aaron harris/canadian press
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People often ask me what it’s like to be a guy whose job it is to interview celebrities and write about them and (in most cases) their films.
These sorts of questions are often raised around the whirlwind 10 days of coverage that is the Toronto International Film Festival.
While I have to admit a 15- to 20-minute interview hardly offers great insight into a person’s psyche, a time period that brief does allow an interviewer to at least walk away with an impression of his/her interview subject.
Sometimes an interviewer gets lucky. Sometimes the subject is having a bad day, a really good day, or one of those days where they want to discuss a topic they’ve rarely — or even better, never — touched in previous interviews.
Those are rare and often occur as a result of a journalist’s ability to draw out his/her subject.
But the best interviewees are the ones that pretend that every response is their first.
Bear in mind that journalists often have similar queries because they have basic information to cover in their stories. Celebrities field these questions relentlessly during press junkets, which can last for several days, in which they come face-to-face with hundreds of reporters of all shapes, sizes and skill levels.
As a guy on that beat, I can tell you that dealing with celebs and their handlers is at once surreal, exciting, frustrating, demanding, baffling, tiring, and about the most fun you can have at work before getting fired.
“But are they nice?” is a common and completely reasonable question with which I’m often forced to grapple.
Just to clarify, because this column is A Guy Thing, I’ll use all-male examples to support my opinions in case anyone thought I was being sexist or found my female interview subjects to be uninteresting.
The answer is, for the most part, yes, most actors and filmmakers are very accommodating. Even though they may hate doing press, they still try to remain patient while answering the same question for the thousandth time.
Some even do it with enthusiasm.
During an interview with Pierce Brosnan last week, the former James Bond star seemed somewhat hesitant as he answered questions about his new film Seraphim Falls — until I finally asked him if he enjoyed talking to the media.
“No, I find it tedious and boring,” he answered with trademark Brosnan bluntness. I was neither shaken, nor stirred by the response, but appreciative of a straight answer from someone very much in the public eye.
We went on to discuss the state of entertainment journalism and had an otherwise pleasant chat.
The other big question is whether I get nervous or intimidated before an interview.
I’m not the type of guy who subscribes to the never-let-them-see-you-sweat, bravado-laden mentality, which many of us espouse, yet so few of us ever realize in action.
It would be fair to say that I get anxious before speaking to anyone new because I simply don’t know what to expect. The other problem is that journalists talk and often share celebrity war stories as if they were soldiers walking off the ridge at Vimy.
In other words, you hear things and those things leave an impression.
But any smart reporter realizes that he/she is no longer a fan when they cover a beat — some never come to that realization and it’s often the professional albatross around their neck — and never let the fame of their subject circumvent their ability to ask a question.
That’s probably the toughest job I, or journalists, have.
The other is staying awake for the entirety of the TIFF experience. I’m still working on that last one.