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Critic Confessions: Are Stars Fed Up with Press Junkets?

Jonah Hill, Florence Pugh and Chris Pine turn industry parade into question mark

I’ll never forget my first press junket.

Not only did I interrupt “Perfect Storm” star George Clooney as he ducked into his trailer (he couldn’t have been nicer about my rude behavior), but it showed me a new side to Hollywood.

The mass celebrity interview, given a rare closeup in the 2001 rom-com “America’s Sweethearts.”

America's Sweethearts (2001) Official Trailer 1 - Julia Roberts Movie

Movie junkets bring dozens, and dozens, of journalists together so they can bombard the stars with questions in a roundtable format. It’s a dizzying process, one that makes you feel bad for the stars in question.

Yes, they’re paid handsomely for their work, but this must be grueling.

So when a star addressed the assembled reporters on the “Perfect Storm” junket with tell-tale exhaustion I wasn’t surprised. Minutes later, Mark Wahlberg joined the fray, and he brought more energy than an infomercial pitchman.

Some actors, I learned, lean into the experience.

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My one-on-one chat with Dwayne Johnson during his “Walking Tall” press push, for example, found him speaking to a dozen reporters back-to-back-to-back. I was his last interview of the day and, like Wahlberg, he had Black Adam-level energy.

Impressive.

These memories flooded back given recent movie star headlines. Earlier this summer, Jonah Hill announced he would no longer take part in press interviews to promote his work. The process, he explained, did a number on his mental health.

Jonah Hill says he won't promote upcoming projects to 'protect' mental health l GMA

“I usually cringe at letters or statements like this but I understand that I am of the privileged few who can afford to take time off. I won’t lose my job while working on my anxiety. With this letter and with ‘Stutz,’ I’m hoping to make it more normal for people to talk and act on this stuff. So they can take steps towards feeling better and so that the people in their lives might understand their issues more clearly.”

Hmm.

I’m glad western culture is speaking more openly about mental health in recent years, and Hill may have a very good reason for his extended absence. Still, the decision sounded … odd. Hill wouldn’t be facing any rigorous questions from the press, most likely.

He’s not a GOP politician.

Most entertainment journalists would treat the affable Hill well. How is the press process more strenuous than other aspects of his A-list life?

Now, two key players behind “Don’t Worry Darling” are dismissing the press part of their obligations.

Director Olivia Wilde’s film, the subject of intense gossip for weeks, stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles and Chris Pine.

Venice Film Festival 2022: All Eyes on Don't Worry Darling DRAMA | Daily Pop | E! News

Rising star Pugh ducked the film’s press junket, claiming previous commitments (namely, she’s shooting the “Dune” sequel). Yet she arrived in time for the less strenuous red-carpet walk, a glamorous affair offering plenty of adulation.

Co-star Chris Pine did as instructed, appearing dutifully to answer queries for promotional purposes. The “Star Trek” veteran wasn’t exactly engaged during the experience, though. His reactions, dubbed by many as being “zoned out,” led to a crush of viral reactions.

Old school stars know, or at least knew the routine. Movies need every ounce of publicity they can muster. It’s why actors agree to the arduous interview routine. They put on a game face, answer questions both insightful and dumb, and move on to the next journalist.

Is this part of the acting agenda suddenly in doubt? If so, the timing is unfortunate for Hollywood.

Movies roared back in a big way following the pandemic, notably due to unwoke smashes like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” The industry is still struggling. Consider how those two films topped the box office charts, again, over the weekend over new fare.

The competition for eyeballs has never been more fierce. The streaming landscape teems with fresh product, often on par with the best of Hollywood filmmaking. Video games and YouTube content keep many teens at home or, at the least, away from their local theaters.

Publicity has never been more vital to a film’s success or failure. Some stars aren’t acting that way of late.

UPDATE: Pugh just dodged a second press event in New York City.

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One Comment

  1. Whiny self-absorbed attention whores whine about the easiest damn job imaginable. They don’t like it? Good.

    By the way something, Jonah, being a lazy, entitled coward isn’t a “mental health issue”.

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