We’ve all heard the old refrain that celebrities are just like us. For that to be true, however, it would mean that we are in the public eye 24/7, constantly having our every action scrutinized as strangers throw themselves at us.
Truth be told, the day-to-day life experiences of celebrities are vastly different from what you or I go through, but that’s also part of what makes them so compelling. The impact of fame is a fascinating one, as is the fallout resulting from living in a fishbowl-type environment. Is it flattering? Is it creepy? Can one maintain a major public profile while also living a fairly normal life?
If these 12 interviews offer any kind of indication, then the answer is definitely not.
Whereas so many celebrity interviews are contrived, pre-planned promotional tools for whatever vehicle the star has to sell to audiences, it doesn’t take much for things to go off the rails. In fact, it was just two weeks ago that the New York Times’ T Magazine published a bizarre interview with Jaden and Willow Smith about their creative process, producing soundbites like “our voices sound like chocolate together” and “there’s no novels that I like to read so I write my own novels.”
With that in mind, here are 12 other celebrity interviews that left us regular folk scratching our heads.
12. Mike Tyson and Robin Givens (Barbara Walters)
Let’s start this list with one of the least surprising names to be included. In 1988, amidst a wave of rumors surrounding their crumbling marriage, Mike Tyson and Robin Givens sat down for a live televised interview with Barbara Walters. While body language that included some tender touching and a few loving glances at one another suggested a happy relationship, the content of the eight-minute interview depicted anything but. With Tyson right beside her, Givens candidly described times with him as “torture, pure hell, worse than anything I could imagine.” Oddly, Tyson simply sat by mutely with a blank expression through much of the interview.
11. Joe Namath (Suzy Kolber)
Unlike the Barbara Walters interview, Suzy Kolber wasn’t exactly asking any hard-hitting questions to “Broadway” Joe Namath during an interview partway through a game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, a team with which he was once a legendary quarterback. However, when an interview subject is visibly drunk and decides to come on to the interviewer, things can certainly get uncomfortable. Here, Broadway Joe admits that he could care less about the struggles of his former team and seems more concerned with earning a smooch from Kolber. The 2003 clip was a viral sensation and even spawned a popular sports blog called “Kissing Suzy Kolber”.
10. Steve-O (Adam Carolla)
Say what you will about Joe Namath in the earlier clip, but at least he wasn’t this drunk. How producers allowed Steve-O (of Jackass fame) to come out for an interview on Too Late with Adam Carolla in this kind of condition is anyone’s guess, although Carolla does sheepishly admit that the plan was for the guest to have “a couple of drinks” and then to do one of the stunts for which he had gained so much fame and notoriety. This interview couldn’t go off the rails because it never started on them.
9. Mel Gibson (Dean Richards)
Sometimes, even in tough interviews, celebrities are able to maintain their composure right up until the cameras stop rolling – or so they think, anyway. This Mel Gibson interview started out in a weird enough place, with the actor being awkwardly questioned by Dean Richards via satellite. When Richards brought up Gibson’s checkered history with alcohol and anti-Semitic remarks, the interviewee became guarded and defensive, but never lost his cool. That is, until the interview was wrapping up and Gibson, evidently thinking that he was off-screen, added an a**hole to the end of his farewell sign-off.
8. Crispin Glover (David Letterman)
Crispin Glover has made a career out of playing creepy, oddball film characters… although maybe he wasn’t playing? In his first of several bewildering interviews on Late Night with David Letterman, he arrived in his character from “Rubin & Ed”, a film which wouldn’t even be released for four more years. In character, Glover ‘acted’ paranoid and insane, even challenging Dave to an arm wrestling match, none of which Letterman was prepared for. At the time, rumors suggested that Glover was high on LSD during the prank/interview/performance piece. Letterman apparently didn’t mind the stunt too much, as he had Glover on twice thereafter.
7. Michael Jackson (Martin Bashir)
Much has been made about the legitimacy surrounding the infamous two-part “Living with Michael Jackson” interview series by British broadcast journalist Martin Bashir. Bashir, himself, admitted to some of the lies presented in the documentary. And yet, there were still some pretty stunning moments and revelations about the much-discussed King of Pop and his Neverland ranch. Calling himself “Peter Pan”, Jackson acknowledged that he would sleep in the same bed as young boys, but insisted that the act was sweet and not sexual. Perhaps most stunning is the visual of one of those young boys resting his head on Jackson’s shoulder during the interview.
6. Mariah Carey (Carson Daly)
There is nothing explicitly scandalous about Mariah Carey‘s 2001 appearance on Carson Daly‘s Total Request Live, but it just seems… off. Here, Daly appears perplexed by Carey’s mere presence, although it’s hard to believe that she managed to show up spontaneously with a working microphone in hand while wheeling an ice cream stand. While the fans on hand seem to eat up her appearance, there’s something unmistakably odd – which is also captured in Daly’s tone – in seeing Carey perform a striptease while also distributing ice cream out to audience members in almost a manic state. Little wonder that she was hospitalized for “extreme exhaustion” shortly thereafter.
5. Billy Bob Thornton (Jian Ghomeshi)
Billy Bob Thornton has been known to get a little surly at times and this interview with Canadian broadcaster CBC is a fitting example. Despite a relatively innocuous line of questioning that his band mates have no evident problem with, Thornton simply refuses to cooperate with interviewer Jian Ghomeshi, leading to plenty of awkward silences. Thornton seems reluctant to discuss the music that the interview aimed to promote and downright unwilling to talk about his acting background. Ironically, it is now Ghomeshi, the seemingly well-meaning albeit beleaguered host of the interview, who finds himself in some real hot water.
4. Charlie Sheen (Andrea Canning)
It was only three years ago that Charlie Sheen, fresh off his very public divorce from CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, reigned atop the pop culture world after a bizarre series of unhinged interviews that seemed to point to psychological problems. While his oft-quoted ‘Sheen-isms’ – “winning”, “tiger’s blood”, “drug called Charlie Sheen” – were pulled from a series of consistently odd interviews, his Good Morning America sit down with Andrea Canning was the tipping point. To this day, it’s hard to know just how calculated and deliberate Sheen’s ‘meltdown’ was. Intentional or not, it certainly brought him plenty of attention and even a touring live show.
3. Jesse Eisenberg (Romina Puga)
While some cringe-worthy celebrity interviews are hard to watch, this one is actually pretty entertaining and oddly compelling. After a rocky start, both Jesse Eisenberg and blogger Romina Puga engage in a passive aggressively antagonistic interview, with the hostility between the two becoming increasingly less veiled as things progress. Neither party seems completely culpable or blameless, but they also maintain their composure pretty admirably during the tete-a-tete. Its quite possibly that I’m just a big fan of Eisenberg, a supposed jerk, and his snarky demeanor. To her credit, Puga holds her own pretty well here in her own right.
2. Joaquin Phoenix (David Letterman)
What is it with weirdos being drawn to Letterman‘s show? The fact that Joaquin Phoenix‘s infamous 2009 Late Night interview was ultimately revealed to be part of an elaborate hoax by Phoenix and brother-in-law Casey Affleck which takes a bit of the wind out of the sails of a memorably bizarre interview. However, the video still holds up as a form of cringe-worthy entertainment, with a scraggly, suit-and-sunglass-wearing Phoenix appearing out of it and barely audible in front of a bemused Letterman. The host makes the most of the awkward chat, drawing laughs by joking that “I’m sorry you couldn’t be here tonight.”
1. Tom Cruise (Oprah Winfrey)
I don’t know about you, but the first image that pops into my mind when I think “manic celebrity interview” is the sight of a hysterical Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah Winfrey‘s couch. The May 2005 incident became a viral video at a time when viral videos were in their relative infancy; it even spawned a fascinating article on how the internet destroyed Cruise’s move star / action here mythology. This wasn’t Cruise’s only foray into TV interviews that went viral for all the wrong reasons, but it garnered the most publicity and continues to carry pop culture weight, as send-ups on shows like Family Guy indicate.