David Marchese has come up often both on this site and on the Show Your Work podcast because he belongs to the Top Gun class of interviewers – every David Marchese interview is a banger. And this latest with Julia Roberts for the New York Times is no exception.
Julia is currently promoting Gaslit, the premiere was last night, we’ll get to that in a minute. So this is Julia Roberts, one of the most enduring movie stars of our time, who obviously has some experience with being interviewed but that doesn’t mean she’s an easy interview. I’ve been on two Julia Roberts junkets and I remember how nervous we all were for both of them. Before my first time I was warned by another entertainment reporter with more experience who’d interviewed her a few times by that point that you will feel it if Julia doesn’t like you. I mean she’s not Tommy Lee Jones (the scariest celebrity to interview) but she can allegedly drop the temperature in a room, like instantly. That didn’t happen to me, fortunately, but I have peers who have had the displeasure and I also have peers who’ve had totally the opposite – the pleasure and the delight of basking in the approval of Julia Roberts, when she’s willing to do the dance and comes to play.
This seems to be what happened with David Marchese – this interview is a dance: sometimes he leads, sometimes she leads, sometimes she lets him lead, and the tension is definitely there…but it’s healthy, it’s exactly the right kind of tension that should exist between a journalist and their subject. At times it’s almost flirty, but with that signature sharpness that only Julia can pull off, when she’s jabbing and embracing at the same time. Like the part in the conversation when he kinda calls her on contradicting herself because she’d just told him that she doesn’t care what people think and then a few moments later, in response to him asking what she does on her down time, she hesitates with her answer because she doesn’t want people to either think that’s “sweet” or want to her to “f-ck off”. Right away David’s like, “I thought you didn’t care what people think”. And Julia:
“I still have a beating heart! When people say “she’s this” or “she’s that” — that I can’t do anything about. But I don’t want people reading your nice piece that’s going to be so interesting and people are going to be like, “Wow, she’s interesting in a way I never realized” — it’s all on you, David”.
It’s the “reading your nice piece” part, right? I can hear her saying it. A little bit patronising, a little tongue-in-cheek, but not unkind either because she’s muuuuuuch to charming for that, irresistibly so. And you can tell that the two of them have a rhythm going back and forth.
That, of course, can only be achieved with preparation, which is what makes David Marchese so great at his job and in turn why celebrities show up to do theirs when they agree to sit down with him. If you missed it a few years ago, David actually did an interview with Vice about his own approach to interviews which is its own celebrity homework. Note what he says about the first question and how important it is – to set the tone. His first question for Julia definitely shapes how the rest of the conversation plays out. Right off the top he told her he was interested in her own relationship to her power and when she didn’t go there, he brought her back, quite directly. But all in the context of her work. Julia hasn’t talked like this about her work, as an actor, in a long time. Why she makes the choices she’s made (and the big headline about this today is why she hasn’t done a rom-com in so long: “If I’d thought something was good enough, I would have done it”), what she thinks now of the choices she’s made, and what kind of actor she thinks she is.
In short, Julia Roberts is not Jared Leto. And I appreciate how she describes her acting process:
“But if I were to examine this as you’re asking me to, to say that too much comes from inside me is to negate all the hunting and gathering I’m doing to create something. I want to find things and examine outside myself and make things up. Because once you start the performance, that stuff that’s inside us, that alchemy that makes us individuals, that’s always going to bubble up to the surface in whatever way it needs to.”
Right. Because acting is reacting. And before that it’s studying – or as she puts it, “hunting and gathering”. Which is not necessarily hobbling around with a fake disability and needing a wheelchair to take a f-cking leak. As if Julia Roberts would ever.
Read Julia’s full interview with David Marchese at the NY Times.
And here she is yesterday in New York in an excellent yellow suit by day and another excellent shorts suit with a waistcoat at the premiere by night. Is it giving you some nostalgia, this Julia style vibe? Let’s throw it back to the Golden Globes in 1990 – she’s been doing this a long time:
Also, those black shoes she has on? The label is The Office of Angela Scott, basically the BEST heeled Oxford in the shoe game, period.
PS. And shout-out to Dan Stevens, because whatever he and his stylist are up to right now… I APPROVE.