Famous Actors & Actresses Answer Revealing Questions on Inside the Actors Studio: A Compilation

Overt­ly or covert­ly, inter­view pro­grams all have tra­di­tions. James Lip­ton, host of Inside the Actors Stu­dio for the past eigh­teen years, has cham­pi­oned per­haps the most overt inter­view-pro­gram tra­di­tion of all: the Piv­ot Ques­tion­naire. Orig­i­nal­ly wield­ed by anoth­er host, Bernard Piv­ot of the French lit­er­ary talk show Apos­tro­phes, the renowned Ques­tion­naire demands of the inter­vie­wee ten sim­ple pieces of infor­ma­tion: their favorite word, their turn-on, their turn-off, the sound they love, the sound they hate, their favorite curse word, the pro­fes­sion oth­er than their own they would like to attempt, the pro­fes­sion they would­n’t like to attempt, and what they’d like to hear God say when they arrive at the pearly gates. You can watch com­pi­la­tions of Lip­ton’s Piv­ot Ques­tion­naire seg­ments on YouTube, includ­ing the one above with Hugh Lau­rie, Ralph Feinnes, and Rus­sell Crowe. Their turn-ons, respec­tive­ly: eye con­tact, Shake­speare, a well-con­struct­ed sen­tence. Their turn-offs: finan­cial advice, envi­ron­men­tal des­e­cra­tion, false accu­sa­tion.

Or have a look at this one, which bears sim­i­lar­ly pithy insights into the inner lives of Daniel Rad­cliffe, Angeli­na Jolie, and Will Smith. Rad­cliffe would like to try his hand at jour­nal­ism; Jolie, explo­ration; Smith, sci­ence. Though Lip­ton cred­its the Piv­ot Ques­tion­naire to Piv­ot on air every time, its ori­gins lay fur­ther back in time. Piv­ot devel­oped his ques­tion­naire in response to Mar­cel Proust’s, a list of prompts meant to reveal the recip­i­en­t’s per­son­al­i­ty, includ­ing “Your favorite qual­i­ties in a woman,” “Your favorite qual­i­ties in a man,” “Your idea of hap­pi­ness,” and “Your idea of mis­ery” — per­son­al­i­ty-reveal­ing ques­tion­naires being very much the rage in fin de siè­cle Europe. While the tra­di­tion thrives to this day in Lip­ton’s for­mal­ly strict prac­tice, part of me would enjoy the reac­tions to see him re-intro­duce a Prous­t­ian prompt like “The mil­i­tary event I admire the most.”

Four Inside the Actors Stu­dio Piv­ot Ques­tion­naire com­pi­la­tions on YouTube: Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., John­ny Depp; Robin Williams and Antho­ny Hop­kins; Hugh Lau­rie, Ralph Feinnes, Rus­sell Crowe; Daniel Rad­cliffe, Ange­line Jolie, Will Smith

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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