Promoting a movie is tricky, dangerous business. Just ask Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, the “Fifty Shades of Grey” co-stars who were forced to pretend that they can stand the sight of each other in a series of awkward press interviews last year.
The most awkward—by far—was a painful Glamour interview where the pair were asked questions by a series of floating heads on a talking iPad. Dornan is asked: “What are three words you would use to describe Dakota?” He responds, “Funny, talented, and caring.” Johnson is asked what words she would choose. “Oooh,” Dornan laughs, knowing her answer won’t be good. She hesitates before her co-star jumps in. “It’s supposed to be instinctual,” he scolds her. “Superb,” she finally says after a long pause.
However, Henry Cavill seemingly doesn’t need anyone else’s help to tank his own interviews. The star of the cumbersomely titled “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has been on a charm offensive to promote his upcoming film, which lands in theaters Friday. The problem is that his press appearances have been more the latter than the former—clumsy, off-putting, and increasingly painful.
Jezebel’s Madeleine Davies offers a helpful rundown of a press tour that’s been a total “disaster.” Cavill has repeatedly reminded everyone that he doesn’t care about what he’s doing, he’s just in it for the money. “I’m not just doing this for the art,” he told Man of the World. “The money’s fantastic and that’s something which I deem… very important.”
Such a remark would seem refreshingly honest if he didn’t go on and on about his lavish lifestyle (spoiler: he loves first-class!), casually lament that NO ONE RECOGNIZED HIM while he trotted around in Times Square, and refer to #OscarsSoWhite as “racist.” “Maybe the solution is to have more diversity in the members,” he remarked to Man of the World. “But does that mean we are saying that to have more black Academy members would result in more black nominations? Is that not racist itself?”
As if to finish off Henry Cavill’s scorched earth campaign against, well, himself, he further told Britain’s The Sunday Times that there’s a “double standard” when it comes to catcalling. “I mean, if a girl shouts something like ‘Oi, love, fancy a shag?’ to me as I walk past I do sometimes wonder how she’d feel if a builder said that to her,” he said. “Although, of course, I wouldn’t feel physically threatened, as she might.”
Cavill, however, isn’t the only celebrity known for giving awkward, uncomfortable, or even downright hostile interviews. He joins a long lime of celebrities journalists might want to avoid at all costs—especially if their name rhymes with “Mommy Pee Bones.”
1. Bruce Willis
Spending time John McClane is no walk in the park. After shooting 2011’s “Cop Out,” Kevin Smith notoriously described his time on set with Bruce Willis as “soul crushing.” At the wrap party for the critically derided film, the “Chasing Amy” director summed up his time on set with Willis in a speech he gave to the cast and crew: “I want to thank everyone who worked on the film, except for Bruce Willis, who is a f*cking dick.” In his 2012 book, “Tough Shit,” Smith further called him “the unhappiest, most bitter, and meanest emo-bitch I’ve ever met at any job I’ve held down.”
In an awkward interview while promoting “Red 2,” Willis shed light on why he’s sparred with everyone from Sylvester Stallone to Cybill Shepherd throughout the course of his 35-year career. The 61-year-old is known for appearing checked out during interviews (see: this zombie-like appearance on The One Show to push “A Good Day to Die Hard’), but this segment with Magic FM in the U.K. takes the cake.
“Has any actor ever told you this, Jamie?” Bruce Willis asked Magic FM’s Jamie Edwards. “This part is not acting. The fun part is over. We’re just selling the film now. Sales.” The affable Edwards, attempting to be a good sport, responds, “How would you sell me the film then?” The actor, however, shoots down his attempt at offering an olive branch: “I wouldn’t. I’d slash my hooves.”
As if that weren’t enough, Bruce Willis even broadcasts to Edwards how bored he is. “I can hardly keep my mind on this interview,” he remarks at one point.
2. Tommy Lee Jones
When asked who their least favorite person to interview on the red carpet was, Joan and Melissa Rivers didn’t have to think before responding: Tommy Lee Jones. In 2013, HuffPost Live asked the famous mother-daughter duo about their worst celebrity interview was, and Melissa immediately shot back: “Tommy Lee Jones.” Joan added, “Oh, without question!” HuffPost asked the pair to elaborate on that assertion. “He’s at the top of everybody’s list,” Melissa continued. “He doesn’t want to be there. He’s unhappy doing the red carpet, and he is going to make everyone else around him just as unhappy in the experience.
Joan Rivers summed the issue up nicely: According to the late comedienne, Jones went to Harvard and is “very impressed” by that accomplishment. “We all went to Ivy League schools,” she said. “Calm down.”
Whatever Tommy Lee Jones’ hangup is, it’s easy to sense his disdain at interacting with the press. When discussing 2012’s “Men in Black 3,” Jones offers a series of terse, monosyllabic non-answers to interviewers’ questions. Fox 5 entertainment reporter Kevin McCarthy asked Jones, “What was the moment—when you got into this business—where you realized, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life?’” Jones stares blankly, looking back and forth.
However, Tommy Lee Jones isn’t just hostile toward interviewers—he’s gruff toward everyone. In a 2012 profile of the actor, Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican writes, “[H]is reputation for being one of the most fearsome men in Hollywood is well earned.” When Josh Brolin sent Tommy Lee Jones well-wishes from his ex-wife, Diane Lane, and Charlize Theron, both of whom had appeared onscreen with Jones, he merely said, “Oh-kay.”
3. Jesse Eisenberg
When it comes to Jesse Eisenberg, who was nominated for an Oscar for “The Social Network,” it seems art imitates life. In David Fincher’s film, Eisenberg plays Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, an entitled asshole with a superiority complex. It may not have tested the 32-year-old’s range much.
In a 2013 interview for Univison, Eisenberg mocked and belittled reporter Romina Pugh (who, it needs to be said, seemed pretty ill-prepared for the interview). When Pugh refer to his co-star, Morgan Freeman, simply as “Freeman,” Eisenberg asks, “What are you, on a baseball team with him?” It only goes downhill from there. He later refers to her as the “Carrot Top of interviewers.” She responds, “I’m going to go cry now.” The actor says, “Don’t cry now. Cry after the interview is over. Otherwise it’ll look like I’m responsible for it.”
As a cherry on an awful, horrible interview, Pugh asks Eisenberg to say her name into the camera (as the segment is titled “Say My Name with Romina Pugh”). He asks how she wants him to say it. She explains, “Like you’re trying to find me in a crowded place.” Eisenberg repeats her name softly. Pugh says, “That’s it? I would never hear you.” Her interviewee remarks that there’s a reason for that. “The thing is I didn’t want to find you,” he says. “I was hoping to stay alone.” Ouch.
According to Pugh—who says she felt “humiliated” and “butchered” by the encounter—Eisenberg’s bad behavior didn’t stop when the cameras quit rolling. She later wrote in a blog post (which has since been removed), “I peeked around the curtain to ask Jesse about his neighborhood in New York (he lives a few blocks from where I used to live),” she writes, “and he immediately says, ‘You’re still here?’"
4. Harrison Ford
The “Force Awakens” actor has warmed up to interviewers in recent years, even dressing up in a hot dog costume for “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to promote J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars” reboot last year. Ford, however, has long had a reputation for not being a team player.
When speaking to Conan O’Brien for his 2010 film “Morning Glory,” Ford gave a notoriously weird interview in which it appeared that the 73-year-old was under the influence of something. At time, it seemed as if Harrison Ford had what Diane Keaton was having when she appeared on Stephen Colbert (read: lots of weed), but the appearance was more or less what we expect from actor—brusque and detached. When O’Brien asks if Ford would consider doing another Indiana Jones sequel, he mutters, “Maybe." Conan, ever a good sport, quips, “Well, kids, you have your scoop!”
These incidents are pretty par for the course when it comes to Harrison Ford. When “Entertainment Tonight” asked about Episode VII back in 2013, Ford pantomimed having his mouth zipped up.
The Chicago Tribune’s Luis Gomez once remarked that “getting reamed by the notoriously grumpy Harrison Ford is a rite of passage for entertainment reporters,” but the ever-crafty Ellen Degeneres once put Ford’s penchant for the monosyllabic to good use. Last year, Degeneres offered Ford $1,000 to the charity of his choice for every question of hers that he actually answered.
5. Billy Bob Thornton
In 2009, Billy Bob Thornton briefly became a meme after a hostile interview with now-disgraced CBC reporter Jian Ghomeshi. Thornton appeared on Q TV to promote his record with The Boxmasters, a country-pop band he formed two years earlier. The Academy Award-winner intentionally tanked the interview after Ghomeshi briefly name-dropped his acting career when introducing the group. He punished the host by refusing to answer questions and acting like a sulky teenager.
When Ghomeshi remarks that Thornton “appears to be quite passionate about music,” the actor blows up. “Would you say that to Tom Petty? … Would you explain why it’s not a hobby?” Thornton then verbally berates Ghomeshi for going off-script, before adding: “We also said that we didn’t want to hear anything about this is my ‘first love.’ You wouldn’t say something like that to Tom Petty, would you? ‘I understand music is your first love.’ Well, my first love was a chick named Lisa Cohn.”
The reaction from Billy Bob Thornton’s poor, long-suffering bandmates says it all. After the painful exchange finally concludes, the men resignedly skulk over to their instruments like Charlie Brown to play their set.
6. Gene Simmons
In the history of legendarily douchey interviews, Gene Simmons may just take the cake. Perhaps that’s unsurprising to you. Simmons, the bass guitarist for KISS, made his fortune by painting his face and spitting blood onstage. He’s an epic, notorious a-hole who went on a media tirade in 2014 by burning nearly every possible bridge in a short span of months. After defending Mel Gibson and Donald Sterling, Simmons shared his thoughts on America’s immigration problem with HuffPost Live. “Learn to speak goddamn English,” he remarked.
On top of being racist, Simmons showed that he’s a heartless sociopath. In an interview recorded around the same time, he told Songfacts that if you’re depressed and thinking about killing yourself, you should go ahead and do it. “I’m the guy who says ‘Jump!’ when there’s a guy on top of a building who says, ‘That’s it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to jump,” he said. “Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it? Shut the fuck up, have some dignity and jump!”
Should you have any sympathy for Simmons left, get ready to have it annihilated. During an epic, half hour interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, the 66-year-old (born Chaim Witz) quickly got off the wrong foot with the host, waxing on about how much money he has. It gets much worse when Simmons remarks to Gross, “The notion is that if you want to welcome me with open arms, I'm afraid you're also going to have to welcome me with open legs.” Gross is having none of his forced bravado. “That's a really obnoxious thing to say,” she says.
It’s actually difficult to say what is the most awkward part of the interview, when Simmons offers Terry Gross suggestions about how to fix NPR or when he starts mansplaining why she’s so uncomfortable with the interview. “What bothers you is you're finally hearing a man tell the truth, instead of ‘You're the only one I'll ever live with and you're the …,” he says. “He's lying. He's lied ever since he was twelve.”
Even better, he ends the interview by acting as her savior. “I'd like to think that the boring lady who's talking to me now is a lot sexier and more interesting than the one who's doing NPR,” he continues, “You know, studious and reserved, and… I bet you're a lot of fun at a party.” She doesn’t respond, but her exasperated sigh is everything you need to know.
7. The Hall of Fame: Lou Reed
There’s an old adage that you’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but that apparently doesn’t apply to Lou Reed, as it’s difficult to find a journalist who has anything kind to say about him. The late Velvet Underground singer was known for being the king of all bad celebrity interviewees.
The Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone once described Reed, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 71, as a “vile and bullying… misanthrope.” Mick Brown of The Daily Telegraph recalls that Reed repeatedly ignored him and stonewalled his questions while interviewing him in a New York restaurant. “He came in and sat down at the table and quite deliberately, it seemed, refused to engage with me,” he said. “He had a long conversation with the waiter, then with his manager; finally, after about 20 minutes, he turned to me and said: ‘Well, what's your first question?’”
Brown got lucky: Lou Reed notoriously hated journalists and was known to verbally berate them during interviews. In a 2000 sitdown with a Swedish interviewer, Reed called the press “disgusting... pigs” and the “lowest form of life.” In other cases, he was known to simply hang up his telephone on reporters entirely—cutting off interviews mid-sentence.