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The journalist who prompted Robert Downey Jr to walkout of an interview on the British leg of the Avengers: Age of Ultron press tour has written a lengthy piece on the Guardian, defending his right to ask “serious” and uncomfortable questions of stars.
Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who has faced widespread criticism on Twitter, said that he wasn’t in the business of doing promotional interviews, and when Downey asked him “Are we promoting a movie?” as the interview started to go south, he should have replied “You are, but I’m not” to clear up any confusion.
Guru-Murthy referenced an earlier interview with Quentin Tarantino that likewise ended in awkwardness and the Django Unchained telling the interviewer: “I’m not your slave and you’re not my master. You can’t make me dance to your tune. I’m not your monkey.” On that occasion Guru-Murthy said he felt it was appropriate to ask a question on film violence as the interview took place the day U.S. politicians were debating gun violence after the Sandy Hook massacre.
On Channel 4 News policy, Guru-Murthy said: “We don’t do promotional interviews on Channel 4 News. We agree with PR people that as well as talking about a new movie for a while we want to ask wider ranging questions on relatively serious topics, and we don’t guarantee to run any answers in particular.”
He added: “When Robert Downey Jr.’s PR man rang up asking what we wanted to talk about, we said we had no particular agenda but would ask about the new Avengers superhero movie and his recovery from jail and drug abuse to Hollywood stardom.”
Guru-Murthy says that to make the interview worth running they needed a “news” element, and this approach has worked well in the past in interviews with the likes of Robert Redford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Samuel L Jackson and Carey Mulligan, who Guru-Murthy says “have all happily taken the chance to talk to me about things ranging from politics to sexism, from violence to Alzheimer’s disease.”
Guru-Murthy did have sympathy for stars like Downey Jr. who clearly don’t really want to do these interviews but are contractually obligated to do so, but he added that “my sympathy runs only up to a point. … If I was going to ask any other interviewee about difficult topics I would probably have a chat beforehand to prepare them. Movie stars don’t do that. As anyone else in the public eye knows, the best way to eclipse an uncomfortable topic is to volunteer one that is more interesting. But when I’ve asked movie stars what they would like to talk about, to see if they have a nugget they would like to drop on Channel 4 News, the response is usually along the lines of “not really, I hate all this,’ ” he said.
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