TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Reporters' attempts to break the ice elicitcold shoulder from stars

There's a scene in Notting Hill in which William Thacker (Hugh

Grant) attempts to score a bit of time with Julia Roberts, who plays

Anna Scott, a famous actress, by pretending to be a journalist at a

London junket.



To maintain the ruse, he must also interview the other actors in the

film, and is forced to fill his allotted time with ridiculous and

painful on-the-fly questions. It makes for a humorous moment in the

movie, but is nowhere near as funny as some of the questions posed by

real journalists at these studio junkets.



It's a high-pressure situation for the reporters. This is their moment

to shine for the folks back home, going one-on-one with a major

star.



They know there is but five minutes in which to ask the perfect

question, one that will cause the star to respond, 'That's interesting.

Glad you asked that.'



Alas, such a question is rarely, if ever, posed. Instead, the

interviewees are bombarded with repetitive queries that cause their eyes

to glaze.



They look at their publicists like patients pleading for morphine from a

doctor. 'Please! Put me out of this misery. Now.'



Sometimes fatigue and impatience cause the stars to become giddy by the

end of the day. (Tip: If you're a journalist, try to get assigned to a

late afternoon slot. You'll be amazed at the things you'll hear around

4pm).



Knowing that stars are subjected to similar questioning for hours on

end, some intrepid reporters try to liven up the proceedings with

humor.



This is a very dangerous tactic.



I watched it backfire last week on a foreign journalist who had already

been through a nightmarish experience getting through customs. Now here

she was in the chair, somewhat flustered, about to interview one of the

biggest stars in the world. Who was not in an overly talkative mood. Was

giving short answers. Very short.



She rolled the dice and made an inappropriate remark intended as a

joke.



Thought it might lighten up the mood, cause the star to laugh. Having

guffawed appropriately, the now relaxed and jovial star would launch

into a lengthy, good-humored explanation of what attracted him to the

role.



It. Did. Not. Work.



The star's lips tightened. His eyes narrowed. He shot a quick glance

towards me and the other publicists in the room. We tensed. Was this

it?



Would he walk? Was the whole thing going to come crashing down?



Thankfully, he moved on with a 'no comment' and proceeded, but his

answers became even shorter. Much. Shorter.



Afterwards, the journalist approached me with embarrassment. 'I thought

it would ease the tension. You know, relax things.'



'Next time, maybe run it past one of us first,' I suggested. 'We might

be able to tweak your material. Fine though it may be.'



As our chagrined reporter discovered, sometimes trying to break the ice

only gets you frozen looks.



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