You don't pick the moments where things spin out of control, and as I'm learning this week, you certainly can't pick the moment when the tabloids decide to learn your name.
I often refer to “my job” in different contexts, and what that term means is different things on different days, depending on what demands are being made of me. Some days, I'm a critic. Some days, I'm an interviewer. Some days are just about cultural commentary. Some days are more about making myself laugh. There are days I am fortunate enough to be able to combine my two favorite things, movies and being a parent, into something that has been genuinely fulfilling.
And then there are the press junkets.
First, I'll use this space to say that I'm done with junkets. I've been done with them for a while, but I am genuinely done with them now. That's not to say I won't do interviews, because I love having a great conversation about craft with a filmmaker or a performer, and in order to have those conversations, we need time. So if I can schedule a half-hour or more with someone, then I'll happily sit down with them.
What I won't do any more is subject myself to a fundamentally broken system, not until studios begin to deliver on what they promise in a consistent and professional manner. And I'm not saying this simply for myself. I saw several other people last Thursday frustrated past any rational point by what was happening at the “Revenant” press day. I'm just the only one with a big enough mouth and a small enough sense of self-preservation to say something.
Here's the thing: people work hard organizing those events. There are a million moving parts, and nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. But there's a world of difference between something that runs an hour late and something that runs four hours late. I'm a parent, and on this particular Thursday, I had a Christmas pageant to attend. Considering it started at 7:00 PM, that should not have been impacted by my work day in any way at all, especially when I was asked to report to the venue for the junket at 1:30 in the afternoon.
Regarding the open letter that various gossip sites are trying to blow up into a full-on feud today, I read it. And I verified that it is indeed real. It's funny that people now believe Tom Hardy and I have been e-mailing each other. Pretty sure the reason he wrote an open letter is because we have had no direct contact with one another, but, boy, his fans were ready to assume the worst of me this morning. The truth is that Tom Hardy, an actual human being, was frustrated by the way the tabloid press took my Tweets, blew them up into stories, and embellished details that I certainly never offered into a story that wasn't really accurate. And in Hardy's response, he is clearly mixing and matching various statements and ideas and responding as if everything I said was about last Thursday, no doubt because of that game of telephone where we haven't spoken to each other about any of this.
Allow me, then, to clarify what happened from my perspective. The interview I was kept waiting for all day was a joint one with Tom Hardy and Leonardo Di Caprio both. From when I arrived at the hotel to when I left was a full four hours, during which time no explanations were made or offered and no one made any effort to find out if that was an acceptable amount of time to wait. Thankfully, there was a journalist on hand also waiting who makes regular appearances here on HitFix, Alicia Malone, who was covering it for Fandango. When I realized the time had passed for me to leave, I went to the desk where the times are coordinated and I asked them if Alicia could cover for us. I was told she would be given our full interview slot, so I handed over my questions. In no way did I storm out or just leave and say I didn't want the interview. We did want it, and I made sure that Fox was willing to have Alicia stay and use our time. That was crystal-clear before I left the building.
Frankly, I wasn't there for Hardy in the first place. When I went to Toronto this year, I only scheduled a few interviews, and one of the ones I agreed to do was for “Legend.” When you're at a festival, time is tight, and any delay can cost you a film you were assigned to see. When I got to the “Legend” junket, things were running terribly behind, and I was given my Emily Browning interview first. I was then told directly by Universal's press team that Tom Hardy “decided to take a nap,” and that I was welcome to wait for an hour or so. I decided that if the interview wasn't important to them, then it wasn't important to us, and I left.
In the case of the “Revenant” junket, I made arrangements to have that spot covered, because I didn't just want a repeat of the same situation. And later that evening, Alicia checked in to tell me that by the time they put her in the room, they cut her Fandango interview spot to two minutes, time for one question. Because she was there for Fandango, the HitFix time slot disappeared completely, a direct contradiction of what I was told before I left. It wasn't her job to fight for our time, either, since she was simply doing us a favor, and as a freelancer, she had to give that one question to the outlet that sent her originally. Speaking with other journalists, I was told other variations on the same theme, and I was told about other behaviors observed that seemed to factor into the delay. Those are their stories to tell, but I'm not the only person who was affected by the mismanagement of the event.
So why did Hardy end up as the focus of my anger? I've been doing this for almost 19 years now, and there comes a certain point when you've had enough bad encounters that it adds up. There was a “Drop” junket in Toronto that was a nightmare. There was the “Fury Road” junket where I interviewed Tom and observed again just how unhappy he seems with that part of the business, albeit with a little more sympathy than frustration at that point. My encounters with him stretch all the way back to the first screening of “Bronson” at Sundance, where Nicolas Winding Refn and I were talking in the lobby after the first screening and Hardy couldn't be bothered. And in each of those cases, I have my perspective on what happened, and Hardy has his.
And I get that. I do. As I said in my now-reprinted-everywhere Twitter rant on Thursday night, I think Hardy's representatives would do well to simply remove him from the pressures of the junket grind. He clearly does not enjoy talking about his craft in that environment. Is he capable of giving a good interview? Maybe. Maybe if you get him away from that stage-managed atmosphere and you sit down and you just talk to him, person to person, he'd be able and willing to have a real conversation about how he approaches his work. I have enjoyed watching him grumble and snap at the press when they've pushed him about his personal life, because I think that's a loathsome business to be in overall. The last thing I care about when it comes to actors is who they love, and I've never asked any personal questions to anyone in interviews. That sort of scrutiny would make anyone pissy, and I can see how it would make people want to step back and keep their guard up.
So when I blasted Hardy in the middle of the night, it was because of an accumulation of events stretching back years. And no matter what happens from this point, he is now on that short list of people like Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall who I enjoy watching onscreen and have no interest in ever speaking to about their work again. There's just no point. My entire point wasn't about Hardy in particular, but about how this system never penalizes the famous person, no matter what happens and how much they abuse the time of everyone else. And, yes, Hardy's reputation preceded him into the situation. I mean, “Mad Max: Fury Road” photographer John Seale seems pretty clear about Hardy costing them as much as two-and-a-half hours a day on the film in one of his big interviews about the film. And, as I said… every junket I've been to for a Tom Hardy film where there was a delay, the studio has clearly laid the delay off on him.
Fair? Maybe not. Talking to Hardy's publicist this week, she has been adamant that this is a case of smoke without fire, and that Hardy left the junket on Thursday afternoon convinced that he had fulfilled every single interview request. I'm not sure how anyone who went from standard interviews to having to wedge in a number of single-question interviews at the end of the day could be unaware there was some sort of problem, but let's say Hardy was 100% not to blame at all. Let's say the entire thing was on the studio. Let's say that's the case at every single press day I've been to where he was involved and things went south. If that's the case, then I would still imagine Hardy would want out of the system, because he is being systematically thrown under the bus every time, and if that's the case, then I do feel for him. It must be maddening. Certainly the tabloid press was ready and poised to take my Tweets and turn them into an indictment of him across the board.
The idea that any of this is even a conversation in a professional environment is insane, frankly. If I went to a doctor's office, and he made me sit in the waiting room for four hours and then didn't keep the appointment, I would flip in exactly the same way. The week before Christmas, the idea that you'd keep an entire roomful of working professionals sitting around for four hours without explanation is horrendous. It's not the way you treat people who you have to work with all year round, and it would never be tolerated in the other direction. But if I blew up in my doctor's office the way I blew up on Twitter, there's a good chance I would not be returning to that office ever, and I acknowledge that the way I ranted was more a case of emotion than anything else.
We are all overworked in terms of time in this business. There is no such thing as a 9-5 version of this job, of any of the various jobs that fall under the larger banner of my “job,” but because of that, every single hour of mine is accounted for in some way. Whether it's writing, editing, parenting, or trying to forge a new adult relationship after 14 years of marriage, those minutes matter to me, just as they matter to every single person who participates in these events. More than that, my conversations with HitFix editor-in-chief Richard Rushfield have made it clear that there is not a lot of real value for us in these five-minute boot-lick interviews where you go in, beg for a sound bite, and rush out. I could use that time to write a new Film Nerd 2.0 or I could use that time to finish another review or I could use that time to try to find some fresh and interesting way to discuss films.
So in the spirit of the Christmas season… no more war. I would like to thank Tom Hardy and the entire “Revenant” junket for this entire experience, because it is always important to keep your priorities in focus. And more than ever, my priority is in giving you, the HitFix readers, the best possible content, and as much of it as I can produce in a way that is of genuine worth. Should I Twitter rant about my frustrations? Probably not, and certainly not with the potty mouth that has been my cross to bear since I was about 11. But should I accept naked, open disrespect as a professional while doing my job? Nope. I should not. Nor should anyone.
My decision is for me alone, but I would urge my fellow journalists to consider the real balance of power here. When there are hundreds of identical interviews online, nobody is benefiting from that. Your readers aren't getting anything special out of the experience, and what we are doing is simply a function of the studio's marketing needs. If you're feeling like you're being disrespected, realize that you have options. I can pay to see a movie if I have to do that to review it, and I can write with authority about films without doing a five-minute interview. There is nothing that I truly need from a studio to write about a film. I have great regard for many of the people on many of the publicity teams in town, and I think they all work hard all the time. But they are being taxed with pulling off impossible events under impossible conditions, and the result is more often a frustrating mess than anything else. I genuinely like the various teams who actually work the junkets, like the camera-men and the various producers tasked with running the rooms, and when I used to do them all the time, I got to know many of them well. But again… the system puts them into unwinnable situations all the time.
Having never appeared in the tabloids until now, I completely understand all of Hardy's frustration, and I give him all the credit in the world for a few killer lines in his open letter, including his closer where he thanks me for calling him an asshole repeatedly. I think it's shady that he pulls the bro move of “you wouldn't say that in a room with me” in that vaguely threatening barroom way, but I get it. If he's offering, I would be delighted to take a punch from Tom Hardy, since he's paid far more per film than I am per article, and civil court doesn't really hang with the “he was talking smack” line of defense. The truth is that he is as unlikely to actually physically attack me as I would be of being disrespectful to someone who I'm in a room to interview.
If I'm supposedly in a feud with him, I'm doing it wrong. I named “Mad Max: Fury Road” as my second favorite film of the year, and I've got “The Revenant” on my runners-up list that I'm also trying to finish right now. So if we're at war, I'm doing it wrong. I had my human moment in public, he had his human moment in public, and now that should wrap things up as far as the two of us are concerned.
The junket stuff, though, is something that I'll be thinking about as we head into 2016. You'll still see interviews here and read them here, but they'll be very different than the majority of what you've seen here over the last few years and more like the George Miller interview I did recently. If the end result of all of this is that HitFix moves forward in a smart and interesting way, then I can handle a tiny trickle of Twitter trolls who think of Hardy as their imaginary boyfriend. You guys deserve the best coverage we can offer, and it is clear that junkets are no longer part of that process for me in any way.
PS — for maximum enjoyment, you should read this entire article aloud as Bane. Trust me.