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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2001, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Battling Lara Croft's PR
By Rosie Millard
BBC arts correspondent

Covering the film première for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider proved to be a frustrating business.

It should be like taking candy from a baby. Or pushing at an open door. Or some such other metaphor. Reporting on the opening of a film, that is.

The producer wants you to cover the film. The star wants you to cover the film. The programmes want you to cover the film. The only irritating fly buzzing about is the PR company, at which point everything goes into a nosedive.

Years ago things were a bit more gentlemanly. Mark Cousins, who we interviewed for the Ten O' Clock News on the death of Jack Lemmon, interviewed the great actor in LA and spent three hours on his own with the man.

Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie: Only allowed a brief word
Three hours! Give this person a six-part series. These days, anything more than five minutes is unheard of. And those must be spent in the arid atmosphere of a publicist, make up woman and hairdresser.

Questions have to be faxed in beforehand. Gone are the days when stars like Madonna pooh-poohed such nervousness by suggesting that if she didn't like the question, she wouldn't answer it.

Questions from journalists are now regarded as so potentially damaging that celebrities now need at least a week to ponder over them.


At the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider UK première in London's West End this week the tension was high before its star Angelina Jolie trooped up the steps of the Empire cinema.

We were all standing behind a rope like good little television reporters. We had been told we would only have one question each.

Still, the PR people were not happy. "We have no time! We have no time!" screeched the publicist. "The film is about to begin." What, before the star herself appears in the auditorium?

'It's hardly Panorama'

The publicist looked dangerously around and flounced her long mauve coat-dress, which was a bit of a mistake in the 70°F heat. "You will have to do group interviews. Simply have to."

Great. You stand behind a rope for two hours, prepare a reasonably interesting solo question, but when it comes down to the wire, all that is on offer is a group interview, tossed over like a curling sandwich.

Reasonably, we protested. "Got to be hard with them," I heard a woman whisper to the mauve coat-dress lady.

Well, why? PR people would be nothing without, well, PR to perform for their bosses. And hey! We might have NUJ cards but covering a movie première is hardly Panorama. Or MacIntyre Undercover.

So Sky News and I decided not to play ball. Angelina turned up and began to walk down the line, answering our questions. Georgie from Sky and I were meant to be the first "group".


Georgie pointedly asked her a one-on-one question. I refused to hold my microphone up and share the answer. The publicist's eyes bulged. Would she dare move La Jolie along and skip BBC News altogether? I didn't think so. It didn't happen.

I asked my question. Angelina Jolie answered it, albeit with a PR woman tugging at her arm before she had finished. Any onlooker - an alien beamed down from Mars, say - would have thought these PR people were being paid not to publicise the film, rather than the opposite.

The next morning, the piece went out on Breakfast News. Everyone looked charming. Although there was a reference to the poor reviews Tomb Raider has achieved, it has probably encouraged some punters to go along.

It is not our job to do this, but it is a by-product all the same, as the film companies know well.

After the celebrities had passed and we were allowed out from behind our rope, I sped over to see Richard Jobson, former pop frontman and long-time film critic.

He had been doing live interviews with the stars throughout the evening. "Tonight's my swan song," said Jobbo. Why? "I'm fed up. Too much PR manipulation. Not enough proper stars. Not enough people like Angelina, who is a real, old-fashioned star."

He looked gloomily around the foyer. "I think I realised I had to get out when I was asked to 'pep up' my film show with guests like Damon Albarn," he continued, asking: "Why would I want to do that?"

Richard Jobson is back off up to Scotland where he's directing his first feature film. Without any PR people cramping his style. Good luck to him.

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