Good evening and welcome to a very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
As we look forward to the coming holidays, we have a major Christmas program planned for you, including some wonderful singing, including Celine Dion, by the way.
But we begin by going to a place familiar to us now, the New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward.
Standing by is Brad Pitt, the Oscar nominated actor and producer, the founder of Make It Right, the Web site of which is MakeItRightNola.org — Make It Right NOLA — that’s New Orleans, Louisiana — .org. He launched that idea, Make It Right, on this program on December 3rd. That was the day it all began.
So the obvious first question — first, thanks for being with us — is how are you doing?
BRAD PITT: We’re doing great. And thanks for checking in with us again. We are at 52 homes so far adopted. You know, our initial goal was 150. If you look behind me, there’s a few of the houses that have been righted at this point. We still have 98 to go in the next two weeks. So we’re still asking the folks of America and the foundations and corporations to check out the Web site and see if they can help out in any way. And we’d certainly like to thank the people who have been involved so far.
KING: The total amount of money needed is $6.8 million?
PITT: Well, 98 homes — it’s more like, roughly — my bad math — more like $13 something million.
KING: Are you surprised…
PITT: We’re thinking big.
KING: Is what you’ve gotten so far what you expected, more than you expected or, frankly, less than you expected?
PITT: I — really, Larry, I had no idea. And what I found and what I believed in is that once people started hearing the story down here and understanding the plight of the families still here in limbo, that they would get involved. And that’s what we’ve had. And we’ve had responses from people at all spectrums of the scale.
We had — Will Farrell and his wife this week adopted a house. We had an anonymous adoption last night of a million dollars, which is great fun. And Laurence Fishburne has come in. And it’s just been — it’s really, really nice and really supportive. And, again, this is what we do best, when we see, you know, other people in need — we come to their — we come to the aid. So it’s been great to be a part of.
KING: Did you get a good reaction after your appearance here?
PITT: My mom was very pleased.
KING: No, did you raise…
PITT: She said she thought I needed a shave.
PITT: We did. We got a great spike and a lot of hits. And, again, we cannot thank you enough, because you’re helping make this work.
KING: Now, briefly, before we discuss a couple of other things and get into the Christmas spirit, will you tell us what this is all about — how you conceived it — for those that don’t know, because there’s always new viewers.
PITT: Well, this is — this is, again, is to help be a catalyst for the rebuilding effort here that has just been stalled. You know, people here suffered what I would say is a great injustice the night and the week the levees failed. And that injustice is continuing. People are caught in limbo here. They don’t have clear direction back home. They want to come back
home. These are people who in — who worked all their lives, invested theirselves and their families and their homes. And now that has all been wiped out and don’t have a good shot at returning. And this is designed to help them do so.
So we brought in some of the greatest minds in architecture to deal with the challenges here. And there’s some great solutions. And now this program is meant to help them meet the gap. It’s just not a — it’s just not a blind charity. This is — the families here will be investing what they have and this program is to help them meet the gap to build a quality successful, sustainable, safe home.
KING: And you personally got into this because?
PITT: Well, again, I just — you know, I saw the need here. I know some people that know a lot about building and thought that we could help shake some things up here — because I didn’t see it happening, you know, from the top down. So that’s why I got involved.
And, again, this is — you have to understand the frustration and, again, this situation of limbo — the state of limbo these families are in as they go into the third holiday season. And just knowing if that was me and this was my plight, how much it would mean for me to have someone to come in and give a hand. And that’s all this is — just giving someone a hand.
KING: Now, yesterday there was a tornado warning in New Orleans.
Do things like that worry you?
PITT: Right. Yes. Well, you know, I grew up in a tornado zone and now I live in an earthquake zone in L.A. or a hurricane zone here. So, you know, it’s something — you know, Mother Nature is — makes the rules and we do the best we can to meet those challenges. But, you know, we’re going to live where we want to live. And there are people that are deeply dedicated to this place — seventh generational families, people who raised their kids in this very spot, people who lost family relatives and family members in this very spot. And, you know, it’s my belief that’s the — that’s up to the individual’s choice where they want to live.
KING: I know.
But when you see a thing like a tornado warning, does it give you pause about how your buildings are going to be built?
PITT: Oh, I see. Yes, well, this is one of the first questions, you know, we had to address was safety. What we understood is people are definitely coming back, so how can we help them build safety?
PITT: And so some of the standards and challenges the architects dealt with was certainly height requirements. These homes will be up to five to eight feet. Standards for building that will — that can sustain itself against a hurricane and to what degree — so the strongest building methods. And in case one were to get caught in the house, there’s backup generators.
There’s access to the roofs, so we never see what we saw before.
All right, this I want to get right and I want you to comment on it. There was a protest at city hall in New Orleans yesterday. I’m sure you knew about it. Residents protested the demolition of housing projects. Police used chemical spray and stun guns on them. The housing issues are still a hot button in the area. HUD wants to demolish the buildings — most of them damaged by Katrina — so developers can take advantage of tax credits and build new, middle become neighborhoods.
Where do you stand?
PITT: Well, I think — I think their goal is mixed income, is what they said. Now, you know, I don’t know much of the details. What yesterday certainly reflects is the frustration and the helplessness that families are facing here. And, again, you know, it’s been two – and-a-half years now.
And, again, I don’t know the details. I know there was some arguments that these places created crime. I didn’t hear anyone — I didn’t hear anyone — I didn’t hear the argument that answers that for me, is that you’ve got to address education, you’ve got to address health, you’ve got to address opportunities.
And until you address that, what do you expect is going to be there?
So I don’t know that the issue is just about the housing itself. But, again, I don’t know enough. What I do know is that — that this tells you what an open nerve this place still is. And as hopeful and as great spirit as the people maintain here, you know, they need some help.
KING: And, boy, were they angry.
PITT: Yes. Yes. Well, listen, you know, to have lost everything, to be living in substandard buildings — or if you can call them that — maybe trailers, to not be able to get to your family. I mean this — the suicide rates, depression rates are at an all time high. You know, this needs some attention.
KING: A couple of other things and then I’ll repeat the address for everybody.
You are going to — are you going to spend Christmas in New Orleans?
PITT: I’m loath to say so, because I don’t want to invite more paparazzi here. But, yes. Yes, I will.
KING: What are the…
PITT: I will admit that.
KING: What are the Brad Pitt Christmas traditions?
Do you open the gifts the night before…
PITT: Well, you know…
KING: …the morning of?
PITT: We picked out the tree and we’ve decorated the tree. And now we’re getting gifts for each other — understanding that Christmas is — that it is about getting gifts for others, not just getting them. So we’ve been working on that one. And that’s it. That’s where we are right now.
KING: When you have children from different countries, are there different traditions involved?
PITT: Well, we’re trying to incorporate Kwanzaa and other traditions that we’re just learning about ourselves. But, yes, we — we hope to be a multi-ceremonial family, as well.
KING: Now, you are — there’s a couple of other quick things.
You were a choir boy, were you not?
I don’t know if…
A choir boy?
I did — growing up in my elementary age, I was in the church choir, yes. This is true. But I will — I want to say, to everyone’s pleasure, I will not be singing for your holiday show.
PITT: And this is a good thing.
KING: You’re not going to be part of that, huh, hard as we try?
PITT: I’m not going to do it.
KING: We had you scheduled to do “O Tannenbaum”.
PITT: You really don’t want that, I’m telling you.
PITT: There’s not a musical bone in my body — just great appreciation.
“A Mighty Heart,” which you produced, has been nominated for both Golden Globe and SAG Awards for Angela’s performs and for the film. It was a great movie.
PITT: Great. Thank you, much. Yes, we’re very proud of it. I’m proud of Casey, also, for “Jesse James.”
KING: Do you have any New Year’s resolutions, Brad?
PITT: No, I try to stay away from that. I usually end up breaking them, so I just abstain.
KING: Thanks again.
And, Brad, again, the address — or the — you can click right into MakeItRightNola — all one word — .org — to help this fantastic cause.
Happy New Year and Merry Christmas, Brad.
Thanks so much.
PITT: Thanks a lot back at you.
Thank you much.