Author Topic: White Stripes Video - The Denial Twist  (Read 7511 times)

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modage

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« Reply #15 on: November 09, 2005, 11:03:57 PM »
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Acting in a White Stripes/Michel Gondry Video
Source: Village Voice


No shit, that's Status Ain't Hood with the White Stripes and Michel Gondry

I'm going to keep this relatively short because I'm wicked tired, but I'm only now writing this at 2:30 a.m. because I spent fourteen hours today acting in a White Stripes video. The video is for "The Denial Twist"; it was directed by Michel Gondry, and I'm one of seven people who act in the video. The other six are: Conan O'Brien, Jack White, Meg White, and three dwarves.

Last month, I moderated a roundtable discussion for Devil in the Woods with four of the seven directors whose work has been compiled in the Directors' Label series, a DVD series that collects the work of music video directors. Gondry directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, probably my favorite movie of last year other than Before Sunrise, and his videos (Bjork's "Hyperballad," Daft Punk's "Around the World") are some instant-joy-producing shit. A few weeks after the roundtable, someone in Gondry's camp called me to ask if I wanted to be in a video. Gondry liked me, I guess, but he mostly wanted to use me because I'm crazy tall (6 ft 11 in). Gondry had this idea of recreating the White Stripes' performances on Conan O'Brien's show in 2003, except hyperstylized with stretched-out and scrunched-up sets and special effects. Gondry told me today that the idea for the video, which he'd already had, solidified when I met him. If that's true, I'm honored, since this video is going to be badass.

The video is all about perspective, putting Jack and Meg in these situations where they'll look weird and disproportunate, huge or tiny depending on where they are. The whole video is one long camera shot, so all the sets were built in a circle in one big room on a Greenpoint soundstage. The one-shot thing was really impressive, but it meant that everyone had to get their timing down exactly or the whole thing would fall apart.

When I told my brother Jim about the video shoot, he said that I should ask if they need any more tall guys (he's about 6 ft 6 in). I did, and they ended up casting him. He took a couple of days off his special-ed teachers' aide job in Baltimore and took the Chinatown bus up. When we showed up this morning drenched from the rain, they told us that I'd be playing tall Conan and he'd be playing the tall version of the hulking, weirdly subsurvient black bodyguard that the band had when they played on the show. To play tall Conan, I had a huge flat hard cardboard photo of Conan's head strapped to my head (without eyeholes), and the video's crew made me even taller by taping huge wooden blocks to my shoes. I was supposed to talk to the band and then walk them off the stage without ever looking away from the camera. This seems easy enough, but it basically meant that I had to walk forward while looking backward with a flat piece of cardboard covering my eyes and bigass ungainly clodhopper joints on my feet. This turned out to not be something I could not do. Eventually, Gondry decided to have Conan play himself and have me play the bodyguard (a role that required way less movement), and my brother got axed from the video. Sorry, Jim.

Tomorrow, I'll write about the funny shit Conan said and my awkward conversations with the dwarves (I didn't actually call them dwarves to their faces) and the Kanye video Gondry did last week and the greater role that this video and Gondry's other videos play in the world. Right now, I need to sleep.


Acting in a White Stripes/Michel Gondry Video, Part 2
Source: Village Voice


The White Stripes, Conan O'Brien, and a squished up red Saturn. Gangsta.

In my last post, I told the basic story: how I ended up in Michel Gondry's video for the White Stripes' "The Denial Twist," how the video will look, the basics. Today, it's the fun stuff: what I thought of the whole enterprise and everyone involved.

Conan O'Brien: Conan is exactly who you'd hope he would be off-camera, which is to say that he's pretty much exactly the same way he is on-camera. He's quick and funny and self-deprecating and charming. He kept dropping one-liners all day. Seeing me dressed like him, lumbering around 25-pound platform boots: "That's actually how I walk." Finding out I was writing about all this stuff for the Voice website: "Leave my racist rants out of there." If you need to clomp around for hours under ridiculously hot film lights, it's a lot easier when someone that funny is nearby. He came to the set late, after everyone had rehearsed the whole video a few times, and he was rocking the rarely-seen tough-Conan look (leather jacket, striped T-shirt), which was weird. It was vaguely reassuring when the makeup and wardrobe people made him look like his televised self, putting that enormous swoop back in his hair and slapping a suit on him. Everyone on the set seemed to be star-struck, including the actual stars. When Jack White walked up to him to talk about stuff, he didn't seem to be comparing notes; he seemed to be seeking approval. Conan still looks about 23 on TV, but he's 42, and you can sort of tell in person; his face has all these little microscopic lines that you can only see up close.

Jack White: I was vaguely hoping that he'd be as weird and introverted as he seems, but no, he's pretty normal and sort of dorky. He was always excited, always running around the set and asking Gondry questions and eagerly watching the playbacks of the takes. I didn't hear him talk about old blues records or furniture or the evils of technology once. Jack's pencil-thin Vincent Price mustache is either mostly or entirely painted on, so he doesn't look all that freaky when he doesn't have makeup on (though he did end up looking like a Scandinavian metal dude in the cell-phone pictures that my brother took with him). He's also totally diesel; it's not so surprising that he was able to beat down that dude from the Von Bondies so hard.

Meg White: She's absolutely gorgeous, easily the prettiest girl on a set absolutely overrun with pretty hipster girls. When she got there, she told the band's assistant, a New Zealander dude in a ridiculously sharp black-on-black suit, that she didn't want to bother with hair or makeup before the shoot. She ended up putting getting makeup done, but she really didn't need it; she showed up to the grimy Greenpoint soundstage looking like she stepped out of a magazine. She didn't hang out much when we weren't shooting; the quiet-and-withdrawn thing isn't just image. But she's very pleasant and polite when you actually talk to her, and she seemed happy to bum me a cigarette. Both she and Jack totally keep the White Stripes dress code going even when they're not onstage on on film, which is fun to see.

Michel Gondry: I'd met Gondry a couple of times before, and I like him a lot. He's a funny schoolboyish French guy who seems tiny even though he's probably close to 6 ft. tall. He'd shot the video for Kanye West's "Heard Em Say" last week, and I asked him about it. Apparently, it takes place in Macy's, where they filmed for two nights, and it involves little kids and magic; it was hard to tell what he was saying through his accent. When he's directing, he doesn't actually do that much directing; he leaves that to Tim, his assistant director, a barrel-chested, bearded American dude who basically ran the show and yelled at the crew when they fucked up and basically acted as Gondry's badass consigliere. It was funny to watch; Gondry would mumble, "Um, maybe zese people should walk over zhere," and Tim would yell, "OK, you people, walk over there!" By the end of the night, most of the crew was about ready to kill Tim, and nobody had anything bad to say about Gondry. I really liked Tim.

I'm not an actor (at all), and I spent most of the day feeling vaguely like I was intruding on something. Everyone on the set seemed to be some sort of professional; the only people who didn't so much seem to belong were my brother and me. Even the dwarves who played small Conan and small paparazzi guys were professional actors with agents and everything. It also quickly became apparent that my brother and me were the only people who weren't being paid to be there, and it felt sort of shitty to figure that out. The production person I'd talked to the day before had told me that the shoot was low-budget and that they couldn't afford to pay me, which was pretty much bullshit; I absolutely could have demanded money, since there were probably 100 actors and technicians and wardrobe people and lighting guys and prop-department people who were being paid to be there. Even if it was relatively low-budget for a big-name video, someone was laying out a lot of money. I did, however, walk away with maybe $500 worth of Conanesque clothes, and they're supposed to buy me a pair of shoes to replace the ones that they modified, so that's something.

And all the people who were getting paid seemed to be really, really good at their jobs. Since the video is one continuous camera shot, I could watch the whole thing in playbacks immediately, only without the stretching-and-compressing effects they're putting in later, and I was amazed at how slick and fluid the cameraman made everything look. The art-department guys, many of whom had been there since three the previous afternoon, had built this crazy-huge set in less than a day. The set itself was intentionally stylized and cheesy; most of the props looked like they were made out of paper mache, and my tall-Conan costume consisted of a suit, some platform shoes, and a giant flat cardboard Conan mask. But a whole lot of effort went into making these manifestly fake effects look as not-fake as possible, and that's why I had to keep the mask facing the camera even though I couldn't see a fucking thing when I was walking across the stage. The platformed-up shoes I was wearing added about five inches to my height, which made me an absolutely ridiculous 7 ft. 4 in., and I came dangerously close to snapping my leg in half about ten times.

When we weren't rehearsing or shooting, they kept my brother and me in a holding room with the little people, which led to some awkward conversations, mostly about difficulties finding clothes and whether I could find a casting agent who needed really tall people. Two of the guys were sort of cheesed-out mid-thirties Long Island dudes; one had thought that it was a Bon Jovi video and excitedly told all his friends. But the little Conan was a totally nice dude, a sincere younger guy trying to make a living as a stand-up comic without telling too many jokes about being a little person. He'd just graduated, gone to school for business, but he wanted to do comedy and only did the acting stuff to pay the bills. (His biggest payday yet was in a Cingular commercial where they dressed him up like a breakdancer and made him say, "Yo, pops, video phone.") I kept meaning to ask him if he'd ever met Bushwick Bill, but I forgot.

I felt a little bit weird with the part I ended up playing in the video: the big, subsurvient black security guard who went on the Conan show with the White Stripes in 2003. Last year, I saw Amy Phillips give a presentation at the EMP Pop Conference about the White Stripes' complicated relationship with race, and this guy's role made up most of her material. A year and a half later, I was playing this guy. Any time a white guy portrays a black guy, it feels problematic. I was wearing a mask, not blackface or anything, but they put an afro wig on me to cover up my blonde hair. The wig made me uncomfortable in both senses of the word; the curly hair kept getting stuck in my glasses.

Most of the fun in being in the video was just sitting around and listening to people talking to each other, like when I think I may have heard Michel tell Conan that his show used to be better (not sure about that one). I can't believe I got to do this shit; someone totally let me in the back door. I've been in one video before, Cex's video for "Kill Me." That video was done totally on the fly, including some completely illegal shooting in the steam tunnels under Johns Hopkins University. This one was done on a brightly-lit soundstage with catered meals and an on-site physical therapist. But the two experiences were oddly similar; the excitement and glamor of the experience fades after about seven hours of doing the exact same shit over and over again, getting tired and surly and losing faith that this thing will ever get done, that I'll ever see my bed again. But it's over now, and I can feel happy that I contributed to something amazing. Michel Gondry doesn't make bad videos; everything he does is completely infused with this joyous sense of naive wonder that I totally love. I love that there's this whole system in place, all these hundreds of people on call, bands and companies willing to put up what must be hundreds of thousands of dollars, just to make it happen whenever this guy has another idea. I'm way too close to the whole thing to even make any hopeless move toward objectivity, of course, but I think that "The Denial Twist" will be one of his best videos, and I helped make it.
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

Pubrick

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Re: White Stripes Video - The Denial Twist
« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2006, 02:46:35 AM »
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Pfffft...Meg takes her foot out of the telly, yet the giant foot stays on the piano. Schoolboy error.

Pffft.. trying to seem knowledgeable by finding continuity flaws in a ludicrously complicated single-shot gondry video. Schoolboy error.
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polkablues

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Re: White Stripes Video - The Denial Twist
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2006, 02:17:09 AM »
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Pfffft...Meg takes her foot out of the telly, yet the giant foot stays on the piano. Schoolboy error.



Excellent video, though.

Quote from: Pubrick before he edited it
Jesus Christ.

That said all that needed to be said.
Now you're in the *spoiler* place.

Reinhold

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Re: White Stripes Video - The Denial Twist
« Reply #18 on: February 21, 2006, 11:12:43 AM »
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Pfffft...Meg takes her foot out of the telly, yet the giant foot stays on the piano. Schoolboy error.

Pffft.. trying to seem knowledgeable by finding continuity flaws in a ludicrously complicated single-shot gondry video. Schoolboy error.

i noticed that when i saw this in the gym (MTV U is all they ever play). my feeling is that it's in there because gondry wanted it in there, even if i don't get it. the man never misses details, and he certainly knows his way around a computer well enough to fix a "schoolboy error" like this if he wants to.

only seen this video once, but loved it.
Obviously what you are doing right now is called (in my upcoming book of psychology at least) validation. I think it's a normal thing to do. People will reply, say anything, and then you're gonna do what you were subconsciently thinking of doing all along.

Pubrick

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Re: White Stripes Video - The Denial Twist
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2006, 09:06:15 AM »
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only seen this video once, but loved it.
i'm assuming it was garam's first time too. cos i've seen this at least 30 times now and it turns out you and garam's "observation" is not even in the freaking video.

meg takes her foot out of the tv at the exact moment the giant foot disappears, it's perfectly synchronized. there is however a slight (as in 10 frames) delay between her putting her foot INTO the tv and the giant foot appearing on it. but since neither of you have pointed this out, it must not be noticeable. hence this pointless line of criticism can come to end.
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The Perineum Falcon

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Re: White Stripes Video - The Denial Twist
« Reply #20 on: February 22, 2006, 09:30:38 AM »
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only seen this video once, but loved it.
i'm assuming it was garam's first time too. cos i've seen this at least 30 times now and it turns out you and garam's "observation" is not even in the freaking video.

meg takes her foot out of the tv at the exact moment the giant foot disappears, it's perfectly synchronized. there is however a slight (as in 10 frames) delay between her putting her foot INTO the tv and the giant foot appearing on it. but since neither of you have pointed this out, it must not be noticeable. hence this pointless line of criticism can come to end.
I've only seen the video a few times, and love it as much as you, but I think they're referring to the apperance of said foot in the beginning of the video, when it is not lifted away, from what I can remember.
We often went to the cinema, the screen would light up and we would tremble, but also, increasingly often, Madeleine and I were disappointed. The images had dated, they jittered, and Marilyn Monroe had gotten terribly old. We were sad, this wasn't the film we had dreamed of, this wasn't the total film that we all carried around inside us, this film that we would have wanted to make, or, more secretly, no doubt, that we would have wanted to live.

Pubrick

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Re: White Stripes Video - The Denial Twist
« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2006, 09:37:11 AM »
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I've only seen the video a few times, and love it as much as you, but I think they're referring to the apperance of said foot in the beginning of the video, when it is not lifted away, from what I can remember.

oh, in that case, yeah it's intentional. and it makes sense cos the video is a screw, not a loop.
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MacGuffin

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Re: White Stripes Videos
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2007, 03:21:46 PM »
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Let's Get Visual
Director Michel Gondry talks to EW about his past music-video work with White Stripes Jack and Meg, and their next collaboration -- for a song he inspired -- off the band's upcoming ''Icky Thump''

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry got his start making videos, and his work with the White Stripes has been exemplary. Now he holds the honor of (most likely) being the first person ever to inspire a song on a massive summer rock album: Gondry sent the band a video treatment that became ''I'm Slowly Turning Into You,'' a song off the Stripes' upcoming album, Icky Thump (out June 19). Going all the way back to 2002's first ''block''-headed clip for ''Fell In Love With A Girl,'' we talk to the insanely creative Frenchman about his Striped past.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So you've done four videos with the White Stripes, and your upcoming fifth has inspired a song on Icky Thump. It's for ''I'm Slowly Turning Into You?''
MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah, it's interesting. At the time we did the videos for ''Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground'' and ''Hardest Button to Button,'' my girlfriend was the stylist. She helped me with the videos. And she was a little — not frustrated, but a little disappointed that she couldn't really style the band, because they come with their own clothes. She said she was not doing the cool stuff. And I said to myself, Okay, I'm gonna find a way to shoot a video for them that makes her have to dress them. So I got this idea to do human morphing between Meg and Jack by using intermediate people. The first person would be exactly like Meg. And the next person would be 10 percent like Jack and 90 percent like Meg. Then the tenth person would be 50 percent like Jack and 50 percent like Meg, and then at the end they look much more like Jack, and then we end up with Jack. So you would see Meg turning into Jack. So then Meg has to wear white pants and Jack wears red pants, which is often the case — but in the middle, the pants have to be pink. She would have to make all those tones, and it would give her a much more important job. So I was having this idea to make my girlfriend happy.

That's nice of you.
In the meantime, she left me.

Oh no!
And I gave the idea to Jack, and that gave him the idea to write the song.

That turned out to be a very sad story.
[Laughs] Yes, despite everything I could do for my girlfriend, she still left me.

I think this is the first time where something like this has happened — an artist as high-profile as Jack White has written a song based on a video treatment.
Yes, it's very flattering.

Let's go backwards from there. Before ''I'm Slowly Turning Into You,'' you made ''The Hardest Button to Button.'' That one got reproduced on The Simpsons.
Yeah, it's interesting — it seems that it belongs to ''culture'' now. That's quite flattering. I get a little frustrated 'cause I'm not asked [permission to use the concept], but on the other hand, I'm happy that it was reproduced this way.

Where did the idea come from?
Sometimes I use my ignorance of the English language. Until lately, I didn't understand the meaning of the song, and I was thinking about buttons on the amplifier. In French we say ''buttons'' for ''dials.'' And I was imagining all these amplifiers for some reason. The White Stripes are one of the only bands I like to feature playing their instruments, because it's so artistic the way they use them to articulate the rock. Rock music is completely obsolete for me now — it has no meaning as a rebellion. The meaning has completely vanished because it's an establishment. So people who make something new out of it impress me, and I think the White Stripes are one of the few who do this. They take the concept of rock 'n' roll and make it something avant-garde.

The red and black and white — I like the idea that they're out there with this concept they started 10 years ago, and they stick to it. It's very charming, and it's genuine. So they're the only people I don't mind to see performing. And since performance has been done many times, I try to find different ways to show it. And so this one — it's like each hit on the drum is engraved into space and time. So the time follows the beat, and the drum remains where it was at the time it was played. I guess that's how I get the concept. But it was funny, because we had to find 32 Ludwig drum kits.

Did you really? You didn't just move one each time?
No, there is no special effect. We had 32 amplifiers and 32 drum kits. Which was the fun part of the video. It would be really uninteresting to do it in post-production.

I think everyone assumed it was special effects. I had no idea.
No, we had a crew of people moving the drums and the amplifier and the microphone. Basically, we'd construct a row of the 32 drum kits, and we'd shoot the part of the song that attached to the segment, first with the [drum kit] line completed. Then we'd peel off the last layer of drums, and Meg would move backwards one kit, and as they were removing the drum kits, they were building up the next setup, 200 yards away. So we'd finish with this one, and the next would be ready to shoot on.

What did you do with the drums when you were finished?
We couldn't sell them, so we gave them to music schools.

Now, ''Denial Twist.'' That started with a Conan O'Brien doll?
They played one week two years ago on the Conan show, and the last day I had made this sculpture for them to give to Conan as a gift. Then we basically reenacted this event in the video. The idea was to make half of the stage compressed and half of the stage stretched, and in post-production we compensated the proportion to make the stage and the drum and instruments the right proportion. So the people — the White Stripes and Conan — would be stretched or compressed in an environment that seems unaffected.

Was that in some way inspired by the fact that they didn't have a good time [on the show]?
I think they had a good time — did they tell you they didn't have a good time?

No, but it's a very creepy, uncomfortable world you created, and they seem like they're sort of fleeing from things throughout that video.
I think shooting the video was the uncomfortable part for them. Because it was very technical. And I think there is this tension between them that I like to play with. That's what makes their concept so great. Lots of bands play for the audience only, but they seem to play for themselves, which creates very strong tension, and I was maybe playing with that a little. And I think part of the reason I got the idea of the video is that I remember watching Public Enemy playing on Conan's stage. And you see these guys, they are huge and they're going to kill you, and Conan comes on stage when they finish playing — and he dwarfs them, because he's so tall! He's a giant! So when he comes next to the performer, he always makes you understand the stage is not so big, and he's the big one in the story.

''Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground'' is one of your more realistic videos with them.
Yes. The idea was, like, time and space stuff, I guess. Where in the same space, you see the cause revealed as you're revealing the effect. You see people projected on the wall illustrating ruining the house. So if somebody jumps on the table or sprays paint on the wall, the image will affect the same space in exactly the same position. Once again I was playing with the relationship, or the tension, where he comes back and she has ruined the house and left. But it's weird, because when it was time to [go to] bed, they were very careful that people would not get the wrong idea.

Right, because they're brother and sister.
Yes. Of course.

And then I think you have to be credited for breaking the band out with ''Fell In Love with a Girl,'' because I think that LEGO video had a lot to do with it.
It's a good coincidence. When you look at my career, the two big moments were meeting with Bjφrk, and meeting with the White Stripes. I think doing this job, you just need to get lucky to get involved with people who are going in the right direction, because I'm very influence-able. I'm sensitive to the people I work with, so I get a lot of their imprint. I got them at the same stage, when they were really breaking to a large audience, and they already had all their creativity and their energy, but they were really fresh for the audience. So with this video, I guess at some point they gave me a title of being sort of the third band member. Or maybe they said it to flatter me to get me to do another video for them or something. But I feel very much part of the band, and it was very nice to be part of that. And I think as much as I probably helped them, they helped me as well. Because I got attached to this sort of phenomenon they were creating.

So did you film them playing first and then reconstruct it with LEGOs?
We filmed them on video with a small crew, just me with a camera and maybe a makeup artist, and then we edited it. Then we printed it on paper, and my father did a little programming to pixelize the LEGO blocks, but we actually had to build all the bricks. I know the band still believes we did half of it on computer — but no. We really shot every LEGO block on16mm. We had to build everything. And it took forever. There were absolutely no digital effects involved.

Have you been able to touch a LEGO since then?
I have a very good relationship with LEGO blocks.

Oh good.
It was interesting, because LEGO the company refused to endorse the video or help us. We had to pay for every single box we used, because they thought the music of the White Stripes was not matching their image. And then [later] they asked the White Stripes to support their brand, but it was too late. The White Stripes were not into doing that anymore.

Giant corporations are frequently very stupid.
Yeah. But I have to say, I'm still pro-LEGO. I think it's helped my creativity and my son's creativity a great deal. I think it's a good thing.
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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Pubrick

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Re: White Stripes Videos
« Reply #23 on: May 18, 2007, 09:10:22 PM »
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Quote from: EW
Was that in some way inspired by the fact that they didn't have a good time [on the show]?
I think they had a good time — did they tell you they didn't have a good time?

No

then how exactly is it a "fact"??

Quote from: EW
Giant corporations are frequently very stupid.

so are fucking idiot reporters.
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