|Best interview ever? Why the Mila Kunis Radio 1 video matters|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:22|
Yesterday, a video interview between Mila Kunis and BBC Radio 1’s Chris Stark did the rounds – an interview that saw the actress discussing football, his mate Dicko and how to “bosh a pint” more than the actual film she was promoting.
“Seriously, I’m petrified,” Chris begins. “I’m used to being down at the local pub with the boys.”
Mila responds with humour, asking him questions to get the nervous 20-something to come out of his shell: she ends up interviewing him rather than the other way round.
It was all a set-up for Chris Stark’s radio personality (usually appearing on the Scott Mills show), who wasn't told who he would be interviewing, but the amusing stunt reveals some truths about the junket interview system.
“I should get back to the questions,” says Chris halfway through – the kind of thing a publicist would do to make sure things stay on-topic. "No," she replies, "this is way more fun!"
Shipped in and out of a room 10, 20 minutes at a time, these conveyor belt conversations are a chance for every journalist to go in and ask identical questions to the person before them. The result is a string of safe chats that are, in essence, exactly the same - making more than the usual mockery of the word "exclusive" when stuck in front of an interview headline.
Still, the film gets advertised, the PR companies do their job – pushed, pulled, demanded and rushed, it's a lot harder than it appears – the journalist gets to say they met a star and the actor knows they haven’t been misrepresented. Everybody wins.
Well, everybody except for the reader, who is faced with an interchangeable set of interviews that often don’t scratch the surface. And the journalist, who has failed the reader. And the interviewees themselves, who are bored. Bruce Willis' hilarious car-crash appearance on The One Show is a prime example of how tedious it can get - tellingly, the jet-lagged actor had to apologise later on for being so obvious about it.
Red carpet interviews can be even worse, with allotted time slots down to just a few minutes. At Rust and Bone's premiere at the London Film Festival last year, Marion Cotillard swooped up and down the press line with style, but the real class came from Matthieu Schoenaerts, who fielded the same single question over and over: “What was it liked working with Marion Cotillard?"
That’s why interviews like this Mila Kunis Radio 1 video are so well received. It's already been hailed by Internet users as the "best interview ever". (You can sense a Partridge-style series of chats forming already.)
Is it the best interview ever? No, it's terrible. But the answers are original. And that makes it good.
Rewind a week and Jennifer Lawrence holds the true title of "best interview ever" - her frank, down-to-earth answers at an Oscars press conference were an adorable change of pace from the well-rehearsed cliches, even just after she'd won an award. That unpretentious straight-talking wasn't because of the questions she was asked; that was just her being herself.
That holy grail remains the aim of a good interviewer. The best interviews I’ve done aren’t the ones where I get the same sound bite as the guy next to me – they’re the ones where I make my interviewee laugh, or where we end up talking about ice cream or what you get in a Boots Meal Deal. It’s sifting through the bullshit to have a normal conversation.
Of course, once that’s achieved, the bullshit can still crawl back in. Just take a look at The Guardian’s DenzelGate last week, which saw someone claiming to be one of the actor's representatives step in and magic up a quote out of nowhere after Yahoo! suggested that he appeared a little bit racist (which, if you read something other than rehashed, rewritten excerpts from the interview, he never did). That mysterious person has since disappeared. Was it a hoax? A bad attempt at “crisis management” when there wasn’t a crisis? Who knows? For Denzel’s people, it’s apparently now a “non-issue”.
Which brings us back to the state of modern interviews. There are loads of journalists out there who are excellent at interviews. People like Simon Mayo for 5 Live. Andrea Hubert for The Guardian. I could spend ages linking to insightful, interesting chats from the past few months (or that astonishingly frank interview with Matthew Lillard from 2011). But a lot of interviews and press conferences are still just a repeat of previous Q&As.
Faced with a minefield of misquotes (and boredom), it takes talent – and a huge chunk of patience – for actors or directors to regurgitate the same couple of sentences for days. Not only that, but to look like they’re enjoying it. As a result, a refusal from Steve McQueen to talk about "nonsense" at a Shame press conference or Tarantino shutting Channel 4's butt down for asking him (yet again) about violence end up standing out from the crowd for the wrong reasons.
The Radio 1 video, on the other hand, stands out for some of the right ones. Already clocking up over 2.5 million views on YouTube, it proves that a film can still get the publicity without the need for policed, lazy, recycled quotes.
4 minutes and 50 seconds in, Mila Kunis reels off the usual answers to all of the Oz questions she’s ever been asked in under a minute. For the rest of the interview, she’s clearly enjoying herself.
Those 50 seconds aside, imagine if you could say the same thing about all interviews.