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
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
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
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
Knowing that stars are subjected to similar questioning for hours on
end, some intrepid reporters try to liven up the proceedings with
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
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
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
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.