probably as well as anybody. What is really fascinating about him is this relationship between his performances on the field and his faith. And some of these things, I've been reading are quite extraordinary. Tebow wrote John 3:1:6 on his eye paint, a biblical reference. As a result 92 million people searched John 3:16. And I mean that's an incredible power, isn't it? For anybody, never mind an athlete. To be able to influence people in that way is is extraordinary.

NATHAN WHITAKER, AUTHOR: Now Tim takes very seriously his ability to be a role model. And he was very intentional in all these things. He gives it a lot of thought. He spent a lot of time thinking about what to do and put on the eye black before that game. And he certainly didn't know it was going to be 92 million people, but he knew it would be a fair number.

MORGAN: I mean it's (INAUDIBLE), isn't it, to think that that could happen.

WHITAKER: Right.

MORGAN: I mean I like the fact that as a role model he's such a positive force. And the critics that sort of complain about it I think are completely barking up the wrong tree because, you know, what's the alternative? You become a Michael Vick kind of role model in football. That's not to pick on him. But a very, very different kind of role model.

What is wrong with a God-fearing guy who goes out, works hard, you know, does his job but believes in God and sends a positive message? WHITAKER: Right. Well, Tony has said before repeatedly that 99 percent of the athletes in the NFL are positive role models. They did the right thing and you don't hear anything because of the 1 percent that does do the wrong thing. And so, you know, with Tim you've got a guy who really is very intentional and does the right thing all the time and says the right things.

I mean he's a great teammate and gives credit when the kicker is making long kicks, he gives credit to the kicker and tries to always deflect praise.

MORGAN: And Tony, I mean, I was watching him just to see how he compared to my, as I say, not massively expert eye. But I love sport. And what he seemed to me was, he had a lot of time. This was a guy who had time and had intelligence and had patience, always waiting to the last second before releasing the ball. I mean, am I wrong about that or is that a particular talent that he has that is putting him slightly above the others at the moment?

DUNGY: Well, because of his skill set and his athleticism, he can get away from the rush and can he buy time and he does get more time to throw than a lot of other quarterbacks, but he's still learning the position and that's what people have to understand. This is a young player, but he's galvanized kind of the attention of the country and he's going to use this platform really well. And I think in Tim's mind it's more about that than it is about winning championships. I know he wants to win, but as Nathan said, he wants to use the platform, he wants to be a role model and I admire that.

MORGAN: He's also, I mean, we would call him back in my country, a big unit. I mean, he takes some felling, doesn't he?

(LAUGHTER)

DUNGY: That's a good way to put it. I've not heard it stated that way here but, no, he is a big man, he's a strong guy and he has a strong will, too. He's not going to give in easily. So, because of that he is able to take some shots out there and he does it in such a way that it kind of inspires the rest of his teammates.

MORGAN: Tebow phenomena has exploded to such a degree, he even got the ultimate badge of honor, which was an SLN skit. Let's watch a bit of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESUS, CHARACTER IN SKIT: Best of luck next week. I'll try to watch. Tim. Tim, I love you. OK?

TIM TEBOW, FOOTBALL PLAYER: I love you, too.

JESUS: OK, all right. But, just take it down a notch, will you, buddy?

TEBOW: Yes, Lord, whatever you command.

JESUS: OK, it's not a command, just a request, all right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I was going to say, Pat Robinson responded to that sketch and I'll read what he said, "We need more religious faith in our society. We're losing our moral compass in our nation. This man has been placed in a unique position and I applaud him. God bless him."

And whether you're religious or not, actually, doesn't really matter, the message that he is communicating is so positive, isn't it? I mean, if you're a young person watching football right now, Tebow magic isn't going to do you any harm, is it?

WHITAKER: It's really not. I mean, all his lessons, as Tony talked about, hard work, faith and for him it's faith in God, but also faith in his teammates, faith in what hard work's going to bring. You know, everything Tim does -- and the deflecting of praise, you know, his parents taught him at an early age, Proverbs 27: 2, "Let another person praise you" and so you can't get him to say anything good about himself. That was the hard part about writing an autobiography of somebody who won't talk about himself.

MORGAN: Well, let's have a little break and them come back and talk bit more about his upbringing. That's been central, probably, to the character that he is and I also want to learn from both of you, if I can, how you do the Tebow. It's about time I did one, live on air.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEBOW: My dad has had a huge impact on my life and not because of what he's told me, but because of the example that he was in front of me, every day. You know, it wasn't something that I had to go outside of the house to look for a role model. I had one that I could watch every single day who when he said something, he did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That's Tim Tebow talking about his relationship with his father. I suppose, Nathan, this is key, isn't it, to understanding the man, is that both his parents were Christian Baptist missionaries. He was actually born in the Philippines when they were doing their missionary work. His father is a pastor, so he was clearly brought up very much a man of the church and as you said, sort of almost ridiculously modest individual, too. Tell me some other stuff about the real Tim Tebow.

WHITAKER: You know, he's incredibly kind and sensitive and that was one of the interesting things that came out is that people talk about him wearing his emotion on his sleeves, at times. But what's really interesting to see about Tim is that he does that in a way that really makes him seek out if there's somebody that's kind of on the periphery of the crowd or even as I was, there were 12 of us in the house as brothers, friends, and whatever and he was always coming over and making sure, you know, Nathan, do you need anything, is there anything I can do for you? And not only just one of the guys, but also going out of his way to be kind and generous to those around him.

MORGAN: And Tony, one thing he's not on the pitch is either kind or generous. I mean, he's a beast from what I was watching. So, come on Tony, he's got a big game coming, I guess the Buffalo Bills. How's he going to do?

DUNGY: Well, they need one more win to get into the playoffs, and I know Tim wants to deliver that. That's the important thing to him and as a coach, that's what you really appreciate about him. He's all about winning. He doesn't care about individual accolades, he doesn't care about headlines, he wants to win. This is going to be a big game for him. I expect to see him play very, very well.

MORGAN: Nathan, when you wrote the book, you spent a lot of time with Tim Tebow. He's become this super star, now. How far is he going to go, do you think, and how will he deal with it?

WHITAKER: I think he'll deal with it great. You're right, and I can only assume that it's the book that put him on the map and made him so popular.

(LAUGHTER)

No, he's so down to earth and his parents really brought him up to continue that way. And one of the things that you touched on earlier about being a role model is that he's very -- he just gives a lot of thought to what he does, the situations he gets in and how hard he works. And he always puts himself in good positions because he makes good decisions and I think that's going to serve him.

MORGAN: And Tony, his big thing is the sort of comeback kid element to his game where he rescues the Broncos in this dramatic last-minute fashion all the time. I mean, that's what's making him the sort of people's hero, isn't it?

DUNGY: It is, but I think that really has to do with his faith, too. Tim is not a person that's ever going to give up at anything. He's never going to look at anything hopeless, as being hopeless, even if they're two scores down with two minutes to go. He always feels like they can win and that's a great quality to have.

MORGAN: Now we've got to get to the point now, which I never thought would come where I need to know how to do the Tebow, because if everybody else is doing it, it's become a cultural and social phenomenon and I've got to -- better to do this. So, I'm going to have a go. I want you to advise me, here, because, Nathan, you're here. Tony, you can see me. And if I'm wrong, it's this, right? Is that it? No, it's this.

WHITAKER: Yes.

MORGAN: It's this. Am I know doing the Tebow?

WHITAKER: You are.

MORGAN: This is the Tebow. And what does this bring me?

WHITAKER: Well, I --

MORGAN: Other than an early moment of television ridicule.

WHITAKER: I'm not entirely certain. I think Tim would hope you would be praying, at this point.

MORGAN: Yes, I can do that.

WHITAKER: But --

MORGAN: It feels sort of -- you do feel quite powerful doing this. I can see why he does it. The Tebow brings you power. Look, he's an amazing phenomenon. That's why we're covering him tonight. I think he's one of those people who is absolutely the right kind of person to be a big superstar in this country. He's just what America needs, right now. People like Tim Tebow doing his stuff, flinging his arm, winning matches. And I wish him all the best. Thank you very much for coming in. and thank you both, gentlemen, for talking over the phenomenon that is Tim Tebow.

I won't say good luck to him because no one in the Buffalo Bills will want to talk to me again, so I'll just say may the best team win.

Thank you.

WHITAKER: Thank you very much.

When we come back, I'll talk to a remarkable actor, Kenneth Branagh about playing acting legend, Sir Laurence Olivier.

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

Football prodigy: Tim Tebow was the first ever college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.

(END GRAPHIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNETH BRANAGH, ACTOR: Cut!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the matter now?

BRANAGH: Would you wait. Marilyn, please, please, please, tell me how I can help you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know who Elsie is and I can't act her if I don't know who she is.

BRANAGH: You have her, precisely. You understand her inside and in all of your gift, we all are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's not real.

BRANAGH: Then why not simply rely on your natural talents?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Kenneth Branagh is Sir Laurence Olivier in "My Week With Marilyn." Not many actors would be brave enough to play such a noble thespian, but for that performance he's been nominated for (INAUDIBLE) and Golden Globe Awards. And Kenneth Branagh joins me, now.

Kenneth, welcome.

BRANAGH: Thank you very much. Nice to be here.

MORGAN: And congratulations on the double nomination, must be very satisfying. I'm telling you, back in Britain, as I know, you've been bracketed as the new Olivier for about as long as I can remember.

BRANAGH: Well, it has been satisfying to -- it's always satisfying and nice to have work recognized, because as you know, sometimes that doesn't happen. We do -- you know, you keep going. I've been in the business now for 30 years and it's nice when things go well. So, particularly with this part where, as you say, one had had the great flattery of being compared to Laurence Olivier, but with that came the inevitable knockings because the man is unsurpassable, master of what he does. If you followed anywhere near him, played any part that he ever played, you were measured against his greatness.

And so it was a kind of double-edged sword. But this time with this I think very sort of honest account in this snapshot in the movie, "My Week with Marilyn," I feel, I actually felt very honored to be asked to do it and I'm delighted, of course, that you know, it's had recognition. It's very thrilling.

MORGAN: When you play a role like Olivier in a movie, compare and contrast to some of your great theatrical performances. Because, you know, I have seen you perform live in theater, and it's electrifying. And you are, to my mind, this is not a false obsequiousness, although I'm happy to offer that, as well, but you are in my view the great current British actor on stage. Do you get as much of a thrill out of the very, by comparison, very boring process of making a movie?

BRANAGH: Well, first of all, thank you very much. I very much appreciate that and the difference, I suppose, is just -- is in approach. What you have to do in film, I think, is just enjoy it in a different way, understand it to be a very different sort of art form. You don't get that, you know, the atmosphere, the connection of the live theatrical experience, which is unique for everyone, but it's a beautiful and different thing on film and you have to get used to the hurry up and wait.

One of the things that I think is funny about "My Week with Marilyn" is a chance to play Laurence Olivier's frustration with film. He goes on record numerously as saying that he thought directing a movie was the best job in the world, but I think he was most impatient with the process of filming, and particularly with the process of waiting on one occasion three days for Marilyn to show up.

Now, that's when filming does get to be a little bit taxing and I think with his discipline, I think that's sometimes where approaches in this case are very extreme version of the method, which is what Marilyn was following and this incredibly disciplined theatrical approach from the man who had been in the staged version of this for a whole year. I mean, he had done it sort of in his sleep and then Marilyn shows up and the crazy making thing for Olivier was that after this process, this very long, much longer than anticipated process of filming it, when you see the finished film, I don't know if you've seen "The Principles and the Show Girl," but it's very -- well, I think it would be fair to say, and Olivier certainly goes on record as saying that she comes out of it really rather more effectively because whatever it cost, that -- those Marilyn qualities, the easy comedy, the innocent and yet sexual kind of provocation in the performance was all there.

By contrast, Olivier seems, you know, something of a stuffed shirt, as the "New York Times" described his performance and I think that was frustrating, because he was a master in his own right and either side of it was giving naturalistic method performances that could outshine anyone. So, it was an unusual moment of almost artistic mid-life crisis for him.

MORGAN: Well, talking of stuffed shirts, I couldn't help but notice you're in pretty good nick at moment and I think I know the reason why, because I can exclusively reveal you and I share the same personal trainer. A 6'7" Austrian giant called Alexander Rankovich who spends most of his life beating seven bells out of people like you and me.

BRANAGH: He is quite a remarkable creature. I haven't seen him for a little while because I've been back home, but I know that you and he -- you apparently have a different technique with him and you take him on. I'm simply crushed by him on every occasion when I do meet him. He's a delightful guy, but he pushes and pushes and is of course much taller and stronger in every way.

You are a match for him, I have no doubt. And I -- what I haven't seen, and I'd love to pay tickets for a ringside seat on those occasions when you and he and are doing stomach crunches, et cetera. Are you prepared to reveal number of press-ups and number of stomach crunches you can achieve?

MORGAN: Even if I tell you what I -- we get in the ring and I do boxing with him --

BRANAGH: Do you, really?

MORGAN: And that's where I think you and I differ. Yeah, you're too nice a guy. I basically get in the ring, and you want to see the previous show I did with Manny Pacquiao, I've got a bit of from, but a pretty tiny left hook and I like beating him up.

BRANAGH: Oh, OK. Are you a fair fighter (INAUDIBLE) rules?

MORGAN: Everything you know about me, Kenneth, would you imagine I'm a fair fighter?

BRANAGH: I'd be pretty careful where the gloves go.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Let's take a little break. When we come back, I want to talk to you about who you think is it greatest ever actor and who's been your favorite leading lady.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANAGH: This can be no trick. A conference was sadly born. They have the truth of this from hero. Love me! Why. It must be requited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: From my guest, Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film, "Much Adieu about Nothing." Kenny, I mean, you straddled, incredibly, three decades. You don't look old enough, I have to say that . but in all of that time, I like to always ask actors this, because they often give enlightening response, surprising ones. Who has been, pound for pound, the greatest actor that you've ever seen in action?

BRANAGH: Well, I have to say, I'm sorry it's a bit of a boring answer given what we're kind of talking about, but Olivier, I think, really does take some beating. Around the period of "The Prince and the Showgirl," we talk about "My Week with Marilyn," he, prior to, played Richard III, on screen, one of the greatest screen performances I've ever seen, it's so sexy, so witty, so dangerous, all of the things that you expect from a modern contemporary actor at their very best, he gives there, he makes a classical role seem utterly contemporary. It's quite breathtaking. Generally, I love watching other actors at work, so it's hard to pick favorites, but having studied him recently and revisiting the work, I have to say it's an amazing achievement, an, amazing career, amazing talent.

MORGAN: And when you're in Hollywood, do you hang out with your old mockers like Hugh Laurie, who's reinvented himself in this Americanized Mr. Bad Guy, on House." I mean, do you have the old Peter's friends, gang all get together?

BRANAGH: Well, I haven't done much of that. I do see people that -- you will know that one of the amazing things about America is that, A. I'd find it a big thrill to work here, I'm very pleased and delighted, and frankly, sort of humbled at the chance to work here because it's what I used to watch. I was sitting as a kid in Belfast, I've watch Sunday afternoon matinees of movies, I'd see, you know, names like Burbank at the end, you know, filmed in Burbank, California, these were magical places to me. To go there is amazing.

But, when you meet up with people like Hugh, the other thing that happens in America, you have the weather the extraordinary opportunity, but everybody works so hard. The work ethic here is pretty remarkable. And I'm sure, well, I know because I can see what you're doing all over the shop. It's people are incredibly busy. So, you don't get a chance to do quite as much, you know, hanging around and having a lark and having lots of Brit picnics or anything, but you pass like, very, very enjoyably, like ships in the night and so I hook up with people whenever I can.

MORGAN: And finally, if I could create a sort of desert island utopia where you could make one last play of your life, you can only have one leading lady, it can be for screen or it can be for theater, who's the woman? Who's the one you'd choose for your last, ever role?

BRANAGH: Oh, wow, you put me on the spot there, because I'm going to say, and please don't hate me for this being an obvious answer, but I just watched Michelle Williams, "Close to," (ph), across the last picture we made from the most unlikely of the, this sort of fragile and petite, seeming, beautiful young woman, seemed to expand in the makeup chair as she filled out the curves of Marilyn, she found the voice, she occupied the face, the hair, the walk, which wasn't so much of a walk as a float, a shimmy through the movie. She did all of that technically brilliantly, every evocation of the outside of Marilyn and then crucially made she made this other leap into playing the inside, the interior, the guesstimate of what the real person is like.

But it's an amazing guess because it's truthful, and it's vulnerable and it's sexy, smart as a nut and funny. You'd have to say that -- you know, I would be very thrilled if I could ever afford to pay her to be in a movie I was in at any point after this.

MORGAN: Very diplomatically said, if you don't mind me saying, Kenneth. I expect nothing else. It's been a pleasure. Good luck with all of the award season. You've going to be a busy boy. And it's been a real delight to finally get a chance to talk to you. Thank you.

BRANAGH: Very nice to talk to you, Piers. Thanks for having me. Thank you.

MORGAN: And that's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.