What would you do if Robert De Niro cut short your conversation with a quick, “I’m not doing this, darling,” and exited? If you’re Radio Times journalist Emma Brockes you write about it and watch your article go viral.
As unpleasant as the encounter may have been — he objected to the “negative inference” of her questions, she called him condescending — it did exactly what it was meant to do, generate buzz for De Niro’s upcoming film The Intern.
Who won? I’ll give the edge to Brockes who, when faced with a bad situation, turned De Niro’s lemons into lemonade and earned just as much press as the touchy actor.
De Niro took some blowback for his behaviour. Daily Mail columnist Piers Morgan wrote, “If I’d been her, I’d have slapped him ’round his smug little chops,” adding the Goodfellas star is “renowned as the rudest, most difficult and frankly obnoxious star to interview, possibly in the history of planet Earth.”
I think Morgan overstates his case. De Niro isn’t the worst — anyone who has ever done a movie junket knows Tommy Lee Jones is the crankiest, most soul destroying interview ever — he’s just a reticent interview, who, according to director Nancy Myers, doesn’t want “to expose himself all the time.”
De Niro isn’t alone in the chat-and-dash sweepstakes. Robert Downey Jr. and Quentin Tarantino bolted on Krishnan Guru-Murthy with the Avengers: Age of Ultron actor later calling the Channel 4 news presenter a “syphilitic parasite.” Robert Pattinson, Naomi Campbell and Russell Crowe have also done runners on the press.
So why submit to promotional interviews at all? Contractual obligation has much to do with it, but beyond that, they’re good for the movie. Daniel Radcliffe, star of Harry Potter, Horns and the upcoming Victor Frankenstein, once told me no matter how famous the actor, anyone who doesn’t get out and pump their film up to the press is making a huge mistake.
As a result everyone does them and while it’s easy to look at De Niro or Downey as spoiled brats, I’m surprised walkouts don’t happen more often.
It must get brutally dull answering the same questions over and over, particularly when they are of the “Of all your leading ladies who was the best kisser?” variety.
How bad can it get in the interview suites?
Once a talking head proudly told me she wrote new lyrics for Beyoncé’s hit song Survivor… “My name’s Beyoncé/ I’m in Goldmember/ You’re watching blah blah on blah blah blah…” and asked the superstar to sing them as a promo for her television station. If I were Beyoncé I would have exited stage left without a song on my lips.
I remember one “reporter” asking George Lucas “whether Dark Vader was a good guy or a bad guy.” If I were Lucas I would have hitched a Millennium Falcon ride out of there.
Recently I heard Tom Cruise try and answer the question, “What kind of stunt would you do to impress a girl?” If I were Cruise I would have grabbed the side of the nearest plane and jetted out of there.
As for De Niro, Brockes graciously says she has sympathy for him “because nobody wants to be there for these choreographed junket interviews.”
De Niro wasn’t quite as kind, but at least he called her “darling” and not “syphilitic parasite.”