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Boris Johnson vs. British Press; Interview With Greta Gerwig. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 19, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It's going to happen now. It was tragic. We should never have agreed to Brexit general election. By
the way, it was crazy to mix the two issues up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Former prime minister, Tony Blair, bows to the inevitable. But what's the way forward in populist partisan times?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA GERWIG, WRITER, DIRECTOR AND ACTOR: Oh, my goodness. I did not think that was going to be first question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Oscar tip director, Greta Gerwig, on her new film, the American classic, "Little Women."
Then, why politicians attack the media and the dark consequences. I'm joined by author, Anne Applebaum, and veteran British journalist, Michael
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government has been laying out
his agenda with a traditional queen's speech to Parliament. Top of Johnson's wish list, finishing Brexit, trade deal and all, by this time
next year. It is an incredibly ambitious deadline, and it sets up yet another year of roller coaster politics.
Add to that, the recent election death now resounding around the opposition Labour Party after its worst showing since 1935, including the loss of a
seat that once belonged to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. He is the only Labour Party prime minister elected since 1974, and he won mostly by
taking progressive policies to the consensual center.
Blair joined me for a wide-ranging interview discussing this loss for his party, the inevitability of Brexit, and the deeply partisan politics
rocking both sides of the Atlantic.
Tony Blair, welcome back to our program.
TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, they say that the last time the map of England, the map of Great Britain shifted so seismically in this political manner was when you
won in 1997, and the whole political map shifted. What do you say to what happened this time around?
BLAIR: So, this time around, I think it was very simple, the Labour Party had moved to a far-left position. It had ideas, and actually, an ideology
that was never going to be supported by your traditional Labour voters. And of course, you had Brexit. So, the combination of those two things
meant that the Labour Party, which had, frankly, a sort of indecisive position on Brexit and then a far-left leadership that was unacceptable to
our traditional support. That's your explanation.
And actually, you don't need to be a political genius to see it. You need to talk to -- be on about five doorsteps before you realize it.
AMANPOUR: It was also personality. I mean, I know you've talked about a hard-left move in the Labour movement, the Labour Party, but it was also
about personality. I guess, do you think a new person is enough to change Labour's electoral fortunes?
BLAIR: Absolutely not. So, if Labour makes the mistake of thinking this was just the rejection of Jeremy Corbyn, it was the rejection of what he
personified as a set of politics. So, in the end, the reason why we lost, the rejection, was the rejection of a set of political ideas. It wasn't
just of a person. Actually, it's a person, you know, you can say he's sincere in his beliefs, he believes in what he believes in. That's fine.
But what he believed was a combination of far-left economic policy harking back to the '60s and '70s, and hostility to the West in foreign policy that
people were never going to vote for. The people in constituencies like the one I used to represent, has now gone Conservative. They were never going
to support that kind of politics
AMANPOUR: Everybody knows U.S. and global audience knows that you were one of the main grandees, so to speak, who supported remain and who wanted to
reverse Brexit, and you did everything you could to do that, whether it was going to be a second referendum or whatever it was. Are you ready to
concede that that is off the table, that Brexit will happen, and that's what's going to happen to the United Kingdom?
BLAIR: Yes, it's going to happen now. I mean, it's tragic. We should never have agreed to Brexit general election. By the way, it was crazy to
mix the two issues up. We have should have had a decision by the British people on Brexit, self-standing as a decision, but we didn't.
One of the many mistakes the Labour Party made was to agree of Brexit general election. It's now decided. The government has a majority to do
Brexit, which will happen at the end of January. It's then going to be a very difficult negotiation. But you know, it is now important that we
accept it will happen and try and make it work as best we can.
AMANPOUR: Given that this kind of pull to the extremes, if I could say, is happening not just in Britain, but also in the United States, 2016 seemed
to be a revolutionary year for populist policies.
AMANPOUR: And also, around Europe, too, to an extent. Do you see any way to bring back the kind of centrist policies, for instance, that you had?
You were the first Labour leader elected in the last nearly 45 years, you know, since 1974, and it was a centrist policy. It seems out of the --
it's gone. It's gone, this idea. Everybody's polarized and partisaned.
BLAIR: Well, it's not gone with the public. It's gone with the political parties.
AMANPOUR: Interesting. How do you know it's not gone with the public? They're the ones who vote.
BLAIR: Yes, but it's not on offer. I mean, when it is on offer, by the way, as Macron showed in France, it wins. But if it's not on offer, of
course it can't be voted for. So, I have absolutely no doubt at all that if we had had a moderate Labour Party, even with a position on Brexit --
because you can never unite the country over Brexit, but a position on Brexit that was sensible and clear, I think we would have had every chance
of winning the last election. The one we just had.
So no, the centric -- what's necessary, though, for the center ground to revive is that it's got to get a policy agenda. This is the -- the problem
the centrist type of politics does have is that it appears simply to be saying, look, the other two are extreme, so vote for me, and that's not
enough. And there is a whole section of the population that wants quite radical change.
There are people who are casualties of globalization, communities and individuals that feel left behind by it. You've got to address their
concerns. You have to address the concerns over immigration. There's no party that can win the election in the western world today without a
strong, serious policy on immigration, for example, because there's also a cultural aspect to populism as well as an economic aspect.
But having said that, if you found the right policy agenda, and in my view, it's all about understanding, organizing yourself and mobilizing yourself
around the technological revolution, which is the 21st century equivalent of the 19th century industrial revolution. If we do that and we fashion an
agenda in progressive politics, in liberal politics, yes, we will win. Of course, we will.
AMANPOUR: Interesting you say about immigration because from the polls I've seen, people in Europe, certainly, have put climate and the
environment above immigration. It's very interesting how that's shifted over the last couple of years, but be it as it may --
BLAIR: Yes, it's also a very important issue, by the way.
AMANPOUR: Well, Yes.
BLAIR: It's an issue though that the left -- the progressive side finds that relatively easy to deal with. It finds immigration much harder to
AMANPOUR: So, extrapolate just for a second before we come back to Brexit, what do you see? You're very well known in the United States. You've
spent a lot of time in the United States. You've been very close to American presidents politically. What do you see in the similar sort of
thing that's playing out in the Democratic Party, where you've got what they call a socialist progressive wing versus a moderate more centrist
wing? And there seems to be a battle heading into this next general election.
BLAIR: Yes. And that's the battle that's going on everywhere around the world. Look, the Democrats are much stronger than the British Labour Party
in this sense, because of the way your system works and you have the primaries and you have a much broader popular base. Then I think, you
know, for a lot of Democrat voters, they are going to put who can win as the number one issue, whereas, actually, believe it or not, if you poll
Labour Party members, who can win is not the number one question. It's some statement on the situation in the Labour Party.
But -- so -- and you know, even though you can see parallels in some regards between Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn,
actually, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, I mean, they're highly capable political operators. You know, their opinion poll ratings. I mean, Jeremy
Corbyn's was minus 40 percent net approval rating going into this election. I can't believe the Democrats would ever allow themselves to be in that
So, it's not the same in that way, but it is the same in the sense that, you know, you've got two choices in politics at the moment. You either try
and stay in what would be a more left position and say, we need to enthuse more people to turn out and vote. OK. That's one strategy. Or the other
strategy, which is obviously more from my type of politics, is to say, how do we talk to the people that voted for the other side and how do we bring
some of them back to us?
And they are, I'm afraid, really two quite different positions. And my worry is that the first always is based on the delusion that you're
suddenly going to find these new voters that are going to be so enthused by a leftist program, they come out and vote for you. Whereas, the only tried
and tested way of winning, for progressive parties, is to base yourself in the center and build out from there.
AMANPOUR: The House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Trump along party lines. What do you make of that? How do you think that
will play into the politics we're discussing right now, into the next election and into trying to make, I don't know, politics work for people?
BLAIR: I mean, you know, I'm not -- although, I know a lot about American policies, I'm not an expert on it. I understand all the different
pressures that there are on people in the Democratic Party at the moment, but I suspect in the end, if impeachment just breaks on party lines, I
think the only way you're going to win the next election is to find the program and the position that beats the position of President Trump, and I
think that's the only way you're ever going to do it.
But you know, I mean, I might be wrong about that, and there's things I'm not seeing because I'm not involved and I've got enough trouble in my own
politics without overly bothering about yours. But in the end, you know, one of the things I learned in politics is the only thing that ever made me
frightened when I was a leader is if I saw a better idea than the one I had coming down the track at me.
And those better ideas are the things you really fear. It never worried me when people were talking about scandals and crises, because all of those
came and went. It was only a better idea that could threaten our hold on British politics, and that's why we won three elections.
So, if I were in the Democrats now, I'd be searching for a better idea, for a way of explaining the future to people, of saying to them, look, this is
how those people who are worried, anxious, believe that the next generation won't do better than this generation, this is how we make their lives
better, and that's, I think, the only way you'll win in the end.
AMANPOUR: So, let's bring it back to the U.K. I don't know whether Brexit was a better idea, but that's the idea that came down the pike and Boris
Johnson got a stonking, as he calls it, mandate. What does that -- what will that look like? Is it possible, do you think, that the electoral
strategy will translate into a governing strategy, that Boris Johnson will be able to be a one-nation Tory, that he'll be able to satisfy his
Brexiters and his new working-class constituents in the north, the Labour people who voted for him?
BLAIR: I mean, I think it depends enormously on the Labour Party. I mean, there is a real tension in this new form of right-wing nationalism, because
it's a combination of two elements. It's a combination of actually quite socially Conservative people who really want a lot of support from
government, help from government, but culturally they feel alienated at the moment from progressive politics. And that group of people is in
combination with actually very free-market, pro-business people, deregulation, lower taxes and so on.
I think that coalition has got obvious tensions and weaknesses in it, but it only breaks apart if the opposition is in a strong position and building
a different and better coalition. And I think that for Boris Johnson in the U.K., no, he will find Brexit very difficult because we have not agreed
the big trade deal between Britain and Europe. If Britain really wants to start diverging on tax and regulation, it's going to find that negotiation
really ugly. That's clear.
On the other hand, if the opposition remains sort of, as I've sort of said, kind of marooned on fantasy island, putting forward policies that the
country's never going to accept, then it doesn't much matter whatever problems he's got, he can win again.
AMANPOUR: Do you think Boris Johnson saying immediately that he's, you know, going to make it, I think illegal to stop a no deal, like the
Parliament did before, they stopped him from having a no deal, he wants to take that off the table. Does that raise fears? Because this is what
everybody's worried about for the end of this year, where a deal has to be concluded by the end of this year. He's saying no extensions, no nothing,
we're just going to, you know, if necessary, head off the cliff again.
BLAIR: Yes, that's a big problem. He's going to underestimate that bottom that he's periled. Because the basic issue is this, we've been trading
within the single market of the European Union's obviously unique trading system. It means you have the same rules and regulations for all of the
different countries of the E.U.
Now, you can leave the European Union and stick within that single-market set of rules. That's, by the way, what Norway has as its status with
Europe. But if you're deciding you want to make your own rules, that's -- and you still want access to the European markets, that's a tricky
negotiation. And I don't see any way that that can be concluded by the end of next year. So, if he ends up -- if he's serious and he says, right,
we're going to legislate that we're out no matter what in 2020, he's going to find that very difficult, unless he's prepared to make a lot of
concessions to Europe.
AMANPOUR: Which, of course, he thinks which is being mandated, and certainly his people are saying that Europe is going to be making
concessions to him because of this election result.
BLAIR: Yes, but if the last 3 1/2 years has taught us anything -- you know, Brexiteers were telling us right at the outset, the Europeans at all
fracture, the governments would be coming behind the scenes to us and asking for individual deals. Europe never lost its unity once during that
entire negotiation. It had its negotiator who's still the same negotiator, by the way. They never broke from him. They never undermined him. They
kept 100 percent with him. And that's because, yes, of course, their trading relationship with Britain matters, but there's 28, now it's become
27 members of the European Union. Their relationship between the 27 is more important to them than their relationship simply with Britain.
Having said that, from my conversations with European leaders, they'll show enormous goodwill towards Britain. If Boris Johnson is smart about it,
then I think he will find there's a real desire to keep a close relationship with Britain, even outside of Europe. And you know, for the
rest of us, my attitude is very, very clear now, we've got to try and make Brexit work. I deeply regret it, but there's no point in carrying on being
childish about it or carrying on regretting. We've got to try and make it work. But he's got to -- if I were him, I would not give too many hostages
to fortune around time tables.
AMANPOUR: He purged a lot of his moderates from the cabinet before this election. Is he able to tack towards the center? Can he put his
hardliners to one side now? Do you think he will?
BLAIR: Well, I think he will want to tact to the center on everything other than Brexit. The question is whether Brexit is going to continue to
be such a big issue that you get a collision between that desire to go center and just the facts of life around Brexit.
So, you know, look, the Conservative Party has been one of the dominant parties in British politics for, I don't know how many years now, 200
years, maybe more than 200 years. 200 years, certainly. And it showed a remarkable capability of getting hugely difficult questions, breaking up a
bit over it and then coalescing back together.
And you know, the last week's election result was another example of how the Tory Party can do this and come back together. So, I think it's
possible that he can do that. He'll find Brexit very hard. But for me, the challenge is all about providing a non-Conservative, progressive,
liberal, sensible alternative.
AMANPOUR: And finally, you mentioned the United Kingdom and the dominance of the Conservative Party. It's been said that this election victory, this
Brexit thing, his deal, will challenge the integrity of the United Kingdom, that right now we have a border that his deal shows between the whole
Island of Ireland and Britain, and we have, you know, nationalists winning in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, which may want to have another
referendum. What's your prediction for the integrity of the United Kingdom?
BLAIR: I mean, my hope --
AMANPOUR: Your prediction, given the realities.
BLAIR: Yes, my -- well, let me start with my hope, which is that it stays together. My prediction is that it probably will, but it's going to
require a lot of effort, because Brexit is a very divisive issue and it has added a whole dimension to the nationalist case in Northern Ireland and in
So, I think there are still big reasons for the United Kingdom to stick together, but it's going to require an enormous amount of work to keep the
U.K. together, given the Brexit result and given that you've got a Conservative majority now in parliament of a large amount in circumstances
where, you know, for example in Scotland, the Conservatives are a very small part of the political landscape.
AMANPOUR: Tony Blair, thank you very much, indeed.
BLAIR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So much uncertainty. And we leave, though, these politics for a moment to delve into the politics of feminism with Director Greta Gerwig.
In 2018, she became the fifth woman ever to be short-listed in the best director category at the Academy Awards in its 90 years for her movie
"Ladybird," an ode to mother-daughter relationships. And she continues her exploration of strong female characters with an adaptation of the Louisa
May Alcott classic, "Little Women." The inspiring story of four sisters as they come of age in the aftermath of America's civil war. It's a film
Greta Gerwig fought to write and direct. And our Michel Martin sat down with her to find out why.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: What is it about your films that make grown women cry?
GRETA GERWIG, WRITER, DIRECTOR AND ACTOR: Oh, my goodness. I did not think that was going to be the first question. I -- well, I don't know
exactly. I mean, I do know that when I'm writing and when I'm directing, I keep thinking about, what am I passionate about, passionate about what
moves me, what do I want to see and I keep trying to be honest with myself about what is it that excites me.
And I always know that I'm on the right track when I have this feeling of, I can't believe no one's made this movie. Like, there's sort of this
feeling of, has this not been done? Because I don't know why it hasn't been. I think it should be. And I think that there's something of that.
But I also -- I don't know. I'm a really emotional person. So, I think I have -- that's one of my --
MARTIN: Do you agree with me, though? Because when I ask my friends about --
MARTIN: -- the friends, the women that I work with --
GERWIG: Yes, yes, yes.
MARTIN: -- like the question is not, you know, did you cry? The question is when? Did you cry when, or did that make you cry when -- you know,
we're comparing notes. And I'm thinking, wow, we are women who cover wars and we are women who cover impeachment, and we're talking about when this
movie made us cry, and I just --
GERWIG: Oh, my God.
GERWIG: You know, I wish I had a better analysis of why. I don't know. I'm glad it does. I'm glad it moves people. It moves me. So, I think
you're always trying to transmit that to the audience. I mean, I always say movies are empathy machines.
MARTIN: Why did you start making films to begin with?
GERWIG: First of all, I just wanted to be part of it, because I loved films, I loved cinema, and I just wanted to be part of it any way I could.
So, I started really doing everything. I was writing, I was co-directing, I was holding the boom, I was editing, I was -- because I was working on
such low-budget films that everyone had to do everything all the time anyway.
And then I moved into knowing that I wanted to direct later because I loved it so much, there was a feeling of wanting to be qualified and wanting to
know enough that I felt that I could responsibly take charge of the set and also, responsibly get all of these people to donate their time and talents
or use their time and talents, rather, for the movie, because I think I just didn't want to go off half-baked. I wanted to really know that I was
So, I spent about 10 years working in movies before I directed. And it was after I had finished my script of "Ladybird" that I thought, I think this
is the one, and I think, at this point, I've gotten all the experience I'm going to be able to get without actually doing it.
MARTIN: I was going to ask about that, because you know, like a lot of people who cover politics, you know, I'm really interested in this question
of when women run and --
GERWIG: Yes, yes.
MARTIN: -- when this give themselves permission to run, and there's some research that shows that, you know, women need to be asked three times
before they will commit to running.
MARTIN: Whereas men, it's once or maybe not even ever.
GERWIG: No one even -- no one asked them.
MARTIN: Right, nobody even asked them. And I was just wondering for you, like when did you give yourself permission to say, I am going to be in
charge, I am going to tell the stories that I want to tell in this way? Do you remember when that clicked in for you that you had that --
MARTIN: -- right to do that?
GERWIG: Well, it wasn't one light bulb moment. It was an accumulation of moments. I would say it was around 30, around 30, 31, that it felt that it
was time. And it was mostly because I had a script that I felt very passionately about and that I felt that I knew how to make.
MARTIN: And that was "Ladybird"?
GERWIG: And that was "Ladybird." But -- and then after that, I actually, interestingly in the chronology of my story, I had the script for
"Ladybird." I knew I wanted to make it, but it takes time to make movies. It just -- getting financing, getting actors together, figuring it out.
So, in the interim, I had heard that they were interested -- that Sony was interested in making "Little Women," and I told my agent he had to get me
in the room because I actually had already had an idea for what I wanted to do with "Little Women." So, before I had even directed "Ladybird," I went
in to talk to the folks at Sony, and I said, I have to write this movie and I have to direct it. And they -- and I hadn't directed anything at that
And I think it was actually those two things, that "Little Women" and "Ladybird" for me came together at the same time, and I was -- and I
started to be more certain of it. I think when I told them I was going to direct "Little Women" before I directed anything, in a way, I was imagining
a more brave person than I am and pretending to be them for the amount of time that I was talking to them, and then I left the room and thought, do I
really have that in me? I'm not sure.
But I -- to your point of being asked three times, I had been -- there had been a number of things. I had had three different female directors say
something to me. I had Miranda July, Rebecca Miller and Sally Potter had all said something to me about directing, and --
MARTIN: What did they say?
GERWIG: Well, Sally Potter, I was asking her. She's a great British director. And she -- writer-director. And I was asking her about writing
because I had been writing films. And she stopped me and said, why don't you ask me what you really want to ask me? And I said, what do I really
want to ask you? And she said, you really want to ask me about directing. I was like, how do you know? She said, you're a terrible liar. I mean,
she was basically like, it's written all over you. You want to direct. This is why you're asking.
And the other two was more symbolic. We had talked about directing and they both -- this is sort of mystical, but why not, I'm allowed to be
mystical. They both gave me pairs of shoes that had -- that didn't fit them that they thought would fit me.
GERWIG: And I thought, if I was writing this in a script, that's way too obvious of a metaphor. That would be like, cut that, it's too much. But
when -- by the time Miranda gave me a pair of shoes first and then Rebecca gave me a pair of shoes, and I was like, this is incredible. So, I felt
MARTIN: Go fill these shoes.
GERWIG: Go fill these shoes.
MARTIN: Go fill these shoes.
GERWIG: So, I felt that I had gotten signs. Then I had written this script and then the synchronicity of them being interested in "Little
Women." And so, by the time I was directing "Ladybird," I really feel like it was an accumulation of years of building up to that point, but you know,
I can't speak to -- I've only ever lived as a woman, I don't know, but I felt the pressure of wanting to make sure I had groundwork for doing this
art form that I love and trying to do it as best as I could.
MARTIN: Central to the book then and central to your film now is the question of what are women allowed to do?
MARTIN: What are women and girls allowed to do? What are they allowed to dream? This is a clip where Soairse Ronan as Jo is talking to her Aunt
March, played by the formidable Meryl Streep, and Meryl Streep is basically schooling her as she thinks she should. And here it is. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERYL STREEP, ACTOR, "LITTLE WOMEN": Josephine?
SOAIRSE RONAN, ACTOR, "LITTLE WOMEN": Yes, dear.
STREEP: Is there a reason you stopped reading Belsam (ph)?
RONAN: I'm sorry. I'll continue.
STREEP: You mind yourself, dearie. Someday you'll need me and you'll wish you had behaved better.
RONAN: Thank you, Aunt March, for your employment and your many kindnesses, but I intend to make my own way in the world.
STREEP: No, no one makes their own way, not really. Least of all a woman. You'll need to marry well.
RONAN: But you are not married, Aunt March.
STREEP: Well, that's because I'm rich.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: Wow. Yes. Tell me about that.
MARTIN: I mean, it feels very fresh and real, where women are basically -- you know, how often is it that, you know, women are telling other women
what they are allowed to be and do? I mean --
MARTIN: -- that still happens, doesn't it?
GERWIG: Yes, yes.
MARTIN: You know, sort of mind yourself, you know. But the whole question of what women and their -- what's the word I'm looking for, constraints --
MARTIN: -- is very much a part of this.
GERWIG: It's very much a part of this. And, you know, the character of Aunt March, which Meryl Streep did tell me she was going to be in this
movie and she told me she's going to play Aunt March, which was one of the best things anybody's ever told me.
MARTIN: Is that -- that's how way it works?
MARTIN: I didn't know.
GERWIG: We went out to lunch and she said that book meant a lot to me, I would like to play the battle axe, please write me some good lines. And I
-- but she had so many incredibly smart things to say. She's not only a brilliant actress who's -- I mean, one of the best actresses who's ever
lived, she's also wildly intelligent and really understands what the heart of something -- what the heart of a story is.
And we had incredibly productive conversations about this book and what it means. And I think, you know, it's obviously funny when Aunt March says,
well, I didn't have to get married because I'm rich, but I also think Aunt March -- Aunt March isn't wrong about the world. And I think one of the
lines that always moves me is she says, nobody makes their own way, not really. And I think that there is, you know, particularly this illusion of
everyone's able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and that's just not true.
And it isn't -- and it -- particularly for the 19th century, it wasn't true of a woman. And I think that her constant pointing out the reality versus
the idealism of Jo, I don't think either one of them is wrong. And I think that that's what is so fascinating to me. I think -- I can't remember
which writer said this, but it's true -- a conversation between a person where one of them is definitely right and one and one of them is definitely
wrong isn't that interest. A conversation between two people who have a point is interesting because then there's something to talk about.
If there's a rightness and a wrongness, then it's just over.
MARTIN: Why did you want to make "Little Women" as a film so badly? Why was it so important to you?
GERWIG: Well, there were a few reasons.
When I reread the book -- and I had read it so much when I was young, but I probably hadn't read it since I was 15. And then I read it again at 30, so
twice as much time had passed; 15 years had passed. And when I read it at around 30, I was completely shocked by how modern it was and how many of
the lines I hadn't remembered, and how much of the story I had sort of completely sort of blocked out in my recollection of what the story was.
And I felt that my memory of it, as a lot of people's memory of it, which is the girlhood section, it's when they're all together and they're young.
And, actually, the book keeps going, and it's really interesting and fascinating.
And then it's about, what do you do with all that ambition of your girlhood? What do you do with, when you were young, you could be brave and
unafraid, because you're in this house that allows you to be that way, and when you move out into the world, the world's got no place for an ambitious
And Amy has a line, "The world is hard on ambitious girls."
I thought, this is -- I -- has anyone read this?
GERWIG: And I feel that often with certain books that get the sheen of a classic. You sometimes don't investigate them again, because you think you
know what it is. And when you do, you can't believe how strange and wonderful it is.
So, I was reading, and I was -- and I kept underlining and I kept seeing things as being quite cinematic. And then I started researching Louisa May
Alcott, who I had never really cared about as a girl, because, again, I lived just through the heroines of the book.
I didn't -- I knew there was an author, but I didn't actually think, I wonder who that woman was. I just accepted the book as it was.
MARTIN: And when you read that, you were, like, amazed. Like, what? This woman did what, when?
MARTIN: In the 19th century? Excuse me?
GERWIG: In the 19th century, some of the things she did, from -- you know, she had her heroine -- even though she didn't -- she never wanted Jo to get
married and have children. She wanted Jo to be a spinster, but she was convinced by her publisher that that would not sell.
So she had her get married and have children, but she, herself, she never got married. She never had children. She kept writing, and she kept her
copyright of her book, which, in the 19th century, I -- that's insane. People hardly know to keep their copyright now.
And she knew to keep her copyright, and that was the thing that economically saved her family. It enabled her to create a cottage industry
of books, which she became fabulously wealthy off of. She sent her sister to Europe to study painting. She took care of her sister's kids.
I mean, she was this wonderful author woman and businesswoman.
MARTIN: And bad-ass.
GERWIG: She was a bad-ass. She was -- she was bad-ass, and she was funny and she was mean, and all of her letters were -- I mean, mean in the best
But she had great one-liners. And I gave a lot of those one-liners and a lot of those moments to my character of Jo, because I felt like I wanted to
collapse the space between Jo March and Louisa May Alcott.
MARTIN: There's another clip I wanted to show. It's where Jo is talking to Marmee, played by Laura Dern.
MARTIN: And they're talking about -- I don't know. What's the right way to describe it? What it means to be a woman, how to figure out how to,
what, fit into the world, once you realize that that's what's expected of you?
MARTIN: Does that sound right?
GERWIG: Right. Yes.
MARTIN: So, let's play it, and then we can talk a little bit more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LITTLE WOMEN")
SAOIRSE RONAN, ACTRESS: When I get into passion, I get so savage, I could hurt anyone, and I'd enjoy it.
LAURA DERN, ACTRESS: You remind me of myself.
RONAN: But you're never angry.
DERN: I'm angry nearly every day of my life.
RONAN: You are?
DERN: I'm not patient by nature. But with nearly 40 years of effort, I'm learning to not let it get the better of me.
RONAN: Well, I will do the same then.
DERN: I hope you will do a great deal better than me. There are some natures too noble to curb and too lofty to bend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GERWIG: I love that scene. I love the two of them sitting together like that.
MARTIN: It's just the fact that, you know, it is -- there is that moment where, if you're lucky, you get to know your mother as a person.
GERWIG: I know.
And that line, "I'm angry almost every single day of my life," that's in the book, which I had never heard before. And I think it's -- so much of
this book, to me, was hiding in plain sight.
She says it. It's right there. She's angry. And I thought, that's not how we collectively think of Marmee. Marmee's not angry. You're like, but
what if she is? She's angry.
And then, when we were doing our research, and I involved the actors very deeply in this process, Laura Dern was actually reading all of these
letters between Louisa and her mother, Abigail.
And one of the things that Abigail wrote to Louisa about her anger, she said, "There are some natures that are too noble to curb and too lofty to
And such is my Lou, who is Louisa. And so we took that and gave it to Marmee, because I felt like it was the real-life counterpart to what the
discussion is here.
MARTIN: We are speaking at the beginning of the awards season. You know, you were nominated for an Oscar for "Lady Bird." You were only the fifth
woman to be nominated for an Oscar in the directing category. You weren't nominated for this, even though the reviews already have been just
And I just wonder, does any part of it piss you off? Do you feel like you're still fighting structures?
GERWIG: It's hard because, in the thick of all this, of course, you -- I'm personally disappointed that the movie didn't receive more nominations.
But I also think -- I mean, I am thrilled Saoirse got nominated for her great work. I'm thrilled that Alexandre for his score got nominated, and I
think that does speak to there's enough love and appreciation of the film, but I -- but I -- but...
MARTIN: It's not that you, as a woman, weren't nominated. There was other fine work by women directors this year that was not acknowledged.
GERWIG: Yes. That's the thing. That's the thing.
There was a tremendous amount of beautiful work. And I say that as a viewer, too, because when I go to the movie theater, which I go all the
time, I'm excited by this work, and I know that there is great work.
And, of course, I would love to see it acknowledged, but I'm also thrilled that the work exists, and I'm also thrilled that I get to make my next
film, and they get to make their next films, and that we just get to keep making films.
And in terms of being praised or being awarded, it's lovely, but, to me, just that chance to keep making and to keep seeing their work, I think
everything will catch up, I hope. I hope it will catch up, because it's extraordinary work.
MARTIN: Greta Gerwig, thank you so much for talking with us.
GERWIG: Thank you. Thank you.
MARTIN: Thank you.
GERWIG: It was so wonderful.
AMANPOUR: Looking forward to seeing that film when it comes out in the U.S. on Christmas Day.
But we return now to politics and to the press.
Here in the U.K., tensions between the ruling Conservative Party and the British media seem to be rising. During the election campaign, Prime
Minister Boris Johnson refused to sit down for the main BBC interview.
And since his win, he's threatened the BBC's prime resource of funding known as the license fee. Senior opposition lawmakers have piled on as
Shooting the messenger is nothing new. President Trump does it in the United States, and it's a routine tool of authoritarian regimes around the
So, joining me to dissect the consequences of these attacks are Michael Crick, a veteran journalist who spent decades at the BBC, and Anne
Applebaum, historian, author, and staff writer at "The Atlantic."
Welcome to the program.
So, we have not only got turbulent politics and very divisive politics, but that divisiveness and partisanship seems to be, you know, piling onto the
press right now.
I just want to ask you, Michael, since you are from the BBC, what do you make of what looks like to be, you know, a little bit of vengeance by the
new prime minister and his new Cabinet?
MICHAEL CRICK, FORMER BBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I should stress, I don't work for the BBC anymore, but I was there.
I think the relationship between the government and the BBC right now is as bad as it's probably ever been. And I say that because I'm aware that,
throughout the history of the BBC, it's always had problems with government, inevitably.
If your charter, if your existence depends on the say of government, if it's the government that decides how much the license fee is that everybody
has to pay -- it's 155 pounds now, getting on for $200, 200 euros.
And every now and then, there is a big punch-up between the two sides and it gets very, very serious. Right now, they're combining, the government -
- Downing Street is boycotting the main news analysis program in this country on the radio in the morning, the "Today" program.
And ministers haven't appeared on that program for several days now, absurd at the time when the government is presenting its new legislative program
in the queen's speech, as it did today. There was no minister on the program to discuss that.
And, at the same time, they're making noises about, we're going to have to review the whole future of the license fee, we're going to have to perhaps
change the law, so it's no longer a criminal offense not to pay it, and it can only be a civil offense.
So, they really are in a serious punch-up with the BBC right now. The only thing is, is that the Labor Party, the opposition party, don't like the BBC
either. So they're getting it from both sides, and that's always the case, that everybody attacks the BBC, rather than the commercial broadcasters.
AMANPOUR: So, let us just play a little bite from Boris Johnson about this license fee, and then we will talk more about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: You have to ask yourself, you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a TV, a media
organization still makes sense in the long term, given the way other organizations manage to fund themselves. That's all I will say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, let's just -- he's basically talking about the license fee.
So, for viewers who don't know what that is, the BBC is funded by everybody who has a television paying this license fee.
CRICK: Every household.
AMANPOUR: Every household, rather, yes.
Now, Anne, you're not a BBC correspondent. However, in all your work, you have traveled around the world, and you know how important BBC World
Service has been, the radio, and just the idea of a public service broadcast.
From your neck of the woods, where you write about Russia, Eastern European and the "Twilight of Democracy," the title of your upcoming new book, where
does this fit in? Do you see any parallels?
ANNE APPLEBAUM, AUTHOR, "TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY": So, first of all, it's interesting to remember where the idea of the BBC came from.
It was a response to the kind of cacophony that was originally created by radio. And remember that the first beneficiaries of radio, the people who
really learned how to use it, were Hitler and Stalin.
And the BBC was an attempt to create a broadcaster that would reach everybody and that would kind of create public trust, and where you could
create a space to discuss issues that was somehow neutral.
And the BBC's charter, which is pretty unique in the world, although people have tried to copy it, tries to guarantee that there is this neutral space
where we can have democratic debate and everybody can be involved and there's BBC all over the country.
This function of a neutral public space is now disappearing or is already gone in many democracies. You don't have a -- you have instead the deep
polarization of the media. You have people choosing one set of facts or another set of facts.
And this is making it really hard to have anything that resembles a kind of neutral democratic debate. And this is what's so interesting, as the BBC
is admired all over the world for exactly that, because it's been this neutral space.
And the fact that that is now disputed and that British politicians are now using this -- attacking the media, which is now a familiar tactic of
authoritarians everywhere else, is really, deeply worrying for British democracy.
AMANPOUR: And because people point to the BBC as being exactly as Anne points out, and as you know because you worked there for so long, and as
the world knows, because it's a jewel in the crown that gets exported to the United States everywhere, BBC programs, BBC news programs, dramas,
other such things, it has, by its constitution and its charter, prevented the kind of hyperpartisanship that we have seen in the United States, for
Now do you feel that might be at risk? I mean, one of the main anchors, the BBC main anchor, wrote: "The real purpose of the attacks on us is to
undermine trust in institutions which have been sources of stability over many decades."
CRICK: I do think it's at risk.
And we're not just -- it's not just the BBC that is involved here, because there are commercial channels in this country, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5,
and they are obliged to have the same neutrality and impartiality as the BBC.
But, of course, we live in a world now where anybody can set up their own television channel, put it on the Internet. They can -- and they can have
any political point of view they want. And, increasingly, people do not get their news, their journalism from either the BBC or the traditional
commercial broadcasters in this country.
A lot of young people get their news off the Internet and one way or another. And in those circumstances, it's easier and easier for the
politicians to bypass the BBC and ITV, and say, right, we will appeal through this Web site or Twitter or whatever, this video system or
And I can't see how you're going to hold on to that journalist neutrality, impartiality in the long term.
AMANPOUR: Well, you lead me into Andrew Neil, the renounced BBC interviewer, whose kind of election-year interviews are sort of de rigueur
And the other party leaders -- Corbyn and the other party leaders sat down, but Boris Johnson didn't. His people kept him away from the BBC.
And this is what Andrew Neil said publicly trying to get Boris Johnson to come on and do this pre-election interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW NEIL, BBC JOURNALIST: No broadcaster can compel a politician to be interviewed, but leaders' interviews have been a key part of the BBC's
prime-time election coverage for decades.
We do them on your behalf to scrutinize and hold to account those who would govern us. That is democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that is democracy, but, as you say and we have been discussing, President Trump is already threatening not to take part, if he
doesn't want to, into upcoming presidential debates in the year 2020 for this upcoming election.
And this is becoming, as you said, more and more of the purview of people who just don't want to be held accountable by anything other than their own
echo chamber. What does this mean? What is the consequence?
APPLEBAUM: Well, so, I mean, there are a couple of things going on.
One of them is that -- one of the reasons for these attacks on the media is precisely as you say. It's to -- in the case of Trump, it's because he
doesn't want to be held to account, he doesn't want anyone to research his corruption, he doesn't want anyone to look too closely into what his
dealings with Ukraine or with Turkey were.
And so if he undermines the media, if he attacks the media, as he does, he keeps calling it fake news or other -- attacking journalists personally and
so on. The point of that is to evade scrutiny. That's one of the points.
The other point of it, as you have said, is to speak directly through other kinds of channels and to kind of communicate through journalists and
through media that aren't going to question him.
And there's a reason why this has been copied by so many people over the world. I'm not sure that Americans realize the degree to which Trump is
now a kind of a model for other authoritarians. So, he uses this expression fake news.
President Duterte of the Philippines now uses this expression. You have heard it in Burma. You have heard it in Eastern Europe. You hear it all
over the place. And people have now learned that this is a way to evade scrutiny and to dodge facts and to avoid reality and to try and establish a
separate reality that you can communicate to your own followers.
And this is now Trump -- Trump has really led the way in that.
CRICK: And it's this evasion of scrutiny that is vital.
I mean, not long ago, only about 10 years ago, party leaders in this country, Tony Blair, who you have just seen, Gordon Brown, David Cameron,
would hold a regular monthly press conference, like presidents of the United States do every now and then.
And they would go on for an hour, an hour-and-a-half. You never get those now. In election campaigns, they would hold a press conference every
morning chaired by the party leader. None of that happens anymore.
And they would do a lot more media interviews with the really big interviewers.
Now, Boris Johnson, I think, didn't do Andrew Neil. The irony is, Andrew Neil chairs the conservative magazines -- "The Spectator" in this country.
Nobody would accuse Andrew Neil of being a lefty. But the accusation is against the BBC as a whole.
He was frightened, because Andrew Neil is about the toughest interviewer we have ever had in British broadcasting, and he thought that he'd get a real
pasting from Andrew Neil in the way that Jeremy Corbyn had a couple of weeks before.
So what they're going to do now is, they're going to do soft interviewers or interviewers from radio stations that are partisan and or programs are
partisan. Or you go and do local radio, local TV. And, generally, local people, local journalists tend to be a bit softer than the national ones.
AMANPOUR: So, you have got this issue, trying to control who the messenger will be and how to get their message out, whether it's in the United
States, here, or in Eastern Europe, in Russia, all those places, Turkey.
And then you have got the issue we sort of talked about of a fact-free zone. The world seems to have become a fact-free zone. I'm trying to
figure out, what is more dangerous? Is it more dangerous to have these governments crack down on the independent press, the public's -- public
Or is it more dangerous, even without that, to be operating in a world where, genuinely, people say black is white, white is blue? I mean, it's
just -- it's just topsy-turvy. Nobody knows where the facts are these days.
We do, but people don't.
APPLEBAUM: So, there are two tactics that authoritarians and actually some authoritarian-leaning democrats now used to control the media. One of
AMANPOUR: Authoritarian-leaning democrats. Name us a few.
APPLEBAUM: Viktor Orban.
AMANPOUR: Of Hungary.
APPLEBAUM: If he's still even a Democrat.
AMANPOUR: The Polish government.
APPLEBAUM: The Polish prime minister.
You can point to party leaders in other parts of the world. And what they often -- they usually see -- they usually have two strategies. And one of
them is, as you say, to try and capture the media. And this is now done not as in the olden days with censors and, you know, crackdowns and
It's done instead using the weakness of the media, usually the commercial weakness. And so, you know, newspapers can be bought out by friendly
oligarchs. They can be pressured by -- particularly in smaller countries, you can punish advertisers. So people who advertise in the independent
media can face difficulties getting government licenses.
So, they can put pressure on the media through commercial means, which was not something that was done before. And this has been done successfully in
a number of countries. And it leads to the collapse of the papers and then eventually it's taken over by somebody's friend. And that's one way.
The second tactic is one that we are really not yet prepared for and we don't understand that well, and that is the Russian tactic of flooding the
information space, so that it's not so much the question of Putin trying to control the press or control what people say.
It's simply that he puts out dozens and dozens and dozens of messages, false, true, half-true, all the time, so that people become very confused
and they don't actually know what's true and what is not true.
The best example, famous example of this was after the plane crash in Eastern Ukraine...
APPLEBAUM: ... when Putin put out all kinds of crazy explanations for that.
And there was also...
AMANPOUR: You mean shooting down of the -- yes. Yes.
APPLEBAUM: The shooting -- sorry -- the shooting down of the plane in Eastern...
AMANPOUR: May 17.
APPLEBAUM: May 17 in Eastern Ukraine.
And there were -- the plane was supposed to be -- the Ukrainians did it, or there was a plane full of dead people that crashed, all kinds of nutty
theories. And the upshot of it was, was that if you had interviewed people in the streets in Moscow a few days later, you would -- people would say,
we don't know what happened.
APPLEBAUM: And not only that. We will never know.
AMANPOUR: And even though the government sent fact-finding missions, and they came out with an irrefutable conclusion -- the Dutch came out...
APPLEBAUM: The Dutch came out with an irrefutable report, yes.
But almost the same -- and let's talk now about the impeachment hearings. I mean, you would think that President Trump was the only Republican, the
only president ever to have gone through this, sadly. It is rare. And he is the third now to have been impeached.
But the last one was a Democrat. Nonetheless, it looks like his side is absolutely ignoring the facts, not the politics of it, but the facts of it.
Let's just play this sound bite from a correspondent asking one of the representatives about her defense of President Trump on the floor last
night before the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why is it ever OK for an American president to ask a foreign power to investigate rival? Why do
you think that's OK?
REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ): He didn't. He didn't do that.
RAJU: He did ask. He did Zelensky even in the phone...
LESKO: He did not do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that's Congresswoman Debbie Lesko. So she basically said he never did it. He never did it.
And yet, when we have a reality check, the Ukraine call record says -- and this is President Trump -- "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that
Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great."
That is the transcript put out by the White House of President Trump's call with President Zelensky. And yet, his supporter, his ally says he never
CRICK: And I think what's worrying about what's happening in -- certainly in America, in Britain, is that a vast swathe of the electorate don't
really seem to care whether their rulers tell lies or break the law, that they have come to the stage where they -- that's what they expect their
leaders to do.
I mean, it's an appalling situation to be in, and that they make their decisions on the basis of who sort of emotionally they connect with and who
seems to be more with them and their way of thinking, and they're not shocked anymore by being shown to be that the president or a party leader
is utterly dishonest.
AMANPOUR: So, the BBC used to be the firewall against that. It was the world's most important truth machine.
From history, because we're about to wrap up now, how dangerous is this? What do you draw from all the history that you have written about and
researched when it comes to this kind of manipulation of truth and public service media?
APPLEBAUM: When we lose the ability to hold leaders accountable, then we are at risk of not just corruption, not just violence, but deep forms of
authoritarianism, of a kind that we thought had disappeared 50 years ago.
AMANPOUR: I must say, it is extraordinary to see that you're writing a book called "The Twilight of Democracy."
I don't want to believe it, but it's -- it's the way it seems to be going.
Anne Applebaum, Michael Crick, thank you very much, indeed, for joining me.
And that is it for now.
You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.