Daniel Hajek

The actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has a childhood memory: In his family's living room in London, there sat a book called Our Man in Damascus.

It's a non-fiction account of an Israeli spy who infiltrated Israel's enemy, Syria, in the 1960s. Eli Cohen was publicly executed, but not before he obtained vital military secrets.

Sacha Baron Cohen now plays Eli Cohen in The Spy, a Netflix series that dramatizes that true story.

A new TV show, set in Boston in the 1990s, centers on some action-packed armored-car robberies. A crime drama in Boston: You've heard this before.

But City on a Hill, which premieres Sunday on Showtime, is aiming for distinction. It stars actor Aldis Hodge as a straight-and-narrow assistant district attorney working within a crooked justice system. He's new in town, and determined to take on these robbery cases.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


It was February 1967, and 18-year-old Marine Pfc. Bill Ehrhart was days away from leaving for Vietnam. He had just enjoyed his last weekend off base, and his friends had offered to drive him back to Camp Pendleton, Calif., before sunrise.

"It was goodbye civilian world, next stop Vietnam," says Ehrhart, now a writer and poet.

There's this one scene in The Hangover. A man jumps out of the trunk of a car — completely naked — and attacks Bradley Cooper with a crowbar.

When he's not busy on a movie set, Jeff Goldblum owns Wednesday nights in Los Angeles.

The actor, known for roles in Hollywood blockbusters and a singular, chin-stroking comic persona, plays piano in a jazz band with a standing weekly gig, which he calls The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. The performances are casual and unstructured, with the man of the hour playing keys one moment, holding court and posing for photos with attendees the next, just generally being ... well, Jeff Goldblum.

Growing up, Joan Marie Larkin had big dreams. She considered becoming an archaeologist or an astronaut, and she wasn't going to let society tell her what a girl could or couldn't do. She eventually turned to music and went on to be one of the most celebrated women in rock: Joan Jett. Bad Reputation, a new documentary out now, traces her hard-fought rise to rock and roll fame.

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When Yeonmi Park was a young girl in North Korea's Ryanggang Province, near the Chinese border, she went to her uncle's house to watch TV. But this wasn't the usual state-run broadcast praising the "Dear Leader." The movie she watched at her uncle's house was illegal.

She covered the windows with blankets, turned the volume down low and huddled in close around the TV. She watched a pirated copy of Titanic.

If Hacksaw Ridge breaks Kevin O'Connell's Oscars losing streak, he'll have a pile of acceptance speeches to choose from. Over the years, he's earned 21 Academy Award nominations for sound mixing, but doesn't have a single statue to show for it.

Most of his unused acceptance speeches are sitting in a drawer. "I don't pay much attention to that stuff anymore," O'Connell says. "I almost feel like this is like a rebirth for me at this point, you know?"

O'Connell's a re-recording mixer — he brings sound into movies.

Pez Owen was flying over the desert in her single-engine Cessna airplane when she spotted a huge "X" etched in the desert below. She says it was the strangest thing.

"It's not on the [flight] chart," Owen says. "There just wasn't any indication of this huge cross."

Then she spotted another one.

"There had to be some reason," she says. "So, of course, I immediately thought I had to get Chuck in on this."

We're not going to bury the lede here: Bob Ross' hair was actually straight. Just ask his longtime business partner, Annette Kowalski, who knew Ross better than anyone — he had just gotten out of the Air Force, and was unsuccessfully trying to make a living as a painter, she says.

Singer Alessia Cara was never one for the party scene. When she expressed that sentiment in her song "Here," it instantly became a viral anti-party anthem. Cara's debut album is called Know-It-All, and it all started at a disappointing house party.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

After an action-packed chase through the dried-up LA River, The Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, rescues a kid named John Connor on his motorcycle. They're running from a cyborg dressed as a cop — an advanced prototype called the T-1000.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

A run-down bar in rural Alaska isn't any place for a kid. But when she was a child, that's where songwriter Jewel found her voice — on dingy stages at lumberjack joints.

At a bowling alley bar, The Dude, played by Jeff Bridges, sips a White Russian cocktail. The camera slowly pans over to a cowboy who orders a soft drink and offers up some wisdom:

"A wiser fella than myself once said, 'Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar, well, he eats you.' "

He's The Stranger in The Big Lebowski, played by Sam Elliott.

But before Elliott portrayed cowboys, he worked construction in Los Angeles. That's what launched his big break.

On Stockton Street, in Compton, Calif., there's a small white stucco house with a chain-link fence and an old tree out front.

There's isn't a sign or plaque in the yard, and there aren't any tour groups taking photos. There's nothing here to indicate that this house, in this quiet neighborhood, was the childhood home of two of the best athletes of all time.

Long before the U.S. Open this week, before the Nike and Gatorade sponsorships and before the stardom, a young Venus and Serena Williams were given their first tennis rackets here.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Patty Wagstaff performs incredible maneuvers in her small aerobatic airplane: rolls, loops and spins. She'll fly straight up, put the engine in idle, free-fall down, fire the engine back up and roar past crowds at air shows across the country.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

A young Ted Danson had just gotten the courage to ask his college crush out on a coffee date. The two hit it off until she abruptly told him she had to leave.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.