12 Biggest Interview Meltdowns
Troublemaker isn’t just the title of Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell’s new book. The former Senate candidate stormed out of an interview with Piers Morgan when he asked her views on gay marriage. “You’re borderline being a little bit rude,” she claimed before saying she was there to talk about “the issues I choose to talk about in the book.” A bemused Morgan didn’t back down, claiming he was “baffled” by her agitation as she abruptly walked off set. Is there a magic spell for a do-over?
Pop star Chris Brown gave Robin Roberts a tell-all interview on 20/20 in December 2009, opening up about his domestic-violence incident against his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. When Brown met Roberts again on Good Morning America on Tuesday to promote his new album F.A.M.E. and (allegedly) rehabilitated image, she asked him several times about the assault. Brown remained relatively composed, but repeatedly changed the subject to his music. It was only after the interview when things got dicey. Brown sang one song, and then, according to local affiliate WABC, burst into his dressing room, screamed, tore the room apart, broke a window—sending shattered glass down on Times Square below—and stormed out of the studio shirtless, refusing to perform any further. But according to Roberts, Brown reportedly agreed to the Rihanna-related questions in a pre-interview.
Early one morning in June 2009, Philadelphia's local Fox affiliate visited the set of FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where reporter Jenn Frederick encountered a heavily inebriated Danny DeVito, clenching a beer can. First, Fox 29's Frederick took a shot at DeVito, saying, "I had to wear my extra-high shoes, because you're the only man I can look down to!" Unfortunately for Frederick, she underestimated the diminutive actor. DeVito fired back: "You wore that short skirt, which is really nice… easy access." The remark prompted his Always Sunny co-star Rob McElhenney to intervene and say, "Wow. Morning television." DeVito then proceeded to take a big swig of his beer, unleash several loud belches, grin maniacally, and make even more sexual overtures to the flummoxed journalist. Of course, DeVito is no stranger to drunken interview antics.
The adorably bizarre singer-songwriter Björk is probably best known for wearing her celebrated "swan dress" to the 2001 Academy Awards ceremony. So, it came as a major surprise when the Icelandic chanteuse unleashed a wild attack on a reporter back in 1996. Björk arrived at Bangkok International Airport with her son, Sindri, after a long flight. After making her way through the crowd, one female reporter from a cable-TV station, Julie Kaufman, greeted the two with, "Welcome to Bangkok." Björk, who had requested the press leave her and her son alone in Thailand until her scheduled press conference, did not take kindly to the welcoming and charged her, knocking Kaufman to the ground and slamming her head against the concrete several times before security pulled her off. Björk later apologized, and Kaufman chose not to sue. But apparently, Björk did not learn her lesson. More than a decade later, when arriving at New Zealand's Auckland International Airport in 2008, she allegedly attacked a newspaper photographer who was snapping shots of her and tore his shirt in anger.
In the interview that set off his self-described "violent torpedo of truth," Charlie Sheen appeared on his friend Alex Jones' radio show in February to discuss his hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men. Sheen unleashed such gems as "The only thing I'm addicted to is winning," "I'm an F-18, bro, I will destroy you in the air," and "We are high priests, Vatican assassin warlocks." However, his choicest words were reserved for Men co-creator Chuck Lorre, who he referred to as "Chaim Levine" in a perceived act of anti-Semitism. The rant eventually led to the network's decision to fire Sheen from the show and cancel Two and a Half Men's current season.
Jim Everett vs. Jim Rome
Sports talk-show host Jim Rome gained much notoriety for this 1994 incident on his now-defunct ESPN2 TV show Talk2. Rome's guest was former New Orleans Saints quarterback Jim Everett, whom he had repeatedly referred to as "Chris" (after Chris Evert, the female tennis player) throughout Everett's career, knocking the athlete's perceived lack of toughness. Rome repeatedly needled Everett, first casually calling him "Chris," and then saying, "Somewhere along the way, Jim, you ceased being Jim and you became Chris." Everett then sat up in his chair, and responded, "If you call me Chris to my face one more time, we better take a station break." Rome smirked, chided Everett some more, and when Everett dared him to call him "Chris" to his face again, Rome did. The 6-foot-5 quarterback tossed aside a coffee table, leaped out of his chair, and shoved Rome to the floor. In the aftermath, however, it was the interviewer who was made out to be the villain. "No one wanted to go near Rome," NFL consultant Mark Shapiro said. "He was toxic."
As one of the world's biggest movie stars, Tom Cruise's romantic life has always been the subject of intense media scrutiny. During his marriage to Nicole Kidman, he battled constant tabloid rumors about his sexual orientation and successfully sued several tabloids, as well as a gay porn actor, for the allegations. In April 2005, Cruise began dating former Dawson's Creek star Katie Holmes, and soon thereafter, he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in what would forever be referred to as the "couch incident." A beyond-ecstatic Cruise boldly declared, "I'm in love," before he fell to one knee, grabbed Winfrey's hands, hopped on the couch, and generally jumped all over the set. Many thought that Cruise had genuinely lost it and the moment was the subject of numerous parodies, including an episode of South Park and Scary Movie 4. Cruise didn't seem to learn his PR lesson and, one month letter, had his now-legendary sparring session with Matt Lauer on NBC's The Today Show over his Scientology-influenced anti-psychiatry views.
Though he's best known to audiences as Michael J. Fox's nerdy father in 1985's Back to the Future, Crispin Glover has since played a wide range of exceedingly eccentric roles, including a rat-controlling pariah in Willard and the mute "Thin Man" in the Charlie's Angels franchise. However, his strangest performance occurred on Late Night With David Letterman on July 28, 1987. Glover was there to promote the movie River's Edge, but decided to stage an Andy Kaufman–esque prank, appearing in character as "Rubin"—from the then in-development film Rubin and Ed— wearing platform shoes and a wig. Glover proceeded to get in an argument with an audience member, challenge Letterman to an arm-wrestling match, and deliver a karate kick mere inches from the host's face, exclaiming, "I'm strong! I can kick!" Letterman then stormed off the stage, and many claimed that Glover was suffering a bad acid trip during the appearance.
While promoting the comedy flop Jersey Girl in 2004, Ben Affleck appeared on the Canadian TV show Box-office, hosted by Anne-Marie Losique. An allegedly drunk Affleck summoned Losique to his lap before repeatedly groping and hugging her while uttering a series of sexual overtures that would likely lead an average man to lose his job. "You usually show a lot more cleavage than this. What's the story? Why are you covering it up today?" asked Affleck. "It's Sunday morning? That never stopped you before from getting the titties out. Who're you trying to fool? It's Sunday morning. You could be in church. You should have that rack on display." He later added, "Should we do a Janet Jackson thing? Are you wearing your nipple ring?" Later, it was reported that the interview was merely an act of "performance art" by Affleck, who pulled the same shtick with Losique in a promotional interview for his film Paycheck back in 2003.
The late "Godfather of Soul" battled the bottle for many, many years, landing him on The Daily Beast's list of the "Most Arrested Celebrities," with a whopping eight arrests, mostly for either drunk driving or booze-fueled assaults. His third wife, Adrienne Brown, had him arrested repeatedly for domestic violence in the 1990s and 2000s. After one of those incidents, in which Adrienne accused Brown of assaulting her with a lead pipe and firing a gun at a car she was in, the music legend appeared on CNN's Sonya: Live in L.A. Sporting a disco-era suit and oversize yellow shades, a seemingly drunk Brown yelled, "Livin' in America!" when asked how all the trouble began. He rambled incoherently through the rest of the interview, punctuating his mumbling with the occasional lyrical yelp, including "Poppa's got a brand new bag!" and "I feel good!"
Joaquin Phoenix announced he had retired from acting to pursue a rap career in late 2008, just prior to the promotional tour for his film Two Lovers. On Feb. 11, 2009, Phoenix appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman to promote his "last" film. Apart from his physical transformation—heftier and sporting a full beard and sunglasses—Phoenix appeared to be on something. He slurred his speech, gave Letterman one- (or no-) word answers, and engaged in an incredibly awkward back-and-forth with the talk-show host, who chided Phoenix for chewing gum on his show and for being a space cadet. At the end of the show, Letterman remarked, "Joaquin, I'm sorry you couldn't be here tonight." But the joke was on Letterman and us when Phoenix appeared on the late-night show again in September 2010, claiming that his "retirement" and oddball behavior was part of an elaborate publicity stunt for his performance-art mockumentary, I'm Still Here.
Marlow Stern works for The Daily Beast and has a master's from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has served in the editorial department of Blender magazine, as an editor at Amplifier magazine, and, since 2007, editor of Manhattan Movie Magazine.