The big secret of celebrity isn’t that some famous people are meaner than the rest of us—although pampering does spoil you—it’s that they are more likely to be unhappy. Maybe it’s because insecurity and hurt fueled their drive to get famous, and when they get up the hill, they realize it hasn’t solved any of their problems and the only way to go from that point is down. Then again, if they have pursued acting or directing purely for the love of it, rather than the desire to get famous, celebrity is generally as wonderful as you’d imagine it would be, with some occasional nuisances, like the paparazzi and annoying fans. Singer-actor Ruben Blades once told me, “Power doesn’t corrupt—it reveals,” and that’s what I’ve seen my whole life. Many people take the opportunity that success provides to crack up or die with greater velocity than those of us who have never been profiled by People. No matter how hard you try, some people just won’t allow you to help them.
The biggest irony of my life is that I am against the idea that artists should have to do publicity. If we lived in a world in which people could discover movies without publicity, I think it would be a better world. The thing I love about movies in particular and art in general is that they contain things that are ineffable, and journalists want to ruin it by demanding that everything be explained, down to the tiniest detail. When asked by someone I trusted, I always advised them to treat the interview as a performance in which many words are spoken but nothing is ever given away. I’m not suggesting “talking points,” because that is a very tedious way to get through a publicity junket. No, you have to be actively open and alive to the process of holding onto the mystery: That is the most essential thing an artist can ever possess, infinitely more precious than fame.
Postscript: You may have noticed that I haven’t explained why I never thanked Goldie Hawn for all she did for me. The reason is that I’ve never spoken to her, and have only seen her on Laugh-In and in her movies. Still, let me offer this article as a token of my heartfelt gratitude.