Simon Columb on press junket interviews…
I listen to many film podcasts. When I get behind, I’ll try and desperately catch up and inevitably listen to interviews with the same guest on different shows. This means that if Tom Cruise is speaking on various podcasts, then I’ll hear Cruise speak time and again about his new film. Obviously, I’m expecting repetition. This is my film about rogues and this is my film about missions – that’s fine. I can comfortably listen to this minor conversation-filler. But I’ve also noticed a pattern.
It goes a little like this: a ‘Tell us about your role’ question leads to the actor speaking about the aforementioned role. Tell us about the film, they ask. The actor talks about the film. Then we have the more “unique” question. The interviewee has worked, at some point, with an iconic actor or director. He/she will explain how, like us, they were star-struck on meeting them and, of course, spoke briefly about the classic actor/director’s previous achievements. A similar situation when the interviewee has worked with a current trendy actor or director. He/she will say how “amazing” the current pop-person was to work with, and what an honour it was. The final minute may bring up a random ‘classic’ film, depending on the guest (e.g. “Dan Ackroyd, tell us about Ghostbusters”, “Keanu Reeves, tell us if Bill & Ted 3 is coming”) and the minutes left don’t really give an opportunity for a clear answer to the question – except for a teasing “maybe… but not really” response.
Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes the interviewer will go off track. But even the interviewee has been trained to drag the host back on point. So, “Tell us if your wife enjoyed the film?” is met with “I think all wives will enjoy the film”.
These are clearly prepared as the same interview. The same anecdotes in many cases. Historically, actors had interviews pre-recorded and sent them to regional radio stations. Presenters would then ‘pretend’ to interview Sean Connery, with his structured response. You just need to listen to the additional material on the James Bond DVDs to conduct your own interview with Connery himself. Considering how restrained actors are, surely this would save money and time in this modern era.
Ironically though, in this world of viral marketing, it is when interviews go wrong that they garner unexpected attention. The incredibly awkward situation as Cara Delevingne, rightly, is perplexed by an awful line of questioning of morning TV presenters. Or Bruce Willis, sulking when discussing his latest action film. Both brought more attention to Paper Towns and A Good Day to Die Hard then perhaps they needed.
Publicity, or agents, or studios – take the gloves off. Let them open up. If they are part of a weird occult-like group in Scientology, which they endorse publicly, then surely they have a duty to explain themselves. Robert Downey Jr., very quickly, shut down Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s line of questioning when it got uncomfortable. As did Tarantino. This is always an option if the questioning is a little off.
Alternatively, actors and filmmakers have more to talk about than how ‘great’ everyone was, and ‘what a pleasure’ it was to work with him or her. We know the obvious – the film is always ‘good’ and everyone in Hollywood is a dream boat. So, let’s talk about music or other films. What would you recommend? What games do you play? What sports do you like? There is so much more to discuss.