A Tom Hanks interview might go anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)
People often ask me what itís like to interview big movie stars, since thatís at least part of what I do for a living.
Whatís it like to party with Tom Hanks? Did Russell Crowe get mad at anybody? Is Kristen Stewart a wild child at heart? Werenít you at least a little tempted to hit on Drew Barrymore?
Well, every star is different, of course. But there is a certain protocol thatís generally followed.
First off, assuming itís after 10 a.m., we usually start with some straight shots ó tequila, bourbon, rum, whatever ó to loosen the mood. Then we watch whatever movie weíre going to be talking about in a private screening room in the sort of ridiculously plush hotels that movie stars stay at.
Next itís more shots before staggering off to a lunch that runs somewhere around $400 (depends on the wine).
Then we return to the starís guest suite and I ask about 15 minutes worth of questions with two digital tape recorders running (after that much imbibing you donít want to risk a technical mishap). The movie star answers the questions.
Then more shots. And a nap.
The day usually ends at some loud, sinfully indulgent Hollywood-type party with famous types falling in the swimming pool, agents talking loudly, numerous nubile starlets dancing and lots of portly guys smoking cigars.
After which the star and I say our goodbyes. Unless the star is a she, at which point I always offer a free tour of my swinging bachelor pad.
Yep, thatís exactly how it happens.
What really goes on is I haggle with publicists over who is available and when theyíre available. Most stars do what are called roundtable interviews in which five or six journalists fire questions at them at once and everybody gets to use the identical answers.
These roundtables are indeed usually held in posh hotels, but often theyíre conducted in places like the waitersí lounge or someoneís recently abandoned room, with room service trays and half-eaten food scattered about.
I, as a rule, donít do roundtable interviews. I do what are called one-on-ones, individual meetings with the stars, usually in nice crisp hotel rooms, although sometimes at fancy clubs.
I once interviewed Colin Firth in a room filled with so many television cables it looked like we were sitting amongst snakes. You take what you get.
A fresh-faced publicist takes you to the interview either at the appointed time (almost never) or later (almost always). Youíre given a time limit ó usually 15-20 minutes, sometimes 30, but these days the 10-minute interview is becoming disturbingly common.
The amount of time given seems to have nothing to do with the starís fame or talent. I once spent 30 minutes in a bar with Ryan Gosling, but Iíve also been given 10 minutes (cut back to eight) with a virtual unknown.
Iím sure thereís a formula for all this, but no one I know has ever figured it out.
At the interviewís end, I fumble with my tape recorders, we shake hands and, for the most part, disappear from each otherís lives.
Then I start coming up with questions for my next interview and wonder what would happen if I brought along a small bottle of something.