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How Tom Hardy Convinced One Critic to Quit the Junket Business

How Tom Hardy Convinced One Critic to Quit the Junket Business

HitFix’s Drew McWeeny had a bad day at last Thursday junket for “The Revenant,” and after four hours waiting for his interview with Tom Hardy, he snapped.

On Wednesday, Hardy responded with a letter posted to a fan site, which read in part:

“Thankyou [sic] for your email offering to retract your misdirected anger. I apologise for any part of you having to wait for an interview and then not get one. The truth is we (as I was paired for all interviews that day) were unaware that ANYBODY was waiting. Or even went without a TV interview. Someone somewhere must have thought putting it on me was a lot easier than losing their journalist relations for the ongoing junkets and multiple movies that are pending. I wish I would have napped to be honest.

“One note to make is that per Fox, they said they ‘never actually told (you) that the interview was cancelled, simply that they were running behind schedule.’ They also said that ‘Drew chose not to wait and left. Had he stayed, he would have gotten his interview as planned.’

Fuck.. Plot thickens … Who knows what to trust my friend, but I do know the cancellation was definitely not made by myself. Resisting the urge to dare you to say what you “rant tweeted” so publicly, to my face next time we meet, which I doubt you have the balls to do; I want to apologise regardless on behalf of those that misled the both of us. That isn’t cool. At all. Neither were your tweets. But that’s by the by.”

“Plot thickens” indeed: According to McWeeny, he never sent Hardy a single email, and while it’s possible he “would have gotten his interview as planned” had he waited longer than four hours, the colleague he asked to step in for him ended up getting to ask Hardy all of a single question. But regardless of who’s at fault — and you can make a solid case for “everyone” — the real culprit here are junkets themselves, which have increasingly become endurance tests where reporters wait for hours to pump exhausted stars for a few bits of vaguely relevant information, often more concerned with whatever superhero movie they might be doing next than the project at hand. Their only purpose is to maximize the breadth of coverage, relying on the fact that journalists who’ve spent time and secured access, however fleeting, will feel obligated to publish something no matter how brief or cursory their interview ends up being.

That’s why, McWeeny says, he’s now out of the junket game for good.

“My decision is for me alone,” he writes, “but I would urge my fellow journalists to consider the real balance of power here. When there are hundreds of identical interviews online, nobody is benefiting from that. Your readers aren’t getting anything special out of the experience, and what we are doing is simply a function of the studio’s marketing needs. If you’re feeling like you’re being disrespected, realize that you have options. I can pay to see a movie if I have to do that to review it, and I can write with authority about films without doing a five-minute interview. There is nothing that I truly need from a studio to write about a film. I have great regard for many of the people on many of the publicity teams in town, and I think they all work hard all the time. But they are being taxed with pulling off impossible events under impossible conditions, and the result is more often a frustrating mess than anything else. I genuinely like the various teams who actually work the junkets, like the camera-men and the various producers tasked with running the rooms, and when I used to do them all the time, I got to know many of them well. But again… the system puts them into unwinnable situations all the time.”

It’s possible to do good, or at least entertaining, interviews at junkets, even in the micro-slots allotted for on-camera interviews, which are sometimes as short as a minute or three. But though studios want to squeeze as many as possible into day, the more they do, the less valuable each one becomes, in both journalistic and commercial terms. Trying to get someone to click on your interview with Star X instead of the hundreds of other nigh-identical ones that post on the same day at the same time can be more trouble than it’s worth, especially when you could spend those hours lost waiting in hotel conference rooms writing something instead. 

This is all somewhat inside-basebally, and regardless of the rightness of McWeeny’s case, few people will side with a reporter when they can cozy up to a movie star instead. (I feel McWeeny’s pain, but “I’m mad because I had to wait to talk to a movie star” is not a complaint many people outside of the business are interested in hearing.) But if more journalists had McWeeny’s integrity, or even his temper, it might finally force the junket system to the breaking point, and that would be a glorious thing to see.

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