The Animosity Tour and Other Promotional Movie Campaigns We Love

In the 1999 rom-com “Notting Hill,” the sheepish bookseller played by Hugh Grant goes to a hotel expecting a date with the megawatt star played by Julia Roberts. He is surprised to find he has arrived at a press junket and looks adorably flustered as he’s shuffled from room to room, pretending to be a reporter from Horse & Hound to interview the stars of her space movie.

The sequence is a handy introduction to this strange custom of film publicity: actors sitting in sterile suites for a parade of brief interviews. But these days that almost seems quaint. The press tour has taken on a life of its own, with stars like Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya making news for the tour itself with quippy sound bites, inscrutable looks and fashion moments.

It can be grueling for celebrities. Lupita Nyong’o recently described junkets as a “torture technique” in an interview with Glamour. But these cycles can be more entertaining than the movies themselves. Grant’s bookseller would be baffled to learn that you can categorize the tours as follows:

The promotion stops for nothing, not even cast members who appear to hate being in one another’s company. This seemed to be the case during the cycle for “Atlas,” Netflix’s new sci-fi flick starring Jennifer Lopez and Sterling K. Brown.

During joint interviews, Brown seemed unable to help himself from making fun of Lopez. In one viral moment, he feigned surprise when she said she was Puerto Rican, before repeating her comfort meal of “rice and beans and like, you know, chicken” in overemphasized Spanish.

In another moment, he jumped in and helped her out when her own Spanish failed her. After supplying the right word, he did a little dance. That clip prompted social-media users to wonder what J. Lo did to Brown. During these interactions Lopez looked perturbed, leaving plenty of room for observers to jump to conclusions.

But their joint appearances cannot hold a candle to the grandmother of animosity tours, the great “Don’t Worry Darling” debacle of 2022. Olivia Wilde directed the retro drama, which featured Florence Pugh, and what went unsaid was almost more tantalizing than what was: After rumors of bad blood between the star and the director, Pugh didn’t show up for the Venice Film Festival news conference but was spotted strolling around Venice in a purple get-up while Wilde fielded tough questions.

Some actors consider publicity an annoying obligation; Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney embrace it. One way to sell a movie? Sex. Or at least the illusion thereof. So the two leaned into dating rumors when promoting their recent rom-com, “Anyone but You,” with some hard-core flirting.

“The two things that you have to sell a rom-com are fun and chemistry. Sydney and I have a ton of fun together, and we have a ton of effortless chemistry,” he told The New York Times. “That’s people wanting what’s on the screen off the screen, and sometimes you just have to lean into it a bit — and it worked wonderfully. Sydney is very smart.”

The flirting method works especially well when the film or show has a romantic element. Fans of the Netflix series “Bridgerton” have been going wild for the chemistry between Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton as they promote the newest season. Coughlan has called Newton a “lovely friend,” but the speculation can’t hurt viewership.

Then again, actors can play mortal enemies and still put out exquisitely flirtatious vibes. Case in point: Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy on HBO’s “House of the Dragon.” During one of their interactions, D’Arcy described their favorite drink as a “negroni, sbagliato, with prosecco in it” and Cooke responded, “Oo, stunnin’” — a moment that went so viral in 2022 that now fans are eager for whatever publicity pushes the new season may bring.

One group making the most out of lengthy press tours: stylists. Over the past year in particular, creative partnerships between stars and their fashion teams have yielded red carpet looks that are not only beautiful, but also on theme, sometimes even aggressively so.

Margot Robbie was especially committed to recreating the “Barbie” aesthetic offscreen. At every stop, she emerged in a designer look that made references to a classic Barbie outfit. She trotted out an Hervé Léger dress resembling the original doll’s striped bathing suit and a Versace ensemble that echoed the kitschy 1985 Day to Night Barbie. The looks were such a hit that Robbie and her stylist Andrew Mukamal put out a Rizzoli book documenting them.

Still, perhaps no one does the fashion tour better than Zendaya and her stylist Law Roach. This year, they’ve already given us two very different approaches in quick succession for “Dune: Part Two,” when she wore futuristic looks that echoed the vibes of that sci-fi hit, and “Challengers,” when she remixed tennis wear in support of that romantic triangle.

In an interview with Vogue, Roach called their strategy “method dressing.” The crowning achievement was an archival Thierry Mugler robot suit that had mouths agape at the London “Dune” premiere. And the Loewe gown with the silhouette of a tennis player mid-serve for “Challengers” was also pretty excellent.

Sometimes a performer is aware that the movie is a stinker, and yet the press tour is required anyway. That seemed to be the case when Dakota Johnson hit the road for “Madame Web” this year. Did she really hate the movie? Was she just joking around? Or was it somewhere in between?

Whatever Johnson’s true intentions were, audiences were glued to the ways in which she seemed to dispassionately discuss the film, telling Seth Meyers with a hint of sarcasm in her voice, “You don’t have to know anything at all to watch this movie.” She also called the experience of acting against a blue screen with fake explosions “absolutely psychotic.” And it was hard not to read more into her declaration that Hollywood is “bleak” when it comes to her own projects given that she was supposed to be shilling for a studio blockbuster based on a third-rate Spider-Man villain.

When Lady Gaga was promoting “A Star Is Born” in 2018, she repeated one line over and over again. At various stops, Gaga would praise her director and co-star, Bradley Cooper, by saying: “There can be a hundred people in the room and 99 don’t believe in you.” When you’re doing so many interviews, it is natural to repeat yourself, but Gaga was so intent on this refrain that it almost became endearing.

The same went for Josh O’Connor’s insistence on bringing up his love for the 2007 Pixar film “Ratatouille” while on the road for “Challengers” and the Italian film “La Chimera.” The film app Letterboxd has a series asking celebrities to name their four favorite movies and the last four they watched, on red carpets and at junkets. O’Connor listed “Ratatouille” in both categories. The movie he may have been primarily promoting was Luca Guadagnino’s sexy tennis drama, but his adoration of the movie about the chef rat was positively wholesome.

Check Also

The True Story Behind Glen Powell’s Character in ‘Hit Man’

Do real hit men exist? Yes, but not in the way Hollywood would have you …