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Read this: Secrets of the Celebrity Interview

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Secrets of the Celebrity Interview…



BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 we could all do with a dose of escapism and as newspapers need the public support no more than ever we're going to celebrate a type of journalism that they do uniquely it's the set-piece interview with a famous face for the weekend supplements those big features which can relaunch careers and end careers and some that will still be talking about many years later.

When is columnist in the features writer at the Guardian who seems to eat more at Hollywood a-listers than the doorman at the Beverly Wilshire not right now though of course Hadleigh we are all getting used to situate.

You never expected and I know that you had a 25-minute zoom call with Julie Andrews earlier this week.

How did that go beyond that illustrated? Why I think if you are struggling with the locked and God knows were not the ones suffering the Brunt of it.

I mean I supposed to do 25 minutes as you say and the pr was struggling so much with the technology that in the end.

I was on the given 13 minutes which is not enough trying to you from so trying to get more time, but that just shows how you know you think it'll be easier being able to use from your front room actually yeah, well, it will keep my fingers crossed for no tax issues like that on the program today in her long career.

He has worked for a papers all over the world is interviewed intern.

Giant sir from Elizabeth Taylor to Benazir Bhutto still feature interviews to be hard for you at the moment.

There are actually and you know it sounds that to be adaptable is key and cause the kind of access that one used to be able to get doesn't available now for interview at all.

So you know I think if you if you're kind of if you lose your craft, you can still get rather extraordinary material from people even quite circumstances and and of course these are quite challenging circumstances, but I feel quite confident actually perhaps madly and hey ho we'll be going right now is the last of our three guests today once a war reporter and I on the A-list from front lines of the columns to Android

The Sunday Times recently you went from interviewing Orlando Bloom and succession Brian Cox I noticed Charlotte to writing like being stroked on yourself with potentially be glad to see you back at work.

I know you interviewed and Dennis Morissette since then, how are you at the interview? I did with an anise my research.

I did actually before lockdown.

I'm just before lockdown and I have done one interview since then which was for the Saturday Times magazine which I did it with social distancing so so I haven't yet had to struggle over zoom.

It's all that I would like to start with the big question for all of you today.

Hi, do you manage to get famous people to open up and tell you more than they see on the press release strategy when you're preparing for an interview Charlotte I know it's a difficult question but let's start with a difficult one so I think it depends how much time you're giving if you're giving a suitable amount of time you can read.

Play Read interviews with people like the other interviews here now and also there so come along and Barbara decorating head Turner some of the big people who write 7 pieces and then all reviews are social media you might watch if they've got a lot of work in film your watch their films or television Appearances and I also phone people who might know some sort of gossip about them if they worked on a set or something and then sometimes there's no notice at all.

I've had been in the morning and asked again interview someone the same day and then you just have a sort of stock will I have a stock of you know set interview questions come on let's hear what the stock ones are if you've got no time to prep about that a few but one is that you know? What would you tell your therapist about your relationship with your mother and father? Did you ever get nothing good are those ones?

It's amazing people really love therapy and I'm talking about that.

He's so yeah and some people are very open about things you know even some big Hollywood flowers about vagina Dominic railway Hadley preparation is but what about listening cos I think we've all probably playback an interview and realise that there was a question that was just begging to be asked and we missed it.

Is there so much perhaps you'll end up with a massive line of killer questions and then you'd know what's right in front of you.

Yes, I think that's a really common mistake God knows I've made that many times in my career and obviously the most important thing is crap.

You have to go in knowing everything about the person.

I think that's the best way to win their trust if they feel that you really know them.

Respect their work that you're not coming in being like right.

So who my interview today Tom somebody I'll be happy to really know the movies yet to be able to say yes when you did this in that year, they they all of that but you're right you have to be flexible and nimble you can't just go in with like you a lot sheet of 20 questions and just basically treated like a Q&A and it's a conversation conversation.

It's mainly because you're asking them about that then hopefully asking you about you although sometimes.

They do try to distract with that but you're trying to get information of them if they're talking you're asking you how was it boring? You know how was it making this movie and it really reminded me of this with my Dad you can think of right so did you do understand that? What was it? You give me an example of a time when you went when you've got it right when you listened and you got something really good idea that you weren't expecting to get that didn't come up in the prep.

So I guess most obvious example to me to Tony Slattery last year for you this morning over the phone.

So that's another to have done recently interviewed him last year and I knew obviously that he had gone through a lot there been drug addiction and mental health issues, so I went into a prepared to ask about that and I asked him about how he was in the 9 Days he was always described as angry and until you say yes, I was very angry and then we carried on with his childhood and his university experience in his career and it was all.

Oh, yes, it was lovely.

I love being at Cambridge I love what I do and I just said as I would in a conversation with a friend so I don't understand where this came from you know everything in your life is happy.

I understand mental illness course.

I haven't got angry and she just took the big sigh and there was the silence and I thought and then he said I think it had something to do with when I was abused as a child and

We went down that road, which was a role that was very much not expecting to go down and was obviously question has been asked before and it was just such an obvious distance between this happiness is presented and the anger that and he's now made a documentary Horizon about that abuse after after the interview came out.

I think he liberated to spoken about it was very worried, but I should save our soul when we talked about that.

I thought I can't include in the interview then I spoke to Tony many times before I wrote it up to say are you absolutely sure you want us to go in the paper because obviously it it did make a lot of headlines and you must have realised that you were sitting on something quite powerful and perhaps.

He might not even realise what was going to happen when he published absolutely and you have a duty of care, and he was very wary of this.

I talk too many times that was very clear.

I want this to be out this week, so we did and he got a lot of love and affection back from that.

There's no negative reactions.

I think he was a little bit about that documentary we spoke today to do the follow up interview for the dog and he's just saying how happy he was joking about how much has changed your mind because boyfriend how much are changed so that was good, but I mean that was my list of questions.

That is just a conversation.

We've got some extracts from your work.

I'm going up with Ginny Ginny of all the interviews that you've done one stands like simply because of who is so with the help of Maggie service from the BBC radio drama company is your meeting for the Sydney Morning Herald back in 2001 with the real estate millionaire by the name of Donald Trump we are high up in the clouds on the floor of Trump Tower delivered Pink Marble and Gill temple to consumerism and Commerce which stores up from its corner of fifth Avenue and his finger in the foot long blade.

Pair of gold scissors along to walls of his office a large windows from which he can survey the Panorama of a City match of which he owns amazingly we can see The Streak and Bellow of the fire engines follow.

The best part of our interview comes in the last 5-minutes when trump who knows why perhaps because he was exhausted reveals himself in his true monstrous colours and I must say as an interviewer.

This is a rare and exhilarating experience I asked him whether he thinks he is ruthless and he says that although the world sees him that way he reckons he's just firm.

What about the time you put homeless people into the apartment block to drive out rent control tenants.

He assumes a fantastic set an expression and an octave.

I thought that was very humanitarian.

That's very good very imaginative you mean when I was trying to get other people out.

It was actually very humanitarian next question and that next question is no very familiar that anybody who watches The President's the current daily press conferences using different styles depending on who you're interviewing with Tory politicians in the 1990s.

She said you took on and Nanny persona because you felt that they wanted to Spill all to Nanny and indeed to god.

How did you deal with Donald Trump at that time that it would be laughable.

They give a rueful laugh now that he would be president of the United States you know what I felt was that.

Just like daddy's you no more fun very awesome than you know it's worthwhile people.

It was very exhilarating as I said I have somebody just messed up to just how awful because I'm so used to people covering up all the time and what we tried to do with interviewers is unpicked get to the kind of underneath and he did you did you feel anyway? He was being very open I do like to with interviews that I had a bit of a knack of making news through the recent interview but you do want at the baby's grave of something of themselves whether it's newsworthy or not cos otherwise what's the point in doing it and I think that.

Identify Ben we know is what the person is you know that he is completely shameless, but at the time.

I I think it was rare to find somebody admit all sorts of things actually and and you know as I say now.

It's a bit of a cliche of who he is and what do you think that the politicians in general often or ever really say anything that they weren't intending to I mean do they do they use features writers like you as vehicles.

I mean you know they don't know how you're going to write it up position it because they ever say something that they totally didn't mean to I think that this is Cortana on the times for 20-years.

I found the

Worthwhile for some reason you know Michael Portillo when he kind of came out that was a huge you remember.

I think he would want it to say that but I was quite he didn't he did say that he had some homosexual experiences in his younger days, but I think I think that he had wanted to say that I think people quite often want to unburden themselves, so I think the most combination of things come you know Mother Confessor come as I said Nanny and some ways but I think what I'd like to say something much more recent that I did which was a surprise was interviewing you know the fantastic television writer of scandal.

That was a different sort of revealing and I think I felt very badly must have felt with her.

He was very fresh from his husband and 13 years Andrew having died and I didn't expect to talk to him about that and you have died the day that we spoke was 6-months prior he had died and it was actually probably one of the best interviews.

I think I've had the Good Fortune to do in a very long career.

How rare is it for somebody really well known to open up about their most precious vulnerable feelings and I felt it was incredible privilege.

So I think that it's not always revelation at the expense of the person whose reveal something you know our job interviews is simply to deliver something wow to the consumer nothing if I read it don't matter what the price.

I think Charlotte we talked a little bit of white about persona when I was talking to Jenny there, but of course the star is a day.

Persona 2 and so I'd like to hear now at a little extract from interview that you did on lighter note with Jeremy Clarkson I am working and he is working in the new Amazon Prime version of Top Gear I am interviewing him spray of the jet ski then Skids at 45 miles per hour in seawater as we stroll the length of a look around the islands church eat warm banana bread and suck at run sundown is against the dancing chromatic beat of a steel pan, but when a woman with a flute of pink Fizz floats over in a selfie Clarkson box on holiday.

This is growth response pathetic.

May I say because he always does post for them to the other 20 or random people who asked him for his picture over the course of the weekend.

The whole thing as an act of girls he says at one point.

My job my TV persona Jeremy Clarkson it's a mask we were masked not the real me is he suggesting that the man has made a few million from being himself is a con.

And who is the real you I'm telling you he loves it Jeremy Clarkson don't want to give too much away about himself.

He knows he needs to give something away to make an interesting article it sounds a bit like a dance.

It is what it feels like sometimes.

Yes, it does I think I agree with Hadley that sometimes you have a list of questions and you just put them aside and it becomes a conversation and and it becomes very intuitive so you see that someone wants to talk about something or there's a there's a story somewhere and you go and you go there and you sort of pull it out of them but certainly with him.

He was very bruised after the incident where he had been fired from the BBC and so he was revealing vulnerable parts of himself as well as obviously having that bravado that he's so famous for and then it was great to be able to have such a long time to interview him as well.

That was only because I've been a really long time to give me an interview and he sent me a text saying alright then.

I'll do it tomorrow and then hahaha I'm in Barbados I just got on a plane and then when I arrived.

I really didn't expect it to be here so I got a bit longer than usual and obviously that and that boots were much much better interview if you see somebody when they're doing all these things when they are having dinner at talking to you a waitress or to you.

No other guests you just see much more of them.

How they interact with other people of course.

A visitor Trump Tower or hanging out there on a beach in Barbados makes for a pretty good coffee before you even have the star in reality of interviewing a-listers is often that it takes place in the city hotel off and clean up with a lot of other journals from rival publications waiting for there a lot of sloth Hadley an extractor from one of your interviews, I've chosen this one as it's a very good example of the constraints of many celebrity interviews.

This is your meeting with Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston from last November gasps Reese Witherspoon pointing at my old green jumper wait.

I'm sorry look at those called shoes at Jennifer Aniston and all eyes turn to my money 5-year old trainers and the bag my gosh Witherspoon continues a praising my outfit neither of them mentions my

So I make a mental note to burn them when I get home the three of us are meeting in a central London hotel and although outside.

It's dark and rainy the two of them in little black dress and black high heels or is Golden and glossy as a pair of show ponies on a summer's day I on the other hand have rain soaked hair and at least one surplus tone in a passing weight Aniston and Witherspoon will not be swayed from their love bombing.

I love the Guardian Wetherspoon it is a supremely girly way of saying into an interview engaging in the female lingua Franca of insistently complimenting another woman if it weren't for the fact that there are three peers in the room with us one next to Aniston to the Wetherspoon I could almost believe that we were just three girls hanging out for giggles on a Friday afternoon Hadleigh there are so many things that I love about that piece but one of them is the

But you call out that there were more peers in the room than anyone else.

How do you deal with them with the pr and restrictions that they put on interviews fear them and it did become a bit of a problem in that interview.

I don't I don't think you'd always need to describe how the interview in the orifice of the interview, but those kinds of interviews when you have 17 hours to the star lights in the room and everything to be a best friend.

I mean it so ridiculously artificial and I refuse to buy into that and I refuse to have that you know that kind of smoothie.

American magazine.

Copy where the journalist is acting like they're best friends with Cameron Diaz ever celebrity.

Is it just so completely nonsense and there are times.

I think I'm interviewees of pictures of calibre of Aniston and Witherspoon that readers want to know what it's like to interview them, so I told them I completely absurd it is in that interview and you let it.

Copy they were promoting there an Apple TV show called the morning so I believe which is all about sex sex abuse scandal that happens on TV news which is based on the true story of the Matt lauer scandal and MBC in America and that is a massive star in the exactly and he was accused of doing terrible things to women over the course of his career and BC and you know the Kylie Minogue it's great the meeting with me.

Yeah, do we know the kind of predictable predictable from this planet and I read in my research.

Is that what they had said that she experienced sexual harassment in her about it and the temperature in the room.

Just completely dropped a really didn't like them.

Really didn't like being asked about this morning at me and I was saying you know to regret.

I haven't been able to speak about this early in your career.

Are you able to say know who it was who was doing this to you in every powerful producer.

There is no reason that she should be fearful about this because I wanted that I would never push to talk about sex right now, but I mean I have to do in the story telling me off and I just wrote that all is because it just made the whole Enterprise seem completely empty essentially and that's why that's why the piano thing I think often ends up working against them because journalist the stuff out now and we just show how it all but it is another thing that jumps out from that interview and that is Jennifer Aniston at talking to you about her recent decision to go on Instagram know what she says an encroaching from your article here is that people are already in my Pantry drawers all the time she says but I can decide which pair I show them ok, and I just wanted to talk to.

In the final of the time left in the final moments of this idea that are celebrities today through social media able to do your job in away themselves i.e.

Vacant.

They can go straight to their public and they don't need anybody in between and that means that they can say exactly what they want to say somebody has been doing this for a long time and has interviewed so many of the kind of the greats from the past.

Do you think that access is harder today? I think you know what Charlotte was go to and what you referred to with my Donald Trump where it was typical for the interviews that wandered the Times magazine to to have maybe a week with someone sometimes like you know what's going on with her for a week.

You know what incredible rich.

Copy of going to get that.

But now we we we we are not in the really powerful positions that we were then I mean that's just the fact of life and so I think you're very often you know I work for the radio Times now consistently well and and they also make a very strong argument that the very least an hour with that Talent I do think it's you know.

I think people are probably just going for 10 minutes 15 minutes 20 minutes or whatever and just not going to get you know you might be lucky and get it in 10-15 minutes, but I think that we need to constantly be trying to put the pressure on to to actually keep getting that kind of actor and of course you know the reader the people who will stop her if all they get an undiluted version of a star through their Instagram account.

You know who is the biggest sin as a celebrity interview.

To be boring I mean if they're rude or aggressive it gives you a great story, but what if there are Polish but just a bit dull will I always borrow Adrian girls line.

He's to say to a subject I have 2000 words to fail or 5011.

It is and they can be your words or my words and the idea is that you're just write up a story because this writer that unless they give you things to write about themselves.

So so I think that's quite a good Hadley what do you think about that well? It's your job to try out of them.

I have had experiences where it's impossible to get much more from them and I blame myself really believes about this time last year and I get more than monosyllables Out of Heaven I now regret of persisting.

I'm just talking about movies.

I really should just go for a philosophical questions and have some things about you know does he think people have passed?

I've gone off on one so you learn from your mistakes and you just have to know ok.

You're not you.

Maybe not going to hit all the talking point that you're added her wants you to maybe won't get gossip about Bill and Ted hope you have to really go with their personalities and that's the way to check them out of her daughter's that's all that we've got time for my thanks today to Hadley Freeman Charlotte Edwards Ginny dougary and the studio and today Tim heifer.

Thank you so much for listening stay safe and will be back at the same time next week.


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