I get to interview a lot of people for work. I like doing it. When I was in high school, I dreaded interviews, because they were never with celebrities but with city officials or, worse, other students. “What do you think of the new block scheduling?” High school, man. I started the entertainment section of our paper when I was 16, and I quickly set up an interview series. Naturally I didn’t get to do any of the interviews.
College was a different story. When I worked at the Daily Californian, I was able to interview lots of people I actually wanted to talk to, some with Oscars and Wikipedia pages, even. The first major interview I did was a press junket in L.A. for The Ice Harvest and Brokeback Mountain. Don’t worry, no one remembers The Ice Harvest. The interviews were press conference style, which intimidated the shit out of me. You had to get up and say your name and outlet—I can barely order a sandwich without fumbling. I sat in the front row, but I didn’t open my mouth during the first press conference. Once Jake Gyllenhaal and Ang Lee arrived for Brokeback Mountain, I decided I needed to ask something, if only so that Jake could be tricked into looking at me. (Totally worked.)
When people ask me now if I still get starstruck, I’m always a bit taken aback. It’s just not really an issue anymore. I get excited about talking to big names or people I personally admire, but I’m never anxious. I guess that’s because doing interviews became work—work that I enjoy, but work nonetheless. When I went to my first junket, I felt like I’d just won a contest. (Actually, I had. My editor at the time made us all submit reasons why we should be picked. She ended up choosing me because, “I figured you wouldn’t flail over Jake Gyllenhaal.”) But as I did more and more interviews, I came to understand it as my job, and that took a lot of the pressure off. You have to kind of distance yourself from the fanboy mentality. There is nothing wrong with being a fanboy—it’s just not appropriate in that context.
Being starstruck isn’t something you can consciously control, and no, telling myself that celebrities are people, too has never really helped either. If I don’t feel it, it’s because my focus is on getting the job done, and that mental energy is enough to suppress the feelings of, “Oh my God, Ewan McGregor is touching me.” I try to have fun during my interviews, but I do take it very seriously, and I’m always disappointed by other journalists who don’t. Asinine questions aside, the easiest way to piss me off during a press conference or roundtable interview is to bring a pile of DVDs to have signed. It’s not Comic-Con, OK? (But if it is Comic-Con, different rules apply. We’ll talk about it in July.) I don’t pretend that the people I interview are my friends, and I don’t treat them like golden gods either. You have to find the middle ground: they’re talking, you’re listening, you’ll use what they’ve said to write an article—I think that makes you colleagues.
It’s funny how much of it is about context, though. I went to a festival screening last night and Parker Posey was waiting in line outside. You guys, I lost my shit. Internally, but still. Because she’s Parker Posey, and I didn’t expect to see her there. I wanted to go up and say something, tell her how much I love her in well, everything, but that seemed lame. By which I mean, I couldn’t work up the courage. Part of it was not wanting to bother someone when she was off the clock, but there was more to it than that. When I’m straddling that line between journalist and fan, I want to make sure I don’t slip too far to one side.
That having been said, if you’re Parker Posey, and you’re reading this, I would love to interview you.