So we’ve had the best and the worst of 2008. Now for the most
awkward. And that will be the last list from 2008. From me, anyway.
Never the most comfortable person in a high profile social
situation, I have had my share of gaffes when interviewing celebrities. Some of
them in the past, such as with Billy Crystal, James Caan and Shirley MacLaine,
have come close to ending in serious injury, if not death.
The awkward interviews this year, though, have been not been
quite as excruciating, due no doubt to hard-learned lessons over the year. But
memories of them still wake me up at night.
Here are the top five.
1. Ari Folman, director of “Waltz With Bashir”
If you’re going to talk with a prickly Israeli director tired of
answering question as about his movie, it’s best not to ring him up at home
after midnight. It wasn’t my fault that the publicists kept delaying the call
and there is a six hour time difference in Tel Aviv, but our chat rarely
recovered after this chilly opening:
PK: [jokingly] Well, they’ve got you working late tonight!
AF: [unamused] Yeah, but I hope it won’t take long. It’s quarter
to one here.
Maybe I should have told him I put his film at the top of my ten
best list at the beginning of the interview, and not at the end.
Charlie Kaufman, director of “Synecdoche, New York.”
And everthing had been going so well up to this point:
PK: Has anyone brought up the “M” word with regards to the women
in the movie?
CK: The “M” word...?
CK: Oh. Um, god, I mean, you know, the one place I’ve heard that
is this guy who interviewed me for “Vice Magazine” said that he saw it with a
friend who felt that it was misogynistic and I responded to that, because I was
really surprised, you know. I..,the response that I seem to get when people
respond to the movie, is kind of the opposite of that, you know, people
appreciate that I’ve written characters for women to play, as opposed to
eye-candy, or...I mean that’s the only place I’ve heard it. I don’t know...is
that something you think? It’s misogynistic?
PK: Some of the women are negative portraits in some ways.
CK: Well, first of all, I don’t agree with that, but second of
all, I don’t think negative portrait, and I don’t know what that means so you’d
have to clarify it, but I don’t think that portraying somebody with
characteristics that aren’t necessarily ideal, is misogyny. I mean I do that
with male characters, too. I mean, I’m trying to write human beings, so why is
PK: Good point.
[and not the last, as CK continues to defend his film against the
charge of misogyny]
PK: So, let’s move on. Do you record your dreams?
CK: No. I often think I should and often kind of get a book and
never do it.
PK: It would seem that a lot of your images and ideas come
CK: They don’t, but I was thinking about dreams when I tried to
come up with these ideas. The idea of dreams was a basis for a lot of the
imagery and the logic in the movie. But they didn’t come directly from dreams.
So I don’t know....I’m still stuck on the misogyny. It’s just a weird thing,
it’s like a weird thing. I think people maybe confuse misogyny with I don’t
Jonathan Levine and Olivia Thirlby, director of and actress in
“The Wackness” [The guy on the left is the actor, Josh Peck. He wasn't interviewed, but he probably would have been annoyed, too.]
Being a slow learner, I sabotage another interview that’s been
going well with the same question:
PK: The film seemed to be a little misogynistic.
OT: People keep saying that.
JL: Oh my god, really? I haven’t heard it. No one said it to me.
Here’s the thing, I can neither confirm or deny that. There are parts of me
that potentially have that and I would probably like to work on those parts. I
don’t claim to be a perfect person, but I also don’t want to censor myself to
the point where I’m, I think if you start censoring the bad traits of your
personality, the character overall or the personality of the film overall is
undermined. I certainly hope that’s not the case. I don’t think my girlfriend
thinks that’s the case.
OT: I certainly don’t think it’s the case
JL: ... I don’t know. Now I feel like maybe I’m a dick.
OT: No. You’re not. You’re not a dick. If I may, I have a comment
on this. I’m really sensitive to things that I think are misogynistic because I
think that it comes out by accident a lot and I don’t think this film is
whatsoever because even though the two main characters are male and thus given
to discussing women and sex in a very frank and male way. I think that the
females in the film, I don’t think that it’s misogynistic to depict a female
who can use her feminine wiles and is confident and is sexual. I think the
other way around.
Marisa Tomei, actress in “The Wrestler.”
Tomei’s interview alone could include the top five moments of the
year. (Here’s the video).
My only excuse is that I had already done two other interviews the same day. Plus I was wasted on cold
medicine. And I’m a misogynist. This particular awkward moment might be most
apt because Tomei just got nominated for Best Supporting actress again.
PK: [high as a kite and oblivious] Is there a curse with the Best Supporting
actress Oscar? [Tomei won it in 1992 for “My Cousin Vinny”]
MT: [flustered] I don't know, I'm still in this business 20 years
later. I feel pretty lucky.
PK: [Eyes rolling back into his head] It was a little rocky after
you got it though, wasn't it?
MT: [incredulous] No, I just wanted to do a lot of theater. What
was so rocky about it? I did like a huge movie, “Only You,” and then I did “The
PK: [looking for a high ledge to jump off of] Well, those were a
few years later, weren't they?
MT: [Dialing 911] No, they were right after.
PK: [lapsing into unconsciousness] Maybe I’m misinterpreting your
Darren Aronofsky, director of “The Wrestler” [Mickey Rourke, on the left, did not participate, If he did, odds are he would have killed me.]
Actually, the breakdown that was the Tomei interview might have
started in the Aronofsky interview I conducted just before. I thought I would
impress the guy, a Harvard grad after all, with my erudition by springing a
copy of “The Barthes Reader” and discussing the essays on striptease and
wrestling in it.
PK: [referring to wrestling and stripping] They’re both
objectifications of the body for commerical, spectacle purposes. One's an
objectification of suffering and the other one's of pleasure. There's two great
essays in this about that [hands him the book]. I'm sure you’ve read them and
that’s what inspired you.
DA: [hands back the book] No, I never read them.