IT SHOULDN’T HAP­PEN TO A FILM JOUR­NAL­IST

edi­tor-at-Large Jamie gra­ham lifts the lid on film jour­nal­ism.

Total Film - - Contents -

When in­ter­views go a lit­tle bit weird…

I’m in a grump,” growls Stephen Frears as I put the re­ceiver to my ear. “I hate phone in­ter­views. I sound fool­ish. If you could see me, you’d see how clever I am. Where are you?”

“Just out­side Lon­don.

The end of the Met line.”

“Well you don’t get points for that. Come and meet me on Wed­nes­day. I’m do­ing the sound mix at Twick­en­ham Stu­dios.” Wed­nes­day…

“Hi Stephen, nice to meet–” “Why have you come all the way out here? We could have done this on the phone.”

Bal­lis­tic Meg

A change of heart? A short mem­ory? An act of mis­chievous provo­ca­tion de­liv­ered dead­pan? I’ll never know, but I do know that in­ter­views oc­ca­sion­ally throw up such curve­balls.

I don’t mean the times they go flat-out wrong; ev­ery jour­nal­ist has a night­mare tale or two, and I’ve writ­ten pre­vi­ously about the time Joel Schu­macher shouted at me for five min­utes straight and the time Sa­muel L. Jack­son walked out when I asked him who would win in a fight be­tween a lion and a croc­o­dile (long story). No, I mean the times that things get a lit­tle weird. Or sur­real. Or hard to man­age within the strictly al­lot­ted time win­dow.

For starters, there were the in­ter­views with Danny Dyer and Shia LaBeouf, nei­ther of whom made eye con­tact – the for­mer failed to look up from play­ing FIFA and the lat­ter re­fused to look down from the fea­ture­less blue sky above the Ho­tel du Cap in south­ern France. Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet both burst into tears dur­ing our chats; my con­cern was gen­uine but I’d be ly­ing if I said I wasn’t aware of the clock tick­ing down. Robert De Niro popped to the loo and flushed away 10 of our 25 des­ig­nated min­utes. Ni­co­las Roeg had zero in­ter­est in talk­ing about Don’t Look Now and in­stead in­sisted on giv­ing me lengthy re­la­tion­ship ad­vice cen­tred upon the im­por­tance of hav­ing chil­dren. And Michael Caine peered out the win­dow at a cat on the roof op­po­site, ex­press­ing con­cern as to how it would ever get back down from such a height. I pointed out that it was, in fact, an owl – and a weather vane.

Things got es­pe­cially weird when I in­ter­viewed Meg Ryan the day af­ter her in­fa­mous blow-up on Parkin­son in 2007. Dis­in­ter­ested and dis­dain­ful, she sneered out a suc­ces­sion of mono­syl­labic replies un­til we got on to Top Gun and I told her it was a film I watched on spin-cy­cle in my teens. “HIIIIIGHWAY TO THE... DAN­GER ZONE... DAN­GER ZONE!” she bel­lowed, and then reprised her char­ac­ter par­ty­ing with Goose by play­ing air piano and belt­ing out the whole of Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘Great Balls Of Fire’. For my part, I was just de­lighted she was string­ing words to­gether.

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Any rogue be­hav­iour dur­ing in­ter­views seems es­pe­cially odd be­cause they’re al­ways air-packed into such a tried-and-tested, reg­u­lated for­mat, with jour­nal­ists tak­ing turns to en­ter a ho­tel suite, shake hands, ask much the same ques­tions, get much the same an­swers, shake hands, leave.

If the zip bursts open to al­low any­thing to spring loose, it feels seis­mic. This week, how­ever, I faced per­haps my most dan­ger­ous curve­ball yet, when a di­rec­tor ex­ited our phone chat by wish­ing me “lots of love”. She was new to the game, warm and un­af­fected, and her lovely, un­think­ing sign-off made me freeze. Sec­onds crawled by, and fi­nally I felt I had to say some­thing, and that some­thing could only be what I can’t even say to my mum when she phones on Sun­days. “Lots of love,” I par­roted, and quickly hung up.

Now that was weird.

Jamie will re­turn next is­sue… For more mis­ad­ven­tures, fol­low: @jamie_­gra­ham9 on Twit­ter.

‘Danny Dyer faileD To look up from play­ing fifa Through­ouT The in­Ter­view’

Dyer con­tem­plates ac­knowl­edg­ing Jamie’s pres­ence…

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