Robert Downey Jr’s ‘Avengers’ interview walkout is far from a triumph for journalism

Robert Downey Jr walked out of an interview with Channel 4 News when promoting Avengers: Age of Ultron

The internet lit up this week when Robert Downey Jr, one of the stars of latest Marvel movie Avengers: Age of Ultron, walked out of an interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy for Channel 4 News. The actor took exception to questions posed by Guru-Murthy about his time in prison and and history of drug addiction.

It seems that the Channel 4 anchor has learnt no lessons from his disastrous 2013 interview with Quentin Tarantino, promoting Django Unchained.

Initially, the interview was pleasingly normal. Guru-Murthy fired in a couple of interesting questions about the superhero sequel and the nature of the genre in general. Downey Jr provided him with some nice answers in response. So far, so press junket.

Then, however, Guru-Murthy opted to switch gears. He began to pose questions about the connections between Tony Stark and Downey Jr, before wildly veering into the topic of the actor’s stint behind bars. After a brief “are we promoting a movie?” quip, Downey Jr played along, batting away the questions with polite responses.

When Guru-Murthy pushed on, Downey Jr simply stood up and left the room.

The consensus surrounding the walkout seems to be painting Robert Downey Jr as a celebrity "diva" who wilted in the face of hardcore grilling from a dogged journalist.

This shows that Krishnan Guru-Murthy and, indeed, the media at large have no understanding of the purpose of the movie publicity circuit. It’s an exercise that actors, largely, dislike as they are forced to spend entire days answering the same handful of questions about a film.

The two groups of people that benefit are the journalists, who get an A-list interview for their programme or publication, and the studios, who gain publicity for their film.

It’s a relaxed interview setting, in which celebrities are primed for a light-hearted chat. It is the not the right time to lob in a curveball question about past misdemeanours. Beyond the simple inappropriateness of the questioning, though, there is little journalistic value in prying into a chapter of Downey Jr’s life that closed years ago.

Film critic and producer Scott Weinberg put it very nicely in a series of tweets.

 

 

 

It is wrong to paint this ambush as some sort of triumph for investigative journalism. Film stars promote movies in interviews because their contracts stipulate that they do so. They do not deserve to be ambushed by the dregs of their past in the name of producing a bit of controversial journalism and they are well within their rights to refuse to play ball with sensationalism.

Robert Downey Jr has turned his life around and has now taken his position as one of the most bankable movie stars on the planet. Every word that can be said about his past has already been said.

No one needs Channel 4 to drag it out of him.

 

Do you agree with me about the Robert Downey Jr interview walkout? Do you think it was right for the Avengers star to be questioned about his past? Let me know in the comments section.

2 thoughts on “Robert Downey Jr’s ‘Avengers’ interview walkout is far from a triumph for journalism

  • 27/04/2015 at 20:09
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    Agree, it wasn’t a triumph for journalism, but disagree that KGM was wrong to ask the questions. On a news programme as like Channel 4 News, I don’t really see the relevance in having an actor promoting a film, masquerading as a news interview, so, arguably, Channel 4 News should not use them. However, in regard to the Tarantino interview, KGM should be applauded for asking questions about the role of violence in films, rather than pitching soft questions, as Tarantino has a responsibility to answer those questions, whether you agree, or not, that there is a relationship between violence in films and the violence in society (for the record, I don’t). With the RDJ interview, KGM has every right to ask those questions rather than let RDJ have free reign to promote his film. If they don’t want to answer serious questions, they shouldn’t agree to interviews with hard news programmes (not specifically the actors, as I acknowledge that quite often they don’t want to do them).

    Reply
    • 27/04/2015 at 23:13
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      I agree with you on the Tarantino interview, to a degree. The violence in film discussion is an interesting and worthwhile one. That interview, although it turned out to be something of a disaster, is a good example of how a news programme can use film junkets to tease out slightly more important issues.

      In this case, however, it’s just a case of KGM asking questions that have absolutely zero relevance in an attempt to make the guy uncomfortable. What would we gain from RDJ answering those questions? I suspect the answer is nothing that he hasn’t said in the past, at a more relevant time.

      It feels to me as if Channel 4 uses these interviews solely to get a bit of a viral kick. That’s why KGM is so keen to prod actors into unnecessary areas. Otherwise, as you point out, there’s little point in C4 News using them.

      I wouldn’t imagine the stars have any say in who interviews them at junkets and I’m equally sure that they barely listen to who they’re talking to at any given time. It’s just Reporter A, Reporter B, Reporter C, etc. From the point of view of the studios organising the junkets, it would be foolish for them to turn down exposure on a primetime news programme, whatever the questions.

      Reply

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