Producer Rob Spallone
On May 30, 2002, I spoke by phone with Producer Rob Spallone.
Rob: "I'm shooting every day. For Fat Dog, Legend and VCA. On Monday, it's for Legend. Black guys and white pretty girls."
LF.com: "How's Jimmy doing?"
Rob: "I threw Jimmy out. He's a c---. He opened his mouth and I shut it for him. He cried like a baby. Big tough Jim cried like a bitch."
LF.com: "Who's going to shoot your movies?"
Rob: "There are plenty of people. The last five movies were small ones. I let Ron Sullivan shoot them. Jim Malibu is good. He shot my last movie for VCA."
LF.com: "What did Jimmy do?"
Rob: "Where do you want to start? He's a fat lazy bastard. I was going to throw him out a while ago when everybody was telling me to get rid of him. I made a deal with Russ [Hampshire]. I'd shoot a movie, edit it and bring it in and then I'd shoot again. It was a great deal. He don't give that to nobody. We shot the last movie six months ago. We didn't shoot the next movie until four weeks ago. Jimmy took 21 weeks to edit the movie. Not that he worked on it for 21 weeks. He bullshits with his computer [www.simplyjimmyd.com]. He thinks he's Luke Ford. And not too many people like him. And the only reason that nobody has kicked his ass is that I've always been around."
LF.com: "When did you guys break up?"
Rob: "About three weeks ago, we shot a movie. Before we shot it, I told Jim, 'I don't want to hear nothing. I need the movie edited right away. If you don't want to do it, I'll give it to someone else to edit.' He says, 'No Rob. I will edit this one in three weeks. I promise.'
"We shoot the movie. And I come to work the next morning and he's in here playing with his computer as usual. He says something to me. 'You make so much money...' I told him, 'We're not partners. Don't tell me how much money I make. If you don't want to work for me, don't work for me.' He's making $5000 a movie. One thousand dollars a day to shoot it and $3000 to edit it.
"If it wasn't for me, Jimmy would never work. He hasn't had an editing job in two years. About three months ago, Jim's old partner Kenny did some work for us. Kenny owns all the editing equipment. Gigi Appleton owns the two cameras. We owed Kenny $800.
"Jim's avoiding him, not answering the phone. So then Jim sends him $500. Kenny is the nicest guy. He knows he got burned out of $300.
"Jim comes in to the office. I'm writing checks. He says I have to write a check to Gigi for the camera rental. I said I was going to let Gigi wait until we got the rest of the money from VCA. Jim complains that it is not right. I said I would write Gigi a check right now but I would only pay Jim half the money I owed him until he finishes editing the movie. Jim protests. 'You make so much money...'
"We get in an argument. I told him to [do an anatomical impossibility]. 'You owe me $3000 for over a year. I want the money.' I'm walking back to my desk and he yells at me, 'try and collect.'
"His grammar is wrong. He should've said, 'Try to collect.' You don't "try and do something." You "try to do something."
"I was so mad at his bad grammar, that I ran over, ripped his computer out of his hands. He was crying. 'Give me my computer.' I said, 'Try and collect? I just collected. Now what are you going to do tough guy? You've told me for the last six years how tough you are, how many fights you've been in when you were younger.'
"I'm yelling at him. He's crying for his computer. I say, 'I'll take your computer and smash it against the wall and then we're even. You got it?' He cries for his computer. He says, 'I didn't mean it. I'm sorry.'
"I put the computer down. He said something. I threw him against the wall. He's standing, his face against the wall. I grab him by the hair and spin him around. 'If you want to edit the movie, edit the movie. We're done. We're even.' He says fine. He doesn't have any money. He doesn't have any work.
"He packed up his stuff and he left. And every day, I'd come in and I knew he was here. After three days, I leave a note. 'Jim, if you are not going to edit the movie, leave it on my desk.' The next morning, he leaves the movie on my desk. I call up Kenny and ask him to edit the movie.
"Jim tells Gigi, his only friend, that Rob made him give the movie back. So Gigi lends Jim the $3000 he owes... Jim likes to work with his computer. He doesn't like to work. Nobody hires him.
"Jim had changed the locks in our office so Kenny couldn't get into the editing bay. The next day, in the middle of the night, Jim came and took the editing bay, which is not even his. Kendra [Jade] told me a long time ago that I should get rid of Jim. My brother Roy don't like him and he says he'll get back the editing bay.
"Jim calls up Kenny. 'Oh, the reason I took it out of there was that I was afraid that Rob was going to do something to it.'
"I didn't need this office. He did. He has no credit so I had to put it in my name. Now he has to pay me $600 a month until the lease is up.
"He shot for Dane this weekend.
"I had booked Jim and Bill Diehl to work for VCA. Some big thing happened at VCA. They had to reschedule the movie. Jim is on set listening to the gossip. Jim goes over to Stephanie and asks if he can print the gossip on his website. Stephanie tells him absolutely not.
"Three days later, I walk into VCA. Stephanie and Wendy grab me. They want to know what's wrong with Jim. We told him not to print the story and he put it on his website. Because Stephanie's job every morning is to read all the industry sites. She told Russ and Russ told her to call Jimmy and take it right off. And Jimmy took it right off.
"Jimmy wants to work with this company and then he writes gossip about it. Now he can't even write on his site because he's afraid of everybody. I was his protector."
From Bloomberg News: Similar barriers are being erected along one of New York's most famous and desirable streets, and some residents said they would leave for the weekend, because Sunday is the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. The march brings as many as 2 million people to a 42-block section of Fifth Avenue.
Building tenants, superintendents and doormen said the temporary walls are necessary to prevent damage and vandalism caused by the crowds. Parade organizers said the enclosures perpetuate a stereotype of Puerto Ricans and are unnecessary. The barriers are a ``very sad and worrisome new phenomenon,'' said Ralph Morales, chairman of the parade's board of directors. ``We have been on the avenue for many years and we have conducted ourselves in the proper manner.''
He said, ``it sends a terrible message in terms of the residents of the area and how they view the diversity of the city.''
Producer Alexandra Rose - Norma Rae, Nothing in Common, Frankie and Johnny
On May 14, 2002, I met producer Alexandra Rose at her home in the Hollywood hills. Striking, tall and slender, she wears green pants and a sleeveless green top. Her hair is long and black. She wears little makeup.
Khunrum interpolates: "She hasn't eaten all day and is famished. Her mood is somewhat cranky. She thinks to herself, "If I am going to give this guy in the black suit and funny shoes an interview, the putz better be prepared to buy me a nice lunch." She smiles. "Luke, why don't we go to The Palm and have a chat?""
No woman has been producing movies in Hollywood longer than Rose. She's made such classic films as Big Wednesday (1978), Norma Rae (1979), Nothing in Common (1986), and Frankie and Johnny (1991).
Born January 20, 1946, she grew up Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Alex: "It was freezing cold in the winters and hot in the summer. My father was a banker. I have four siblings - an older sister, younger brother and two younger sisters."
Luke: "What group were you in in high school?"
Alex: "We were called 'The Hill Gang.' We were the ones going on to college. I don't know why were called 'The Hill Gang.' People need to group people for their own understandings. There was a group of us always geared for college and always taking certain kinds of courses. We were serious about schools and we were offices in student government and editors of the school newspaper and yearbook.
"At the University of Wisconsin, I did a double major in Political Science and French. I then did a graduate degree in Political Science at the L'Institut D'Etudes Politiques in Paris. It was a program designed for foreign students. That school is where the future leaders of France go. You get plugged into the highest levels of French government.
"I finished at the University of Wisconsin early. I decided to go to France with my friend Marian. In the late 1960s, we took a steamship across the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of winter. It was unbelievably stormy with waves the size of mountains. The north Atlantic in winter is a turbulent ocean. They gave us first class cabins but it was horrible because everybody was old. Everybody we liked were down in steerage.
"Paris was filled with rioting and strikes at the time. It was wild. The country went on a national strike for nothing. No buses, no trash. I loved it. To see all the cars come into Paris because there was no public transportation was amazing. People would walk across the roofs of cars to cross streets.
"We lived from pillar to post. We scrounged. We combined all our talents and put one ad in the international Herald Tribune. Whenever a call would come in, we would decide who would go apply for the job. Translating became my avocation. That's how I got into film. My then boyfriend [Patrick Kamenka] to be worked at the Cinemateque Francais. His grandfather founded it. I'd see six films a week there. In 1970, there was no foreign cinema in America. I'm a Curious Yellow (1966) was the first foreign film to become a hit in America.
"For me to see Cuban cinema, Russian cinema, Polish cinema, Chinese cinema was incredible. I became an historian of French film. My boyfriend's aunt and uncle had a French co-production company [that worked with an English company]. I would be called in to interpret for meetings and to translate screenplays for them.
"I came back to the States around 1971. I got off the plane in Los Angeles and went to an employment agency. And there were two [entertainment] jobs available - one with a television company and one with a small film production company. Both companies were interested in me but the guy at the film production company, Medford Films, said, 'Stay. Start now.'
"I was a secretary. Medford had several small films in distribution. It was a wild outfit. The guys would wear their shirts unbuttoned to the navel, with gold chains. They couldn't write letters. They'd tell me to write, 'Dear so-and-so: That thing you sent me really sucks.' And I'd translate it into proper protocol. I became the center piece of the office. I learned about film collections and theater bookings.
"Then when Roger Corman was looking for someone to work in his new company, New World Pictures, I interviewed for the job and got it. I worked for Roger for about 30 months. The hours were exhausting but it was the best experience. Three weeks after I got there, his partners and head of distribution split up. Roger said he didn't want to bring in another distributor. 'So you can handle it. There will be no raise in pay but you will be head of distribution.'
"I had to oversee prints, trailers, ad campaigns... We'd buy these horrible films from Italy and we'd have to make them into American films. There wasn't anything I didn't do there, from reading scripts to casting sessions. We'd have casting sessions with lines down the block [of actors dying to get a job].
"I met Marty Scorsese there because Marty directed Boxcar Bertha [for Roger Corman]. Marty was then living with my husband of the time [Fred Weintraub]. Marty's girlfriend was Fred Weintraub's daughter Sandy.
"It was a wild and innocent time. A whole group of us ran around together - Paul Schrader, Marty Scorsese, Michael and Julia Phillips, Brian DePalma, John Millius. Julia Phillips was one of the strongest toughest most vulnerable people you'd ever meet.
"Tamara Asseyev [Brian DePalma's ex-girlfriend] and I formed a production company [in 1975?]. She'd just produced a couple of films in Ireland on her credit card that I distributed through Roger Corman. She wanted a female partner for her production company.
"Tamara was the spearhead of the independent film movement. It was then considered outrageous to finance a film on credit cards."
I spot a huge 185-pound Newfoundland dog walk into the room. Alex and her Aussie husband Rob live with three of these beasts.
Alex: "I had raised money using sub-distributors in a system pioneered by Roger Corman. At the time, there were 13 film distribution territories in the United States. I went to these sub-distributors and raised money to make a karate film. Then the karate market fell out. After a few big karate pictures, all these others came out that had been sitting in vaults for years. The market was glutted. So I sent the money back.
"I had been doing research at the library at UCLA writing treatments for our own projects. And they became the bases of our first films. We'd take the treatments to a famous writer, develop a script and then try to sell the project to a studio.
"Tamara was friends with director George Lucas and his producer Gary Kurtz. And they wanted to do an African-American version of American Graffiti. Our version was called Drive-In. The project was similar to my life. I'd grown up as a teenager at the drive-in. I figured it was a great place to set a movie.
"We took it to Universal and we were all set to go. But 1975 was a politically sensitive time. And there was a woman at Universal who was upset that they would have two white women producing this black film. So she created a lot of hue and cry. Universal got nervous. Their black expert was making trouble so they dropped the project.
"We raised the money independently and changed the race of the characters to white. Columbia bought the movie and we were in profit.
"Tamara and I got a deal at Warner Brothers. Two young USC graduates, Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale, came to us with this idea of four young girls who want to see the Beatles. We pitched it to Warner Brothers and they decided to go for it. We were looking for a young hip director. We looked at all of them. We saw Bob Zemeckis's AFI thesis film and thought his 14-minute short was better than all these big films we'd been seeing. But Warner Brothers wouldn't go with a young inexperienced director.
"So we consulted our friend Steven Spielberg. He said that if we really wanted Bob to direct, he'd support us by executive producing the project. And in case something happens, I'll be there. Warners passed but Universal wanted it."
Luke: "Big Wednesday, 1978m directed by John Milius."
Alex: "Dennis Aaberg and I became friends. We decided to do a surfing film. John heard about it and said, nobody can do a surfing film without me. I'm the big kahuna.
"We took it to Warner Brothers and they didn't want to make it because John had all these other projects. But they agreed to develop the script.
"My job was to get John out of bed. I'd call him at 8:30AM. Then 8:45. Then 9. Because he had to do six pages a day. That was my job. To get six pages a day out of John. I'd go to the dentist with him. I'd go everywhere with him to get those six pages a day. He's a talented man but undisciplined."
Luke: "Were there other female producers at this time?"
Alex: "Julia Phillips worked with Michael but there were no just-female producers aside from Tamara and I.
"Norma Rae was a project I held for three years before I even showed it to my partner. Being in distribution, I knew the marketplace and I knew the marketplace was not yet ready for this project. I found the story in a New York Times Sunday Magazine piece. I didn't bring it out until Rocky, the first independently-financed "negative pickup" to be a huge hit.
"Negative pickup means the film is made with the bank's money but there's a promise made ahead of time that the studio will pay the cost of the film to the bank upon the delivery of the negative. The reason for this form of financing is to avoid union dues. It's a way of making a film outside the studio system.
"I figured that I could sell Norma Rae as a female version of Rocky. After we went to Director Marty Ritt's office with Norma Rae, he asked his secretary who the two actresses were that were trying to sell him a project. She said, 'Mr. Ritt, they are not actresses. They are producers.' Because there weren't female producers then."
Luke: "How did you get movie greenlit?"
Alex: "A film never gets greenlit on its own. A film gets squeezed through a pastry tube until finally all it can do is come out the end. There are so many ways to say no.
"I had passion for this project. I'd held on to it for years. I knew this was a character I wanted to bring to the screen. I knew this was a character that was important for women. It was a character I identified with. I was a young woman. I wanted to see someone come up from nowhere with nothing, struggling and succeeding.
"Our agent Guy McElwayne helped us. He got us in to see Marty Ritt. Guy was one of the best agents I've ever met. He didn't care who you were or where your project came from. If it was a good idea, he went for it. And when he was president of Warner Brothers, he did the same thing. He didn't cover his tracks. He didn't protect himself. He'd get on board.
"Marty loved our project immediately. He said that if we'd get his friends the Ravetches to write it, he'd do it. The book on Norma Rae came out and sold about two copies. A book is a bad first draft of a script. It gives you a beginning, middle and end for a story. We optioned the book.
"We began giving the book to actors. We offered it to eight actresses (including Joanne Woodward, Louise Fletcher) before Sally Field. We couldn't get a studio to go for it. It was a tent-pole kind of film. Guy decided to get the project to Alan Ladd Jr at Fox. He was fresh from Star Wars. And Ladd has a producer mentality as well as a corporate mentality. These particular corporate executives didn't have a corporate feel. They were filmmakers. And Alan Ladd Jr. was always a filmmaker. He sees projects in terms of a film, not in terms of protecting his corporate ass. And he liked Norma Rae. We agreed to make the film for half our normal fees in return for a percentage of the profits. And Ladd said, if the other filmmakers agree to do that, we can go ahead. We had to show our belief in the project.
"We shot the movie in Opelika, Alabama."
Luke: "Were there any indications on the set that you had a great movie on your hands?"
Alex: "Yes, I knew it from Sally. She would come to work every day so prepared, so eager, so knowing this character, so imbued with it... And everyone working on the film was outstanding. They were cohesive, prepared and so full of belief in this character. We all believed in the iconography of a character who hadn't yet become an icon.
"The film was budgeted at $5 million. We brought it in under budget and days ahead of schedule because Marty Ritts shot so economically and we were all so prepared. Any time a producer can get the financing entity to give one week at least in solid rehearsal time, on location, they should do it. That saves so much in time and money. We came in $500,000 under budget and nine days ahead of schedule."
Luke: "How did your life change after Norma Rae's Oscar nominations?"
Alex: "The week we were nominated, I said to Tamara that we should call the president of the United States. Everybody took our call instantly. There wasn't one person who didn't pick up the phone. They were never busy."
Luke: "Nothing in Common, starring Tom Hanks, directed by Gary Marshall, in 1986."
Alex: "We developed it as a TV movie. But the networks thought it was too multi-layered and didn't have a salient enough logline.
"I met my husband Rob on Overboard (1987). He'd sailed the boat from Australia."
Luke: "But you were nothing like the snooty Goldie Hawn character in Overboard."
Alex: "Rob's a great navigator. He's great on the ocean."
Rose was married to Fred Weintraub for about ten years, from 1974 - 84. She married Rob at the end of 1988.
Alex: "Tom Selleck was the driving force behind Quigley Down Under (1990). The script had been around for centuries. A number of fine actors wanted to do it, from Steve McQueen to Clint Eastwood.
"Quigley was a great character. That's probably the linking theme of my work. I glom on to projects with great characters. Characters who stand up in the face of obvious oppression and resolves to make things right. And it is usually a character who you wouldn't expect to have that role. That is my innate belief system in the human being that any person will do the right thing when the opportunity is forced upon them.
"We had script problems and Tom was excellent in fighting through the mishmash of the studio's version of what it should be and the director's version...
"We got to Australia in 1989 during a national air strike. We were waiting in Sydney for Tom Selleck to come in. And Tom's hairdresser Lonnie says, 'You better check some of this stuff out when you get to location. You need to take a look at these horses.'
"We took a private jet from Sydney to Alice Springs [central Australia]. We asked to look at the horses. And we see this ridiculous horse for Tom. It's a short fat nag of a beast. And Tom is a big man. He got on the horse and his feet dangled down near the ground. I said that the horse was not attractive. Can you see this horse on the poster? And the horse crew said, 'Well, in those days horses weren't so big. It was 1870 and the horses were scrubby horses.' And I said, 'Yeah, and you're going to tell that to the movie poster? Here's Tom Selleck on a scrubby horse because in 1870 Australia, that is what the horses looked like?' It was presented to me that it was out of the question to get another horse.
"We also brought with us from Montana this wonderful old cowboy. And there were two groups of workers on the movie - the horse guys and the stunt guys. The horse guys were the ones who got this scrubby horse. I created this split by refusing to accept the horse. I was told by a horse guy that I had created the split by calling their horse a short and fat horse. I said, 'It is a short and fat horse.' And they were all upset.
"The stunt men were great. We chatted. They whispered that there was another horse in a trailer coming from Sydney. Tom refused to start shooting scenes until the horse was replaced. It caused a huge furor. It was a long drive from Sydney to Alice Springs. And there was no other way to get the horse there. A couple of days later, the horse arrived and it was a big gorgeous horse."
Luke: "I loved your 1991 movie Frankie and Johnny starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer."
Alex: "The material was given to Garry Marshall. Paramount owned the script. Gary asked me to read it. I thought it was a wonderful script. And so we embarked upon it."
Luke: "Every movie we've talked about so far you must've been pleased with how it turned out. Have there been any of your movies where you were disappointed?"
Alex: "Exit to Eden. It's an interesting example of how genre and tone can get confused. Exit to Eden is a fun campy film but there's a tonal issue that never got resolved. We weren't sure of how much comedy and how much sex in the film. And the balance was never realized because none of us knew ahead of time how it was going to go. Part of it depended on the level of the cast involved.
"We had an ensemble cast with three couples. Dan Akroyd and Rosie O'Donnell [police], Paul Mercurial and Dana Delaney and the mystery couple Stuart Wilson and Iman. The A story was the sexual story between Paul and Dana. The B story was the Dan and Rosie story. And what happened through dint of personality, the B story overtook the A story. And once that happens, the B story gains preponderance and is given more screen time than the A story. But the movie is the A story. And when that happened, the movie suffered. The scenes were good but what the movie was meant to be was lost.
"We were adapting Anne Rice's book. And you can't move away too much from an author's original intention. There's a disappointment when you move away from the source's intention. The book was a psycho-sexual fantasy. And we made a comedy-sexual fantasy. You not only alienate the fans of the book but you have to come up with Band-Aids for the script, as opposed to using the intrinsic material. For those reasons, the movie ended up different than what we expected. And because we didn't know what to expect, we didn't know what audiences should expect. If our intention as filmmakers is not clear-cut, then our intention can't be received."
Luke: "You tackled tough material, about developmentally disabled lovers, in 1999's The Other Sister. What were you thinking?"
Alex: "Once again, I thought the developmentally disabled couple represented that same theme of people who are unsung heroes. People who we don't think of as capable turn out to be enormously capable. We make a mistake in judging people a priori without giving them the benefit of flexing to the degree they can flex.
"The material is based on my family. I came up with the story. Garry Marshal knows my family well. He and I spent a weekend in Chicago where my sister Anne went to school. And we visited the school where she'd lived for many years.
"I'd shown Garry a picture of Anne and her new boyfriend. They were cute. And Garry said, 'That's the movie I want to make. I want to make a love story between those two people.' So on my next trip to Green Bay, I interviewed on videotape my sister Anne and her boyfriend. And Garry could then see the cadence of their speech and what they were about.
"Garry and I worked on the script. We brought on Bob Brunner and Blair Richwood. And after many rewrites, we felt we'd achieved a draft that was good enough to make."
Luke: "And how does Anne feel about the movie?"
Alex: "She loves it. Contrary to what Roger Ebert said, the movie is the most authentic film about mentally challenged people. We spent months at the McBride school in Chicago and at the Center for Developmentally Disabled people who are trained to work. My attorney is on the board of that organization so [actors] Juliette Lewis and Giovanni Ribisi spent much time there. So they got exactly the mannerisms and everything... I think it is Juliette and Giovanni's best performance to date. Women who see the movie see it over and over again."
From Imdb.com: "The "other sister" is quite an admirable work, because not only is it superbly acted and well scripted, it offers an insight at the Mentally Retarded-Developmentally Disabled Population as being more than "those people Geraldo rescued." The nervousness of parents not willing or ready to allow their children to grow up and move out when they are clearly capable of doing so, the frustration of a MR-DD adult child who knows her limits and yet is stymied by those who are supposed to be her support circle -- especially her mother (played wonderfully by Diane Keaton!)...this has you rooting for "the other sister" to assert herself and be an adult in so many different ways."
The Sum of all Fears
I ate breakfast at Nate & Al's Beverly Hills deli June 4, 2002, with producer Peter Samuelson.
The fourth of five generations of Samuelsons working in the film industry, Peter received his Masters Degree in Literature from Cambridge. After serving as a line producer on 1974's The Return of the Pink Panther, he produced 1984's The Revenge of the Nerds, 1994's Tom & Viv, 1997's Wilde, and 1999's film about domestic terrorism Arlington Road.
Luke: "The producers of Sum of all Fear came under pressure from Arab-Islamic groups not to cast the bad guys as Arabs or Muslims."
Peter: "We were specifically focused on right-wing domestic terrorism.
"I have a European Community passport and an American passport. I grew up in the UK. I lived in France for a year and now I live in Los Angeles. I really do see both sides of the Atlantic ocean clearly. There is a perverse cultural hegemony and even an imperialistic arrogance to the way that America portrays its worldview through film. I don't justify the fomenting of anger against America in the Third world and the Islamic world, and major parts of Europe, but I think I partly understand it. It partly feeds on jealousy because so much of the world's wealth is here. But it is also that America is perceived as a cultural fortress that pays little attention to the culture of the rest of the world, let alone to their religions. While tolerance within the United States is part of the Constitution, understanding and outreach to other foreign beliefs and ways of living are not historically core values of the American way. There are exceptions like the Peace Corp and the famous American tradition of a Junior [college] year abroad, backpacking through Europe....
"That only one American citizen in ten even owns a passport is not a statistic that goes without notice in the rest of the world. I believe there is an opportunity and a responsibility for the American entertainment industry to build some cultural bridges into the rest of the world. Or at least to stop building mine fields.
"It's an amazing thing that a recent Gallup poll in Saudi Arabia had about 75% of young educated Saudis agreeing with the anti-Americanism of Al Quaida if not with its methods. On the other hand, America cassettes and DVDs are the staple of entertainment across the Middle East and the world. I don't think there's been any period of history since the Roman Empire where there's been such cultural hegemony. I do believe that the frustration in certain parts of the Middle East is partly fueled by realizing that in virtually every piece of American entertainment where they need bad guys, they are historically are Arabs. That we almost never see positive Arab images is not unrelated to the anger and frustration in certain parts of the world of Islam.
"I am working with producer Deborah Hill on a project called Blood and Sand about a young American and a young Saudi who meet at an American postgraduate college and then run into each later in the Middle East as enemies and what then brings some minor but crucial understanding between them. I think we need to do a lot of that. We need to stop the stereotyping of who the enemy are - three guys with rags on their head who look like they haven't had a bath in a year building a bomb in the back of a cafe. This is not how to make friends and influence people."
Luke: "Did you consider boycotting Cannes this year because of all the anti-Semitic incidents there?"
Peter: "Absolutely not. That was a wrongheaded, dangerous and stupid suggestion. I have a number of French friends who are Jewish and I had several conversations in Cannes about the situation. I spoke to the head of a French studio who is Jewish, who told me that if LePen, in the second vote, got six million votes, his wife and he would emigrate to America. LePen got 5.5 million. And yet he and his wife thought the boycott was ill-advised. What you don't do when you have trouble with rabble-rousing, Hitlerian, bigoted racists is to pull up the draw bridge and say, 'Fuck you.' What you ought to do is reach out to the people who don't agree with them and empower them and make sure there are more of them then there are of the bad guys. That's not the same as appeasement. One can only face off with bigots and racists."
Producer Rob Carliner
I sat down with Robert Duvall's producer Rob Carliner at his Butchers Run Films office, May 22, 2002. In his early 30s, he's of medium height, wears glasses and has graying hair. He speaks slowly and deliberately and seems to mean what he says. He's the opposite of the fast talking Avi Lerner, Don Simpson, Randy Emmett style producer.
Rob: "My parents divorced. I grew up with my older brother and my mom, a homemaker, in Manhattan. My father, Mark Carliner, is a TV producer in Los Angeles. I'd visit him over the holidays. He's been a valuable asset for me in getting started in the business.
"I went to Horace Mann, a well known Ivy-League feeder private school in New York. About ten of my classmates ended up pursuing the entertainment business, writing for Seinfeld and Fraser. This industry attracts people from all over the country because there are no rules. There is no set system by which you get to a certain level. You don't have to wait for five years to become a partner. You can be in highschool and write a script and get it into the hands of an agent or producer and sell it. Nobody cares where you are, what you look like, what school you went to...
"My older brother Paul is a staff director for the Senate Appropriations Committee. Our worlds are strangely similar. There's a unique bridge between Hollywood and Washington. I love exploring it with my brother. We can trade war stories and they are eerily similar. We think that Hollywood is the center of the universe but we realize that the numbers here pale in comparison to Washington D.C.. We deal in the hundreds of millions of dollars and they deal in the tens of billions. The personality types are similar too with the senators and the movie stars. There are similar forces at work."
I spot a picture on the wall of Rob with President Clinton.
Rob: "During The Apostle promotion train, one of our stops happened to be at the Clinton White House, shortly after the Monica Lewinsky scandal first broke. We had a screening of The Apostle with Bill and Hillary as one of several stops that also included Cannes, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Academy Awards... As my first feature film, it was a home run. The hardest thing will be to make another film that equals that one."
I found this mention of Paul Carliner in an article in the 3/4/99 John Hopkins University News-Letter:
Paul Carliner, '87, echoed Joseph's enthusiasm about working for the federal government. Carliner, who majored in political science, works for the office of Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski. As a senior legislative assistant, Carliner advises Mikulski on matters dealing with the Senate Committee on Budget and Appropriations.
Speaking of working for the government, Carliner said, "Despite everything you read and hear, it is a public service, and you can make a difference."
Carliner has made a difference. During a controversy over domestic and imported sugar, the Domino Sugar factory in south Baltimore faced the threat of closing, an outcome that would have left 600 workers without jobs.
Carliner was a part of the team that successfully lobbied the Secretary of Agriculture into allowing into the country more imported sugar, thus saving the jobs.
"I'll never forget the look on the faces of those workers when I went down there. They were saying, 'You saved my job. You saved my house, my kids' education.' If you work for the government, you will have moments like that which are priceless. Whether it's saving lives in Bosnia or jobs in Baltimore, you can make a difference," said Carliner.
Rob: "I went to Princeton for two years and then transferred to the University of Michigan. I graduated in 1992 with a degree in Russian Studies. I figured that I would end up either in the diplomatic corp or business or law. I'd seen enough of Hollywood that given my personality, I didn't think it would be a world I'd be comfortable in. Hollywood was too unpredictable. I'm more conservative and methodical. My track was heading to law school but I got sidetracked once I got a taste of the movie business in 1991 as a PA on the Russian set of my father's TV movie Stalin. It enabled me to combine my Russian studies with my language skills.
"Once I saw how a movie was made, I was hooked. It was an incredible window into how people live in the movie business and the kinds of people the business attracts. Hollywood does attract a certain personality type that you don't find in most other businesses.
"I moved to Los Angeles after graduation and hustled for a job. I worked as a production assistant on different movies and then landed at Duvall's company, because I'd become friends with the guy (Brad Wilson) running the company. Duvall had just signed a production deal at Sony. I wrote this impassioned letter to Duvall. He didn't know me even though I had PA'd on the set of Stalin. He was standoffish, particularly because I was the son of the producer of the movie. Duvall is an outsider. Being related to somebody in the industry was an obstacle more than a help in the Duvall world. Actors generally are against the management and producers.
"I wrote a letter and said that I would sacrifice everything to work in the office. Please give me a chance.
"Once I was in the office, Duvall recognized my work ethic. I read everything that came in. I made myself knowledgeable on everything going on.
"I spent three years toiling, answering phones and reading scripts. At one point, Duvall said, 'I need an assistant for this job I'm doing. Why don't you pack your stuff and come with me.' And I didn't really have an option. My attitude was, 'Whatever it takes, I'll do it.'
"Then I caught a lucky break. Brad got another job offer and decided to leave the company in 1995. I was 25 years old at the time. The day Brad called Duvall to say he was leaving, Bobby [Duvall] called me and said, 'Brad's leaving the company. I'm going to give you a shot at running the company. When you go into work today, move yourself into the big office, find yourself an assistant and let's go.'
"We immediately went into pre-production on the TNT film The Man Who Captured Eichman (1996). That was my first producer credit.
"Duvall is based on the East Coast. TNT is based here. If I had been in their shoes, I would have been equally disturbed. You can only imagine the look on the TNT executives when I went in. But everything worked out.
"The Eichman story was based on a book by Peter Malkin that he'd been trying to set up for years. Duvall had read the book years prior to my joining the company. Once we got the rights to the book, we found writer Lionel Chetwynd who did the screenplay, which follows the book closely.
"The controversy about the telling of the capture of Eichman story is that you have at least nine guys involved in the capture, and each one tells the story differently. There's no objective source. I'm sure that not all guys involved were told everything. Malkin's book is one version.
"We went to great lengths to do the movie right. We shot it in Argentina. We shot it in the exact location that Eichman lived, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires."
Luke: "It was more talky than I expected."
Rob: "In a perfect world, it would've been nice to open up and show the city more. But the fascination for Duvall was this guy Eichman was in a room with an Israeli Mossad agent who lost his entire family in the Holocaust. That's not inherently cinematic. It's inherently dramatic. It was a struggle to balance the cinematic elements that weren't really there with the dramatic elements that were.
"Robert Duvall wrote The Apostle years before I joined the company. Different people along the way had tried to get it made, including his agents at William Morris. Once Eichman was put to bed and turned out well, it was not outside the realm of possibility that we could do The Apostle ourselves.
"He decided to finance the movie out of his own pocket. He wanted to do it for as little as possible. 'Make sure you know what you're doing and watch my back. Watch my money.' For me it was the ultimate Ph.D. thesis project. Here one of the greatest actors is asking me to produce his passion project. I never stopped to question whether I can really do it.
"It was the purest way to make a movie. The one guy using his own money, with one producer, with nobody to answer to. It doesn't happen. Even if you're the biggest producer in Hollywood, you are going to have to answer to somebody.
"It was the ultimate in freedom. And that is one quality that does not exist in the movie making process - freedom.
"We shot in Louisiana. I was on the set every day. Duvall, who directed and starred, his focus was on his lines and the other actors... I oversaw the details. I filtered out the nonessential elements so Bob could focus on the job at hand. I didn't want him burdened down with the minutiae of making a movie. Knowing him as many years as I did, I knew what to bring to his attention and what not to bring to his attention. That's a tricky dilemma for producers.
"We tried to mix professional actors with amateurs. Duvall had certain actors he wanted in the movie, including Farrah Fawcett and Billy Bob Thornton. He also wanted a subset of non-actors, people he would pick off the street. And one of the guys we ended up going with was Rick Dial (plays the fat guy who runs the radio station), this furniture salesman from Melverne, Arkansas. He was in Slingblade, which is where Bob saw him.
"Part of the chore of getting a movie made is figuring out a schedule to fit all the pieces of the puzzle. The hardest scheduling problem for us was Rick Dial's schedule because he refused to participate in the movie if it conflicted with the semiannual sale in Melverne. He didn't want to give up his business just to be in a stupid movie. And for Bobby, it was just as important to get Rick Dial as Farrah Fawcett.
"On the set, we knew the movie was different. Everybody who signed on to the movie, from the Teamster on up, knew that they were working with Robert Duvall and that he was using his own money. The usual obstacles you face in making a movie over money and attitude were not there. There were no meal penalties. It created an attitude that you don't find on big-budgeted movies.
"Bob directed two previous films - the feature Angela My Love and a documentary on a rodeo family in Nebraska."
Luke: "Did making the movie change you?"
Rob: "I can only hope that I can come close to the experience again. My fear is that it will be really hard. That movie was a pure expression on many different levels. Academy award winning editor Walter Murch told me that The Apostle was an A, and my best bet on my next film was to aim for a B."
Luke: "Then you did a movie I can't get my hands on, A Shot at Glory. Robert Duvall coaches a Scottish soccer team."
Rob: "It just got a limited 225-theater release. It opened the same day as Spiderman. It came and went. It got buried. It's the flip side to The Apostle scenario. The movie was made with private money. With The Apostle, we took it to the Toronto Film Festival and sold it to a major distributor. We tried to follow that same track with the soccer movie and we premiered in Toronto in year 2000. And we had no bids. In the space of a couple of years, we went from hero to goat.
"I'm proud of the film. In the world of independent films, unless you have some major reviews behind you, it is hard to get your film seen, when on any given weekend, there are ten films opening.
"There was no easy marketing angle for A Shot at Glory. It was set in Scotland with Scottish actors speaking in Scottish accents. It was difficult to understand. Duvall was authentic to the point where he would be difficult for some to understand. American audiences in general aren't much concerned with what happens outside America. And straining to understand an accent is not what most Americans want to do on a Saturday night.
"There's never been a soccer film that's been a huge hit. You can't make the case to any studio that they have a built-in franchise here. We developed the film from an idea Duvall had of playing a Scottish soccer coach. And then we ended up working with writer Dennis O'Neal who fleshed out a story from that kernel of an idea that Duvall had. And then we shot the script around. Michael Corrente got a hold of it through William Morris. He said, 'Look, I'm obviously not your first choice to be a director on this movie but if you give me a shot, I'll raise the money.' It was worth it to us to get the movie made.
"The yet to be released Assassination Tango is another Robert Duvall passion project. He wrote it years ago. He didn't pull it out out of the trunk until he was satisfied with The Apostle.
"I read an article in the trades that Francis Ford Coppolla had just signed a ten-picture deal with MGM, and that he had the power to greenlight movies with budgets under $10 million. So I did some legwork and got the script to his production company. Francis responded quickly and said he was willing to make the movie."
Luke: "I know Duvall loves tango because I've seen him with his gorgeous latina girlfriend (Luziana Pedraza) at this club in the Valley."
Rob: "She is not a professional actress but she's a worldclass tango dancer. And she ends up as the female lead.
"We shot the movie in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The picture will be out later this year. We were left alone which allowed Bobby to make the film he wanted to make. It reflects his love of dance and of Argentina.
"Bobby left William Morris a couple of years ago so I've backed into being his sole representation. Many managers become producers by glamming on to projects that their clients are attached to as actors. I came at it the other way round."
Luke: "What does your dad think of you?"
Rob: "I think he's proud of what I've been able to accomplish as a producer in a seven years. We've produced three features and a cable movie."
Why Do Movies Violate the Laws of Physics?
Dr Lawrence Pierce writes: I first noticed it in the movie "Independence Day" when a ball of thermonuclear fire goes racing through a tunnel, destroying everyone and everything in its path. In reality, all of the oxygen would have been sucked out of the tunnel while roasting everyone inside. But in the movie, a person jumps into a little crawl space still exposed to the blast, and walks away without any problem.
Then there's such idiotic scenes like those in "Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger" where people can walk uphill in the middle of the air. Just try jumping up in the air, laying horizontally, and then try walking up a wall. But have a trampoline under you because you're going to come down with a splat.
One of the worst is in Tom Cruise Mission Impossible series where he's riding on the front of a helicopter churning through another tunnel, chasing a train, when the chopper suddenly explodes and Cruise gets thrown, still alert and alive and undamaged, onto the back of the speeding train where he grabs hold. As soon as I saw that scene, I took the video out of the player and threw it into the trash. It's now in the dump where the city rats can enjoy it.
Morgan Freeman Says 9/11 Not a National Trauma
From Newsmax.com: Actor Morgan Freeman appears intelligent in his movie roles. Appearances can be deceiving.
A co-star of Tinseltown's politically correct version of "The Sum of All Fears," he's stirring up a fuss with comments made over the weekend about whether people want to see a movie about terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11. "We had a trauma, but it's really not a national trauma," Freeman told New York movie reviewer Neal Rosen. "If you were not in New York on Sept. 11, what you saw was an event on CNN."
Hollywood Shifts Right
From Newsmax.com: But there's more than President Bush's popularity behind Hollywood's rightward drift. HR [The Hollywood Reporter] reports that filmmakers are concerned that stars who have grown used to publicly spewing their once acceptable far-left views have begun to hurt studio bottom lines.
In an HR e-poll, 33.8 percent of 1,041 adults surveyed said they viewed movie celebs as "far left wingers." Fewer than 2 percent said Hollywood leans right. The clincher for studio execs is this figure: 44.3 percent of those polled said they might not patronize a movie featuring a star whose politics they don't like.
The HR e-poll identified Alec Baldwin as one of the top five offenders disliked for his political views. Just two months ago, the outspoken liberal compared Bush's election victory to the 9-11 disaster.
Film critic Michael Medved told HR that the film industry can simply no longer afford to indulge its more anti-American stars the way it has over the last generation. In 1960, the industry sold 2.08 billion tickets. But after a decade of catering to counterculture tastes, ticket sales had plummeted by more than half, to 970 million. And that was in 1970, well before the proliferation of the VCR.
Reginald writes on rec.arts.movies.current-films newsgroup: I guess Alec Baldwin and his other group of of hate mongering pals are starting to hurt the box office take. Disney got tagged as anti-family, pro left and the stock and company have tanked. KMart's business tanked after Rosie attack Tom Selleck. KMart's business had been improving before Rosie's vicious attack.
Khunrum writes: Isn't this blogging? From producer interviews to blogging?? But then again Luke may have been the first blogger. Stealing copy from Gene Ross and Quazarman for Luke.com. Luke, you were ahead of your time. Now how about blogging some interesting sleaze for your loyal readers?
Farah Fawcett, Suzanne Somers, Clint Eastwood, Jim Carrey (would be republican if citizen), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Drew Carey, Bruce Willis, Bob Crane, Fred MacMurray, Roy & Dale Rodgers, Kevin Costner, Edward James Olmos, Jay Leno, Charlton Heston Mel Gibson (would be republican if citizen) Dennis Franz Kurk Russel James Stewart Robert Taylor Sonny Bono Robert Stack Dixie Carter Travis Tritt Reba McIntire Heather Locklear Gerald McRaney Ted Nugent Gary Bussey Pat Sajak Art Linkletter James Woods Regis Philbin Bill Paxton Susan Anton Loretta Lynn Joan Rivers Joe Mantegna Ruth Buzzi Jerry Mathers Erin Gray Tom Wopat John Schneider Robert Conrad Delta Burke Scott Baio Susan Lucci Mary Hart Jason Priestley Dennis Miller Jan-Michael Vincent Sybil Danning Tony Danza Bob Hope Ernist Borgnine Danny Aiello Buddy Ebsen Fred Savage Bruce Boxleitner Melissa Gilbert Donnie & Marie Osmond Kelsey Grammer David Hyde-Pierce Patricia Heaton Andy Garcia Gloria Stefan Ken Osmond Cheryl Ladd Susan Lucci The Judds Shirley Jones Jamie Farr Sarah Michelle Gellar Goldie Hawn ?
Prager Claims Israel is Legitimate
Dennis Prager gave a lecture at UCLA last week on the moral case for Israel. UCLA's student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, headlined its frontpage article on the speech: "Prager Claims Israel is Legitimate."
Here's part of the article:
By Kelly Rayburn
For Dennis Prager, a "moral case for Israel" is so obvious it is ridiculous that he would even have to lecture on the topic to a group of UCLA students.
When it comes to bloodshed in the Mideast, the author, theologian and radio talk show host sees one culture as morally right and the other as morally wrong. Those who believe all cultures are by nature morally equal are naive and misguided, he said Tuesday in Kerckhoff Grand Salon.
"My nine-year-old can understand that," he said.
The question of Israel's legitimacy as a state – an issue debated widely throughout the world in politics, the media and at universities – has an irrefutable answer in Prager's mind: Israel is as legitimate as any country, and the tiny democracy has every right to defend itself from Palestinian terrorists and neighboring "police states." Prager said few people realize how small Israel is – "you can jog across Israel without having run a marathon." Those who don't support Jewish control of such a small piece of land are anti-Semitic, Prager said.
Many who sympathize with the plight of Palestinians argue that there is a difference between condemning the state of Israel and anti-Semitism. For many, the issue is not whether Jews deserve a homeland, but whether the displacement of Palestinians by the state of Israel is acceptable. Whether Palestinians were forced off their land by the creation of Israel – and, if so, how many were forced off – is a question still debated fervently today. But setting demographic and geographic arguments aside, "there is no country in the world that was created without displacing some people," Prager said.
IN HIS NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO SHOW MONDAY, DP described universities as a moral wasteland. It seems that the more educated you become, the more morally backward.
DP noted that he did not make a speech about Israel's legitimacy. He was not debating that. He was making the moral case for supporting Israel. So why the Daily Bruin headline? Because on the campus that is debated. It is so bad that on this college campus they don't take it for granted that Israel should exist.
The Sum of all Fears
Johnathan Last writes in the Weekly Standard: "The Sum of All Fears" is, objectively speaking, one of the worst-made big studio films in recent memory. The editing is ham-handed and often incoherent. The direction is suspect. And the production decisions are both mystifying and instructive.
For the uninitiated, "Fears" is the fourth installment of the Jack Ryan franchise adapted from Tom Clancy's best-selling novels. In the book version of "Fears," a group of Middle-Eastern terrorists tries to start a war between Russia and the United States by setting off a nuclear bomb at the Super Bowl. The producers were squeamish about the idea of portraying radical Muslims as terrorists, so they turned the bad guys into neo-Nazis (for an excellent description of the decision-making process, read Reihan Salam's piece in Slate). One of the producers, Mace Neufeld, says that complaints from the CAIR crowd started coming into the studio before they even had a script, and Affleck now cavalierly says, "The Arab terrorist thing has been done a million times in the movies." Which is true. Of course, in all of the World War II movies, America is fighting Germany and Japan.
"The Sum of All Fears" is a case study in how Hollywood handles September 11. Now the movie was greenlit and shot long before September 11. But in the shadow of Khobar Towers and the USS Cole and the embassy bombings, Hollywood flinched from showing Arab terrorists at work.
Reihan Salam writes in Slate: The threat of al-Qaida terrorist attacks is currently scaring America stiff. But you'd be hard-pressed to find Muslim terrorists in any of today's blockbuster action movies, which instead offer such uncontroversial bad guys as killer aliens and abusive husbands. Why is Hollywood shying away from al-Qaida-like villains?
Paramount pulled a switcheroo. Clancy's original baddies were a motley crew of unreconstructed German Communists, a Sioux convict, and—the stumbling block—Hamas-like Palestinian terrorists opposed to the peace process. Long before Sept. 11, these were replaced with slickly dressed, easy-to-hate European neo-Nazis. While the basic plot remains the same (terrorists try to spark armed conflict between Russia and America by detonating a nuclear device at the Super Bowl, and Ryan saves the day) the movie is, for obvious reasons, far less relevant than the novel. It is also far more acceptable both to Hollywood sensibilities and the Arab ethnic lobby.
Though a staple of political thrillers since the days of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Muslim terrorists on-screen have been dwindling in numbers since the mid-1990s. Since then, groups like the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have condemned movies like 1994's True Lies and 2000's Rules of Engagement, both of which featured violent, fanatical Muslims (as opposed to 1996's The Rock, which featured violent, fanatical Gulf War veterans or 2001's AntiTrust, which featured violent, fanatical software executives). They even protested 1998's critically acclaimed The Siege, a searing critique of anti-Arab hysteria.
Producer Robert F. Newmyer
On May 23, 2002, I interviewed producer Robert F. Newmyer at his office on Sunset Blvd.
Bob: "I was born 5/30/56. I grew up in Washington, D.C.. My father James Newmyer was a political consultant. I went to the private school that most of the politician's children went to, Sidwell Friends. It's a Quaker school.
"I graduated with a degree in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore in 1978. It's a small liberal arts college outside Philadelphia. I transferred twice to the University of Colorado at Boulder to have fun. I talked my six best friends from Swarthmore into forming a real estate company in Telluriede, Colorado. We had two of the best years. We built condominiums and homes on spec and made a fair amount of money. And then I made a big mistake. I went to business school at Harvard, graduating in 1982. They were miserable years, unpleasant and unproductive.
"After graduation, I thought about moving to Telluriede, where I probably would've been extremely happy and remained to this day. But I decided to just swing through Los Angeles to see what the movie business was about. I'd been here just a few days when I got a job interview with mid-level executive Johnathan Dolgen at Columbia Pictures. Now he's the chairman of Paramount. Then he was in charge of pay television and ancillary markets.
"The microcomputer was a new device in 1982. It was hot off the press. I knew how to do financial modeling. He wanted someone to model all the types of deals that previous to that had been modeled with a hand calculator. I worked with John for two-and-a-half years, modeling business affairs deals, pricing videos, pay TV output deals, acquisitions... It was interesting for a while and then it became repetitive, like all jobs.
"John moved to Fox in 1984. I became Vice-president of Production of Columbia. I wanted to become an independent producer. I went to David Putnam to ask for his blessing. He asked me to stick around and produce for the studio. He moved us to a suite of nice offices. Just as we were beginning to negotiate the lowest rent producing deal in the history of motion pictures, Putnam got fired by the Coca Cola board of directors.
"I stayed on the lot in those nice offices for two years until it was discovered that I had no business being there. I had free offices for a couple of years, free phones and free furniture. I started optioning screenplays, for $5-10,000, with my own meager resources. Many of the movies we eventually made came from those scripts, such as Sex, Lies and Videotape, Mr. Baseball, Don Juan DeMarco, Crossing the Bridge, Addicted to Love and Santa Claus.
"I loved Steven Soderbergh's writing. I'd never been able to persuade anyone to produce one of his scripts. The first script I optioned was something he'd written, Dead From the Neck Up. I started working on another project with him called Revolver. Because I was spending so much time with him, and he was living in Baton Rouge, I had to fly him out here every time I wanted to get together. I gave him a small check and asked him to move out here.
"And it was during his drive out here in his beat-to-shit Oldsmobile, that he conceived the idea for Sex, Lies and Videotape. He'd collect material in his brain, stop at a park bench and write it out in longhand. Then he'd drive, stop and write again. By the time he got here, he had a screenplay written out in longhand. I had my assistant type up his screenplay and there it was. Ninety five percent of what he wrote on those park benches was true to what the movie became.
"Columbia had a video distribution arm that made low budget productions, many of which went straight to video. Larry Estes ran the division. He read the script once and approved it for a $1.1 million budget. Steve subsequently had a change of heart. After Larry approved, Steve asked that he be allowed to make it in black and white and be able to Hard Mat the pay TV and video release so the image would come in its original aspect ratio. Larry said no. 'You kidding? You're not Woody Allen yet.'
"I backed out. Steve went off and tried to get other financing. He eventually came back to the original deal. He shot it in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. When I saw a cut of it, I thought it was a terrific picture, but a small picture with a limited audience. None of us imagined that it could break out.
"We were the last picture submitted to the Sundance Film Festival. We continued to do editorial and soundwork on the picture right up to its screening. Steve took a wet print on the plane. We won the Audience Favorite prize. We then won the Palm D'Or prize at Cannes. That led to a frenzy among the distributors. We went with Miramax because Bob and Harvey Weinstein seemed like the most aggressive marketers and they also made the most aggressive financial offer for the film."
Luke: "And was this the best ride you've ever had with a movie?"
Bob: "Yes. It was the best ride because it was so unexpected and Steve is such an assured and self-contained filmmaker. It sets you up for enormous disappointment for the rest of your career."
Luke: "So many producers I've interviewed had their best ride on their first film. Were you able to work into bars and say, 'Hey baby, I produced Sex, Lies and Videotape.'"
Bob: "No. When the movie came together, I formed the two great partnerships of my life. I got married in 1986. And I formed this company, Outlaw Productions, with Jeff Silver, who'd run physical production for Canon Pictures. We went into business together on the theory that I would develop scripts and package them, raise the financing and get them set to go and Jeff would see them through.
"We're coming up on our 16th wedding anniversary. We have a 14-year old, a 13-year old, a 9-year old and my 44-year old wife is now four months pregnant."
Luke: "What was your status in town like after Sex, Lies?"
Bob: "There were two big changes in my career life. The first was Sex, Lies. After that, I didn't have to struggle to get my phone calls returned. I went from having no credibility to a track record. I started getting material. It was the wrong type of material. I was labeled as an independent filmmaker and I was much more interested in becoming a studio filmmaker. The independent world is a tough way to make a living. You're not really paid fees. You get profit participation, which is unlikely to mean anything. I had two kids. I had to earn some money.
"After our first movie, we made two small independent pictures - Crossing the Bridge and Indian Summer. Then we decided to own a picture. We got some of the people who invested in our real estate ventures in Telluriede to invest in our movie. We got 32 investors to give us $2 million and we made this little movie The Opposite Sex. We showed it to Harvey and Bob and they took it off the market immediately with a preemptive bid of $5 million. I then had a lot of difficulty collecting that money. It ended up a nightmare, for me, for Miramax and for all the investors."
Luke: "How did the movie do at the box office?"
Bob: "Nothing. It was not much of a movie. It was silly and broadly comedic and sporadically funny. It was the worst experience I've ever had with a film. We were suing Miramax and they were cross-filing against us."
Luke: "Let us not forget your 1991 movie, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead."
Bob: "We had a great time with Director Stephen Herek and with the folks at HBO who financed the movie. God, after dealing with Miramax, it was such a pleasure dealing with HBO.
"I took two dozen trips to Japan during this period trying to find private financing. While there, I saw some American baseball players playing in Japan. That was the concept for Mr. Baseball, starring Tom Selleck, which we made for Universal."
Luke: "Did you ever work with Miramax again?"
Bob: "Not until earlier this year, with Mindhunters.
"The second thing that changed my career, after Sex, Lies, was The Santa Clause. We'd optioned a screenplay with our own money. We'd taken it to Jeff Katzenberg at Disney. He put us together with Tim Allen. We produced it for $20 million, all in, and it grossed $145 million in the U.S., the third highest grossing movie of 1995. The Santa Clause did more for the stature of our production company than Sex, Lies. On the heels of Santa Clause, we had the clout to get an overall deal at a studio.
"I'd known [Warner Brothers executive] Lorenzo di Bonenventura for a decade. We'd worked at Columbia. We brought some Japanese money to Lorenzo at Warner Brothers and Warners gave us an overall deal. That's a huge turning point. All of a sudden, instead of my partner and I having to pay for our assistants and our offices and our telephones, all of a sudden the studio is paying for our overhead and looking to develop projects with us.
"From 1987 until 1994, when we got the deal, I was working 16-hour days on average. I was burned out. Once I had an overall deal, I was working 70-hour weeks.
"We produced a mixed-bag at Warners."
Luke: "Don Juan De Marco."
Bob: "That's a picture we developed with our own money that we set up at New Line. We've had two pictures which ended up in lawsuits - The Opposite Sex and Don Juan De Marco. We'd developed the movie with first-time writer and director, Jeremy Levin. We sent it to Johnny Depp who was interested. We then sent that package to New Line. We couldn't make a deal with them. We couldn't figure out what was going on.
"They brought in Francis Ford Coppola's company to produce, instead of us. Marlon Brando played one of the two leads. They'd gotten to Coppola because he was the way they could get to Brando. We sued them and they ended up paying us our full producing fee and a credit not to produce the movie."
Luke: "How did you like the movie?"
Bob: "I thought Johnny Depp was delightful. I think the changes apparently mandated by Marlon Brando screwed the movie up. I wasn't there. But the screenplay we developed had the psychiatrist played by Brando suffering marital difficulties from the get go. The movie was ostensibly about Marlon Brando having an impact on Johnny Depp's life when what was really happening was Johnny Depp having an impact on Marlon Brando's life.
"My guess is that Marlon was uncomfortable playing a screwed-up husband at the beginning of the movie. His marriage was ok at the beginning of that movie and there was nowhere for it to go. What was the impact Johnny Depp had on his life? It was almost imperceptible.
"Addicted to Love (1997) and Training Day (2001) were successful movies. Nobody came to Three to Tango (1999) and Ready to Rumble (2000).
"There were two competing wrestling leagues on television. Vince McMahn's WWF was clearly dominant. He had the Rock. But Time Warner owned the other wrestling franchise, the WCW. We were forced to ally ourselves with them, and when the movie came out, they were out of business. Professional wrestling fans don't want to pay $7:50 to go to a movie and people who aren't professional wrestling fans don't want to go to a movie about professional wrestling.
"I would've predicted that Ready to Rumble was the most commercial movie we ever made.
"We were assigned the movie Gossip, which did not have good results. We knew we had problems with it from the time we first tested it. And that's always a painful experience because you then spend months editorially trying to make the picture better. And when you've exhausted that, you think about what you can reshoot. It was the first and last time we ever had that experience. Roughly half the movies studios release they know are in trouble from the first time they see them.
"Gossip was a particularly tough experience because the director, David Guggenheim, was a friend of mine.
"In the late 1980s, we optioned Addicted to Love by a then-unknown screenwriter named Robert Gordon. It took us a frustrating five years to get the right combination of director and movie star to commit to the picture. I loved the movie. I think the reason that the movie was not more successful was that audiences were not looking for Meg Ryan to play that dark of a role. Is that your belief or is there something more structurally fucked up about the movie?"
Luke is dying to give his two cents. "It had to be either darker or lighter."
Bob: "Part of the reason that it is not darker is Meg. She brings a certain lightness."
Luke: "It just didn't work for me. I sat there and watched it, and about 40 minutes in, I found myself losing interest."
Bob: "As a producer, you're just so involved in the process at every step that you lose perspective. When you see the finished product, it is flawless to you even though it is obviously flawed to everyone else."
Luke: "Tell me about Training Day. Lead Denzel Washington won his Best Actor Oscar for it."
Bob: "We got the script from a 23-year old writer, David Ayer, which we loved. We optioned it with our own money and started developing it. We sold it to Warners. To my great surprise and joy, Warners did not want to take the edge off the script and make it a PG-13 movie. Denzel was the first person we went to and he said yes immediately. Antoine Fuqua was a director Denzel wanted to work with.
"I was happy with the experience because the picture never lost its integrity. It never softened up. It was a tough shoot in the worst neighborhoods of Los Angeles. On a $40 million budget , it grossed about $78 million domestically.
"Warners put pressure on us to put more action in the third act. Young males were more likely to go to a movie with action than a movie with character and dialogue."
Luke: "Which of your films have turned out creatively the way you wanted them to?"
Bob: "If you'd asked me that before we shown them in front of an audience, I would've said every one except Wagons East. John Candy passed away two-thirds through the shoot.
"I get so blinded... Then you show them to an audience and half the time you find out you're wrong.
"Two years ago, Warners offered to extend our deal. At the same time, we got an aggressive offer from Intermedia and we took it."
Luke: "Is there a common thread through your work?"
Bob laughs. "I wish you wouldn't have asked that. The most interesting material to me is more appropriate for the independent world. I realized more than a decade ago that I couldn't make a living producing independent films. I own a house. I have three kids in private schools. Nannies. It's OK if you're single and you live in an apartment, you can have an interesting work life making independent films.
"Most of the pictures we will make for the next decade are action pictures and comedies because they are the most commercial genres. I'm hoping that once I get my kids through college, I'll be able to make more interesting material."
Luke: "Sex, Lies and Videotape is the most cerebral movie you've made."
Bob: "By far."
Luke: "Do you feel yourself living and dying by the box office results of your films?"
Bob: "Yes. It is clearly true that you are treated by the town by your [box office] results. Not on your track record over the last 15 years but by how your last movie did. Everyone thinks you're a genius when your last movie worked and an idiot when your last movie didn't work. I hope that neither are true. Business is clearly easier after a hit. Business was easier for us after Training Day. It was harder for us a couple of years before that. Objectively life is more pleasant when we are successful.
"I used to let it effect me emotionally to a greater extent. I know that in the next ten years I will make a couple of movies that will be really successful, and at least a couple of movies that tank."