An interview is not an interview unless someone completely loses it

If interviewees happen to become a little cross with you, it’s more fun and better copy - take these for example

Share

The celebrity interview has had a bad press lately. Not because an interviewer has teased out a shocking truth from a celebrity, but because the interviewee has been vile to his interrogator. A couple of weeks ago, snatches of a Q&A exchange at London’s Curzon cinema between Michael Hann, the Guardian journalist, and Ginger Baker, the Cream drummer, appeared online, revealing Baker growling “what a stupid question” at his interlocutor, pouring scorn on his attempts to connect with him, and behaving in a thoroughly obnoxious manner before an audience of sycophantic gigglers.

On Monday, The Times published Janice Turner’s disastrous interview with Welsh actor Rhys Ifans, revealing how he became enraged by questions about Welshness and the Leveson Inquiry, got more and more furious and finally told her to “f**k off,” adding “I wanna end this interview now. I’m bored with you. Bored, bored.” He apparently later sent flowers, his publicist citing antibiotics and bad news.

In my years of interviews, I don’t remember anybody storming out, but by God it’s a jungle out there. It’s a false relationship – two strangers meeting for an hour in a hotel room, one pretending to be delighted to meet the press, the other pretending to be fascinated by everything the celebrity says – but what you most fear isn’t fury or bombast; it’s blandness. I think with horror of the hours I spent yawning through the pre-digested, assembly-line replies of politicians’ wives, foxy-babe violinists, Luciano Benetton… If interviewees happen to become a little cross with you, it’s more fun and better copy.

There was, for instance, the time that Sir Roy Strong bit my head off for asking about his first sexual experience. The time I had a flaming row with Morgan Freeman about Simon Schama’s dismissal of Amistad as “sentimental”. The time Dame Ninette de Valois, the founder of English ballet, ticked me off for gesticulating too much and insisted that I sit on my hands or she wouldn’t answer any questions. The time I interviewed Peter Greenaway on stage at the Hay Festival and congratulated him on the brilliantly filmed, candlelit interiors of Barry Lyndon. The time I attempted to extract some words from Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys (an undertaking as likely to succeed as feeding a corpse) and, when I finally hit on a subject he wanted to talk about – his support for Phil Spector – being steered away from it by the PR lady. And, of course, the time that Ozzy Osbourne, sequestered in a recording studio in Monmouth, shambled off to the Gents and returned holding a Rambo-style assault rifle, and wearing a helmet with night-sight goggles, in order to signal that the interview was pretty much over (though, to be fair, he pretended that he was off to shoot rabbits).

These encounters didn’t, to be honest, add a great deal to the Noble Art of the Interview. But years later, they’re the moments I remember best.

Middle of the road – and proud of it

As a fully committed driver in the middle lane of motorways, I think the Government has a bloody cheek to threaten us with £100 fines. Are traffic police really going to chase motorists down the M3 to nail them for spending five minutes in the same lane? How is that a crime? Middle-laners are not careless drivers, nor negligent ones.

We are in the middle lane because we are not just accelerating, we are driving fast, something you cannot do for long in the slow lane – and cannot do in the fast lane for more than 20 seconds without having some combative, Hyundai-driving hooligan with erectile-dysfunction issues appearing from nowhere, sitting on our exhaust–pipe and filling our rear-view mirror with menace. We are the hommes moyen sensuels of drivers. We are the MOR majority. We are the squeezed middle.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star