November 16, 2018

This Interview I did with Stan Lee Changed My Career

matt johnston interviews stan lee

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Stan Lee passed away this week at the age of 95.

I’ve been lucky enough in my life to interview a lot of famous Hollywood people over the years. Most of my career is in digital media at high volume content shops like Business Insider and New York Magazine.

I’ve interviewed Mark Hamill, Anne Hathaway, Peter Capaldi, Kevin Smith, Andrew Lincoln, and the list goes on. I’m not trying to brag here, I’m just trying to provide context to the next statement, namely, that interviewing Stan Lee was the most important interview of my career.

Stan Lee was the beginning

I was but a young whippersnapper in digital media in my first role at Business Insider, a video producer. I quickly got used to the flood of public relations pitches coming my way in a constant flow (of mostly terrible noise).

But one found it’s way through to find the other end of my click. The Avengers Experience was opening up in Times Square to celebrate the new movie, and I had an invite to get 7 minutes one on one with Stan Lee.

Let me just say, as you’ll see below, we jam packed the heck out of those moments. 

The wonderful thing about this interview was due to the publication I was working for, we were much more interested, brand wise, in making content about Stan Lee more along the lines of life advice.

What’s the secret to a long life? How do you deal with failure? These are the types of questions I asked the man who answered with grace and always a soundbite-friendly length.

I was nervous. Very nervous. At the time I have never even met anyone famous, let alone interviewed them, and the pressure of seven minutes!

But Stan was incredibly gracious, sweet, and treated me with nothing but kindness and heart.

What I learned

Seven minutes sure, but what a seven minutes it was! Stan and I talked about life, death, choosing your path, bucking trends, creating Spiderman (!!), work-life balance, the meaning of failure, and the secret to a long life.

Stan didn’t shy away from a single question, he was sharp as a tack. He deeply considered my questions, and delivered a thoughtful and appropriate response in kind..

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the moment I will never forget, as we finished up he told me “You’re a good interviewer!”

That experience gave me so much confidence going into the rest of my career.

Stan’s legacy is certainly complicated and will long be debated as we move onward in years from his passing. But having met the man and spoke with him about life’s big questions … let’s just say I will always be a fan. Thanks Stan.

My full interview with the Father of Marvel:

Matt Johnston