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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

President Unveils Principles for Immigration Reform; Interview with Connie Mack and Mary Bono Mack; Baseball's New Steroid Scandal; Bringing "Life of Pi" to Life

Aired January 30, 2013 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And tomorrow night be sure to join Anderson Cooper for "GUNS UNDER FIRE". This is an "AC 360" town hall. That's Thursday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Should be special.

Several new developments to report on in the tragic Brazilian nightclub fire that's now claimed 235 lives. Police say one of the jailed owners of the Kiss nightclub tried to kill himself Tuesday using a shower hose. He's been handcuffed to his bed to prevent further suicide attempts. And investigators say the fire was sparked by a cheap flare used by the band during their performance. This flare was not supposed to be used indoors.

South Korea announcing they successfully launched their first satellite into space. This was after North Korea launched its own rocket and outraged the world in the process. South Korea's previous launch attempt in 2009 and 2010 both failed.

Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in Berlin right now meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today as his country spirals out of control. There has been more violent protest that raged over night in Egypt. Egypt's army chief is warning these clashes could lead to the total collapse of the very young government there. Dozens have now died in six days of protests, marking two years since the fall of the last government.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: John, thank you.

A closer look now at the president's plan for reforming immigration policy. He laid out his principles at a high school in Las Vegas. Here's a little bit of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's what comprehensive immigration reform looks like, smarter enforcement, a pathway to earned citizenship, improvements in the legal immigration system so that we continue to be a magnet for the best and the brightest all around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: More about the effort for immigration reform with "Politics to the Macks," Connie Mack. What do you think of the president's proposal and where do you see big differences or big enough differences to be a problem with what the gang of eight in the Senate has proposed.

FMR. REP. CONNIE MACK, (R) FLORIDA: I think the president, first of all, in my opinion it looks like John come lately. The Senate bipartisan group of senators came together and put this legislation out on the table. And now the president flies across country to give a speech to act like he is strong on the issue.

It is unfortunate we haven't had this discussion and debate all the way through the last four years. I'm happy that we're having it now. This is going to hinge on border security. The Republicans in the House want to make sure we secure our border, and we do so because we don't want terrorists, drugs, and other things coming into our country. And frankly, it's good for Mexico too to have a strong border because they don't want guns and cash moving south.

O'BRIEN: You don't think the president wasn't aware that the Senate was going to go ahead with the gang of eight and make their announcement? To me it seemed more coordinated.

FMR. REP. MARY BONO MACK, (R) CALIFORNIA: Sadly, this is the one opportunity for the president really to lead and put extreme partisanship aside. There were efforts. A Democrat from California has been working hard on this issue for many, many years with no help from the White House. This would have been a great opportunity for the president to come out, have a bipartisan speech bring everybody together in the Congress. The will is truly there to do it and do it right if it doesn't fall apart before political posturing.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The last four years it's not like the political climate was there to get this done on both sides of the aisle. The beat down Republicans suffered in terms of not getting Hispanic votes is playing a crucial role in this.

(CROSSTALK)

MARY BONO MACK: Let me beat them up. My cast against --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: It's a question of the president leading Congress.

MARY BONO MACK: Look, it really is a tough issue, an emotional issue. But when the Democrats had control of the House, nothing happened. I'm not blaming the Democrats. It's a complicated, tough, and emotional policy. But there have been leaders in the Congress but I wish the president would have come out with a better tone and posturing about bringing people together and getting it done.

O'BRIEN: Is the reality that because of the election, you heard John McCain say like essentially will be, we lost the election, and is some of this ability to come out very quickly, the gang of eight is because everybody understands the value of the Latino voter, and no more time can be wasted in this hostile debate that drives away all immigrant voters? CONNIE MACK: There has been a bipartisan group of members of the house and the Senate who have been working on this for a long time. I will tell you this. All of these issues we know what these issues are, we know what each side is going to say, where the battle lines are going to be.

But I think it goes to the hard work that bipartisan members of the congress, house and Senate have been working on to bring this to the forefront. It's because of relationships between members of the Congress and the Senate that they were able to work together to bring something forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where were these relationships during the debt ceiling debate? This is news to me. I watch Congress and I feel there are no relationships across the aisle. This is, they shouldn't do things so --

O'BRIEN: Some relationships in Congress --

MARY BONO MACK: They're doing things so fast, this is setting an excellent precedent for the rest of the agenda.

O'BRIEN: It's that, or there is this thing call the Latino voter that will flee you.

MARTIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: In you don't resolve this and take, say a year, the next three years to court said Latino voter you'll be in a similar position.

MACK: There's no doubt Republicans have not done a good job communicating to Latino voters, and I will say that. But let me say this, the thing that Republicans have to do is seize upon this opportunity to get something done, to show the country that we can work together in a bipartisan fashion. That is what's happening. If we want to see it on the debt ceiling it starts by these things where we can agree, where we can move things forward. And as Mary said, which was a good point, dear, that the president can make the tone, either he can create a battle on this or he can try to bring people together.

MARY BONO MACK: Well he can, and I'm sorry for interrupting you, sweetheart, but you can.

O'BRIEN: So sweet.

MARY BONO MACK: He is capable of bringing people together. If he changes his rhetoric, he still is in campaign mode. I say this with great respect. And he knows it. But it's like give other members of Congress a chance to be a part of the process.

MARTIN: That's why I keep saying stop asking him lean on it. Tell Congress this is why you're there. You can lead on this, McConnell, Reid, Pelosi, Boehner, you lead.

MARY BONO MACK: That's exactly what they did, that's exactly what they did.

O'BRIEN: The debate as you can tell heated at times. Thanks guys, I appreciate that.

Ahead we'll talk more about Alex Rodriguez and several other Major League Baseball players named in the new doping scandal. We'll look at just how dangerous these performance-enhancing drugs, the PEDs really are.

They said it would be impossible to make this book into a movie, so how did the surreal story of "Life of Pi" make it to the big screen? The Oscar nominated screenwriter will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans. This just in, the economy shrank at the end of the year. It shrank, that was not expected. The government reports fourth quarter GDP decreased 0.1 percent. Again, that's a decline in economic growth in the United States, that's compared to the 3.1 percent growth in the third quarter. You saw defense spending down, federal government spending down. There were concerns about hurricane sandy holding back the economy and also corporate uncertainty over the fiscal cliff. Again, U.S. economic growth negative at the end of the year.

Let me put that in perspective for you. That's the first decline since 2009 and it shows the economy slowed dramatically from the third quarter, when you had economic growth of 3.1 percent, and it's dramatically slower than a year ago when you had four percent growth.

Here's something interesting, a gauge of hiring though was strong. Payroll processor ADP says private sector employers added 192,000 jobs in January, mostly small businesses and lower wage service sector jobs.

U.S. stock futures are lower right now. They had been mixed all morning, they're lower after the GDP report. As of yesterday's close the Dow was only 210 points away from an all-time high. This report could put on hold that attempt to try to take out that high. The big government jobs report is Friday. Today is the last day of a two-day Fed meeting. Facebook reports after the markets close this afternoon so there's an awful lot going on. But again, the headline GDP negative at the end of the year.

BlackBerry's share of the smartphone pie has five percent of the market right now, down from 20 percent in 2009. It's hoping the BlackBerry 10 will reverse its fortunes, that's the other big story we're following this morning. But certainly a shocker in that GDP report.

O'BRIEN: Shocker is the GDP report and the blackberry only has five percent on the market.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Soledad has an eight track in her car, she's got a Beta Max at the house --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Mr. Martin, careful, getting a little close to the truth here.

This morning we've been talking about this new report in the "Miami New Times" that alleges that Alex Rodriguez and several other major league players were clients of a Florida anti-aging group. I'll get right to our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta for us this morning. Tell me a little bit more about these PEDs and exactly what the risks are for the players and what they could make them do.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Soledad there's a whole array of PEDs, performance-enhancing drugs. The Miami report mentioned several, but especially two, human growth hormone and testosterones. So let's go over both of those. Human growth hormone is something that is natural, that human beings naturally have, it helps kids to grow. And the advantages or at least what some athletes would tell you the advantages are, is that it reduces fat and increases muscle. However, the potential dangers are bone and muscle pain, diabetes, and heart disease.

Testosterone also something obviously that's natural, both men and women have it. When you take extra testosterone, some athlete also tell thaw it also increases muscle mass, makes you smaller and makes it easier -- makes you stronger, rather, and makes it easier for to you recover after a big workout. But the potential dangers, sleep apnea, heart disease, and also if a man already has prostate cancer it may grow that existing prostate cancer more quickly.

O'BRIEN: Elizabeth, thank you.

So Connie, let me ask you a question, you're a baseball family, grandfather, famous for player, manager, owner. What do you make of this? I mean, know the "Miami New Times" is not exactly the final word on any kind of allegations and there are lots of weird questions in this entire thing but I'm curious on your perspective.

CONNIE MACK: Well, I think it's -- you know baseball has had a long history obviously and there were times that in Major League Baseball that baseball players couldn't stay in hotels in the towns that they traveled to, they were kind of rough riders. But for baseball to continue to be a strong game and the national past time they've got to put trust back into the game that people aren't doping.

O'BRIEN: How do you do that?

CONNIE MACK: That people aren't using steroids.

O'BRIEN: I mean, it seems like some of the player seem to be a step ahead.

CONNIE MACK: That -- it's up to baseball. I mean, it's up to baseball it's not -- this is what drives me a little crazy about this as we get into Congress and has hearings. This is about baseball. Baseball needs to protect its brand. This is -- baseball is a business and if they want to keep baseball growing in a sport that we can believe in, then they have -- they're the ones that have to make sure that this stops. It's not going to be -- it's not going to be something that a hearing in the United States Congress is going to solve.

MARTIN: The steroids help their business. After they had that strike I mean, that summer when you had a Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa racing to break the records.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Everybody is talking about it.

MARTIN: I mean, I worked at radio station in Dallas, we were breaking into coverage player there at best. That's how crazy it was and so what has happened and it's not just baseball, though, it's baseball, it's -- it's football, it's multiple sports because when you have players who can make millions and millions of dollars they're saying I will get any edge possible.

CONNIE MACK: They will -- they will do that, but if you -- if you know look at what's happened to Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, they are not people that you hold up now as you look at and say these guys have led the way in baseball.

O'BRIEN: We've -- we've got to take a break, we've got to keep this -- it's actually let's continue after the commercial debating this. Because it's a fascinating conversation and we've got to take a break. But still ahead we're going to talk about this -- the book "Life of Pi" many people thought it was surreal and just supernatural that it would never actually be a film.

Well now obviously it's an Oscar-nominated film. We're going to talk about how that happened with screenwriter David McGee. You're watching STARTING POINT as he walks in.

We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Welcome back, everybody.

The journey of "Life of Pi" from page to screen is about as probable as the story's central character, a boy named Pi, adrift at sea, on a lifeboat hungry Bengal tiger with him who he named Richard Parker. Convention wisdom said, in fact I as was reading the book I thought there was no way that this great novel could ever really be made into a movie. But the director Ang Lee and screenwriter David McGee met that challenge. Here's a little bit of the movie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In times like these I'd remember that he has as little experience with the real world as I do. We were both raised in a zoo by the same master. Now we've been orphaned, left to face our ultimate master together.

Without Richard Parker, I would have died by now. My fear of him keeps me alert, tending to his needs gives my life purpose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Well it clearly worked. "Life of Pi" has 11 Oscar nominations including one for Lee and the writer, David McGee who joins us. Nice to have you with us.

DAVID MCGEE, SCREENWRITER, "LIFE OF PI": Nice to be here Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I read this book in the hospital when I was delivering my twin boys and I remember thinking it's the most beautiful -- what a great story but it's so supernatural and so strange, how could you ever possibly turn it into a film? Did -- when -- how did you say yes to that?

MCGEE: Well I didn't know if it could be made into a film when I first read it either. I loved reading the book but I wasn't reading it for business, I was just reading it for fun and I said to someone this is a great book. And they asked if it was a movie and I said yes I don't really think so.

O'BRIEN: So then how did you become the screenwriter of this movie?

MCGEE: Well when Ang Lee wants to make this film, suddenly it sounds very possible and so I met with Ang when he -- he gave me a call, we've had dinner, we talked about it, we agreed on what the themes were and what we could do with it.

And Ang has the ability to take material that most people wouldn't take a second look at and convince studios that he can do it because he can.

MARTIN: David, is it critical to narrow it down? I remember Oprah when she did "Beloved", I remember when Tyler Perry did for "Colored Girls" folks say it's impossible because you have to really just bring it all down and say look, I know you love the book or love the play but you can't do it all.

MCGEE: Absolutely. Any book that runs 300, 400, 500 pages, there's going to be material in it but there's no way you can capture all of that on screen in a two-hour time period. It's probably a tenth of the actual number of words.

MARTIN: So for you it's a discipline.

MCGEE: It's a discipline, a structure thing it's finding the essence of the book that you want to bring out. That's not to say that you're not trying to bring as much of the book to screen as possible.

MARTIN: I got you.

O'BRIEN: But the logistics, too, I mean, you have a Bengal tiger in a boat with a guy on the water, so challenges in that. MCGEE: Well that's one of the huge. Absolutely I mean --

O'BRIEN: Yes, I'd like to point that out.

MCGEE: Yes.

BERMAN: Do you have to keep in mind those limitations as you're writing the film version?

MCGEE: Well the studio and the director will always say just use your imagination and go wild. But there will come a point when you have to figure out how practically to do something. And your first draft which is about any possibility you can think of becomes a draft about reality. We have to pare back, we have to turn this into something more doable.

O'BRIEN: So real tiger or fake tiger?

MCGEE: The tiger in the film was based on a real tiger and he's and there are real tigers --

O'BRIEN: He's not a real tiger.

MCGEE: In -- in about 12 percent of the shots it's a real tiger. 23 shots it's an actual tiger. You know you're seeing -- the problem is putting a boy and a tiger in the boat at the same time.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

MARTIN: This is problematic.

O'BRIEN: And then you have the actor who is a young man named Suraj Sharma.

MCGEE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Who is brand new to acting.

MCGEE: He's brand new -- he didn't know how to swim before this, forget acting.

O'BRIEN: Oh god.

MARTIN: Wow.

MCGEE: He had gone to an audition in Delhi with his brother who was the one who was actually auditioning. He had no intention of auditioning but the casting director saw him said you're the right age, the right type, why don't you read for us.

MARTIN: Wait, he went with his brother and got the job?

MCGEE: Good story about it. But yes, his brother was the one who was actually going to audition.

MARTIN: He better bring his brother to the Oscars with him. MCGEE: He's been hanging around.

O'BRIEN: What do you think? What are your chances for the Oscars, do you think? What do you think?

MCGEE: My chances? You know what --

O'BRIEN: 11 nominations.

MCGEE: You know, I think we're -- I would be very disappointed if we weren't recognized for the amazing work of the visual artists and things like that.

O'BRIEN: You're not just going to say I'm happy just to be nominated.

MCGEE: No, I think you would want to win but what I don't want to do is spend the next four weeks worrying about what my chances are when I should be having fun going to the parties and stuff.

O'BRIEN: OK. OK. I've got that.

MARTIN: What are you going to wear?

(CROSSTALK)

MCGEE: I got the tux all set. I'm good for that.

O'BRIEN: So nice to have you. Good luck to you. We'll be watching. We can't wait.

MCGEE: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: "End Point" is up next. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: It's time for "End Point". Roland, why don't you start us off.

MARTIN: Elections have consequences. There is no doubt the butt kicking the GOP took in November plays a critical role to what's happened with immigration reform so maybe whether it's Democrat or Republican in the future, get beat, things might change.

O'BRIEN: Cameron the final word and last ten seconds.

CAMERON RUSSELL, MODEL: I was totally excited to see so much bipartisan support for immigration and I hope that carries through to all President Obama's agenda items.

O'BRIEN: Hear, hear on the bipartisan support.

MARTIN: Time to wake up.

O'BRIEN: Just to hear people talking together, that's a good thing.

We are out of time. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Hey Carol, good morning.