Gone Ben Gone

The first time I interviewed Ben Affleck was for his first blockbuster film Armageddon in 1998. A film that received mixed critical reviews, but became a box office success anyway. I looked at him and saw a young and sexy Paul Newman. He had charm and charisma , and Ben was clearly bound for stardom. Before I got to meet him, he wanted to leave the press junket, as the star of the film, Bruce Willis, had already left and he felt he could do the same. My interview, which was scheduled for the end of the day, had not taken place and it was important to the studio as it would play in over 60 countries. By now every studio knew that most of the money was coming from the international marketplace. I watched as the studio executive that was responsible for me and the interview begged on her hands and knees for Ben to give me five minutes and he did. In fact, when I entered his interview suite I was hyperventilating thinking that I was going to fail, but he turned on the charm and said: “Take a deep breath and stay as long a you like.” This was the beginning of my admiration and respect for this young actor, and I have since been happy to watch his career soar. Even with the ups and downs of his private life, I knew that nothing was going to stop him from major stardom.

The next time we met was on the set of another big action film, when he was doing pick up shots … no dialogue, just close ups for the big action scenes, before the film wrapped. By now, he was a big player in the film industry. I could feel the change in him. He called the shots, deciding when he would do the interview. As the second, and last day of shooting came to a close, I had done nothing but my needlepoint, while I got paid for sitting. With the request from the president of production, he agreed to do the interview. He was great and made me feel that I was the most important person he wanted to talk to. We talked for more than half an hour. He told me what being an actor had done for him, not only traveling the world and meeting people whom otherwise he would never have had a chance to meet but also a chance to give back.

Success in Hollywood brings financial rewards. With Ben’s career on the fast track, it gave him a chance to give back by co-founding the Eastern Congo Initiative, which supports a community-based approach to creating a successful society in eastern Congo. He is also involved with two charities, one which supports paralyzed veterans of America and the second, Operation Gratitude, which puts together care packages for overseas troops.

Ben shared his goals with me, both personal and professional. He is comfortable with his career, winning his second Oscar for the film Argo. Better than the Oscar, is his private life, with the successful marriage to Jennifer Garner and three children.

A lot of time has passed since that first interview and Ben, like a fine wine, has gotten better with age. Not only his looks, but his creative drive to write, direct and act. Ben Affleck has charisma and top-notch talent- I am glad I met him early in his career, as I was able to sense who he was and what he was to become.

A Taste of Lemmon

My first job for my new company was given to me by Michelle Reese, V.P. Universal Pictures in 1984. Before landing the job I had spent nearly two years knocking on doors trying to prove that my movie star interviews would play on a lot of stations as it had not been done before.

I was so lucky that she gave me Jack Lemmon to interview for the film Mass Appeal. I could not believe that he would share so many personal stories with me. Not only did he let me photograph his baby book, he also revealed to me that he knew that he wanted to be an actor from 9 years old, After he graduated from Harvard he went to New York and started getting very small parts doing live TV. After doing over 100 television shows he went to Hollywood and, as they say, the rest is history. He was nominated for an Oscar for The Days of Wine and Roses and for Save the Tiger, with the latter winning him an Academy Award. He reminisced about his role in Save The Tiger which touched him deeply and made him aware of his own behavior at home. His character had a drinking problem, which was how he dealt with unhappiness. Jack realized that the character was very close to himself, in fact there were moments when he felt that the character had taken over his life. Jack said: “I still like to drink and when I have too much I take it out on the walls and doors of my house.” He went on to say: “I never hit anybody.” Although Jack Lemmon went public with his drinking in the 1960’s, it wasn’t until three decades later that he revealed that he was a recovering alcoholic. I never showed that video with his personal stories to anyone. It’s interesting that his best Oscar nominated performances were for playing characters that were alcoholics.

At the conclusion of the interview he said some wonderful things to me and I said to Jack: “Do you really mean what you are saying?” He replied: “Yes.” I asked if he would put it in writing and he did. After his note arrived, I called his office and asked if I could show it to the studios, the answer was “Yes.”

jack lemon letter-page-001

I saw Jack one more time in 1996. when I was doing publicity for the film Getting Away With Murder. I told him that his letter changed my life as it put my career on the fast track. Jack Lemmon was a most charming man who gave so much of himself to others, like me who was just an unknown interviewer. Thank you Jack Lemmon! I am so glad you came into my life, even though it was only for that one day at the very beginning of my Hollywood career…you are a true Hollywood Gem!

Diane Keaton: Ageless

What I remember most about my first interview with Diane Keaton is that the executive that hired me was smiling as she got what she was looking for after two other interviewers had failed. I am grateful for not being told it might be tough, because it wasn’t- she was a joy!

I started the interview about her childhood, as it was one of my favorite ice breaking questions. Diane told me that she knew she wanted to perform at about the age of five and both of her parents “were very encouraging to me, always….My father in particular was really thrilled when I would be on stage.That was very rewarding when Daddy likes you,” she said as she laughed. Diane began her career on stage in the original Broadway production Hair. She gained some notoriety for her refusal to disrobe at the end of act one even if it meant not receiving the $50 bonus for appearing nude. I really don’t know how she kept her career going when she admitted that she got very nervous trying out for a role. “I was not very good at auditioning…I think you have elements of all the people you play somewhere in you, they are always lurking about,” which is what she used in the early days. Thanks to lover at the time, Woody Allen, who wrote and directed Annie Hall she never had to audition again. The Oscar she won for the role cemented her career. A little trivia, Hall is her last name and Annie her nickname. She changed her last name to her mother’s maiden name as there was already Diane Hall in the actors union. I never asked her about her famous lovers,Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, all of which are still her friends today, but they were really good to her by getting her roles in some really great films. However, she did say that if she hadn’t had a successful career, “I don’t know what my life would have been like. I can only imagine that I would have been a miserable, unhappy person, an undeveloped, ignorant woman who was driving some guy nuts because I was so emotional.” What I always asked near the end of an interview is the question “Is fame every thing you thought it would be ?” and she replied “NO, no, no. It couldn’t be what you think it is. It is ridiculous. Fame is much more interesting and complicated…but ultimately I really feel if you can survive fame and kind of have your feet on the ground, still, then you’ve done something pretty good. Because I don’t think it’s easy.” I went on to interview her a few more times and she never seem to age as her mind was quick her body oh so slender and her spirit filled with love even for the journalists like me who always wanted more.This wonderful, ageless woman will be acting forever and aren’t we lucky?!

Laughter and Tears: Goodbye Robin Williams

My job as a celebrity journalist threw me in Robin William’s path many times and I never forgot any of those moments. He was not only funny but complex and brilliant. I never interviewed anyone else like him.

My first interview with him was for the film “Toys” in 1993 . He made an impression on me that I will never forget. To remind him that he had to talk to me not as a woman as my voice was replaced most of the time by men. I said “I have no sex,” before I could explain what I meant he jumped in and said “Get this woman a roto-rooter.” From then on we were connected. He remembered me each time I went to interview him. Maybe it was because I would use his private bathroom before I could sit down with him. His job was to make me laugh, my job was to hold it all in. Of course he won.

With a mind forever moving faster than I could think he came up with comic moments unlike anything I previously encountered. I never judged his performances, as it was the man, not the actor, that I was getting to know little by little behind the comic riffs When I said to him “If you keep me laughing, I will never find out who you are” and he smiled. Then I said “Do you know who you are?” he answered “Yes.” “Are you going to tell me?” he said “No.” To me that was the man behind the laughter talking and giving a little of himself and then closing himself off by making me laugh.

What’s great about Robin, the actor, was that there were so many amazing roles that will insure his place among the comic greats. Of all the film roles that he did, ny favorite would have to be “Dead Poets Society,” as he made me not only seize the day, but also make the most of it.

I am so glad to have had these memories of a man who made me laugh till I cried and made me cry till I laughed. Lucky for me that our paths crisscrossed for many years. .

Joan Rivers: Thanks For The Laughs

I only met Joan Rivers once after her performance in the play “A Work In Progress” at the Geffen Theatre. She wrote and starred in it, and it struck a chord in me as it was the story of what’s it like to be a woman working in Hollywood. Her words took my breath away as I realized I was not alone when it came to dealing with the slings and arrows of power players. She used humor to make a point and made me aware that if I laughed at my so called problems they would diminish in time. Hollywood was a game changer for me, and looking back on my career it was a woman like Joan who made it easier for me to laugh at my own fears, foibles and frustrations because she had them too. Memories are wonderful, aren’t they? Rest in Peace Joan we won’t forget you and your incredible contributions to women in the industry.

The Changing Face Of Angelina

After watching the press interviews for Maleficent, it made me think about all the times I interviewed Angelina Jolie and how different the press interviews are today. She revealed much more about who she was like, that she performed plays around the house with her older brother James  Haven and knew she would be a performer at an early age. “I wanted to be an actor as I was curious about the different sides of life and wanted to explore it.” Her brother is the first one to see her films and tell her what he thinks. I wonder where Brad fits into that picture. When I asked her if her looks get in the way she replied “I don’t feel very confident about myself…I do have a lot of insecurities.” She volunteered that the reason she wears black: “I know people think it’s cool and mysterious. It’s just because I’m a big slob and spill a lot of shit.” For the first time she wore white in all the press interviews and black for the premiers. She likes to play women who are strong and passionate as it shows strength rather than weakness. I asked her what scares her and it wasn’t stunts.  She has worked with the same team for a long time and if they tell her she can do a stunt, she trusts them. It’s real life that scares her “what really scares me, anything happening to someone I love.” When I asked Angelina is this what she thought her movie career would be she said “In this business I can’t believe how critical everybody is of everything and how insecure people are and it’s terrible. I have been through a lot of different things and I think people have so many bad opinions about me, judged me and think I am a bad person. You fight and make bold choices and I keep charging at walls and do the best I can.”She has changed from successful insecure woman to a woman greatly admired for her work with refugees and her courage to reveal her breast cancer surgery.   

I interviewed Brad before he got involved with Angelina and he has changed too, from just another handsome actor to a caring humanitarian.  Together they have shown the the world what the power of celebrity can do, when used in a positive way. Change is scary and difficult and I know what it has done to me ….I want to hide ….I want to eat …..and I do not want to face it. What has it done to you?  

Amanda Blake

This is a story from my TV talk show past. Amanda Blake, Miss Kitty, from Gun Smoke came on my show once she moved to Scottsdale. Her idea of relaxation and fun was removing her corset and eating everything she had not tasted in the last 20 years.The pay off: she gained a lot of weight and didn’t care. Even though she was heavier than on TV she was still very beautiful. At the time I was working in front of the camera so I had to stay slim and I couldn’t relate to how she was letting loose. Years later when I started working behind the camera in Hollywood and no one ever saw what I looked like, I finally let myself go too. I started eating everything I hadn’t tasted in years too. I gained 60 lbs… but unlike Amanda, I did care…

Cannes Memories

I went to the Cannes Film Festival only once and never forgot the experience.Lots of posters,banners,movie stars and of course films.I was there when everyone smoked everywhere.What I remember is that I lost my voice after doing 55 interviews some of them were done on the beach,in the casino and of course on yachts. The day started with 8:30 screenings and ended with invitation only parties,no wonder by the time I left I was dead tired.Some moments I remember….Bruce Willis eating a burger with the camera rolling ,interviewing a Chinese actress who spoke no english so I interviewed her interpreter she never looked at me and I delivered one of my worst interviews,and then there was my meeting with Joaquin Phoenix, who asked me to tell his mother how good he was in the film The Yards and I did.Years later Phoenix was having a melt down on the press junket for Ladder 49 and did not want to answer any questions so when I reminded him of our time in Cannes he answered everything and this impressed the studio as no one else got an interview. One of the best memories was when I asked the tekkie to slim my arm as my interviews were being played on the internet and he said”no problem” and he did it. If I was asked to go back again the answer is a big yes.

Julianne Moore wins at Cannes

Julianne Moore wins at Cannes

When I sat down to interview Julianne Moore I was warned by her publicist not to ask any personal questions so of course I did and she didn’t mind – in fact she told me a great story which I promised not to repeat. Of course I was not allowed to interview her again I guess the publicist won.

Bennett Miller wins best director at Cannes

Bennett Miller wins best director at Cannes

I was thrilled as he is one of my favorite directors. He gives great parties too as I was the last one to leave Chateau Marmont after his Capote film party. 

Nearly Famous: tales from the hollywood tenches

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