Actors who walked out of interviews (and why)

Feature Simon Brew
10 Jun 2014 - 06:21

It makes a great headline when an actor or actress walks out of an interview early - but are they getting a fair deal?

The majority of interviews with actors and actresses are plain bland. We've been guilty of these ourselves. Dull questions, dull responses, and a scratching of heads at the end as we try and puzzle out who's benefited from the whole process.

But when an actor or actress leaves early? Or, in the words of headlines, 'storms out early'? That's a story! They rage! They 'abruptly exit'. They crash out of the room!

Yet do they? We've gone back over modern cases of acting talent bringing an interview to a premature close, and questioned whether, beneath the headlines, they may have had a case...


What was he promoting?

Robin Hood.

Who was he being interviewed by?

Mark Lawson, for BBC Radio 4's Front Row show.

So what happened?

Notwithstanding his occasional reputation for a bit of grumpiness, Russell Crowe is generally an interesting interviewee because he tends to say what he thinks, and doesn't go down a media-trained template.

Just ask Mark Lawson. After several minutes chatting about Ridley Scott's Robin Hood movie, where Crowe took the title role, Lawson quizzed the actor on his accent. When he suggested that there "are hints to me of Irish" in it, Crowe responded that "you've got dead ears mate. You've seriously got dead ears if you think that's an Irish accent".

When Lawson argued that he'd said "hints of", Crowe fired back "bollocks", adding "I'm a little dumbfounded you could possibly find any Irish in that character. That's kind of ridiculous. It's your show. Whatever."

That wasn't the catalyst to Crowe's departure from the interview though (although he left after a good nine minutes, to be fair). At the time, a book about DreamWorks had just been released, which had suggested that Crowe didn't want to speak a certain piece of dialogue in the movie Gladiator. When Lawson asked - and it was to be his final question anyway - whether that was true or not, Crowe upped and left. Here's the interview.

Who came out best?

Well, the headlines at the time were about Crowe storming out. But he didn't really. He clearly gave his allocated interview, to the allocated time. He also answered the questions, save for the last one (although you'd have to say that Lawson had every right to ask what he did), even though he wasn't keen on some of them. So whilst it didn't do his reputation for grumpiness many favours - and, let's be fair, he did strop off - we'll call this one a score draw.


What was she promoting?

The non-Oscar winning Diana.

Who was she being interviewed by?

Simon Mayo, on Radio Five Live's Kermode & Mayo Film Review show. HTJI.

So what happened?

Well, Watts seemed quite cagey from the start of this one, although there had been no obvious falling out when she elected to depart. Allocated ten minutes, things were ended just past the eight minute point, when Watts - who was being interviewed by Mayo remotely - said she'd had the signal to wind things up. The member of the show's production team in the room with Watts was adamant that hadn't happened.

The final question saw Mayo asking Watts about whether the filmmakers had to get permission to film a scene outside Kensington Palace, tapping into the legitimate issue of whether the British royal family were in any way consulted about the production. However, in truth, Watts sounded a little distanced for a good deal of the discussion. Here it is in full....

Who came out best?

Not Naomi Watts. It's hard to find a single question that Simon Mayo asked that ventured anywhere near inappropriate. The firm behind the UK release of the film accused Mayo of acting "unprofessionally". Specifically, that, "Simon Mayo acted unprofessionally following an interview last week with Naomi Watts, star of the film Diana. After completing the interview Simon Mayo tweeted that Naomi walked out on his interview. This was factually incorrect as she did not walk out and Simon Mayo was not even in the same room whilst interviewing Naomi".

Watts, incidentally, has since go on to admit that the film didn't turn out as she'd hoped.


What was he promoting?

Twilight: New Moon, the second part of the Twilight movie saga.

Who was he being interviewed by?

Ryan Seacrest. We don't really know him in the UK though.

So what happened?

Not for the first time, dig beneath the headlines of an actor 'walking out' of an interview, and a slightly different story comes to light. This incident took place in 2009, when romance chat surrounding Robert Pattinson and his then co-star Kristen Stewart was at a peak.

The interview in question came just after Pattinson had walked the red carpet at a Los Angeles premiere event for the film, having stopped and signed lots of autographs along the way. He made it to the booth for the interview a little out of breath, with his publicist indicating that Seacrest had two minutes (not unusual for a premiere interview).

However, about three questions in, Seacrest ventured into personal questions. "What do you say to your fans who are desperate to know about you and your co-star Kristen?", he asked. Pattinson struggled with the answer, but his publicist moved in, and shut the interview down. "I was just cut off for the first time ever", protested Seacrest, as Pattinson - never letting his smile drop - left the room.

You can see the clip here.

Who came out best?

Pattinson. Courteous throughout, he was asked a very personal question and shielded it as politely as he could.


What was he promoting?

Ummm, the exact name of the project got a bit lost in the kerfuffle. It was a Sky TV show. We think it was the drama series Gifted, on Sky Arts.

Who was he being interviewed by?

Janice Turner of The Times.

So what happened? "I'm not sure where it started to go wrong with Rhys Ifans", Turner's intro to her interview piece with him began. Given an hour to talk to Ifans about his latest television venture, it seemed it didn't take long for things to go wrong. She wrote that "quickly his answers escalated through disdain to disgust then mad-eyed vibrating hostility", before he ultimately announced that "I am bored with you" and walked out.

Quite a lot happened in between the opening and departure though. The bulk of the interview is available at The Times' website (albeit behind its paywall), where it seems that the majority of Turner's questions were not met well.

In Ifans' defence, there were moments that strayed into his personal life, an area that had apparently been marked off prior to the interview. When questioned about a relationship, he was quoted as saying "what do you want to know? Do I worm the cat? I worm the cat and fucking wash up and I mow the lawn. No, I worm the lawn and I mow the cat". We're making that into a T-shirt right now.

Other answers to more down the line questions weren't much happier though. Turner questioned Ifans on the success of his career, and was told "I don't give a shit". Questioned on the press, Ifans was said to say that the press required "liberty" but "they should also be curtailed when they fucking lie".

The question that brought things to a close was about the UK government. After a brief exchange about the word 'coalition', Ifans told Turner to "fuck off then", declaring "I'm bored with you. Bored. Bored". And then he left.

Who came out best?

Janice Turner.

Turner described Ifans' publicist as "hand-wringing and ashen" as the interview fell apart, and Ifans was said to have apologised across "countless emails" afterwards. The blame was put on him taking antibiotics and dealing with some bad news that he'd received. Inevitably, what's lost amidst the headlines over Ifans' outburst is that he did give one or two interesting answers. But it's still unlikely to go down as his finest hour.


Shia LaBeouf cutting a dash, a safe 25 years before the creation of The Village People.

What was he promoting?

Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac.

Who was he being interviewed by?

He wasn't really. It was a press conference, so nobody specific.

So what happened?

Well, to be fair, this came off the back of increasingly erratic behaviour from LaBeouf, including his appearance on the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival with a brown paper bag on his head. Still, let's press on.

LaBeouf was amongst a panel attending the press conference promoting Nymphomaniac in Berlin. Not unreasonably, the issue of the film's very explicit sexual content was raised. Actress Stacy Martin gave her perfectly understandable answer. Then it was Shia's turn.

LaBeouf instead chose to quote Eric Cantona, saying "when the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea". Adding a "thank you very much", he then got up and walked out to applause, bemusement, amusement and general bafflement. Here is the evidence...

Who came out best?

The film, probably. It certainly earned it a bit of extra publicity. For Shia? It suggested that all was not well with the actor. Subsequent events have cemented this view.


What was he promoting?

Che, his two-part film project with director Steven Soderbergh.

Who was he being interviewed by?

The Washington Times, in a posh-sounding restaurant. We suspect the newspaper ended up footing the bill.

So what happened?

Del Toro was giving an interview to promote the movie Che, which was released in two parts and directed by Steven Soderbergh. In the film, the Oscar-winning actor plays the title role, and he co-produced the film too. He walked out of the interview in the end, and inevitably this got the usual 'storming out'-esque headlines.

But is that how it played out? According to the original Washington Times piece, penned by Sonny Bunch, Del Toro said that "I'm getting uncomfortable", after 'fielding a question about his new movie’s portrayal of the Bolivian and Cuban revolutions'. He was then reported to have said "I'm done, I'm done I hope you write whatever you want. I don't give a damn", before upping and leaving. The article describes him as "abruptly terminating" the interview.

It did seem to have been quite a lengthy interview to that point though and you can read the resulting piece here. It's a serious article about a serious subject, and the line of questioning reflects that.

In a further piece that appeared at Althouse however, Sonny Bunch said that "I was hoping that the walkout wouldn't come across as a 'gotcha'-type moment. Rather, I was hoping it could be used to demonstrated just how contentious the movie is". He added that "in the midst of an otherwise ordinary interview, the actor/producer largely responsible for its creation just up and walks out. I wanted that to set the stage for a broader discussion of the movie involving the director and the regime's dissidents".

Bunch admitted too that "I thought the interview was going really well until he cut it off ... the last question he took was an innocuous one about how you portray a failed revolution on film as opposed to a successful one". The Althouse piece is here.

Factually, there seems little doubt that Del Toro ended the interview, and ended it suddenly. But a storm out? That may be a good way of angling a story for web hits, but it may not actually be reflective of the truth.

Who came out best?

Well, Sonny Bunch got a good article, and the Washington Post got a lot of attention. Del Toro? It didn't seem to have any impact. The film - a complicated, two-part, near five-hour biopic of a complicated figure - was battling enough controversy to not make this a pivotal one.


What was he promoting?

Vodka. His own brand. Yep.

Who was he being interviewed by?

Ellen Fanning, on Australia's The Observer Effect radio show.

So what happened?

Of the assortment of non-movie interests that Dan Aykroyd has, one of them is his own line of vodka. So, off he went to Australia to promote it, and one of the interviews he agreed to was on The Observer Effect.

Aykroyd gave what was described as a "lengthy" interview, where he talked about his background, his career and his life. But he reportedly became incensed when, in spite of this, interview Ellen Fenning wouldn't ask him about his vodka product. Given that this was apparently the condition of Aykroyd doing the interview, this did not sit well with him. Edited out of the final broadcast was the moment where he left the interview, calling Fanning a "fucking hosebag", apparently berating the fact that said condition had not been met.

Who came out best?

Apparently, SBS and Shine Australia, the joint producers of the show, eventually apologised to Aykroyd. Vodkas all round!

Not included: any cagey interview where the subject went the distance - so, Channel 4's infamous chat with Quentin Tarantino over the violence in Django Unchained for a start...

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