The arts yield equal parts sawdust and stardust

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A few weeks ago, news broke that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez had reunited. I shouldn’t have cared. But in a strange way, I admit, it was like I had an interest in this relationship.

In 2002, I was in New York to represent the Winnipeg Free Press at a press conference for a film titled Made in Manhattan. Lopez starred in the romantic comedy, and she was also newly connected to Affleck in a romantic way.

The roundtable interviews allowed reporters to choose one of the many rooms where talent flowed to each table in a marathon of interviews. I generally gravitated towards the theaters with the fewest people, so it would be easy to ask questions without competing with other reporters.

Free Press in 2014. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files) “width =” 2048 “height =” 1534 “srcset =” https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/400*400/NEP11118822.jpg 400w, https: / /media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/600*600/NEP11118822.jpg 600w, https: //media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/700*700/NEP11118822.jpg 700w”/>

Randall King poses for his Free press portrait in 2014 (Ruth Bonneville Files / Winnipeg Free Press)

I found a room at the Waldorf with only two other reporters. So I settled in, pulled out my microcassette recorder, notebook and press kit, and waited.

Just before Lopez landed in the room, Affleck walked in and asked if anyone would agree to sit down. Of course, we did not object. For her part, Lopez was surprised but she accepted with good humor. Strangely enough, I was the only one who brought up the subject of the relationship, because I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

But here’s the thing: I wasn’t particularly excited about this deal. Many of my colleagues at the time would have sacrificed a kidney to be in my place. That’s because a lot of the junketeers back then were very interested in the gossip side of the gig, who is dating who, all of that.

“Relationships come and go. Movies are forever. Even though this movie is Maid in Manhattan.”
‐ King Randall

After the roundtables, I mentioned Affleck’s intrusion to a colleague at a Boston newspaper who usually gravitated to the flat side of the beat. When I told him Affleck had come to our room, he just didn’t believe me. A month or two later, on another trip, I actually brought a copy of the story with me to convince him.

As I am now announcing my retirement, I can now reveal that I never really cared about this stuff.

Une séance photo rare avec les stars Miss Piggy et Kermit pour le film de 2011 <em>The Muppets</em>.</p>
<p>“width =” 2048 “height =” 1365 “srcset =” https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/400*400/NEP11118775.jpg 400w, https: //media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/600*600 /NEP11118775.jpg 600w, https: //media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/700*700/NEP11118775.jpg 700w, https: //media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/800*800/NEP11118775.jpg 800w, https: //media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/900*900/NEP11118775.jpg 900w, https: //media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/1000*1000/NEP11118775.jpg 1000w”/>				</a><figcaption>
<p>A rare photoshoot with stars Miss Piggy and Kermit for the 2011 film <em>The Muppets</em>.</p>
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<p>The truth is, I came to junkets with a guiding principle that we would be talking about the films themselves.  Relationships come and go.  Movies are forever.  Even though this movie is <em>Made in Manhattan</em>.			</p>
<p>When Bennifer showed up in Winnipeg in the summer of the following year while Lopez was filming <em>Shall we dance?</em> with Richard Gere, I admit that I participated in trying to get access to Lopez, Gere and Affleck because the story was suddenly local.  I helped the photographers take some photos on set, including allowing a photographer to sneak up to the top floor of a stock exchange building across from the location to take photos of Lopez and Gere at the job.  I’ll admit: getting a photo sparked the thrill of the hunt.  But if I had met Bennifer on the street, I doubt I would have had much to say beyond that: “Have a nice stay in Winnipeg.			</p>
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<p>I have been covering films, on and off, for 31 years now, the first 10 years at <em>Winnipeg Sun</em>.  (Yes the <em>Sun</em> once had its own arts department;  it was called “the patch,” which is an abbreviation of the derogatory term “pansy patch,” once commonly used in newsrooms.).  But I returned to the cinema ranks in 2001, when I was hired by the <em>Free press.</em>			</p>
<p>At that time, the work still involved frequent trips, at studio expense, for junkets.  I spent many weekends out of town while my wife looked after our two children.  (I love you, Wendy.)			</p>
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King working for the Manitoba Party at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival (Provided)

King working for the Manitoba Party at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival (Provided)

Junkets have often had memorable moments dating back to my very first trip to LA in 1990 for the action movie. Navy SEALs, in which Charlie Sheen presented himself dressed as a carnival barker, exuberantly drunk. (It was way more entertaining than the movie, actually.) More Bad Behavior: In 2002, I was invited to an after-party for the Paul Thomas Anderson movie. Punch-Drunk Love, screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. Anderson came up with Adam Sandler, never a critic’s darling, introducing him to various critics. I had a glass of red wine in my hand and Sandler shook my hand so vigorously that I spilled the wine on my shirt. It was a childish passive-aggressive hit, but even I had to admit it: it was pretty funny.


Randall King is one step ahead of the competition with a prop on the set of Wrong Turn 4 in 2011. (Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Randall King is one step ahead of the competition with a prop on the set of Wrong Turn 4 in 2011. (Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Funnier than The adults, at all costs.

I’ve only been hit a few times, usually with actors that I grew up seeing on the big screen, like Sean Connery. (People in the sports department probably collected football and baseball cards. I collected James Bond cards.) I was impressed by the presence of actors like Michael Caine or Richard Harris. (The latter seemed to view press interviews as a performance opportunity and treated them as such.)

I once found myself in an unexpected one-on-one interview with Julie Christie for the film Far from her, courtesy of a publicist friend, and as I pulled a story out of it, I later wondered if I hadn’t come out like a stuttering fanboy.

I surprised some of my young colleagues talking about sitting at the same table with Beyoncé or Lady Gaga. For me, Christie was a major cause for excitement.


Meet Canadian director Atom Egoyan and actor Arsinée Khanjian at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café in 2015 (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Meet Canadian director Atom Egoyan and actor Arsinée Khanjian at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café in 2015 (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

I had always thought that these free rides required extra effort to take advantage of the opportunity; I have often used them to connect with expats from Winnipeg who are getting started in the United States, like writers Collin Friesen and Johanna Stein or producer Rachel Shane (Tammy Faye’s eyes, Brooklyn without mother).

I was also keen to find local angles when I could, like asking Keanu Reeves to play Hamlet at RMTC in 1995 during a junket for the 1996 forgettable movie. Chain reaction. He said it was like throwing yourself in front of a truck with the word “Hamlet” engraved on the front.

Randall King interprète une scène avec Cheryl Gensiorek de la pièce <em>Life Skills</em> of his brother David King during a fundraiser in 2012 for the local company Sarasvati entitled <em>So You Think You Can Act</em>.  (Turns out he couldn’t, losing to Ace Burpee definitely.)</p>
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<p>Randall King performs scene with Cheryl Gensiorek from brother David King’s play <em>Life skills</em> in a 2012 fundraiser for the local company Sarasvati titled <em>So you think you can act</em>.  (Turns out he couldn’t, losing to Ace Burpee definitely.)</p>
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<p>In 2015, I picked up the rhythm of the theater from retired Kevin Prokosh, and while I was never able to completely stop the pace of the film, it seemed like the right decision.  I had been in the theater business for a long time: my brother David, who died in January of this year, was an actor and playwright.  In his company, I developed an unwavering love for artists, lucky since my daughter is an actress and my son is a musician.			</p>
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Kenny Boyce, City of Winnipeg Liaison Officer, took this candid photo of King working at the Free Press Café in 2011. (Photo by Kenny Boyce)

Kenny Boyce, City of Winnipeg Liaison Officer, took this candid photo of King working at the Free Press Café in 2011. (Photo by Kenny Boyce)

For this reason, I often tell people that when it comes to art, I have skin in the game.

I hope that in my 31 years of artistic reporting, I never lost the feeling of having an interest in the people I wrote about, be they a big movie star. or a marginal artist for the first time.

It’s our culture, after all. We should all feel that we have an interest.


Randall King cannot completely give up writing about the arts and will continue to do so for Free Press as a freelance writer.

[email protected]

Twitter: @FreepKing

King Randall


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