You should have been The Graduate!
He leaned forward, pointed at me, and in a very loud voice said “You should have been the Graduate!”
Those words were spoken to me by Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, who was the Graduate. How did this come about, you might ask?
It was 1982, the movie was “Tootsie” and Columbia Pictures staged what was known as a movie junket. Reporters were flown to a big American city and put up in a fancy hotel with all expenses paid. All the reporters had to do was go to a movie screening, and the next day videotape an interview with a few of the stars of the film, then go home and play the interview on their shows or newscasts. I don’t know if film companies still do this, but it sounds like a pretty good gig, don’t you think?
Well, in actual fact it was the worst possible way to conduct an interview. Here’s how it would play out. You screen the film, then the next day you’d receive your schedule of interviews. The interviewees were waiting in hotel rooms next door to each other and each room was complete with a camera crew.
You would walk in, introduce yourself to the actor, and an audio tech would pin a microphone on you, point, and say, “You have 7 minutes, go!” For the next 7 minutes, you did your best to get whatever information you could about the movie and the star. When the 7 minutes were up, the mic was unpinned from your jacket, you were handed the tape of your interview, you said goodbye, and were shown the door. Then it was on to the next hotel suite where another person connected to the film was waiting, and you’d go through the whole exercise again.
The film companies would always make sure the actor in the starring role was available on interview day. I’m sure it was in their contract that they had to sit through two days of interviews. That would make for a long day for the star, and if you were unlucky, your interview was scheduled in the final hours of the final day when the actor had been asked questions every 7 minutes for two days and all he or she really wanted to do was go home.
Most of the big stars couldn’t be nicer, and all they wanted to do was give you the very best interview. Dustin Hoffman, Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, and Robin Williams were like that. It made for a very easy and entertaining interview.
The film company would always have the star, maybe a co-star, maybe the Director scheduled for interviews, but they would also throw in an “up and coming” actor, that nobody had ever heard of. That usually made for a tough 7 minutes.
But a pleasant surprise happened on a junket for another 1982 movie, “Night Shift”, starring Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler, directed by Ron Howard. The relatively unknown actor said she had done a pilot for a TV show, and hoped that it would be picked up by the networks. She said it was a show about a neighbourhood bar that had a bunch of funny regular customers, a place where everybody knew your name. Yes, the show was “Cheers,” and that actor was Shelley Long.
Oh, and I started out talking about “The Graduate”. As I mentioned, I was on the movie junket for “Tootsie” and was scheduled to interview the star of the show, Dustin Hoffman. When I walked into the room to do my 7-minute interview, the mic was pinned on me and the production assistant named Susie said “Go.” Dustin Hoffman looked at me and said, “Nice jacket” and I said “Nice pants” he said “Nice shirt,” I said “Nice tie", and we both laughed. We were dressed the same! Blue blazer, grey flannel pants, and a button-down dress shirt with a tie. What a great way to start an interview. (And later I discovered we shared the same birthday! Same day, different year.) Then he leaned forward, pointed at me, and in a very loud voice said, “You should have been the Graduate!” Now keep in mind I’m staring at the man who was nominated for an Academy Award for playing Benjamin Braddock in the 1967 classic film “The Graduate.” I said “What?” He said, “Look at you, you’re an Anglo Saxon, blue-eyed guy, you should have been the Graduate!”
Well, that was it, the interview could have ended right there. But it didn’t, we had a great talk, and eventually, I was given the sign by Susie, that my 7 minutes were up. I said, “Dustin, I’ve really enjoyed our talk, but I’ve been given the signal from Susie that my time is up.” Dustin said “Forget Susie”, and proceeded to keep talking. We finally finished the interview, but my visit with Dustin Hoffman wasn’t over. He said, “That was fun, I want you to meet my brother.” He took me back into the hotel suite’s kitchen to meet his brother and have a glass of wine and continued to talk. Does a junket get any better? I don’t think so!
We said our goodbyes, and I left there feeling like, The Graduate?
Til next week...
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