IT SHOULDN’T HAP­PEN TO A FILM JOUR­NAL­IST

Edi­tor-at-Large JAMIE GRA­HAM lifts the lid on film journalism.

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

Jamie dis­cusses whether one should or shouldn’t ask for au­to­graphs.

Ask­ing for au­to­graphs is a big no-no in this pro­fes­sion, with PRs of­ten re­it­er­at­ing “no sig­na­tures or self­ies” to jour­nal­ists be­fore they sit down with an ac­tor or di­rec­tor. And so it is that in 22 years of meet­ing fa­mouses, in­clud­ing many of the peo­ple whom I grew up idol­is­ing, I’ve only pro­duced a Sharpie and a me­mento on a hand­ful of oc­ca­sions.

For me, the per­son has to be spe­cial, the con­di­tions cor­rect and, er, the PR nowhere in sight. I’ve never asked for a selfie, feel­ing it’s cheap. But if the in­ter­view’s gone great and a rap­port has been struck and there’s no rush be­cause I’ve spent proper time with the sub­ject rather than just ducked in and out of a ho­tel room with a queue of journos stretch­ing down the cor­ri­dor, then I might, just might, present a poster for scrib­bling.

First Flame

On the dozen or so oc­ca­sions that this has hap­pened, I’ve not once been met by a sigh, eye roll or gri­mace, and there’s al­ways been a gen­uine in­ter­est as to which film poster I’m un­rolling.

“Is that Firestarter?” squealed Drew Bar­ry­more when she caught a flicker of flames. “Oh my God, it’s al­ways E.T. or The Wed­ding Singer. I still re­mem­ber mak­ing Firestarter!” I didn’t ex­plain that her char­ac­ter was my first screen crush (it’s not weird; I was 10 at the time) and in­stead let her do the talk­ing – she joy­ously shared mem­o­ries while scratch­ing away, then care­fully rolled up the orig­i­nal one-sheet and handed it back with a hug. It wasn’t un­til I got to my ho­tel room that I saw what she’d writ­ten: “Jamie. Lots of love. Your friend, Drew.” And three lovely hearts.

Tom Cruise signed a Top Gun pic and then spent 10 min­utes dishing out hearty back­slaps while re­gal­ing me with tales of pi­lot­ing F-14s. Gary Oldman scrawled all over a Sid And Nancy poster and to this day I still have no idea what it says. Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola gladly traced his John Han­cock on an orig­i­nal and very ex­pen­sive

Il Padrino (The God­fa­ther, should your Ital­ian be rusty) poster when I met him in Rome – I’d bought it ear­lier that day hav­ing left an orig­i­nal and very ex­pen­sive Apoc­a­lypse Now poster on the plane. And Dustin Hoffman marked a lobby card for The Grad­u­ate thus: “To Jamie, we are the two most hand­some guys left on the planet. Cheers, Dustin Hoffman.” Well, he ac­tu­ally wrote “Jaime”, which kind of took the sheen off.

You signin’ For me?

Other posters I’ve had signed are Mag­no­lia (Paul Thomas An­der­son), The Thing (John Car­pen­ter) and Stand By Me (Rob Reiner, Stephen King and all of the prin­ci­pal play­ers mi­nus the sadly de­parted River Phoenix). But my favourite is Robert De Niro’s etch­ing on a Taxi Driver poster. It is, af­ter all, Robert fuck­ing De Niro. Glanc­ing at it al­ways evokes fond mem­o­ries of just how much I was cack­ing my­self.

De Niro, let’s not for­get, is the guy who did just four in­ter­views in the 1980s, and who, I quickly found out, fixes you with a hard, un­blink­ing stare as you stut­ter out each ques­tion, and then of­fers a mono­syl­labic an­swer. Ten min­utes in, I was sure this was no time to re­quest a sig­na­ture, con­vinced I’d be met with a Jake LaMotta hook or a fin­ger-gun pointed to the head à la Travis Bickle. But then he started to smile, twin­kle and chuckle. By the end of our hour, he was even talk­ing in whole sen­tences. And so I asked, re­spect­fully… only for the PR to walk in and shut it down.

“Hey, I wanna sign it,” De Niro mum­bled, grab­bing the pen to write, “To Jamie. All the very best!” He paused, and then added the cherry on top: “Bob De Niro.”

‘GARY OLDMAN SCRAWLED ALL OVER THE POSTER; TO THIS DAY I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT SAYS’

A rare glimpse in­side Jamie’s per­sonal shrine.

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