While at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con I had several freelance press opportunities to cover some press conferences for CBM. But more importantly I had an exclusive interview with director of The Wolverine, James Mangold. Interviews can be a tricky thing especially if you think going in unprepared is a smart idea. (If you do think this way please reconsider a reporting career.)
Anyway, as a reporter, it is not your job to impress the person being interviewed as much as it is important to catch him or her off guard. The way studios work today is they will make sure directors and actors are prepared to answer media questions. This is why you’ll read different exclusive interviews and sometimes similar answers are given by the interviewee.
In the case of getting answers that have been said before, this means you didn’t try hard enough to come up with questions to catch a person off guard and out of their comfort zone. My goal with Mangold was to get answers I didn’t see online before.
The day before the interview I went online and read every interview with Mangold from the past 15 (ish) months to see what his “programmed responses” are and found some similar quotes from the director on various sites. Most of the time I’d see similar answers so much it was a bit shocking Mangold was so repetitive.
Or was it that a reporter wasn’t prepared, or tried hard, enough? That’s really irrelevant and I’m not one to rant about this writer or that reporter so I made mental notes of Mangold’s “programmed responses,” as I like to call them.
The next step was figuring out questions I knew he would answer. An initial knee-jerk reaction was to ask him about a potential Old Man Logan film in the future or if he would do another Wolverine movie down the road. These are the types of things I knew would get me an answer like, “Sure if Fox wanted me to.” Or he’d answer with something like, “I don’t know about future Wolverine movies.” Either way, those were questions I wanted to stay away from and the whole point of those examples is to show that talking about “What Ifs?” should never be part of any interview plan.
There’s one Cardinal Rule I like to follow when interviewing–and I took a page out of my past football interviews–and that’s to focus on the present with a splash of the past. Mangold’s present is the fact The Wolverine is about to release domestically. In other words, focus on questions about his new movie.
So I did with the hope of getting interesting answers that I hadn’t seen online in past interviews. Plus, I wanted to add a dash of personality to the interview so I wanted to talk with the director about his comic book collecting past to give both the interview and Mangold a grounded feel.
Let’s be honest here… directors and actors seem like fictional characters just as much as the characters they create on the big screen. Anything to make an interview more relatable to the general public is always a good thing.
Finally it was interview time and I’ve interview giant 6’6″ 300 pound football players before, yet this was my first interview in the movie biz so I was a tad nervous. We met and right off the bat my very first question to Mangold netted a “programmed response.” DAMMIT!
However, that was the only”programmed response” I got and I was able to turn the corner quickly with my other questions. I received some interesting responses I had not read in past interviews, based on my research the day prior. I knew some of the topics caught the director a bit off guard because he had to slow his answers down in order to think before speaking to ensure he didn’t say anything he wasn’t supposed to regarding The Wolverine. “Programmed responses” generally come out like they’ve been said a million times before, by the way.
In the end, it was a great experience and more of casual conversation than an interview. When you get that feeling, it means the interviewee is most likely comfortable as well.
Will Mangold remember the interview I did with him while we walked around the Gaslamp in San Diego during Comic-Con in 2013? Maybe but I know I sure will since I was able to do exactly what I wanted to. Catch the director off guard in order to get quotes that were highly unique and that I hadn’t seen Mangold say in the past. I feel like I conducted a successful and fun interview for both of us.