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Courtney Love Disrupts Beat
Donald: "While we were shooting Dog Town , I met this guy Gary Walkow, a writer-director. He had a script that I read and liked. He'd done a couple of low budget movies that played Sundance.
"My partner and I made a deal with Avi Lerner from New Image. He took the foreign distribution rights and we agreed to put up the money for domestic distribution. The movie premiered at Sundance. We had a lot of trouble selling it. Ultimately we sold it to Lions Gate and it will come out on video this year.
"We shot in Mexico. It was a blast. My ex-girlfriend Wendy Pier Cassileth came down with me and co-produced the movie. We all had a good time with the exception of the fact that Courtney Love was there. She was really really hard to deal with. She's an extremely angry person who takes delight in having people not like her. She takes delight in being cruel and mean to people. She made me fire the make-up people. And as far as I could tell, their only crime was that they were attractive. Not good to have other attractive women around."
From IMDB.com: "I saw the premiere of this film tonight at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, Texas. Prior to this movie, I knew very little about William Burroughs. The producer, Donald Zuckerman spoke before the showing. He explained that after the film's showing at the Cannes Film Festival, they decided to completely reedit the movie. As a result, the final film print of this movie was not finished for our festival(or compatible with our theater). As a result, we viewed the movie in the theater on a VHS video projected on the screen with a LCD projector and two speakers (on stands) set up on each side of the screen. The producer took some questions before the movie began and stated that the film was closely based on actual factual events. He stated that they did not use "one" specific source (or screenplay) but accumulated the facts from many verifiable sources. Mr. Zuckerman stated that all the scenes were filmed at the actual locations where they took place. The Mexico apartment footage was filmed at the actual location where William Burrough's and his wife Joan lived. The film makers used the apartment across the street because the actual apartment had been demolished."
Luke: "How did the other actors react to Courtney?"
Donald: "I don't think they liked her much. She was disrespectful to their time. They would be ready and on the set and she would take forever in hair and makeup to come out. And then as soon as she got there, she'd be like, 'I don't like this light.' And, 'Where do I put my chin?' That was her favorite question.
"It was hard to get a good performance out of her. Instead of having five takes where there were a couple of good ones, there was a line here and a line there. And whatever actor was acting against her, you frequently had to use his worst performance to get one acceptable performance from her.
"Norman Reedus and Ron Livingston went to her when she wanted to fire their make-up people. 'Look, Donald says you're insisting that he fire our people, and they don't even have anything to do with you. It's not fair. How would you like it if we didn't like your crew?' And she said, 'Hey, too bad.'"
Luke: "Do you regret casting her?"
Donald: "No, not really. What can you do?"
Luke: "I heard she got into a fist fight with Kirk Honeycutt, the lead critic of the Hollywood Reporter, at Sundance?"
Donald: "She did. She was unbelievable. We had a little dinner party the day before our screening. Kirk and his wife Mira were there. Kirk's wife asked if she could take some photos? So I asked Courtney's PR person from PMK and she said fine. A couple of hours later, I turn around and Courtney has yanked the camera out of Mira's hand because Mira took a picture of her. And Kirk goes for the camera and they're in a tug of war over it. And Courtney starts yelling, 'You hit me. You hit me.' And Courtney's boyfriend/record producer Jim Barbour goes after Kirk. I got in between both of them."
Luke: "I heard a distributor made an offer on the picture if Courtney would help promote it, and she told him in an expletive laden manner that she wouldn't."
Donald: "The chairman of the board of Trimark Pictures, Mark Amin, made an offer the night of our premiere. I said, 'I appreciate that but we have more money in the picture than you're offering.' So he said, 'Why don't you and I sit down tomorrow and see what we can do?' So I was feeling good about that.
"Half an hour later, we're talking to Avi Lerner and we see Mark talking to Courtney. Then he storms over to us and says, 'Fuck her. There's no way I'm buying this movie.' So we don't know what she said to him. We just know that there was an extreme reaction to what was said."
Luke: "There were some bad reviews on it in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety."
Donald: "It's not a great movie. And we had a director who was unwilling to take any notes. My partner and I thought there were a lot of things that could've been done to improve the movie. He refused to discuss it with us. He said, 'I got us into Sundance and I know what's best.' And we didn't have any time before Sundance to get any work done. So we screened it the way he wanted it at Sundance and got a mediocre response. Then we took the picture, recut it, and got accepted to the LA Independent Film Festival. The director objected to our cuts. The people at the festival who had seen both versions said our version was much better. We played at the LA Independent Film Festival and all the actors... I don't know about Courtney because by that time she was no longer talking to us. But Kiefer Sutherland, Ron Livingston, Norman Reedus, and their people, all saw the second version and all said it was superior to the first version.
"The director, of course, because he's so talented, didn't need to see the second version to know that his version was better. Because he already knew it wasn't any good, he wouldn't watch it. And one got one review from F.X. Fieny who said it was good but the movie was already damaged goods from not having sold at Sundance. That's why it's sat around for a long time. The version being released is Gary's version because we don't feel like spending the money."
Luke: "I wonder if some of the bad reviews come from the uncomfortable presentation of William Burroughs and the Beats?"
"There were scenes in the movie of William Burroughs chasing after a young man. It was very unflattering. The young man would only have sex with him every other day. It was almost like he was paying for it. It wasn't like, 'I'm gay and I'm enjoying myself.' It was portrayed in an unattractive way. But I know some gay guys who saw the film and liked it.
"Gary really tried to be true to the subject matter. He went out of his way to shoot in the actual locations. We went to Lake Patzcurao in Mexico because they went to Lake Patzcurao. We went to the volcano they went to. We shot across the street from Burrough's apartment. Gary did a lot of research. Burroughs was probably the way Gary portrayed him."
Luke: "I think people have a more romantic view of Burroughs and the Beats and this film was a downer for them."
Donald: "That's probably true.
"When I saw Gary's rough cut of the movie, I was happy, because I worried if he would be able to get a performance out of Courtney, which was essential. He did. He pieced together the bits and pieces."
Luke: "I heard the Mexican producers tried to extort you and held parts of the negative and sound track?"
Donald: "They did. We're in court. They claim that Courtney slandered them. The line producer says she had to have back surgery because Courtney called her names. Courtney did call her names. Courtney called everybody names."
I talked to another source who worked on Beat.
"The producers suddenly found themselves with a picture that was not as easy to sell as they had thought.
XXX: "The nexus of producing is creatively helping to get the best picture done but fiscally trying to stay within budget and make sure that what you finally have is something that can be sold and return the cost. The two challenges are intricately woven together. Most directors are fiscally responsible. I don't encourage them to worry about how much something will cost. I encourage them to try to get the most possible and it is my job to tell them whether it can or cannot be done.
"Beat was in casting for 16 months. It couldn't get made without particular actors agreeing to do it for particular prices. It was my first time working with Gary Walkow. We met at the Director's Guild. We were on a couple of committees together. He told me he had a number of projects and asked me to read them. I took a look and passed on a number of strategies to get them made.
"Originally Beat, written by Gary, was planned for a $400,000 budget. After a year, Gary spoke again with producers Andrew Pfeffer and Donald Zuckerman.
"The movie is about two events in the early history of the Beat literary movement. One in 1944 and the other, which is most of the picture, culminating in Mexico in 1951."
Johnathan Crow of the All Movie Guide writes: "William S. Burroughs' ill-fated performance of his "William Tell act" -- resulting in his wife Joan Vollmer getting a bullet in the brain with a shot glass atop her head -- soon became the stuff of Beat legend. This film, directed by Gary Walkow, traces this doomed romance from its inception to its bloody end. The movie opens in 1944 New York, where Columbia journalism student Vollmer is already living a bohemian life filled with pharmaceuticals and a host of future beatniks, including hunky Jack Kerouac (Daniel Martinez), a young Allen Ginsberg (Ron Livingston), and of course, Burroughs (Kiefer Sutherland). Also frequenting Vollmer's pad is Lucien Carr (Norman Reedus) whom everyone is enamored with, especially Dave Kammerer (Kyle Secor), who winds up dead after trying to jump the object of his affection. Seven years later, Joan and William have married in spite of Burroughs' obvious homosexual predilections. Their domestic bliss is strained when the two have to flee to Mexico City after they get slapped with a drug rap. Ginsberg and Carr, now correspondents for the UPI, visit the couple only to discover that Burroughs split town with his lover-for-hire. Vollmer and the boys decide to go on a road trip that is brimming with heterosexual tension. William eventually returns from his sex-binge suspecting that Joan had a fling with Carr. During that fateful night, Burroughs pulls out a gun that he was going to sell for drug money and performs one of the most spectacularly botched party-tricks in literary history."
XXX: "Lucian Carr is under pseudonym in a lot of Kerouac novels. Lucian introduced Burroughs to Ginsberg. They hung out at a salon in an apartment shared by a woman who was to become Kerouac's first wife and the future Joan Burroughs.
"That Lucian's still living added a whole new level of complication once we finally got the go-ahead on the picture and had to get Errors and Omissions insurance [for libel].
"Eventually Zuckerman and Pfeffer got financial backing from German Willi Bar, who's backed a lot of pictures. I'm using this as an example of how independent pictures work. You've got a script. You want to make a movie. You don't have a studio to give you money. You either find equity money, private investors who will permit you to make a picture without any requirements, or you attach some actors and off the actors you sell territories. Either in chunks or in small pieces. And off the sales of the territories, you borrow the money under the understanding from a motion picture lender, that all these sales are in place. And you can also borrow against "air," or what is called "the gap." If you've sold X number of territories for this amount of money, it's simple to predict what the remaining territories are worth. That's how Beat was put together.
"A deal was made for foreign distribution with Millennium for two-thirds of the budget. He didn't put up cash. He just put up a contract. Since Millennium's been in business for over ten years, it is possible to borrow against the full value of that contract. Enough of them have been honored that lenders feel secure to lend against those contracts.
"The other producers then had to scramble around to come up with the other third of the budget.
"Over six months, various offers were made to various women (like Winona Ryder) for the part of Joan and to various men (such as John Malkovich and Ethan Hawke) for the part of Burroughs. And the offers varied from $250-750,000 with a total budget between $4.2 - $4.8 million. None of the offers were accepted. So Gary and I started doing another picture with these other two producers (Andrew and Donald), a digital project for a $150,000 total budget.
"We were a few weeks from shooting after spending $30-40,000, when there was an offer accepted on Beat by an actor named Norman Reedus. The problem with signing an actor like Reedus is that he doesn't get you financing. A former male model, Norman's done a lot of independent pictures. I'd only seen him in a brief scene in 8mm when we cast him. He was a good choice. A lot of studio casting directors thought he was going to break out.
"In Hollywood, when you make an actor an offer, and it is accepted, you're obligated to pay. It's known as "pay or play." So now there's an obligation to pay Norman and there's a start date. Gary, the director, wanted a woman named Allison Elliot (Wings of the Dove, Spitfire Grill) to play Joan. The problem was, with Norman and Allison as the leads, there was still no way to get the movie funded. So the search continued and finally there was an acceptance from Courtney Love. And based on that, it was possible to get the Millennium deal.
"Later, Kiefer Sutherland signed on to play Burroughs and Ron Livingston to play Lucien Carr. Gary, the director, was upset that he was forced to accept these actors. He now agrees that Kiefer and Ron are the best things in the movie. Nobody saw Kiefer as Burroughs but he did homework on Burroughs before coming down to Mexico. He only worked two weeks of the five week shooting schedule. That's all we could afford to pay him for.
"We compressed his part. He was originally in less than a third of the script. He was only in the Mexico City portion of the shoot, not in the western location. One of the things we did on the fly in Mexico was to add him to some scenes. Once we saw that his performance was what we really needed to anchor the second two acts of the movie with, he disappeared for the second act, we added three short scenes that kept him from disappearing for 18 pages of script. And focused towards the third act, which was Burroughs and Joan. Lucian and Ginzberg leave by the beginning of the third act.
"We ended up cutting many of Joan's scenes. As valiantly as Courtney tried, she was just not giving the kind of performance that had been owed. We shot her in a lot of scenes that we couldn't use. That cost Ron Livingstone two big scenes. He understood. Despite many physical problems, we actually came in under schedule.
"We had some other issues. The Mexican producers wanted more money. They held parts of the negative and half the soundtrack to try to extort it. Ultimately they did not succeed in doing that, but it caused some big problems with the post-production schedule. For six weeks, there was nothing we could do.
"The idea was to try to get it into Sundance. Even though we got it into Sundance (the print only a day-and-a-half old), I don't think Gary and the two other editors really had the time to get the picture into the best possible shape. But we didn't have a choice.
"The Mexican producers are suing over a bunch of different issues. They're mostly suing Courtney Love for inflicting emotional distress. They presume Courtney has the deepest pockets."
Luke: "A producer suing an actor for emotional distress? That's so funny."
XXX: "Not if you know Courtney. I have to say in Courtney's defense, she's dedicated to becoming a better actress. She understands this. It's a difficult situation for her to come from being a star in one medium to an ordinary player in another. Many of the complaints about Courtney were not made by the producers. They were made by the other actors.
"Courtney's name came up two years before the shooting of the film. She was always on the list for Joan.
"Performance is a delicate thing and the whole idea there was to get actors to give quality performances. This is an art movie. It's not terribly commercial. It needed those kind of performances.
"Beat got into Sundance but it came out of Sundance very badly. First, we lost six weeks of post production. Then it didn't help that Courtney almost got into a fist fight with the lead reviewer for the Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt. They settled their squabble but the next day she yelled at some kid on the street. The biggest problem was that after the main screening, one of the offers on the picture [to distribute it], when that gentleman made an offer on it and went up to Courtney and asked if she'd help promote it, she told him in an expletive-laden manner that no, she wouldn't. And in fact, there's no reason why she should. It's not something that she's required to do.
"After all that time in casting, and surviving a difficult shooting situation... We had to deal with hail storms, difficult terrain in these lava fields... The actors had to ride horses into the location. Then the squabble with the Mexican producers... And to end up with a marketing strategy that deteriorated to the point that we went from good offers before Sundance to fractions of that after... It's part of independent production. It's not over when the picture's through shooting. If you've still got territories to sell, there's still an ongoing fight.
"Beat got a decent reception at the Sundance screening. We couldn't go to the Salt Lake screening because we had this dinner in Park City for trade and other newspaper folk to meet the actors. It was the only day that Kiefer could be there. Beat got bad reviews in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety. It wasn't written by Kirk Honeycutt and I don't think there was any journalistic retribution. The reviewer for the Reporter honestly did not like the picture. The Variety reporter, Dennis Harvey, there are a lot of pictures he didn't like.
"There was resentment by many members of the audience about the liberties taken with the historical story. I would say the pictures is 90-95% accurate. Most of the presumption is about a romantic involvement between Lucian Carr and Joan Vollmer which is supported in a lot of books on the Beats. A lot of people did not like the way that Ginzberg and Burroughs were portrayed. They were portrayed as gay men in the 1950s. Burroughs I don't think would've had a problem with the portrayal. He's written extensively about the events. The shock of killing Joan is what finally propelled him into finishing his two novels Junkie and Queers. Queers is about events parallel to Joan driving around Mexico with Lucian Carr and Ginzberg. They'd come down to visit Burroughs and he wasn't there. He'd gone away on an excursion into Central America with a quasi-hired male lover."
Luke: "Was Burroughs primarily a homosexual?"
Luke: "And Ginzberg?"
Luke: "Lucian Carr?"
XXX: "No. His son is a best selling novelist named Caleb Carr."
Luke: "Why did people object to the '50s portrayal of Ginzberg and Burrough's homosexuality?"
XXX: "There's an implication in the picture that in the '50s, that if these guys could choose not to be gay, it would make their lives easier. Ginzberg and Burroughs were wrestling with their sexual identities."
Luke: "While the thinking today is, if you think you're gay, you should just run with it."
XXX: "Yes. Gary wanted to portray Burroughs' genuine intellectual love for Joan. There's a scene early on with Joan and Burroughs in the kitchen. And the toast is, 'Oh Joan, if only you were a man.' And her reply is, 'Well, Bill, nobody's perfect.'
"I think this '50s attitude towards relationships didn't sit well with a lot of people who have very protective attitudes towards Ginzberg, Burroughs and the Beats. They look at their sexual identities from a 21st Century perspective.
"I remember that within a week, Gary went from a high after finishing the picture to a low after two very bad reviews.
"A guy who's part of the Burroughs estate, who to the best of my knowledge, has never seen the picture, nevertheless posted a negative diatribe about it on a website.
"Gary started working on the script when Ginzberg and Burroughs were still alive. From the point of view of the Errors and Omissions insurance, it became much simpler once they were dead. In the United States, you can't libel the dead. And they were both public figures [whom it is much harder to libel]. Joan was also dead. Lucian Carr was the biggest issue because he's still alive. And a few changes were made to the script to satisfy the insurance carrier. That we weren't speculating in a way that was beyond the bounds of permissible speculation."
Luke: "Did you ever get any reaction from Lucian Carr?"
XXX: "No. Courtney tried to contact him. Our attorneys advised us not to contact him. For a while, it looked like the whole project might fall apart because we couldn't get that Errors and Omissions (E&O) coverage. If we couldn't get that E&O coverage, we couldn't get a bank loan to fund the picture. You can't borrow money or get a completion bond without all the insurance in place.
"We didn't close the loan on the picture, which gave us the bulk of the funding, until the fourth week of shooting. This is not the ideal way to proceed. It was difficult keeping the budget going with limited cash flow. Fortunately Millennium advanced against the loan or we couldn't have continued.
"That's not the only time I've started shooting without production loans in place. You have to use bridge funding where you can."
Luke: "How were the other reviews on Beat?"
XXX: "There haven't been many others. There is no domestic distribution for the film yet. The picture was delivered to Avi Lerner at Millennium. He pre-purchased all the foreign distribution. There's re-cut version because the other producers have been attempting to sell it. I helped broker a deal between them and Gary, because Gary had final cut rights according to his contract.
"There's a shift in how you market independent pictures. It goes back to the '80s and what kind of budget you can expect to raise on an independent project. In the late '80s, you could shoot anything, it seemed. You get by attaching very marginal names as actors to raise funds. And then the foreign buyers caught up to the fact that the American independent product they were buying was substandard. Plus the video shelves in all those little stores in Europe filled up. There just isn't the need that there was in the late '80s when you just bought anything you could that was American."
Courtney Love responded to the criticisms on Hole.com, then promptly deleted the thread for legal reasons.
Courtney says she never had a problem with Donald Zuckerman. She hates the rich kid Mexican producers of Background Productions - Antonio Zavala Kugler, Victor Zavala Kugler, Alexandra Cardenas.
Courtney writes that she wanted the make-up artists fired because they were trying to give drugs to Norman Reedus and Kiefer Sutherland. Courtney writes that she can't work with actors who are on drugs. And she says the make-up artists were not at all attractive.
In Mexico, says Courtney, even PAs are rich kids who require bodyguards out of fear of kidnapping.
Miss Love says Donald Zuckerman tried to get her, in the middle of the night, to stand with a megaphone on a platform talking the crew, which hadn't been paid in three weeks, to stay on. She refused.
Despite not being paid, the workers were allowed only one water a day, one coffee with no milk or sugar, and one meal, which Love ate too - despite being promised fresh fruit and clean water - a slop of refried beans, buttered spaghetti, reconstituted potatoes, with local water. Zuckerman got hepatitis and other gringos got dysentery.
One of the female producers became obsessed with Kiefer Sutherland and slept in his hallway.
The worst problem with the film, writes Courtney, was that the script sucked.
I asked Zuckerman by phone about this news report:
For executive producer Donald Zuckerman, it was the shortest schedule he'd had on any of his eight films and the first time he hadn't been in on a project [2001's Say Nothing] from the beginning. After [Allan] Moyle replaced director Arthur Hiller on the project, he asked that Zuckerman be brought aboard. Hired in L.A. on May 4, Zuckerman was in Toronto doing preproduction by May 6.
"It could have gone really poorly and it hasn't and I attribute a lot of that to Allan's leadership. He's popular with the crew and he's very directed," Zuckerman said. "I've known Allan for 10 years. He's not your average person. Allan is a real spiritual guy, very intellectually curious."
Donald tells Luke: "Arthur Hiller apparently got kicked off the movie. The replacement director Allan Moyle is a friend. He called me three days later, 'The project is a mess. Would you be interested in producing it? If you're not, I'm not going to do it.' So I read it and met with the producer Ellen S. Wander. I made a deal and came on board to fix the whole mess. Ellen was not well thought of by the people she dealt with. They had problems with her veracity.
"My partner [Pfeffer] and I came on board and we fixed it. We helped her close the loan. We got the movie going. And she fucked us. And we're suing her."
From the review on IMDB.com: "I thought I read somewhere that Nastassja Kinski wasn't doing anymore nude scenes. Scratch that. Well...almost. There are some topless scenes with William Baldwin... This is Fatal Attraction in reverse. One difference is that nothing is as extreme as that film. No pets are boiled, etc. Kinski has a one night stand with Baldwin, who then sets out to wreck her marriage with Hart Bochner, who plays her husband. Baldwin plays a millionaire power player in a global corporation, and offers Bochner a prime position in his company. Of course the poor husband has no clue why he is being hired. This infuriates Kinski, and the manipulation continues.
"I was quite entertained by the first two thirds of this film. The last third simply gets a little dull. Nothing too drastic really happens, just a lot of power play by Baldwin's character, which threatens the Bochner/Kinski marriage. It fizzles out. The interesting thing about it is that Kinski plays an ex-model very close to her real life persona. Her past history as a top model is emphasized by showing her famous "Kinski and the serpent" pose by Avedon, her Andy Warhol tribute, etcetera. Kinski still looks fantastic as ever, does an okay job as the stalked wife. Her little girl voice is out of place at times, but there are a few instances where she overcomes that liability, and belts out her anger in a real woman's voice."
Donald: "It's a Cinemax cable movie. It turned out all right considering the budget was tight and other problems. I think the director and I did a good job putting it all together and bringing it in. She's acting like we didn't produce the movie. She took our name off it. We never finalized the contract with her.
"It was apparent a week after we started shooting that she was going to screw us but I was up there already and I didn't want to abandon the director. So I stuck it out. I intend to cream her in court."
Luke to Donald: "What else are you working on?"
Donald: "We have a project A Whale In Montana we start shooting in New York in April. George Hickenloop directs, Susan Sarandon stars. We'll shoot it in the suburbs and the countryside around New York to make it look like Montana. The logic of filmmaking. Our deal with Susan is that she gets to sleep at home every night. Susan only wants to work while her kids are in school. And she can't take them away with her."
Doug McHenry is a rare breed - a black movie producer.
I met him at 2PM at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, January 30, 2002.
"You're going to pay for this?" says McHenry when we meet. "Otherwise we could go down the street to McDonalds. Ok, I've only got 40 minutes."
My heart skips a beat but I keep my composure in the face of footing the bill and lacking the time to do a proper interview.
Doug speaks and gestures in an extravagant way. The words pour out and my mind must race to catch up with his idiom.
McHenry graduated from Stanford with an Economics degree in 1973, and from Harvard with an MBA/JD in 1977. He then passed the California Bar and went to work for producer Peter Guber's Casablanca Records as head of business affairs. Doug's next boss was film head David Putnam.
"I grew up in Danville, in the San Francisco Bay Area," says Doug. "Near Berkeley. It was a neighborhood you don't find much in Los Angeles - an integrated neighborhood. You had working class Catholic white families. My dad was in the Army. Right around the corner we had a Buddhist temple. I went to an integrated boarding school called Athenia. It was 50% black."
Luke: "You're the first black movie producer I've met."
Doug: "A lot of the [black] guys I know who went to Harvard are with the big corporations. They're either the affirmative action officer or in finance. Everyone who was smart did finance. I wanted to work for a Washington law firm but the people lie so much there."
Luke: "They lie just as much in Hollywood."
Doug: "It's different. Politicians say that I am going to make my life better with health care to create a more humane society. Hollywood says this is the fucking product, you either buy it or not. I don't promise to make you healthy. I don't promise you Social Security. I don't promise to defend the country or defend the schools."
Luke: "So the movie maker has no moral responsibilities."
Doug: "Not true. We have a moral responsibility to not bore the client. I've made 13 movies. I've never lost money because I never bore the client. My movies have cost up to eight million dollars and all of them except one have done at least $20 million domestic box office. And we sell a shit load of records.
"Working for Peter Guber was exciting. I didn't want to be stuck away in some affirmative action office. Casablanca was a small lean company. They didn't give a shit what color you were. There were four owners, one of whom was black. The music business is probably the most integrated business next to the beer commercial."
I see white people giving us the eye when McHenry loudly uses expletives.
The Vietnamese waitress comes over. I order the black bean soup for $7:50.
Doug: "I will take the soup as well and the Cobb salad. You've got something in it like avocado. Now, where is it on the menu? Could you find it for me."
The waitress points it out on the menu.
Doug: "Please, could I have some escarole in there in addition to the green romaine? No red romaine. Butter lettuce. No anchovies and put some chicken in it. And no papaya and no avocado. If you send me something that is a mistake, I will eat it anyway. Thank you."
McHenry was fired from his executive position with a movie company in 1984. "I'd never been fired in my life. And I don't like the feeling. I'm good at what I do. Fuck that. I will never work for anyone again. So I bit the bullet.
"Mom and dad want you to have some security. When you choose to do what you and I do, you've got to jump off and glide. It's scary. I was running out of money. I was three months behind on my rent. I'm rolling pennies for four days to get $180.
"My partner for 17 years, George Jackson, died last year of a stroke. We were trying to sell a picture of hip hop rap. We got in our raggedy car in 1984 and we go down to the Long Beach Arena. It is rowdy with radical white kids, Latino kids and all kinds of black people. There was electricity and excitement that something unbelievable would happen. It was the first rap fest. Run DMC, the Fat Boys, Houdini... And we said, 'We're making a movie of this shit.' We met [promoter] Russell Simmons, Rick Reuben, Jive Records. And we hang with them. And we write up a proposal and go around the studios.
"If you go to a movie executive's office, and you look around, there's no fucking stereo. There's no CD player. If you ask him what the number one song in the country is, he doesn't know. Mark Canton was the only guy with a fucking stereo in his office.
"If you ask a movie exec what is the number one TV show, they don't know. They don't understand that it is all the same thing. When a creative idea starts as a Broadway play, as a magazine article, as a book, as a screenplay or this... You want to run this creative idea through all the proper distribution channels. Mark Canton knows about rap. We were the first people to put rappers in a movie.
"I fly to New York to meet with Parkway Records and they take us to meet Morris Levy. I didn't know who he was but he's this notorious record underworld giant. Ultimately, all these record things are owned by this guy Morris Levy who started [the club] Birdland with his brother. Levy's brother was assassinated. Levy went to jail and shit. [He died in 1989 after being sentenced to prison for federal racketeering and extortion.] I had no idea that my life was on the line with some mobster gangster. There's just something about just going for it. You understand what a wonderful business this is is."
McHenry produced his first movie, Krush Groove, in 1985. "In this movie based on the life of Russel Simmons, hot young record producer/manager Russel Walker has all the hottest acts on the record label Krush Groove records. The acts include Run-DMC, Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Kurtis Blow. When Run-DMC has a hit record and Russel doesn't have the money to press records he borrows money from a drug dealer/loan shark. At the same time Russel and Run are both competing for the heart of Sheila E." (IMDB.com)
Doug, a Congregationalist Christian, takes a break to say grace before eating.
Luke: "Tell me about New Jack City."
Doug: "We've always wanted to do a gangster movie. We loved The Conformist, Third Man, the Dutch angles and shit, the fucking monochromatic colors. New Jack City is about a dark gangster who is not dumb. The lead character Nino Brown (played by Wesley Snipes) is dark, handsome. A motherfucker on screen.
"This shit called crack was going around. Before that, it was heroin and cocaine. There was a guy from my home town of Oakland who was on the cover of California magazine. They called him the MBA gangster. He studied all the loopholes in the [drug] law. For example, you can't get busted for selling drugs unless there's a hand-to-hand transfer. So he took over these projects and you'd go up to one end of the project and place your order. Then you'd all the way round to pick it up. So there was no hand-to-hand transfer. So we thought of a him [for a character in the movie]. And then the third guy came from a story in Washington D.C., where this 21-year old guy was busted and found with $10 million cash in show boxes.
"We had a hip-hop cop. There'd never been a hip-hip cop. The hip-hop sensibility is identified with the street and the bad guys but we made him a good guy. And the bad guy was cool. He had the suits and shit, the bodyguards, the champagne. And the man with the baggy pants and shit like that, the cop, is [rapper] Ice T.
"A hip-hop cop sounds like a contradiction in terms but it sure did fucking work. You can be cool and be a good guy. You can be of the hip-hop generation with a hip-hop consciousness that focuses on the real bad guys and leaves the guy with two rocks [of cocaine] alone.
"When I produce a movie, I produce the music at the same time. The idea of rap being a bridge between R&B choruses was mine. I flew in Queen Latifa and in ten minutes she does a rap bridge for 'Money, Money, Money.' And R&B has never been the same. The picture grossed over $50 million domestic and sold over four million records and a shit load of cassettes.
"It was time that Warner Brothers was having all kinds of failures. We were their first hit that year. We got a ring. It was Bob Daley and Terry Semel, who ran WB at the time, and the president of production. They bring us in and serve us champagne and say that we have a deal there for the next four years. And then we didn't make one other fucking picture for them."
Luke: "Have you used cocaine?"
Doug: "No comment. I've seen others do it. I've seen it on TV."
Luke: "How well do you know the hood?"
Doug: "I'm comfortable under the freeway underpass. That hood could be Nebraska. I love people. You could put me in the middle of Afghanistan and I'm going to get along. I love people. I'm sincere with them and I treat them with respect. When I'm in the hood, I don't speak [black urban lingo]. I speak the way I'm speaking to you. I don't talk down to people. People know that. Fuck that.
"I've made four movies this past year, about 40% of the [black] marketplace.
"When you walk into a movie theater, you say, make me feel something. Make me laugh, make me cry. People have laughed and cried at stuff I've been involved in that wouldn't let me move next door and marry their daughters. For the average family that goes to my films, they've got to wait for the 15th and the 1st [for their welfare checks]. Many families can't afford a baby sitter for my movies. When I go to a theater, there are crazy characters in the aisles and screaming babies. And I don't play 'em cheap. My shit looks good.
"I shoot Wesley Snipes better than any director he's ever been with. They blotch him. They put blue light on him instead of amber. When you see Vanessa Williams in the thing I just did [Keep the Faith, Baby], she looks more incredible than in the Arnold Schwartznaeger movie and shit like that. Because they don't give a fuck and they don't know how to shoot 'em [blacks]. Blue light looks good on you and shitty on him. He should be in amber and golds and lucentas. But he's too busy shooting Sean Connery to know what to do with Wesley.
"I always try to have a point and I always try to make them look real good. And I'm proud that every picture I've produced looks stunning compared to how much it costs. That's out of a desire to give that person who can't afford that baby sitter to give them their fucking money's worth. That's my job. Not to tell them how to think. Not to promulgate or be pedantic. But make them feel something.
"I don't make movies for me. I make movies for an audience. I'll cater to an audience. I will take them on an emotional ride. You will cry and you will laugh."
I picked up these comments about Doug's 1992 movie Jason's Lyric on the internet:
Is Hollywood ready for a black Romeo and Juliet? After watching the MPAA slap an NC-17 on what he calls a "passionate love story in an urban wasteland"-the rough Houston neighborhood where this family drama takes place-McHenry thinks not. "The violence didn't bother them," he says. "They were uncomfortable (with) sexual intimacy between African-Americans," specifically some moments McHenry has since toned down to earn an R rating. But there's plenty of adult material left in the often brutal movie, which explores the effects of a father's tragic death on his sons-Joshua (Woodbine), a jailbird/gang member, and Jason (Payne), a gentle appliance-store clerk. McHenry hopes Jason will win the respect of young moviegoers. "I'm attempting to put a role model out there," he says. "He's not a rapper, a gangster, or an athlete. He's an everyday guy."
When this romantic drama opened last year, director Doug McHenry (House Party 2) charged the MPAA with sexism and racism for its objection to the original poster. Instead, he should have made a stink over Bobby Smith Jr.'s script, which has all the complexity of a coloring book.
Last winter Jada Pinkett caused a stir when she told reporters interviewing her for the steamy film "Jason's Lyric" that it wasn't her who did the nude scenes -- but a body double instead. Jada said she refused to do the scenes because the film's director, Doug McHenry who also co-produced the film along with his partner George Jackson, never directed a film before.
Luke: "What do your movies say about you?"
Doug: "The movie that's closest to me is Jason's Lyric. I decided that I was going to direct something. I read a script that had potential. I saw a lot of my background in it. I said, I have the power to do it. I don't give a shit. I'm directing this movie. And I got the money and I did it. It was Romeo and Juliet in the ghetto. It had a lot of different themes in it. The message to me was two things. Sometimes to be a hero, you have to walk away. The hero doesn't always kick the bad guy's ass. Sometimes you have to destroy the person, and sometimes you walk away. And if you truly love someone unconditionally, you have to let that person go. Because that person's destiny may not be intertwined with yours."
Doug tears up. "I'm an emotional guy. I just got done speaking with my dead partner's [George Jackson] mother who's having a hard time. I'm going to see her in Harlem on Monday. I'm having a premiere for my new film, Keep The Faith, Baby. It stars another new actor, Harry Lennix."
From Showtimeonline.com: "The true life story of politician Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Harry Lennix) follows him from charismatic Harlem preacher to local deal maker and controversial congressman going toe-to-toe with presidents as the powerful chair of the Education and Labor Committee. His enemies ultimately use his imprudent behavior to censure Powell, but a curious reporter makes sure the record is set straight on one of the country's most influential legislators--and one of the century's greatest black Americans."
Doug: "George Jackson and I shot a scene from New Jack City at the Adam Clayton Powell government building, the tallest building in Harlem, on 125th Street. We turned each to other and said, we're going to make a movie about this man."
Doug cries. "George didn't have to die. He was 43 years old. He was in good health but he was president of Motown Records. He was in a bad domestic situation. His ex is suing George's mother for back taxes. George's mother has not seen his baby in two years because she won't let her."
Luke: "How did you handle the critical reaction to Jason's Lyric?"
Doug: "There are two communities. Reviewers don't understand black movies. They don't understand the vernacular and they don't understand the situation the actors are portraying... I don't know how anybody could not like the movie.
"Take Kingdom Come  with Whoopi Goldberg and Loretta Divine. Do you think the Academy Awards people will pay any attention to these fine performances? If my name was Woody Allen, and I didn't have to raise a fucking dime, and could make anything I want because he's got a tribe of people that support his ass, I would get Academy award nominations.
"African-Americans are a minority in this industry. Being black has no biological significance at all. We're not a different species. Racism is in the interest of the majority or we wouldn't have it.
"If I want to sell cars to Britain, I better put the steering wheel on the right side of the car. If we want to tour these [black] films in Europe, we must have black film festivals. We should lead with the music. Give it four years, and you will see a sizeable increase in the foreign market for these films."
Luke: "What's it like being a non-Jew in a predominantly Jewish industry?"
Doug: "I don't know knock them. They founded this business. They took off with Edison's invention. What I find shameless is that these agents, who represent 40% black talent - such as actors, singers, dancers, athletes - are so damn liberal, and are all white. There are no black agents.
"To be a producer, it helps to have grown up in the business. It's difficult to break in. If I was white and 6' tall and Methodist, it would be tough. And it's tough for the Jewish guy who doesn't have Jewish relatives in the business. The industry is paternalistic and nepotistic.
"I don't believe that Jewish people are prejudiced against anybody else. A lot of people are jealous of Jewish people. Rather than hate people, I'd rather imitate success. If I wanted to be a great long distance runner, I'd imitate what the great runners do.
"When I was a partner in a management agency, people would say to my white partner, why are you involved with that black guy? And to the client, the white guy's ice is colder. If we both have an ice machine, the white guy's ice must be colder. That's why this whole affirmative action thing is so fucking ridiculous. I went to Stanford and Harvard. Those schools make no compunction that there are a certain amount of spots made for legacies. If my daughter wants to go to Stanford, and has 100 points less on the SAT than your daughter, my daughter's ass is getting in. I give money and I went there. Nobody talks about them getting in. Why is it a better social policy to discriminate on the basis of private donations than to train some doctors who actually go to the black community and the fucking Indian reservations?
"That's bullshit. Because people who talk about open competition, don't really want to compete. They want to keep it for them.
"The test of morality is what a person will do to his worst enemy. To the exact same extent you promise freedom to your enemy, is the exact same extent I will trust your ass in a leadership position."
Luke: "Do you think it was truly racism that caused Jason's Lyric to get an initial NC17 from the ratings board?"
Doug: "I don't know. Bruce Willis get to take a shower and show a dick. There are two kinds of racism. Racism that we all suffer from. Just like men. We all suffer from chauvinism just like women. Were you born wanting to sleep with women naked with high heeled shoes on? Where does this come from? If you like women. I don't care whether you do or not. If you have a wet dream about making love to a woman with a pair of stilettos on, that's not necessarily natural. This is chauvinism because every centerfold has a naked women with shoes. And that men have trouble with intimacy is all chauvinism. Therefore, when a white censorship board...[tape unintelligible]. One is paternalism. If they allow the poster, then the black churches say, 'If it was two white people they would never have allowed it. They think that blacks are animals. Racism, racism.' And if they don't allow the poster, it's racism. Two naked white people, we'll leave it alone. But two naked black people, that's just too strong. It will cause people to riot."
Doug picks up the check.
Producer Stanley Chase's career spans Broadway, television and movies.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Chase enlisted in the Navy at age 17 to fight in World War II. He graduated from New York University and pursued graduate study in drama at Columbia. He then went to work as a messenger for CBS Television.
His first success as a producer came at age 25 with an off-Broadway production of Kurt Weill - Berthold Brecht's The Threepenny Opera which eventually ran almost seven years in the same theater and earned a 40-fold return. About 500 actors at different times appeared in the production including Leonard Nimoy, Ed Asner, Jerry Stiller, Jerry Orbach, Bea Arthur, Carroll O'Connor, John Astin, and Lotte Lenya (Weill's widow).
In his late 20s, Chase produced three Broadway plays: Graham Greene's The Potting Shed (starring Dame Sybil Thorndyke, Robert Fleming, Carol Lynley), Eugene O'Neal's A Moon For The Misbegotten (Wendy Hiller, Cyril Cusack), and William Saroyan's The Cave Dwellars (Wayne Morris)."
At this time, Stanley met and married Dorothy Rice, a model who appeared in such magazines as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Esquire.
In 1963, while at United Artists, Chase created with Mel Brooks the ABC series pilot Inside Danny Baker. Later, at ABC TV, Stanley worked with Al Capp and Woody Allen.
Mel Brooks lived with Chase in Manhattan in 1965 where Brooks wrote the movie The Producers. "Mel had a Jaguar Mark IX at the time and we made a deal in Hollywood. He could stay at my place in Manhattan if I could have his Jaguar.
"Most comedy shows (such as Sid Caesar's Show of Shows) at that time weren't written so much as dictated. The writers would sit around and someone would take it down. Mel would sometimes call his secretary as late as 3AM and she'd come over and take down his schtick."
Chase moved to Los Angeles in 1966 to work for Universal. He produced the anthology series Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater.
In 1968, he produced the movie The Hell With Heroes starring Rod Taylor, Claudia Cardinale and Harry Guardino.
Chase's later movie credits include 1969's Colossus: The Forbin Project, 1975's (TV) Fear On Trial, 1979's (TV) An American Christmas Carol, 1980's (TV) The Courage of Kavik, the Wolf Dog, 1983's (TV) Grace Kelly, 1984's (TV) The Guardian, 1989's Mack the Knife.
"Movie sets often take on the mood of the script," said Chase. "Happy scripts often create happy feelings. It's the nature of the material. When you deal with tragic subjects, you're not going to act in a jocular way. The movie about Princess Grace, for instance, was about a fairytale life and making it was a happy experience."
Luke: "Which production has the most meaning for you?"
Stanley: "Colossus: The Forbin Project. It was way ahead of its time."
"An unsung masterpiece," writes a reviewer on Imdb.com. "Eric Braeden is brilliant and matched action for action with the entire cast in low-key masterpiece about dangers of unchecked scientific advances. Cold War atmosphere is captured perfectly and the brittle dialogue is delivered to perfection. And sargent's direction matches script and performances in being understated yet uncompromising -- surprising me at every turn."
Stanley: "I bought the rights to the novel [by D.F. Jones] with my own funds. Like Orson Welles with Citizen Kane, art director John Lloyd used the studio facilities for two months before we shot. I've got all the set illustrations downstairs. James Bridges wrote the script. He went on to write and direct The Paper Chase, The China Syndrome and Urban Cowboy.
"We trucked in from the Control Data company in Minnessota about $10 million worth of computer equipment. We shot on the largest stage at Universal. Today you can get as much computing power from a laptop than we could from all the massive equipment. Many pictures were influenced by Colossus, such as War Games  and [1984's] The Terminator. Director James Cameron says Colossus is one of his favorite films.
"Eric Braeden's real name is Hans Gudegast. He was the German general in [1966's] The Rat Patrol. He's now a big star on the daytime soap The Bold and the Beautiful. The studio insisted that he take a Hollywood name like Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, and Tony Curtis. He balked at first but came around.
"A young kid kept sneaking on to the closed set of Colossus. We needed guards to protect the equipment. He was asked to leave but my wife insisted that he be allowed to stay. The kid was Steven Spieldberg.
Luke: "Tell me about your 1983 Grace Kelly movie."
Stanley: "I was working on a John Belushi movie, Sweet Deception, for Paramount. And in pre-production, John died of a drug overdose.
"I had some heat on me at the time. I negotiated with Bernie Brillstein and Ron Meyer for talent. Michael Ovitz represented director Jay Sandrich and me.
"Jay, who directed the pilot for the Mary Tyler Moore show, flew to New York to meet Belushi. And John took him to a steam bath. They got naked and discussed the movie.
"Then we went into Michael Eisner's office, with his friend of the time, Michael Ovitz, and made the deal. Brillstein, because he was the manager for John Belushi, automatically became the executive producer of the movie, not unlike today.
"John once came by the studio commissary and asked me for money. I gave him a $100. I realized after his death that he wanted it for drugs."
Luke: "Did you read Bob Woodward's book on Belushi, Wired?"
Stanley: "Yes. I refused to talk to Woodward. He called many times. My attorney told me not to talk to him. 'You're never a hero.' I wish now that I had talked to Woodward. He's a great reporter. And I had a lot to say.
"The day after Belushi died, I walked into my office at Paramount, my secretary said, 'John Belushi died.' And I said, 'that's not something to joke about.' I didn't realize it was true."
Luke: "I thought the book was a powerful indictment of drugs in Hollywood."
Stanley: "No question.
"John would call me many times, either at home or at the office, to talk about the screenplay. Or just to talk. He called me two nights before he died."
Luke: "The early '80s were a go-go time for drug use in Hollywood."
Stanley: "I would go to some parties and occassionally people would have coke stains on their suits."
Luke: "Did it disrupt production?"
Stanley: "Not that I know of. Not mine. I don't think it necessarily disrupts productions when people use drugs. Musicians and actors and others use it all the time and they do their jobs. Sometimes people need that support. It may be only chemical but it is still support. And they pay for it later."
Luke: "I've never even smoked marijuana in my life."
Stanley: "Well, I can't say that I haven't done that. I've never bought it. But you're around people who do it."
Luke: "But I'm so innocent, I don't even realize most of the time..."
Stanley: "I wasn't aware of Belushi being on drugs until I read about it after his death. I didn't understand the symptoms and the changes in mood. He did have one thing. He used to work out with a trainer every day. He was trying to lose weight to be in shape for the movie. And after working out, I noticed his pallor was different. He was ashen. And in hindsight, I thought, 'oh, that's why he looked like that.' It's easy after you hear about it. It's like 9/11. Why didn't we do anything?"
Luke: "Why do you think nobody said, 'John, you've got to get help'?"
Stanley: "I didn't know he needed help."
Luke: "Didn't anyone know?"
Stanley: "I don't want to mention names. You can't help someone unless they really want to help themselves."
"It took me a dozen years to get Threepenny Opera financed as a movie - 1989's Mack the Knife, directed by Menahem Golan. I've never met anybody more in love with movies and theater than Menahem.
"Dino Laurentiis was interested at one point. He wanted Ingmar Bergman to direct. I didn't want to do it as an art film. I wanted Bob Fosse or Sydney Pollack to direct. Then one day I got a call from Menahem Golan. And my option on the property was running out. Menahem wanted to take over the project. He wanted all the credit. He cast Raul Julia, Roger Daltrey, Richard Harris, and Julie Walters.
"When Golan came back from Hungary, he had a ton of film. It was endless. He insisted that I cut it. The editor and I spent three months editing it. Menahem basically reproduced the play. At the time, Menahem's company Cannon was on the rocks and they had to move out of their big building."
Luke: "How did you feel about the final movie?"
Stanley: "Well, all I did was take what was there. I would've cinematized it. Menahem thought it would win an Academy Award."
Stanley loves poker, and he played it with Syndey Poitier, Mel Brooks, Doc Simon, Dan Melnick and other showbiz types. "The winning essence of poker - it's not in the hands you play, but it's in the hands you stay out of. As the song says, 'You've got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them'."
Chase has been married to Dorothy Rice, model, actress and painter, for 40 years. "She's a wonderful lady. My father and mother were married all my life. I've never known any other way."
Stanley was raised in a moderately observant Jewish home "but I became interested in books, movies and drama. I'm not religious. I'm culturally Jewish. "
Luke: "And Dorothy is Jewish too?"
Stanley: "Kinda. Her mother changed religion a couple of times. I think she died a Methodist."
Near the end of our interview, Mrs. Chase walked in after a pilates workout. She still looked great. She's published five books of her paintings: Los Angeles With Love, Israel With Love, Manhattan With Love, Beverly Hills With Love and Las Vegas With Love.