Legal reps for Angelina Jolie gave journos a jolt during the run-up to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” with a legal agreement that attempted to set new precedent in the already tense relations between celebs and the press.
The agreement, faxed to journos from the law firm Sloane, Offer, Webster & Dern, demanded as a condition of an interview with Jolie that journalists agree to not ask any questions about “personal relationships,” that the interview “only be used to promote the picture,” and, incredibly, that the interview “not be used in a manner that is disparaging, demeaning and derogatory.”
Junket vets are accustomed to pre-interview agreements.
But journos carped that the Jolie agreement took media management to an absurd level, and that even if they wanted to sign, their lawyers wouldn’t allow them to agree to such a broad and vague contract.
“Many of the people who covered the junket felt it was an example of the publicists taking it one step too far,” says Mark Coleman, exec news director of Star Magazine. “You can’t really say it’s an interview when you’re so constrained as to what you can ask that you might as well be talking to a studio executive.”
Despite the serious legalese deployed in Jolie’s agreement, it appears few in the entertainment press opted to sign it as written.
Even Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush declined to participate in the junket, a decision he explained on his blog. Other reporters told Variety they acquiesced to parts of the agreement — such as limiting questions to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” — but not to others.
While publicists and image-makers say the agreement is unusual, the point is not necessarily to have journalists sign on the dotted line but rather to influence the outcome of interviews by any means necessary.
“There is a feeling that a line has been crossed so far in their direction that it takes a good shove back to get it back in the other direction,” says Allan Mayer, managing director of Strick & Company. “This wasn’t so much a take-it-or-leave-it proposition as a shot across the bow.”