Mr President, it's London on the phone

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The Independent Culture
You apply first not for a filmed interview but for a research interview. You draw up a list of very detailed questions. One of the reasons this method gets a high strike rate is people are taken aback by the level of preparation. But with Milosevic it was almost a disaster. We got the research interview reasonably easily, and lobbed him a question that we had deliberately worked out would be incredibly easy. But he couldn't convert himself from his usual position of being attacked, and was therefore incredibly defensive. He saw everything we were lobbing at him as a hand grenade.

We then spent over a year trying to get him. He clearly had hated meeting us, and it's very difficult to get round that. We got him through the sheer persistence of the series producer Norma Percy. We went for everybody around him - the information minister, the head of TV, his sidekick, his wife; if we had known his mistress we'd have gone for her. His wife, Mira Markovic, is a real power, and we went for her to try and get to him. We said, "You will tell your husband?" We hoped she would tell him, "Listen, they didn't come in and cut my throat." The other big factor was that we had got the rest: Tudjman, Izetbegovic. We were sending him things that said, "President Tudjman said that you said this, this and this at this meeting. What did you say?"

So we got his home number through his wife, and our series adviser Laura Silber got him on the phone. Milosevic didn't admit who he was, and she played along. She said, "We've heard he's basically willing, but we don't seem to be able to get hold of him properly. I don't know if you could tell him." He said, "I'd contact the information ministry tomorrow and you might hear more." We finally filmed him two months before broadcast. It was the week of the massacres in Srebrenica, the most extraordinary moment for him to be doing it.

Angus Macqueen

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