Mark of a True Star
They all have a lot to learn from Dustin Hoffman. I visited Michael Landsberg on Off The Record last week and we were talking about The Love Guru and Mike Myers who had been in town for the junket and Michael told me that he was offered a spot on the schedule for 3 minutes. Three minutes. Michael was like… F&ck that. I’m not driving my ass up to the Four Seasons, waiting in line in a stuffy hallway for three minutes for some canned ass sh*t answers he’ll probably be giving to everyone else.
If it had been Dustin Hoffman on the other hand…well in that case three minutes would have turned into 10 minutes and the interview would have been gold.
Because Dustin Hoffman gives everyone gold.
Here’s a quick rundown about how a junket works. Commonly takes place at a hotel. The studio usually books off an entire floor. Every celebrity available to be interviewed is assigned their own room. The standard is 5 minutes. You have 5 minutes to get enough from the celebrity to send back to your bosses. If a junket is well organised, you stay in a holding room until your name is called. Then you’re assigned to a “wrangler” who takes you from room to room.
Once inside the room, you sit across from the celebrity, smile at them awkwardly, maybe shake hands, wait for the camera crew to give you the signal, and watch as a time clock opposite you literally counts you down from five minutes. During the last 30 seconds, the thing might start blinking obnoxiously, making you feel even more rushed.
For Kung Fu Panda, I had interviewed Lucy Liu and Jack Black in quick succession. Then I was ushered back to the holding room to wait to be called for Dustin Hoffman. Five or six other journalists were in the same position. A publicist comes in to ask how many of us were there for Mr Hoffman. All of us put our hands up.
So she launches into this explanation:
As I’m sure you’ve heard, Dustin is very chatty and we’re finding that he is going over on all of his interviews. But he has a flight to catch to London and must leave shortly. So I beg you, please, even if he’s still talking, when your five minutes is up, please just stop him and get up to leave. Because otherwise we won’t be able to get all of you into the room and inevitably someone will have to be cut out.
Of course everyone agreed to it. But we all knew, no one was about to be held to it. And of course, since I had arrived last, I was the most likely to get the shaft because all of the others weren’t about to cut off Dustin Hoffman.
So finally it was my turn. Everyone went over. I was amazed that I was actually getting a turn. The dude just before me came out of there beaming after sucking up almost 12 minutes. And you have to understand how it is for them too. It’s been days of being asked the same questions over and over again. Sure, sure…they’re also making millions but it’s understandable that a little boredom creeps in now and again too.
At this point, I’m worried he’ll be rushing off to go, that they’ll yank it at precisely 5 minutes to shuttle him off to his flight.
But this is Dustin Hoffman. And Dustin Hoffman is a f&cking star.
I told him that he was running late because he gives such great interview and that I had to rush. He was like – You know why? Because they think we’re boring. They think we don’t try. And I refuse to let anyone think I’m boring. It is a sin to be boring and it is even worse of sin to be bored. Being bored? Someone like me? That would mean that I’m ungrateful. To have this life and to still be bored… it would be right, not right at all.
He has a point, non?
Then he went on:
Besides, I’m a man. Men aren’t allowed to be bored. Why? Because we are HORNY. How can you be bored when you’re HORNY?
And it just kept getting better from there. He went on about how much he loves his wife, about voicing Kung Fu Panda, about hopefully voicing a porno one day (snort!). Then I asked him about Angelina Jolie and he said she’d made a big mistake:
She could have had me. Can you believe it? And she picked Pitt? That guy?
We giggled a bit and then he tried to get serious, positing that we are all unique and beautiful and that he wouldn’t for a second trade with anyone and that he wakes up every day and makes breakfast for his wife because he’s so grateful even after all these years and years that she loved him back.
So why would I want to trade that for anything else? Would you want to be anyone else?
Me: No, but I wouldn’t mind looking like Angelina Jolie.
DH: What? Why? You’re beautiful!
This is when he embarrassed me like my dad. He pointed to the two dudes operating the cameras and told them to tell me I was beautiful and coerced them into saying they’d pick me over Angelina Jolie. Then he yelled for Max at the top of his lungs. Max – get in here!
“Max is my son”, he said to me.
I am mortified. And remember…the cameras are rolling.
Max comes in. Max is very cute. But very, very young.
“Max – this is Lainey. Lainey, this is my son Max. Max, isn’t she lovely? I mean have you ever seen a lovelier girl?”
Max and I shake hands. Max is like – what the f&ck just happened? Eventually Max is able to extricate himself from the situation and Lucy Liu comes in to say goodbye to Dustin and he introduces me to her like I’m his long lost daughter and she tells him that we’ve spoken already and he’s all like, oh well why don’t we all chat together and she’s clearly not into it so she takes off and we’re left alone again and I remind him he has a flight to catch and he says:
OK but not if you have more questions. Do have more questions? I want this to be your best ever.
Of course it was my best ever. He hugged me as I was leaving and as I left the room, I heard him yapping away at the crew, clearly not finished entertaining, and for the rest of the day until I broke my arm later that night, I felt special because Dustin Hoffman made me feel special. Just like he made everyone else that day feel special.
When I ran into a reporter later on, she told me it was the same thing. They didn’t cover the same ground, they didn’t have the same conversation, but he made the same effort. He gave her 10 minutes of absolute gold to send back to the studio.
And that’s why it’s not acceptable for the others to phone it in at 3 minutes. If it’s ok for Dustin Hoffman, why isn’t it ok for everyone?
This is Dustin at the photo call before the Kung Fu Panda press conference. At one point he joined photographers in a huddle and even embraced one of them that he’s seen for years on the circuit.
Dustin’s next film is Last Chance Harvey, a romantic comedy with Emma Thompson. Dustin and Emma together again… can’t wait.
Photos from Splashnewsonline.com