Terry Gross

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Screenwriter Scott Frank has written movies in a all kinds of genres, including crime noir (Get Shorty), thriller (Malice) and action/adventure (The Wolverine). But despite his extensive list of credits, he always felt there was one genre missing.

"I wanted to write a Western at some point in my career," he says. "I kept putting it off and putting it off, because they were very difficult economically to make in Hollywood."

The Room (2003) has been called the Citizen Kane of bad movies. Eccentric filmmaker Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed and starred in the movie, and it has since developed a cult following. Around the country, fans flock to midnight screenings.

Actor James Franco also found himself drawn to The Room. In 2014, after reading a nonfiction book about the film's creation (called The Disaster Artist) Franco knew he wanted to turn the movie's backstory story into another film.

Stories about sexual harassment in the workplace have dominated the news cycle this fall, but New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer remembers a time not that long ago when even the term "sexual harassment" felt new.

"Most of us really didn't know much about sexual harassment," she says. "Many of us had experienced it, but we didn't really know the name for it or how to handle it."

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

After the sudden death of his wife, Michelle McNamara, in April 2016, comedian Patton Oswalt felt himself falling apart. He began drinking and eating bad food and he struggled with insomnia.

"I was beginning to kind of kiss the edge during those months," he says. "I felt like I was fading out of the world ... just sort of treating myself like I had already died."

Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, singer-songwriter Margo Price often wished she lived somewhere else — a place where the landscape wasn't so flat, the winters weren't so cold and the work wasn't so hard.

Actress Greta Gerwig has made a career starring in movies about quirky women. She played a driftless dancer in Frances Ha and a punk photographer in 20th Century Women. Now she's written and directed her first film, an exploration of mother-daughter relationships called Lady Bird.

"I don't know any woman who has a simple relationship with their mother or with their daughter," Gerwig says. "It has a tremendous amount of love — and a tremendous amount of angst."

On Oct. 5, The New York Times published an article detailing alleged sexual misconduct by film executive Harvey Weinstein that dated back nearly three decades.

The article featured evidence and interviews describing a pattern in which the film producer would invite young women to a business meeting, sometimes in his hotel room, and then sexually assault or harass them.

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As the chief official White House photographer for President Barack Obama, Pete Souza had top security clearance and sat in on most meetings and major events with the president.

"I was there all the time," he says. "I wasn't talking to [Obama] all the time, but I was always in every meeting and pretty much every situation that he had as president."

The chicken for sale at your local grocery store isn't like the chicken your grandparents used to eat. They're bigger and more "breasty," says public health journalist Maryn McKenna — and that's by design.

"In the United States, we much prefer to eat white meat, and so we have bred chickens and genetically redesigned chickens in order for them to have a lot of breast meat," McKenna says. She attributes the change in poultry to factors like precision breeding, hormones and nutrition, but adds, "Antibiotics started this process."

New York Times columnist Lindy West knows what it's like to encounter a barrage of Internet hate. West, who often writes about feminist issues and body positivity, was "doxxed" by Internet trolls — her home address and cell phone number were posted online.

But West hasn't been silenced; she continues to speak out against harassment and misogyny. In her book Shrill, she writes about learning to like her body and to insist on a place for herself in public life.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, actor Jonathan Groff was a Disney-obsessed kid who dressed up as Mary Poppins and Cinderella and dreamed of one day performing on Broadway.

Other parents might have balked at a little boy dressed in women's clothing and singing show tunes — but not Groff's mother. "She didn't bat an eye," he says. "She was all about letting us express ourselves however we wanted to, which was amazing."

Growing up an only child in Massachusetts, humorist John Hodgman longed to be considered interesting. In high school, he grew his hair out, wore a fedora and carried a briefcase in an effort to look like Doctor Who.

Hodgman says his look was modeled on "the fourth Doctor Who ... which was an emotionally terrified weirdo who is tricking people into thinking he was interesting by wearing funny clothes."

On July 17, 2014, an unarmed black man named Eric Garner died on Staten Island, N.Y., after police officers threw him to the ground and put him in a choke hold. Garner's last words, as recorded on a cellphone video, were: "I can't breathe." He repeated the phrase 11 times.

As someone who lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder, novelist John Green sometimes feels like his mind is spiraling uncontrollably.

"It starts out with one little thought, and then slowly that becomes the only thought that you're able to have," Green says. "It's like there's an invasive weed that just spreads out of control."

Growing up as a first-generation Chinese-American in Northern California, novelist Amy Tan found herself pulled by two different notions of fate: Her mother was guided by beliefs in curses and luck, while her father, a Baptist minister, was guided by Christian faith.

As a result, Tan says, "I am full of contradictions. ... I am full of wavering questions."

The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of eight hours of sleep per night for adults, but sleep scientist Matthew Walker says that too many people are falling short of the mark.

"Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain," Walker says. "Many people walk through their lives in an underslept state, not realizing it."

It's not uncommon for comics to be influenced by depression, anxiety or troubled childhoods, but Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon insists his comedy doesn't come from a dark place.

"I was always a happy kid," Fallon says. "I remember there was a report card from kindergarten and the comment from the teacher was, 'Jimmy smiles too much,' which was very interesting. ... I think I would smile even when I was getting yelled at."

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Tom Petty, leader of The Heartbreakers and member of The Traveling Wilburys, died Monday night from cardiac arrest. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee was 66 years old.

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast is a city person. She grew up in an apartment building in Brooklyn, N.Y., and though she moved to the suburbs as an adult when she was pregnant with her second child, she never stopped loving the grit and excitement of New York City.

"Just about every street in Manhattan has that kind of density of visual information," she says. "It's just fun. I like looking at it. Everything seems to suggest stories."

Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, died Wednesday at his home, the Playboy Mansion. He was 91.

In 1999, Hefner told Fresh Air that his iconic magazine was inspired by his own repressive upbringing — he described his parents as typical "Midwestern Puritans."

"I saw things in growing up in my own home and in society around me that I felt were hurtful and hypocritical," he said. "... I believe and hope that Playboy [has] played some small part in changing the values — social and sexual — of our time."

Is it possible to create a realistic television series about the commodification of sex workers and porn actors without being exploitative? That's the dilemma David Simon and George Pelecanos faced while creating their new HBO series, The Deuce.

"We didn't particularly want to do a show about pornography," Pelecanos says. "David and I worked on this for two or three years before we shot any film, and it was continually on our minds: How were we going to approach it?"

David Litt was 24 years old and just a few years out of college when he landed a job writing speeches for President Barack Obama — an experience he calls "surreal and completely terrifying."

Though he was initially assigned the speeches no one else wanted to write, Litt eventually became a special assistant to the president and senior presidential speechwriter. His duties included writing jokes for the short comedy routine Obama performed annually at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinners.

When filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick began research for a 10-part PBS documentary on the Vietnam War, they thought they knew the material. After all, Burns was of draft age in 1970, though his draft number was too high for him to be called to serve.

But as they began interviewing subjects and sorting through archival footage, Burns and Novick soon came to appreciate just how complicated the war was. "We went in, both of us, with this kind of arrogance about it, and immediately had that blown out of the water," Burns says. "We realized we knew nothing."

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