Introduction & various interviews

My first interview as a professional journalist was with Rod Steiger, in 2001. I remember he was frank and funny and well beyond giving a damn about what he said. But he wasn’t a star name any more – not as far as the places I pitched to were concerned, anyway. I couldn’t get it published (I must dig out the tape).

Since then I’ve interviewed a wide range of actors and filmmakers, from up’n’comers to A-listers, and up’n’comers who became A-listers… (every couple of years I interview Michael Fassbender and see how much more handsome and successful someone my age can be.)

Others I’ve interviewed include Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, Paul Bettany, Brad Bird, Jeff Bridges, Sir Michael Caine, George Clooney, Daniel Craig, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Douglas, Idris Elba, Mel Gibson, Tony Gilroy, Paul Greengrass, Anthony Hopkins, Hugh Jackman, Peter Jackson, Duncan Jones, Charlie Kaufman, Keira Knightley, Ang Lee, Ken Loach, James McAvoy, Ewan McGregor, Steve McQueen, Helen Mirren, Christopher Nolan, Edward Norton, Timothy Olyphant, Alexander Payne, Steven Soderbergh, Oliver Stone, Meryl Streep and Rachel Weisz.

Two director interviews I’m particularly proud of are this chat with Never Let Me Go’s Mark Romanek and this one with Christopher McQuarrie, who was remarkably frank and thus (especially given his advice on screenwriting) extremely useful.

Hope you enjoy the reads.

Empire 20th Birthday Portfolio

This was an implausible few weeks. Steven Spielberg guest-edited this anniversary issue of Empire and I was responsible – with the brilliant Debi Berry – for organising a series of photo shoots with actors recreating their most iconic roles, from Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins for The Silence Of The Lambs to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for Shaun Of The Dead. Hard to pick out the best memory, but it might be Arnold Schwarzenegger – then Governor of California – getting out of his security-escorted motorcade, cigar in hand, looking up to me and grinning, “Ah, I see you have the Terminator hair.”

David Fincher

The first time I interviewed David Fincher was in 2005, for this retrospective piece on Fight Club. I’d watched it about six times in the preceding two days and was pretty well prepared. I think he probably appreciated the obsession.
Since then I’ve visited each of his productions and you can find set visits here for Zodiac, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (plus an edit suite chat), The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, House Of Cards, Gone Girl (plus this Guardian chat) and MINDHUNTER (which we also discussed for the Daily Telegraph).
I also conducted this career Q&A with him for Empire back in 2008 and, more recently, this on-stage Q&A with him at the 2017 London Film Festival. A few of my interviews were in the book David Fincher: Interviews, by Professor Laurence F Knapp, who kindly observed “Nev Pierce, since the mid 2000s, has played the role of Truffaut to Fincher’s Hitchcock”. I don’t know whether he had been drinking.

Antonio Banderas

Empire’s features editor (at the time the redoubtable Dan Jolin) had to persuade me to interview Antonio Banderas. Not because I didn’t admire him as an actor, but because I felt others might be better versed in Spanish cinema and, well, it involved being away from family on my birthday. Despite that this proved one of the most engaging, enjoyable interviews I’ve done. Banderas was warm and open and, at the risk of sounding really pretentious, just felt very human.

Brad Pitt

I think of this interview as a bit of a missed opportunity. I was editor of the magazine Total Film at the time and was stoked to secure the exclusive interview – the only one Pitt did in the UK for The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. But it took me quite a while, until the interview was almost over in fact, to realise that Pitt, really, didn’t like talking about himself. If we spoke again I’d focus less on his career and more on the world – it would probably reveal a lot more.

Angelina Jolie

Oh dear. This feature reads like a bit of a public love letter to Ms Jolie. Still, I think she’s a force – on screen and off. Committed, engaging and a proper filmmaker and… oh, no, I’m doing it again.

Alan Rickman

A delightful man, charming and open and easy-going. I hoped it would be the first of many interviews.

Jack Nicholson

The idea of interviewing Jack Nicholson seemed unlikely, even with Steven Spielberg guest-editing the 20th birthday issue of Empire magazine. Nicholson doesn’t do a lot of press and until literally the last minute – even when I was in his front room, talking to his assistant – the interview was in the balance. I was told it could be very, very brief. In the end it lasted more than an hour and a half.
Even as it was going on I knew it was the best thing I’d ever do in film journalism. He knew it, too.
“Bet this is fun for you, hearing stories about Stanley?” he grinned, over a cigarette. I know I’m supposed to be a professional, I know I should probably play it cool, but hearing Nicholson talk about Kubrick, The Shining and, well, life, was beyond brilliant. One half of your brain is going ‘Pay attention, ask good questions’, the other half: ‘BLOODY HELL IT’S JACK NICHOLSON, YOU ARE IN JACK NICHOLSON’S HOUSE, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN YOU ARE FROM BARNSTAPLE’. Anyway, you can see if I fanboyed too much here.