IT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN TO A FILM JOURNALIST
Editor-at-Large JAMIE GRAHAM lifts the lid on film journalism.
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.
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.