Could you explain how you go about interviewing a celebrity? What's the process?
Ah, the seemingly glamorous part of a freelancer's job: landing that interview with an A-lister, then becoming BFFs with said A-lister and eventually being named said A-lister's child's godparent. Ha! Right.
Celebrity interviews are tricky for several reasons.
A) Publicists. Publicists are the gateway to the stars, but often times, they keep those gates firmly shut. If the celeb doesn't have something to promote - a movie, a show, a product, you're likely to get shot down. If the publicist doesn't like the media outlet or deems it too small-time, you're likely to get shot down. If the publicist doesn't recognize your name or think that you can deliver a cushy interview, you might get shot down too (though not always). The point is that publicists, bless their hearts, are hired solely to protect and finesse a celebrity's image, and if your potential interview doesn't fit into their overall game plan for the star, you're likely to be turned away before you can even turn on your digital recorder.
B) The Chicken or the Egg Syndrome. Which should you do first? Nab the celeb or nab the assignment? This conundrum further entangles the situation. Most publicists aren't interested in speaking with you unless you have an assignment, and most editors don't want you to make promises that you can't keep (i.e, "oh, I'm sure that I can get Patrick Dempsey.). So...as I said, conundrum.
C) Logistics. Despite the bountiful pictures on People.com of celebs dining at the Ivy and shopping at Kitson, celebs are busy people. Nailing them down for a phone interview can be tough; getting them in person can be even harder.
So, despite these obstacles, how do you nab a celeb interview? Well, I'll preface this with the statement that there are certainly other writers out there who are far more experienced in this arena than I am, but I'll offer what I know...which is at least a decent amount.
1) Try to get your editor to set up the assignment. If you already have a good relationship with your editor or the magazine, it can't hurt to lob in a celeb idea - "hey, how about a Q/A with Patrick Dempsey on race car driving for the 'hobbies' column" - and have them contact the publicist. This is the route most likely to ensure success, though it isn't a slam-dunk. I was supposed to interview a several-time Oscar nominee, per my editor's suggestion, yet after he'd gone about setting everything up, she still had to pull out at the last minute.
2) Run the idea by your editor, and if she gives you the green light, go after the interview with all that you have. This might mean repeated follow-ups with the publicist or finding a different route to the celeb (through a charity he's involved with or through his network's publicist, etc). It also means not being intimidated by fancy, powerful H-wood publicists who have definitely been known to intimidate. (See: Kingsley, Pat.) The truth of the matter is that editors know that these things fall through, often by no fault of your own, so she probably won't hold it against you if you can't land that big fish.
3) Get creative. See above for other ways/routes to the celeb. While their personal publicist is usually the first stop, it doesn't have to be the only stop. Is the celeb a friend of a friend? Did you go to the same high school? Does he have a book out and thus a book publicist? Etc. If you really, really want to interview him, then you might be able to take a back route into doing it.
Anyone out there a celeb interview expert and want to suggest his or her own tips?