Acting up: Angelina Jolie and the movie stars who dispute their interviews

Jolies lawyers have claimed a recent Vanity Fair interview was misinterpreted but its not the first time an actors representative has denied the veracity of a journalists transcript

Its hard not to feel a stab of sympathy for Evgenia Peretz, contributing editor at Vanity Fair, who lately fell preys to journalisms equivalent of the plague of frogs or the blizzard of locusts an act of God so outlandish that many are inclined to dismiss it as a myth. One moment Peretz is round at Angelina Jolies gaff, sitting amid the soft creamy-white furnishings and listening as Jolie( luminous scalp; an ethereal timber nymph) bangs on at length about her latest movie project. The next, tragedy. The celebrity appears to break encompas and say something of genuine interest. And that, of course, is where the real nightmare begins.

I say appears because, at the time of writing, Jolie and her lawyers are strenuously debating that she did any such thing. Or rather, they defy the impression that Jolie cast her forthcoming drama about the Cambodian genocide via a bizarre audition process that involved the casting director pretending to accuse children of stealing money and then rating the children on their ability to lie their way out of trouble. Instead, they claim it was an improvisation exercising that involved no such trickery. So Jolie says one thing and Vanity Fair says another . And crucially, the interview transcript would seem to back up the publications case.

If Im tempted to side with Peretzs version of events, thats partly because of the interview transcript and partly because Ive saw myself in pretty much the same boat. Some years ago I interviewed Denzel Washington, who said, and I quote: For whatever reason, I never befriended any white actors. When the article appeared, this remark was subject to a swift clarification by a purported representative of Washington. I sat in on this interview, the rep explained. The part they fail to mention is that after he said never befriended any white actors he mentioned except and then listed Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts etc. They cut the rest of the thought out.

There was just one problem with this clarification. It was, in journalistic parlance, total bollocks. No rep had sat in on the interview. Washington hadnt gone on to list a bunch of white Hollywood performers as his mates. On balance, Im rather sorry he didnt. If he had claimed Mel Gibson as a close personal friend, I think Id likely have included it.

The bad news for Peretz( presuming were dedicating her the benefit of the doubt) is that this particular beset of frogs can strike more than once. A few months after the Washington fallout, I sat down to interview Michael Douglas at the Cannes movie celebration. I liked Douglas a great deal; he was candid and funny. At one stage he told me that his head-and-neck cancer had been indirectly caused by oral sex. This became headline news; the New York Post splashed it on the front page. And then, sure enough, along came another representative with another bogus clarification. This time the rep said that Douglas had actually been speaking generally. God forbid that he was referring to himself specifically.

In the wake of the Douglas and Washington interviews, my Twitter feed and inbox were briefly clogged with abusive messages.( Perez Hilton accused me of some shady-ass journalism, but we had the transcript and audio to justify the original story just as it appears Vanity Fair has .)

Thinking back on those interviews now, Im left with the sense that Washington and Douglas were both smart, honest men. I felt they knew what they were saying and were entirely happy to say it, at the least in the moment. The problem was more with their respective( and possibly self-appointed) protectors. These are people desperate to protect the clients image at all costs; charging in like a mother to mop up after an incontinent toddler. The Jolie scenario is a little different, in that she personally feels that “shes been” misrepresented and is prepared to go on the record in demanding a correction. But there is a pattern here. It strikes me that the Vanity Fair spat highlights the curious paradox of the sterile celebrity interview. On those rare occasions when the celebrity actually says something reveal, its a safe bet that they( or their guardians) will promptly turn around and insist they did not.

Is there a lesson to be taken from these tawdries, petty wranglings? Keep ahold of the audio file; thats the moral of the story. By the same token, Im guessing the actors reps realise that these things do exist? Surely they dont imagine that reporters amble out of an interview and write up the whole thing from memory; blithely concocting fictitious quotes on the fly, casually junking the reputation of some millionaire celebrity with an army of lawyers on speed-dial. Yes, reporters can be dumb. But come up, Hollywood, please even we have our limits.

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