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Keeping up with Aussies in LA: U.S correspondent Peter Mitchell

Nicole Kidman and Big Little Lies' Australian author Liane Moriarty on the Emmys red carpet in Los Angeles, Monday, September 18, 2017. (AAP Image/ Peter Mitchell)

AAP US Correspondent Peter Mitchell covers the movements of Australians in the US - those who get into trouble, those traveling on official government business and those extremely successful artists and sports stars. In this funny and whimsical Q&A, Peter describes the fascinating life of an Australian journo in LA.

How long have you been AAP's US correspondent?

Quite a few years. One of my first jobs was covering George Washington's inauguration in 1789. I remember it was a very cold day, with an icy wind coming straight up the Potomac and all I had on was a gold Bonds t-shirt and pair of bottle green Stubbies to represent Australia (Pauline Hanson, again, had tickets but couldn't make it).
Ha ha ha. No, I moved to the US with my journo wife Donna in 2001. We planned on being here for a maximum of three years. I remember not long after we arrived Los Angeles had a big earthquake and a few days after that it was September 11. I was ready to pack up and go home then. Thankfully slabs of Budweiser were sold at a 7-Eleven just a short walk down the street for only $US9.99 and that got us through.

What kind of stories do you focus on?

Basically, anything to do with Australia in North America. Australians love to travel to the US and some get arrested, robbed, lost, beaten or killed. I have been to courtrooms in 27 US states to cover Aussie related cases - it's an interesting way to see the US.
Tip for Aussie travellers: don't get arrested in Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming or Florida. If you have to, get arrested in New York or Oregon. They're lenient.
Thankfully, Aussies are also pretty good at getting Oscar nominations so I've been to the last 15 Academy Awards. It's also been fun watching NRL stars attempting to crack the NFL and Aussie rules converts totally transform the way punters boot a ball in the NFL and college football. One of my highlights was covering Ben Graham in one of the NFL's greatest games - the 2009 Super Bowl.
It's also been wonderful getting to know Australia's big contingent of NBA players. I just wished they'd give me a percentage of their $US40 million contracts.

2016 has been very intense in politics, sports and entertainment in the US. What stood out for you?

It has to be The Donald. It is unique. What a first month. From a reporter's view, it is exciting. As a human living on planet Earth it is terrifying.
In non-Trump news .... it was also great covering the 2016 NBA Finals - plenty of drama with Andrew Bogut going down with the injury and Matthew Dellavedova's Cavaliers winning. I was sprayed with champagne in the Cavs locker room. Very cool. Not so cool was standing alongside muscle-bound, seven foot, shirtless NBA stars. It makes a pudgy 5ft 10 fella from Australia feel a little physically inadequate.

What are the main challenges of your role?

Trying to cover everything. There's so much happening over here every day. For the two, three, four or five stories I file each day there's another 20 I could do. I was hoping in the past 20 years geneticists would have worked out how to clone humans instead of just Dolly the sheep. If I had five or six clones I think I might be able to cover everything.


Awards Season is currently in full swing, can we expect the Aussies to win big this year?

Sure. We always get at least one winner. It's a big year for Aussie films Lion and Hacksaw Ridge with plenty of nominations ... but I think Lion will miss out altogether. Hacksaw Ridge may grab a few technical awards like sound editing or mixing. Mel Gibson has no chance for director. The Aussie technical winners may not be glamorous, but are the best to interview on Oscar night (and when they are hungover the next day). They often spend most of their lives working in dark rooms. Nobody knows who they are. Then suddenly they are giving acceptance speeches in front of a billion people.

Who do you think are going to be the big Oscar winners this year? Any predictions for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress nominees/winners?

I must confess. I'm anti-La La Land. It verged on looking like a film student movie at times (ouch). Maybe I'm biased because I've had a couple of bad interviews with Emma Stone over the years where she was rude. But ... as much as I don't want to say it La La Land looks unstoppable and will clean up, including best picture and You Know Who for best actress.
I liked Moonlight. That's my best picture. 
Nicole Kidman, for Lion, should just grab a good bottle of wine and sit up in the back-seats at the ceremony because Viola Davis (Fences) has the supporting actress category sealed.
A month ago Casey Affleck had best actor wrapped up for Manchester by the Sea, but Denzel Washington's win at the SAG Awards and his performance in Fences makes it an exciting two actor race.

Any funny/tragic celebrity encounters?

Yes, sadly. There's been a few. Evidence of one is possibly in the AAP video library. I've never watched it because it was so bad. I interviewed Paul Rudd for Ant-Man a year or so ago. A few days before the interview I got caught at the beach without sunscreen and a hat and my skin was fried. The day of the interview my skin was really dry so I put lotion on my face from one of those bottles hotels give you for free in your room. The one I used was from a Marriott and it had an ingredient in it I must be allergic to. My face puffed up in a really freaky way around my eyes. I looked like the Elephant Man after a beating from Mike Tyson. I walked into the interview and Rudd was reticent to shake my hand because he thought I might have a disease. I told him I had been mugged walking in a dark alley the night before. I looked so bad he believed me. Then I told him the truth about the dodgy lotion, but he didn't believe me. I think he reverted to thinking I might have the plague. It was a terrible interview. I don't think I sent through the B tape of the video interview that had the camera facing me because I looked like such a freak. My kids were scared to look at me. Ahhhhh. Good times.

Peter has been nominated in the International Media Award category at the 54th Annual ICG Publicists Awards, which will be held on the Friday before the Oscars.  Congratulations on your nomination Peter!

Follow Peter on Twitter @AAPinLA

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