junket2

Junkets

It’s a drizzly Tuesday afternoon in the Meatpacking District. I’m waiting outside a hotel suite. It’s just before a junket interview that will be my last. A film publicist wanders in the hallway, jitters in her stride. She’s gabbing into her cell, calmly trying to placate a difficult client who doesn’t realize how difficult he’s being.

Being a journalist, I’m invisible. I’m the barista or bartender of the media system. I’m considered too dimwitted to pay attention to the dismal and terrible things that actors and filmmakers sometimes say. The expectation is that I won’t write about it. The idea here is that I can’t inquire, lest this prevent future interview opportunities from surfacing upon my shoals. I truly don’t care who I talk with, so long as there’s a fun and somewhat enlightening conversation. But this modest goal is incompatible with what is expected. I’m expected to offer softball questions along the lines of “Where do you get your ideas?” or “What’s next?” But I can’t. Just can’t. Don’t have it in me to dumb things down. This simply isn’t what journalists do. I feel compelled to present a film person with a goofy or thoughtful inquiry into his craft. Perhaps it’s naivete. But it worked back in the day for Mike Wallace. But if I do inquire, and I’m just about to, it’s considered “inappropriate.” No explanation or specific solecism given.

I’m expected to be dazzled by the limitless canapes, the endless stream of sandwiches, the food and drink that publicists are expected to provide, the tab paid by a studio with money to burn. But I don’t care about any of this. Because I’m a journalist. Not a freeloader. And I want to do my job.

I don’t know who the client on the phone is, but this publicist has a difficult task on her hands. I learn that the client has had press. Regis, a profile in the Los Angeles Times, and numerous other places. Not bad. But it’s simply not enough. This client wants more.

“I understand,” says the publicist, “but it’s been difficult to get in touch with you. You don’t return my calls. And it would help…”

The publicist is interrupted.

I learn that the publicist has been leaving several voicemails a day. The publicist has been trying to book this client — who could be an egotistical filmmaker or a self-important actor — on several shows. But without that pivotal communication on the client’s end, the all-encompassing media tsunami he demands can’t happen. And even if it can happen, it simply isn’t enough. The publicist is expected to make this happen regardless of the client’s recalcitrance. And in this way, the publicist isn’t all that different from the junket journalist. If an actor detects even the faintest slight, then it’s the journalist who takes the fall and the publicist is chewed out by another publicist just higher up the ladder, but all publicists are equal and just as expendable. The assumption is that the journalist will continue to dun his nose because he needs the high-profile interviews. I, however, don’t need or care to dun my nose. Thanks to a spectacularly bitchy publicist named Betsy Rudnick, a senior account executive at Falco Ink who I haven’t yet met, but who I learn later doesn’t like me but can’t tell me why, I’m about to commit unanticipated hari-kari and I don’t know it.

A film person wants to be on every radio and television show, wants to grace every newspaper. But the film person abdicates all control to the publicist. The film person is expected to be placated, taken care of, have his ego massaged, and who knows what else.

Some New York junket veterans — like a man named Brad Balfour who I have run into at press screenings and interviews and who has eyed my audio equipment not so out of bonhomie or curiosity, but with the hope of discerning some way that he can use me* — boast about having ten minutes with Samuel L. Jackson. I heard Balfour shrieking at the top of his lungs about a Jackson chat at a screening a few months ago. He had bagged Jackson. But what kind of sustained inquiry can you have in ten minutes? In the case of Balfour, the inquiry involves such insipid questions like “What inspired you to do In Country?” and “How did you prepare for this role?” Questions that nearly any junket journalist is going to ask.

This take-no-chances approach goes much further. There’s something called a roundtable interview, in which multiple junket journalists band together to offer the same questions with the same answers for the same outlets, where they can then take the same credit for being the “exclusive” interlocutor.

As a result, quotes from the same conversation have a magical way of popping up everywhere. You may think that Balfour got the scoop on Javier Bardem. But wouldn’t you know it? The same quotes — in particular, observe the “How am I with women?” answer and the specific references to Woody Allen and Milos Forman — show up in interviews with Coming Soon’s Edward Douglas, the Boston Globe‘s Michelle Kung, Collider’s Frosty (a nom de plume for a double-dipping journalist?), and the Sunday Mirror. (And if you want to have some real fun, Google a quote. You may be surprised by how frequently a specific phrase appears in interviews. If it doesn’t come from the same conversation, then it’s likely to be a phrase that a film person latches onto. An actor, after all, must know his lines. Boilerplate is an amazing thing.)

This fiction of a perceived exclusive allows readers to think that they’re getting something unique. But when an actor hits New York, “friendly” interviewers are selected to obtain quotes, and the results are nothing less than a mass dissemination of the same material. Junket journalists often team up to collect their work. One group interviews the actor, another a director. The film person maintains the practice of repeating the same quotes, ad nauseum, to these “journalists.” It all becomes a journalistic circlejerk.

The junket has been around longer than you might expect. One of Hollywood’s earliest moments of junket excess came in 1963, when a then whopping $250,000 was spent promoting Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Kramer was summoned to defend the crazed financial excess. It set a precedent. Now nearly every film released by a studio spends a remarkable sum of money on junkets.

And if you think junket journalists are bad, there are other hacks who go much further. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association‘s ignoble relationship with Hollywood has the studios picking up the airfare and hotel bill for journalists. There are sometimes gift bags. Bribery. (For what it’s worth, the HFPA also oversees the Golden Globes, in the event you actually believed that there was some integrity.) And then there’s Ain’t It Cool News’s Harry Knowles, an online “journalist” regularly flown out by studios to premieres. In 2006, Eric D. Snider revealed more, writing a candid column entitled “I Was a Junket Whore,” in which he chronicled further indiscretions. Snider remains banned from Paramount screenings for telling the truth.

* * *

I was at Soho House to talk with film people behind Santosh Sivan’s film, Before the Rains. I set up the interview because I had admired Sivan’s 1999 film, The Terrorist, championing it when it had played during the San Francisco Film Festival that year. I had intended to talk with Sivan about his stunning visuals. But the deal was this. I could talk with Sivan, but only if I likewise talked with actors Linus Roache, Jennifer Ehle, Nandita Das, and Rahul Bose. No problem. I set up a roundtable conversation. I figured that questions could be bounced off Sivan and the actors. And all of us would have a fun time. I had set up the interview with an amicable and adept publicist named Caitlin Speed, a lively woman whom I had booked previous interviews with, and who simply got the inquisitive intent and nature of The Bat Segundo Show. But when I showed up, another publicist asked me who I was and who I had set up the interview with. I told her. And eventually, Caitlin and I found each other.

The atmosphere was chaotic. Das was on her way out. Sivan hadn’t arrived. No reason was given. No problem. I’d carry forth an impromptu discussion with the remaining actors. And if Sivan showed up later, he could nudge his way in. This was, after all, the natural flow of conversation.

Actors are, on the whole, very friendly. They are, after all, people. But there are some who have chips on their shoulders the size of Montana. And it is these prima donnas who tarnish the profession. I began my conversation with Bose — easily the best actor in Before the Rains and, as it turned out, the smartest guy at the table — and Ehle, given a relatively thankless role as the wife to Roache’s adulterer. Things started off okay, with Bose claiming to be Ehle and “very sexy.” But when Roache, the film’s leading man, arrived, flashing his pearly whites, I was expected to break off my conversation with Bose to acknowledge his presence. (You can hear this awkward pause in the podcast. I’m presenting the audio file below unedited. I leave others to make up their minds over whether I went over the line with my questions or whether the actors I talked with were incapable of working without a script.) The problem was that I was in the middle of a query with Bose on how Sivan had placed his character at the top of a cliff, and I was curious to know how landscape and position affected his performance. And I thought it very rude to break off this conversation in media res. When Bose was finished with his answer, I then introduced Roache. Roache was getting fidgety, presumably because he was not the center of attention.

Me: I should point out that Linus Roache has just joined us. How are you doing?

Roache: I’m very good. How are you?

Me: Doing fantastic. I alluded to — I was talking with Jennifer about the scene with you and Jennifer in the bedroom, where both of you are positioned in a manner in which — you’re both diagonal to the bed frame. We were talking about this notion of performance in relation to landscape. And I was wondering if you had any particular thoughts on how landscape or the environment in this film — because this is a very environment-specific film — pertains to your performance. Or working within these limitations.

Roache: Wow! What a question.

Ehle: I didn’t talk about that at all. Ed was talking about that. I said I had no idea about the landscape or anything.

Roache: I don’t know how to answer that. Uh….

Bose: I did the mountains. Landscape and the mountains were mine. She said she did the tea gardens.

Ehle: Yeah.

There was nervous laughter. And at this point, Roache then shifted into boilerplate.

Roache: I don’t know. I just loved being there. I was just out of my mind being there. It was just such an incredible environment to make a movie in. I literally like — I had tears in my eyes when I left. Because I had never been in such beauty for so long. So I understand why my character didn’t want to leave there. The way he fell in love with it. So.

Okay. So he wasn’t getting it. So I thought I’d try a goofier approach to loosen Roache up. Something predicated upon an observation I had of the film, something I was curious about, and something he might have some fun with.

Me: There was one aspect to your character that actually disturbed me. And that was the fact that your hair does not move — with an exception near the end. There’s a stray follicle that actually sticks out. But for the most part, your hair is completely slicked back.

There was a confused look on Roache’s face. Bose tried to bail him out.

Bose: He was very particular about it. Linus, you know, I won’t say he’s vain. But there’s definitely a hair thing going on there. And he just — if his hair would move, he would call for a cut and take the shot again. He said, “Let me know if my hair ever moves.”

Me: No, but I mean was this an actual plan on your part? Because not even the wind can knock your hair out of place.

Ehle: Did you enjoy the movie?

Me: No, serious! It was like a Steven Seagal motif or something.

Roache: I never noticed that. I’ve got scenes where I’m covered in water. And I’ve got scenes where my hair’s all over the place.

Me: Even…really? Because every single time, your hair is like completely pomaded.

Roache: Well, they did use pomade in 1939. But yeah.

Me: Well was there any particular Brylcreem thing?

Roache: Yeah, we used hair pomade that they used in 1937.

Me: What research did you do to get the exact nature of Brylcreem right?

Roache remained baffled. He glared at Bose, annoyed that Bose, a mere supporting actor, was the better wit.

The hair angle seemed right at the time. Knowing of the mothballs that Marlon Brando had placed into his mouth for Don Corleone, I was genuinely curious about the question of how slicking back one’s hair affected an actor’s performance. But I also wanted to have fun with this. And I can now see how an oversensitive “Serious Actor” might take the Steven Seagal comparison the wrong way. It is worth observing that Roache’s Gaia Community profile page has “to help define human relationship beyond ego” listed as his singular Goal.

I then asked a question to the group about how Sivan’s color schemes — green devoted to the colonialists, brown devoted to the tribes, and red foreshadowing a tragic event — might have affected performance. I wanted these three actors to understand that this was an inquiry. Roache then burst in with an answer.

Roache: This movie was more about a kind of creative, you know, rock and roll, jazz fusion situation. Because you had a creative genius like Santosh Sivan. I mean, there weren’t a lot of huge decisions being made in this kind of arty level like that. It was more like a creative process that was unfolding. And some of it was crazy and chaotic. And some of it was just like following what was there and making the most of it. And that’s what a genius like Santosh does. So…

Me: Yeah, but I…

Ehle: If there was anything intellectual about the film, it was streaming out of Santosh. I don’t think anybody ever sat down. It was a very unconstipated process.

In other words, any interview was a matter of parroting the press notes. Any remotely intellectual query was “constipated” and verboten.

Roache: Yeah, yeah. The script though was well thought through and multi-layered. In terms of taking a domestic story, extrapolating that out into something epic. So that’s why you had structure. That’s where you had structure. But within that, you had this guy who was like, “No no no, that shot isn’t about you. It’s about an insect.”

Me: Yeah. Well, landscape is very important. In your house, in your character’s house, there is this particular color scheme going on. So as a result, this has to affect your performance on some level. There’s the red carpet. The red that’s kind of a foreshadowing of what’s going to happen later on in the particular film. And so when you are dealing with colors that are this dominant on the set, and in your particular environment, this has to have some effect upon your performance.

Roache was having none of this. And so I brought up the way in which his eyebrows had moved up and down as the events unfolded in the film. Roache mentioned something about training at the “eyebrow school” and was then ushered away from the table.

The conversation continued with Bose and Ehle, and there were a few interesting thoughts exchanged about acting with gesture limitations. But the mood had permanently altered. I had committed the unpardonable crime of “going after” the leading man. When the actors left the table, they used a common status exercise to turn their backs to me and not offer me any kind of eye contact. Ironically enough, I had brought up the question of eye contact during the course of the interview.

My friend, serving as a technical assistant, and I left the room to ponder what had just happened. She had helped me out with a few other multiple person interviews. And she had observed another actor run away after I had asked a question about the relationship between backstory and performance. This interview, she told me, had outdone that.

We then returned to the white room for my turn to talk with Sivan. I had been told by Caitlin that I would get five minutes. Another woman — the aforementioned bitchy publicist, Betsy Rudnick, as it turned out — then told me that there was “no time in his schedule.” I told her that I only needed five minutes and that I had prepared specific questions, that one of the reasons I had come was to talk with Sivan. But talking with Sivan was impossible. A phoner was offered. My friend, who was utterly appalled by the way I was being treated, then said, “We don’t do phoners….ever.” I then tried to smooth things over by asking how long Sivan was in town for, suggesting that I could come back the next day to conduct the interview. Perhaps we could make more of this and have a serious conversation about the film. Rudnick retreated away.

We waited some more. I observed Rudnick laying into Caitlin, who stood shell-shocked by the window. I approached Caitlin and asked what the problem was. She said, “I don’t understand. The guys from The Signal loved you. So did the Hennegan brothers.”

I then approached Rudnick and asked again what the deal was with Sivan.

Rudnick snapped at me, telling me that there would now be no interview with Sivan. The reasons and conditions were changing by the minute. She told me that I had made the actors uncomfortable. That my questions were “inappropriate.”

“What specific questions?” I asked.

She would not say. So we left without causing a stink.

Out in the streets, I was overcome with rage. Not for the unprofessional manner in which Rudnick had handled the Sivan interview, but because I then fully understood how the junket system was a sham. I was upset by the manner in which Rudnick had said something terrible to Caitlin, who is a good person, and how all this had presumably originated from a minor affront to Linus Roache’s ego. He seriously believed that he could coast by on his generic answers. He seriously expected to be the center of attention.

I felt compelled to smoke a rare cigarette.

I resolved then and there never to do a junket interview again. And, at least for the time being, I do not want to talk with actors. I will have nothing to do with Falco Ink or any agency that Betsy Rudnick is a part of. I am not interested in being a marketing tool. I’m interested in inquiry. I’m interested in maintaining the mix of goofy and intellectual questions that have long been at the center of The Bat Segundo Show.

Again, I leave the listeners to judge whether my questions were “inappropriate.” The audio can be listened to at the end of this post. Yes, there were some tangents involving Roache’s hair and the way that he used his eyebrows. I suppose that what makes my conversation different from, say, David Letterman interviewing Gwyneth Paltrow about her knee is that I opted not to stare in awe at Roache’s middle-aged mien or worship his almighty presence, whereas Letterman’s intent involved soothing Paltrow. And it says something that James Lipton, the man considered by many to be the finest actor-oriented interviewer, often has actors spill their guts out to him on personal matters — most notably, Jack Lemmon confessing his alcoholism. Curtis White has identified this tendency to prioritize the personal over the intellectual as symptomatic of the Middle Mind, represented by interviewers like Terry Gross. Citing an author whose real-life husband had dropped dead shortly before this author’s book was published, White observed that “[t]his was the point at which the book became interesting for Terry. If her poor husband hadn’t dropped dead, Terry would never have been interested in her or her book for this ‘show of shows.’ ‘What did it feel like to suspect you’d killed your own husband with your art?’ Fresh Air? How about Lurid Speculations? It’s like Dr. Laura for people with bachelor’s degrees. Car Talk has more intellectual content.”

The “inappropriateness” was the idea that aspects of an actor’s performance were open to playful or even quasi-intellectual questioning, and that this served in sharp contrast to the lurid soothing and constant ego-stroking that today’s celebrity interviews require. It wasn’t as if I had asked Roache what his favorite sexual position was. Although I suppose that this question would have been more “appropriate” than trying to query Roache about his acting process.

But if a film journalist does not play the fool, if he asks an actor to use his brain, or if does not spend his time assuaging the actor in some way, it is a contumely to the control that the film industry wishes to maintain. Any trade secrets or insights for the public are reserved for the DVD commentaries, which generate more money for both the studios and the paid participants. And the Betsy Rudnicks of our world demand a climate in which journalists are supplicant sycophants, but the perception of inquiry is sustained because the interview is framed in a Q&A format predetermined by unreasonable conditions and unvoiced demands. The film journalism world is as phony and fabricated as the film world. And from these execrable conditions, self-serving hacks like Brad Balfour boast and profit.

These people believe that you are stupid. They believe that you will buy anything they tell you to. And as the film industry has extended its control over the types of questions and the types of journalists that actors and directors will talk with, the only spirit of resistance comes from celebrity gossip reporters determined to dig up any bit of nastiness. And the public, hoping for one small shred of the truth, laps this up. But despite this, the pursuit for intellectual truth is abandoned.

Because of this, I have decided to abandon my brief flirtation with film journalism. I’m sticking with books, comics, and a few other things. When I wrote about movies in the late ’90’s, there was still the possibility of conducting interviews with inquiry in mind. But that time has now passed. Conversation has been replaced by kissing an actor’s ass. Current film coverage, given what I have described above, is not in any true sense journalistic. It also isn’t much fun. The true sign that it’s over is that opportunist typists like Brad Balfour seriously believe that they are journalists, and they do not recognize the sad solipsistic leeches staring back in the mirror.

* — Balfour does indeed use people, such as this poor guy who was “[e]ager enough to get sucked into becoming a transcriber for Mr. Balfour: transcribing many of his interviews for eventual publication on the website.”

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22 Comments

  1. The problem here is your dogged pursuit of questions about landscape, limitations, specific mannerisms etc that aren’t relevant to actors’ thought processes (as they told you several times). Surely an actor’s work is largely in the internal landscape: motivations, relationships, personality, the “in the moment” stuff. Their job is to portray the character truthfully and interact with others spontaneously – not necessarily an intellectual exercise. It’s as if you cribbed your questions intended for the director and gave them to the actors. That’s as unreasonable as asking a costume designer about sound.

    You said the roundtable should be a conversation. That’s what a good interview should be, an exchange between people who are listening as well as talking, a flow. Instead, from the sounds of it you came in with the rigid idea that you would control the topic of discussion, not taking into account what your interlocutors were saying. Like your question about the bedroom scene – it question presupposes that the position of figures was deliberate limitation, while it’s quite possible that they had a few goes filming it and that angle was what Sivan found best suited the mood, and wasn’t presented to the actors as “you must sit here diagnolly and don’t move” at all. This is indeed what Ehle says in her answer. You nevertheless ask Roache the same question in the same “performance in relation to landscape” terms. Attempting unusual questions is admirable; sticking to them when they’re patently miss-the-point is just bad interviewing.

    And it’s not a giant leap to take the “goofy” questions about eyebrows and hair as predatory or condescending, given that you didn’t build rapport before you talked about this. First you ignore Roache, then you hit him with a curly question without any warmup, then mock his hair. Who wouldn’t be put off? There is a happy medium between kiss-assy softball and esoteric intellectualism. You missed it.

    While an awkward interview is forgivable, the bitterness and pique that this post reeks of – not to mention the bitchy personal attacks on Roache – are frankly unprofessional. You’re peeved that you didn’t get Sivan…so you stomp away from film journalism forever cos you’re so misunderstood and all actors are loser assholes? Without considering whether any of your actions caused this state of affairs? Sophomoric. If that’s your attitude then, well, good riddance.

  2. Excellent reply I.H.! Talk about a pompous tool…

  3. I have to agree…

    You can hardly expect your average actor to be as intelligent as your average author… and like I.H said — try building a rapport before you start in on the personal jibes.

    And the Hollywood system rests on a foundation of bullshit… if you wanna play the game, I imagine you have to bite that bullet. I never would. Glad you’ll be keeping away from this crap in the future…

  4. Does Helen Thomas “establish a rapport” with George Bush before talking with him? It seems to me, I.H., that you’re missing the point of journalism. Journalists inquire. They don’t “establish a rapport.” That’s one degree away from stroking their ego. Now, as it so happens, a rapport has developed among the majority of people I’ve talked with. Some have become friends. But the rapport exists as a side benefit. The main byway involves serious inquiry. How else can you take a subject seriously?

    Also, I.H., have you seen the film? Can you reference the specific shot I’m talking about (which does indeed involve blocking limitations)? Do you even KNOW what I’m talking about?

    Furthermore, while I think Jon Hilderman for leaving his name and offering a fair-minded rebuttal, are either of the first two commenters willing to provide their full names here? For all I know, you could be Linus Roache’s publicists. And if you wish to be forthright and disagree with me, you’re going to have to be forthright about who you are. Your IP addresses don’t quite match up with the domain names in your emails. I’m happy to address your points, but only if you provide your names and provide reasonable provenance that you are not PR lackeys.

  5. Having spoken to film journalists, and worked with them at news agency, the comment that “The film journalism world is as phony and fabricated as the film world” is completely accurate.

    But I will say, Ed, it was rude of you to ask questions that required thought from the thoughtless.

  6. Heavy meta! You’re the anti-Louis Theroux! But, surely, Ed, you knew already that most film people (even the reputedly intelligent ones) are dumb as rubber ladders? Ergo, the susceptibility to Hubbardronics. You’d have gotten better answers, using the same questions, in a Bingo parlor (along with a much greater likelihood of scoring some leg).

  7. If you’re censoring me, that’s pretty ironic. On the Ehle blog I’m the one arguing that a link to your interview should be posted in the interests of anti-censorship, while other people are making “don’t give the bastard publicity” comments. Bravo, bravissimo.

  8. (comment attempt #5)

    Fine. Tina Doan, student, former blogger for Ehle fanblog. Not paid, no personal connection to Ehle, and no longer posting at that blog. I too am interested in Serious Inquiry. I’ve read too many interviews where journalists ask the same hackneyed questions and we get the same repetitive answers eg. “how is it working with Santosh? isn’t India pretty?” (snooze). But the inquiry has to be relevant to the interviewees, or else that’s equally bad journalism. Also, if you could explain why pomade and eyebrows were in pursuit of Noble Truths, inquiring minds want to know.

    I haven’t seen the film yet, though the bedroom scene mentioned is in the trailer I believe. Does that make what I say invalid? Ehle’s response to your question is that “whatever we were doing, we were doing because it felt right and made sense; I don’t think anybody told us to do anything”. And time and again the actors say how it’s not their job to think about the colour of carpets or how the shot looks – how in fact it’s detrimental to their performance, takes them out of the moment. Interview redux.
    Q: “how does [technical detail x] affect performance?”
    A:”it doesn’t.”
    Q:”ok, how about [technical detail y]?”
    A: “still no.”
    Q: “really? I’m sure [technical detail Z] must have SOME influence”.
    Who’s not getting the point? You could have asked about characters’ emotions, morality, culture, power relationships…all plausible lines of non-kiss-assy inquiry. You could’ve made them think and stray from boilerplate, deepened your readers’ understanding of the film, and managed to keep everyone onside for long enough to pose your technical questions to Sivan, who I’m sure would’ve waxed lyrical about colour and landscape. Opportunity wasted.

    Rapport is not about being omgbestfriendsforeverlol!!!! It’s making the other person comfortable and trusting enough to talk to you. Part of human conversation. Except in law or government, conversation isn’t battle, it’s collaboration.

    I re-read your article and take exception to the personal versus intellectual dichotomy. They’re not mutually exclusive if relevant. In this interview I don’t care if they’re all raging alcoholics, but it is relevant that Ehle’s mother, actress Rosemary Harris, grew up in India during the Raj period, or that Roache has done other films there and feels a spiritual connection with the country. Why must film talk be about colour, lenses, blocking? Passions, experiences, stories, these things matter as well.

  9. I.H.: I have not censored any of your comments. Indeed, I approved them. Furthermore, in checking out the “Jennifer Ehle fanblog” at Blogspot, there is no such discussion of me as a “bastard.” You are, of course, inclined to maintain such an opinion.

    But I should point out that the only reference to the name Tina Doan comes from colinfirth24-7.com — a website likewise attributed at an MSN page to Caitlin Cargill (a former Speed perhaps?):

    http://groups.msn.com/FirthSisters/members.msnw

    Most mysteriously, the WHOIS for colinfirth24-7.com remains private.

    Sounds to me like you’re trying to spin this. So why not just come clean. What agency are you with? Or are you perhaps Ehle herself?

  10. My mistake, your comments wouldn’t let me through cos I included the URL in the post body.

    The Colin Firth thing is because they are hosting the PDFs of an e-mail interview I did with Ehle (or rather facilitated- fans sent in questions). The blog doesn’t have a file server, it’s just run off Blogspot, so we piggybacked off the CF site. I’m an Australian student, ex-fansite admin. Believe what you will.

    But all this ad hominem about my identity is beside the point. Play the ball and not the player, man. Surely you don’t think the only person who would disagree with you is some conspirator? If you can argue against the points I made, do so.

  11. Required Name May 1, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Ed Champion-Ass-Hat: You’ve chosen a poor battlefield to assail. The artists involved with this production (chosen by a Director that you clearly have an affinity for) are far from the shallow personalities found in most movie-product. These people, artists all, (check their Bios, fuckhead) dutifully met you for an interview while promoting a film whose worth they clearly believed in: enough to discuss the matter with a self-possessed asshole like yourself. The audio you include merely validates their patience and sense of humor as they politely try to address your sophmoric and painfully pretentious ‘converastional’ rhetoric. The artists featured in ‘Before the Rains’ are nowhere near the shallow Hollywood cliche you hope to present here in order to defend your pathetic presentation. You failed to engage these artists, and so were reduced to rallying against the common-sense of their ignoring you.
    One of the most fascinating things about the expanse of the Internet seems to be the depth of ignorance that demands a voice for itself. You might try to first understand what actors do before feigning a disgust for it.
    Sincerely, fuck you, you embarrassment.
    Signed,
    Not Roach or Ehle or Das, nor Bose.

  12. The truly embarrassing (and hilarious) thing is that the above commenter — coming from a Bridgeport, CT IP address (hi, Falco!) — doesn’t have the balls to say any of this to my face. Funny how I’m the one accused of ad hominem, when the crazed coward above is the vitriolic one.

  13. I love the sound of flacks being pwned.

  14. Required Name May 2, 2008 at 1:08 am

    The actors, during your very ‘interview,’ already said it ‘to your face,’ you chump. Take a deep breath and listen to your argument desiccate the more you blow,dummy: Your queries were idiotic! “(I)n your character’s house, there is this particular color scheme going on. So as a result, this has to affect your performance on some level. There’s the red carpet. The red that’s kind of a foreshadowing of what’s going to happen later on in the particular film. And so when you are dealing with colors that are this dominant on the set, and in your particular environment, this has to have some effect upon your performance.”
    … Seriously: seriousy: Ed, What the fuck is sputtering out of your mouth? Do you have any idea what film is about? Take a breath and disown the lackeys surrounding you and consider your talents: You don’t know shit about creation.
    Amen. Now please consider this the extent of our consideration, Mr. Ed “I got into a junket and jerked off,” Champion. Good luck with your puny dick-wad site. (And drop the “Who really are you! histrionics. I’m someone who loves fine acting, nothing more. Your type easily pisses off people with taste.)

  15. It’s so easy to spew such ridiculous drivel when you can’t be held accountable, isn’t it? Clearly, your ignorant ass hasn’t heard of Stella Adler, who demanded that actors know the setting and the environment whenever they create a performance. Or maybe you might want to pick up three books by this guy called Stanislavsky (or perhaps the Cliffs Notes version). If you think this acting is “fine” through your rose-colored glasses, that’s fine. But I never once attended a funeral where I heard someone say, “Wow, she was such a great publicist. What a terrible loss for the world.”

  16. Required Name May 2, 2008 at 1:44 am

    “Publicist” is your excuse, running thin. I’m not affiliated with any of the actors, and you have no defense for my thoughts otherwise. Please, please, plead stop jerking off to your (temporary) reader’s comments.

  17. Ed, as a longtime reader of yours I’ve seen your passion overtake your rational reasoning, but this junket post might set a new record.

    I know you consider yourself a serious journalist — I see you more as the Perez Hilton of the lit world. You were so good as a blogger because of your lone wolf tendencies. And you’ve done well with lit people with your Segundo interviews.

    But as has been mentioned before in this comments area in relation to other posts, it can be hard to take your word for the way things go down. My favorite example is during one of your tension filled confrontations with Sam Tanenhaus you described him as “bellowing into the microphone.” Galleycat, describing the same action wrote “sighed Tanenhaus.” While your version of the event was much more entertaining, the conflicting details caused this reader to question your powers of observation while you were in the midst of a personally stressful situation.

    So in “Junkets” when you describe the two pr people talking to each other as you view the scene from across the room — telling your readers that one was berating the other due to your presence — I had to wonder if they were just talking about sending someone down to Starbucks to get coffee for everyone while you turned the commonplace scene into an ominous threat.

    (I never had the opportunity to interview actors, but a collaborator and I interviewed the likes of directors Robert Wise, Gene Fowler, etc. for some of the first literate articles — post Forest Ackerman’s Famous Monsters Of Filmland shenanigans — about horror and SFF films. They appeared in popular film magazines and not specialist publications like Cahiers du Cinema, etc. You can find references to some of our work in books like Cheap Tricks and Class Acts — Special Effects, Makeup and Stunts from the Films of the Fantastic Fifties (McFarland) and others, as we got the directors to open up for the first time about particular tricks they used in their films. And the directors we interviewed were never less than forthcoming, helpful and honest. The old saw that everyone in Hollywood is a liar or worse is a myth fostered and carried on mostly by the envious and disenfranchised.)

    But sure, it’s your blog and you can do and say whatever you want. Still, I fear that posts like “Junkets” are going to lose you the readers you want: those who care about a truly balanced and journalistically solid accounting of events and not just some gossipy Hiltonesque circus version. And I think you were on the right track at the beginning of the post, presenting a picture of the cynical journo going for the truth, though the piece quickly went off the rails, in my humble estimation. In short, I’m saying I think you can do a lot better and you should just write this off as the one that got away and move on.

  18. You know, I do junkets for a living. I have a job and I’m paid a decent salary to do celebrity/filmmaker interviews among other writing. I barely glanced over this piece but seriously, it’s people like you, who are given opportunities like these and squander them by complaining about publicists or other junketers/journalists or the system itself are the reason why blogs like shouldn’t be considered viable outlets to do these interviews. I really don’t know what kind of traffic you get but to call out Brad Balfour and Betsy Rudnick like you do here is inexcusable, and frankly, I hope the latter bans you from their screening/junket list for this.

    Ed, this is the way of the world… this is the way these junkets have worked for years, even decades, and that’s the way it’s always going to be. If you can’t get the coverage or interviews you want, for God’s sake, just stop doing them and go work at an office job and see how much worse THAT is. Seriously, man… all this griping and kvetching does little to add any credibility to you or your blog.

  19. So you’re saying, Mr. Douglas, that you would rather be a hack “journalist” offering the same boilerplate questions with the same anemic and weak-kneed content rather than to even TRY for anything remotely probing? Sounds to me like you’re the one who should get an office job. Hacks like you who settle for the lowest common denominator are a dime a dozen. Your failure to think, your failure to write, and your failure to challenge makes you a discredit to the profession of journalism. You, sir, are the one who is inexcusable.

  20. […] quite happy to scarf down the moist cloacal deposits offered by film publicists, recently left a comment. Mr. Douglas writes that telling the truth about Hollywood and the junket system is “the […]

  21. Biteme McBlowyourself December 11, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    wow, why don’t you try being a little more self-righteous about the nobility of journalism, i bet that would probably get actors to really open up to you. i respect your desire to get beyond junket boilerplate and to be more than a stenographer (more film writers should be so ambitious), but i have news for you: as a journalist, that is YOUR job, not your subject’s. investigating “the effect of landscape on performance” is not like digging into a political scandal. by pursuing a line of questioning that obviously held no interest or relevance for your interviewees, you essentially decided what the story was before going in, which anybody as snooty about the subject as you should know is BAD JOURNALISM. if you find it impossible to establish any kind of rapport with an interview subject without kissing his/her ass, that means you are not a very good interviewer. this is like high school newspaper 101. IH is one hundred percent right in all the above criticisms, including that your paranoid fantasies of being pursued on comment boards by pr flacks have nothing to do with the substance of the charges against you. since you seem to view INQUIRY as such a holy thing, you should remember that one of its most basic rules is that an argument should be judged valid or not on its own merits, not by who makes it. settle down bro.

  22. I think what happened here was a terrible case of ill-information, someone should have provided you the restrictions you’d have to work with before you accepted the interview.

    That could have prevented everything, because really no one is at fault. The actors play a role in the interviews, they say things supposed to be repeated over and over until people swallow. And you wanted to have an honest conversation. The parts were simply imcompatible.

    I gotta say though, in my opinion, it’s more far fetched to think you can milk sincerity in a celebrity interview than to think you’ll meet your true love in a bordel, I mean, it can happen, but it isn’t this much of a bet.

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