Controversial Cultural Icons Interviewing Each Other


The gamine-coiffed creator of Girls, Lena Dunham, is currently on the cover of Interview magazine. Creative comrade Miranda July conducted the chat with the Tiny Furniture director. Both artists have carved their own path in the industry and made careers out of being keen observers, illuminating the unspoken intricacies of the everyday. Each has also faced their share of controversy — arousing criticisms over sex, nepotism, racial insensitivity, and body image, to name a few. We wanted to explore what happens when two cultural icons sit down to interview each other — and we’ve shared the Dunham/July talk past the break. Do these pioneering, celebrity culture makers ask the tough questions? Can they relate to one another, or do they lock horns? Check out the interviews between several controversial cultural icons that we tracked down, and find out.

Morrissey and Joni Mitchell

Morrissey has never been shy about expressing his dislike for everything from meat and Madonna, to Natalie Merchant and the Royal family. However, when he interviewed legendary singer songwriter, Joni Mitchell, in 1997 he showed a softer side for his idol. Mitchell has aroused her own share of controversy. She had a public feud with Bob Dylan several years back, and in 1977 during the release of her album, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, she appeared on the cover dressed in blackface as her alter ego, Art Nouveau. The two got right down to business when Morrissey opened the interview deriding critics and audiences for calling Mitchell a female songwriter. “It implies limitations,” Mitchell remarked. “I never really liked lines, class lines, you know, like social structure lines since childhood, and there were a lot of them that they tried to teach me as a child,” she told him. Website Dangerous Minds published the full audio interview, which you can listen to above. View the transcript over here.

Miranda July and Lena Dunham

“How did you feel about her vagina?” Lena Dunham asked actress, writer, and filmmaker, Miranda July, during their phone call for the February issue of Interview magazine. “Terrific. I felt terrific about it,” July answered. No topic was off limits, and the creative, idiosyncratic connections between the two artists hum as they trade observations about work, family, and women. “You guys are what we need,” July tells her. “I really do feel that way. The way that you have tilted a lot of people’s worlds is only positive — even if it feels kind of disruptive. It’s not always a totally easy thing for everyone to adjust to a new face of power, even if it’s the thing they want the most.”

Gwyneth Paltrow and Jay-Z

A year before she stuck her foot in her mouth on Twitter when referring to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Paris performance of their song, “Ni**as in Paris,” Gwyneth Paltrow sat down with Hova for an interview promoting his lifestyle website, He interviewed her as well, and everyone lived happily ever after. “Do you feel that as a cultural figure of importance it is part of your responsibility to share what inspires you?” she asked him. “I think it’s every human’s job to inspire others, to feed one another’s senses. Inspiration begets inspiration times infinity. Imagine if the person that was inspired to create the phonograph didn’t share it with the world,” he expressed. At other points in the conversation, we learned that Jay-Z was surprised when he found out Gwynnie could recite the lyrics to “It Takes Two” and N.W.A’s “F*ck Tha Police.” In case the chat hadn’t nauseated everyone by that point, Paltrow topped herself when she asked Jay, “You are the coolest man on Earth, how the f did you get like that?” He saved the interview when he answered, “I’m around great women, starting with my mom.”

Tyler the Creator and Waka Flocka Flame

Before Odd Future sh*t-starter Tyler, the Creator braced himself for questions from crunker Waka Flocka Flame, he gushed about the Atlanta artist’s track, “Keep It Real.” “That’s, like, in my top 10 songs ever. That’s my shit,” Tyler told him. The polarizing artists talked about the meaning behind Odd Future’s controversial lyrics and image. “It’s, like, no subliminal messages or secret meanings or anything. I just personally think the sh*t would look really cool, so I did it,” Tyler told him. “People are just so quick to judge sh*t ’cause they don’t understand it. But I understand what I’m doing, and that’s all that should matter.” When Flocka asked him if the group was trying to change the direction of hip hop, Tyler was clear. “I’m not trying to change the direction of anything. I’m just doing what I wanna do, saying what I wanna say, and if the sh*t happens to change, then that’s cool. But I just like making the music I like making.” They were answers that Flocka might have given had they traded places.

Howard Stern and Brett Ratner

Oscar drama queen and insult slinger Brett Ratner has probably offended everyone in the universe — if not by calling people “f*gs” and humiliating actresses, then simply by making his movies. The curly-haired king of controversy, Howard Stern, interviewed the filmmaker for his show, and the banter is as cringe-worthy as expected. The men talk about HPV, compare testicle sizes, and rag on Lindsay Lohan. If you’ve ever thought that Howard was a jerkface, Ratner proved with this interview that he reigns supreme on planet D-bag. As you can imagine, the above excerpt is NSFW.

James Franco and Marina Abramović

The artist who co-directed and co-starred in an upcoming film that reimagines the lost, controversial footage from William Friedkin’s Cruising, interviewed the artist that stirred controversy over her human centerpieces at a MOCA gala dinner. James Franco and Marina Abramović peeled almonds, ate gold, and talked about exerting control over the body. “I always do things I don’t like, because things you don’t like, the things you’re afraid of, the things that are unknown, that’s the really interesting stuff,” she told him.

Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell

Supermodel pals Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell recently posed topless for Interview (the German and Russian editions) and traded stories about the pressures of stardom — which probably explains the assault Campbell inflicted upon her housekeeper and Kate’s coke scandal in 2005.

Chris Rock and Prince

Chris Rock has always been a huge Prince fan, and he finally got to interview his idol in the late 1990s. Apart from discussing why the singer turned down an opportunity to star in the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” Rock asked him: “How do I get around censorship?” Prince talked about his own way of dealing with creative suppression in the song “Let’s Go Crazy” and supported Rock’s normally foul-mouthed comedic routines. “As far as your work is concerned, I’ve seen you and Richard Pryor, and I don’t think censorship should be inflicted upon you or him. I think it’s that you’re being honest in what it is that you’re portraying… I appreciate the honesty.”

Danny Boyle and Darren Aronofsky

Trainspotting director Danny Boyle and Requiem for a Dream filmmaker Darren Aronofsky sat down to talk about making movies and their unique directorial styles. At the time, Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire was circulating in theaters, and Aronofsky had debuted The Wrestler — both contenders for awards season. They found common ground when discussing the process of creating films that required precision and control, and both admitted they followed up those projects with a film that offered more freedom (Aronofsky didn’t even want a director’s chair on the set of The Wrestler and refused to use video playback during filming, for example). Their commonalities aren’t too surprising since these are guys who made movies about gross manifestations of addiction, and spiritual and artistic deprivation. Follow the YouTube links for parts two through seven.

John Waters and Little Richard

John Waters conducted a 1987 interview with one of his favorite musicians, Little Richard. The song “Lucille” made Waters feel “as if a Martian had landed,” and he described it as a magical moment in his childhood when “an uninvited, screaming, flamboyant black man was in the living room.” When Waters later became a journalist, Playboy magazine sent him to talk to Richard. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, and Waters feared he’d end up in a fistfight with his icon. The full story is best relayed by Waters himself. He ends the entertaining tale about the feisty musician with a life lesson: “Not all role models turn out the way you want.”