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.