Thursday, January 24, 2013

Anatomy of an Interview - The Ricky Lo-Anne Hathaway Debacle

A partial "swindle sheet" of the interview:

Ricky Lo: Hello, Uhnn. Nice movie.
Anne Hathaway: Hello.
Ricky: Oh-some. It’s so spell binding.
Anne: Thank you.
Ricky: First off, Uhnn, You lose the 25 pounds for Fantine and how did you do it and how did you get it back?
Anne: Haha! Umm, I’d rather not talk about the way I lost it please.
Ricky: Ah-hehe! (He chuckles as if it’s the most amusing thing in the world. Then he gasps for air.) Okay, how else did you prepare for the role?
(Anne replies with a lengthy dissertation regarding her process of preparation.)
Ricky:  You’re sin (scene), uh, showing you singing "I Dreamed a Dream" was memorable.
Anne: Thank you very much.
Ricky: I have a friend in the Philippines. Her name is Lea Salonga.
Anne: Huh! Hmmmm. (She touches her left chest with her right arm, lifts her head, closes her eyes and smiles.)
Ricky: I told her that I was going to en-terview you which is ah… (this part becomes unintelligible). In fact she has a me-seyj for you.
Anne: She does? (She grins and leans forward to check Lo's phone.)
Ricky: Yuh, I’d say he’s uh… oh dats set (that's it). (He hands over his phone, and Anne reads the message.) She texted it to me from da, from de US. (Lo sits back smugly.)
Anne: Oh I hope to meet her too.
Ricky: Oh see said see could hardly wait to hiss see da movie.
Anne: Oh my gosh, I adore her. I…
Ricky: Yes… (Lo cuts her.)
Anne: I adore her.
Ricky: You really say in uh Vogue en-terview that you could never have compared with Lea? And your mom who also played Pantene… Kate Mac-COW-ley! Why did you say dat? But you’re uh (shrugs 3 times as he grasps for a word he couldn't seem to remember) tea-rific in da movie.
Anne: Thank you. Thank you. (Then she talks about how Lea has made a career as a singer, “one of the great voices of our time” – Oddly, Anne doesn't seem to regard Salonga as an actress of considerable repute considering that “Les Miserables” was a musical played by “singing actors". The musical is not exactly just a concert. Salonga played two roles for the Les Miserables' Broadway run from March to October that year.)
Ricky: Did you get any pointers from your mum?
Anne: No!
Ricky: None? Now, for somebody who’s perceived to have, uh to live a life of luxury and privilege, how were you able to identi- (this point he turns gibberish) hu-wee… identify with uh Pantene.
Anne: Ehhh….
Ricky: Have you ever experience to be hang-gree (hungry), be poor, and you know, just like the character…
Anne: That’s a very personal question.
Ricky: A-hah-hah, okay. (Then he looks at his phone.) Yeah, how about uh, what’s your favorite sin (scene) in the movie? And hard-eest (hardest) to do?
(She replies it’s the scene where she gets to come back as an angel…)
Ricky nods ecstatically and mutters something unintelligible.
Anne: I got to feel nice. (Anne chuckles. Then Lo drops his phone…) Oh careful! The hardest scene was “I Dreamed a Dream.
Ricky: Oh, I dreamed… (gibberish) yes, yes, yes, yes. And uh, they’re sayin that you’re a SHO-in for da Oscars uh next year, uh how do you feel about it? (Anne smiles.) … At this early!
Anne: It is early. I feel like it’s early. Its… it would be extraordinary if it were to happen but I’m not counting on anything.
Ricky: Yes, what about  ey-ny (any) other musical that you like to do maybe on stage or in the movie.
Anne: Many.
Ricky: Oh!
Anne: Many.
Ricky: Yes. Uh would you like to say ah ey-ny me-seyj for Lea who’s looking forward to watching the movie and to meeting you in person?
Anne: Buh… we've already talked about that.
Ricky: Ah you did!
Anne: Yes.
Ricky: Ah okay.
Ricky: Ah what about inviting uh fans uh in the Philippines showing January yet.
Anne: Why don’t you invite them? I think they’d much rather hear from you.
Ricky: Ah okay (He chuckles with glee and embraces himself).
Anne: Hmmm hmmm (she laughed with pursed lips)
Ricky: Ah okay thank you.
Anne: Thank you very much.

As early as Friday evening, my BFFs Iyaya and Kyle had been separately prodding me to watch the viral interview between Philippine Star entertainment editor and columnist Ricky Lo and actress Anne Hathaway. They wanted to know what I felt about it. To cut the long story short, it was one of the most painful interviews I've seen in a long time. In fact, I shrunk several inches smaller by the time Ricky Lo muttered his last “Ah okay.” That it had to be uploaded online meant that it was available to the general public. This also meant that opinions about its content are rightfully expected. After all, the interview was made available to a very public platform. And why not? People love Anne Hathaway. She was a darling at 2011’s Oscars where she shared the stage with James Franco, singing about Hugh Jackman, etc. Her hosting spiel was charming and, to quote a Time Magazine piece about the show, “strangely aggressive.”

Ricky Lo’s interview with Hathaway, which happened on the first week of December 2012 at a hotel suite in Tokyo’s bustling Roponggi District, drew more attention due to the graceless exchange between the blundering Lo and the lovely actress. It is easy to see why this has gotten much attention from netizens. One entertainment writer (Tempo’s Ronald Constantino) dismissed this hullabaloo as “Much ado about nothing”. Clearly, this wasn't nothing. Something has to be done so we can avoid this embarrassment from happening again.

Journalists sent on junkets have to learn from this debacle. Ricky Lo didn't just represent himself and he knew this. Why else would he keep namedropping his compatriot and “friendLea Salonga as though she was the only one to have portrayed Fantine; as though Salonga was in the same film Hathaway had flown to Japan for? A mere mention would suffice, but Lo had to repeatedly ask and even share his phone’s SMS to the Oscar-nominated actress. He was bestowed a 5-minute audience with an A-lister and he had to insinuate Lea Salonga 3 times within his 5-minute time limit? Ever heard of overstaying a welcome?

Lea Salonga as Fantine
Was Hathaway rude? Ricky Lo sure thought so. In his Funfare column, Lo said he was not offended at all. Was she rude? “Hmmm only a bit,” he prudently offered. What did “only a bit” mean exactly if that wasn't a clear statement: Yes, Lo felt that Hathaway was rude. Then he added: “I must say that (ehem!) the more than 200 other Hollywood stars I have interviewed were absolutely more delightful, far nicer, and totally engaging.” This comes from someone who was not in any way offended by how he was being replied to. Which begs the question: Didn't the 200 Hollywood stars, not to mention two or three decades of interviewing personalities, train him how to conduct a better, albeit decent interview?

Ricky Lo should have come prepared. Mere research doesn't suffice. He should have vocally practiced some of his questions because he had them written on his phone anyway. He was, after all, facing the camera as well. He could have done away with a lot of “uh” and those inscrutable gibberish that only the heavens could understand. Several of his questions were dotted with unintelligible words; I had to transcribe the interview to be factual. His “scenes” became “sins”; “hungry” became “hang-gry”; “interview” became “en-terview”; “any” became “ey-ny”  and “hardest” became “hard-eest”. Heck, he can’t even pronounce Anne’s name right, calling the actress “Uhnn” as though she just crawled out of a cave and we're still in the Paleolithic age. “Hi, Uhnn,” he’d greet her. Moreover, he called Anne’s mom “Mc-COW-ly” (Anne’s mother is actress Kate McCauley Hathaway). As in “moo”? He fumbles with his tenses and subject-verb agreement. Between statements, he turns gibberish.  My favorite, of course, was “shoo in” which sounded ”SHO-in". 

The most glaring problem with this interview was how a veteran entertainment editor couldn't seem to “connect” with his subject. Lo seemed tentative and awkward. Anne was guarded and selectively nice. In Lo’s recent article (a sort-of “rebuttal” which he referred as “putting things in proper perspective”), he wrote that Anne perked up when he showed her Lea’s message. He continued, “When she gave me back my cellphone, I accidentally dropped it, prompting Anne to exclaim, Be careful! Lo’s statement is spurious because, if you check out the video, Hathaway handed back Lo’s phone at 1:35 and his phone fell at 3:16. This was when the actress reminded him to be careful. Isn't it rude fiddling with your phone while talking to someone, and on cam at that? It is important to pay attention to your subject instead of constantly gawking at your phone. Spontaneity is to be had when you listen! 


What transpired should provide a valuable lesson. A junket like this is made possible by the movie"s distribution arm. In this case, it is Solar Entertainment. Couldn't they have properly chosen someone more adept at interviewing stars? The better question is, how do they choose? Tic tac toe? Spin the bottle? Or maybe they consult Marites Allen's feng shui for their pick? There are plenty of journalists who are not too fixated with Lea Salonga, aren't there? Or is the country in a dearth of good journalists that people who can’t speak intelligible sentences had to represent the Philippines? And for what, so they can make fools of themselves? And how can an entertainment editor perform so dreadfully? 

That Ricky Lo finds nothing wrong with his “performance” is a study of ignorance; that he finds it “amusing” is a more serious matter and could be a reflection of cognitive or psychological malfunction, unless these declarations are nothing but avenues of self-preservation. Wasn't this debacle a pondering of taste (or the lack thereof) and blatant inadequacy? Is Lo the best that the country can offer in terms of entertainment journalism? If this were so, aren't we in a lamentable state? Finally, why are GMA7 and Philippine Star fond of hiring people whose screen personas and TV appearances make my skin crawl? I can name two others. Guess who?