What are the most infamous TV interview moments?

Johnathan Mack and Rebecca Sykes look back on some of the most tense TV interviews

multiple writers
22nd March 2021
Whether its uncomfortable questions or a simply iconic internet-breaking quote, celebrity interviews often give us the most memorable TV moments - our writers take a look at some of the most cringeworthy.

“How was the party? I wasn’t invited.” - Dakota Johnson and Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen has faced a lot of backlash in the past year or so and in this interview its easy to see why. The interviewer’s job is to make their guest feel welcome and comfortable and establish that laid-back, chatty atmosphere that is so crucial in talk shows.

But Ellen was cut from a different (crueller) cloth.

The interviewer’s job is to make their guest feel welcome and comfortable

As soon as Dakota sits down Ellen smarmily asks about her recent 30th birthday party, to which she claims she hadn’t been invited. Its awful that as soon as the interview begins Ellen actively pushing her guest into what, she hopes, will be an uncomfortable dialogue for Dakota.

Then, as if by magic, Dakota reveals that Ellen had actually received an invitation and had ignored it. Dakota doesn’t just brush it off either, she really shows Ellen up for trying to embarrass her. She explains that the producer knew that Ellen had been invited and, in fact, most people were aware of the invitation too. Topping it all off, Ellen doesn’t even give an explanation as to why she didn’t attend and, rather poorly, attempts to play it off as a joke.

 It’s the interview equivalent of watching someone kick a ball into their own face.

Credit: TheEllenShow on YouTube

"I'm shutting your butt down!" Quentin Tarantino and Krishnan Guru-Murthy

The great thing about this interview is that the interviewer and the interviewee are just on completely different wavelengths. For the release of Django Unchained Quentin Tarantino was innocently rolling through the press tour to promote his latest flick and along came Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who evidently had very different ambitions in mind for the interview. Fielding questions about the correlation between cinematic violence and real-world violence, its plain to see that Tarantino isn’t happy about it. And oh boy does it get hostile.

Tarantino isn’t happy about it. And oh boy does it get hostile

Guru-Murthy pushes Tarantino to wade in on the issue and he point-blank refuses. Tarantino’s words will forever be immortalised within my personal zeitgeist: “I’m shutting your butt down!” It’s an absolutely absurd line and Tarantino’s shrill anger only makes it more of a hysterical moment. I implore everyone to make more regular use of it.

The interview just does not recover. The pair spend the rest of their time together blatantly irritated by each other, even seeming to actively antagonise each other. In the end, we’re left with a very shaky scene of suspense between Tarantino and his interviewer, as well as the overwhelming sense that he wants to bolt from his chair as soon as the cameras cut.

Credit: Channel 4 News on YouTube

"Were you able to wear undergarments?" Scarlett Johansson/ Jeremy Renner and Jerry Penacoli

First off, you should know that I don’t enjoy watching this interview. It’s really uncomfortable to see these questions be directed to Scarlett, but while this interview isn’t exactly entertaining, it is important.

Jerry Penacoli directs a completely ridiculous question at Johansson: “were you able to wear undergarments?” – it’s abhorrent. It’s a disgracefully sexist question and it really highlighted the double standard in how male and female actors are treated in Hollywood.

I don’t enjoy watching this interview

Did he ask Jeremy Renner about his underwear? Of course not. He actually scoffs when Scarlett asks if he’d asked Joss Whedon the same question – because, to him, that would be ridiculous. Instead, he asks Renner about a certain injury he sustained when filming The Avengers, and even Renner admitted that it wasn’t a very interesting story.

Thankfully, there is a silver lining to this. The interview sparked a discussion about how these interviews should be conducted and the sorts of questions that are directed at male and female actors. Fortunately, everyone agrees that this line of questions is wildly outdated, and the Cosmopolitan interview where Mark Ruffalo faces the same sexist questions that Scarlett has only proves that.

Its good to know that this isn’t acceptable anymore.

Johnathan Mack

Credit: extratv on YouTube

"Are we promoting a movie?" Robert Downey Jr and Krishnan Guru-Murphy

Celebrity interviews become awkward when invasive questions are asked about their private lives, and Downey’s question was a missed opportunity to refocus on the movie. Instead, Guru-Murthy acknowledges “I don’t know how comfortable you are…talking about yourself”.

The actor’s body language, tone, and quick glances to his publicist watching off-camera suggest he was not comfortable. Yet, the interviewer continues to examine his troubled past. A past Downey turned around, partly due to the role of a lifetime- Iron Man. The role that should have been discussed to prevent the interview becoming infamous and uncomfortable.

Celebrity interviews become awkward when invasive questions are asked about their private lives

At 6-minutes, the atmosphere is tense and the actor anticipates his exit. The interviewer’s explicit references to the “dark periods” - his father, the drugs, the incarceration- cemented Downey’s decision to leave, later remarking “I just wish I’d left sooner”.

To me, it’s an interesting interview as it highlights an ongoing want for actors to discuss their private lives rather than their movies. So, were they promoting a movie?

Rebecca Sykes

Credit: Channel 4 News on YouTube
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