Often little more than a rote exercise for celebrities on tightly-managed publicity tours, interviews can be the endless talking heads that make people think all documentaries are snooze-fests or filler material on any number of late-night variety shows. But sometimes, magically, an interview can go so unexpectedly, wonderfully wrong (or right, as the case may be) that it transcends interview and becomes a kind of documentary all its own, the normally half-asleep camera operators struggling to catch what's unfolding before their lenses. Here are a few such interviews, at least two of which have since become legend.
Werner Herzog takes a bullet
Whether you think he's a genius or a madman, you can't deny that German auteur filmmaker Werner Herzog is a fascinating guy. (He made Grizzly Man, this year's Oscar-nommed doc Encounters at the End of the World, and the strangely affecting film Strozcek, which you can watch a random clip of here.) During this now-legendary interview, Herzog is shot by what appears to be an airgun-wielding sniper while standing atop a hill near downtown LA. Later, when he pulls up his shirt to reveal a bleeding wound to the documentary crew, he tells his concerned interviewer that it was "an insignificant bullet," and insists they continue with the interview. Simply amazing.
Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P.
For the heavy metal documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: the Metal Years, rocker Chris Holmes is interviewed while floating in his pool while extremely (nay, profoundly) intoxicated. During the interview he drinks from three different bottles of vodka (one of which he pours over his head), describes his life and career as "a piece of crap," all while his mother sits placidly a few feet away, poolside. When asked what she thinks about his lifestyle, Chris' mom smiles and says "I try not to think about it." Incredibly sad, revealing and sporting a few NSFW swear words, this is surely the most memorable rock interview I've ever seen. Only a piece of it is available on YouTube -- and sorry about the crappy quality:
Ali talks about how he might be functionally illiterate but he's a genius too. Watch the interviewer completely cede control of the interview to Ali, and just watch in amazement.
Lots of people know Tracy Morgan from his crazy character on 30 Rock ("Tracy Jordan"), but did you know that he's, well, actually like that? Watch this interview go from train wreck to genius as Tracy removes his shirt and reduces the interviewer to giggly tears.
Dog the Bounty Hunter
This isn't an interview per se, but hearing Dog talk about how he went from a convict in jail to TV star is pretty darn interesting. A guy that could have found success, perhaps, only in America.