Friday, December 12, 2008

Tangling with Snape

Last week I covered a junket for Nobel Son, a little Guy Ritchie-esque black comedy/thriller by this husband and wife DIY indie writing/directing team. Seemed like it wouldn't be very exciting, but that was wrong.

#1 The junket was not at a hotel like usual, but instead in some sort of a soundstage/hanger at the Culver City Studios. It was an uncommonly cold/foggy day (hello! It's not January, people!), and since the giant warehouse doors and loading bays of the thing were open, it was basically freezing in there. There wasn't much food (normally they ply us with food), and one of the roundtables was in this trailer-like room with a washing machine in it. This was no Four Seasons, indeed.

#2 During one of the interviews (with Bill Pullman), the background noise was ridiculous. There were giant trucks rumbling around the lot, and they were basically pulling right up in front of us, parking, and then making an ungodly racket. Bill Pullman would have to yell to answer our questions. We were all laughing. RIDICULOUS.

#3 Interviewees: Randy Miller, Jody Savin, Danny DeVito, Bill Pullman, Eliza Dushku, Bryan Greenberg, and Alan Rickman.

A. (filmmakers) Randy Miller & wife Jody Savin: normal, boring except for the revelation that a lot of the evil father (Alan Rickman) character was based on his real-life dad. Now that was one for Freud.

B. Danny DeVito: everybit as miniscule-ly tiny as you think. He was wearing giant bifocals and was kitted out in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia wear (baseball cap, jacket). He was very sweet, kept forgetting what he was talking about, and reminded me of every youngish Italian grandpa I ever met.

C. Eliza Dushku & Bryan Greenberg: the stars. Dushku is kind of nuts. She is high energy/party girl/fun/scary and Greenberg looks so much like every Jewish TKE brother I ever met that I honestly felt like I must have seen him in something before, but upon checking his IMDB profile discovered that I haven't, but obviously did go to one too many frat parties in my day.

D. Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman: i.e., the men who are exactly how you would imagine them to be.

Pullman is the nicest, most pleasant man on earth. He was worried about us being cold, and was trying to get a fellow journo to borrow his jacket. He gave great, long answers, seemed happy to be there (even when telling us that his part was small enough that he wasn't sure why they really needed him at the junket), etc. Just a truly pleasant guy. He also started making up outlandish funny stories as to what the noises were going on in the background were. The truck sounded like it dropped a car and he started claiming it was transporting an elephant, etc.

Rickman, however, is just as eccentric as you'd expect. Wearing the perfectly in place theatreman scarf, purring in his upperclass accent, giving very terse answers (i.e., i have no interest in being here and am not going to go out of my way to help you by being chatty) and most of all, interestingly, LOVING putting people off kilter with his demeanor.

We asked him about playing bad characters (e.g. Snape, Sherrif of Nottingham, every one he has ever played) and he said that he doesn't always play bad characters. That in fact he plays way more nice ones and 'doesn't undertstand' that question. I decided I wasn't going to let him get away with that and pressed him. He said would you like me to list them? I said, No. He thought he'd be fun and try to trap me, 'Is Snape BAD?' but lo and behold I have read all the Harry Potters (SPOILER ALERT), so I was able to say well, ultimately he is not, but he sure as shit is unlikeable all the way. Now some of the others at my table are starting to titter nervously because they think Rickman is going to eat me alive and that I must be nervous, too. But I'm not nervous because I can see his little smirk and hear it in his voice and know that he is just having a ball trying to fuck with me, and probably having more of a ball because I'm not scared, so we're just playing slightly antagonistically.

I don't blink and he actually gives somewhat of a real answer, but now you know: If You Ask Alan Rickman About Playing Bad Guys, He Is Going To Give You Shit--probably because he gets that question constantly and probably because he might even bring more of an edge to a character than is even written into it because of just how he comes off/who he is. Or not. Welcome to my dime store psychology.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Adam Sandler is a human

Last year I covered Reign Over Me, which, if you don't know, is a really good, really heavy post 9/11 drama with Adam Sandler playing the lead role about a guy who lost his family and has severe PTSD. Indeed, not your standard Sandler flick.

The junket was a press conference with him, director Mike Binder (who I used to love in the HBO series Mind of the Married Man), Jada Pinkett Smith (Mrs. Will!), Liv Tyler, and Don Cheadle. What I remember most about this press conference was that Adam Sandler seemed painfully shy, which, needless to say, isn't what you expect from a professional comedian--let alone one whose bread and butter is really base meathead potty humor.

Regardless, he was very quiet, and seemed almost in pain when he had to answer at all. I have a friend who used to be an assistant in the Sandler posse and he says that is de rigeur. And also that Sandler isn't very into his more serious roles; he much prefers his goofy comedies.

Much more exciting was actually Don Cheadle, who, for some odd reason I thought was British, but is actually A. from Kansas City and B. hilarious. Also more exciting was when one of the other particularly crazy junketeers started yammering at Liv Tyler after the junket was over as we all waited for the elevator about how much she loved her dress, and then actually reached into Liv Tyler's dress to check out the label when Liv said she didn't know. Nice.

ANYHOW, so yesterday I covered the junket for Bedtime Stories, a giant new Disney schmaltz-fest that I do not recommend seeing unless you are five/have a five-year-old whom you enjoy watching have fun while you are bored shitless. Sandler headlined the movie, so I went in to the press conference prepared for the silent shy Sandler shtick.

Turns out he was chatty, happy, and jokey the whole time--nothing like the introverted, grave guy who was at the Reign Over Me junket last year. Given, insane British comedian Russell brand gave him a run for his money joke/attention-wise this time, but nonetheless, it was basically like Sandler was a whole different person.

Turns out celebrities have moods and lives and sometimes don't suck it up and tap dance even if they have to be in front of the press. Either that or he's on really good anti-depressants and he wasn't before. Who knew?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back in the saddle again

You may have noticed that there are a great deal of 'last year I went to this junket posts' and not so many 'this week I covered' posts. This is because a few months ago I was laid off from my main dayjob in junketville as my poorly managed company started its long-predicted decline 2 years after starting up.

In the meantime, I have been on somewhat of a hiatus from the junket world--poorly timed, given I had just launched this blog. Mostly, I have been holing up in my basement and working on scripts of my own, and taking the odd piece of junkety work that fell my way without my having to do anything to track it down myself.

Well, like all good phoenixes, it is time I must rise again, hopefully this time in the guise of a full-time freelance junket-ite. We'll see how that goes; I'm still more threat than action on that front. There are just only so many hours in the day, and mine are still primarily devoted to purging my soul of all the pet projects that have been quietly simmering away on my neverending range of back burners. But still, you can (hopefully) expect to see a few more contemporary junket discussions cropping up from here on out.

To that end, I give you: The Reader. I was excited to take this one because I read the book (it was on Oprah's book club--Version 1.0--and I long ago realized I needed to get over my gut instinct to hate on her book club as I was forced to admit that she picks good books). The book was decent--not my favorite of her selections, but I am blaming that on the fact that it was translated from German and somehow I think I have trouble really connecting to the emotional content in translated books. Blah blah blah blah.

ANYHOOT. So, The Reader was adapted by David Hare and directed by Stephen Daldry, i.e., the same team that adapted and directed The Hours. Not surprisingly, it was beautiful and very well done. Lots of critics sniffling throughout the screening, although I was oddly stone cold--likely because I a. read the book and knew the story already (see above) b. am very familiar with the subject matter (post-Nazi German guilt, amongst other things) and am oddly desensitized to anything that has anything remotely to do with the Holocaust thanks to enough years of Hebrew school to break the spirit of a far more religious person than myself and c. am a heartless shrew.

The leads are played by Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, but very unfortunately neither of them did the junket. Instead, Daldry and the other lead, a new young German dude named David Kross (I know, I know, I wanted it to be Tobias Funke, too, but Kross is no anal-rapist, just a twee little German teen). They were late so they were paired instead of separate as they were supposed to be, which is probably just as well as Kross isn't confident enough in his English (it honestly was terrific, but he was I think nervous enough to only give short answers) so Daldry did most of the talking.

I then had a 1:1 with Daldry. He wanted to go out on the patio so he could smoke a cigarette. He's a prototypically cute mid-40s British director type, i.e. very not caught up with himself despite the fact that his main credits to date are Billy Elliot and The Hours and everyone thinks he is a king of emotional dramas. I probed him on his mentioning that he had debated which way he wanted to go with the ending, out of purely personal reasons because I am having issues deciding on which way to go with the ending of something I am writing right now. Mostly the interview was boring and fine and normal, the most exciting part being that he laughed when I told him that I had sympathy for a Nazi character--and I'm Jewish (always a killer punchline).

Also, for you Michael Chabon fans out there, there is still no movement on his adaptation of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Says Daldry: it's still in limbo due to bullshit studio politics. But one never knows what kind of boost it might get once this one comes out, as this one will surely get good reviews and maybe even some Oscar buzz (although for various more political reasons Winslet is likely going to get a bigger push for Revolutionary Road and obviously powers that be don't particularly want her up against herself. But perhaps her really spectacular performance will overwhelm. Also, he said Chabon did a great script for Kavalier & Clay, so cross your fingers. Not that I liked that book, because I didn't.

The most exciting part of this junket? Honestly, since it's been a few months since I've been there, I met new people. Two power-chicks in fact. Often there are some serious characters at the junket circuit, and these two women were pretty cool. So, I'm psyched. Now go see The Reader when it opens (limited) next week. The end.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dark Week

Hey StarEffers,

I'm heading out for Thanksgiving, so we're going dark this week. That is, unless I get inspired to reminisce while I'm away. And, you never know with me, that may just well happen. In any event, have a happy Turkey time knowing that more celeb run-ins await you upon my return. Gobble Gobble.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My own personal Office episode

One of my early on-camera interviews was for The Last Mimzy, which was a whatever blah blah family sci-fi movie. Just fine, not amazing, not terrible. There was a lot of hullaballoo at work about whether or not we should do TV interviews (i.e. on camera interviews for the web) since the TV station did their own and we could theoretically repurpose them. The flip side is if you do an interview for TV you are looking for sound bites; if you are doing one for the web, you are looking for a solid 4-minute conversation with a thru line.

I can see both sides of it, but the truth is, I loved doing on-camera interviews. You go in to the little room (it's just a hotel room that they have set up), they announce you, the talent looks up at you from under the lights and the silly set up while they are probably getting their make up on, you say hi and shake their hand, you sit down and you make small talk for the 60 seconds it takes for them to set up your mic and tape.

Then you have (usually) 4 minutes to probe said talent with your amaazing questions. Either someone will tap you on the shoulder when you have, like, a minute left, or else someone will dance around and flash you signs behind the talent. Then you hit them with the desperate scoop questions and then you get tapped again/the production people dance around more and it's time to wrap up. The poor talent is stuck in this room doing this for hours on end. Every five minutes a new person, 'Hello, I'm Frank, Hot in here under these lights, heh heh, I'm a big fan, So, what made you decide to do this movie?' Usually the talent is pretty nice; I mean, it's not like you don't know you're signing up to do the press tour, so best to put on the best face and truck through. Also, I like to pretend I'm the only person to ever ask these probing questions though; otherwise I'd go nuts.

The best is when the talent is excited to talk about something or just doesn't shut up or tells you to ask them another question or something at the end of the 4 minute mark. Then the production people get all pissed, but seriously, if Joel Schumacher is telling me he wants to give me scoop on something, the production people can deal. Anyhoot.

So, on Mimzy I got to talk to Bob Shaye, who was the director (and also the head of the now absorbed into Warner Bros, New Line studio). He seemed mostly old and nice enough. Then I interviewed Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson together. It was hard not to coo all over Hutton because Ordinary People is one of my favorite movies ever and had a big impact on my life. Okay, so maybe I did coo all over him a little, and maybe he didn't mind that much.

During the on-camera part, however, I asked him about an upcoming project (the favorite last question for scoop) - IMDB said he was in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (the David Foster Wallace story that was adapted and directed by John Krasinski from The Office). He seemed happy enough to discuss it, but then when I asked if he was one of the Hideous Men he gave me a blank stare of horror. As the movie still hasn't been released, I still to this day do not know what the faux pas was. But so much for Timothy Hutton's and my burgeoning love affair.

Finally, and most exciting of all, I got to talk to Rainn Wilson--i.e. Dwight Schrute from The Office. Now THAT was fun. First, he's not precious at all, so the small talk was v easy. Plus, he'd grown up on the North Shore of Chicago. Translation: he went to New Trier (high school), where a lot of my friends went. So we covered that ground. And he liked my necklace, which he was very excited to discover my mother in law gave me (ah, the chance at a mother in law joke, thwarted because mine is awesome).

The interview went great; he totally dug me. And when I asked him how Dwight Schrute would have reacted in the Mimzy situation, he clearly got very excited and actually slipped into Dwight character for a second to dream up the answer to that. In short, Rainn was a cool dude. Not a bad day. Not at all.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Funny Men

This week I had a phoner with Seth Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, because I'm writing their profile in a special comedy issue of Big Fancy Trade Magazine. I have interviewed Rogen before--last year at the junket for Knocked Up, so I knew he was a really nice, super humble guy who is very down to earth and obviously just really grateful to have his job.

This time was much the same, except for the fact that at Knocked Up it was a press conference, so there were lots of people (but it was his first big movie that he was headlining, so obviously he was nervous and that was a big deal). This time it was a phoner, so I had the two gentlemen all to myself. The interesting thing for me was that because I was representing Big Fancy Trade Magazine, I could actually hear a little bit of nervousness and gratitude in their voices--lots of nervous laughter, which is pretty funny in Rogen's big booming hearty laugh.

In my head it was like, I know this is a big deal for you guys, but I'm just a marginally employed freelance writer laying on my cat-spray-scented sofa and hoping my dog doesn't bark while I ask you questions, so don't stress. But it was obviously a big deal for them. At one point, Seth even said my name, indicating that he had gone to the point of remembering the name of the Big Fancy Trade Mag reporter who was interviewing him. And I sufficiently felt fancy.

The thing is, I know 'talent' can be nervous when being interviewed also because they can't necessarily trust the journo to write nice things about them. The thing for me is, though, that I'm not interested in writing bad stuff. In fact, if they start mouthing off about something, I start cringing inside, like, oh, shit, don't do this! Don't make me have to decide whether to print this!

I am essentially the anti-go-for-the-throat journo. I just want them to be nice and to write something nice about them. Then again, I will completly flay the shit out of their movie if it's bad, so there is that. I'm just not interested in doing it to them personally.

So anyhow, Seth and Evan were lovely and funny and nice to talk to. And in case you're wondering, when they write, one of them sits in the chair and types and the other paces around and yells stuff out or whatever. Evidently one of the chairs in Seth Rogen's office is broken, so now the deal is that whomever gets the 'good' chair is the one who has to type--which is usually Evan. At which point, Evan broke in to say, 'Which is major bullshit because Seth knows I have scoliosis,' (i.e. that's why he gets the good chair and therefore has to type all the time). I responded by asking him if he was a 13-year-old girl. He said he was.

Also, in case you are wondering: Rogen & Goldberg are currently working on a movie of The Green Hornet (which sounds weird, because it doesn't seem like their dick joke humor, but they think it will work), Executive Producing the new Judd Apatow comedy Funny People, and have two other comedies in the pipeline--Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse and I'm With Cancer. There's other stuff, too, but nothing firm enough to discuss. So there.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jeff Bridges, you torture me so

This week I'm writing a little bio documentary that will appear on cable. This is relatively fun, with the exception that I'm holed up in my basement. And that is making me come to Jesus on the fact that while for some people, working in your pajamas with no real boss is a dream job, and while I've successfully done that before and for extended periods of time, my natural demeanor requires more human interaction.

The assignment works like this: big studio tells me they want a ~ 3 minute bio thing with photos and movie clips set against voice over about an individual's acting/directing/whatever craft. They tell me who said individual is (in this case, Jeff Bridges) and then which 3-4 of his movies I will use, the idea being that they will run this little 3 minute thing on their cable station before they run one of said movies.

As this is my second of such gigs, I am beginning to get the idea that the movies they select are only the most terrible and most forgotten of any actor's cannon. I am beginning to get the idea that said studio primarily owns only the most terrible and most forgotten projects in filmdom.

As a result, this means that I have to not only watch said terrible movies, but then I have to spend like days with them watching them over and over and selecting clips from them. Yes, I know, a true First World Problem. But anyhow.

The terrible movies in this case are: Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, Rancho Deluxe and Wild Bill. I hadn't heard of them, either. I have now spent several days locked in my basement with these movies and interviews with him about these movies and it is appearing to have an unfortunate effect on my psyche.

I think, however, the thing that depresses me the most is that said studio has a policy of requiring that I do things like comb the internet for YouTube videos of interviews with said actors and whatnot to find out the information I need in lieu of just going right to the horse's mouth. I can't help but think it would be much more efficient to call up said actors' agents and say things like 'Big studio wants some quotes for a thing on their cable station' and hope said agent will go, 'ok' and set it up. Evidently big studio doesn't think so.

Ah well, it's a cherry gig anyhow. What the @#$ am I bitching about?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The delectable Mr. Hawke

Last night I had a dream about Ethan Hawke. I do not know why I dreamt about him, but eventually my psyche was purging the leftovers of the crush I had on him when I was 19 and thick on the throes of my greasy man phase.

I interviewed Mr. Hawke last year when his film adapation of his novel, The Hottest State, came out. I've heard that sometimes he can not be the best interview, but he was quite game and up for it this time--likely because it was an indie that he directed from a book he wrote, so he obviously really cared about the project.

However, while we were waiting for them to set the cameras and all that, I mentioned to him that my grandmother's best friend, Gertrude (of course), was the grandmother of his friend -- the playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman--a friend with whom, amongst other things, did a quick cameo in The Hottest State. When I was in high school, I'd seen (and loved) this play by Sherman called Women and Wallace--fairly autobiographical, about a guy whose mother kills herself when he's a child and the ripple effects it has in his life, his relationships with women, etc. I saw it at Festival (aka The New England High School Drama Festival--a competition for the drama nerds such as myself) and immediatley loved it.

Well, fast forward a couple of years and I discover that Sherman, this playwright I totally revere, is Gertrude's grandson. Gertrude, whom my grandmother had shlepped me and my cousins to visit all the time as kids. What's more, my aunt was actually besties with his mother and was even in her wedding--the very same mother who did kill herself and inspired the play, etc. etc. Oh, how it all comes full circle.

So, I give a very abbreviated version of this to Ethan Hawke. He initially is skeptical, asks me where I'm from (Boston), Gertrude's last name, etc. When I have provided sufficient info, he suddenly realizes I'm legit and goes, 'That's why he's always so into the Red Sox!"

Then we do the interview on camera, he's lovely, blah blah. And when our four minutes are up, he is so psyched to get right back into talking about JMS--gets up out of his chair to keep talking to me, walks me out, tells me how great a playwright JMS is, that he had a bit of a writer's block for a while, but has finally just written something else great the he (Ethan) is going to be directing in the fall, that I should come see it, etc.

In short, it was pretty damn cool. I promptly got my car out of valet and called my best friend from high school and gushed about how nice he was to me. Another one of those days you wish you could package up in a time machine and send back to your angst-ridden teenage self so you know things will work out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Doogie Howser you're my hero

Even though I've gotten used to doing this, it's still fun when you get to meet someone you watched on TV or in movies a zillion times when you were a kid. Witness: Doogie Howser, with whom I had a 1:1 for Harold & Kumar 2.

The general junket format for this one was roundtables, so we got to talk to the writers (funny), Harold (aka John Cho) whom we barraged with Star Trek questions (he's playing Sulu in the JJ Abrams remake), Neil Patrick Harris (ie Doogie himself) and also Rob Corddry (formerly of The Daily Show).

It wasn't exactly like getting to meet Ewan McGregor or anything (whom I still haven't interviewed, and thus cannot die fulfilled yet), but it is still trippy and fun. Ah, watching Doogie do useful things with himself and then type up his diary on that old dinosaur computer while I was trapped in dull suburbia. Those were the days indeed.

And it's days like the Harold & Kumar 2 junket that make me feel like the world isn't a terrible place, as not only did I get to chat with sir Doogie, but I had an exclusive with him, too. He had a cold, but was doing his best to be game and was very nice and normal. Sadly for me, he wasn't nearly excited enough when I told him I used to stage manage his boyfriend in college (his bf is David Burtka, who was in a couple of my MUSKET shows in college), which is weird because when I told Ethan Hawke that his friend was my grandmother's best friend's grandson, he basically wanted to talk to me about that for an hour. What? Not every celebrity is the same? Shocker.

Aside: I actually saw Rob Corddry a couple of weeks later at a MOTH show in Hollywood that he was judging. I marched up and told him that I'd been at the H&K junket, and he was very nice and happy to chat with me and we stood around small talking over drinks while we waited for the show to begin. This is my insane life.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Getting by with a little help from your Friends

A few months ago, I covered Run, Fat Boy, Run. I was excited to see the movie because it had Simon Pegg in it, and, well, not surprisingly, I'm a fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (I do have taste, after all).

Here's the trouble with that, though: Pegg didn't write/direct/produce/etc. Run, Fat Boy, Run or anything else that he usually does with his stuff. He just starred in it. As a result, it is not the signature Simon Pegg stuff you'd expect, and it pretty much kind of sucked.

BUT! There was still junket fun to be had. Pegg as nice enough at the roundtable, kind of more resigned than you'd expect from someone known for his whip-smart humor. Also, he clearly had had some colored hairspray put on his head by a makeup person to fill in his balding-ness for the cameras. But I chose not to mention that to him.

Then we got t meet the writer, Michael Ian Black, whom you may recognize from Reno 911. Let me say this about Black: he is weird. Just an odd bird. His jokes weren't funny, he was more just a sad case. A rather huge downer meeting him. Maybe this is because his movie blew.

But then things improved. Why? Because we got to meet, oh yes, David Schwimmer. That is to say, Ross from Friends. Schwimmer has been trying his hand at directing things around town since Friends ended, and that includes Fatboy. Unfortunately, he isn't nearly as gifted at directing as he is at playing everyone's favorite innocuous hard-up, much-divorced lover of Jennifer Aniston (have I mentioned the movie wasn't good?). But still, getting to sit two feet away from frigging Ross Geller is pretty insane, and he was totally nice.

The craziest thing was, he was possibly the least remarkable of all the Fatboy folks we interviewed that day. In fact, everyone actually paled in comparison to Thandie Newton (Beloved, Crash), who was the love interest in the movie. The thing about Thandie Newton is
A. she is ridiculously gorgeous and B. always seems very serious, ice queeny on camera.

Well, guess what? Only one of those things is true in person. That is to say, she's still inhumanly gorgeous, but the woman is absolutely hilarious. You would never know it from how she is cast on screen, but dear lord. She immediately let loose with a string of expletives that would make even me blush, and then told lots of sordid stories about the gross pranks she and Simon Pegg would play on each other (culminating in her putting candy bars and dirty underwear in his toilet to make it look like someone pooed in there). I am still reeling. She absolutely stole the show, and was delightful. Schwimmer who? That's what I say.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The trouble with Miley

Did I really just say that when you call up places and say you are from Very Important Magazine, they put you through and offer you pots of gold? I lied.

At least, I lied if you are trying to get through to Miley Cyrus. In addition to the Twilight article I was writing (see previous post), I was also writing a profile on Miley Cyrus, teen temptress of Hannah Montana fame.

Once again, for those of you fortunate enough not to either have or be an 11-year-old girl and, like me, disparage most things Disney, I will put it in our terms: Miley Cyrus is the teenaged daughter of the Achy Breaky Heart guy (ie Billy Ray Cyrus) who now has this amazingly craptacular show in Disney Channel that makes 12-year-old girls positively lose their minds. She plays a normal everyday girl (Miley "Stewart") who happens to be a secret pop star (Hannah Montana) by night. Very believable. It must be said here that even I have to admit she has a good voice and her music is sort of catchy, but the show is another story.

If you like anything like 'decent acting' or 'having to think' and do not want to live in a whitewashed millennial version of Ozzie and Harriet while at the same time having your inner self-esteem brainwashed by the evil Disney marketing execs that dress Cyrus in outfits that magically make you think 'I must look like that or else I will suck', then this show is not for you. If, however, you are an elementary school girl who is primed to receive the messages that you must wear our special brand sparkly belt with your leggings for your life to ever be satisfying, then this show is your crack.

In short, in the 2 years since Miley Stewart came on the scene, she has taken over the universe Britney-style, and if her periodic slightly naughty pix that show up on the internet from time to time are anything to go by, she will ultimately have a Britney style melt-down as well.

But I digress. The point is, I had to interview her for this article. We knew, since she is the queen of the universe, that even though I was writing for Very Important Magazine, I'd have a bitch of a time getting ahold of her. Initially that seemed okay, and we figured that quotes from a Disney exec would do. But as time went on, my editor realized that my Miley piece was going to be the lead of the section, in which case getting real quotes from her would be ever more important. Doesn't look vg for the VIM if their lead article is a write-around, after all.

So I'm emailing Disney, her publicist, her agent, I'm name dropping the editor, I'm begging, borrowing, stealing. I'm saying very reasonable things like: this is one of VIM's biggest issues, she's the lead story, it raises money for charity, and I only need five minutes of her time on the phone. And I'm getting: radio silence.

Finally--several days after the original deadline, mind you--the editor and I batter them into giving me 'emailed quotes', which I take as the green light for the publicist to just make stuff up. Which I'm fine with, as long as I have their sign off on it and I have something I can use. They still take SEVERAL MORE DAYS to get me even these, with me still pestering. Then they finally get me the quotes --only answering a couple of the questions I said were 'musts' and ignoring all the rest--of course--and they are utter garbage. They are one liners, totally facile and predictable. I say things like, 'How have things changed for you over the year' and she says things like 'Visiting sick children in hospitals is a blessing.' Terrific. Thanks. Now can you do me a favor and thank Jesus and your mom? Oh wait, you did.

Ridiculous. Editor and I managed to squeeze out a couple of useable sentences from it with much work, but it was ridiculous. It's not 'her' fault, I'm sure, but it makes me look forward to the day she is on Fat Celebrity Dog Food Eating House 3088.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Catherine Hardwicke, Queen of the Universe - Heir Apparent

This week I got to do a phoner with Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the upcoming world-taker-over-er, Twilight.

If you do not know what Twilight is, then you are neither a teenaged girl nor a horny housewife. Since I think being neither of those is a good thing, then I will tell you that Twilight is a series of books about a prenaturally responsible teenaged girl named Bella who falls in love with a vampire. In short it is: tween porn, and the books have successfully managed to knock Harry Potter off the shelves, so you can imagine that the movie will take over the universe (assuming it is not an hour and a half of a vampire farting) with equal vigor.

The fans of the book are of the completely Star Trek, Star Wars, fanatical, insane 'No, Edward Cullen died in 1887 not 1886, you moron' variety. But instead of getting out more, they are busy cutting up construction paper in their basements to make daisy chains counting down the days until the movie hits the theaters (Wait, no one has done daisy chains since I counted down the days to George Michael's birthday in 1987? Oh well.)

Anyhow, so the movie is going to be HUGE, and Catherine Hardwicke is basically going to go from being a tiny indie movie director that no one paid much mind to to 'Will you please bring the blue Maserati around, Jeeves? The red one doesn't match my outfit.' She has directed three movies before this one--Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, and last year's Nativity Story and has basically been able to go low profile. Not so much anymore.

For that reason, I got to profile her for a big-name industry magazine, which means that when you email anyone's people and say, 'I want to interview X' they say, 'Are you sure you only want X? We can also give you the head of the studio and the Princess of Canada if you would like.' So that's nice. I got a half hour on the phone with her, which is basically unheard of for dinkier outlets such as I usually write for.

She is very cool and chill and 'yeah, man' and happy and in no way acted like she was sick of answering the same questions over and over. She also called me from what must be her cell phone. This is the second time someone has called me from their private number (normally the handlers connect the calls through lots of blocked lines and hotel suites and whatnot) and neglected to block the number. So now, in short, if I feel like calling Catherine Hardwicke to hang out or trying to get her to buy someone's Girl Scout Cookies, I have the direct line. I have a feeling once she becomes Queen Twilight, this won't happen anymore.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Holy Grail

As I believe I may have said before, the pleasure of covering a lot of smaller films is getting to meet the bigger talent that will trot out to push their independent projects. One of the biggest cases of this was El Cantante, the horrible Hector Lavoe biopic that starred J-Lo and her man Marc Anthony.

As we sat around the table waiting for her Highness Jennifer Lopez to arrive, I heard stories from the other journos who have interviewed her before. It seems the bootylicious one has been known to be rather a diva before, and has pulled attitude on more than one occasion on more than one of my friends. Someone even told a story of J Lo shoving her (in her defense: my friend was obviously standing in her way). So, I was scared.

Luckily, we had Good J Lo that day, and she was in a very nice mood, cheerful, on time, pleasant, etc. She even joked with one reporter who asked her a question about possibly being up for a Quentin Tarantino movie (or similar) and having her music video be an audition for it. She was wearing a crazy shiny lame type short dress that looked great and was done up to the nines in the hair and make up department, too. It was insane thinking that I was sitting across from someone who was just a couple of years older than me but was clearly in another stratosphere of the universe (note: for further feelings of this, please see any entries I ever post on Charlize Theron). Also, she was, like, weirdly proportioned differently from me. She has kind of a giant head. Not on a terrible way. Just in a 'maybe we're not the same species sort of way.'

Doing the math, I think she was actually probably already with-twins at that time, so I personally attribute her good mood to her impending family. Of course, this is just my random assumption for which I have no real basis.

Weirdly, the bigger story for me that day was Marc Anthony. I have long loathed him. For no good reason, mind you, but the fact remains. I have always found him puny and hideously unattractive, plus I not so secretly suspect he totally controls J-Lo through some fucked up sort of mind meld behind the scenes. Well, turns out, he is, like, Mr. Charisma. In the course of the 15 minute roundtable interview, he succeeded in totally changing my opinion of him. He was totally funny and affable and personable. Maybe he was working his mind meld on me. Still, the movie sucked, but whatever.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Yet more foreign directors

For some reason, one I have yet to fully understand, people love to give me directors to interview. Maybe it has something to do with them having trouble mustering up actors to do interviews for small and also shitty movies, so they get the director--who must still love his or her vision--to do the press.

When I had to cover Evening, I had yet another video interview with yet another foreign director--Lajos Koltai (who also did Fateless). He was the anti-Gabor Csupo (ie the foreign director responsible for Bridge to Terabithia) in that instead of answering all of my questions in one 10 second sitting, this guy just went on and on and on. Which is good--better than uncomfortable silence, but not good when you have an editor who hates you and know you are supposed to be 'controlling the talent'.

Then again, I absolutely despised the movie, so I should be happy he chatted away so I didn't have to come up with questions based on the movie other than, 'So why did you choose to make it suck this way?'

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Luke Wilson, the best antidote

Right after my Christian Bale debacle with Rescue Dawn, I got to cover The Wendell Baker Story featuring all the Wilson boys. This was back when the company was still letting me cover indie movies with impunity and do TV interviews - those were the days.

Anyway, I figured Luke Wilson would be just the thing to pick me up after Christian Bale's 'tude, and thankfully I was right. I had an on-camera interview with him and his lesser-known brother, Andrew (he of the giant beard who is also in Idiocracy). Luke, it seems, is one of those people who is even more ridiculously gorgeous in person; I think a halo of light was actually emanating from behind his unearthly square jaw and sparkly eyes. Either that, or it was just the camera lighting.

They were chill in their chairs, laid back, and pleasant--likely because they are pleasant people and also because they like each other and it's nice to get to hang out with your brother all day if you're going to have to do trapped in a room doing interviews. We talked dog--always one of my favorite subjects--because it was Luke's dog in the movie and they warmed up especially.

In short, they restored my faith in celeb-humanity. So poo on you, Batman. That's what I say.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Clash of the Titans

Being the girl at my office, last summer I was assigned the big summer musical, i.e., Hairspray. The studio gave us roundtables, which was great. It also gave us nearly every person who ever thought about being in the movie, which was less great.

For the better part of an afternoon, we were locked in a small hotel room wherein we were to interview no less than the following:

Queen Latifah (Motormouth Maybelle), Christopher Walken (Wilbur Turnblad), James Marsden (Corny Collins), Elijah Kelley (Seaweed), Michelle Pfeiffer (Velma Von Tussel), Adam Shankman (Director, Choreographer), Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Producers), John Travolta (Edna Turnblad), Nikki Blonsky (Tracy Turnblad), Zac Efron (Link Larkin), Brittany Snow (Amber Von Tussel), Amanda Bynes (Penny Pingleton), Allison Janney (Mrs. Pingleton), Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman (Lyricists/Producers), and Leslie Dixon (Writer).

At least they took pity on us and paired a few of them up. Still, it was a looong day.
I will not, however, not repeat the same horror to you. Instead, let's just give you the Reader's Digest version, shall we?

James Marsden was: sick.
Elijah Kelley was: really, really tiny.
All the producers were: entirely forgettable and I have no idea why they trotted them out.
Allison Janney was: nice, and not entirely sure why she was there since she had such a small part in the movie
Leslie Dixon was: sporting a face so wrought with plastic surgery that it was literally all I could do not to have my mouth hanging agape in horror.
Zac Efron was: possibly wearing make up, seemed like a little surfer boy.
Brittany Snow & Amanda Bynes were both: pretty, nice, not snotty like the stereotypical 'pretty girls' in high school they play
Queen Latifah was: nice, pretty, not secretly enormously butch despite what her persona life may be.
Nikki Blonsky was: a no-show with 'food poisoning'. Foreshadowing her recent airport brawling and rumors of diva-ness? Possibly. I cannot confirm or deny. I did walk by her at the valet a couple of days later and she smiled nicely, so that obviously speaks volumes about her character.
Adam Shankman was: so flamingly gay it was hilarious. And also delightfully self-deprecating. He made a joke about his 'opus' Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and it made me love him. Admitting you took it for the paycheck? Wonderful.
Christopher Walken was: terrifying. I mean, he was nice enough, but he is still one of the only actors I saw people address by his full name ('So, Mr. Walken...') and everyone was on serious good behavior and clearly very reverential. He, on the other hand, wasn't full of himself at all; if anything, the opposite. He made some jokes about himself. But he's just definitely an oddball, so he was scary. He was also wearing a weirdly funky suit and has, as I said in my official write up, more hair than any human should be in possession of, let alone one his age.
Michelle Pfeiffer was: absolutely lovely, happy, funny, down to earth, game, joking and still unbelievably gorgeous. Either she has perfect genes or else an amazingly subtle plastic surgeon. Probably some of both, and that being the case, I really, really want to know who the plastic surgeon is.
and finally...
John Travolta was: insane. By that I don't mean he was actually crazy so much as he was totally un-self-aware. He was a nice enough guy, actually. Happy to be there. Answered all the questions. But definitely is not in touch with how he is perceived, and clearly thinks he is very much an 'actor.' We got lots and lots of him talking about how he needed to perfect Edna's look and how he got every single iron from that era and tried them out to see exactly which one she would use. Evidently he never got the memo that he is kind of a joke and that when you're playing a woman in a camp musical, maybe saying you made some poor PA search the far ends of the earth for every single possible iron you might conceivably use makes you come off as a self-important jerk.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hep old cats

For my birthday last year, I covered the junket for Feast of Love, yet another in a series of underwhelming indies. But it starred Greg Kinnear, and I figured you could do worse things with your birthday than chat with Greg Kinnear, which is perfectly logical reasoning--until he drops out of the junket.

But I'd already signed up, so junket I did. It was roundtables, and we talked to a few people, including the writer Allison Burnett (who, surprisingly, is a man, but not surprisingly has written several other piles of shit), the director - the rather legendary Robert Benton (who wrote The Ice Harvest and Kramer vs Kramer, amongst other things, and is now, sadly, leaning a little towards the doddering side), and actress Radha Mitchell who spends a good portion of the movie--as all females in this movie did--rather naked.

Then came the piece de resistance: our current friend who is recuperating from a car accident, Morgan Freeman. I'd heard that he was a terrible interview, so I was scared, and then surprised when he came in seeming as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as all get out. Not only does the man seem a good 20 years younger than I think he is, but I'm pretty sure he's cooler than me and probably more fun to party with.

Morgan sat down. He had a bottle of water, but had lost the cap for it, and was worried he'd spill the water and fry all the fancy tape recorders in front of him. I offered him the cap from my water (same type, obviously), and he tried to say no, but I informed him that he had no choice and had to accept it because it was my birthday and he had to do what I said.

This evidently was fascinating, and he started asking me questions like what my name was (we got very personal as you can tell), and then started singing Happy Birthday to me. But not the normal Happy Birthday song, some special, jazzy Morgan Freeman version of the Happy Birthday song. It was very surreal.

Then we segued into the standard junket stuff, at which point I discovered that by 'terrible interview,' my friend had meant that he was actually lovely and funny, but very skilled at evading answering anything. In addition to this, a fellow junketeer whom I didn't recognize but who was sitting next to me starting acting up. By this I mean the following:
1. I still, a year later, cannot decide what gender this person was
2. S/he smelled horrible
3. S/he had cartoonishly bucked teeth
4. S/he was obviously beside itself at getting to speak to Morgan Freeman and asked several questions (normally, we don't quite hog so much), including one 'question' which was instead informing Morgan Freeman that s/he knew his best friend, 'Dennis.' Freeman responded, 'I have a best friend Dennis?' S/he confirmed to him that indeed he did, but this did not seem to jog Freeman's memory. It was, how do you say, awkward.

Then the publicist came in to let Freeman off the hook, but before he left he room, he said, 'I forgot to ask how you all like the movie.' We all lied politely and said 'hrmrmamrm yes' because really, what kind of asshole is actually going to say, 'it sucked my ass and i wanted to kill myself in the screening room?' He seemed to pick up on the less than amazing response, however, and made a comment about how there were 10 people in the room and only 5 answered or something. Oh well.

So Morgan, hope you're recovering well. And if you need a good anesthesiologist in Memphis, let me know. I've got the hook up.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Zealanders invade

Last year I had a TV spot for Eagle vs Shark, a little New Zealand indie by some of the same crew as the Flight of the Conchords folk. Unfortunately, I have virtually nothing exciting to say about it.

I interviewed the writer/director Taika Waititi (who, for reasons I don't quite understand, also goes by Taika Cohen - is he an aboriginal Jew?) and star Lauren Horsley (whom, if I recall correctly, might be dating him). They were completely normal and very nice. Jemaine Clement wasn't there.

So, instead, I give you this, my favorite little Flight of the Conchords shtick:

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Bridge to Tera-crap-ia

One of my earlier junket experiences was covering the Disney adaptation of The Bridge to Terabithia. Now, I am not much for Disney anything, nor anything shiny, happy G-rated kiddie fare, so it was probably a mistake to have me cover this one in the first place. But whatever.

Evidently The Bridge to Terabithia is a beloved children’s book about the wonder of imagination and all that magnificence. I never read it, so I am sure I wasn’t appropriately excited to get to interview the author (Katherine Paterson) or her (grown) son (David) who had adapted her book for the screen. They were still pretty interesting to interview, though, which is a shame because my interviews for this movie were on-camera and we had a notoriously lazy video guy from the website, which means there was a zero percent chance he was going to use these interviews.

Then I had to interview the director, Gabriel Csupo, who is Hungarian or Bulgarian or something. It was here that I discovered my true inner fear of interviewing someone who is not a native English speaker. He pretty much answered all my questions in the first minute (obviously doling out memorized speaking points) and then leaving me struggling to find things other than, ‘So, Hungary, huh?’ for the rest of my time.

When I was done with him, I moved onto the two kid stars of the movie, whereupon I discovered the only thing I hate worse than interviewing non-native English-speakers on camera is interviewing kids. In short, they are either over-rehearsed or unpredictable, and either way it makes it difficult to get useable answers from them. Little Josh Hutcherson fell in the latter category, and he was busy trying to ham it up and kiss my hand (slightly hilarious). But his co-star, AnnaSophia Robb, was clearly of the other variety. She was clearly one of those super poised, super groomed Hollywood children who smiles like a robot and spits out exactly what she is supposed to say. Nice enough, but still slightly terrifying. One day she’ll be on the cover of Playboy with a heroin needle in her forehead and I can say I knew her when.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I totally told you so

So, our friend Christian Bale has been in the news lately for being arrested for some sort of assault of his mother and sister. It might have been verbal, it might have been physical, they might be crazy bitches who deserve it, etc. Whatever the details are, it seemed pretty out of the blue.

I interviewed Christian Bale about a year ago for Rescue Dawn, the Werner Herzog movie in which he played a real-life Vietnam vet who was imprisoned in and escaped from a Laotian prison after he was captured when his plane shot down. The movie was terrific, and Bale was ridiculously amazing as usual.

At the junket however, he was less than delightful. So much so that he is usually my 'go-to' reference when people ask who was the biggest jerk to me. Obviously, I was excited to get to interview him. He's tremendously talented, loved the movie, everyone loves him, blah blah blah.

I had an on-camera interview with him for this one. First, he is totally grubbed out, wearing shitty jeans, dirty sneakers, and a black T shirt that looks like it was taken from the bottom of the laundry pile. However, his hair is slicked back a little and the shirt *is* black, so it probably looks okay on camera. Anyhow, this seems odd since most people doll up for this sort of thing--especially since Rescue Dawn was a little movie that could have used some good press.

I sit down in the chair, and while the camera guys are mic-ing me up and getting the tapes set, I'm just making small talk.

Me: Hi. How are you? Having a long morning in here? You know, you guys shot some of Batman Begins up by my husband's office just north of Chicago.

Him: No, I didn't.

Me: Um, well, he said there were Batman sets up there for a while and shooting. He and his coworkers were really excited about it.

Him: (blank, angry stare) ...

Me: (to camera man) Are we ready? (nervous giggle)

Now given, it is possible that they were doing some principal photography up there, stuff that might not have involved him. However, a nice human would have said something like, 'Oh, huh, maybe that was principal photography,' instead of looking at me like I was a fucking idiot/asshole/maniac who was obviously lying/trying to somehow elicit secret information from him.

Then they start rolling, we lean back in our chairs, smile, pretend he wasn't giving me a death glare. I ask him a couple of questions about the movie, to which he gives good, happy responses. Then I ask him a couple more, like asking him the 'weight loss' question (he lost a TON for The Machinist, then bulked up for Batman Begins, then he and his castmates all quite obviously lost a ton for this movie in which he was playing a food-deprived, dirty, tortured POWs). He at this point denies having lost any weight for the movie, which is obviously a lie; he and his castmates all looked like end-stage Holocaust victims. Then he devolves into giving me one word answers. Awesome. We wound up not even being able to use the interview.

I will say in his defense that prior to our interview, he was on his cell phone taking what appeared to be some sort of a stressful call in the hallway. And word was, as I recall, that it was around lunch time and he just wanted to break and, you know, eat. Which is totally reasonable. And that he was a dick to everyone and not just me. And, that a couple of months later at the 3:10 to Yuma junket, he was lovely and affable to everyone.

All that said, he was still a raving douchebag. And in contrast, his costars Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies and director Werner Herzog were all absolutely delightful when I interviewed them. I told Zahn that I was obsessed with Reality Bites in college and told him I still had the video tape of it, and he started calling me a dork, telling me he was up against Noah Wyle for that part and that Janeane Garofalo was up against Parker Posey for hers, joked around with me on camera, etc. Jeremy Davies stood up to shake my hand and was just absolutely lovely all around.

So, while I don't know what crawled up Bale's ass and died -- either that day or the day or this past weekend -- I can say I don't envy anyone who is around him when it does. The frosty look was more than enough for me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Popping the cherry

My first ever junket was about 1 day after I started my job. When I first got my job, my friend, John, who hired me basically told me I'd be doing movie reviews. He didn't think I'd want the job because I was trying to screenwrite, but you've got to do something to pay the bills until you become Diablo Cody.

At the interview with the rest of the guys on the team, my would-be boss told me I would probably be doing some celebrity interviews, possibly print, possibly on-camera. Down the road there might be some set visits, too. I actually think John may have mentioned this to me, too, but somehow it hadn't sunk in. And still, when they mentioned that at the interview I didn't believe it.

Before I even start I'm getting emails with invites to junkets and screenings and whatnot. The actual day before I start, I get a phone call from my boss saying he wants me to do the TV interviews for The Dead Girl, a little indie starring Brittany Murphy, Giovanni Ribisi and a bunch of others. I'm supposed to screen the movie the next day (i.e. my first day), and then do the interview on my second.

I am floored. So, my first day comes and goes. My jaw is literally hanging open with every new thing the guys tell me. Yes, you're allowed to take a friend with you to screenings. Yes, you get swag at junkets. Yes, you will be interviewing famous people. Yes, it does rain gold on Fridays in Los Angeles. It was truly wonderful.

My second day of work I drive over to the hotel where the junket is going to be. My boss meets me to sort of coach me through things. The boys have told me little tricks--ask weird a weird question or two if you can, since they're getting the same questions all day. Just nod in response, don't say 'mmmhmmm, uhuh' because if the camera is on them then it's just your disembodied voice saying those things and that's weird, etc. Ok, fine.

My boss has me go in and watch a friend of his do her interviews so I can just make sure I have the drill down and then I'm off. I'm sweating bullets. I am about to meet my first famous person, and I do not under any circumstances want to offend them.

My first famous person it turns out is Giovanni Ribisi. I tell him, as I sit in the chair, that this is my first interview. No, not of the day, of ever--at least for this type of thing. He reacts. I ask my questions, trying very hard not to glance down at my list of them while he's talking (note: I no longer make a list of questions and just chat with the people). At the end, we both let out big sighs and he says, 'Wow, I feel like we just did something, here.' I nod. And then he says, 'I feel like I just popped your cherry.' Sadly, I was still too nervous to tell him that indeed he did.

I then proceed to a couple more interviews, a seasoned veteran now. I have Mary Beth Hurt, who I know as Garp's wife from The World According to Garp and am a little in awe, then the writer/director, Karen Moncrieff. Then I interview Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, Pollock) and Kerry Washington (The Last King of Scotland, Ray)--who is especially glowing and pretty in person, and also very sweet. I tell everyone it is my first day at this and they are all very nice.

My final interview is with Brittany Murphy. She is running late--quite late, it seems, as everyone else in the cast has been giving interviews for hours already. We all have to camp out in the hallway waiting for her to show up, and when she finally does it is with an entourage. She is made up to the hilt, with a buttload of makeup, including what I recognized as individual fake eyelashes, which I had worn at my wedding. She seems slightly wacky.

When it is finally my turn to interview her, I tell her it is my first day. She continues to seem somewhat nutty, but is nice and we all survive. Then a few minutes later she is going to the bathroom and she stops me to tell me that I did a great, I made her feel very comfortable, and I will do really well at my job. It was really, really nice.

So to all of the people who like to suggest she might be a fan of the ole magic white powder, you may very well be right. But she was damn nice to me on my first very nervous day, so I'm on her side.

And a final note: About a week later, Josh saw Giovanni Ribisi in the coffee shop. He contemplated going up to him and saying, 'You popped my wife's cherry last week,' but he thought better of it. I think he should have.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The unusual Ms. Posey

Perhaps because I have a predisposition toward indie films, I have had the opportunity to meet Parker Posey twice so far. The first time was at Fay Grim, the Hal Hartley sequel to Henry Fool.

First, I thought the movie was absolutely terrible; I hadn't ever seen Henry Fool, but I don't think that's was a major sticking point. The issue was that this is a very intellectual type of indie for serious indie art movie nerds who like to discuss literary criticism and think about politics and the world. In short, I'm sure it played very well in, say, San Francisco. But in my world, where I like even my indies with a fart joke or two, it was kind of excruciating. Not that there weren't funny moments in there - there were - but my brain was too busy being beaten down by the heavy-handed symbolism to really enjoy it, so I just shut down and fought (and perhaps failed) the urge to stay awake.

The junket wasn't much better as Posey, it appears, is a bit of a, well, space cadet stoner type. And she sat at the table (it was a roundtable) doodling on a piece of paper, as though making eye contact with any of us would be way too much for her, and as though even she was bored by what Hartley was saying.

The next time I met her, however, was slightly better. At least because I liked the movie -- Broken English, another indie by Zoe Cassavetes about a single thirtysomething New Yorker looking for love. Sounds predictable, but it was kind of the anti-Bridget Jones (not that I don't love everything Bridget Jones) in just the right way and hit you right in the solar plexus with all the bittersweet amazingness. It was terrific and the male lead, Melvil Poupaud who was so surprisingly soulful that you totally forget that his last name sounds like Poop-O.

Anyhow, the junket for this one was TV, so I got to chat with the girls about how dreamy he was. Parker seemed far less zoned out this time, although someone started coughing up a storm during the interview and I think they both started calling into the hallway to see if he/she/it was dying.

Well, that wasn't very exciting, was it?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In which I do not violate James McAvoy, no matter what they say

It has happened in the course of my job that I have been subject to some teasing, some good natured ribbing, if you will. Since I work with all men, I viewed getting teased as my mark of being accepted as one of the boys--which is a big deal--and anyone who knows me knows I can trade the lewdest of remarks with the best of them.

One particular line of ribbing involves a certain Mr. James McAvoy. Perhaps you might have heard of him? Scottish hottie taking Holllywood by storm, first in The Last King of Scotland, then in Atonement and most recently in Wanted.

It just so happens that Mr. McAvoy is really, really nice. And cute. And smart. And funny. All things I noticed with shock the first time I met him at the junket for Starter for 10, this sweet, smart English little indie romantic comedy. The shock can be attributed mostly to the fact that I didn't realize he was Scottish (you'd think having been in The Last King of Scotland would have given that away, but I hadn't yet seen it at that point). But you show me someone who isn't sucked in by a Scottish accent and I'll show you a person with no heart. Or ears.

So, let's just say that when he sat down and started talking at the Starter for 10 roundtable he got my attention. And perhaps, just perhaps, now, I went back to the office and told the boys with whom I worked about how cute he was. And, you know, maybe I then made matters worse for myself by propogating the myth that I lusted for him by periodically inserting James McAvoy jokes into articles, when really we all know that I have eyes for no one but my very sweet, very smart, very handsome, very doting husband. And no matter how cute anyone else is, I think for two seconds about what they would really be like and I know that no one could ever be as good to me as my husband is. Literally, no one else measures up. But I digress.

Anyhow, a few months went by and we got the invite to the Atonement junket. I was on the Oscar beat last fall, which meant that I basically got to see every Oscar movie out there, and this is a hard core frontrunner. My boss suggested that I request a 1:1 with James McAvoy since I loved him so much. Ha ha ha. So, I do (let's be real -- they're not giving me Keira Knightley), and it comes through.

I go to the 1:1. James is nice as pie, as I expected from meeting him before. Absolutely lovely guy, is very bothered that I won't let him make me a cup of tea, completely humble (really either no idea that everyone who meets him lusts for him or just doesn't buy it), gives me a hug and a kiss on the cheek when I leave. His head is really screwed on straight. He feels really fortunate, is very passionate about the part in Atonement, etc.

So, I get back to the office and go to transcribe the tape of the interview, which would be fine except I discover that there IS no tape of the interview. I click forward, I click back. Nada. It appears as though when I attempted to press 'Record,' I somehow failed and instead interviewed him for 15 minutes without recording it. Awesome. I now realize not only have I lost an irretrievable interview, but I am going to have to admit this to my boss, who, although he won't care, will promptly enjoy giving me the mountain of shit I deserve about it. Which he does.

Let's just say that he enjoys claiming that it's not that I didn't press record, so much as that there was nothing to record due to the various, sordid and increasingly outlandish sexual acts I must obviously have been performing upon Mr. McAvoy during our 'interview.' Of course, we know this isn't true, as I'm nowhere near stupid enough to do anything to jeopardize the amazing husband I've succeeded in landing. But the boys do have a point -- it would make me quite the popular interviewer if it were true.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Batman is nuts

So yesterday I had a phoner for Felon, a little indie movie about a normal guy with a happy life who winds up going to prison and the truth about what it's like in prison and how it corrupts you and all that. I would know more about it, but I haven't even screened the movie yet, which pretty rarely happens before you do press for something, but hey, whatever.


So, it happens that they offer us phoners with the talent, in this case Stephen Dorff (remember him?) and Val Kilmer. I ask for a phoner with Stephen Dorff, because although Val Kilmer is more exciting, Dorff has upcoming projects that are more relevant to work so I can get a scoop sort of article from that. But once I say, 'Yes, I can cover, Dorff please' they inform me that it's actually going to be a teleconference and not a straight up phoner.

I've not done a teleconference interview format before, so I ask how it works and am told that everyone on the phone will get their chance to ask individual questions, so it will be just like having a 1:1 phoner. Okay, fine. As long as I can get scoop, all's well.

First, I call in at the appointed time and have all sorts of issues actually getting through like I'm supposed to. Once I manage that, I and my other online on-phone compatriots are informed that we are actually being teleconferenced into the radio interviews that are happening at the press day (which I believe was in New York).

Note: Unless you are in radio, you do not ever want to be in a radio room because they are recording the sound for broadcast, which means that dare you sneeze, rustle a paper, or generally move your eyeballs too loudly you are going to get chewed out by irate radio people. We all know how good I am at staying still/quiet, so I generally avoid the radio room whenever possible, and thus my knowledge of the punitive ways of radio people is only heresay. But nonetheless.

So, we are informed that we should mute our phones since the radio people are recording, which is fine by me as my next door neighbor who owns the usually vacant shack next to me chooses this moment to show up and do yard work, making Big go insane and bark his head off. Awesome.

Then they introduce the director, which is amusing, as I didn't sign up to talk to the director, but it appears that I will indeed be doing the full compliment of press for the movie in lieu of the actual one person I requested. This isn't a huge deal -- stuff like this happens all the time, causing me long ago to realize I had to wholeheartedly abandon my 'I've got my vision for how this is going to go entrenched in my head and now that you want to change the plans I am going to go apeshit' mentality or else I was going to lose my mind.

So, fine, rolling with the punches, I pull up my near-death computer and squeeze out the last remaining drops of function in it to get some info on the director for when I am called upon by the phone moderator or whomever to ask whatever generic question I can that won't give away that I haven't seen the movie yet. I assume this is what is going to be happening since, you know, I was assured that it will basically 'be just like a 1:1 phoner anyhow.'

Not so much. The 15ish minutes go by without a peep from any of the other phone people or any indication that anyone knows we're there, let alone cares that we might need to ask questions. The radio people are just firing away their questions, the director is answering, and then I hear a publicist say their interview is done and now Stephen Dorff is coming in.

Excellent. Now, as we must be the 'Stephen Dorff' conference callers, I presume someone is going to say something about the fact that we are on the phone. But no, not so much. The interview with Stephen Dorff goes on just as the one with the director did, with the radio people piping in with a question as soon as they get a chance and without anyone indicating we are there, perhaps needing something, etc. Without the visual cues as to what's going on in the room, I am asea, essentially unable to unmute and butt in at an appropriate time. I can't quite see when Dorff is going to wind down, when someone is going to pipe up, etc.

It is at this point that the next door neighbor (I assume) chooses to ring my doorbell, likely to respond to a note I left him asking if I could put some gravel down between our driveway and his house (either that or the Prophet Elijah was coming over). Big loses his mind and barks up yet another storm, and because I am taking my job seriously (even though I am being ignored), I run into my room and hide.

Luckily, Dorff starts bringing up his other projects that he's working on, including the one I need to ask about (he's in the John Dillinger biopic, Public Enemies, with Johnny Depp). Surely, I can count on one of these other radio people to take the bait. We all need scoop after all. NOPE. The morons just plow on, asking shitty personal questions about does he have a feud with Jeremy Piven or some crap like that. I still can't figure out when to jump in, and then the publicist comes and ends it. I am not amused.

Then, Val Kilmer comes in and even though I am thinking I can't use the interview, I decide to stay on the phone anyway. I mean, how often does one get to chat with Val Kilmer, or eavesdrop on him chatting with other people, or whatever? I was a Real Genius fan, a Doors fan, after all.

So, he's talking, about the movie, about his white linen suit, about having to lose weight for some movie, etc. etc. and then all of a sudden he realizes there is a teleconference phone in the room and he loses his mind. He starts yelling into the phone 'HELLO! WHO ARE YOU?' -- in an amused, screwing with us sort of way, not an 'I'm going to trash my hotel room because I can' sort of way. But still.

He goes back to answering questions, sounding generally happy/drunk/nutty, reliving the good old days when he did Tombstone, telling us how he called Kurt Russell 'concrete head', telling us how much he adores name-dropping, mentioning how he is BFFs with Bob Dylan. But he just can't forget about the starphone. He is obsessed with the stinking star phone, fascinated by who could be out there. Periodically, he picks it up and yells into is some more, claiming that he is taking off his clothes, he is nude, he wants to know who we are, etc.

I contemplated unmuting and putting him out of his starphone-induced misery because THIS time I had an obvious easy moment to jump in. Except the thing is, I hadn't seen the movie, and I didn't have any informed enough questions, so I didn't want to, you know, call attention to myself in quite that way. 'Yes, I'm Heather, I'm with ReelzChannel, and how was working with the monkey? What? There was no monkey? Oh, um...' That, and it pretty quickly would have turned the whole interview into him talking to me, and unlike the radio people, I didn't want to waste their time with unusable stuff. So I didn't. I stayed quiet. But Val Kilmer was amusing anyway. Totally insane, but amusing.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Californiaaaaaaaa, Here we cooooommmmeeeeee

Archive time again. Last year I covered In the Land of Women, a fairly unmemorable romantic dramedy featuring Kristen Stewart (why do people like her?), The O.C.'s Adam Brody, and Meg Ryan's giant plastic fish lips. The movie was written and directed by Jon Kasdan, son of the weighty writer/director Lawrence Kasdan (you know -- The Big Chill, Body Heat, The Accidental Tourist, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark -- need I continue?).

As I said, the movie wasn't so great, showing that either talent isn't necessarily genetic OR that it was the guy's first effort and you've got to learn somehow.

Anyhow, the junket was a little odd. It was roundtable sized, but in press conference format (translation: we were seated in rows in a big room with the 'talent' up on the dais, but there weren't very many journos there). But whatever, it was fine. Adam Brody was fine, Jon Kasdan was very nervous about doing okay.

The exciting part is that that night Josh and I were having dinner with my uncle who was in town for a medical conference or something of that sort. We went to Jar, a fancy but not too narcissistic steak restaurant on the edge of BH (sidenote: Jar = yum). Lo an behold I see Adam Brody and Jon Kasdan at the next table. I figured they wouldn't remember me (God knows how many people interviewed them over the course of that day, or any day, for that matter), but I decided it was still appropriate to march over there, since I had been at their junket that morning and all.

So I went over, said hi, told them I'd been at their junket (true), probably told them I liked the movie (not so much true), told Jon he'd done a perfectly fine job at the junket and he didn't need to be so nervous (back to true again). They were very nice, and also, might I add, rather drunk considering that they were having dinner and not just at a bar. But whatever, Adam Brody is like 22 or something, so why not? I also informed him that he seems like the love child of Tom Hanks and... someone else equally as ridiculously likeable (hey, it was last year). He is (for you fogies) best known for starring in The O.C., a v popular teen show that ended a couple of years back. I'd never watched that, so I wasn't v familiar with him. What I discovered during this movie is that he did a great job with what he had to work with and looks like he could seriously fill the nice-guy romantic lead nitche easily should he get the chance.

So I gushed all over them, went back to my table proudly, and then five minutes later noticed someone else went over to chat with them, at which point I realized I had broken the seal and now other patrons thought it was appropriate to bug them during their dinner and that I was an asshole. Oh well.

On an unrelated note, it is the night of the Fourth of July right now, which means it is 3400 degrees in my house at this moment and that my neighbors are just killing themselves with glee setting off their own fireworks and giving my dog a heart attack. I will not be sad when tonight is over. I may hope they blow of their hands, just a little.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


There comes a time in everyone's life where they must meet someone else with their same name. In my case, this someone is Heather Graham. You will recall her from her previous glory in roles like RollerGirl from Boogie Nights and Felicity Shagwell in Austin Powers. Now she is more in the vein of pseudo-direct-to-video projects, for which I have interviewed her twice. Oh, how the almost mighty have fallen.

I recently interviewed her a month or so ago for a small movie, a little indie would-be romantic comedy called Miss Conception in which she plays a British woman who discovers she has baby fever and only one egg left. Not great, but I expected worse and in all honesty her British accent was shockingly good.

The junket for that one was at a Glendale hotel that never has junkets, so when I went in to find out where it was, the people at the main desk were like, 'What? We're having a junket?' And I had to sit in the lobby calling the publicist that hooked it up until they could figure out what room to dispatch me to. Then when I left the valet refused to accept my parking validation. In short, not the smoothly run operation that junkets are at the hotels that have them almost daily.

(Note: the interview itself was fairly unremarkable, except that we all sat around what felt like a boardroom table, which is distinctly un-LA. The most exciting part was that there was a journalist there who was deaf, so I was signing to her across the table. She seemed to think my ASL was way better than it was, so I stared at her hands trying to pick out one in 10 words and then nodded my head dumbly like I understood what was going on).

My first Heather Graham encounter was slightly more exciting. It was at the junket for Gray Matters last year, a little indie romantic comedy that wasn't as good as it hoped it would be (notice a trend here?). This was back when we were doing TV spots for the web, which basically means that you do the TV style junket with all the other TV people and then, well, it goes on the web. One day, I shall debrief you, my adoring minions, on the different types of junkets. Sadly for you, today is not that day.

Anyhow, it was a two-fer, so she was in the little room with her co-star, Tom Cavanagh (he was the lead in the TV show, Ed), and the two of them were having a delightful time together. Later on, I got reprimanded by my editor (who thinks I suck) for not 'controlling them better'. I invite you to figure out how to control two attention-loving celebs who have been cooped up in a room all morning under hot lights answering the same questions every 4 minutes on a movie that is going to have 5 viewers. Okay, perhaps I could have leapt in more, but personally, I found them entertaining. They were both very nice and very funny.

More importantly, I came in just after my friend had her slot. What you should know about said friend is that she is ridiculously gorgeous. Like, your mind melts she is so pretty. And although I would wager that she bumps up the blonde in her hair, otherwise I think it is all natural -- and that includes gigantic boobs and a waist the size of a paperclip. In short, Barbie dolls hate her. Note: the craziest thing about this friend is that you expect her to be a raving bitch because she is so gorgeous, yet she is totally nice.

Anyhow, this friend was wearing a particularly cleavage-bearing outfit that day and I could overhear them all discussing her boobs as I was waiting my turn. So basically when it was my turn, I went in and told them how she was a hard act to follow, and Heather Graham and Tom Cavanaugh proceeded to discuss my boobs. Heather felt that she would have thought mine were lovely and large, but after my friend's, well, even I had to admit they pale in comparison.

Should you be interested, the review of Gray Matters and Miss Conception, plus the TV interview from the former and the print interview from the latter should all be available on my work website.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

In which I am surprised by celebuspawn

Last week the studio was piggybacking their junkets, likely due to the possible pending SAG strike. So in addition to Step Brothers (note: for various dull reasons, the Step Bros junket post has the wrong date attached; that blog was updated last week, not in April, as I am not able to see the future -- yet), I also covered House Bunny.

House Bunny is a comedy starring Anna Farris as a playboy bunny who gets kicked out of the bunny mansion and then finds the most similar job she can--as a house mother for a sorority. Personally, I wasn't overwhelmed by the movie, which is a shame, as I liked the idea and love Anna Farris. Regardless, you do have to give it up for the female-written, female-lead comedy, so everyone should rush out and buy a ticket. For some reason, my male friends were warmer on this one -- likely because they were lulled into submission by all the cleavage. Whatever works.

Anyhow, junket was standard junket, which means several of the girls from the movie were trotted out onto the dais, along with the two writers. Because it was a press conference, that means the audience was big, although not horrifyingly so. Even during the big ones, if you get there when you're supposed to, you can snag a seat in the front/second row for proper celeb-gawking if that's your thing. It also means it was a mix of American press, foreign press, online press, radio press, and print press. In other words, a motley crew of characters, each of whom have their factions, and none of whom are too fond of one another.

The foreign press, as is their want, asked Rumer Willis (i.e. Demi Moore & Bruce Willis's daughter, who is now getting into acting) a ton of rude questions about her famous parents. Note: Foreign press is known for asking personal questions, therefore it is the convention amongst the rest of us to hate them.

The radio people all seemed to have some sort of insane group brain malfunction in which they would burst in with a new question before the talent had finished answering a previous one (um, hello, not good, we need the quote) and/or when the studio people had clearly indicated another journalist was to ask the next question. In short, there was a hint of clusterfuck action happening amongst the journos. Not sure what the deal was.

As for the talent, Anna Faris was like you'd expect. Very pretty, very cute, bubbly, sweet. Emma Stone was sarcastic and funny, and didn't get nearly enough questions (even though I was lukewarm on the movie, she was great, and I think she might break out). The real surprise was, in fact, Rumer Willis, who was, to my shock, poised, gracious, and lovely. I am an unapologetic fan of (blogger) Perez Hilton, who is rather fascinated with calling her 'potato head' when he posts pictures of her (kinda true) and pointing out the slight ridiculousness of her wanting to go into the family biz. So, in short, I had a bias and I expected her to kind of be a brat.

Turns out that as much as she might not be the most, er, conventional beauty, she seems like a really well-raised kid and wasn't snotty in the least. Very mature, very grateful to get to work, very soft- and well-spoken, handled the 3400 rude personal questions with absolute aplomb. I am now, in short, officially rooting for her. Who knew?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Vilkommen, bienvenue, welcome and also Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen & more

Yesterday, I had to cover the junket for the upcoming Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly comedy, Step Brothers. Not surprisingly, they were both there, along with their frequent collaborator, director Adam McKay.

Ferrell came in holding one of the giant bowls of cobb salad that he obviously snagged from the lunch buffet for us journos, pretending to proffer it to us as a lovely host. Amusing. John C. Reilly was dressed in a rather snazzy slightly funky suit type get up, although that still doesn't really, you know, make him sexy (Ferrell was suited up, too, just not quite as funkily). Somewhat worryingly, McKay appeared to have some sort of Parkinsonian-like tremor going on. Initially I thought it might just be nervous type shaking, and although it did seem to lessen somewhat during the half hour press conference, it was always there. He was v young to have something like that going on, definitely looked neurological.

But I digress. The three had a great time during the press conference and made lots of ridiculous jokes the entire time, much as you'd expect. Virtually nothing they said was true, and about 50% of the stuff that they did say that was true was unusable due to discussions of body parts that my company probably frowns upon seeing in print. Let's just say the word of the day was "nutsack." I will say say Ferrell seemed to get a little more serious as the half hour went on, which I can understand. It can be hard to keep up that comedic energy the entire time, esp when they audience isn't matching it. But even harder is knowing that they expect it from you.

Next up were Mary Steenburgen (remember her from Parenthood?) and Richard Jenkins (the dad from Six Feet Under). They were both lovely. She looks amazing, prompting me to assume that she must have had work done. Although whatever that work was you can't tell, which therefore prompts me to want to know who her plastic surgeon is. Jenkins was surprisingly funny for someone who usually plays grumpy/irascible. Both were oddly... ummm... sparklier? in person. They have more of a light in their eyes, I guess, than comes through on screen.