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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 August 2005, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
The Presenters Speak
Gavin Esler is one of Hardtalk Extra's main presenters

Hardtalk Extra's presenters share their thoughts about the programme.

Gavin Esler

My old friend was full of baffled incredulity. "They PAY you for this?" he thundered. "Like it's a job???" "Well," I replied, "being the BBC they don't pay much of course!" "But still," he fumed, "to meet Penelope Cruz AND Angelina Jolie AND Jane Fonda and pretend it's work??"

Yes, I know. And you have to add in V S Naipaul and Mario Testino and Anita Desai and Ravi Shankar and Baaba Maal and Gene Wilder and a stack of others too, the cast list for Hardtalk Extra in the year we have been creating it from scratch. Not bad, I think, and all down to two things: the hard work of Jeremy Frankel and his team, and the amazing pulling power of BBC World.

Which Hollywood superstar would not want to appear on a programme where an audience of tens of millions is guaranteed?

Which Hollywood superstar would NOT want to appear on a programme where an audience of tens of millions is guaranteed? And so we have had Jane Fonda on the verge of tears talking about how no one ever sang her lullabies when she was a child. We have had V S Naipaul admitting that if he had his time over again he would probably have written for television because literature is too difficult.

We have had Angelina Jolie explaining how she made the journey from teenage Hollywood airhead to committed anti-landmines campaigner, and modestly laughing at her own previous ignorance. We have heard Gene Wilder describing movingly the terrible emotional burden of being told as an eight year old that if he was horrible to his mother she would have a heart attack and die. And Mario Testino explaining how he flirted with Princess Diana to produce the most wonderful portraits.

And so what if it happens to be fun as well? I think I have grown a little past feeling guilty for having a good time while working. Perhaps it is that I have always assumed that Hardtalk Extra is some kind of long overdue payback for all those years I spent trying to interview politicians with fascinating insights into the Euro, or those pressure groups for whom the entire world revolves around what we should do with foxes, genetically modified crops or human embryo research. Maybe at last the joy of working on Hardtalk Extra is that it is proof that there not only is a God, but that he has a sense of humour.

Mishal Husain has been with Extra from the outset

Mishal Husain

Its a tough gig on Hardtalk Extra - Hollywood A-list one moment, prize-winning author the next.

As a presenter it's been
a voyage of discovery into the arts
world. In the year or so that the
programme's been on air, we've had Ben Elton revealing rather too much about how his critics had got to him; Paco Pena on playing the guitar with
Tony Blair; Carmen bin Laden on being Osama's (ex) sister-in-law; our old boss Tony Hall enthusing about opera; and the memories of Auschwitz cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch.

I couldn't quite relate to the passion for bikes thing!

And my personal favourite? Probably Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman - very entertaining but I couldn't quite relate to the passion for bikes thing! In fact what really stands out for me is that I was 8 1/2 months pregnant and the traditional handshake at the end involved a deeply undignified heaving myself off the studio sofa.

And I have to admit a soft spot for the lovely Paulo Coelho, to whom I confessed (on air) how 'The Alchemist' played a part in why I'm married to my husband.

Of course I don't get to do all the Hardtalk Extras - which means there's the odd sore point. I can live with Penelope Cruz and Angelina Jolie going to Gavin Esler but Robert Redford falling to Tom Brook? I may one day get over that one...

HARDtalk Extra can be seen on Fridays on BBC World at 03:30 GMT, 08:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT, 18:30 GMT and 23:30 GMT.

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30


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