Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter

6 Questions With “Close Up With the Hollywood Reporter” Host Stephen Galloway

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Stephen Galloway, host of SundanceTV’s CLOSE UP WITH THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and Executive Features Editor at The Hollywood Reporter, discusses the popular Oscar-nominee roundtables, coaxing dinner-party conversation out of Hollywood’s biggest stars and which celebrities made him laugh the most.

Q: Jennifer Lawrence has been on a campaign lately to raise awareness about gender inequality in Hollywood. How did the other actresses at her roundtable react to seeing such a young woman take the lead in that part of the discussion?

A: Yes, it did come up in the roundtable and Jennifer was very frank about it. I asked her if she felt there was a backlash and she said, “Well, there’s always a backlash to anything you do when you go out on a limb.” The other actresses there truly embraced her. Helen Mirren said she really admires the way Jennifer has handled this and also said that there is a pressure on women growing up to be polite, to not stand up for yourself. Also, remember: Jane Fonda was at that roundtable. Jennifer Lawrence was sitting on one side of me and Jane Fonda on the other and nobody, no actress, has ever been more vocal in her opinions than Jane Fonda. So I think she was in very good company there. These are very strong-minded women and that came through in that roundtable.

Q: Which one celebrity made you laugh the hardest?

A: I’ll tell who was very funny at that roundtable, and this really did surprise me, was Emma Donoghue, who wrote Room — she wrote the novel on which Room is based and she wrote the screenplay — and there is no more serious movie this season than this intense drama about a young woman who is trapped in this dungeon-like setting with her young child. I know people who don’t want to see the film because they think it’s going to be so intense, but she was light-hearted and witty and bantering and completely caught me by surprise.

Q: Did any new Hollywood friendships appear to form during this season’s roundtables?

A: An old friendship actually re-formed: Mark Ruffalo and Benicio del Toro, who revealed that they went to acting school together. Mark Ruffalo was saying how intimidated he was by Benicio’s brilliance as an actor, so I didn’t know that, and that was pretty interesting.

Q: Was there one particular roundtable that you found the most overwhelming, because of the amount of fame and talent at the table or because of all the questions you wanted to ask?

A: The actresses one, because we had eight superstars on that roundtable and that’s an awful lot. You go in thinking, “Is everyone going to be able to speak? Are we going to lose a few people here? Are we going to get a sense of who each person is? Are they going to interact? And how do we manage to create an environment where they feel free to do that?” And, in fact, it was one of the best we’ve done. All of them were talkative, opinionated, funny, interesting, intelligent. It really helps when you actually really admire the talent, when you actually admire the people on the roundtable. By the way, that isn’t always the case (laughs), but you’ve got Jane Fonda, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan — there’s nobody there that made me feel, “This person really shouldn’t be on this roundtable.”

Q: Which interviewees asked the most questions of their fellow roundtable participants, and does that make your job easier or harder as the moderator?

A: It makes my job much easier. Before every roundtable begins, I go around and say to people, “Please don’t wait for me to ask you a question. Jump in with your opinions. Feel free to ask other people at the roundtable a question. It makes it much more lively. Think of this as a dinner-party conversation with me as a sort of guide. Don’t feel like this is a high-school exam where you have to raise your hand.” And when the camera’s rolling and everything’s quiet and someone shouts, “Action!” sometimes people forget that and get a little nervous and wait. They’re scared to seem like they’re being impolite. What made it great in the actresses’ roundtable is the moment we began, Kate Winslet jumped in with something and it set the tone for the whole conversation because then everyone felt free to jump in. Jane Fonda praised a movie she once did, Holy Smoke, in which Kate Winslet has to pee and Kate talked about the difficulty in making the pee trickle in a certain direction. No one talks like that, so yes, it definitely breaks the ice!

Q: When you’re taping the episodes, do the photo shoots take place before, after or during the interview? How do the photo shoots affect the mood on set?

A: They take place before and after, but usually the main photo is done afterwards. I prefer it that way. Sometimes when they’ve done the photo, there can be a silliness that kicks in… I prefer to come to the roundtable ready to think and talk and be a bit more serious. During the roundtable, nobody is allowed in the room except the crew and the participants and myself, nobody else. Stylists, gone! No audience. And believe me, we’ve had battles, especially [with] some publicists, who say, “I have to sit in.” Sorry, not going to happen.

Watch full episodes of CLOSE UP WITH THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER online now.