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How to Interview a Celebrity. So you've finally landed an assignment from your local lifestyle magazine to interview that movie star who's been shooting on location in your city. Or maybe you've decided to track down that up-and-coming hip-hop star and gather some comments for your blog. Here's how to master the art of the celebrity interview-whether in person, via email or on the phone.
Find the star's publicist. Fifty years ago, it was possible to look up a celebrity in the phone book. Today, even C-list TV and movie actors can only be reached via their publicists (unless you know they happen to eat lunch at a certain restaurant at a certain time of day). If you're working for a big magazine, your editor will likely supply the contact information-otherwise, you'll have to go on the Internet and do some research.
Be a sweetheart. Unless you can name-drop a big national magazine like People or Entertainment Weekly, the publicist will grill you for details about the theme of your article and where and when it will appear. The conversation may get a little brusque (assuming the publicist returns your calls or emails at all), but always be nice. Remember, this person is the gatekeeper to the celebrity you want to interview.
Take as much time as you're offered. If the publicist thinks her client will be interested in your story, she'll tell hook you up by phone or email (meeting the celebrity in person may not be possible). Don't worry too much if the publicist says you'll have "only 10 minutes" when you need a full half hour: If agents and movie stars were good at keeping track of time, they'd be accountants instead.
Write down your questions in advance. If you're easily starstruck, you may forget your questions as soon as the celebrity appears. To avoid an awkward, stammering start to your interview, write down at least your first few questions ahead of time. Of course, if you're conducting your interview via email, you'll have to type out your questions and send them to the address supplied by the publicist.
Don't be intimidated. Remember those old "Saturday Night Live" sketches with Chris Farley interviewing movie stars? (Chris: "You know that scene? Where you jumped out of the car? And then it exploded?" Celebrity: "Yes." Chris: "That was really cool!") When you're interviewing a celebrity, don't act like a fan, and don't allow yourself to be cowed by theatrical glares and clipped words. Remember, movie stars need the press even more than the press needs movie stars.
Use a tape recorder. If you're interviewing a B- or C-list celeb, you might get away with simply jotting down your notes on a legal pad-but an A-list star like Keanu Reeves or Naomi Watts calls for a professional voice recorder. If a celebrity complains to the magazine or Web site that they've been misquoted, you'll have solid evidence to back up your story.
Bob Strauss is the author of "The Big Book of What, How and Why" (Main Street, 2005) and "Who Knew? Hundreds & Hundreds of Questions & Answers for Curious Minds" (Sterling Innovation, 2007). He is a regular columnist for Match.com/MSN Dating & Personals, and has written for dozens of publications, including specialty science and medical magazines and popular glossies like Entertainment Weekly (where he was a contributing writer for seven years).