Friday, 20 September 2013

Naomi Watts "walks out" on Simon Mayo

I think Simon Mayo is a tremendous broadcaster. He still leaves a huge void in the Five Live afternoon schedule. That said, he let himself down over the alleged Naomi Watts walkout. I have met and interviewed Watts myself. She is a delight. A little serious until loosened up but not one to shirk a question. I haven't seen the Diana biopic but in the face of some very negative press I thought she gamely weathered Mayo's interrogation.

The problem lies with the setup — that of conducting a radio interview between a BBC studio and a remote location, i.e. a junket hotel, and disingenuously passing it off as a face-to-face (which is what they would have done otherwise, believe me). Let's be clear, as part of a global publicity tour, Watts will have given umpteen interviews that day, most probably brain-frazzled, jet-lagged and having had to field the same questions over and over. When put on the line to Mayo, I'm pretty sure she would have had no idea of the status of Mayo and Kermode's Film Review show (not that that should have mattered). Nor would she have taken their conversation to be anything other than pre-recorded for editing later, certainly not to be broadcast technical warts and all.

In these situations PR people swirl around, as do technicians, lackeys, etc. It is quite possible she mistook a signal for the interview to conclude after the allotted time has elapsed, saw a PR's head pop round the door or simply matched some gesture to her own watch. Either way, I do not believe she meant to cause offence or emulate the Bee Gees on Clive Anderson. To bill it as such was a bit cheap, I thought. If they'd simply edited it down and broadcast the extracts, as is normal practice, no one would have been any the wiser.

If there were consistency here, just about every broadcast of a "down the line" interview would feature a publicist jumping in to bark "last question" or "can we wrap it up now." Or indeed, as, Watts said, "Sorry, but I'm being given the windup" (or a variation thereof). Unfortunately for Watts, this one fit the narrative.