When celebrity interviews go bad

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Chicago Tribune journalists Chris Jones, Nina Metz, and Mark Caro discuss examples of celebrity interviews that go bad. (Posted on: June 18)

Here's Lui's perspective: "Jonah Hill, in this specific case, was asked to be goofy. This is someone famous for being in these comic, silly situations — look at '21 Jump Street,' look at 'Superbad.' So he probably can't get away with it the way Tommy Lee Jones can. In the long run, will he lose acting jobs? No, of course not. And that's the way celebrity is set up: They're indulged."

Social media has also blurred a few lines. If you follow a celebrity on Twitter or Instagram, there is an illusion of intimacy and access. This might be quietly messing with the minds of those of us in the media, even if we don't realize it. Pamela Rutledge, of the Media Psychology Research Center, talked about the "parasocial relationship," which is what happens "when you see someone a lot on television or any kind of media like Twitter, and you feel like you know them."

There's a sense of immersion, she said, which makes everything seem more real. "And that means that your brain thinks you're already friends." Even if, intellectually, you know otherwise. "So what I see with these interviews is a disconnect between the expectations of these reporters and the expectations of the actors."

And yet: "There are actresses who will post sonogram pictures on Twitter," said Lui. "So how then are we — the fan, the consumer, the media — supposed to take all these cues that are contradictory and act accordingly?"

If an actor happens to take the opposite tactic — Channing Tatum has been consistently funny and charming in interviews — can it make a difference in their career? Per Lui: "I love Channing Tatum, but we would all agree that he is not a master thespian. He's gotten ahead, and he's managed his career so brilliantly, and he's one of the top players in the game because he's made smart decisions. But also because he's nice. Nobody wants to see him fail." And according to Dergarabedian: "Channing Tatum's movies have consistently opened well across the board."

Then again, we've all become such jaded media consumers, we're likely to tune out anything we suspect is a recycled sound bite. Eisenberg, Hill and Ifans took a damn-the-torpedoes approach. They weren't pretending to be nice. They didn't fake a polite response to questions they clearly felt were idiotic. They were being authentic to whoever they are — or whatever mood they were in at that precise moment.

"They're all put through this junket situation," Lui said, "and some of them are better at it, and others fail spectacularly." Here's an example of the former: Longtime Chicago actor Michael Shannon was on "David Letterman" Monday night promoting the Superman reboot "Man of Steel."

Based solely on the characters he plays, Shannon might be one of the scariest men working in Hollywood today. (His performance as General Zod offers a thrilling "interstellar glare of doom," as my colleague Michael Phillips put it. Like I said, scary.) There is a lot of respect out there for Shannon's talents. That 2009 Oscar nomination for "Revolutionary Road" was no accident. If anything, he has every right to be just as disdainful of the song-and-dance of a press tour as Jonah Hill.

Except there he was on "Letterman," wry and amiable, sharing one self-deprecating story after another, including a withering put-down from Sidney Poitier, who told him: "I don't know what your technique is, but you're weird."

I'm pretty sure he's heard that before. He is weird, a little. That's part of his appeal. He's also a smart, decent, witty guy who doesn't take himself too seriously. Happily for those of us in Chicago, he's back in town at his old stamping grounds this summer performing in Sam Shepard's "Simpatico." The play opens at A Red Orchid Theatre next month.

Tawdry TV movie

The phrase “Lifetime movie” conjures all sorts of cheesy associations.  On Wednesday Lincoln Hall teams up with the video collective Everything Is Terrible for a screening of “Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life,” first broadcast on the cable network in 2005, about a high schooler who becomes obsessed with online porn.  This screening includes live commentary from a panel of three comedians. The series kicks off Go to www.lincolnhallchicago.com.

Theater on screen

When "This House" opened in March at London's National Theatre, the Guardian called the behind-the-scenes look at Britain's Parliament circa 1974 a "thoroughbred crowd-pleaser, lampooning — without tipping into spoof — a political system that is flawed but somehow still functioning." The production was filmed and will be broadcast Saturday and again June 25 at the Music Box Theatre. Go to musicboxtheatre.com.

Local premiere

Chicago filmmaker Joe Swanberg, whose locally filmed comedy "Drinking Buddies" opens this summer, hosts a screening of the relationship comedy "The Bounceback" with the film's writer and director, Bryan Poyser, followed by a Q&A on Monday at Landmark Century Centre Cinema. Go to tugg.com/events/4450.

nmetz@tribune.com | Twitter @NinaMetzNews

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