Well, I suppose there are two most memorable.
One was before I was on television, when I was working for the Daily Mail, I interviewed John Wayne and he got out of his chair to hit me.
But fortunately he was stopped from doing that.
And the second one was when I did an interview with Robert De Niro around the time
opened and again we nearly came to blows and so yeah, those are memorable.
You do tend to remember situations when you feel you might be in physical danger.
What did you say, Barry?
Well, Wayne was a political argument about the Vietnam War.
I’m left of centre politically and he was so far off to the right that I think the last politician he really admired was Ivan the Terrible.
And so we fell out over the Vietnam War, big discussion over that. Mind you, he had drunk 15 miniatures of bourbon before lunchtime so that might have accounted for his bad temper.
And De Niro hates doing interviews, he does them only because he’s contractually obliged to do so, and so therefore, as I’d feared, the interview was going nowhere. It was just monosyllabic. In fact there was a story that I’d seen repeated in several American magazines that he had begged for the role of Big a few years earlier, and the producer kicked him out of his office, saying no they wanted a real star.
I thought well this is rubbish because Tom Hanks was a star, but he wasn’t nearly as big as De Niro in those days.
So when I realised I was getting nothing else out of the interview I brought this up and said, you know, what was that about?
And he very very gradually told me his version of the story, which was that the producers approached him and he’d agreed to do it, but when they’d got to discussing where and when and how and maybe how much money he was gonna get, they fell out, he walked away, the producers then spread this story that they’d kicked him out, saying he wasn’t big enough.
And I had a thought that it was in his interests to have this publicised, because his version made much more sense than the other version, and somehow he just thought I was trying to stir up trouble.
So he got angry, and I was angry, and he stormed out at the end of the interview, and I stormed out after him and said what’s your bloody problem?
And he said, you know what my problem is. And we stood there snarling at each other nose to nose, and I thought no this is not good because he’s much fitter and younger than I am, and if it comes to blows I’m in trouble here.
That would never happen now, everything is so tightly controlled.
I know, which is one of the reasons I was glad to get out. When you get the publicity arm dictating everything - which is what you’ve got - it’s the tail wagging the dog.
And it’s very hard now to get a decent interview with anybody.