Not to boast or anything, but Angelina Jolie put her arm around my waist once.
The short version of the story is that I saw her in a shop, asked if I could take a photo with her, told her she was great in ‘Gia’ (still one of the greatest performances by anyone in anything as far as I’m concerned), took the photo, and that was it.
Except that wasn’t quite it, because that short exchange taught me more about fame than I could have imagined.
You see, as I was summoning up the courage to speak to her, it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t just about to ask Angelina Jolie for a photo, I was about to have my opinion of her set in stone probably for the rest of my life.
That might sound dramatic, but it’s not. Think about it, what if, say, there’s a particular singer that you like. No, love. You’ve got all their songs, feel like their music is speaking to you, I dunno, maybe you’ve got a tattoo of their face on you somewhere. Ok, now what if you met them and they were rude? What if their behaviour in those few minutes wasn’t what you expected it to be? It would change your opinion of them, and not just going forward either. It’d make you wonder whether they were, at heart, a horrible person and were ever any good at all.
And notice that this is all one-sided by the way. It doesn’t matter how nice a celebrity may be to someone, if that person feels they’ve been slighted, then they’ll spend the rest of their lives mentioning it whenever the person’s name comes up. In short, it’s pretty subjective.
I’m obviously not talking about a famous person spitting in someone’s face or kicking their kid or anything by the way, I’m just talking about a short interaction that maybe wasn’t as earth-shattering as you thought it’d be.
And another odd thing I noticed about my own reaction was, after we took the picture and exchanged a few words, she went right back to browsing the products in the store. To me, that was weird, because surely that’s not what movie stars do. I was expecting something different. Don’t ask me what, because I still don’t know, but it was as if I was waiting for her to do something movie star-y. I was expecting something exceptional from her, a performance of some kind.
And that’s when I realised that, as a famous person, you’re pretty much always going to be both the highlight of someone’s week and at the same time a bit of a disappointment.
Let’s look at, say, Robert De Niro. I’ve watched some of his films over thirty times each, if not more. You could put Taxi Driver on right now, mute the TV, and I’d pretty much be able to recite the film by memory. Same with Heat, The Godfather 2, Casino, Goodfellas, Raging Bull – I could go on but you get the point.
So what if I met him? How could he possibly live up to that back-catalogue? I’d be expecting Travis Bickle or Neil McCauley or Vito Corleone, anything less would be a real disappointment. But, and here’s the rub, even Robert De Niro isn’t Vito Corleone. Nobody is. Expecting a person standing in front of you to somehow be the same as they appear in an edited, polished performance – complete with special effects, dramatic soundtrack and the perfect script no less – is always going to be disappointing.
And so it goes with celebrity.
Not that there’s no merit to meeting the people you admire – I’m still trotting out my Angelina Jolie story all these years later – but it’s good to be mindful that it’s likely the person you meet won’t be the larger-than-life figure you were expecting.
And that nobody really can be.
And, just to reiterate because it’s important this is clear, Angelina Jolie put her arm around my waist and let me put mine around hers.
So, you know, ha.