It Is the duty of every arts columnist to double as an over-zealous coroner, and to announce, with as little forensic evidence as possible, the death of something. The death of the novel, the death of the sitcom ... it's easy. All you have to do is think of a subject, precede it with "the death of", and you'll be quoted in other arts columns for months to come. Cries and Whispers is therefore proud to present: The Death of the Film-Star Interview.

Interviews with film stars have never been much more than an excuse to print a photograph of a good-looking famous person. What other point can there be? If you want to know about the making or the meaning of a film, speak to the director or the writer or the teaboy. Interview the star and once you've got past date of birth - usually false - height and colour of eyes, all you're left with is some gossip, and a few sentences about how strong their marriage is because they're never apart from their spouse for more than eight weeks at a time. Not that there's anything wrong with this chit-chat, but these days even that is out of the question.

On the release of LA Confidential, there was a magazine profile of Kim Basinger. The actress and the journalist were blethering away about Basinger's life and times, until, halfway through, one of the studio's publicists walked into the room, and ordered them to get back to the topic of the film. Basinger, who once enjoyed one of the most fearsome prima donna reputations in Hollywood, made no objection. She understood that the interview existed for no other reason than to publicise the movie.

Courtney Love was interviewed in every newspaper that would have her when she starred in The People Vs Larry Flynt, and each of the subsequent articles devoted more column inches to the conditions set by the omnipresent publicists than it did to anything else. Again, Love was complicit in this disinformation campaign. Although she played a stripper in the film, whenever anyone asked her about the stripping she had done in real life, she would yell that this was a rude, irrelevant question that no one would ever put to Mel Gibson. Which shows you how much she knows about journalism. Can you imagine it? Mel Gibson plays a stripper in a film, drawing on his own experience, and no one asks him about it? Courtney, journalists would ask him about nothing else - and it would be totally justifiable for them to do so.

And so to Alicia Silverstone. In the features that have accompanied her new movie, Excess Baggage, we've had to read about a sullen, tight-lipped Silverstone extinguishing any discussion of her romantic relationships with a swift "None of your business", and curtly dismissing as "inaccurate information" all reports that she had been too fat for the role of Batgirl in Batman and Robin. Not only does the latter denial contradict what B&R's director said himself, it also contradicts what anyone who was foolish enough to see that waste of celluloid will have witnessed with their own eyes.

After reading a few of these non-interviews, these production-line, the- story-is-there's-no-story advertorials, you catch a whiff of a fetid, rotting smell, and you start looking around for the cause of death. Maybe there are just lots dull film stars around these days, but I think that the relatively recent practice of locking actors in hotel rooms for weeks, and sliding some food and/or a new journalist under the door every 45 minutes, goes some way towards explaining why you'd learn more from a lonely hearts ad. As films become more and more formulised, packaged and methodically marketed, so do the interviews that go with them. And until this trend is reversed, it might be best to stick to height, date of birth, colour of eyes and a photograph.

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