The art of the car window interview

You've run the gauntlet of the press and are safe inside your Merc, right? Wrong. For today's celebrities, Luke Blackall offers his advice

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The Independent Online

For the modern-day figure in the public eye, it's a regular occurrence. You get into your expensive, secure car with its tinted windows, thinking that it offers you protection from the world. But as you're leaving the driveway, out spring the photographers and press. You can look away, knowing that neither their flash, nor your silence are likely to be flattering, or you can stop and speak to them through the car window.

The relationship between celebrities, the press and cars was brought into sharper focus yesterday at the Leveson enquiry. Darryn Lyons, the carefully sculpted owner of Big Pictures paparazzi agency, was asked about the "crash bang wallop car technique" he learned as a junior photographer, which were the aggressive tactics he first used to try to get pictures of the Duchess of York arriving at hospital to give birth.

By coindidence, at the exact moment Lyons was speaking, Harry Redknapp was giving another of his famous car interviews, during which he made the bold claim that he had "never even thought" about managing the England football team.

But despite this, the carside chat still showed a charm and bonhomie with the reporters that many of his peers have never been able to achieve. For the Tottenham manager has the practice down to a fine art. Turning what may seem an intrusion into a PR exercise, Redknapp invariably comes out of these encounters looking good in an "always-a-word-for-everyone" type way. Plus, he has a supply of quips so ready, you assume he keeps them in the glove box next to the Werther's.

The car window interview is made for football players and managers, who can be found most days driving to and from the training ground and who often love the glare of the flashbulb. Some might argue that had outgoing England manager Fabio Capello given it a go more often, the nation might have had greater affection for him. But public figures from all walks treat the car intrusion differently. An MP leaving their home to vote can use the car moment to their advantage, party boys such as Robbie Williams or a Rhys Ifans might give the paps a piece of their mind, while David Beckham will choose to sit in stony silence. Who can forget Rupert Murdoch shot through the window in his exercise gear? (Not a good look).

But in the age when video interviewers can often be spotted alongside paparazzi, the savviest of stars (see Tom Cruise and Simon Cowell) know that they have to be on their best behaviour, engaging the photographers and waving at fans.

The choice of car is all important too. With his four-wheel drive, Redknapp has the right vehicle for it, allowing him to look down to the interviewer and camera in an avuncular way.

Those in low-riding sports cars run the risk of looking like school children explaining themselves to a teacher and those with drivers (say, government ministers) struggle to achieve any semblance of humility.

However, the whole concept was turned on its head recently by Mitch Winehouse, who as a (albeit minor) celebrity, interviewed other stars while he drove them around in his London cab, all as they were filmed for Living TV's online channel.

It all makes Redknapp's carside chats look positively dated.