Ninety-three!? I had no idea James Lipton was a nonagenarian. Time flies when you are hosting one of the finest interview shows in the history of interview shows, doesn’t it?

James Lipton died March 2, 2020 and with his passing goes a tradition of in-depth (bordering on wonderfully nosy!) actor interviews, including the often disconcerting and always entertaining Bernard Pivot questionnaire and Lipton’s appealing starstruck admiration for all actors everywhere. Inside the Actors Studio was a bird’s eye view of the world of acting and its players. We never learned so much about the art and craft of bringing characters to life on stage and screen as we did when entranced by Mr. Lipton and his guests. Variety has a lovely homage to Mr. Lipton, which outlines his achievements and contributions in detail. We forget the academic origin of his interview series and this article provides some insight into how it all began.

Among the hundreds of interviews over which James Lipton presided is one with Gabriel Byrne, which aired March 4, 2001. I have never been able to locate the complete interview in English without subtitles, but here is one with Spanish subtitles and it is just fine. Thanks to Byrneholic Verónica for finding it for us! star

Every Lipton interview I’ve ever seen has been a joy. He lavishes his guests with praise and adoration, and then he asks a question that makes their eyebrows shoot up and their eyes widen in dismay that often borders on horror. There was method to his madness and he fished for and landed some great responses from actors on their technique, their experiences, and their accomplishments, as well as ruminations from them on more ephemeral ideas, such as inspiration and discipline. He also got most of them to divulge some of the wacky things that people do on set and off. I always learned something I did not know by the end and often I had a new respect for that particular guest, whoever it happened to be.

The Bernard Pivot Questionnaire

  • What is your favorite word?
  • What is your least favorite word?
  • What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
  • What turns you off?
  • What is your favorite curse word?
  • What sound or noise do you love?
  • What sound or noise do you hate?
  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  • What profession would you not like to do?
  • If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Inside the Actor’s Studio with Gabriel Byrne

Inside the Actors Studio Collage by Aragarna

James Lipton was a master. His mischievous grin and gentle style disguised a true and unwavering love for actors, acting, and the arts. We will always remember him. heart

One Comment

  1. I watched Inside the Actor’s Studio religiously on Sunday afternoons in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. It was my guilty pleasure while preparing dinner. I have fond memories of Mr. Lipton’s tact and sometimes impish charm. I think Gabriel Byrne’s interview was one of the most engaging and surprising, as most of us knew his roles, but this interview delved into the man’s background, unveiling his intelligence, wit and charm.

    Thank you for posting the full interview Stella. I had not seen it in many years.

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