Vanity Fair bug sex interview with Isabella Rossellini goes horribly wrong


Despite this Vanity Fair interviewer's trollish proddings, bug sex actress Isabella Rossellini cannot be goaded into recommending bestiality.


    1. Pardon my illiteracy, but I can’t find any expansion of “CWAA” that makes a lick of sense to me. Help, please?

  1. it’s rare to read an interview where the subject so intelligently and articulately shuts down the interviewer. It wasn’t passive-aggressive, or bitchy; as the interview goes on, you can almost see the smile fade from her face, and the lightbulb go off when she realizes, hey, this guy is a total dick and i’m not going to engage him anymore. love.

    1. Well said. And she seems quite knowledgeable about animal behavior. Eric Spitznagel wonders “how it all went wrong.” He’s an oafish boor.

  2. She’s great, and I love the videos. Is he being an “oafish boor”? Maybe, but I’ll admit that I laughed out loud many times reading the interview.

  3. I’m still not sure exactly how it went wrong.

    Oh I can tell you that Eric, you acted like a writer for a university paper who thinks every idea that pops into his college freshman head is hilaaaaaaarious and conversations with people like you are so tedious I’d rather have a root canal.

    Seriously, this is Vanity Fair? It’s been a while since I’ve read that magazine, didn’t they used to be pretty good? This is crap I’d expect to see in a free rag like Improper Bostonian

  4. In France, Isabella’s short movies series was broadcasted for a couple of months on the cultural channel arté, as a interlude program, due to popular demand, after a successfull special evening that included all the shorts plus a documentary.

    You could see any episode at any time of the day.
    Nobody was shocked, kids and parents found it educational and fun, especially the one about snails and how they pooped on their own head.

    A large part of the documentary was already about the gasping reaction of anger from bigotted US viewers in festivals, so not only Vanity Fair journalists are a bunch of uptight trolls, but more than that they deliver cold news.

  5. Did Vanity Fair borrow a GQ journalist? Right from the beginning I could tell he was shooting for the Frat Boy demographic. Quite a step down for them.

  6. What Unmutual said.

    The hack had his list of hilaaaaaarious questions and was going to stick to them no matter where the interview went (which in this case was straight into the crapper). Isabella was brilliant in her calm, sensible and intelligent slap-down of the hack’s “gonzo” script.

    The preening interviewer who has convinced himself that he is more interesting than his subject is an old type, one that Mark Twain nailed in his still-relevant essay, “Concerning the Interview” (newly published this year):

    “All the time, at every new change of question, you are alert to detect what it is the interviewer is driving at now, and circumvent him. Especially if you catch him trying to trick you into saying humorous things.”

  7. I know professional journalism isn’t what it used to be, but Is Vanity Fair letting interns do the interviews now or something?

  8. Is it more awkward when your partner is one-dimensional?

    You mean “two-dimensional”. One-dimensionality exists only in theory as a mathematical value.

    Name that quote.

  9. “Rossellini explains more than you really want to know about the mating rituals of deer, seahorses, spiders,”

    This is the point at which you know you are definitely not reading something written by a professional journalist. The lady made it very clear early on that her films merely explain animal reproductive habits, and that to try and find an intersection between how the animals are doing it and how humans are doing it is a pointless exercise.

    I hadn’t heard of this series of films, but they sound utterly fascinating. And now I’m going to seek them out. For purely, academic porpoises, er purposes of course.

  10. Am I the only one who thought most of the interviewer’s questions were in good humor, and that the actress was overly defensive?

    1. Jaunty,

      Whether you or I find the questions funny is irrelevant. If the point is to talk about a really cool project, and have the chance to really learn from a fascinating person with a different outlook and life experience, then the interview went badly. If we want prank phone calls so we can hear someone set up in an “interview,” then it was high-larious…but, we can get that from AM radio.

      From the story: “I’m sure that as an American, I’m probably not a good judge of healthy sexuality. We’re very nervous and repressed about sex in this country.”

      And stupid. And with interviews like this, I expect more of the same in the future.

      1. Well that’s one of the nice things about being a U.S. citizen. For the most part we’re viewed in prett much the same manner as the 400# middle linebacker in high-school. We’re dangerous and not terribly bright, so nobody expects too much from us and mostly they try to stay on our good side.

    2. Honestly, I don’t see how any of his questions were rude, shocking, or disrespectful, given that the whole point of the Seduce Me series is to highlight the humorous incongruity of imagining a human in the context of animal sexual behaviors. They’re precisely the sort of questions Jon Stewart might have asked her on the Daily Show.

    3. Nope, not the only one. I cannot personally understand why she couldn’t take the joke. The whole series is supposed to be fun! She appeared really defensive to me over something that I’ve always thought she had a sense of humor about.

  11. Judging by the other interviews he’s done, the point of the “Awkward Questions” is not to make the subjects look bad, but to provoke them into saying something interesting. Check out his interviews with the Jackass guys or David Cross.

    1. Provoking someone into saying something “interesting” is not that creative or unique; internet trolls have polished it into a fine art. Spitznagel came off as a boor and a fool through no one’s fault but his own.

  12. Howard Stern is a jerk for sending a stutterer to toss a few silly questions at a Hollywood red carpet. The thing is, a smart well-spoken actor can easily laugh it off and get the upper hand. Only a few people get caught up and show themselves to be a foolish. This is something totally different. This is a respected magazine trying to ape the funny guerrilla tactics of people more innovative them. I feel sorry for Isabella Rossellini, this interview was overlong and insufferable. Reading it you can feel her gracious smile struggle to maintain it’s tension. Howard Stern knows silly questions are like a punk song. This interview seemed tone-deaf.

  13. I think part of it is Rossellini keeps insisting that her project is intended to be “funny”, which I guess to the reporter was a green light to push for as many penis or beastiality jokes as possible. “Light-hearted” or “whimsical” may have been what she meant, but it’s admittingly weird for someone to say something along the lines of “my project is on sex, and it’s funny, but no sex jokes, please.”

    You can argue that this is because Americans are prudes and have perverse ideas on sex, but he made that point during the interview too, and it sure as heck didn’t help.

  14. The real failure of Eric Spitznagel, the Vanity Fair writer, is assuming that he’s more interesting than Isabella Rossellini. His second failure is being unoriginal: A number of people in the media (even Jon Stewart, as I recall) have already pointed out how the bug series suggests she wasn’t the lone non-weirdo on the set of *Blue Velvet*. (Which isn’t even precisely true, in any case, David Lynch was a Boy Scout and a fan of Reagan at the time, and by the time the movie shot, Dennis Hopper had gone through rehab and was voting Republican. BUT I DIGRESS.)

    1. The real failure of Eric Spitznagel, the Vanity Fair writer, is assuming that he’s more interesting than Isabella Rossellini.

      Isn’t that called the Charlie Rose Effect?

  15. The series, as a few others have noted, is called Awkward Questions. If you read some of Spitznagel’s interviews for VF you’ll find a panoply of subjects like Jason Schwartzman, Martha Plimpton, Ice Cube, David Cross, Sheryl Crow, Jason Sudeikis, Mary Louise-Parker, Merle Haggard and Buzz Fucking Aldrin for god’s sake all got into the spirit of things, which is to generate dialogue you don’t find in most interviews. If Rosselini’s publicist had done a smidge of homework, she or he would have discovered what the series entails and Rosselini could have passed. It’s perhaps a wee foolish for someone so experienced and talented to create a humorous web-based series based on animal sex then act mortally wounded when a writer asks humorous questions about animal sex.

    1. If by “generate dialogue you don’t find in most interviews” you mean responses to tasteless questions…. He is not asking her questions about her work, he is asking her if she got off rubbing up against paper insect penises. Did she keep the paper penises? C’mon. That’s like asking an actor what it’s like to kiss Julia Roberts in a film, over and over again. And then asking if they were really naked in the love scene. You have to admit its 7th grade humor and not awkward for the interviewee, just embarrassing for the interviewer.

      1. If an actor works w/ paper insect penises, she or he will get asked about paper insect penises. When you read the interviews w/ Buzz Aldrin and w/ Merle Haggard, who are legends, you’ll find some very funny and moving responses, as you will from the other interviewees I mentioned. As I said, this is a failing on the part of Rosselini’s publicist. Spitznagel doesn’t have cause for embarrassment.

  16. Spitznagel tried too hard to be all jokey and tongue-in-cheek, and it backfired on him. I don’t know enough about him to say if he’s consistently an emotionally stunted jackass, but I think it’s safe to chalk this interview up as a series of artless fumbles from a tragically talentless interviewer.

    But maybe I’m missing the boat, here. Maybe that’s the point; to irritate successful and famous people for the edification of the never-was demographic.

    Whatever the point, I don’t plan on reading Vanity Fair in the future. I saw some of the “Seduce Me” episodes Rossellini made and she’s right; they’re funny. I liked them. Meanwhile, Spitznagel and company are just more of the same boring, mindless American infotainment crap.

  17. I have a hard time getting excited over searching out other interviews he’s done. How hard was it really to connect with Isabella and get her to say some interesting things about her work? As others have said, he went in with a lame-assed idea his penis question (basically the same question over and over) was funny and was too self-enraptured to realize he could have saved the interview by switching gears.

    Here’s how he really messed up: Her bug work was already funny and self-effacing. When someone puts oneself out there like that and brings oneself into the joke, it’s not funny to make fun of the work as if the person doesn’t realize it’s for humor. It’s stupid. It’s like asking Roseanne Barr what it’s like to be fat. That’s her punchline. This is where the frat-boy mentality comes in. He’s lucky he’s so obtuse otherwise he’s go into a tailspin of depression over how stupid he looks.

  18. I really didn’t think the questions were that bad. Sure, he’s asking about paper penises, but that’s part of what she does. It’s as if she didn’t expect any questions about sex after a project that’s all about sex.

    She shuts him off, saying

    If you want to say I’m a slut, go ahead. I don’t care. … I find it far-fetched that you’re trying to imply in any way that I am dirty and that’s why I make these films.

    Where did he imply this? How can it be inferred from anything he said? She started hearing what she thought she was hearing.

    I really like Isabella Rossellini (I have to, I’m Italian), but at a certain point she stopped actually hearing what the interviewer was asking and started making things up.

  19. I have to agree, I think the questions were just generally light and humorous, and Isabella (whom I also adore) just took it the wrong way.

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