To promote their new film, Morning Glory, actors Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams and Patrick Wilson Patrick Wilson and director Roger Michell held a press conference at Claridge’s Hotel in London. A large selection of the international press arrived to ask questions varying from environmental issues to ’special body language’. Harrison Ford was a quietly dominant presence and both very intelligent and dryly humorous. Patrick Wilson seemed a little as though he might be suffering from an inferiority complex from his co-star, but was also interesting and funny. Rachel McAdams was charming and excitable and Roger Michell was also a pleasant interview.
A Glorious Night…
Mr Michell, I’m sure you’re aware that in this country the title of the film, I’m told, can mean something… Different?
RM: I had heard that it can have a second meaning. I think Paramount caught up with this possible confusion quite late in the day. I’m not sure if it’s something current in America, Patrick are you familiar with the expression?
PW: I think it’s left a bit open by ‘late in the day’, the way I understand it.
Was there any question of changing the title for Britain’s sensibilities?
RM: On the contrary, I think it’s especially appropriate to Britain.
As well as being a comedy, the film makes some pertinent points about the blurring of journalism and entertainment nowadays. Is this something you were keen to get across without being preachy or shoving it down our throats?
RM: Exactly. The film doesn’t attempt to proselytize about what the balance between hard news and entertainment should be. Clearly that is the debate television in general and morning television in particular. How far do you stress the hard news bit and how far do you stress the funky cooking bit and that’s integral to our characters and to our plot. The film raises that debate and then kicks it around with some passion but it doesn’t pretend to come up with a formula or a particular answer.
Ms McAdams, I was struck by how much your performance reminded me of a young Katherine Hepburn, I wondered if that was the way you approached it, to capture that tone and zestful feeling?
RMcA: Thank you, that’s very flattering. I don’t know what I was thinking. I really loved the way [scriptwriter] Aline [Brosh McKenna] wrote this character. I thought she was really hopeful and energetic. There was lots of room for physicality which is something I love to do and Roger encouraged that a lot. I don’t know that I had anyone in particular in mind. I certainly met a lot of producers – not many women in this role, because it is a really taxing job and difficult to have balance in your personal life. I liked her energy and her gusto.
Mr Wilson, there would be no need for you to…
PW: [interrupting] to speak at all!
PW: [Motions as if to leave] Thank you, thank you!
I’m far too polite to let such a thing happen. There was no need for you to go to anchorman school for this film, you just needed to phone your dad.
PW: That’s right, my dad and my brother are both TV anchors, on the same station.
No rivalry there then?
PW: I think my brother’s waiting for my dad to retire to take over the spot.
What was their critical assessment of the film?
PW: They loved it. I remember there was a time when my dad, who’s been a night time anchor for over forty years, was switching channels and had to do the noon news and that wasn’t even a morning show – it was hilarious to see my dad up, much less speaking at eleven or noon. That’s one of the things I said to Roger when I first met him, for what it’s worth, the script is a pretty accurate description of the attitude of the evening presenter. My dad’s not nearly as crotchety as Mr Ford’s character, but the attitude of the evening news men towards morning fluff was pretty accurate.
In another lifetime, I worked on a morning programme and apart from the comedy, the film’s depiction is sadly spot-on. Mr Ford, you give a brilliantly dry comic performance, but we so rarely see you in comic roles. Is this through choice or do you not get enough comedy scripts?
HF: I don’t think there’s a lot of wit in comedy anymore. In America it’s taken on a certain adolescent humour. I’m a little too old for that. I was grateful to have this script. It was very well-written and the character was an interesting one for me to play.
Were any of you watchers of breakfast television before making the film and do you have any newfound respect for the practitioners who make it now?
RM: I didn’t watch much of it and I had the usual kind of prejudices and almost contempt for them, until we started to see how they were made in New York, where there’s such a vibrantly competitive market for these shows. I became more and more in awe of the people who stay up all night doing these shows and by ten o clock it’s all over and they have to do them again. Rachel and I spent a lot of time hanging out with these people, going to their meetings, seeing what their lives were like, what remained of them and seeing what a difficult balancing act it was for these networks with morning shows to assemble a news-y, entertaining programme, so I came out of it with much more respect for them.
Ms McAdams, what was it like making a film about one of the programmes you’ve undoubtedly appeared to promote your films in the past?
RMcA: It’s very interesting to be on the other side of the fence. I watched a lot of morning television growing up as a kid because I skipped school all the time. I didn’t play hooky or go out and smoke pot or do normal things, I watched daytime television. So I had a fair amount of experience with what you see in front of you but not so much behind the scenes, so it was really fun to go on these shows and see the anchors with their fluffy slippers on behind the desk or their accoutrements beside them off camera. And from the point of view of the control room, it’s a gong show back there, it’s completely crazy, fast-paced, melodramatic… I had a hard time following it when we first got there, it’s so vast. Stories are over before you’ve even acknowledged it. I have a lot of respect for what happens back there and how much energy and vitality you have to have to make it through a 3am to 10am shift and then do it all over again the next day.
Mr Wilson, did growing up in a TV family give you a different perspective on breakfast television, if indeed you watched it at all?
PW: I did watch it. I watched a lot of news. I think what was interesting was watching the shift from news to entertainment back pre-cable when everybody watched the news and the ratings were astonishing because the numbers of people that watched news were just huge. It was a daily ritual. With cable it became much different with people jockeying for a position, ratings became more important so news became much more like entertainment. That was really interesting to see from a perspective of growing up around news and watching how that’s shifted. I had the same reaction growing up in a newsroom, watching the madness. The good presenters and anchors are the people listening to someone yelling in their ear going, ‘camera one! Stall them! Keep going!’ [adopts, calm, measured newsreader tone] and all the while you’re sitting there, talking, telling the news. The good ones are the ones that don’t get rattled or if the teleprompter screws up being able to speak and not just be automatic.
What is your experience of watching or not watching morning television Mr Ford?
HF: My experience comes from appearing on morning television over the years to promote films. I have been part of all kinds of morning shows. I certainly admire those people that do it well and there are a lot of people I think that do. My character [Mike Pomeroy] is a pretentious, stuffy, self-satisfied person who really only has respect for what he’s done, his particular form of journalism. I could understand what Mike’s point of view was, but as I say, I respect people who do a good job, no matter what their job is.
He’s an old-school journalist; he’s always done his job properly and got the story, which is a dying art…
HF: He thinks it’s a sacred profession. And in a sense it used to be. In the United States, the most trusted man in America was Walter Cronkite, who kept his opinions out of it until nearly the end of his career when he came out against the Vietnam War. I still think that the network news anchors do a very good job, they have the resources and the budget in order to do it, but there’s another brand of news now that confirms whatever political prejudice you have and is full of bombast and vitriol and I think that contributes to the divisiveness and the lack of civility in American culture.
Ms McAdams, can you tell us your favorite news programme favorite broadcaster?
RMcA: Actually nowadays, I really like to listen to the radio; I find it a nice way to start the morning. I’m not as up on television anymore, I think I wore it out when I was younger. I OD’d on it. I really like CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]. I still live in Canada so I listen to CBC Radio every morning, John Givenchy, Matt Galloway. Shout out to the Canadian radio guys!
Mr Ford, can you tell us about your environmental work?
HF: I’m delighted to be involved in communicating about the environment. For twenty-five years or so I’ve been involved with an organization called Conservation International and it was at their behest that I went to Nagoya [where a UN Biological Diversity Convention was held last year] to urge adoption of their agenda by the 192 nations that were assembled there, of which, only three nations are not signatories to the UN Convention on Biodiversity, one is The Holy See, The Vatican, the other is Andorra and guess what the third one is? The United States of America. So I went not only to urge for the protection of more of the terrestrial surface of the earth and the ocean, but to interesting the American government in stepping up to the plate and use that opportunity to become a signatory to the Convention. I feel that there was some significant agreement at Nagoya that was followed up by some positive approaches the following Convention. It’s an ongoing battle but I’m happy to be able to be part of it. It’s critical that we make significant attempts to address the issue so our children can have something left of the world to live in. It’s that simple.
Mr Michell, what are your thoughts about ITV’s Day Break, which shares its name with the fictional programme in your film and how do you think it might improve its ratings?
RM: Well just a little background to that: we got there first! We were called Day Break before they were called Day Break. We had to go through all the names of the real TV shows and we were amazed to find that of all the 250,000 stations, no one had thought of the name Day Break. Adrian Chiles’s mob then put us wrong by choosing that name. [Addressing McAdams and Wilson] Weren’t you on that show today? I think that’s going out tomorrow. I have it on good authority that Rachel McAdams makes an anchovy and chocolate omelet.
PW: Mars Bar and anchovy, a McAdams specialty.
RMcA: [Embarrassed] they said not to take it seriously!
What was it like, Ms McAdams, taking part in the programme?
RMcA: It wasn’t the tastiest interview I’ve ever had. Patrick won the omelet competition that I wasn’t aware we were having and proceeded to eat his omelet and not share any.
PW: Not so much. Harrison looks after the environment, I make an omelet.
RMcA: Yes he did, he made a nice, fluffy omelet and I made a Mars Bar omelet, which I think will catch on one of these days, so you better get used to it.
Mr Ford, how do you think Piers Morgan will do in succeeding celebrated television host, Larry King?
HF: He’s promoting his show by professing to be looking for the truth in his subjects. So I shall have nothing to do with him! I’m not interested in the truth; I’m interested in selling product. You want the truth? Go someplace else. Not my business.
Mr Ford, how did you find playing the ‘third worst person in the world’, as your character is repeatedly described and can you tell us anything about the forthcoming Cowboys and Aliens?
HF: I had no difficulty at all slipping into the skin of the third worst person in the world. It was a very well written script, the characters were very clear, the path of the character, from being the third worst person in the world to perhaps the fourth, that he had through his relationship with Rachel’s character, was a clear dramatic obligation and it was great fun to play that character. Cowboys and Aliens, which comes out in July, seems to be the kind of movie people go to these days, more than once. I liked being involved in one of those. I think everyone involved did a bang-up job. It was wonderful working with Daniel Craig, who is a funny, smart, guy and the director, Jon Favreau. It was a very different kind of movie, I was very happy to do it. I love Westerns, it’s great to be outside all day on a horse. I play a grumpy old man in that as well.
I understand Kim Jong-il as being the worst person in the world, but what did actress Angela Lansbury do to be the second, Mr Wilson?
PW: Oh, that’s the trick right there. It was a toss-up between her and Betty White. But she’s not pleasant, let me tell you that.
How was it acting like you didn’t like Diane Keaton in the film, when clearly she’s so likable, Mr Ford?
HF: I’m in it for the money, that’s what I do. It was clear that that was the relationship. She’s fun to work with, she’s very smart. I’ve always admired her work; she was a pleasure to work with. Roger is a really helpful director, he sets up situations very well and it was easy and fun to do.
And how did you find working with Diane Keaton, Ms McAdams?
RMcA: I’ve been fortunate, this is the second time I’ve worked with Diane. It was sort of a strange shift because I played her daughter in The Family Stone a few years ago and then to go to playing her boss, whom she didn’t like – I was so used to being her baby and she was so lovely and we were on the same team against Sarah Jessica Parker’s character and now she’s slamming doors in my face and making fun of me and calling me Gidget and I was like, ‘well this isn’t fair!’ But it was great to have those two very different experiences with her because she can do so much and I love being around her as an actress and as a person. She’s a fabulous person, even at six o clock in the morning.
Mr Ford, there’s a scene in the film we’re you’re in a bar with several real-life newsreaders, what did you talk about off camera with them?
HF: Chicks. No, we told terrible, bad jokes. It was midday, in a bar, with no drinks, with several people I’d never met before. They were all very charming, but their jokes were terrible. So that’s what we did, we sat around telling jokes, we didn’t talk about the news business.
Back to Diane Keaton, there’s an amusing scene in which she plays the bagpipes, had she had any lessons before?
RM: We did have group bagpipe rehearsals but unfortunately only Diane showed any aptitude for the instrument. That was a longer sequence as you can imagine, but no she never really got a single note out of it. It was her only attempt and it was a dismal failure, but it’s funny.
Mr Ford, do you recall working with Alison Doody, on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? What was she like to work with? I met her recently and she had nothing but praise for you, she said you perhaps one of the most important people she’d ever met.
HF: What was the name? Of course I remember her, she was a pleasure. She was quite new at the game at that point but she was great. Quite beautiful, playing my love interest… lucky me. She brought a lot to the table. She was delightful. I never got to know her quite as well as she got to know me, apparently, but she was really sweet.
You’ve obviously got a great sense of humor; who makes you laugh Mr Ford?
HF: I laugh a lot, largely at appropriate junctures. A lot of people make me laugh, Steve Martin, Robin Williams. Steve Martin’s a classic comedian and Robin is in a world of his own. I like Billy Connelly quite a lot, but then I like Benny Hill.
Ms McAdams, have you, like your character, ever had trouble with your work life interrupting your relationships?
RMcA: Probably that I’m not aware of, yeah! I think that the nature of film is that you work really intensely for a few months and you leave your home and your family, everything behind and it’s really easy to become very myopic and focused on that one thing, so I’m sure I’ve pissed a few people off doing that. But then you get time to come home and reconnect.