LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The doyenne of celebrity interviewers, Barbara Walters, says she is quitting her Oscars television special because these days film stars are everywhere and celebrities have become famous for “doing nothing.”
The 80-year-old TV journalist and talk show host, who years ago was criticized for pioneering celebrity stories alongside harder news, is hosting her final Oscars special after 29 years for the March 7 Academy Awards.
Sunday’s edition of “The Barbara Walters Special” will feature the veteran journalist interviewing Oscar nominees Sandra Bullock and Mo‘Nique, as well as a roundup of the 93 interviews she conducted for the program over three decades.
Highlights include a 1987 interview with Bette Davis two years before the screen heroine’s death; Oprah Winfrey telling Walters she felt she was born for greatness, and last year’s show when Hugh Jackman gave her a lap dance.
“After you have done a lap dance with Hugh Jackman it is time to leave,” she said laughing.
More seriously, Walters told Reuters it was becoming ever harder to be original in the special because coverage of movie stars had also increased. She said classic stars like Bette Davis are rare in today’s world saturated by celebrities.
“I felt like I had been there, done that, that I had interviewed the greatest stars and that wasn’t so special anymore,” she said. “Now there are so many entertainment programs and the stars are on almost everything.”
Since her first Oscars special in 1981, Walters said it has become more difficult to find new questions for a star “when they have already done 20 programs,” and people become famous after appearing in just one or two movies or on reality TV and don’t have much to talk about.
“It’s not movie stars that are celebrities any more. Now, it’s also everybody who has a reality show. You are a celebrity overnight, you are a celebrity for doing nothing, you are a celebrity for shopping,” she said.
“Too often the celebrity is a celebrity because he or she just came out of rehab, otherwise they are not interesting. I didn’t want to do that.”
Walters, who became the first female U.S. network news anchor more than 30 years ago, said while stars and celebrities have changed, she accepted it was just part of the times.
“I don’t think it was better in the past, it is just the way it is now,” she said, adding later she did not feel responsible for any increased focus on celebrities.
“I wish I had that kind of power,” she joked. “What I did do was meet and get to know the stars as they really were, in depth.”
editing by Bob Tourtellotte