Interviewer: Sir Michael Parkinson
Interview Subject: Meg Ryan
Program: Parkinson, BBC
Broadcast Date: October 2003
He may be one of the most experienced interviewers in the history of journalism, but Sir Michael Parkinson proved just how fickle the art of interviewing can be when he spoke to actress Meg Ryan.
After a brutally blunt answer to Parkinson’s first question, the American proceeded to disagree completely with the talk show legend about the message of her film, ‘In The Cut’. Parkinson then tried to discuss her dislike of the spotlight, before asking Ryan what she would do if she was in his situation, as the interviewer, to which she coldly replied: ‘Just wrap it up’.
But while Ryan’s demeanour was very closed up and prickly throughout, Parkinson also did very little to ameliorate the clearly tense situation. Instead of backing off and asking some simpler questions to ease the talent into the interview, he pushed harder for answers and refused to back down. This made Ryan feel very uncomfortable from the start, which caused the tension and subsequent conflict between the two.
Overall, the interview is far more awkward and painful then it is entertaining and compelling. It is clear that Meg Ryan did not enjoy the format and openness of the interview, and as an experienced journalist Sir Michael Parkinson should have realised that he was only causing further damage with his eagerness to press Ryan for answers. Interestingly, Parkinson has since described the interview as his ‘most difficult television moment ever’, while Ryan has expressed no regret, describing Parkinson as ‘offensive’ and a ‘nut’.
Tom Midwood is a first-year student in the Bachelor of Sports Journalism at La Trobe University. Follow him on Twitter:@tom_midwood
See the rest of upstart‘s list of 50 great interviews for journalists here.