Luke's Failure To Mate
Chaim Amalek writes: You are a very poor judge of women. I think that this, much more than your penury or your weird religious practices, explains your failure to mate.
The good news regarding Jewish women is that insofar as their behavior is mediated through the expression of socially harmful genes or clusters of genes, these are being flushed from the (jewish) gene pool in typically harsh Darwinian fashion. Simply put, these women are not going to be spreading many copies of their genes around to torment future generations. But it is a bitch to be living in the generation that witnesses this cleansing of the blood.
(With Q-Man gone, there are fewer and fewer outlets for serious social commentary of this sort. I would write some of this stuff for Mike South, but I just don't think I would be able to compete with all the pretty pictures. Sigh....)
Jews Get To Jewhoo
Chaim Amalek writes: Someone got to JewHoo , which had been a good source of information concerning jewish dominance in America. From their website: "Jewhoo has closed many of its categories. We plan a re-structuring of the site to make it more a cultural site featuring pieces of interest to the Jewish community and less a listing of names. We will no longer cover business figures; news and media figures; and government--except for military heroes. Thank you."
Khunrum In Thailand
LukeFord.net's Advisory Committee member, the right honorable Khunrum writes: Gentlemen.. Everything is looking good in the "Land of Smiles"..The love of my life "Popsicle Toes" is back from Oregon and reposing in my hotel room like the Princess of Siam..I nip out with my buddies for Thai Boxing and massages...We are going to Vietnam tomorrow...
Born in 1930, Robert P. Marcucci opened a record shop in a Philadelphia's farmers market in 1957. He decided to produce his own records, achieving his first hit with Jodi Sands "With All My Heart."
Marcucci discovered Frankie Avalon and Fabian. In 1959, Robert's company Chancellor Records has more than $10 million in sales. He produced such hits as "Too Young to Love," "De-De Dinah" and "Why."
Robert left Fabian, Avalon and the pop music scene in 1965. He found the pervasive "acid rock" not to his tastes. Marcucci devoted himself to managing actors like Philip Michael Thomas and gossip columnist Rona Barrett.
A chance meeting with producer Gene Kirkwood in 1978 led to the development of the classic film The Idolmaker in 1980, which is based on Robert's life.
Marcucci produced the 1984 film The Razor's Edge, 1985's Stitches, and the 1985 TV movie A Letter to Three Wives.
I stop by Robert's Westwood townhouse on Monday afternoon, February 25, 2002. He sits in the living room before a huge screen television. His desk is covered with actors' headshots and he wears several silver chains around his arms and neck.
Robert: "I thought Bill Murray would bring young people in to The Razor's Edge because he was so involved with young people."
Mathew Partridge writes on Imdb.com: "The supposed 'straight' role that Bill Murray performed in this adaptation of the novel by the same name is why it failed. On the back of Stripes and then Ghostbusters, people found it hard to accept the deadpan face of Murray fronting a movie examining belief systems and the meaning of life. The screenplay charts the spiritual and philosophical growth of Larry Darrell (Murray) as he begins to question the materialist world building up around him. Darrell's search within takes him across the globe through many different scenarios, and Murray adds a welcome dose of humanity and - to be quite frank humor, as he treads the path to salvation."
Robert: "The picture would've done better if it weren't for the marketing Columbia Pictures did on it. If you're looking for a comedy, this is not the movie to look for.
"Murray did a decent job. He may not have been Tyrone Power [the lead in the original 1946 movie] but he wanted this movie badly. When he came to me and said that he wanted this part, it impressed me. He'd just finished Tootsie and he'd done a wonderful job. I did this movie [The Razor's Edge] primarily because I wanted young people to see it. It had a great message. That whatever you are trying to find out about yourself or about life is really within you. You don't have to go around the world,. It is all within you.
"When I first purchased the [novel by Somerset Maugham] property, I purchased it for television. I had a network interested in doing it as a four-hour miniseries. These two producers came to me, Rob Cohen and John Byrum, and said they had a big name star [Murray] to play the lead. And I wasn't into Saturday Night Live so I'd never seen much of Bill Murray. I met him. He wanted this part so badly.
"I went to my dearest friend [Hollywood journalist] Rhona Barrett. She said, you're doing it for young people. Who could bring young people in more than he can? And yet that didn't happen because of the marketing. It was unfair. If his fans would've come to see this, they would've enjoyed it. I got depressed about it because it didn't do what I wanted it to do.
"Somerset Maugham's novel is based on a true story. When the first movie came out in 1946, it was the first movie to hit on hypnotism, drugs and prostitution. It was a way out movie for that time.
"If I got back to doing movies, I would try to do classics, and do them inexpensively. I would love to do A Razor's Edge for television now."
Luke: "So what brought you from music to motion pictures?"
Robert: "The Idolmaker came out [in 1980] and though it didn't become the hit that I wanted, it did give me recognition. My dearest friend Rhona Barrett got me into a meeting with the president of MGM. He talked to me about what I should do. He said, 'Robert, here are the choices you have. You can go out and buy a book and do a movie. You can get yourself a star and manage him. Or you could do a horror flick.'
"Out of the three of them, I thought the best thing to do would be to buy a book, not knowing that books can cost $500,000.
"I remember the movie A Razor's Edge from when I was 17 years of age, which had impressed me so much, and I thought it would be a great movie for television. I found the property wasn't owned by 20th Century Fox anymore and had reverted to the estate of Somerset Maugham [managed by agent Ned Brown]. A week after I bought the rights, I got the phone call from John Byrum and Rob Cohen.
"Stitches didn't work out for me at all. It turned out terrible.
"I'm going back to Philadelphia March 8 to see if I can restart Chancellor Records. And if you have a hit record, you can go out and make a movie.
"The most incredible man who did the right thing with his career was Tom Cruise. He put himself with Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, and made himself well liked by the younger crowd, the older crowd...
"I met Rhona Barret in 1958 when she came to write an article about Fabian. We became the closest of friends. We're like brother and sister. She opened the door to Hollywood for me [around 1960]. She introduced me to everyone in Hollywood. I was a naive boy from the streets of South Philadelphia. I didn't realize that people also looked forward to meeting with me because I had two of the hottest rock stars in the country - Fabian and Frankie Avalon, who became motion picture stars.
"I remember telling the head of these studios that music is an important part of the motion picture. And they said no, we don't really need that. It's now been proven that soundtracks can make as much money as the motion picture.
"I remember when Frankie started doing all the beach party movies by American International Pictures (AIP). AIP made these movies for $300,000 and made a fortune."
Luke: "Did you guide Rhona Barret's career?"
Robert: "There was a moment there [about 1964-70] when I wasn't doing anything. I took her under my wing and told her what I thought she should do. Rhona is brilliant. She loved what I did with Fabian and Frank. I took that premise and applied it to her. Instead of sending her on a concert tour, I sent her on the road. Publicity is a form of success. She did national television. She did all these shows, 'Rona Barret Looks At...' Which is what Barbara Walters is doing now. Rhona did it first.
"I watched her get all the facts. It was true even though they called her a gossip columnist. Then the news started doing Hollywood stuff though they didn't want to call it gossip.
"She's retired to San Inez, near Santa Barbara and selling these jasmine and chocolate products."
Luke: "Tell me about The Idolmaker."
Robert: "Gene Kirkwood was a client of mine [in the 1960s]. He had a great look but I told him he seemed more to belong behind the scenes. 'You should spend your time making movies rather than pursuing acting.' So he went his way and I went mine.
"Then in 1978, I went to La Scala for lunch and saw Gene. I congratulated him on doing Rocky. I said I was writing a book on my life. He asked, 'What's it called?' I said, 'The Idolmaker.' He said, 'I want it.' Well, that's Hollywood. You're having lunch and someone says I want it. I'd only had one chapter done.
"Gene kept on calling me. So I said, 'Have your writer come and meet with me.' Edward DiLorenzo met me and came back to Gene and said, 'This is an incredible story.' When I read the first script, I said, 'This is an incredible story. Not because it was about me. It's just a wonderful story. Any manager in the country could identify with it. It had everything. It was about a young boy from the streets who has a dream. He wants to be a star in his own right and he lives vicariously through these two wonderfully good looking young men. It was Gypsy, except with a man.
"The next thing I knew, we had a movie up on the screen. When it wasn't successful financially, it bothered me tremendously. I got into a real state of depression. Then I saw things in there that were true about the idolmaker himself and I never realized that I indirectly used those two boys for my own benefit. I didn't hurt them or abuse them. But I saw things about myself that I didn't like. Then I saw this young man who took unknowns who didn't have the greatest talent in the world and made them into giant millionaire stars.
"I didn't realize how good the picture was until years later. And I watched the movie and I cried like a baby because I saw the movie with different eyes. I didn't see it with all that anger and disappointment. I called the director Taylor Hackford up and said, 'You did a brilliant job.'
"The movie has done more for me than anything else I've touched. To this day, young people that I manage, come in here and know that movie. It's a cult classic. I met Quentin Tarantino at a party once. I told him how in awe of him I was. He asked for my name and I said. And he said, 'Oh my God, the idolmaker.'
"And I still haven't written my book. But there is talk that UA is thinking about taking The Idolmaker to Broadway. I think it would be a great Broadway show. It's Gypsy, Grease and Bye Bye Birdy all wrapped up in one. I'd love to see Kevin Spacey play me. I'd like to go out and find two kids and build them, so when the play is ready to come out, I will have two stars.
"I'm not finishing my book until I have a happy ending for it. So if The Idolmaker is made into a Broadway play, I will have a happy ending. I want a happy ending, not for my ego's sake, but to encourage the young people of America.
"I don't live in the Hollywood world. I live in a homey client situation. I'm 72 and I want to get back to creating the youth of America.
"The record business sucks right now because the people running it are gutless. They don't want to take chances. They have too much logic. Logic and creativity don't go together. When I brought Fabian in, they said I was the craziest man in the business. And he sold over one million records.
"I'm tired of hearing all that dirty, filthy music. Not that I am saying it is wrong. If it is making money, God bless everybody."
Producer Jon Turtle's Got Money
Through my sources at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, I've heard that producer Jon Turtle has $25 million for funding movies. There are parameters. These are matching funds, dollar for dollar, looking for commercial projects, not Sundance movies, with name actors.
The Torah Olympics
Amalek18: Building on my mitzvah of yesterday, let's have a competition to see who can do the most good in the world for others.
Nicholas Loeb - Boy Wonder Producer
I met 6'3" Nicholas M. Loeb today at his mansion in the Hollywood Hills.
Nicholas Loeb, a production assistant and bit actor in the film "PrimaryColors," was approached by a man in the men's room at an L.A. restaurant about a possible film project. The project did not pan out but the man he met then arranged a blind date in which Loeb met Christina Peters, who later showed him a script she had written called "The Smokers." She asked Loeb to produce it.
Although Loeb's first cousin is Edgar Bronfman of Seagram's -- who controls UniversalPictures -- Loeb said this factor, if anything, only made things moredifficult for him. But Loeb apparently still had the right contacts to raisemoney, and the film was made as a Quincy Jones production. Loeb took the male lead and his father, John Loeb -- a former U.S. ambassador to Denmark -- also got a role.
Peters, who had worked as an AD, was given the chance to direct her first feature. The movie stars Dominique Swain ("Lolita") as one of three teenage girls at a boarding school who acquire a gun and decide to use it to get back at boys' sexual mistreatment. Disguised by masks, they stage a rape by forcing one of the girls' boyfriends at gunpoint to have sex with one of them. But ultimately, the girls' possession of the gun turns tragically against them.
A disturbing portrayal of the battle of the sexes among teenagers -- especially in the wake of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo., last year -- makes this a sensitive project to sell to a distributor. Peters said she was gratified to discover that audiences in New York seemed to "get" the film better than at business screenings in Los Angeles. She acknowledged that older male film executives have difficulty appreciating the movie. But several distribution companies have expressed an interest in the film.
From Imdb.com: Mr. Loeb is originally from Purchase, New York. Throughout his life Mr. Loeb has been surrounded by leaders and their families in a variety of industries, including his father Ambassador John Loeb Jr. of Loeb Rhoades and his Uncle Edgar Bronfman Sr. of Seagrams Universal. He attended prep school for eight years at The Cardigan Mountain School and The Loomis Chaffee School, until going to Tulane University, in New Orleans. Throughout his summers he made trips to Los Angeles in order to make contacts and learn about the motion picture industry. These summers included working in departments such as corporate development and motion picture finance at Universal Studios. While learning about mergers and acquisitions in corporate development, he had the opportunity to work for Brian Mulligan, now COO of Seagrams and in motion picture finance with Chirs McGurk, now president of MGM. The biggest highlight was working as a production assistant on the major motion picture, Primary Colours (1998), starring John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Bob Thorton, Billy and directed by Mike Nichols. In 1998 Mr. Loeb graduated as a finance major with a Bachelor of Science in Management from the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University.
Upon graduating Mr. Loeb began the International Production Company (IPC) with friend and partner Michael Niemtzow. In the summer of 1999, IPC produced its first film while picking up another partner Alex Hernandez. The film entitled _Smokers, The (2000), starred Dominique Swain and Thora Birch, and executive produced by legendary Quincy Jones. The Smokers won the Audience Award at The New York Independent Film Festival, was nominated for three awards at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and then finally sold to MGM. IPC has also produced three episodes of the award-winning documentary, which has aired on PBS called "Living Century, The" (2001) with Executive Producer Barbra Streisand in conjunction with the Independent Documentary Association (IDA). Mr. Loeb has taken IPC even farther by adding another partner to the company, Alex Barder former Director of Development for Mike Lobell at Universal Studios.
Nicholas Loeb hosted the president's twin daughters Jenna and Barbara in August, 2001.
PageSix.com reports: JENNA and Barbara Bush are tearing a torrid swath through the Hollywood party scene. PAGE SIX has learned that the fun-loving First Daughters attended wild parties two nights in a row last week - including a Beverly Hills bash where Jenna was photographed holding a drink.
Jenna, 19, who is working as a summer intern in the Hollywood management firm Brillstein-Grey, first turned up with her twin at a bash last Wednesday at the Niketown store in Beverly Hills.
"They don't seem to care about getting caught anymore," said an insider. "Their mother is condemning the media for writing about them, but they're the ones who are going out every night."
The next night, Thursday, the Bush twins turned up at a party for "American Pie 2" star Jason Biggs at the Hollywood Hills home of wealthy Nicholas Loeb. "When Jenna and Barbara showed up at 2 a.m. with their Secret Service bodyguards, they looked like they had already been out partying," said one partygoer. "They looked pretty out-of-it."
The glitzy gathering, attended by Lauren Holly, Michael Rappaport, "American Pie 2" co-star Eddie Kaye Thomas and Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson, was so raucous that cops showed up to warn partygoers to quiet down.
A few weeks ago, Jenna whooped it up at the trendy 21-and-over nightclub Deep in L.A., where she was hustled inside by her Secret Service minders. Before that, she partied at the 21st birthday bash for Kate Lowe. Sources tell us that while Jenna enjoyed herself at the pot-clouded party - attended by several female strippers and actors Jared Leto, Balthazar Getty and Danny Masterson - her Secret Service detail waited outside in a car.
More scoop here on the Jenna Bush - Nicholas Loeb party.
Bob Dylan Project
Bob Dylan has written a screenplay and will sing six songs for this prospective movie. Johnny Depp, Nicholas Cage and Tommy Lee Jones, and Selma Hyak want to do this low-budget art movie. The project is confusing because many of the people who say they own, don't own it. Lawyers who say they are in charge are not in charge.
The yet to be released film Shade, a cool poker film starring James Spader and Vince Vaugh, has finally found financing at the American Film Market in Santa Monica.
AFM played a baby version of The Royal Tannenbaums, an art film called Igby Goes Down starring Jeff Goldblum, Susan Sarandon... It was made for $4.5 million in New York City. The film is still being edited. The producers, who must've gotten a lot of favors from the all-star cast, are looking for distribution and P&A money (prints and advertising).
Kieran Kyle Culkin playing Igby Slocumb steals the film. Distributors worry about ponying up millions for an art film that will open in four cities and if it goes down, you've lost your money.
Film people at AFM talked about how nobody's making any good independent films. For two years, there's been little financing for movies. The independent market has dried up. The banks aren't loaning money. Countries aren't buying. People thought Lord of the Rings money would free up money but it has not done that. Not happening. Now distributors are saying, we don't have to pre-buy films. We have our overhead covered for the next five years. We can sit back and see the finished movie. No sense in investing in movies before production and taking a chance.
There was little to buy at AFM. A Chow Yun Fat movie from Stuart Tills' new company Signpost. Myriad Productions put in play a $65 million period piece. They don't have a distributor. Intermedia had no new movies. Patrick Wadsburger, the agent for many of these companies, didn't have much. People walked around and there just weren't commercial movies available.
Franchise Pictures has committed to doing a movie with Sylvester Stallone. They're apparently still hanging in there financially but I doubt they will be as ferocious as they were. If Stallone is down to doing movies with Franchise, what does that tell you about his career? Nobody else wants him.
What's going on with Bel-Air Entertainment? I hear their backers, Canal Plus, Warner Brothers and the banks, are none too happy with their performance. Can they keep funding their pipeline of new projects? Bel-Air's CEO Steve Reuther is looking for another job, not a good sign for this troubled company. They made the superb Pay It Forward, which bombed at the box office.
Rob Spallone Loses Four Front Teeth In Car Crash
"Some chink cut me off," is how producer Rob Spallone explains his recent car accident, which cost him four of his front teeth.
Amalek's Guide For The Perplexed - Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture
Luke's mom writes: "Brad Pitt can play you and Meryl Streep could play me."
I went to a rocking Jewish singles Purim party Monday night at the same Century City club which hosts the X-rated Critics Organization awards. And I met some Jewish women with unusual names but beautiful faces.
Chaim Amalek writes: Marc is perplexed because he is in need of my guide (as yet unwritten), which is to be aptly titled "Guide for the Perplexed." Now, Luke, why don't you hook up this Toronto Jewess with young Marc? (WARNING TO MARC!! - Luke's taste in women is, um, rather perplexing. Be prepared to be disappointed. OR, if she is not right for you, maybe she wants some AMALEK love?)
Why do jews name their kids after luxury German automobiles? What next - Lexis Goldstein? Prada Himmelfarb?
I was going to go to this purim party for transgendered jews (what, you didn't know?), but decided against it at the last minute, as I really could not think of a reason to go, and none of the other Juden here invited me to any of their very fancy purim parties.
Chaim writes: Are you sure that this was a transgendered jew, and not just some jewish mess of a person? I totally agree that it is better to be among virtually any sort of crowd (save the elderly, who are depressing) than a group of "young [hah!] professionals [hahhah!]"
Sadly, we cannot count on Luke doing you this mitzvah. He just is not responsible enough. I have asked him for her name and email address, so that I can make the necessary arrangements for the two of you. Do not cry for Amalek, a nice shiksa friend of mine (married) has invited me to a party this weekend where she promises to introduce me to a number of nice shiksa women. (None named after luxury goods.)
Luke would rather a Jew wander the streets of Toronto looking for love than do a simple favor that costs you nothing.
Amalek18: Why won't you permit them to be introduced?
Grandson of Sol Hurok, Director Peter Hyams was born in New York on July 26, 1943. He was a drummer with such important jazz musicians as Bill Evans and Maynard Fergusson and played at Birdland, Small's Paradise and the Newport Jazz Festival. His paintings have hung in such prestigious galleries as the Whitney Museum of American Art. Peter studied art and music at Hunter College, worked as a CBS newscaster, covered Vietnam as a war correspondent, and later taught filmmaking.
Hyams wrote and produced his first film in 1971: T.R. Baskin which starred Candice Bergen, and then directed the TV movies Rolling Man (1972) and Goodnight My Love (1973). His first feature Busting (1974), starring Elliott Gould and Robert Blake as street cops. Hyams directed Our Time (1974) and Peeper (1975), as well as writing and directing the Mars thriller, Capricorn One (1978), Hanover Street (1979), Outland (1981, The Star Chamber (1983), and his most ambitious project, 2010 (1984), a sequel to Kubrick's classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Hyams made the buddy cop comedy Running Scared (1986) and The Presidio (1988), and the remake of Narrow Margin (1990). Stay Tuned (1992), a TV satire which he directed but did not write, was a flop. Hyams then returned to sci-fi territory for the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Timecop (1994), and directed Van Damme's next vehicle, Sudden Death (1995). Hyams also cowrote the screenplay for Telefon (1977) and executive-produced the kid comedy The Monster Squad (1987). Unique among contemporary directors, he often edits his films, and also serves as his own cinematographer; he has photographed all of his films since 2010. (From Imdb.com)
According to one view, "Hyams brings to film direction essential elements of music and painting. From music comes a special sensitivity to structure and rhythm; from painting a heightened sense of light and color. These important insights help Hyams to achieve his goal of creating films which reach people's emotions, not their minds."
I sat down with Peter at his spacious office on Third Street in Santa Monica February 20, 2002.
Peter: "I started as an arts student at a young age. I was trained in conservatories. Like many art students and obsessive compulsives, I became consumed with photography. I began writing at a young age. Not well, just precociously. My politicized family worked in the theater. I knew that I wanted to combine imagery with writing and relevance. My stepfather Arthur Lief was blacklisted. I heard of his arrest on the radio."
Luke: "And was he a communist?"
Luke: "Were you a red diaper baby?"
Peter: "I don't know what that means. I was the son of intellectuals and artists. My father Darren Hyams (a theatrical producer and publicist on Broadway) and my stepfather were certainly... I think my father was a socialist and I think my stepfather was a member of the Communist Party though he'd never admit it to me. I'm the kid of people who were young intellectuals in the depression. The equivalent of civil rights marches and antiwar demonstrators in the '30s were socialists and communists. They were also the people who wanted America to fight fascism."
Luke: "Did your dad know Walter Winchell?"
Peter: "Walter Winchell was one of the enemies of my father. Walter Winchell was a right winger. The Ed Sullivans and Walter Winchells and J. Edgar Hoovers and Richard Nixons were names of bad guys. They were right wingers.
"In college, the craft that interested me in combining imagery, writing and documentary filmmaking. I graduated college at age 21 and was hired by CBS where I worked for more than six years (from 1964-70). I thought I was hired to write and they put me on television at CBS in New York. We made an arrangement where I got the opportunity to do the magazine stories I wanted...
"I happened to be very bad [at journalism]. I was much more concerned with taking a photograph that was beautiful than a photograph that was accurate. I dedicated myself to being unencumbered by fact. I thought fact was an unfair restriction to put on writing. I wanted to write something that would elicit a response. Documentary directing is the ability to capture an event. Film directing is the ability to shape an event. They are two disparate talents. I'm scrambling to be good at one.
"I remember covering a fire and coming back and going to the assignment editor and saying, 'I really got some great stuff. I did this cop. It was his job to have his back to the fire and hold people back. He's a real Irish New York hard working Archie Bunker cop. My country right or wrong. But now his son is in Vietnam and he's questioning it all. Some of his friends kids have come back in little wooden boxes. The underpinnings of everything he's almost robotically believed in have come into question.
"And the assignment editor says, 'How many people were injured in the fire?' I said, 'Gee, I don't know. But this guy was so good.' 'Well, what happened to the building?' "I don't know. This guy is really terrific.' That was my level as a reporter."
Luke: "Does anyone get discriminated against in Hollywood today for their political beliefs?"
Peter: "I don't think anyone's that political. Arnold Schwarzeneger is a real Republican. Tim Robbins is on the other side. I think the Hollywood community is probably more Democratic than Republican."
Luke: "Of course."
Peter: "It's not as liberal as you think it is."
Peter: "No. It's more 60/40."
Luke: "Has anyone not wanted to work with you because of your political beliefs?"
Peter: "No. I imagine if I were running around saying, 'Free John Walker. I support the Taliban.' People would be offended. It would offend me. I don't think people in this community care much as long as [your beliefs] don't dominate who you are.
"If I have one gift that I was given by my parents, as dysfunctional as my home was, is that I was brought up with absolutely no sense of color or religion. Everybody is equal. Color and religion are not part of my visual or emotional vocabulary. I've liked to arbitrarily cast a woman in a man's role or somebody of a different ethnicity in a role. It just adds texture."
Luke: "What motivates you?"
Peter: "If I got out of bed in the morning and picked up the Los Angeles Times and saw a banner headline that Russia and China have launched their entire nuclear arsenal at America, my only thought would be, 'Do I have a cover set for that day's shooting?'
"I'm truly obsessed with getting to where I'm not. I want to get good so much that it hurts. More now than ever. I can see better now the gulf between where I am and where I want to go. I see good stuff that people do. That raises the bar.
"When you go to art school, you spend years training your hand to reproduce whatever it is that you see. If you want to play an instrument, you spend 10-15 years training your hands to reproduce the notes. If you are lucky enough enough to be able to do that. I remember where I was. I remember what the light was like coming through the studio window. I realized I could do it.
"That day was the biggest trauma of my life. It's a day from which I still have not recovered. That was the day that the heavens opened up and a shaft of light came down. God reached from the clouds with a celestial hammer in his hand and hit me on the forehead and said, 'Schmuck, being an artist has nothing to do with your hands and only to do with what you see.' It's like fluency in a language. At one point, you can speak. Now, what do you have to say?
"My definition of an artist is someone who has an FM receiver in an AM world. Do I see anything interesting or am I just an illustrator?"
Luke: "Are movies an art like painting?"
Peter: "Of course. It's like saying, is theater an art? It's writing, it's painting, it's music. It's everything. I think it is the most relevant art form. There's nothing in the world that I would rather do than make movies. I just want to do it well. I'm like Charlie Brown. I keep on thinking that one time Lucy won't drop the ball when I go to kick it.
"I carry with me a quote from Sir Carol Reed: 'When you're finally done with a film, and there's nothing left to do, it's like falling out of love. Making a film is all work and worry, fear and panic. Not making a film is worse.'"
Luke: "You left CBS News and you..."
Peter: "I didn't know anything. I had a wife and two little babies. I figured that all I had to do was write and somebody would make it. I had no concept of what the odds were. And I wrote a screenplay and it was made [T.R. Baskin, 1971].
"The early '70s was a time of great retrenchment in the film industry and a very tough time for new directors. Despite all the books Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. The studios had each given a young denim-shirt-wearing director his first film and got back something unreleasable. I was mildly sought after to write and produce films, as is anybody who is new and writes something. I didn't want to do that anymore.
"Barry Diller was head of ABC's movie of the week. ABC made two or three 90-minute films a week. They were shot in 12 days. I consider Diller to be the smartest executive ever in this business. He hired me, Michael Chricton and Steven Spieldberg within weeks of each other.
"I met with him at a time when television was considered by [film people] as a vat of sulfuric acid. If you put your hand in, you'll come out with a stump. I didn't believe that.
"I told Diller I would write a television movie for him if he'd let me direct. I said I had two ideas. One was an attempt by the U.S. government to fake a space shot. He said, 'What else?' 'I'd like to do a homage to Raymond Chandler. A period detective piece.' He said, 'Do the detective thing.' And I did it [Goodnight My Love, 1972] and it was praised. Over-praised. One of the trades called it the Citizen Kane of television movies, which, trust me, it wasn't.
"Nobody in this industry is properly rated. You're either overrated or underrated. And having been both, overrated is better. It pays better and it makes you feel better. Unless you're Jim Cameron or Steven Spieldberg, your temperature can fluctuate widely.
"My first feature, Busting , was all about vice cops. Like a journalist, I went around to New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles and spoke with hookers, pimps, strippers and cops and DAs. Every episode in the film was true."
Luke: "And you were your own cinematographer?"
Peter: "I wasn't in the [cinematographer's] union then, so I had to hire a cameraman. The camera issue has always been a tough issue. It's an acrimonious dispute. They wouldn't let me in the union for a long time [until 1983]. It was grudging. In 1997, Conrad Hall was talking to me on the phone. He's one of my idols. And he asked me, 'How come you're not in the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers)?' And I said, 'Well, they don't like me. It's not that I don't like them.'
"He said, 'That's nonsense. If I [and another cinematographer] sign your application, will you join?' I said yes. So I send in my application and I was summoned to this meeting for 90 minutes. And a couple of days later, this rejection letter came."
Peter has it framed on his wall.
Luke: "I don't understand why they don't like you?"
Peter: "I don't think another director has ever been admitted to the cinematographer's union. There were people who were just opposed to it."
Steven Soderberg is the only other director who officially handles the camera (i.e., is his own cinematographer).
"I know some directors who do it without getting credit and they're not union cameramen - Stanley Kubrick did it. Somehow every movie that Ridley Scott makes is the most beautiful movie you've ever seen.
"Not only am I not in the ASC, there has never been a word written about any of my movies in the American Cinematographers magazine. It's not like 2010 and End of Days are invisible little movies. Academy Award nominations are not going to come my way, and they may not be merited."
Luke: "Why do you like to use natural light so much?"
Peter: "I don't. I never have. I don't like it. The camera is not a recording device. The camera's a negative. I think photography should be heightened. I love shadow. I love the dark. I love changing the color of light. People write about cinematography and they don't know what they're talking about. Nobody knows what natural light is. When you build a set, how can it be natural light?"
Luke: "I guess there's that perception because you work so much with shadow."
Peter: "You make shadow. I love the dark. I love the source of light. I love the bent of light. I remember going to museums as a kid and studying painting. Look at Rembrandt. I think I've spent my life looking for the perfect terminator, for that miraculous moment when light seems to expire of old age around somebody's cheek.
"I think there's no excuse for photography not being adventurous. I think the biggest sin that anyone can commit is conservatism in any art form. I don't think there's an excuse for a photograph to be mundane."
Luke: "You try to approximate natural light?"
Peter: "No. I try to make something that I think is dramatic. Somebody sitting beside a window [as I am], I like to see the window. I like to see the light coming through that window. I like to see the key side of their face X amount of stops over and the shadow side of their face X amount of stops under. And whatever that X factor is is part of the skill of exposure."
Luke: "Our Time, 1974."
Peter: "A romantic comedy. I was trying to do the opposite of what I had done before. I had done a hard tough R-rated movie about vice cops [Busting]. It was not a popular success. With [1975's] Peeper, I managed to combine critical and commercial failure. And that made me colder than ice. Nobody wanted me. One studio signed me to write and direct something specifically so I would write. Then they brought in another director. I remember this one studio executive would not return my phone calls for two years. Then I went off, and under the radar, made Capricorn One . Audiences just stood up and cheered at one point in the film. It wasn't because it was such a great movie, it's just that certain movies strike certain chords with people. In a successful movie, the audience, almost before they see it, know they're going to like it.
"I remember standing in the back of the theater and crying because I knew that something had changed in my life. Sitting on the film cans outside the screening room, I felt my cheeks were wet with tears. A bright man, [studio executive] David Picker came over to me and said, 'You're going to have a lot of new best friends tomorrow. You better know how to handle it.' And I was at home the next morning at eight o'clock when the phone rang. And the guy was talking without saying who it was. It was the guy who hadn't returned my phone calls in two years.
"It was so vulgar and so obnoxious that I was saved from ever thinking that I am good. If it was anything less horrific than that, I might have believed it. I don't think this is an industry that cares about good or bad. It cares about commercial success. A director is hot on Saturday morning. You know Friday at 5PM what the 8PM movies are on the East Coast. Between 11PM-midnight, you know what the weekend gross is going to be. You get a call from the head of the studio and the head of distribution and it's either a wonderful phone call or a terrible phone call. If it is a wonderful phone call, then Saturday morning you are hot. If it is 100 minutes of drivel and it is the number one picture that weekend, you are hot. And if it is Citizen Kane, and nobody's gone to see it, your phone is not going to ring. If your film did well that weekend, then that Monday, that person is getting offered stuff.
"I think that giving directors credit for or blame for the financial success of their films is completely wrong. Directors should be given credit for or blame for the quality of the film. The financial outcome belongs with the studio who chose to make it. Steven Spieldberg doesn't make a movie successful for any other reason than he's wonderful. He makes wonderful movies that we all want to see. When Jim Cameron makes a movie, I'm first in line. If nobody went to see Traffic, it would be just as good a film. If I was running a movie studio and I saw Traffic, and it didn't make a dime, I'd say, 'Get me the guy who made that movie. He's talented. If we put the right material in his hands, it's going to be a monster.'
"Peter Weir makes Witness and Mosquito Coast. One is wildly successful and one is not. Did he suddenly lose talent? Is he not a talented guy because people didn't go to Mosquito Coast?"
Luke: "What happens to me is that quickly into a film, I either buy it or I don't."
Peter: "When you talk about wonderful filmmakers, in the first two minutes of the movie, you feel a hand of talent. So you watch it differently. It's not necessarily buying a movie."
Luke: "Do you have fond memories of working with Sean Connery in 1981's Outland?"
Peter: "I'm not anecdotal. Someone once asked me if I have fun making a movie? I don't know if a heroin addict has fun taking heroin. I would die without it. It is by definition the process of failure. It is falling short of what I wanted to do. If you aim high enough, you have to fall short.
"I'm working on a film right now and I can't tell you how extraordinary that film is in my head. And when the process [of shooting] starts, it's going to pass through me. And what's going to be between it and perfection and is me. The only thing that stands between me and genius and is genius. It's the only thing I lack. I've got all the neuroses of genius. I've got all the compulsions of a genius. I've got all the phobias of a genius. I'm as obnoxious as a genius."
Luke: "When did you start thinking about 2010?"
Peter: "When I was asked to do it. The chairman of MGM asked me to do it. 'Here's this book [by Arthur Clark]. And it's got to be in the theaters 17 months from now.' I was petrified and reluctant and intrigued. When I read the book, I said, 'It's a fascinating book but there are things about it that I really don't agree with. If you want me to do this film, two things have to happen. One, Stanley Kubrick has to say that it is ok with him. He's God and I will not displease God. Two, I want to change the film from the book. The book was written without politics. This was 1984 and Ronald Reagen. I'd like to make this a movie about Americans and Russians not getting along whereas in the book they got along. I want to add something about brinkmanship. And he said fine. They asked Stanley Kubrick and Kubrick said OK
"We arranged the first phone call between us. I was in the office when the first phone call came through and I stood up. I picked up the phone and stood up. Kubrick didn't even say hello. He said, 'In Outland, you've got a shot that went through... How did you do that?' He talked about all the crap he'd gone through with the cinematographer's union and how they wouldn't let him in. He was asking me about shot after shot after shot. I was on the phone with him for almost three hours. I told him everything and he told me nothing.
"A couple of months later, I was sitting around at a club and talking to someone. I asked him what it was like when he first met Stanley Kubrick. And he said, 'We sat on a park bench and we spoke for about three hours. And I told him everything and he told me nothing.'
"Stanley and I spoke a lot. He was so kind and unassuming. I was so scared that right before we started the movie, I got a panic attack. The chairman of MGM sent me a bound volume of the bad reviews of 2001. And all these people who write about the great Stanley Kubrick and the classic film 2001 excoriated 2001 when it came out. It received the worst, and most vicious, cruel reviews.
"The only thing to do with 2010 was to make a film so unlike 2001 that people could not compare it. I met Jim Cameron because I'd seen Aliens. I got his number and I called him up. I said, 'You did exactly what I tried to do. You made a film so unlike the first movie that you can't compare them.'"
Luke: "2010 is often called your most ambitious film."
Peter: "I hope not. I hope that I get more ambitious. I hope that the most ambitious thing I've done is the thing I'm doing.
"I can't look at a film I've made when I can no longer do anything to it. It's too frustrating. When I'm still working on it, I can look at it a thousand times."
Luke: "Does the size of the budget affect your enthusiasm for a project?"
Peter: "No. Enthusiasm? What I lack in talent, I try to make up for in passion. Nobody works harder than me."
Luke: "Have you been passionate about all of your movies?"
Peter: "Of course. How could you do it if you weren't? Isn't every director passionate about his movie? You can't work that hard on a project and not be passionate about it. I work 20 hours a day, seven days a week. I'm not cynical. I don't know anybody who makes films who isn't passionate. I've backed out of a couple of projects because I saw that I would lose enthusiasm for them."
Luke: "How did you come to direct End of Days?"
Peter: "Jim Cameron and I tried to work together on several projects. At one point, we flirted with doing Godzilla. At one point, he was going to write and produce Planet of the Apes. He asked if I would like to direct.
"Right after Cameron made Titanic, he had this idea for a film. He fleshed out a 200 page novella Bright Angel Falling. Then he wanted me to write a script. It was the best thing I've ever written. Unfortunately it was about a comet. Then Disney and Paramount both announced movies about comets - Armageddon and Deep Impact. So we didn't make ours. We didn't want to get in that race. It was like a death.
"One day I walked into Jim's office and he said, 'You're going to do this film End of Days. Read the script. You're going to start shooting in X number of weeks.'
"The budget was over $80 million. When you make a film with a big star, everything gets swollen. Suddenly when you want locations, and they hear it's a big Schwarzenegger movie, they charge more. I'm used to guerilla filmmaking. I'm used to not getting everything I want.
"I'm working on my fourth film with Moshe Diamant. I've never seen anybody manage to get more on the screen for less. He says to me, 'Don't talk to me about money. Tell me how many days you need and what you need, and you will have that.'
"Our last movie was The Musketeer. It opened on September 7th and was the number one picture in the country and was on its way. Then Tuesday was September 11th... But complaining about that is like going through a cancer ward complaining about a hang nail."
Luke: "Do you have a predilection for action movies?"
Peter: "I have a predilection for movies that are larger than life. I love movies that are exotic. I love going to a theater when the lights go down, and I never sit past the fourth row because I don't want to see the edges of the screen, and the movie takes you some place. I love movies that are thrilling.
"When I go to a movie like As Good As It Gets, I'm awestruck at that kind of talent. I couldn't begin to make a film with the kind of intellect that James Brooks has. But I love seeing it."
Luke: "Which of your films has the most meaning for you?"
Peter: "I hope the last one."
Luke: "Which do you think is your best film?"
Peter: "I hope the last one [The Musketeer]. If a film doesn't show lessons learned, then you're not getting better. I didn't start out making Citizen Kane, so I have get better. Someone once described a career as a horse race without a finish line.
"My middle son John, 32, is a painter and a filmmaker and he has the talent that I wish I had. He made one independent film, One Dog Day, in 1997 and he's just finished a documentary, which is the best documentary I've ever seen in my life. I've my three kids talk about directors and if they made a list of their top ten, I would not be on it. I would not be on my own list of my top ten directors.
"Chris (into computers) is my oldest son and Nick (passionate about music) is my youngest.
"I have the kind of personality that makes each person think that they are what stands between me and megalomania. They have to cut me down a peg or two. Everybody I'm with seems to take on that responsibility and they kick the living shit out of me."
Luke: "What's it like staying married (37 years for Peter) and raising kids in Hollywood?"
Peter: "I would be pushing a shopping cart down the Third Street Promenade and talking to myself if I wasn't married. I married out of my league. I met George-Ann when I was 17 and we've been together since. It was the only way I could've survived. I married somebody who is interested in the world around her, involved in the issues of the day, and tolerates what I do because it affords us a nice home. Other than that, if I could've been a congressman, she would've been much happier and more impressed with me. If she could've been elected to Congress, she would've been even happier. Frankly, she should be.
"When I was in that period when my phone calls were not being returned, I wrote two screenplays, one called Hanover Street. We were getting broke and a prominent producer wanted to buy the script for a shocking amount of money. I came home and told my wife, 'All of our money worries are over.' She said, 'Do they want you to direct?' I said no. She didn't say anything.
"I was sitting at my desk when she walked out and closed the door. I felt down. And she walked back in and stood in the doorway and said, 'I just want you to know that if you sell that script without directing it, I'm leaving you.'
"Her name is George, after the novelist George Elliot, and the priest said, 'I'm not baptizing any girl named George.'"
Luke: "Do you guys socialize much with the industry?"
Peter: "No. Our cadre of friends all came from the same school where we were parents. The only exception is my oldest friend in the world, Steven Bochco. Steven and I were born within five months of each other and our mothers were best friends. We grew up together. We were raised together. We bathed together. We learned how to piss together. We clothed, fed, and scolded by each other's mother. And Steven was a parent at the same school. Since then, I've made a couple of friends in this business - Billy Crystal and Candice Bergen."
Luke: "What does your wife think of this industry?"
Peter: "She thinks it is hard, quixotic, ephemeral, overrated and underrated. Underrated in that people in this business are much smarter than they are given credit for. Overrated in the sense that it is glamorous, fun. It's not."
Luke: "Your wife's views sound like your views."
Peter: "They are. They diverge in that she's not compulsive. She recognizes that she is married to a compulsive. Similarly if you were married to Michael Jordan, you would understand that his compulsion was practicing basketball. If I were a professor of history, which she should be me, or if I were involved in some aspect with the government, she would be much more impressed."
Reform Judaism Is Where The Girls Are
I went to a Reform temple Friday night and it was full of beautiful women. Hot women. Blonde women. Immodestly dressed women. Of course I didn't have the confidence to approach any. But we had a guitar, and the drums, and great singing, pizza and cookies, and hot chicks.
Amalek18: You are following in one generation the well trodden path to assimilation that in years past took three or four generation. Othodoxy to conservatism to reform to oblivion.
The Luke Ford Story
I spoke by phone to Robert Kosberg of Moviepitch.com February 22, 2002.
Luke: "I've never done this with any producer. But may I pitch you an idea?"
Bob: "Sure. The last person who did this, I sold their project, with their permission, to Meg Ryan. Be careful what you wish for."
Luke: "Son of Christian evangelist converts to Judaism, writes a book on the pornography industry, exposes an HIV outbreak, saving lives, and gets thrown out of four Orthodox shuls in his neighborhood."
Bob: "Number one it's smart. It's about issues and those are tougher to sell as issues because people are afraid that you'll never be able to get a script by most writers that will properly execute the level that that kind of subject matter inherently demands. Most studio executives don't want to go towards religion, philosophy, and certainly if you throw in something like AIDS, you're in a lot of red flags. Subject matter areas that are difficult. I tend to pitch things that are much simpler and probably more trivial. The opposite of that would be, a man meets a girl and she turns out to be a mermaid. Something as silly as a man meets a fish [1984's Splash] not only ended up a huge success but made the careers of Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks. And a cultural phenomenon. Your kind of movie would never see the light of day unless it was written by Paddy Chayefsky. So I would never take on something like yours because it is too difficult. And the niche market that would try to do your movie is so small and narrow...
"It is so difficult pitching commercial high concept ideas... But if I had to pitch your idea, I'd kill myself. I wouldn't even get up in the morning. The person who's going to sell that idea for you is someone who's as passionate about it as you are and decides that it is going to be a passion project. They know it is not traditionally commercial. They're going to beat down every door of people with similar interests to sell that project."
Fred writes: Interestingly enough, last night I saw the movie 8 mm, in which Nicolas Cage plays a detective trying to figure out who made a snuff movie showing a girl getting killed. Cage enters the tawdry world of S&M film makers, and becomes increasingly disturbed at the sick characters he encounters. It's a bit over-the-top, and I suspect out of touch with reality.
So let's see if we can work over the LF story to make it into something sellable. Mild mannered Luke Ford, respectable journalist (now here's a touch of fiction), decides to write on the field of porn. As he gets into it deeper and deeper, he becomes more and more disturbed at the psychological pathologies he encounters--the bimbos with negative self-esteem, the border-line crazies, drug users, etc. Luke originally makes all of his contacts via the net, but he gets drawn into this seductive and morbidly fascinating netherworld of creeps, until he finally asks himself--is this cheapening my soul? Is this diminishing my humanity?
Finally, Luke exposes a scandel, saves lovely Kendra (or some such individual) from an encounter with an aids-infected actor in a perverted sex scene. In gratitude, she gives up her life among the low-lives, stops turning tricks, and lives with Luke forever after, giving him ... every night.
Or if we don't like that one, Luke encounters a fatal-attraction-like lunatic who begins to stalk Luke. Luke must take on a fake identity and flee Los Angeles to escape the clutches of the chain-saw wielding woman. We could make this into a slasher film, but instead of the hockey-mask wearing Jason, we have a woman chasing Luke around. And she can return for half a dozen sequels, too.
O.K., if the group doesn't like that ending, in the middle of the film, Luke is exposed to gamma rays, giving him super powers, and the ability to see through people's clothes.... Nah, let's stick with one of these story lines.
BTW, regarding who gets to play whom, Larry Flint gets to play the rabbi, Tom Cruise gets to play Chaim Amalek, Arnold Schwartzenneger (sp?) gets to play Luke, Rumdar, you get to play one of Kendra's tricks. There. That's much better than the earlier plot that Luke made up.
Khunrum writes: I like it. I think it would be a great date movie. A chick flic as it were. All members of the advisory committee will attend the premier........Luke, have you given any thought to who would play you? Brad Pitt perhaps? How about Jon Lovitz for the Amalek role? AND Can I please have the part of Rabbi ...?? Thanks buddy..Don't give up on this idea. It has potential. in the meantime keep living life so the story will get better.
Amalek18: AMALEK has commentary for you
Amalek Celebrates Purim
Chaim Amalek writes: Like many a jewish holiday, the mythology surrounding Purim is morally disgusting. And, while I am no feminist, it teaches the Daughters of Israel to whore themselves to power, ala Monica Lewinsky.
But soon we will gather for Passover, another holiday based on fictitious events, and celebrate the indescriminate slaughter of the first born sons of Egypt, a morally calamitous event the only defense to which is that it never took place.
By the way, this Sunday is the local "transgreEsther purim" party. I think I will check it out to see what the local jewish dyke population is up to.
Luke says: I read that Harpers magazine article on the Bible. The writer seemed to have a secular agenda. And the writer was neither a Bible scholar nor an archaeologist, just a writer...no expert.