Richard Roeper Blog

Who you callin’ asshole, asshole!

We all know celebrities live charmed lives, but that doesn’t mean there are drawbacks that accompany the great stuff, whether it’s dealing with paparazzi trailing your every move as you pick up your dry cleaning, fans pestering you for autographs while you’re in the restroom—-or doing a grueling publicity tour for your movie. I’ve been a reporter at junkets where an actor will sit for 30, 40, even 50 interviews in a single day, trying to sound peppy and engaged as one entertainment journalist after another asks the same questions. (“What was it like to work with Co-Star A?” “What’s your next project?” “Did you do any research for this role?” “What was it like to work with Director B?”)

Even more soul-sucking than the in-person junketeer experience is the satellite interview tour. You sit in a small, hot room with the lights bearing down on you, staring into the black hole of a camera lens while fielding questions from the hosts of “Good Morning Topeka!” and, “How’s it Goin’ Cincinnati!”

I’ve been the interview subject on a few of those tours, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for what these people go through. (Again, I know: they’re millionaires. They wanted to be famous. They asked for this. Still doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.) After about two hours, you’ve lost all track of who you’re talking to, which jokes you’ve already used, what your middle name is. You just can’t wait for it to end.

Mel Gibson was doing one of those tours recently to promote “Edge of Darkness,” and his plasma-screened image appeared alongside WGN-TV’s Dean Richards, who kept bringing up Gibson’s well-documented troubles.

Celebrities hate it when you bring up their well-documented troubles. Their publicists REALLY hate it when you bring up their well-documented troubles. Sometimes they’ll cut the interview short and usher you out of the room if you dare bring up the DUI or the messy divorce or the battery charge.

In this case, Gibson tried to deflect Richards’ queries, but Dean-o kept hammering away at him before ending the interview with a mention of Gibson’s movie. After they said goodbye, but with Gibson still on-camera and with his mike on, we hear a one-word comment: “Asshole.”

Gibson says he was directing the comment at his publicist, who supposedly was making faces at him. There is a moment near the very end when you see Gibson’s eyes dart offscreen, as if distracted. But I don’t know—-seems to me he’s calling Richards an asshole.

I don’t know Dean very well, but he’s always been nice to me. I’ve been a guest on WGN-TV a few times with him, and he’s always professional, courteous and fun to work with. (He’s also got great pipes. If you watch Cubs baseball or other programming on superstation on WGN-TV, you hear him doing voice-overs all the time.)

Does he push it a little bit with Gibson? Absolutely. But it’s better than the usual suck-up interview where the questioner doesn’t dare mention the elephant in the room. That said, I can see why Gibson would mutter “Asshole,” at the end of that exchange. The guy fucked up big-time four years ago, but one can understand it if he said, “That’s it, I’m done, I’m not talking about this shit in public for the rest of my life.”

We all gotta learn to let things go, whether it’s our mistakes or somebody else’s.

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