Only Clooney and a Few Other Guys Are Still Worth Interviewing

It is my understanding that at some point in the distant past, movie stars would appear on TV talk shows and be engaged by the hosts in lively, entertaining conversations. These visits would frequently coincide with the release of the star's new film, but the conversation wasn't focused exclusively on that subject.

Those days are long gone, of course. When a movie star turns up on Letterman or Leno or Conan now, it's almost always to pimp a film opening in theaters that Friday, and it's usually the central topic of discussion. What's more, the celebs tell the same anecdotes on every show, aided by the hosts' willingness to feed them the right pre-planned questions ("So, did anything unusual happen while you were in Hawaii?"). Seeing your favorite star trot out the same story on three different talk shows is depressing. That is why I recommend not watching talk shows, and not having favorite stars.

But it's not just the talk shows. Whenever celebrities appear at red-carpet events or sit down with an Entertainment Tonight reporter, it's the same old generic questions followed by the same old boring answers. Being a movie star is a high-risk occupation with very little job security, and most celebrities have a squad of publicists and managers who coach them on every little thing they do. All the spontaneity is lost, but at least the stars don't embarrass themselves or alter the public's perception of them.

By way of example, here are a few exchanges you can always count on hearing:

The question is: "Why did you become involved with the film?"

The answer is always: "The script was amazing."

The REAL answer is usually: "Money."

The question is: "What drew you to the character?"

The answer is always: "It's such a strong, well-written, complex character."

The REAL answer is usually: "Money."

The question is: "What was it like working with [co-star]?"

The answer is always: "Amazing. He/She is amazing."

The REAL answer is usually: "Eh, fine. It was really great working with the money, though."

Luckily, there are a few celebrities who still manage to be witty and charming when they appear in public, who have not had all the life sucked out of them by their meddlesome image consultants. Among them:

George Clooney. He always seems effortlessly charismatic and rakish, like he doesn't give a damn what you think but secretly knows you're going to love him.

Steve Martin. His appearances on Letterman are almost always masterpieces. It's not uncommon for him to bring props, pre-filmed skits, or other diversions. Sometimes the movie barely gets mentioned -- which, given Steve's recent track record, is just as well.

Helen Mirren. She's a classy (and sexy!) old dame who can get away with making vulgar references at the Oscars because she counters it with such grace and poise. You get the feeling that it's not an act, that she really is exactly what she appears to be.

Crispin Glover. Of course, it helps that he's crazy.

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Eric D. Snider repeats the same stories over and over, but he changes key details and makes stuff up.