Avi Belkin's documentary about 60 Minutes legend, who began career as an actor and pitchman, opens in theaters July 26
Who is the best interviewer on television today? Ask that question and you might get some votes for Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer, David Letterman or Howard Stern (if you consider that many of Howard's radio interviews are also televised). In the political realm, some might tip their cap to Chris Wallace of Fox News.
It's Chris Wallace's father, Mike Wallace, who must rank as the foremost interviewer of a slightly earlier era. The elder Wallace, who died in 2012, did celebrity interviews earlier in his career. But it was his political interviews with world leaders and other newsmakers that put him in a class by himself.
Wallace's talents and personal travails come under scrutiny in the upcoming documentary Mike Wallace Is Here, directed by Avi Belkin. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, opens in theaters July 26. Belkin clearly holds Wallace in high esteem, but wonders if his showmanship and outsize personality did not push TV journalism in a worrisome direction, opening the door, for instance, to a blowhard like Bill O'Reilly.
I spoke with Belkin and Chris Wallace at the world premiere of Mike Wallace Is Here at Sundance.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.