June 08, 2018

Say What…? The Best – Or Worst – Interviews In History

Recruitment is a process. In our case, a process that has taken us two years to refine and perfect. You trawl websites like ours and you find a couple of jobs that interest you. After you’ve been through our process and the magic happens, it’s your turn. Your prospective employers like what they’ve read and they call you in for interview.

For many, the interview is nothing short of a living nightmare. You know you’re qualified for the job and you know your face fits, so why, for some, does it all fall to pieces when you’re face-to-face?

There’s a thousand websites where you’ll find horror interview stories (including one we prepared earlier) and we all know someone who’s had a shocker but if we boil it down to the absolute basics, it’s just you and a middle-management jobsworth, in a room, sizing each other up.

You might get the job, you might not, that’s how it works. But when you’re in the interview, having done all your prep, try not to fall to pieces. However if you do don’t worry about it, you’re in stellar company.

The biggest and the best have fallen to pieces, some in absolutely spectacular style…

File Under ‘Excruciating’

Some of the most memorable interviews from the past 20 years or so start out as the typical fare – a celebrity with something to flog goes on telly – and most of the time it’s the usual insipid, lazy pony written in advance by a PR with an over-inflated sense of self-worth but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s TV gold…

David Blaine & Eammon Holmes Blaine appeared on lovable Eammon’s ITV breakfast show to (presumably) talk about his latest attention-seeking stunt but simply refused to talk. Instead, he held up his palm with an eye drawn on it telling Holmes it was to protect him from death. Oddball.

Meg Ryan & Michael Parkinson She wasn’t in a great place. She’d just split from Russell Crowe and the film she was supposed to plug had been slammed but she was rude, uncooperative, uncommunicative and it made him angry. Parky! Angry? He thought she was rude, she though he was a nut. ‘I’ve wiped my memory of Meg Ryan. I didn’t like her.’ Diva.

Tom Cruise & Oprah Winfrey A-list Hollywood royalty turned Scientology punchline killed his public image in the space of four horrifically-excruciating minutes in 2005 when he appeared on Oprah’s show. Whatever he was flogging is long forgotten. All anyone remembers is him going completely and utterly insane when talking about his love for (his now ex-wife) Katie Holmes. Mentalist.

File Under ‘The Heartbreakingly-Sad Interview That Almost Never Saw The Light Of Day’

In 1995 and shortly before her divorce, Princess Diana agreed to a full-length interview with highly-respected broadcaster Martin Bashir. Almost 23-million of us watched. Some say she was incredibly brave for fronting up. Others questioned her decision to take on the Royal Family single-handedly and in such a public way.

She told the world she knew about her husband’s affair with Camilla; she admitted to an affair with James Hewitt and came clean on her bulimia, self-harm and the lack of support from the Royal Family including allegations they tried to destroy her reputation in the aftermath of her separation.

However, while the self-styled ‘Queen of Hearts’ was feeling the love from the public, Patrick Jephson, her then Private Secretary has admitted that she ‘deeply regretted’ giving the interview. He said that she was ‘not at all confident about what she had done.’ By then it was too late…

Jephson suggested that what appeared to be quite a daring, subversive thing to do, didn’t seem so in the cold light of day.

‘I realised this was the first time that she had really thought about how the real world was going to react. It triggered that part of her which was not rebellious or given to dangerous stunts, which was actually conventional and dutiful, and responsible and awake to her broader Royal responsibilities.’

Sadly at the time, the interview – which has gone down in the annals of history as one of the most famous ever conducted – did nothing to further her cause. She was racked with guilt, anxiety and defiance and you take on the Royal Family at your peril.

The hour-long conversation was all at once desperately sad, shocking and controversial, but also one of the most famous interviews ever televised.

File Under ‘The Interview That Changed The World’

Four years after President Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, he agreed to a series of interviews with (then) talk-show host and producer David Frost (who had just had his US talk-show cancelled). Nixon’s staff saw it as a way to repair his public reputation and were certain that Frost would roll over and have his belly tickled. There was no way an upstart from the UK could outwit a US President. Was there?

Since none of the American networks wanted a piece of the action, Frost funded the interviews almost entirely out of his own pocket, selling the syndication rights at the last minute and agreeing to pay the disgraced ex-President $600,000 (approx. £2 million today) and 20% of the syndication profits.

The series of 12 interviews, recorded three-a-week for four weeks lasting just under 29 hours, delved into Nixon’s presidency and topics included domestic and foreign policy, the Vietnam War and of course, Watergate. The first three interviews were typical Nixon – a well-rehearsed, well-briefed albeit rambling yet confident orator. He and his cronies had the measure of Frost. If he just kept babbling on, Frost couldn’t ask any questions. His staff were sure this was going to be the dictionary definition of easy cash.

Little did David Frost know when he was sitting with Nixon that he was about to be the headline act in one of the most important pieces of television ever.

As well-prepared as Nixon was on everything else, it later transpired he’d done no prep on Watergate. Frost probed, pressed, out-argued and kept knocking on the door and he eventually got what he – and the nation – was looking for.

‘I let the American people down.’
Richard M. Nixon

With that, Frost was assured of his place in broadcasting history but as good as that legacy is, his second is even more important.

According to the producer of the interviews (and later Director-General of the BBC) Lord John Birt, Frost invented the modern interview and made programmes like Newsnight and the Today programme possible. ‘He ushered in the end of the age of deference. It was like being at a birth.’

Next time you’re lined up for an interview, thank your lucky stars Frosty isn’t on the other side of the desk…

Catch you soon.

The Liquid Team