Sunday, July 15, 2007

Guantanamo Bay on Park Lane

Patton Oswalt, the vocal star of animated smash Ratatouille, said in an interview that press junkets for promoting films were a new kind of torture:

"This is how they break people in Guantanamo: They ask them variations on the exact same question. "What time did you go to the store?" "At 12:15." "So what time of day was it?" "At 12:15." "So, was it 12:14?" They're just breaking me down."

Boy, is he right - but not just for the stars.

I have been to my fair share of press junkets for various articles, and they always seem like a sweet deal: free film, lunch at the Dorchester hotel on Park Lane (the usual venue), Q&A with a megastar. But after your first one, you see the truth: they are anodyne freakshows where both star and writers are imprisoned, surrounded by a network of passive-aggressive PRs and heavies ready to club you in case you ask Julia Roberts where she got her teeth fixed. (Not that she did - that would be would a libelous suggestion. She should though. Talk about grinny.)

Every movie has to be Citizen Kane when you're asking your one question. Anne Hathaway, how many Oscars do you think Ella Enchanted will win this year? To be fair, The Aviator was half-decent, but Leo and Marty slapped each other's backs so hard you thought they might cough up their lungs.

And questions must be reverent, lest the star jump off the dais in a huff. This is why I never got to ask what I really wanted to. So, Julie Andrews, what size cheque did they wave at you to 'sing' in the Princess Diaries 2? Denzel, Denzel, over here, me, over here, tell me why you thought the Manchurian Candidate needed to be remade? And no, "Iraq" is not a reason. On it goes for days, the hundred-odd dictaphones deposited in front of the talent whirring away.

Even the lunch at the Dorchester was depressing. If anyone can explain why marmalade and cheese make a good sandwich, please let me know. With chips! Salty, salty chips. No alcohol, obviously, since that would bring about a groggy revolt from the scribes.

It's not even like the tortuous process brings any worthwhile results (much like Guantanamo, I suppose). Dull pieces with predictable questions about questionable movies, all with as much fake cheer and bonhomie as Prozac can force. At least at Guantanamo you're only forced to sit through Barney and Black Sabbath - it'll be a long time before I forgive Anne Hathaway for Ella Enchanted.

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