American Morning

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November 23rd, 2009
11:28 AM ET

'King of the world' James Cameron returns with 'Avatar'

By Jason Carroll

Say what you want about "Avatar." Here's what you need to know about James Cameron. When he decides to tell a story, he's one hundred percent committed. He proved that when we showed up to interview him about "Avatar."

Cameron told me it's a classic adventure much in the mold of "Lawrence of Arabia." That may sound odd for a science fiction tale, but that’s how Cameron describes "Avatar."

"I want to take people to another world, I want to take them out of their daily lives on a fantasy journey," Cameron said. "This is an experiential journey, it's highly immersive and you're gonna see things that you probably haven’t seen other than in your own dreams."

"Avatar" is an expensive dream, costing $237 million so far and counting. It could end up being the most expensive film ever made. Does Cameron feel the pressure? You bet. "I think pressure's good for filmmakers. It makes us think about our audiences and what the audience wants. It makes us in a sense beholden to the audience."

Don't Miss: Watch Jason's full interview with director James Cameron Video

And that is where the commitment comes in. When we met up with Cameron he was still tweaking "Avatar," (in fact, he still is by this posting) still adjusting sound and making edits to the film, which opens December 18th.

He gave us behind-the-scenes access, allowing CNN's cameras into an editing session where I watched Cameron do his thing. At one point, Cameron telling the editors how he wanted an explosion to sound. "... if you use explosions with a longer attack and decay, like a BOOOOOM kind of sound, then they all merge in to on big BOOM BOOM BOOM."

The question is, will "Avatar" be a bomb? Some bloggers who have seen the film's trailer say Cameron's giant visioned Avatar's look more like Smurfs. I asked Cameron if that made him nervous. "I think if everybody was embracing the film before the fact the film could never live up to that expectation."


Filed under: Behind the scenes • Entertainment
November 20th, 2009
07:29 AM ET

Behind-the-scenes with a new brand of Tim McGraw

By Christine Romans

Tim McGraw, sans trademark cowboy hat, saunters into a Manhattan restaurant and needs to find a place to throw out his gum. Finding none, he finds a clean and shiny teaspoon at a waiter station and neatly tucks his chewed gum into it. As far as I know, no one put it on eBay.

Thus begins our 35-minute sit-down with the country music star, who has a new movie, new album, a tour starting in February, and new management.

McGraw is a country music star who is bent on a “fresh start.” He’s honing his brand for a new dynamic audience. His die-hard country music fans are most-likely to buy his records from Target.

But there is a new, digitally savvy audience online, sampling tracks from various artists and genres. He has signed with Red Light Management, the people behind Dave Mathews Band and Phish, and the tour for his album Southern Voice, will be “different” from anything we’ve ever seen from him.

Has Brand McGraw set the “reset button?”

“I don't know whether it's a reset button as much as it is just an advancement button. It's just time to take this up. We've laid a tremendous platform and it is time to expand from that platform. “

That platform is 40 million country records, three Grammy awards, 10 American Music Awards, 11 Country Music Awards. You get the picture. Where he is expanding most visibly is in movies.

He co-stars opposite Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side," opening nationwide this weekend. It’s his biggest role yet. On the red carpet at the premiere this week, Bullock told CNN about her country music co-star.


Filed under: Behind the scenes • Business • Entertainment
October 15th, 2009
12:25 PM ET
September 21st, 2009
01:16 PM ET

Cubans pack concert for peace

My trip to Cuba began on my birthday – after snarfing down a Duncan Hines birthday cake made by my four kids (and decorated with redhots), i headed to Miami first, then onto Havana.

It was hot when I arrived at Jose Marti airport – temperatures for the concert were well into the 90's. Hopeful concert-goers were lined up along the roads hoping to hitch a ride or catch a Wah-wah (the local bus) to La Plaza de la Revolution. It's the same spot where Pope John Paul II said mass back in 1998. But this was a concert and the "water station" in the tent for the performers served mojitos, with Havana Club – a rum you cannot buy in the United States, because of the embargo.

Our photographer Orlando arrived with a tent, thankfully, because by midday young women were fainting from heat exhaustion and the crowd estimate had swelled to 600 thousand people. At two o'clock sharp the concert began with Puerto Rican singer Olga Tañon taking the stage, and despite the heat the crowd danced wildly to her music. Cucu Diamantes (crazy diamonds), who is tall and willowy and never broke a sweat, told me she was happy – and that it was very emotional for her. A Cuban-American who left Cuba in in the mid eighties, she hadn't been back to Cuba for 8 years, and even then it was to visit her family.

We wrangled our way onto the stage – the security was tight but it was doable – and had a quick chat with Miguel Bose, who said he was energized by seeing so many Cubans waving flags. He – as all the performers consistently did – underscored the concerts focus: peace. And brushed off any questions of controversy by saying the people, the growing crowd, just wanted to be entertained. We got to run "backstage" (really the upstairs of the national library) to interview Juanes – making our way through the throng of mostly young people who were waiting outside to catch a glimpse of Juanes as he did the mad dash (about 100 yards) to the stage.


Filed under: Behind the scenes • Cuba
September 17th, 2009
05:30 AM ET

The fashion icon behind 'Sex and the City'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Alina and Pat view the pieces from Diane von Furstenberg's Spring/Summer 2010 Collection"]

"Sex and the City" is a huge hit and there's no denying fashion plays a leading role.

So many of the shoes, clothes, bags and accessories the characters wear suddenly become major fashion trends. But that doesn't happen by accident.

The creative genius working behind the scenes, dressing the characters, is a celebrity herself – Patricia Field.

Check out our behind-the-scenes photos by CNN Producer Ethel Bass.

Alina Cho talks to Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon.
Alina Cho talks to Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon.


Filed under: Behind the scenes • Entertainment
May 5th, 2009
07:18 PM ET

American Morning invades late night!

Inside the Late Show with David Letterman!

Ok so it wasn't exactly late night... the show tapes at 4:30 in the afternoon. But there's definitely a late night vibe they manage to create at the famed Ed Sullivan Theater.

AM's Executive Producer (and my good buddy) Janelle and I sat in the audience and cheered on our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  He is a guest on the show that airs tonight.

Sanjay was booked to talk about the swine flu.  Dave joked that now that it appeared the scare was waning he would just ask Sanjay for a physical. Ha! (Although I've asked Sanjay a ton of medical questions myself.)

So Janelle and I waited in the line along with many other excited visitors. Many from out of town. We were given "the rules" about making sure to laugh and clap – no wolf whistling, no cameras or phones and no "shout-outs to your favorite sports teams!"

Then we filed in and took our seats. By the way, the pages were not the friendliest. I wish, especially for the excited out of towners, that they would've been a little let's say 'warmer.'  Speaking of cold – we were warned that Dave likes the studio very cold and dressed in pants and wool coats. (In May!) Thank God.

We watched from the top level as the band warmed up – then a comedian came out to warm up the audience. 
Then, out comes the band, Paul Shaffer and finally Dave comes bursting out. No jacket. Says hello talks a little to audience. And then walks backstage and the show begins.

It's fascinating as someone who anchors  a live three hour news show to watch the taped late-night format. 
There are a lot of similarities. Dave goes "live to tape" meaning his interviews and monologue are left as is. So he doesn't redo anything.

I marvel at these guys like Dave and Conan and Jay who have an ability to be funny on cue. It can't be easy.  But I do know what it's like to interview people and try to coax the best out of them at times. Dave is great at that.

We cheered when Sanjay came out – he was great during the interview! 
I'm so proud of him as a CNNer and a South Asian.

Production-wise the whole show ran like a well-oiled machine. The band rocked. 
It was really an interesting experience. Now if only we could tape at 4:30pm... 😉 

See you in the morning,


Filed under: Behind the scenes • Entertainment
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