Bruce Willis and the farce of film promotion

Plus: John Galliano, from one catastrophe to another


It’s a nice time of year to be an actor.

The one time they get to be the centre of attention, put on fairytale clothes and talk about themselves in front of an audience of millions for a while. For the rest of the year, outside of awards season, acting is a struggle. Look at this year’s Oscar nominees. Anne Hathaway lived on lettuce for weeks in order to play scrawny prostitute Fantine in Les Misérables. Naomi Watts had to learn to act underwater in The Impossible, a film about the 2004 tsunami. “The action stuff was hard on the body, but the acting was harder. I have like 12 lines!” she said. “We quickly learned you cannot utter a word without swallowing a gallon of water.” Struggle.

Now there is a revolution afoot. The put-upon of Hollywood are revolting – not against the wonderful privilege of making one’s living from movies, nor even against the red carpets, backslapping and parties: they can stay. Instead they’re revolting against the bit where they have to step down from the Hollywood hills into the real world and persuade the paying public to go and see their work.

The insurgents’ latest hero is Bruce Willis. On The One Show to promote A Good Day to Die Hard, the actor appeared trapped in his own muffled dream sequence as he tried, unsuccessfully, to raise a yippee-ki-yay for his new film. He mumbled a commentary to a high-octane car-chase clip – “I’m in the car. Now I’m on top of some other cars... You don’t see that often” – and listlessly poked fun at the film’s name. “It’s a difficult title. It’s like ‘have a sandwich and let’s go shopping. And then Die Hard.’” Shh, Bruce, go back to sleep. The actor has since apologised for being “boring”, blaming his lack of sparkle on jet-lag.

Elsewhere, the New York website Vulture recently put together a damning, but hilarious, sequence of clips of Jeremy Renner looking like he’d rather be doing anything but promoting Hansel and Gretel. Whatever happened to smiling and jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa to sell a movie?

The truth is, actors love to hate the rigours of the publicity merry-go-round. I’ve dealt with a fair few moaners in my time including one blockbuster star – OK, OK, it was Tobey Maguire – who was so “exhausted” by a day of press in The Dorchester’s plushest suite that he insisted on conducting our entire half-hour interview with his eyes closed.

Now, increasingly, the public is getting to see the jaded truth behind the Hollywood smiles. As well as the spurt in bored/jet-lagged interviews of late, there have been some aggressively rude ones, too. Quentin Tarantino blew up at Krishnan Guru-Murthy when asked about the violence in Django Unchained. “I refuse your question. I’m not your slave and you’re not my master. You can’t make me dance to your tune. I’m not a monkey,” he raged. “I just refuse to repeat myself over and over again because  you want me to for you and your show. And  your ratings.”

John Goodman, too, took exception to probing questions about alcoholism in a newspaper interview about Argo. “This is not something I want to chat about to sell a fucking movie. You understand? I don’t know what you do. I’m sorry, I’m very tired. It seems a little cheap to me.”

The kind view would be that the stars have a point. Answering the same, at best banal, at worst intrusive questions thousands of times over in order to sell a movie they made months ago must start to pall. The cynical view would be that jet lag and a few minutes with inquisitive strangers are a small price to pay in return for living the life of an international movie star.

It might be that the new trend for grumpy public appearances is just another publicity ploy. In the age of snark, a “car crash” interview generates many more column inches and tweets per minute than a standard, nicey-nicey one. Nevertheless, Bruce and co should tread carefully. If actors can’t even pretend to be enthusiastic about a film they’ve made – when pretending is, after all, their bread and butter – then why should audiences summon up the enthusiasm to go and see it?

Relax, everyone. It’s just fashion 

Fashion can be baffling. What is a peplum? How can a belt cost that much? And so on. So it’s with due trepidation that one attempts to deconstruct John Galliano’s latest fashion statement. This week, the designer was photographed in New York sporting a long black coat and a Homburg hat over hair styled in curly sidelocks – which recalled, unmistakably and uncomfortably, traditional Hasidic Jewish attire. As Galliano’s last memorable public outing involved him hurling anti-Semitic insults in a Parisian bar, you have a look that even the most airheaded magazine would deem worthy of a red cross and a What Was He Thinking?! stamp.

Perhaps he thought it would send a message of love and respect for the Jewish people, but the effect is more Bruno-in-Jerusalem than contrite comeback. Fortunately, his publicist was able to explain what was going on in her client’s head: nothing. “Mr Galliano has worn big hats and has had long curly hair for many years. He was in designer attire from head-to-toe including a Stephen Jones hat and Yohji Yamamoto pants. In other words,” she added, “fashionable.”

Oh, it was fashionable, and the clothes were designer. This is fine. That also explains Sports Illustrated’s latest swimwear shoot which features models using exotic locals, literally, as props. In Europe, a bikini-clad beauty leans on a matador. In Africa, a desert tribesman with a spear. In Asia, an old man in a wide-brimmed hat on a raft. So we can all relax, dubious ethnic stereotyping is totally on trend right now.

Twitter: @alicevjones

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