Every year, the 80 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. spend most of their time flying back and forth across the U.S. and around the world, attending screenings and press junkets and talking to movie stars about their latest film.
“Our press conferences are pretty serious and predictable,” says former president Philip Berk, who writes for FilmInk Australia. “But sometimes something really special happens.”
Case in point: When the HPFA gang flew to Paris in October for the “Tintin” junket, they also managed to arrange a press conference with exiled director Roman Polanski for “Carnage.”
“In 33 years of being with the HFPA, this is the first time I’ve ever met him and he was very affable, charming and surprisingly accessible,” Berk says. “Of course, we didn’t want to broach the subject of the scandal when we were there to talk about the film, but he actually alluded to it several times. That was pretty memorable.”
Judy Solomon, a member since 1956 who reps Israel and writes for Women’s World, agrees that the Paris trip was “the most outstanding moment of the year. To get two giants like Spielberg and Polanski in one day? It can’t get any better, and they’re both so great to interview — you can ask them anything.”
Solomon last interviewed Polanski in person back in 1974 when he was still living in Hollywood. “Obviously so much has happened since then, but he still has the same passion for film,” she says.
HFPA member Yukiko Nakajima, who writes for the Japanese market, also cites the Paris trip. “Spielberg was fascinating, as he discussed how he first came across Tintin in a French review of ‘Indiana Jones,’ ” she recalls. “So he bought the rights, but it then took him 30 years to make the film.”
Jorge Camara, who writes for the Dominican Republic’s Cineasta, and who has served as HFPA president six times, says talking to Pedro Almodovar recently for “The Skin I Live In,” was a standout interview “and a real insight. He told us he’s had many offers to direct Hollywood studio pictures, but turned them all down because he couldn’t work in the Hollywood system, while Polanski told us that he, unlike so many European directors who tried to make it in Hollywood, knew how to ‘work the machinery.’ ”
Ruben Nepales, who writes for the Philippines market, cites Mickey Rourke for “Immortals” and Robin Williams for “Happy Feet Two” as the most memorable press conferences of the year. “Mickey is so colorful — a journalist’s dream because he doesn’t hold anything back,” Nepales says. “He told us about bulking up to play a rugby player in his next film, ‘The Beautiful Game,’ and said his doctor had OK’d him to use steroids – they’d help his energy, stamina and his sex life. No one could quite believe it. At another point, he apologized to his agent in the back for saying something else he shouldn’t have.”
According to Nepales, Williams was also out of control, but in a very different way. “He does a one-man show every time we see him,” says the journalist, “and this time, since he’d just got remarried again a week or so before, he described his honeymoon in Paris — all in French. He got up and did 15 minutes on the honeymoon, and it was hysterical.”
For Gabriel Lerman, who writes for Spain outlets, an HFPA trip in September to Tampa and Miami was most interesting. “First, we visited Winter, the dolphin star of ‘Dolphin Tale’ in her aquarium near Tampa, and they showed us how her prosthetic tail worked, and some of us got very close to her and even touched her. That was pretty amazing.”
The group then flew to Miami to visit the set of “Charlie’s Angels.” “We met the stars, and there was no fighting or anything like that, but we could tell something wasn’t quite working,” he recalls. “So no one was that surprised when it was cancelled two weeks later.”
For German Karen Martin, who writes for Swiss, German and Japanese outlets, the highlight was going to London for the final “Harry Potter” film. “It was bittersweet, because we interviewed all the kids when the franchise began a decade ago, and talked to them for every one since, and it’s like watching family grow up,” she says. “They were all so shy and nervous 10 years ago, and we saw them gain confidence and become more relaxed over the years.” Now that the eight-movie multibillion-dollar franchise has finally come to an end, “you wonder how their careers will develop,” she adds. “What will they do next?”
Tops in tubthumps?
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