Caffeinated Clint : Where does he get off?


As a journalist, talent manager, producer, help-hotline volunteer and whore, I meet and mix with a lot of people – largely, celebs, publicists, personal trainers and erotic masseurs. Some actors are as down-to-earth as a fallen star, others get around like they’ve just found the pirate’s treasure from “The Goonies”. I’ve sat across from all of them.

I had an email this morning from one of the producers of Richard Curtis’s “The Boat That Rocked” thanking me for such a fabulous review (apparently it’s one of the more positive ones they’ve read) and wondering when my interviews with the cast will be running. Um, “they won’t be” I responded.

Pretty much one of the only junkets I haven’t done of the past twelve months is this week’s “Boat That Rocked” tour in Melbourne. The reason why I didn’t participate can be found on page 16 of today’s Herald-Sun Newspaper :

Bill Pictured in Bad Light

British actor Bill Nighy is in town, but don’t expect to be reading too much about him. Seems old Bill is prickly about interviews.
And he[s] precious about how he wants to be photographed.
Nighy likes to be lit in certain ways for photographs.
And he likes to keep control of any pictures taking of him.
[Journalists] were told they could only ask Nighy questions about the film, the music in it and the cast.
They were also told Nighy would only allow any syndication of articles or photos from his tour.
As a result of the prime donna-like demands, some media pulled the pin on him.

Doesn’t like syndication? I’m fucked right there, my bread-and-butter is in Syndication. I file for about a dozen outlets.

Only allowed to ask questions about the film? Well shit. There goes the “Why Underworld?” question.

Apparently us internet types are known not to ‘stick to script’ – in other words, we won’t be anyone’s sock puppet – so that pretty much rules us all out of “Boat that Rocked” interviews.

I dunno about the rest of ya, but I’m not sticking to solely the movie – you can read that anywhere and everywhere. When I read an interview I want to read about the person behind the character; I want to know where they’ve been, where they’re going; I want to know what they want from their life, their career… their trip down under. And that’s how I interview. If you want a general plug for the film, print the production notes. That’d be less expensive than shelling out first-class airfare, top hotels and caviar.

Unfortunately there’s a couple of pages in every magazine I do that need filling now (originally reserved for “Boat that Rocked”) – but thank god a couple of last minute phoner opportunities have come through (“Terminator” being one of them, Fox’s “12 Rounds” being another), so one studio’s loss is another’s gain.

Look, I love Nighy as an actor – he’s great in this film, too – but he’s hardly a household name. Where does he get off making such requests? Every time I’ve interviewed Matt Damon he’s chilled, usually puffing on a cigarette (though he’s given it up now), and happy to talk about whatever and whoever. He’s about as normal a guy as you can get – and it’s a fuckin’ pleasure to talk to Damon every time he’s in the county. Same with Hugh Jackman – wonderful guy, The Rock – nice as pie, Harrison Ford – shy, but no sign of an entourage and no restrictions (yes, you can ask “Star Wars” questions if you so feel inclined), Nicolas Cage – he’s happy to talk about his hair, if you wish, or Samuel L.Jackson – heck, Sam talks about golf more than he talks about the movies he’s promoting (that must piss-off the publicists). One of my favourite interviews of the past couple of years is Hilary Swank – she actually wanted to talk about being fired from “90210” all those years ago. She even bought up her divorce. Nothing was off-limits. And I love the gal more than ever for her frankness. She was a beaut interview.

Nighy obviously hates interviews – a lot do, but it comes with the territory. Harrison Ford really hates publicity. He’s as shy as a virgin at an orgy when it comes to doing press. I remember interviewing Ford for “Firewall” a couple of years ago – he could hardly look at you while talking; he was obviously very nervous. And he’s said it quite a few times – that he’s nervous doing interviews, regardless of how many he’s given over the years. But Ford understands that he has to talk to the press if he wants their help in selling his latest movie. And he doesn’t complain about it either. He’s wonderful. Ford may be shy, but he’s open to talking about anything (I recall speaking to him about aviation a bit – a love of his) and everything. He really tries to give you what you need… and want. He doesn’t care if you syndicate the article, he has no rules how he wants to be photographed, and will be the first to tell you how silly he finds the whole ‘celebrity’ thing. He wants to be treated as a normal guy.

…Unlike Bill Nighy.

Reminds me of something that happened on Brendan Fraser’s “Mummy” tour last year. Friend Richard Stubbs, a local radio announcer here, was granted an interview with the amiable fast-talker and was instantly put off by the ‘entourage’ Fraser bought with him into the studio – publicists, bodyguards… you name it. Fraser, a blast-from-the-past only now making a comeback because he’s let go of his indy-only woody, has bodyguards? And they all need to be in the recording studio as he records his radio interview? Why does the guy need protecting? Was Stubbs going to ask a “Dudley Do Right” question? Or did he plan on actually telling him what he really thought of “The Mummy : Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”? It’s a head-scratcher.

As soon as the interview started, Stubbs asked “What’s with all these guys?” and instantly killed the interview. Good on him, I say. He’s just another media man being treated as something, someone, lesser than the guy on the other end of the microphone. One day studios, publicists and predominantly, talent, will realize how important we are in the marketing and longevity of their careers. Be interested to know whether Stubbs interviewed Nighy.

Bottom Line : Most of us journalists are here to help. We’re here to spread about the word (hopefully good) about your movie. We’re not out to attack you with a blunt instrument. And most actors realise that.

Twice last week the talent that I was interviewing thanked me for taking the time out to talk to them about their movies.

John Cena was really appreciative that I interviewed him for “12 Rounds”. Super nice guy. Big-time star of a major Twentieth Century Fox movie. Recognizes the power of the internet. Thanked me for minutes after our interview for agreeing to chat to him. And hey, it was my pleasure – he was a great guy, and an even better interviewee.

“Bottle Shock” star Rachael Taylor was “very” thankful. She said she was ecstatic that I’d take time out to talk to her, about her little movie, when “I’ve got better things to do, and bigger people to talk to than her”. I’d gladly interview Rachael anytime. She’s a wonderful actress, and an even better person. And love, the pleasure is all mine.

A few years back, Sylvester Stallone shook my hand for about 3 minutes, and said something along the same lines – that he really appreciated the media taking the time out to talk to him about his latest venture. Shit, he’s Sly Stallone – of course, we’ll talk to him! And shit, he’s a wonderful guy to boot. But Sly’s one of the guys that realizes he’s just a lucky sod whose wound up doing his dream job – a dream job that just happens to play out in the public eye. Oh, and he had just the one bodyguard – a bodyguard who sat outside the room while the interview took place. And people wonder why Sly’s still going strong? I don’t.

We’re here to help. Seriously. Bill.