Interviews are used to draw attention to a specific person, place, or thing. Whether it’s gaining publicity for an event, rebranding one’s image, or marketing something, interviews are typically meant to help shape or reshape public opinion. However, celebrity interviews often go wrong and backfire, resulting in mass criticism, judgment, and in these ten cases, a seriously tarnished image.
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10 Mike Tyson
Former heavyweight world boxing champion Mike Tyson is regarded as one of the most intimidating fighters in the history of the sport. Outside the boxing ring, “Iron Mike” frequently found himself on the wrong side of the law. He was convicted of rape in 1992 and spent three years in jail. The stint (and his reported conversion to Islam) did little to quell the rage inside the man.
The boxer maintained a hostile persona even in interviews, giving fans a glimpse of what it would be like to tangle with “The Baddest Man on the Planet.” Tyson was madder than hell after back-to-back losses to Evander Holyfield in 1996 and 1997. The second match ended with Tyson biting off a chunk of his opponent’s ear. He was banned from the sport for 19 months.
Following his hiatus—and eager for money and fame—33-year-old Tyson granted an interview to Channel 9’s Russ Salzberg to promote his return to the boxing ring. If the goal was to present a new and improved Mike Tyson, he failed miserably. Angry as ever, he still didn’t seem to understand that boxing is a sport, not a fight to the death.
Salzberg asked Tyson if he had concerns about the underdog predictions. The fighter replied, “I don’t know anything about the numbers. I know what I can do: I’m about killing this motherfucker.”
Salzberg then asked Tyson if the rage he has works for or against him in the ring. “Who cares,” he replied. “We’re in a fight anyway. What does it matter?” The interviewer reminded Tyson that his anger didn’t help him against Holyfield. “Well, fuck it. It’s a fight, so whatever happens, happens.”
Seeing how far he could push the Baddest Man, Salzberg asked, “Mike, why do you talk like that?” Tyson snapped back: “Well, I’m talking to you the way I want to talk to you. You have a problem, turn off your station!”
An exasperated Salzberg gave up on trying to humanize Tyson, who called him an “asshole” and told him to “fuck off.” The interview concluded with Salzberg’s final words: “Class act, buddy.”
9 Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson rose to fame as a Hollywood actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. He enjoyed tremendous success with Braveheart and the Lethal Weapon franchise. But Gibson has shown his scandalous side as well, with controversies ranging from his alcohol abuse and domestic violence allegations to his homophobic, racist, and anti-semitic remarks.
In January 2010, Gibson agreed to do an interview with Dean Richards on WGN-TV. Richards said that Gibson’s PR company initially requested that he talk about his new movie, Edge of Darkness, but steer clear of the actor’s much-publicized personal problems over the previous few years. Richards said he would only conduct the interview if he was permitted to ask pertinent, news-worthy questions.
Perhaps Gibson thought Richards would forget about the personal stuff because he seemed taken aback when asked about his image. Richards asked if the actor thought the public would perceive him differently after everything that had been in the news about him. Gibson tried to laugh it off, claiming he didn’t know what Richards was talking about.
The interviewer was surprised that a performer of Gibson’s caliber hadn’t been prepared by his PR team with a simple response to such questions. So, he clarified, bringing up Gibson’s “drinking problem” and “anti-semitic rant.” The actor became visibly annoyed and tried to change the subject. When Richards abruptly ended the interview, Gibson called him an asshole.
Richards made no apologies. “Famous person or not, the true measure of a person is how they act when they think no one is looking,” he wrote. “More than the content of the interview, here we get a crystal clear view of a man who claims to be sorry for his actions and claims to be a changed man.”
8 Paula Abdul
American Idol judge and singer/songwriter Paula Abdul has been a topic of conversation for years. Allegations of substance abuse arose in the early 2000s when people began noticing “erratic behavior” while working with her during American Idol.
It was Abdul’s 2007 interview with Seattle’s FOX affiliate that really raised eyebrows. The singer slurred her words and rocked back and forth in her seat, appearing to be drunk or drugged. American Idol distanced itself from the interview, referring all inquiries about the singer’s bizarre behavior to her publicist, Jeff Ballard.
“It was a technical problem,” Ballard told FOXNews.com. “They dropped the sound not once but twice. She’s in a little room by herself and could hear people shouting in her mike. She did 20 of those interviews without incident. It was simply a matter of Seattle screwing up.”
Abdul herself denied accusations that she was under the influence of something during the interview, claiming that she’s never had a drug abuse problem and insisting that her behavior was the result of audio problems.
Ironically, while the singer was flailing about in the interview, she actually said, “Any publicity is good publicity.” The video was hugely popular on YouTube, which titled the clip “Paula Abdul—What is she smokin’???”
7 O.J. Simpson
In 2018, a shocking “lost” Fox interview with former football star O.J. Simpson was released. In the 2006 interview, Simpson talks about the brutal murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, for which he was tried and acquitted.
Simpson recounts the night of the murders in detail, talking only in “hypotheticals” but skipping over parts he didn’t “recall.” He describes a scenario in which he and his friend Charlie pull up to his ex-wife’s house with a knife. They get into a verbal altercation when Goldman arrives. Brown Simpson comes out and demands that O.J. and Charlie leave. Simpson remembers her falling and his grabbing the knife.
Simpson claims that he does not remember anything that happened after this point and laughs, reminding the interviewer that the situation is purely hypothetical. Anyone who had been glued to the TV watching the white SUV chase, the crime scene photos, and the trial remembers full well that this was no laughing matter.
6 Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen may be one of the most hated men in America, but that wasn’t always the case. The Two And A Half Men star was one of the highest-paid actors on television…until he went off the deep end with drugs and porn stars.
In 2011, Sheen didn’t help his career by giving a string of bizarre interviews defending his past indulgences. He assailed his critics as “retarded” and vowed to sue CBS and Warner Bros for canceling his hit TV sitcom. He told NBC’s Today that his former employers would have to beg him to return and increase his pay from $2 million to $3 million per episode because of the “psychological distress” they caused.
“I’m tired of pretending like I’m not special,” he told NBC’s Jeff Rossen. “I’m tired of pretending like I’m not bitching, a total fricking rockstar from Mars, and people can’t figure me out, they can’t process me. I don’t expect them to. You can’t process me with a normal brain.”
In an interview with Andrea Canning of ABC News, Sheen claimed to be clean and sober (for the sake of his five children) while also proclaiming that he had “tiger blood.” He announced that was not bipolar, he was “bi-winning.” And he boasted that the last time he took drugs he was “banging seven-gram rocks.”
He told Canning, “I’m on a drug, it’s called ‘Charlie Sheen.’ It’s not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.”
Sheen claimed he had taken “more [drugs] than anyone could survive,’ and when asked if he was disgusted by his past partying he replied, “No, I’m proud. It was radical.”
5 Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino is one of the best directors in Hollywood, creating cinematic masterpieces from Pulp Fiction to Inglorious Bastards. He’s also notorious for having an especially short fuse, particularly when it comes to discussing touchy subjects.
Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 interviewed the director to promote his new film, Django Unchained. When brough up the topic of violence in his movies Tarantino immediately shut him down. The director said he’d already discussed his position on violence in film, and he wasn’t about to waste his time rehashing it. He wanted to talk about Django. Period.
But Guru-Murthy kept pushing. Tarantino became increasingly annoyed and finally lashed out at the interviewer, stating that it was “none of his damn business” what he thought about that and that he was “not a slave” nor was Guru-Murthy his master. “I am shutting your butt down.”
The interview—which revealed little about Tarantino’s film but plenty about his temper—has been watched nearly 7 million times on YouTube.
4 R. Kelly
Singer and record producer Robert Kelly, aka R. Kelly, was accused of 10 counts of sexual abuse. The alleged abuse, which occurred between 1998 and 2020, involved four female victims between the ages of 13 and 16. In 2019, Kelly sat down with Gayle King of CBSN in an attempt to share his side of the story, set the record straight, and save his reputation.
The interview did not go as he’d hoped. Kelly attempted to twist the narrative. He admitted to being an imperfect person who made mistakes in his relationships. But he denied that he ever broke the law when it came to his behavior toward women. He cited his 2008 case, when he was acquitted of 14 counts of child pornography, as proof of his innocence.
As the interview progressed, Kelly became emotional and hysterical, calling the accusations “stupid” and “not true.” The singer stood up and started beating his chest, while King calmly sat by.
“Stop it. Y’all quit playing. I didn’t do this stuff. It’s not me. I’m fighting for my fucking life,” he sobbed. “Y’all are killing me with this shit. I gave y’all 30 years of my fucking career. I’m trying to have a relationship with my kids. Y’all don’t want to believe the truth.”
Social media went wild. Laura Hudson (@laura_hudson) summed it up on Twitter. “The R Kelly interview is abuser 101: when threatened or even mildly challenged, respond by screaming, blaming, and escalating physically until you regain control. If this is how he treats a powerful woman on national television, imagine how he treats vulnerable girls in private.”
3 Woody Allen
In 1992, amid a custody battle and ongoing investigations, CBS aired a 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft interview with writer/director Woody Allen. In the interview, Kroft questioned the filmmaker about accusations that he had sexually abused his daughter Dylan. Allen denied the allegation and posed a question to the audience asking why he would choose this time in his life to “become a child molester.” He painted Mia Farrow out to be a scorned woman, jealous of the “adult relationship” he had formed with her 21-year-old daughter Soon-Yi. Many questions were left unanswered, and the fact remained that 57-year-old Allen was still living with Soon-Yi, who was a mere college student at the time. Allen’s attempt to make Mia look like a crazy woman may have worked but did not distract people from the fact that he was sleeping with her daughter.
2 Prince Andrew
Queen Elizabeth II’s second son was in the hot seat. When pedophile and convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein topped the headlines, his high-profile circle of friends did, too. And that list included Prince Andrew.
Virginia Roberts told investigators that Epstein had trafficked her to the Duke of York when she was 17. She claimed the prince had sex with her at one of Epstein’s properties. In an interview with Emily Maitlis of BBC News, the prince tried to downplay his friendship with Epstein. And despite being photographed with Roberts, he denied ever meeting her.
It’s an uncomfortable interview to watch. Prince Andrew struggles to explain why he continued to visit Epstein’s New York residence, even after Epstein was charged as a child sex offender. The prince claimed Epstein’s home was simply a convenient place to stay and that his only fault in the situation was his tendency to be “too honorable.” The most laughable part of the interview was his pathetic attempt to rebut Robert’s claims that he was sweating all over her by stating that he suffered from a medical condition in which he could not sweat.
Sure looked like he was sweating through that interview.
1 Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise is one of the most famous actors in the world. He earned $75,000 for his breakout role in Risky Business (1983), $2 million for Top Gun (1986), and $75 million for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2012).
In 2004, Cruise fired his powerful publicist, Pat Kingsley, after she told him to tone down the Scientology talk on his press tours. Without Kingsley’s guidance, the actor went on a 2005 talk show circuit that seriously damaged his public persona. He was simply unable (or unwilling) to stick to the topic of his new film, War of the Worlds.
In May 2005, 42-year-old Cruise appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and wildly declared his love for his new fiancee, 26-year-old actress Katie Holmes. Maniacal with joy over his new relationship, he jumped up and down on Winfrey’s to viewers’ astonishment and confusion. The spectacle was watched and shared over and over again, thanks to a brand-new medium called YouTube. Cruise had just become weird, and there was no going back.
Shortly after appearing on Oprah, the actor came under fire for remarks he made during an Access Hollywood interview. Cruise criticized actress Brooke Shields for using antidepressants (instead of vitamins and exercise) to treat her postpartum depression, calling her actions “irresponsible.” Shields, whose book Down Came the Rain chronicles her struggle following the 2003 birth of her daughter, said, “Tom should stick to saving the world from aliens and let women who are experiencing postpartum depression decide what treatment options are best for them.”
June 2005 found Cruise on the TODAY show with Matt Lauer. Dripping with arrogance, the actor defended the remarks he made about Shields’ taking “mind-altering drugs.” (Scientologists believe psychology is a destructive pseudo-science.) When Lauer attempted to debate the issue, Cruise slammed the newsman for promoting Ritalin, not educating himself on the history of psychology, and being “glib.”
Martin Levy, spokesman for War of the Worlds director Steven Spielberg, scrapped the film’s press junket in favor of “preselected interviews” that focused on the movie instead of the actor’s religion.
But Cruise wasn’t finished. The actor sat down for an interview with Peter Overton of 60 Minutes Australia. On air, Cruise berated Overton for poking fun at his chosen religion, Scientology. And a question about Nicole Kidman—Cruise’s ex-wife and a long-time friend of Overton’s—infuriated him. “Listen, here’s the thing, Peter, you’re stepping over a line now…and you know you are.”
Overton insisted that it was a fair question and something the public wanted to know. Cruise shot back: “Take responsibility for what you want to know…This is a conversation that I’m having with you right now. So I’m just telling you right now, OK, just put your manners back in.”
Sixteen years later, and we’re still scratching our heads. What happened to that guy?
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About The Author: Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist from Central Pennsylvania.