A couple of days ago I went into the Apple store and spoke to a really helpful sales guy about the new Apple Watch and the shiny new MacBook.
It didn’t occur to me part-way through the conversation to start quizzing him about his mental health, his relationship with his dad or things he said 5 years ago because his job at that moment was to tell me about the products Apple are selling.
So I’ll admit to a little uncertainty about why these topics came up – clearly without any prior discussion or agreement – in Channel 4’s interview with Robert Downey Jr who is in town to sell you a ticket to a movie.
He’s not running for elected office, he’s not been put in charge of anything really important like a hospital or police force, he’s just selling a film.
He’s doing the same job the Apple store guy was, just for a lot more cash.
And he’s doing it because Disney have invested $250m in Avengers: Age Of Ultron and think you’re more likely to part with your cash if he parades in front of the print, broadcast and online media to feed the hype machine.
Given the success of the Avengers franchise to date, the chances are they’ll easily recoup not just the cost of Downey Jr’s flight to London and hotel suite but also the film’s budget.
The most puzzling thing about the interview is Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s genuine shock that it came to an abrupt stop.
I’ve been to a number of film junkets over the years – including previous instalments of the Avengers franchise – and in every one of them journalists were expected to keep on topic and ask only about the film being promoted.
Anyone who fails to abide by that simple house rule should expect to find their mic taken away or switched off.
If that was done to a journalist interviewing a politician it would be an outrage.
But actors aren’t politicians – their sole job at these events is to promote the film. They’re not there to answer deep, probing or personal questions and few would probably turn up if they thought they’d be subjected to them.
Perhaps it’s fair game for a serious journalist like Guru-Murthy not to be happy with merely setting the scene for a well-paid actor to rehash a few carefully rehearsed and well-used anecdotes.
But no-one should be shocked when an actor expecting a soft interview about what is, ultimately, a very expensive kids film declines to play when suddenly asked to recount his “dark periods” or talk about troubled relationships with family members.
It’s not an outrage to refuse, it’s not an insult to journalism, it isn’t being a diva and it isn’t wrong to expect others to respect the reason you’ve made yourself available when all you’re doing is trying to flog a cinema ticket or two.