The world sometimes has trouble discerning the difference between "public figure" and "best friend," especially when it comes to celebrities. They're in the public eye — but we don't necessarily have the right to know everything about their personal lives. Trouble is, their private lives are riddled with the details we most want to know. The result is that celebrities — the private ones — have to perform a pretty elaborate dance to evade questions that are, frankly, none of our business.
Unless you're Jake Gyllenhaal, that is. In a recent interview with The Guardian, the actor said plainly, "I would love to not talk about my personal life." The statement was in response to a journalist's prying question about Gyllenhaal's late relationship with Taylor Swift. (The relationship, which occurred in late 2010, was rumored at best.)
"For someone so intensely private, wasn’t it playing with fire a little to start dating [Taylor Swift]?" writer Tim Jonze wondered in the piece.
Gyllenhaal began, "I think when you’re in a relationship, you are constantly scrutinized, your friends are scrutinized, but"— he trailed off, and then politely requested a change of topic.
In this situation, his reticence seems warranted. Ostensibly, the interview was to promote his upcoming film Life, which will debut on Memorial Day. Why should he have to discuss a fling that is long gone? (Like, seven years long gone.)
But it didn't stop there. Jonze insisted that the question wasn't personal, and Gyllenhaal insisted that it was. The result: a journalist-interviewee stand-off, which is awkward for everyone involved.
Jonze wrote, "We end up engaging in a bizarre stand-off where anything I say is met same response, repeated through a cold smile: 'I would love to talk about the movie.'”
Of course, this type of interaction happens in many celebrity interviews. Journalists have a job, and that is to glean details. Actors have a job, and that is to promote their films. Oftentimes, these two tasks are at odds, and awkwardness ensues. What's unique about this piece is just that Jonze actually included the collar-pulling moment in the text.
Most seem to be on the side of Gyllenhaal. One Twitter user wrote, "I don't blame [Jake Gyllenhaal] for getting annoyed, really." He blames Jonze, though, for an inadequate question, adding, "I can't imagine ever sitting down for an interview with someone like Gyllenhaal and asking them a question like that."
But it happens. In a lot of celebrity profiles, the subject is more than willing to gab about their previous or current relationships. Some celebrities, like Kim Kardashian, for example, have parceled their personal lives into a healthy career. Others, like Emma Watson, are pretty loud about keeping quiet on that stuff. Watson recently told Vanity Fair, "I've noticed, in Hollywood, who you're dating gets tied up into your film promotion and becomes part of the performance and the circus. I would hate anyone that I were with to feel like they were in any way part of a show or an act." This is another way of saying, "I would love to not talk about my personal life."
It's a shame that these celebrities have to defend themselves in this way — in a perfect world, Watson wouldn't have to explain herself at all. Unfortunately, there's no Emily Post for celebrity profiles, and the best that anyone can do in this situation is to communicate and be polite. (Gyllenhaal, in our opinion, could take a few notes from Watson.)