It’s always entertaining to see an A list celebrity blow it big time. Yet, it’s still something of a surprise that they can let themselves down so badly despite living and working in a media world and years of experience giving interviews. Most of my clients are from the business and professional world, but I can’t imagine them ever handling an interview so badly even with the most basic interview training. So where did Tarantino go wrong and how could he have avoided this PR disaster?
1. He should never have agreed to the interview in the first place if he needed control over the questions to be asked.
2. He or ‘his people’ could have sought or tried to seek agreement in advance that the issue of violence in his movies its potential to influence real behaviour would not be asked because it’s so sensitive in the current US climate. Or they could have agreed to do the interview only on the basis that it wouldn’t be asked. Most news organisations don’t like surrendering any editorial control but will often bend a bit to secure a major player.
3. There is a major difference between paid for ‘commercial’ advertising – where you have a right to control what goes out – and independent news or arts ‘editorial’ programming – where you are not paying and can’t call the shots. He should not have confused the two.
4. He should NEVER have abused the presenter. It’s fine to object to a question, or to object to any real or perceived bias in a programme or interview, but not to attack the person interviewing you. You might get away with it for more controversial or colourful presenters or programmes but certainly not on a straight news interview. In most cases, the public will just see you, rather than the presenter, as the aggressor.
5. Most obviously of all, he/his people should have prepared for the interview in advance, anticipated the obviously sticky questions and rehearsed or at least discussed possible responses. Yes, they were doing wall-to-walll interviews at the time, but that makes it all the more inexcusable. In terms of answering the question, sincerity is always best. I can only speculate about his real feelings, but to give an example, Tarantino could have said he was on record on this issue many times in the past but it was not something he currently wanted to discuss because of the present sensitivities involved in the US. He would still have been dodging the question but at least he might have invoked a certain amount of sympathy or understanding from the presenter and the audience.
Of course, ‘his people’ probably did all their homework in advance and their expert advice was ignored during the self-indulgent tantrum of a spoiled or overtired celebrity….. The outcome of the interview certainly focused more rather than less attention on the very issue he sought to avoid. Better luck next time, Quentin. I am sure you will be crying all the way to the bank!