Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • - Is this one of those Myers-Briggs things?

  • At the end of it I'm gonna be like an INJP

  • or something like that?

  • Who gets this information?

  • Does it come with a cheek scraping?

  • What happens next?

  • [pensive instrumental music]

  • - [Interviewer] Stephen, you're about to take

  • "Vanity Fair's" Proust questionnaire.

  • You'll be asked 35 questions in rapid succession,

  • the goal being to reveal your true nature.

  • You'll have five seconds to answer each question

  • before we move on.

  • Once we've completed all 35 questions,

  • you'll have a chance to reflect on

  • and you can correct your answers.

  • Sound good?

  • - I'm nervous.

  • I don't wanna be revealed.

  • I don't want my true nature revealed.

  • I'm a performer.

  • I work very hard to hide my true nature

  • so people will like me.

  • Go ahead.

  • [pensive instrumental music]

  • - [Interviewer] All right, question one.

  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?

  • - Ooh, being confident of every decision.

  • - [Interviewer] What is your greatest fear?

  • - Driving my boat into a wooden piling

  • that for some reason I did not see

  • as I was going down a creek at high speed.

  • - [Interviewer] What is the trait

  • you most deplore in yourself?

  • - There are times when I get angry

  • and I no longer have control

  • over the acceleration of the anger

  • and I deplore myself after I lose control.

  • - [Interviewer] I remind you

  • you have five seconds for these questions, answers.

  • - Did you say five seconds before?

  • You did.

  • Oh, my- - Yeah, five seconds.

  • - My greatest failing is not listening to instructions.

  • - [Interviewer] [laughs] What is the trait

  • you most deplore in others?

  • - Lying, I guess.

  • I mean, it comes in a lot of different forms

  • but lying is the root of a lot of it.

  • - [Interviewer] Which living person do you most admire?

  • - Maybe my father-in-law.

  • - [Interviewer] What is your greatest extravagance?

  • - I buy liquor that I'm not sure is worth how much it costs.

  • - [Interviewer] What is your current state of mind?

  • - Fairly breezy.

  • - [Interviewer] What do you consider

  • the most overrated virtue?

  • - Chastity.

  • - [Interviewer] On what occasion do you lie?

  • - When it would hurt your feelings to be truthful.

  • - [Interviewer] What do you most dislike

  • about your appearance?

  • - I'm not thrilled about my asymmetrical ears.

  • - [Interviewer] Which living person do you most despise?

  • - I don't know.

  • Despise, I don't know.

  • I try not to think that way.

  • I mistrust a lot of people, but I don't despise anybody.

  • - [Interviewer] What is the quality you most like in a man?

  • - Courage.

  • - [Interviewer] What is the quality you most like

  • in a woman?

  • - Same, courage. Same thing.

  • - [Interviewer] Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

  • - Folks.

  • - [Interviewer] What or who is the greatest love

  • of your life?

  • - My wife.

  • - [Interviewer] When and where were you happiest?

  • - [sighs] I was floating in a creek without a boat,

  • just floating, me physically floating in a creek.

  • - [Interviewer] Which talent would you most like to have?

  • - Oh, I'd love to be able to sing like Sam Cooke.

  • - [Interviewer] If you could change one thing

  • about yourself, what would it be?

  • - I'd like to be in better shape.

  • - [Interviewer] What do you consider

  • your greatest achievement?

  • - My kids.

  • And my Emmys.

  • Obviously, and my Emmys too.

  • - [Interviewer] If you were to die and come back

  • as a person or a thing, what would it be?

  • - A thing

  • - [Interviewer] Where would you most like to live?

  • - South Carolina.

  • - [Interviewer] What is your most treasured possession?

  • - I've got some really good first editions of books.

  • But that I've read.

  • I've actually read these first additions, yeah.

  • - [Interviewer] What do you regard

  • as the lowest depth of misery?

  • - A sense of loss of control

  • is usually the source of a lot of misery.

  • The fact that something's bad

  • and you have no control over improving it.

  • - [Interviewer] What is your favorite occupation?

  • - Performing.

  • - [Interviewer] What is your most marked characteristic?

  • - I probably make jokes about things

  • that sometimes offend people.

  • - [Interviewer] What do you most value in your friends?

  • - Patience and forgiveness.

  • - [Interviewer] Who is your hero of fiction?

  • - Who's my hero of fiction?

  • Samwise Gamgee is my hero of fiction.

  • - [Interviewer] Who are your favorite writers?

  • - Well, I mean, listen, I really do love Tolkien.

  • I have never, unlike some people,

  • grown out of enjoying J.D. Salinger.

  • A guy named Robertson Davies, who's a Canadian writer.

  • I really like George Saunders.

  • I really liked the science fiction writers Larry Niven,

  • Henry Kuttner, Asimov, obviously.

  • After you read him, you feel smarter.

  • I'll stop there.

  • - [Interviewer] Which historical figure

  • do you most identify with?

  • - I don't identify with any historical figures.

  • - [Interviewer] Who are your heroes in real life?

  • - My mother and my wife.

  • - [Interviewer] What are your favorite names?

  • - You know, I really liked the name Matthew.

  • I really do.

  • I like the name Matthew and I liked the name Caroline.

  • - [Interviewer] What is it that you most dislike?

  • - I don't like wearing a wool sweater without a shirt.

  • I'= have very sensitive nipples is what I'm trying to say.

  • - [Interviewer] What is your greatest regret?

  • - I'm gonna steal this one from George Saunders.

  • My greatest regret is the times

  • when I haven't been kind to people.

  • - [Interviewer] How would you like to die?

  • - Quickly.

  • - [Interviewer] What is your motto?

  • - [chuckles] Videri quam esse.

  • To seem to be rather than be.

  • - [Interviewer] Well, this concludes the questionnaire.

  • - Is that part of it?

  • You do officially have to say that part?

  • Did Proust write that part?

  • "Remembrance of things past," is that Proust?

  • Is it the madeleines?

  • Like he eats the madeleines and the tea

  • and he remembers his childhood.

  • Is that Proust or is that Proust?

  • - [Interviewer] What question do you think

  • you had the most trouble answering?

  • - Oh uh, historical figure.

  • I don't identify with any historical figures.

  • 'Cause I sort of said there's no real historical,

  • non-fictional historical figure that I relate to,

  • but then I went,

  • "Oh well, does that mean there's a fictional one?"

  • And there is and it's Richard Rich

  • from "A Man for All Seasons."

  • He is the young friend and sort of protege of Thomas More,

  • the hero of the story,

  • who in order to further himself in his career,

  • perjures himself at trial and ends up condemning more

  • because he lacks the courage to do the right thing.

  • I mostly associate with him.

  • - [Narrator] Tell me why-

  • - Samwise Gamgee.

  • - [Interviewer] Is your hero of fiction.

  • - He's admirable without necessarily being clever.

  • His name literally means half wit, Samwise.

  • And yet, he's the apotheosis of Tolkien's idea

  • that anyone, even the smallest, can change the world

  • because he acts selflessly and in love and service to Frodo.

  • It's his love of Frodo that makes it possible.

  • It's not Frodo's sense of mission

  • or even the nobility of anyone else.

  • It's actually just Sam loving Frodo that makes it possible.

  • - [Interviewer] Why was-

  • - Floating in a creek without a boat, just floating,

  • me physically floating in a creek.

  • - [Interviewer] Your greatest happiness?

  • - It's an ongoing happiness.

  • I do it whenever I can.

  • My favorite thing is to go out with someone else

  • or by myself way up a creek in coastal South Carolina.

  • And you can get to places,

  • especially if the tide is right and the grass is high,

  • where you can't see anyone else on the planet.

  • You're absolutely alone.

  • You're as wild as the first man on the continent.

  • And you dive into the water

  • and you can float along with the tide,

  • listen to the crackling of the shrimp on the bottom,

  • be completely pulled out of yourself

  • and feel like you're one with the water.

  • And that elemental feeling divorces of your own ego

  • and when you get back on the boat,

  • you're kind of open to what the rest of the day might bring

  • because it wasn't your agenda

  • but the tide's agenda that moved you.

  • I like that sense of surrender.

  • But there's also a sense of security 'cause, you know,

  • in most of those creeks,

  • you could probably stand up if you needed to.

  • - [Interviewer] Why do you admire your-

  • - Father-in-law.

  • He's thoughtful, he's truthful, he's kind.

  • And when I asked him for his daughter's hand in marriage,

  • he said to me,

  • "Yes, 'cause I think you strike me as a kind person."

  • And that's not why I like him,

  • but because he made that the top priority

  • for someone who would marry one of his daughters.

  • Is that I've seen a lot of husbands who aren't kind

  • and I think it's an undervalued virtue in a relationship.

  • - [Interviewer] Were there any questions that you answered

  • and you were surprised by your answer?

  • - I can't remember anything I said.

  • Not really, no, nothing.

  • I was surprised that I had no,

  • I was surprised that I did not have answers

  • for some of them.

  • Like I was surprised that I didn't have a historical figure.

  • - [Interviewer] Tell me why you say-

  • - Folks. - All the time.

  • Like what's an occasion that you say-

  • - Folks.

  • - Almost every show I say the word folks.

  • It's kind of a holdover from the old show.

  • I would say nation or folks or something like that,

  • or it-getters or something like that.

  • But the one thing I really like addressing the audience

  • and ladies and gentlemen sounds too much

  • like a ringmaster at a circus,

  • that I should be in a spotlight with a top hat

  • and maybe a whip.

  • And so, I like folks 'cause it's very simple.

  • - [Interviewer] Tell me why your current state of mind is-

  • - Fairly breezy.

  • - I've got less on it these days.

  • You know, with the changing of the tide

  • in America right now, I'm open to new possibilities.

  • I'm in the tide being pulled along with everybody else

  • and I'm really curious where it's gonna take us.

  • And that makes me hopeful and happily expectant.

  • It's a breezy feeling.

  • - [Interviewer] Would you like to give an example

  • of a time you lied?

  • - When it would hurt your feelings to be truthful.

  • No.

  • - [Interviewer] Did you lie about any of your answers?

  • - Not to my knowledge,

  • and I'm not willing to admit whether I'm lying right now.

  • - [Interviewer] Do you think these questions helped reveal