Actors Without a Script Really Need Media Training
The much anticipated "rematch" of Today Show host Matt Lauer and Tom Cruise occurred this week, It came about 3.5 years since the dustup in which Cruise passionately decried Brooke Shields' use of anti-depressants for post-partum issues and called Lauer "glib" for his defense of Shields and psychiatry in general. If people were expecting fireworks, they were sadly disappointed, as news reports and blog posts including one from Gearlive.com noted.
Now over three years later, the Valkyrie star is proving that he actually does care what other people think about him. In this morning’s sit-down with Lauer, the 46-year-old tried embarrassed about his behavior from that day. “In looking at myself, I thought I came across as arrogant. It’s one of those things you go, ‘OK, I could have absolutely handled that better’,“ Cruise acknowledged. “I didn’t communicate it the way that I wanted to communicate it. And also, that’s not who I am. That’s not the person that I am.“ (So you don’t use the word “glib” in your everyday life?)
If Today’s anti-climatic interview (Cruise actually seemed a bit, uh, sedated) had you yearning for that 2005 conversation, you’re in luck. You can relive the fun below: [note that the blog post includes a video of the entire interview.]
Reviewing the interview, as I always do, as a long-time executive trainer of executives, I must say I am stunned at the lack of preparation Cruise had for questions that absolutely anyone could have anticipated. Matt Lauer was trying to be a good celebrity interviewer and not be too edgy this time. He asked what I thought were softball questions like, "What was the reaction to the last time we sat down," after he commented that the Today Show got more calls after that interview than they usually do.
Cruise should have had a response ready for that one. Instead he stumbled and rambled, seeming almost incoherent in spots, and finally admitting he came across arrogant then and should have handled it better. What took about 60 words could have been said more clearly in no more than 20. He had a very humble demeanor, however, which may have been the primary goal, but it went beyond humble to, frankly, boring and flat.
Lauer commented that Cruise has been in the entertainment industry for 25 years and that, before the Today Show interview debacle in 2005, had been a "golden boy" that interviewers vied for. After that interview, he said, the same interviewers began taking shots at Cruise rather than lining up to talk with him.
Cruise interrupted him here, seeming to disagree with the assertion that the interview was a tipping point, but he blathered so much that it was hard to figure out what he was actually trying to convey. He did talk a little about the giants of the silver screen he had worked with during that period, but he certainly could have had a stronger answer. For heaven's sake, Paul Newman, whom he used to race with and who he acted with, just passed away. He could have done a tribute to the man.
If you read any of the coverage of the interview, it was very short with only a one-line quote from Cruise. This isn't because space was short in the publications or on the blogs. It is because it was hard to find a sound-bite in Cruise's blather. You really had to extrapolate that he was sorry that happened, but felt he learned a lesson, and now he thinks his life with his wife and daughter is great.
Interestingly, when Cruise switched to promoting his movie -- the purpose of his current tour of the TV couches -- he was more articulate. He still wasn't passionate or terribly interesting, but he could at least string a few sentences together. It seems his publicists did a good job of feeding him lines about the movie he could repeat over and over and he remembered them.
It was an odd interview overall, though, and did not do a lot to change people's view of Cruise or intrigue them to go see a movie on Christmas day about an (obviously) failed plot to assassinate Hitler. One wonders if the choices the publicists faced were "manic Tom" -- he of the jumping on Oprah's couch fame -- or the "boring, inarticulate Tom" and chose the latter. A mock interview with someone simulating Matt Lauer at his worst could have given him the help he needed to come up with a few crisp answers that would have made the interview much more interesting. And if he was too exhausted or, as the blog post suggests, sedated to do a good job with the Today Show, it might have been better to reschedule, as this one will live on in YouTube and online forever, right alongside the "crazy Tom" videos from 2005.