LOS ANGELES—Some celebs never learn, even when the lesson has been taught to their betters. For instance, never get drunk with a reporter before the interview. After is also a bad idea, but before is really asking for it. But that’s just what Joe Francis did in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter a mere day after being convicted of assault by a Los Angeles jury.
He also obviously forgot about the legendary 1957 profile of Marlon Brando in The New Yorker written by Truman Capote, who worked his prey like a cat and her mouse. The interview was ostensibly about the making of Sayonara, the Josh Logan-produced and directed film that was shooting in Japan for Warner Bros. and starred Brando.
Despite attempts by Logan to keep Capote away from the shy and unpredictable superstar, Capote tracked Brando down in Kyoto during location scouting. What happened next was recalled in “In Cold Type”, a 2012 Columbia Journalism Review cover story by Douglas McCollam: “Two nights after arriving in Japan, Capote showed up at Brando’s door wearing a tan cardigan and carrying a bottle of vodka ... [W]hen Capote left Brando’s room six hours later, he was convinced that he had the raw material for a groundbreaking profile of the reclusive star.”
The resulting article was transformative. “‘The Duke in His Domain’ remains the yardstick by which celebrity profiles are measured—an early harbinger of the New Journalism that would come into full flower in the 1960s,” wrote McCollam in his CJR homage to the encounter. “With its profusion of intimate details, confessional tone, and novelistic observation of Brando’s character, the story marked a clear evolution of celebrity journalism and heralded the arrival of the invasive, full-immersion pop culture of today.”
Of course, what happened in the Joe Francis interview is nothing like what happened in Kyoto. A reading doesn’t indicate who provided the “third — or is it fourth? —$55 bottle of Double Diamond Bomber X cabernet” that Joe, his model girlfriend Abbey Wilson and THR writer Stephen Galloway imbibed over several hours at Joe’s “sleek, Bel-Air home,” but it’s a safe bet it wasn’t Galloway. (In that sense, the headline above may be slightly misleading … but the end result is the same.)
Neither, of course, does Joe Francis remotely embody the level of fame (not to mention talent) that Brando, with all his legal troubles and personal tragedies, exemplified in the 1950s and pretty much throughout his life. But as far as Galloway’s piece goes, it clearly contains elements of the celebrity journalism described by McCollam above, and without a doubt contains alcohol as an acknowledged part of the interview:
The [Panama City incarceration] experience didn't tame him and, in 2007, Francis got into a fight with [Vegas casino mogul Steve] Wynn over a $2 million gambling debt. As their battle escalated, the casino magnate successfully sued for defamation after Francis accused Wynn of threatening to kill him. (The verdict is being appealed.)
"He's an asshole," says Francis. "Steve Wynn is a monster, piece-of-shit asshole. He really is a piece of shit. By the way, I'm going to have his ass. He is a scoundrel."
He leans back, momentarily drained. He hasn't eaten anything in the several hours we have spent together and already has gone through a photo shoot as well as talks with a lawyer, who has been shuffling in and out of his office.
"I'm drunk," he admits, before looking at one of two glasses in front of me.
"Fill up his glass!" he says.
"But he already has a full glass," insists Wilson.
"He wants that one! That's the one he wants! Fill it up!"
It is sometime during this part of the interview that Joe makes the comments that are being most widely reported in the press. He may wish he hadn’t uttered them if it turns out he ever has to face another jury in the future.
Referring to his L.A. panel, he shouts at Galloway, "I want that jury to know that each and every one of you are mentally fucking retarded and you should be euthanized because, as Darwin said, you have naturally selected yourself. You are the weakest members of the herd. Goodbye! And if that jury wants to convict me because I didn't show up, which is the only reason why they did, then, you know, they should all be lined up and shot!"
Elaborating on the finer elements of the justice system, he adds a final coup de grâce, “The problem with the jury system is that anyone who's not smart enough to come with an excuse to get out of jury duty doesn't get out. Only the stupidest of the stupidest people end up on juries, you know? I've never met a smart person who's done jury duty."
If Paris Hilton were a real friend to Joe Francis, she would have made him memorize Truman Capote’s article a long time ago. He could also bone up on natural selection.
UPDATE: Francis has released a statement of apology regarding the above-noted interview:
"I deeply regret the remarks attributed to me in the interview with the Hollywood Reporter. They were hurtful and do not reflect my true feelings. While I disagree with the jury's verdict as I am completely innocent of the charges and intend to appeal, I was afforded a fair trial, and if I lose at the appellate level, I will reluctantly but fully accept the jury's verdict. This was a 6 hour interview with the Hollywood reporter where I detailed to the reporter all of the evidence and why I believed the evidence showed I am 100% innocent The reporter also interviewed my attorney David Houston for over 3 hours, but failed to include one shred of evidence from the trial that proved beyond a reasonable doubt my innocence. I did NOT commit a crime at all whatsoever. All that was publicized were my most intemperate remarks that were borne out of frustration but with no intent to cause anyone harm. I am not, nor have I ever been a violent person. My comments are appalling, but anyone who has ever been wrongfully convicted of a crime that they did NOT commit would be as frustrated as I am. I want to apologize to all the jurors, the court, the City Attorney and my attorneys for my comments that were manipulated by the media, and please know I am truly ashamed of my conduct. I am truly, truly sorry. I hope everyone will understand I was not being serious and that I fully and deeply apologize for my remarks."