I can see it’s annoying. You’re an actor and you’re being interviewed. You’ve spent the best part of an afternoon trying to big yourself up (subtly, of course), describing your dedicated work ethic, making the interviewer chuckle – a lot – and generally trying to show them the very best of you... Then conversation turns to your love life. ‘Ooh, that was a bad break up wasn’t it, how did that make you feel?’
Undeniably it’s awkward. How could it not be? A stranger asks you to reveal juicy details about something very personal to you. It’s so awkward… But there is a way to manage it. Part one: decide from the offset you’re not going to talk about your love life in interviews, and, erm, be consistent – don’t talk about it. Part two: explain that you’re not going to talk about it by politely telling the journalist you’re sorry but you like to keep your private life private. The end.
There is another way, of course… be a bit clueless about fame. Not decide anything about what you’re going to say – or not say – about your relationships. Talk about them to some journalists – those that seem really, really nice – but get huffy and irate when other journalists ask about it.
This option is not advisable. Not only does it make you look more than a little hypocritical, but if your aim is to minimise interest in your private life, the very last way to achieve it is by getting in any way ruffled when the topic comes up.
If only Tom Hiddleston had known this…
In an interview with The Telegraph published on Monday, the The Night Manager actor found himself in, shall we say, a testing situation. In the interview, journalist John Hiscock had asked him a personal question, a personal love life question...
Did Tom have any regrets about the ‘publicity and gossip’ a certain former romance had given rise to?
Granted, it was a punchy one: loaded with implication, of course. Because if Tom admitted to having regrets about the fanfare surrounding his last relationship (with a little-known singer, you’ve probably never heard of her – Taylor Swift?), it sort of implies he was complicit in creating it. And if he didn’t regret it, doesn’t that suggest he enjoyed the attention?
It was difficult. But there were ways to get around it. Tom chose none of those ways.
‘What should I regret, in your mind?’ he replied ‘testily’.
Confrontation from talent – the headlines write themselves.
Realising his error, he tried to backtrack. ‘I would rather not talk about this if that’s alright,’ he added quickly. But alas, the damage was done. The journalist had his quote, The Telegraph had its headline, and whoosh, the story went viral: ‘Don’t ask Tom Hiddleston if he regretted Hiddleswift’. You probably saw it; it was hard to miss.
I feel quite sorry for Tom Hiddleston. It was a challenging question, which got his back up and he reacted accordingly – momentarily. Once he realised his mistake, he hastily tried to make up for it. Haven’t we all been there?
So yes, I feel bad for the guy. But really, shouldn’t he have been better prepared? He was educated at Eton, Cambridge and RADA after all, clearly, he’s no fool. Might it have been a good idea to anticipate a Taylor question might pop-up and to have a rehearsed response prepped just in case?
It also didn’t help that he decided not to leave it there, on that awkward note, and continued to explore the issue. ‘Everyone is entitled to a private life,’ he went on. ‘I love what I do and I dedicate myself with absolute commitment to making great art and great entertainment and in my mind I don’t conflict the two. My work is in the public sphere and I have a private life. And those two things are separate.’
That they might be. But unfortunately, he’s already ‘conflicted the two’ – when he spoke at length about his Hiddleswift relationship to US GQ earlier this year. If you talk about your love life to one publication, you can’t expect journalists from another not to attempt to get you on record about it again.
Should celebrities get huffy when asked questions about their love lives? In my view, no, they shouldn’t. I understand it’s intrusive and irritating, but many of us get asked questions about our love lives that are intrusive and irritating – like why aren’t we married? Or if we’re married, when are we having children? – and if we can respond with (exhausted) politeness, why can’t actors?
It’s really not all that difficult. In the last week alone, two actresses have illustrated perfectly how to do it. Emma Watson, in her interview with Vanity Fair, said of her boyfriend – a tech whizz from Silicon Valley, reportedly – ‘I want to be consistent: I can’t talk about my boyfriend in an interview and then expect people not to take paparazzi pictures of me walking around outside my home. You can’t have it both ways.’
Similarly, The Crown star Vanessa Kirby told The Sunday Times Style of her love life: ‘I wish I could talk about it, but I made a decision never to do so’. Simples.
Actors wanting to make it big have to understand that there will always be interest in their private lives. Because being big, means being famous. And being famous means amassing a fan base made up of inquisitive people who care about you and want to know what you get up to outside of work. You don’t have to tell them, of course, but you can’t resent their interest. And by that token, you can’t resent journalists – professionals speaking on behalf of the fans – for their interest either.
Make a decision to shush up and stick to it. Or you’ve only got yourself to blame.