For all the mundane celebrity interviews out there, every now and then you get one that really stands out. In the following cases, what really separates the wheat from the chaff are the bizarre questions some reporters felt the need to pose, and the equally awkward (and sometimes awesome) reactions said questions garnered.
Check out which ill-conceived interview questions had us cringing in our seats.
"What kind of tree are you?"
In the introduction to her 1981 interview with screen legend Katharine Hepburn for ABC’s The Barbara Walters Special, Barbara Walters (who else?) gushed, “If they said I could only interview one person, over and over again, for the rest of my life, I would pick Katharine Hepburn.” The interview then took an especially memorable and awkward turn when a star-struck Walters asked Hepburn, “What kind of tree are you?” Hepburn’s measured response: an oak, rather than an elm. Fair enough.
Walters has never really lived down the bizarre, earnest question, and over the years it has evolved into the much-repeated, much-mocked interview question, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”
"Do you ever worry about your moment having passed?"
Back in 2011, heiress and reality show veteran Paris Hilton was none too pleased and actually briefly walked off camera during an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America when correspondent Dan Harris boldly asked her, “Do you ever worry about your moment having passed?”
Hilton was visibly perturbed by Harris’s uncomfortable question. After taking a minute to consult with her publicist, she returned to the interview to flatly explain that, “I’ve been in this business for 15 years now, so it’s been a very long time, and just like any other businessperson or someone in the industry, it’s always important to reinvent yourself and come up with new projects.”
Game, set, question evaded.
"Do you find it hard for celebrities to talk to media about their sexuality?"
British actor Tom Hardy has played a number of tougher-than-nails characters on screen. And he definitely wasn’t taking any guff in 2015 when, as the Huffington Post detailed, a reporter at the Toronto Film Festival discussed how in past interviews Hardy had been less-than-forthcoming about his sexuality. The reporter then ventured to ask him, “Do you find it hard for celebrities to talk to media about their sexuality?”
Hardy, who was promoting his film Legend, replied, “What are you on about?… I don’t find it difficult for celebrities to talk about their sexuality… are you asking me about my sexuality?” The reporter then affirmed that he was, to which Hardy offered the simple and incredulous retort, “Why?… Thank you.” You could cut the air with a knife.
See? Sometimes answering a question with a question is really the most effective route.
"How many people think you can solve calculus at the drop of a hat?"
At the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards, a red carpet reporter posed the question to The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik how many people think she can solve calculus problems on-demand in real life (an actress actually solving math problems? hah!)
Said reporter clearly hadn’t done his research, and Bialik schooled him right away. “I actually was trained in calculus for several years,” Bialik gracefully explained. “I’m a neuroscientist. You may not have known that.”
It’s safe to say he didn’t, and safe to say he does now.
"What's your favorite position?"
Points for this one being a cringe-worthy question and a kind of amazing answer.
When The Hills star Lauren Conrad appeared on Sway’s Morning Show in October 2012, she was playing a game (the grossly named “mystery sack”) where she pulled questions out of a hat. After receiving the invasive and inane question “What’s your favorite position?” Conrad masterfully flipped the script by answering, “CEO,” earning an enthusiastic high-five from Sway.
"What was in the croissants?"
In this case, the cringe-worthy question actually came from the interview subject, actor Sir Ben Kingsley, when presenter Poppy Jamie sat down with him in December 2014 to talk about Night at the Museum 3. Leading with the statement that she’d just “demolished” four croissants (“always a good way to start the morning!”), an obviously less-than-impressed Kingsley asked, “What was in the croissants?“
Rather than return to the job at hand, Jamie simply continued blathering on about baked goods to the knighted actor, who was eventually moved to remark, “I thought there might be drugs in the muffins.” Jamie didn’t seem to mind, however, and kept laughing right along through one of the most uncomfortable interviews we’ve ever seen. The entire thing is incredibly awkward, and so very much worth a watch.
"Are you proud of all of this?"
Today show host Al Roker took it upon himself to really stick it to another set of reality stars in 2009 when he interviewed former The Hills co-stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, who were fresh off a much-derided appearance on the show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!
Roker took a less than genial tone during the interview, pressing the couple about their obnoxious behavior on the show and asking Montag multiple times, “Are you proud of all of this?” He wrapped things up by indirectly calling Pratt a jerk.
Montag later told MTV News, “I felt like he was attacking me personally, demanding an answer from me and being so strong with his voice. I’m a woman and I don’t appreciate that. I had just woke up. Good morning to you too, sir!” Roker defended his harsh line of questioning to then Today show co-host Meredith Vieira, telling her, “They are so unused to people actually asking them a real question that they didn’t know how to handle it… There are a lot of celebrities who come on, real celebrities who’ve actually done something, and act civil.”
"Are you just exhausted?"
Model turned actress Cara Delevingne was at the receiving end of a particularly awkward line of questioning when, in July 2015, she appeared on a local Sacramento morning show to promote her film Paper Towns. After an increasingly cumbersome exchange with the overly-caffeinated and overly-enthusiastic hosts asking whether she’d even read the book the movie was based on (!), Delevingne was understandably ticked off when one compared the interview with a previous appearance in London where she seemed “a lot more excited.” He then went on to condescendingly ask: “Are you just exhausted?”
Delevingne gave a simple, polite answer, but another host pressed again, saying, “You do seem a bit irritated…or perhaps it’s just us.” Delevingne deftly responded, “Yeah, I think it’s just you.” Interview over.
Honestly, watching the whole thing, we’re irritated.
"Do you have the word 'skanky' in America?"
During an interview with an Australian radio show to promote her movie Trainwreck, comedian Amy Schumer was understandably more than a little peeved when the host implied that her character, and by extension Schumer herself, were “skanky.”
After discussing how the film was somewhat autobiographical, host Matt Tilley asked, “Do you have the word ‘skanky’ in America?” An obviously unamused Schumer kept things moving with a “your mom” joke. Tilley couldn’t keep quiet though, and said “C’mon, that’s the character in the movie. I’m not trying to offend you.”
Schumer responded, “Whatever you’re trying to do, you are. That’s a rude question.” Amy, we couldn’t agree more.
"Do you have advice for going nude?"
When TV host Chris Parente was called on to interview comedians Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader about their movie The Skeleton Twins for a local Denver morning show, it likely would have done him some good to actually watch the movie first (or at least read a summary). Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t at all clear on what the movie was about, and so posed a completely unrelated question to Wiig: “Kristen, I am thinking on this program of doing the news completely full-frontal, completely nude. Do you recommend that, and do you have advice for going nude?”
An understandably confused Wiig slowly repeated the question, with Parente insisting, “You do it in the film!”
“Not in this film!” Wiig replied. She and Hader spent the rest of the interview ribbing Parente for not actually seeing the movie, and for generally taking things way off course.
"Did you get a lot of reaction to that Super Bowl commercial?"
Reporter Sam Rubin was interviewing actor Samuel L. Jackson for KTLA in February 2014 when he decided to ask Jackson whether he’d got “a lot of reaction to that Super Bowl commercial?” Record skip; Jackson didn’t film any Super Bowl commercials, but you know who did? Laurence Fishburne.
An understandably pissed Jackson replied, “We may be all black and famous, but we all don’t look alike. You’re busted! You’re the entertainment reporter for this station, and you don’t know the difference between me and Laurence Fishburne?” Jackson went on to list all of the commercials that he and other black actors had done, while Rubin scrambled, apologized, and admitted his mistake.
Rubin later offered an official apology through the KTLA website, saying, “I pride myself on the fact — that unlike a lot of people who do this kind of work — more often than not, I really do know what I’m talking about. But I didn’t 30 minutes ago, and I’m really embarrassed about it, and I very much apologize to Samuel L. Jackson and anyone else who was offended for what was a very amateur mistake.”
"How were you able to get that cat to do what you wanted it to do on a leash?"
Actress Cate Blanchett has long made her disdain for inane Hollywood questions known, so her reaction to a particularly ridiculous question in 2015 isn’t all that surprising. At the end of an interview promoting her new film Cinderella that had included, among other things, Blanchett turning down journalist Jonathan Hyla’s offer of a beer, Hyla decided to ask the Oscar-winner, “How were you able to get that cat to do what you wanted it to do on a leash?” (a reference to a cat that had appeared in the movie.)
Blanchett’s response was pretty perfect: “That’s your question? That’s your f*****g question?” She then gave Hyla a fake high-five and ended the interview.
Hyla later tweeted, “Thanks to my new favorite person Cate Blanchett for what might have been the best worst interview…” We’re tempted to agree, but taking all of the above questions into account, there are a lot of contenders.