We’ve all said things that we regret. Some of our past mistakes, big or small, still haunt us when we close our eyes at night. But celebrities live in a different world than us. Their mistakes are often recorded and remembered by the public. For them, past mistakes can be especially difficult to live down.
For the most part, celebrities give pretty boring interviews. They often regurgitate the same canned answers or offer carefully crafted responses to familiar questions. But sometimes they slip up and say or do a little more than we’re used to. These momentary lapses in judgement may not impact the celebrity right away. Sometimes, the interviews are forgotten or overlooked and lay dormant only to come back and bite the celebrity later on.
For the celebrities on this list, interviews have not always been kind. Some highlighted lies or hypocrisies, some forever changed the public perception, and some even got the attention of the law or crime lords. Here are the interviews that have come back to haunt these celebs.
William H. Macy gives advice about lying
It didn’t take long for William H. Macy’s interview with Men’s Journal to come back to bite him. In the Q&A, Macy was asked to reveal the best advice he ever received, to which he responded, « Never lie. It’s the cheapest way to go. Lies cost you a lot, and they’re never worth what they cost. »
About a month later in March 2019, the college admissions scandal rocked newsstands. The scheme, which saw parents pay large sums of money to facilitate the acceptance of their children into the colleges of their choice, touched several celebrities, including Macy and his wife, Felicity Huffman, who was arrested for her part. According to E! News, Huffman was charged with « conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. »
As per E! News, Huffman « made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 to participate in the scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter. » Interestingly enough, Macy, in his Men’s Journal interview, named his wife as the person he admires most. He also noted that « A little bit of vanity is fine — as long as you’re willing to play the fool and look like an idiot every once in a while. » Hope that jester hat still fits.
Becoming Hanoi Jane
Jane Fonda has had a long and illustrious acting career. She’s won two Academy Awards and acted in some of Hollywood’s most memorable films. Yet, to some, she’s still remembered as « Hanoi Jane, » the actress who seemingly rallied against the US troops in her anti-war demonstrations.
In 1972, Fonda visited North Vietnam (shown above) to publicly condemn the Vietnam war. According to Time, « Fonda appeared on 10 radio programs to speak out against the U.S. military’s policy in Vietnam and beg pilots to cease bombing non-military targets. » On her last day in Hanoi, surrounded by photographers and journalists, Fonda was photographed sitting atop an anti-aircraft gun. For this, she was labeled « a traitor, » criticized, and protested against. The image looked bad, and Fonda knew it.
« I am just so sorry that I was thoughtless enough to sit down on that gun at that time, » she said to Variety. « The message that sends to the guys that were there and their families, it’s horrible for me to think about that. » On her website, Fonda wrote about the incident more in-depth. « It is possible that it was a set up, that the Vietnamese had it all planned, » she wrote. « I will never know. But if they did I can’t blame them. The buck stops here. If I was used, I allowed it to happen. It was my mistake and I have paid and continue to pay a heavy price for it. »
Mark Ruffalo spoils Infinity War
Over the years, Mark Ruffalo has proven himself to be a bit of a spoiler aficionado. He’s revealed more than he should on a few occasions, but the worst of all his spoiler reveals was actually a sleeper. It took time and hindsight to actually see how much the actor revealed.
While chatting with Good Morning America during the Disney D23 expo, Ruffalo got to talking about Avengers: Infinity War. Looking like he wanted to reveal more than he should, Don Cheadle advised against it. Ruffalo than carefully considered his words and said, « Like every other Marvel movie, it doesn’t end well for the superheroes. » Test passed, at least temporarily.
Ruffalo then added, « Wait till you see this next one. Ha-everybody dies. » Now, to some skeptics, the whole thing looked like a gag. Ruffalo appeared too eager to make news by giving away juicy information, and Cheadle’s scolding and Ruffalo’s puppy dog act made it seem too put-on to be real. IndieWire — noting that « Disney owns both Marvel and GMA‘s parent company, ABC » — even suggested that some fans believed the gaffe « was fake because Marvel would never allow GMA to post the video if it were true. »
But when Infinity War finally came out, fans realized just how close Ruffalo came to saying the word « half » and just how close he was to turning a potentially staged spoiler into a monumental and very real spoiler.
Sean Penn’s pen gets him in trouble
On January 8, 2016, authorities apprehended Joaquin « El Chapo » Guzman, the infamous Mexican drug lord, after months on the run. Having escaped maximum security prison twice and long-eluding authorities, El Chapo, according to CNN, became « a symbol of the Mexican government’s ineptitude and corruption. » The next morning, authorities revealed the details of their extensive operation that led to the arrest.
The morning after that, Rolling Stone published the interview between Sean Penn and El Chapo from 2015. The optics were awful. While Mexican authorities struggled to recapture the notorious criminal, the guy from Mystic River got a face-to-face. The interview’s timing was perfect for publicity, but it created an unwelcome backlash for Penn. Speaking with CBS News, the actor criticized Mexican authorities. « There is this myth about the visit that we made, » he said, « that it was — as the Attorney General of Mexico is quoted — ‘essential’ to his capture. » The truth, Penn claims, is that he had no contact with any authorities.
While the actor suggested at the time that he did not consider himself in danger, his tune changed slightly when the Netflix documentary series, The Day I Met El Chapo, was set to release in 2017. According to The New York Times, Penn’s lawyers appealed to Netflix to drop the series, which allegedly pushed the same finger-pointing agenda. The lawyers reportedly put Netflix « on notice that blood will be on their hands if this film causes bodily harm. »
Hating on Katherine Heigl
When Katherine Heigl sat down to discuss Knocked Up, one of the biggest films of 2007 and Heigl’s first big film, she decided to challenge the gender dynamics portrayed in it. « It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys, » she said to Vanity Fair. « It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a b***h; why is she being such a killjoy? Why is this how you’re portraying women? »
In the immediate aftermath, she stood by her comments. « It was my opinion and I’m allowed to have one, » she told The Guardian regarding the public backlash. « Isn’t it the land of the free? » Years later, however, as a guest on The Howard Stern Show, Heigl tried to put a different spin on her comments, suggesting that she was actually criticizing her own choices and not those of Judd Apatow, the film’s writer and director.
But it was too late. The negative response to her remarks had already made its mark. « I had never done therapy before, until a couple of years ago. I started going because of the scrutiny, » she told Stern. « I was not handling it well. I was feeling completely like the biggest piece of sh*t on the bottom of your shoe. »
Loughlin laughs at the wrong jokes
They say that there’s a « grain of truth » hidden in every joke. While that may be true, it’s not often that we get to see this played out on video, especially not with celebrities and almost never regarding a major scandal. But that’s exactly what we got with Lori Loughlin. In December 2017, Loughlin joined her daughter, Olivia Jade, on her YouTube channel. The video saw the actress guessing the meaning of some of the current slang terms used by kids. It was anything by noteworthy. But then the news broke of the college admissions scandal.
According to court documents that E! News obtained, « [Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli] agreed to a pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew—thereby facilitating their admission to USC. »
Afterward, viewers with keen-ears and memories recalled a joke that Loughlin made in the YouTube Q&A session. When Olivia Jade brought up the phrase « England is my city, » a line from Nick Crompton’s guest verse on Jake Paul’s « It’s Everyday Bro, » Loughlin quipped, « If you would have said ‘England is my city,’ I would say, ‘Why did I pay all this money for your education?' »
Who is Jesse Eisenberg?
Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t do a lot of interviews and, when he does, he doesn’t allow for much of himself to be uncovered. Speaking with Business Insider in 2016 he was asked for his feelings about doing press. « Ten percent of it is a real joy in being able to be the kind of, let’s say, public face of a thing you feel proud of, » he said. « Ninety percent of it is concern that I’m going to misspeak, because I have in the past, and that seems to be the overriding narrative regardless of the intention or relevance. »
That concern has precedence. In 2013, Eisenberg’s interview with Romina Puga went viral for all the wrong reasons. What, to some, appeared to be sarcastic and harmless banter felt much different to the interviewer. Puga later posted a behind-the-scenes account of the interview to her blog, writing that « Jesse Eisenberg isn’t very nice. »
While Eisenberg’s sarcastic mocking and teasing of Puga may be categorized as flirting, some people felt it was out of line, including the subject of his verbal barbs. But was it so awful that he be branded a jerk? Not for Eisenberg. He feels that people simply miscast his intentions. « A lot of it is just mean, » he said of the controversy drummed up by the interview. « I remember the interview … but it was just, like, funny. »
Kanye West talks slavery
You just knew that Kanye West was going to take some major heat for his comments during his sit down with TMZ. The famed rapper and producer entered some seriously controversial territory when he appeared to suggest that African Americans were somehow complicit in their own fate during the slave era.
« When you hear about slavery for 400 years: For 400 years, that sounds like choice, » he said. The backlash was sharp and immediate. Many fans, celebrities, and even West’s friends criticized the star. Later, while visiting a Chicago radio station, West pointed to his « mental health situation » as one of the many factors that led to his strange outburst. He also apologized for not considering the impact his words would have on people.
« I don’t know if I properly apologized for how that slave comment made people feel, » he said. « So I want to take this moment right now to say that I’m sorry for hurting, I’m sorry for the one-two effect of the MAGA hat into the slave comment, and I’m sorry for people who felt let down by that moment. »
Tom Cruise’s loses it on Oprah
It would be a foolish errand to try and discredit Tom Cruise’s phenomenal acting career. He’s been a box office magnet for more than 30 years and is one of the most familiar faces in the world. He’s also been a bit of an oddball for nearly 15 year, as of this writing. According to The Village Voice, it was in 2005 that everything changed for Cruise’s public image, perhaps unsurprisingly the same year that YouTube was launched and not long after celebrity gossip truly took off online.
In was in that year that Cruise infamously jumped on Oprah’s couch. After the maniacal interview, Cruise began what Wired called « his ‘Weird Tom’ era. » The actor went on to publicly criticize psychiatry and Brooke Shields on the Today Show, and then his new wife, Katie Holmes, conducted a W Magazine interview that read as she were possessed or under hypnosis.
The whole thing was weird, and the people knew it. Yet, while public response wasn’t felt in the box office for Cruise, their perception of him was forever changed. According to VH1, « Never again would he be dreamboat Tom Cruise, universally beloved celebrity. He has been since and will remain the overly intense guy who either must be hiding something or has lost the ability to act like a regular person. »
The ghost of John Wayne
It seems that every few years, John Wayne’s 1971 interview with Playboy magazine (via US Weekly) resurfaces and blows people away. In that meeting, the actor shared some of his views on African Americans, Native Americans, and homosexuality in Hollywood. When the interview made its rounds on Twitter in 2019, however, it motivated people to take action.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the actor’s former comments should be grounds, or at least the motivation, for changing the name of the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. In speaking to CNN, Wayne’s son, Ethan Wayne, said, « Obviously, we don’t want our father attacked, and we don’t want him besmirched by someone who’s taking, you know, words from an interview that’s eight hours long and using them out of context. »
Somewhat out of context and from a different time, sure. But those words, as per US Weekly, are ugly. « I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility, » Wayne said. « I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgement to irresponsible people. » When asked about Native American land, Wayne said, « There were great numbers of people who needed new land and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves. » Wayne also said that Midnight Cowboy, « a story about two f**s, » qualified as « perverted. »
John Mayer: From racism to exile
It’s hard to read John Mayer’s March 2010 Playboy interview without cringing. The talk went in-depth into Mayer’s love life in which he shared details that he probably should have more carefully thought through or just omitted altogether. He over-shared about intimate moments with well-known celebrities. He called his manhood « sort of like a white supremacist, » and he dropped the n-word as if to prove he had a « hood pass. »
As noted by Billboard, the interview « sparked controversy » among fans and other celebrities. The Guardian highlighted some of the stars who called Mayer out for his words, from Talib Kweli to Ice T. The aftermath forced Mayer into an exile of sorts. According to his 2012 interview on The Ellen Show, « It was a violent crash into being an adult, so for a couple of years, it was just figuring it all out. » He also said the « dumb interviews … woke [him] up. » Five years after that, Mayer spoke with the The New York Times about getting « a second chance, » knowing that the public still hasn’t forgiven him for his harsh words.
Interviewing with Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s legacy was challenged and scarred several times throughout his life (and after his death). According to Rolling Stone, the first big scandal broke in the early 90s after allegations of sexual misconduct with a young boy, Jordan Chandler, surfaced. The case was settled out of court.
But then Jackson participated in an interview with Martin Bashir in 2003. The result was the film, Living with Michael Jackson. In the lengthy interview, Jackson admits to sharing his bed with children and is seen holding hands with Gavin Arvizo. According to iNews, after the interview aired, Arvizo accused Jackson of molesting him and a new investigation was opened.
To combat the unflattering portrayal, Jackson released a video statement (via The Guardian). « Martin Bashir persuaded me to trust him that his would be an honest and fair portrayal of my life, and told me he was ‘the man that turned [Princess] Diana’s life around,' » Jackson said. « Today I feel more betrayed than perhaps ever before – that someone, who had got to know my children, my staff and me, whom I let into my heart and told the truth, could then sacrifice the trust I placed in him and produce this terrible and unfair programme. Everyone who knows me will know the truth, which is that my children come first in my life and that I would never harm any child. »