Robert Pattinson's appearance on The Daily Show on Monday was the Twilight actor's first interview since his very public split with Kristen Stewart. Host Jon Stewart's half-attempts to draw sound bites out of him involved pulling out a couple of tubs of ice cream and trying to engage in a "girly chat". As Pattinson gamefully deflected the questions, he said that he wished he had hired a publicist to tell him how to handle the situation.
He's right. The post-breakup interview (PBI) is an art form. Usually these things are more planned, well timed. And while stars may be reluctant to do it, the PBI can help them to direct the narrative of the soap opera often going on in the celebrity press. After Jennifer Aniston divorced Brad Pitt, she gave an interview with Vanity Fair, full of emotion, which helped build the image of the woman wronged. The same magazine also helped draw out Demi Moore's thoughts after Ashton Kutcher was accused of infidelity, where she portrayed herself as frail: "What scares me is that I'm going to ultimately find out at the end of my life that I'm really not lovable."
The one who gets in first is often the one who has been wronged, but, if not, it is a chance to try to drag public sympathy to your side. Christina Aguilera, who had been blamed for the end of her marriage to Jordan Bratman, attempted this with an appearance on US TV. She portrayed herself as an exhausted parent – "more power to the single mums out there" – and spent much of the interview talking about (and showing pictures of) her son.
Elsewhere, the implausibly famous reality-show person Kim Kardashian went out on the offensive after her 72-day marriage came to an end, insisting the relationship wasn't just for the benefit of her TV show. But it's important to remember, the PBI is never just for the benefit of the audience.