Over a career of revealing interviews, Mike Wallace sat down with some of the most famous figures of our times. From the 1950s until nearly the very end of his life, Wallace was known as an interviewer who explored uncharted territory with his subjects, getting them to expose themselves in front of the camera like no other newsman. Here are some of his best interviews.
1. Frank Lloyd Wright – 1957
In the 1950s on his show The Mike Wallace Interview, Wallace went one-on-one with a variety of distinguished subjects, including an elderly Frank Lloyd Wright. In an interview recorded in two parts at the beginning and end of September 1957, Wallace interrogates the master architect on his art, his politics, and his religion.
2. Henry Kissinger – 1958
The year after he spoke with Wright, Wallace sat down with a young Henry Kissinger, then an upstart advocate for nuclear deterrence and later secretary of state under President Richard M. Nixon. At the time, Kissinger was associate director of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard, and Wallace prodded Kissinger into putting the jargon of the Cold War into layman’s terms.
3. Ayn Rand – 1959
Wallace got to the source of Objectivism, “a new and unusual philosophy which would seem to strike at the very roots of our society,” in an interview with little-known Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand. The author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead spoke about her philosophy, describing it as a rational and moral approach to the achievement of happiness.
4. Malcolm X – 1964
A year before the activist’s death, Wallace spoke with Malcolm X about the Nation of Islam and his position as a leader in the black Muslim community. In the interview, X talked about the possibility of threats on his life as he spoke out against Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad, saying, “I probably am a dead man already.”
5. Maria Callas – 1974
As the world-renowned soprano’s voice failed later in her career, Wallace walked the diva through her storied career. Callas spoke candidly about her life and loves, from her relationship with her mother to her affair with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. "What is at the center of your life today, Madame Callas?" Wallace inquired.
6. Gen. William C. Westmoreland
Wallace interviewed Gen. William Westmoreland as part of a CBS documentary on Vietnam. Westmoreland eventually brought a $120 million libel lawsuit against CBS for the way he was portrayed in the special. But he dropped the suit in 1985.
7. Louis Farrakhan – 1996
When Mike Wallace called Nigeria the most corrupt nation in the world in a 1996 interview with Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader went off. “America should keep her mouth shut,” Farrakhan said, listing America’s abuses of African-Americans and Native Americans, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. “You should be quiet when it comes to moral condemnation,” Farrakhan said.
8. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – 2009
In 2009, Wallace traveled to Tehran for a rare interview with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Things got heated when the two discussed the fighting between Israel and Hizbullah. “Are you the representative of the Zionist regime? Or a journalist?” Ahmadinejad asked. When Wallace answered that he was a journalist, Ahmadinejad said, “This is not journalism, sir.”
9. Barbra Streisand – 1991
In the 1990s, Wallace had a famously harsh interview with Barbra Streisand, during which, she cried. He told her, “I really didn’t like you back then, 30 years ago.” He also called the singer “totally self-absorbed” and questioned her use of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.
10. Roger Clemens – 2008
Wallace scored the first interview with Roger Clemens after a report claimed that the baseball star had used performance-enhancing drugs. He told Clemens that it seemed “impossible” that he could “still throw a ball and compete” without the use of the drugs. The interview aired in 2008, and it proved to be his last when he suffered a series of health problems later that year.