As mentioned the other day, I interviewed Tom Cruise at the Toronto premiere of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation on Monday night for etalk. Am breaking up the analysis of the interview into different parts because there’s so much to say. For this post in particular, following the Cara Delevingne article I just wrote, the focus is on Tom Cruise in a press situation and what that was like in comparison to other interviews - not just Cara but, for example, Jesse Eisenberg, who called a reporter a “pariah” recently because he’s smarter than the media. Click here for a refresher.
It was a late night. Tom flew in to Toronto directly from the New York premiere so he didn’t arrive at the venue until 10:20pm or so, which was actually 10 minutes earlier than they had anticipated. That in and of itself is amazing. Celebrities are rarely on time. He was scheduled to participate in a Q&A with the audience after the screening, starting at 10:50pm for about 20 minutes and then do the photo wall and press line. But since he got there ahead of when they were expecting him, they decided to send him down the press line before the Q&A.
Etalk had first position on the line so initially I wasn’t worried about being rushed through my interview. My assignment was to get him to talk about Toronto (we air in Canada, we have to go full maple leaf) and I decided that since everyone was inevitably going to talk to him about the crazy stunts, I’d ask him about fashion instead. Specifically shoes, because in the movie there’s a moment where, in the middle of a fight, Ethan Hunt notices a woman’s shoes. (Our show has been following him for a week and a half, across the world, on this press tour. We’ve had him several times on red carpets and in sit-down interviews in a junket setting. We’ve basically covered everything. My producers wanted me to make it fun.) So I’m ready. I’m watching him smile at the photo wall. It’s the first Tom Cruise interview of my career. And then they start him at the end of the line instead, meaning that I’d be the last, and up against the clock because, remember, he had to get inside, into the Q&A. And because he’s Tom Cruise, he gave everyone a lot of time, a lot of questions. So I’m thinking now that by the time he gets to me, his handler is going to tell me one question only and pull him off the carpet. Or skip me entirely because that’s also what happens.
Finally he gets down to my end. He’s just about to wrap with the outlet in front of me. He steps up to me. He’s smiling at me, he’s looking right into my eyes. And suddenly the light goes out. I look down. Our camera man is on the ground, scrambling, throwing wires all over the place, rummaging through his bag. The microphone was f-cking broken and I had Tom Cruise, Tom F-cking Cruise!, who was on a deadline, standing right in front of me waiting expectantly for my first question.
I lost 10 years of my life, I’m sure of it, in that moment. I also thought I’d be fired for sure. Because in my mind, there was no way one of the world’s biggest movie stars was going to stand there and wait for the cameraman to fix his gear. There was no way a Hollywood mega celebrity with a guardian publicist would let that happen. I’m stabbing my life right then, f-cking the sh-t out of my life, and I’m apologising to him, sorry Tom, we’re just, we’re, um, sorry, there are some technical difficulties.
And Tom Cruise took both my shoulders in his hands and told me, “Hey, don’t worry, relax. It’s OK. It’s going to be fine”. Then he looked down at our camera man, “Hey man, you OK? How you doin’? It’s OK”.
At that point a photographer came by and asked Tom if he’d like to have his photo taken with me. Tom’s like, yeah, of course! And puts his arm around me and poses for the photo. I’m just standing there like a smiling asshole, petrified. Somehow I remembered to thank him for waiting. And he shrugged it off like, yeah no problem.
Yeah, no problem. You’re thinking yeah, no problem. Because it’s the decent thing to do. But I’m telling you. Anyone who’s worked in these situations will tell you. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN. These people don’t wait for you, especially not for reporters, not for media. These people don’t give a f-ck if you don’t get your interview. And in my conversations with colleagues about it afterwards, all of whom also had the same reaction, we’ve realised that it’s because we’re so used to be abused by celebrities – when they’re tired, when they’re grumpy, when they’re bored, when they don’t f-cking feel like it – that when one of them shows us any kind of normal human behaviour, we become grateful, like it’s exceptional that someone should be kind, that somehow being kind is exceptional and extraordinary. The truth is, in this environment, it is. The truth is, most of them wouldn’t have been considerate about the fact that our crew could have faced serious consequences if we hadn’t delivered on our jobs. But Tom Cruise was.
Tom Cruise waited several minutes for our camera man to sort out our equipment and still took 5 questions from me, giving me the same amount of time he gave everyone else. Oh and he talked about my shoes. And my nail polish.
And again, again, I repeat, being considerate, being patient, these are not supposed to be rarities. You’re not supposed to be commended for being nice. It’s the STANDARD. I know this. I KNOW THIS. But this is the expectation that celebrities have created for themselves. That’s how f-cked up it is when you have to survive on their terms.
Point of the story: Tom Cruise makes my job easier than Jesse Eisenberg.
I’ll have more on the interview with Tom in subsequent posts.