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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A still from the BBC's new rap about the outbreak of WW1  

Why give the young such a bad rap?

David Lister
Israeli army soldiers take their positions  

Errors and Omissions: Some news reports don’t quite hit the right target

Guy Keleny
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice