Hollywood Stars: Observations from a Film Critic
Which celebrity would you most like to meet?
During the course of my career as a film critic, I interviewed more than a hundred celebrities. While very few actually came out and said something either controversial or shocking, many of them revealed unusual details of themselves through their behavior. However, occasionally there was a bombshell or two. Never before have I printed this information. As a disclaimer, I should say that these observations are my own, as are the recollections of the conversations I had. I wouldn't expect any of the stars mentioned to confirm or deny any of what I write, but it's all true to my memory of those interactions.
Another point worth noting: most of these people are trained entertainers. No matter where they are, they are usually aware that they are playing to an audience. This can make it difficult to recognize any truth in some of these situations since you're not likely to be aware that they may be choosing to reveal or not reveal something or to even play the character of themselves rather than show the real person. Keep that in mind while reading my observations and make your own decisions.
I interviewed Steve Martin on a junket in Orlando for the release of "Father of the Bride". It was a round table interview in a large room and included other stars from the movie like Martin Short and Kimberly Williams. Martin, who's known for wild and zany comedic side, could not have been less interested in the whole process and was beyond boring, bordering on catatonic. Now, Martin is a very intelligent man, there was no question about that, but my impression was that he hated the whole process of selling the movie and felt no obligation to it. He deferred entirely to Martin Short who was hamming it up the entire time and playing the room.
That being said, I know a screenwriter who wrote a screenplay that Martin was considering. He invited her over to his house and played his banjo and was apparently very nice, so it's pretty clear that Martin has one face for the press and another for private. This is a characteristic of a lot of actors. They never reveal their real selves.
I can't remember why I was interviewing Dolly Parton. She might have been in a movie or simply appearing in a show. The important part of the whole interviewing process, I thought, was that the people in the room were specifically from college newspapers. I presume Parton knew this. So, there was me and two others in the room. For those who might not know, Parton is extremely short. She is a very tiny lady with one notable exception to her anatomy. Now, I thought it was extremely interesting, and a little bit creepy, that Parton's chosen attire was a very low-cut blouse. This, coupled with the fact that she leaned over during most of the interview, made it virtually impossible not to be distracted by her cleavage and how abnormally large it was compared to the rest of her body. Why wear this particular clothing, I thought? You're doing interviews and you're doing interviews with, what you should assume, are college-aged kids. But no, this is simply such a big part of who Parton is, she couldn't really dress otherwise.
Jamie Lee Curtis
I interviewed Jamie Lee Curtis while in Los Angeles on a junket for the movie "Blue Steel", which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who would later go on to win the Oscar for "The Hurt Locker". Curtis seemed very straight-forward and not particularly concerned about anything she said. I asked her about nudity she had done in the past and how she felt about it, particularly in a movie like "Trading Places" where it seemed the point of the scene was to show off her boobs. Curtis accepted the question as it was intended and said that although she didn't regret anything she had done in her career, she would never do anything like that again (and I believe she never has!). I thought that was a very telling comment.
I interviewed Julianne Moore for the movie "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle".
While she didn't divulge anything revelatory, I specifically remember how ridiculously small and thin she was. Her wrists were like sticks and she just looked so fragile. Most people don't realize how small many celebrities are. Julianne Moore is one of them.
The interview occurred long before anybody knew who Julianne Moore was. I've been fortunate to conduct a few of these types of interviews. Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh were two others that came to mind. One interesting thing about interviewing celebrities that aren't yet famous is that they are often more willing to open themselves up, but as they become more well known, they become very careful with what they say.
Rebecca De Mornay
I asked De Mornay a very similar question to the one I asked Jamie Lee Curtis during a junket for "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle". While Curtis' answer was intelligent, informed, and insightful, De Mornay's answer was anything but. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to call her stupid because stars are pounded with questions for hours on end at these things and after awhile, they probably become numb. That being said, I wasn't impressed with De Mornay at all.
Guillermo Del Toro
I interviewed the director of "Hellboy" for a much earlier project called "Mimic", which I didn't really like. Obviously, at the time, Del Toro wasn't known very well, though he had made a movie in Mexico called "Cronos" that was very well-received. Although I didn't like his movie, Del Toro blew me away with his generosity. Among other things he handed me his personal diary, which was filled with drawings and ideas and looked like something Da Vinci would have produced. It was instantly obvious how creative he was and how successful he might become. The one funny thing he told me was that he was offered the chance to direct "Alien 4" but turned it down because he didn't want to direct a sequel and not have the creativity he might have on an original, which is pretty funny now since he directed "Blade 2" shortly thereafter.
The director of "Brazil" and former member of "Monty Python" doesn't have any shocking secrets other than he is an incredibly generous person. Although I am a fan of Gilliam, I am not nearly as big a fan as a good friend of mine, who might be Gilliam's biggest fan. While at the Telluride Film Festival I decided to try to surprise this friend by arranging for him to sit down with Gilliam one-on-one. Now, this sort of thing would normally sound crazy to most famous people, so I'm not sure what I thought was going to happen, but I approached Gilliam after a movie screening and told him the story of my friend, who was responsible for first screening the uncut version of "Brazil" in the U.S. Gilliam listened politely and then agreed to show up to a particular spot the next day. I figured the odds he would actually show up were minimal, but I told me friend and he was ecstatic. Well, Gilliam not only showed up, but showed up early and then spent about an hour talking with my friend. I have the pictures to prove it. The hilarious part of this story is that Salman Rushdie showed up right as we were taking the picture, but we didn't let him in. Incidentally, Rushdie has a wicked sense of humor.
I interviewed Kate Winslet when she was on a tour for "Heavenly Creatures", so way before she was a major star and anybody barely knew her name. At the time, she was an overly-energetic 19-year-old who couldn't stop talking. I don't remember what question I asked at the time - perhaps something about the pressures of being an actress - but her response was shocking. Winslet basically said that she had had some bad experiences already, which included being assaulted on the set of one of the television shows she did prior to "Heavenly Creatures". She didn't elaborate and I suspect if somebody asked her today she might deny it, but clearly something bad happened to her.
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