We are just rarely allowed to know that.
Celebrity profiles are hard. There are rules (so many rules), there are unhelpful publicists who try to stop you from breaking those rules, there are impressions to hold and there are reputations to keep. Because of this celebrity profiles can, so often, turn into three page wank fests that go on and on about how beautiful/funny/gorgeous/great the person is and not actually profile them at all. You know the ones I mean, usually they can be found in the pages of Vogue or Elle or Harpers Bazaar where a celebrity cover story is such a commodity that they cannot and will not say anything other than ‘I love you.’ And while I admit that some of these celebrities are nice/funny/gorgeous/great, there must be some that are just total assholes.
Strangely enough (or not?) the best celebrity profiles I have read have come from Esquire. Rolling Stone is pretty great at them too, and Vanity Fair depending on the issue. But the best is Esquire.
John H Richardson and Tom Junod, contributors to the magazine, have got the profiling thing down. Junod has profiled virtually every major celebrity there is; I haven’t read them all, but I have read enough to know that he doesn’t give a shit about anything other than authenticity. Richardson is the same. His style is less ‘I love you’ and more ‘like it or not, this is how it is.’
Here are a three experts from Richardson and Junod’s work that demonstrate my point:
From Angelina Jolie and the Torture of Fame by John H Richardson
“…I say, I thought maybe we could talk about that, and she says, We’re already talking about it and I feel the nervous antennae of her attention reaching out and twitching back and reaching out again and suddenly it just hits me that this whole thing is wrong, and I find myself saying, Maybe you shouldn’t be doing this. You don’t need to be on magazine covers.
You have a career on the merits and publicity isn’t for everybody, and maybe you should just not do this interview or any interview ever again. But that seems to set her on the edge of tears again and she tells me, No, it’s all about communication–movies, magazines, it’s all communication, and that’s important to her and she’s almost pleading with me and so I segue back to the soothing voice and Boland’s feeling of being a perfect fake daughter with her perfect fake father and Angelina says she and her dad have talked about that–should they tell the truth about their troubles and have people put an ugly cast on it or just say everything is fine and smileyface?–and it’s so weird because even at the premiere last night, the premiere for The Bone Collector, the photographers told her brother to move out of the shot so they could get one of just famous her and her famous dad and it’s obvious that even the memory gives her pain–she’s all nerves and anything that touches the wrong spot stings.
I suggest again that maybe we should go have a bite or something and she rubs her arms and looks this way and that and finally I just give her my card and say, That’s my home number and you can call me or not call me, whatever, it’s all good, and she’s twisting and turning my card into lint and saying how she’s thinking maybe she doesn’t even need acting, maybe she should just move to the country and have a kid, and I think, For God’s sake don’t do that–thinking of the kid..”
From Christian Bale May Kill Someone Yet by John H Richardson
BALE: It should just happen. It should just happen. If something’s true and sincere, it happens regardless of marketing. The more I talk about it, the more I’m telling people how they should react. And that is an asshole.
ESQUIRE: Not to argue, but that’s not true.
BALE: Are you calling me a liar? Am I lying?
ESQUIRE: Sometimes the ground needs to be prepared. And you’ve laid down these onerous rules on me — all I can do is a Q&A.
These are forbidden words that you are reading right now. Bale is in the habit of requesting that his media interviews be printed in a Q&A format. He also prefers to conduct them at the same five-star luxury hotel in Los Angeles and makes it known that he dislikes personal questions.
BALE: You don’t like that?
ESQUIRE: No! I don’t like being told what to do.
BALE: I’ll tell you why. Basically, it’s somebody who got stuck having to interview me who really wants to be a novelist, so they’re writing these novellas and I was like, “It’s not true, that didn’t happen, they just made all that up! Why don’t they just go ahead and be a novelist instead of bothering with interviewing me?”
ESQUIRE: So you want to be perceived accurately, but you also don’t wish to give any details. You realize that those two things contradict each other.
BALE: No, it’s simpler than that. I want to be able just to act and never do any interview, but I don’t have the balls to stand up to the studio and say, “I’m never doing another interview in my life!” So I tip my hat and go, “Okay mister! All right sir! I’ll go do the salesman job!”
ESQUIRE: And you don’t want to talk about your personal life or family background either.
BALE: Look, I’ve got incredible pride for my family. I’ve fallen into that cliché of a dad who could just happily talk about my daughter endlessly. But it’s not what I’m about in terms of being an actor. I don’t want people to know about that.
ESQUIRE: Why not?
BALE: I don’t want people to know me.
From George Clooney’s Rules for Living by Tom Junod
“He has told this story before. He has even told it to Esquire before. That he tells it again—that it’s the first story he tells—serves to announce what is essential about himself: that he’s a man who will do what it takes to win you over, even applying bacon as an unguent.
I have done a few of these things—celebrity profiles—before. I have interviewed famous people in hotel rooms and offices, in bars and restaurants, even, once, on top of a bridge in Sydney, Australia. Where I have not often interviewed them is at their homes. The home is the turkey bacon of the celebrity profile. It generates, if not love, then at least a sense of gratitude akin to what a dog must feel when allowed on the couch. Leonardo DiCaprio met me in a vast hotel conference room, empty but for an end table and two chairs.
George Clooney invited me to his house.
Of course he did. What distinguishes Clooney from other famous people is that he reliably acts as you wish other famous people would act and does what you wish other famous people would do: often the right thing.”
See what I mean? It is just so much more interesting, and refreshing, to read something written about a celebrity that allows for opinion.