Arty Types

Charley Coutts: celebrity interviewer

From Nick Cage to De Niro

This article is taken from the August/September 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

The best time to see Charley’s flat — a sparsely-furnished affair in Camden Town — is during the second week of December when a rash of greetings cards suddenly breaks out across its mantelpiece.

Certainly, guests who do not know their host well are often taken aback by the range of high-profile salutations on display. Here, for example, are Bono’s best wishes “for a very joyful Christmas” and Sting’s hope that “we can meet up for a chat sometime in the New Year”, not to mention a card signed by half-a-dozen members of the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

How does Charley do it?

How does Charley do it? In fact, her connection to the world of international celebrity began nearly 20 years ago when, working in some minor capacity on a West London film set, she found herself drinking a cup of coffee with Nicolas Cage. Mr Cage proved unexpectedly forthcoming about both his domestic life and his extended stay in the UK. That evening Charley went back to her bedsitter in Romford, wrote up a more or less accurate account of their conversation and sent it to the London Evening Standard, on whose showbiz page, three days later, it appeared under the heading “Cage Gives Us the Lowdown: Why Naughty Nick Loves London.”

Unexpectedly, this gamble worked. Even before Charley’s previous employers
invoked the confidentiality clause in her contract, the Standard sent her off to interview a member of a boy band arraigned by the RSPCA for supposedly maltreating his pet dachshund. This, too, went down well (“My Dog Walk of Shame, by Toplad’s Jason”).

Charley assured herself that she had arrived

There were other assignments: to take afternoon tea at Fortnum’s with a minor member of the Royal Family and to accompany Sporty Spice to the gym. At 28, blonde, petite and with a newly-acquired taste for expensive leather jackets, Charley assured herself that she had arrived.

But where exactly? Two decades later Charley is entitled to feel that she is at the
very top of her profession. Her commissions come from American glossies and high-end consumer magazines and are executed not in London coffee shops, but in Manhattan hotel suites and on private beaches in the Mediterranean.

Tom Cruise, Cate Blanchett and Ben Affleck have each submitted themselves to her somewhat routine questioning. Done it gratefully too, for, as nearly everyone
concedes, Charley — at once deferent, artless and genuinely concerned — is just the kind of interlocutor a film star with a failed third marriage to defend to a disapproving public wants to have on his side.

On the other hand, there are disadvantages to being a celebrity interviewer. Among them are hectic schedules, an endlessly disrupted social life and a faint awareness that one is never quite being treated as an equal. And yet, as Charley occasionally reminds herself, how many people have a Christmas card wishing them “all the best for the festive season from Bobby D”, which can only have come from Robert de Niro. It could all have been a great deal worse.

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