As publicists continue to maintain the upper hand in a tug of war with the entertainment media over celebrity access and control, resentment toward the former by the latter has become increasingly evident. To wit, any star viewed as not being under the thumb of a publicist is championed by the press as a heroic free spirit.
In a nod to Independence Day, the July issue of Vanity Fair heralds an actor on its cover, rising star Colin Farrell, for breaking free from the yoke of publicists.
With flacks having replaced lawyers and corporate raiders as the favored villains of the new millennium (and you thought you'd heard the last of that phrase, didn't you?), Farrell is toasted as the Boston Tea Party of celebrities for tossing conventional PR wisdom aside like so much Lipton into the harbor.
(I was speaking of the tea, not the obsequious host of Inside the Actors Studio. Although, since we're already throwing things overboard ...)
While there's no doubt Farrell exercises a copious amount of free will, and uses language that extends the boundaries of "colorful, don't be so sure that some of this stuff doesn't fit neatly into the branding designs of his publicist. She's smart and experienced enough to know Farrell's self-deprecating Irish rambunctiousness might be a welcome change for audiences tired of Hollywood's insular and foppish outcrop of young actors.
The Farrell Vanity Fair cover reads, "Not Programmed by Publicists, but it was certainly a publicist (personal or with the studio) who pitched and orchestrated the story. And possibly, but not likely, a publicist may have even approved, or at least advised, which photographer and writer were assigned to the story. While this is not an uncommon practice at some publications, I don't know that it happens, or would be admitted to happening, at VF. They pride themselves on not sucking up to the Hollywood elite - at least until they want them to attend their annual Oscar bash.
Then it's puckered lips to the max.
One of the things I found most interesting about the article is the contrast drawn between the unbridled Farrell and the tightly controlled Tom Cruise, whom Farrell stars with in Minority Report. Cruise, whose PR persona has been carefully, and some would say religiously, guarded by Pat Kingsley, contributed only a quote to the story, rather than be interviewed. In his own interviews, Cruise chooses his words carefully and skillfully, and has become expert in issuing equivocal responses. Farrell, on the other hand, is full-speed, off-the-cuff, seat-of-his-pants candor. With Cruise turning 40 this week, his mantle as the leading young leading man will soon be passed on to a new candidate, perhaps the 25-year-old Farrell.
Sure, he may end up being a bit more difficult to PR-manage than Cruise, but he will have no problem answering James Lipton's popular query: What is your favorite curse word?