There has been a dumbing down of televisionYou are described as Britain best interviewer?
No I wouldn't say that. These days they always try to put silly labels on you. I do a job and I am well paid for it. It's all labels, before the millennium it was all about the 100 best films or series etc. In the 100 best moments on television me being attacked by Emu was the 7th best moment, I beat the Berlin Wall coming down. What does that tell you are about lists? They are stupid.
What is your interview technique?
There is no technique as such, it's just the basic rules of journalism, finding out as much as you can about the person you are about to interview. But the key to all interviewing is listening. Listening to the answer. A lot of people on television these days don't listen to the answer. They have a pre-selected set of 10 questions and by god are they going to get through them! Their first question is what are you doing here? The reply is I have come here to murder my grandmother, and the next question is Do you like the weather! That's as bad as it gets. It takes confidence to just sit down and listen. Television is a very phoney set-up, you've got the lights, the TV crew, the audience, and you can get very nervous. So some interviewers just hang on to their set of 10 questions like a life-line. It takes a long time to relax on television
Are you shocked by some of the answers you get when you interview someone?
Someone once said a very wise thing about interviewing, never ask a question if you don't know the answer. It's a principle that lawyers apply in their cross-examinations. It's happened a couple of times that I have asked a question and I've got a totally unexpected answer. But if you do your research there is not much you won't know about the person.
Who is the best person you've ever interviewed?
There again, I've interviewed most of the best known people of the 20th century, the second half of the 20th century. But the most remarkable man I have ever met was Mohammed Ali, I interviewed him four times and I got to know him well over 10 years. He is a remarkable man. I am a great movie fan so perhaps some of the film stars such as John Wayne, James Cagney, Robert Redford, Robert De Niro. And then you look at good conversationalists, like Peter Ustinov, Jonathan Miller, people like that who are just wonderful talkers. And I love comics Billy Connolly, Jimmy Tarbuck, groups of people who you enjoy no more than others. And then when you talk beautiful women, Raquel Welsh, Shirley MacLaine, Cindy Crawford. They are all a great bunch of people.
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