'Ocean's Eleven' Producer Can't 'Stop Talking' Truth is often more outrageous than fiction, especially when you consider Jerry Weintraub's outrageous fortune. As a young man, he booked nationwide tours for Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. In the process, he reinvented their careers and changed the business of live music. Host Liane Hansen speaks to film producer Jerry Weintraub about his new memoir, When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man.
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'Ocean's Eleven' Producer Can't 'Stop Talking'

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'Ocean's Eleven' Producer Can't 'Stop Talking'

'Ocean's Eleven' Producer Can't 'Stop Talking'

'Ocean's Eleven' Producer Can't 'Stop Talking'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/125829398/125829369" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Truth is often more outrageous than fiction, especially when you consider Jerry Weintraub's outrageous fortune. As a young man, he booked nationwide tours for Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. In the process, he reinvented their careers and changed the business of live music. Host Liane Hansen speaks to film producer Jerry Weintraub about his new memoir, When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Jerry Weintraub is in our New York studio and I want to start our interview with this question. Mr. Weintraub, are you ready?

JERRY WEINTRAUB: I am. But please call me Jerry.

HANSEN: Thank you. I will. What occupation do you put on your tax return?

WEINTRAUB: Concierge.

HANSEN: Seriously.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WEINTRAUB: I put producer on my tax return.

HANSEN: Do you? I wondered, 'cause it could be: entrepreneur, impresario, agent, manager, Jack of all trades.

WEINTRAUB: Yeah. Not agent. That was an awfully long time ago.

HANSEN: Right.

WEINTRAUB: Manager was also an awfully long time ago. It could be entrepreneur. But in all seriousness, I really should put concierge on there because my first 50 emails every morning are favors...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WEINTRAUB: ... and that I do for people all over the world.

HANSEN: You've written your memoir, "When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man." I'd like to do a little timeline with you.

WEINTRAUB: Sure.

HANSEN: Let's start with George Clooney. I mean, you were the one that resurrected the "Ocean's Eleven" franchise. What was worth remaking at that time with him and Brad Pitt and the rest of that amazing cast?

WEINTRAUB: Well, firstly, I'm 72 years old, so I was around for the first "Ocean's Eleven," and I saw Sinatra and Dean Martin and the Rat Pack make "Ocean's Eleven." And I never thought the film was great and I always had it in the back of my head to remake it someday. And I got the rights and at the point in my career - about 10, 12 years ago, 13 years ago - I decided to get a script and remake it.

HANSEN: Were you convinced of its success?

WEINTRAUB: Was I convinced before I got the cast? No. But when I got the cast, I was.

HANSEN: Yeah.

WEINTRAUB: And when I got the script, I was. And when I got Steven Soderbergh to direct it, I certainly was.

HANSEN: Mr. Sinatra insisted that you call him Francis.

WEINTRAUB: Yes.

HANSEN: What did you do for him?

WEINTRAUB: I promoted all of his shows. I brought him out of retirement, produced all of his concerts, as well as his television shows.

HANSEN: Now, he had many retirements.

WEINTRAUB: Yes, he liked to retire. But he liked working. He loved working and he never really wanted to leave the stage. And I was fortunate enough at that time in my life to be working with Elvis Presley, and I got a phone call from Sinatra - Mr. Sinatra - Francis, who said to me, I'd like to have a meeting with you. And I said, fine, come over to the office. And he said no, no, no, no, no. You come over to the house. I said fine. Where is it? He said, it's in Palm Springs. I said, but I'm in Beverly Hills. He said, well, just go out to Santa Monica Airport, my pilots will bring you down to Palm Springs.

HANSEN: Had he played Carnegie Hall before you got that room for him?

WEINTRAUB: No. I brought him to Carnegie Hall. That was the first concert coming back. I wanted to take him to arenas, as I had done with Elvis. But I had to start him some place that was a palace for music, which Carnegie Hall is, and I took him to Carnegie Hall. And he loved Carnegie Hall. It was wonderful.

HANSEN: Concert promotion was one of those a-ha ideas you've had throughout your career.

WEINTRAUB: Mm-hmm.

HANSEN: You had a conversation with Colonel Tom Parker, who was Elvis's old manager at the time, and Elvis was making movies. He'd stop touring. You changed his mind. How did you do it?

WEINTRAUB: And finally, after one year, he said to me, would you still like to have Elvis? And I said, yes. He said, meet me in Las Vegas tomorrow and bring one million dollars.

HANSEN: Hmm. But in exchange, Colonel Parker said Elvis doesn't like to play to an empty room.

WEINTRAUB: The first show, I put him in Florida on July 4th and very few people are in Miami Beach on July 4th. I don't know if you've ever been to Miami Beach in July but it's quite humid.

HANSEN: Mm-hmm.

WEINTRAUB: I can see the picture right in front of me right now as we're talking. And Elvis came, he did his show, and every seat was full. And I put the five thousand seats back in the Convention Center for the evening show. So that's what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HANSEN: Innovate and improvise.

WEINTRAUB: Yes.

HANSEN: A useful story from Jerry Weintraub. His new memoir is called "When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead." Jerry Weintraub, you say you believe in a higher power.

WEINTRAUB: Yes.

HANSEN: I understand that you're working on a remake of the classic movie "Oh God," to be released in 2011. Is that true?

WEINTRAUB: Yeah. Well, I have a script and I like it a lot. And actually, Whoopi Goldberg asked me if she could play God. And I said that's a heck of a great idea.

HANSEN: Ha.

WEINTRAUB: And I shook her hand and we're going to start talking about it. We're old friends.

HANSEN: Now, that sounds interesting because she'll be replacing George Burns in the original.

WEINTRAUB: Right.

HANSEN: Yeah. What was it about George Burn's toupee in that movie?

WEINTRAUB: Oh, George had a toupee. And I said to him, George, God wouldn't wear a toupee. He said to me, well, I have to. I'm not going to appear without my hair. I'm just not going to do it. I said, well, how about hats? So if you look at the movie you'll see that George is in a vast array of hats all through the picture.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HANSEN: I have two questions here.

WEINTRAUB: Yes.

HANSEN: There's a motivation question: Is it fear of failure or desire for greatness?

WEINTRAUB: Desire for greatness.

HANSEN: A-ha.

WEINTRAUB: I'm not afraid of anything. I'm never afraid of failing. I failed many times. Failure only teaches you how to be successful next time.

HANSEN: The secret to your success: Is it knowing when to move in or move on?

WEINTRAUB: I think the secret to my success is the people that I associate myself with and work with. I work with the greatest artists and I respect them and they're equals. And I don't treat actors as children. And I really admire directors. And I really admire people who can sit down and write something. So it's just surrounding yourself with the right people.

HANSEN: Had any dreams lately that you've jotted down?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WEINTRAUB: Many. I keep dreaming. I'll never stop dreaming. That'll be sequel: "When I Stop Dreaming, I'll Be Dead."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HANSEN: Jerry Weintraub, he has a new memoir that he's written with Rich Cohen and it's called "When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man." Jerry Weintraub, we have to stop talking now. But...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WEINTRAUB: I understand.

HANSEN: Jerry Weintraub, thank you so much.

WEINTRAUB: Thank you.

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