Why Does Anyone Become a Producer? To Meet Girls
I interviewed producer Al Burton Thursday, a spry little man in his 70s.
Al: "At age 19, I graduated [from Northwestern University] with a degree in Speech. I came to Hollywood. I sold a teenage television show (Tele-teen Report) on which I appeared. I was the editor of a mythical newspaper that covered 72 schools in the LA area. That led to other shows. At one point, I was doing five teenage television shows a week.
"That background gave me the impetus to invent the Miss Teenage America pageant in the early 1950s. I did not continue with it. I went to pick it up again in 1962 when MCA called me to say they're doing their own Miss Teenage America pageant. They offered to help me promote my pageant if I changed the name. So I did to Miss Teen USA. It became Miss Teen International. I ran these pageants until 1973.
"The first Miss Teen International was Ewa Aulin who babysat my daughter. Ewa starred in the  movie Candy, based on the Terry Southern novel. It was a dirty movie. It embarrassed the hell out of me because I was going on with my clean wholesome teenage image. But she was adorable. Norman Lear put her in Start the Revolution Without Me, playing a Marie Antionette duplicate.
"After Candy, she moved to Italy and married Roberto Rosselini Jr, the love child of Ingrid Bergman conceived on the island of Scromboli. Ingrid had an affair with Roberto Rosselini, who she later married and divorced. Ewa Aulin was a superstar in Italy. She divorced Roberto and married John Sperrow. She starred in some big Italian movies.
"The girls in the pageant were aged 15-19. That age is adorable. A reviewer once wrote, 'The problem is that at this age they are all Juliets. And the became Lady MacBeths.' A telling line. If you stop to think, it is more true than it should be. All I dealt with ever were Juliets. I loved these young ladies.
"I met my wife in the middle of this career. When we went out socially and people asked her what her husband did for a living, she said, 'He exploits teenagers.' She put up with me somehow. She had to walk in all the time to see me with bikini-clad beauties."
Luke: "Did you ever date any of them?"
Al: "Oh sure, that's why I got into the business I'm in. Why does anyone become a producer?
"When I was at Northwestern, I was a little short guy. But I put on a show on [TV station] WEAW in Evanston, Illinois. And I dated beautiful blond girls and they liked me. I was going to house-warming parties that lasted 20 days. I had a nice life. I've always claimed that I was a wholesome person. I didn't do drugs. I barely drank liquor."
Luke: "Did you date any contestants from the Miss Teen USA?"
Al: "No. By that time, I was grown up. I married when I was 27 years old."
Thursday evening I attended a cast and crew screening for the new movie Scorched at the Richard Zanuck theater on the Fox lot on Pico Blvd.
I sat behind executive producer Cindy Cowan. I introduced myself and my book project to Cindy afterwards. And the first thing she said to me after I said I was from Australia, was that she'd always wanted to go there. And that she wanted to shoot a movie there. And that the Australian Film Commission is tops.
And then she asked me how I liked the film and what could I say but that it was fun.
On my way out, I said hello to another executive producer Hadeel Reda, who I interviewed last week.
SPOILER: I was bothered that the three lead protagonists in the film get away with bank robbery and that their crime was seemingly morally justified because they had a jerk of a boss.
I particularly resent how the movie made fun of my favorite Australian band Air Supply.
John Cleese plays a millionaire bad guy who likes to hunt.
Woody Harrelson attended the screening.
As I looked around the room, and the approximately 400 people, I noticed about three fat people. Everyone else appeared in good shape. Everyone was dressed casually. A lot of the women had their breasts hanging out and their midriffs exposed.
Director Gavin Grazer gave a rambling five-minute speech at the top of the evening about the joys of shooting the movie in 115 degree weather in Palmdale.
Steph writes on Imdb.com: "I saw this movie at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival with several of the film's main stars in attendance. About an internal bank robbery, the idea is comically interesting, but the screenplay is dull and the acting really fell short. Alicia Silverstone is stuck in airhead-land; Woody Harrelson's attempt at slapstick comedy is just plain goofy; Rachel Leigh Cook overdoes her performance by exaggerating her facial expressions and motorcycle rebel character; finally, Paulo Costanzo was like Jerry Seinfeld trying to be serious."
I love this 1993 Clint Eastwood movie. I'd tell you why I love it except that Colin on Imdb.com has already expressed my thoughts:
I consider myself a cynical person. This attribution is not just mine; I get it a lot. But never once during the duration of A Perfect World did I shrug, snicker, sneer, or mock. It was weird. As to the critics and others who consider the ending trite and the characters stereotypical, yes, I can see their point. But it never bothered me. This film may have flaws, but I'm not looking for them. I'm engaged, entwined, entirely convinced. Every time I see it.
Film is such a dense, complex medium that any verbal compliments tend to damn with faint praise, and I don't see a reason to point out what I think is good about this film. I'm sure I'd miss most of it. A lot of what's good about this, and any other film, can't be articulated anyway. So I'll just summarize it, as it relates to me. The fact that I never considered ridiculing this movie has convinced me I'm not such a bitter cynic after all. Which is a nice realization.
Producer Karen Barber
On May 7, 2002, I interviewed movie producer Karen Barber, 31 years of age, in the office of Quentin Tarantino's producer Lawrence Bender. Barber has a two year producing deal with Bender.
Karen: "I grew up in Woodstock, New York. My parents were hippies. My father Ben Barber is now a famous journalist who covers foreign affairs for the Washington Times. My parents divorced when I was six years old.
"When my mom was 18 years old, she did all the ink and paint for the Spiderman cartoons. She was the only person who drew with [cartoonist] Stan Lee. She was going to move to LA to do Fritz the Cat with him. She took a month holiday and went to Israel where she met my dad, who's from London. He was on a holiday too. My mom gave up the art thing.
"I was born in Mendocino, California. We left when I was six months old and went to Hawaii and India. My dad had a big inheritance and was publishing his own books on foreign affairs and poetry and giving them out.
"If I'd have grown up with my dad, he would've pushed me to study more math and English. The big thing for my mom was art. I was the best artist in Catholic high school. Then I went to the Art Institute of Miami where everyone was the best artist from their high school and I realized that I was not very good. I was going to NYU but I had a boyfriend who wanted to kill me. So my mom insisted, three weeks before school was due to start, that I find another school.
"I thought graphic design was what I wanted to do. I was really into logos. But there were all these really talented artists around me and I did not think of myself as as talented as them. I have more of a head for business. I could never be a starving artist. I thought that art director for a magazine would be the right place for me.
"In my last year at college, we had to intern somewhere. I interned at a couple of magazines and I realized it was not what I wanted to do. I quit. I needed more intern credits. I was walking down the street and someone asked me if I wanted to audition for the Juliette Lewis part in the movie Cape Fear , which was shooting in Miami at the time. I said no, I'm not an actress. But I need to intern. And I interned one day a week in the wardrobe department. I loved it. They wanted me to be there more and more. They ended up paying me.
"Clothes. Crafts service. Movie. I love to shop for clothes. I loved going to thrift stores finding clothes. We had to find vintage stuff in double and triples because there was a lot of blood in [the movie]. When I went to the premiere of the movie, I was scared, even though I was on set all the time. And that's when I knew I wanted to be in the movie business.
"I assisted the wardrobe woman for a year. I realized I didn't want to be a stylist. I didn't want to have clothes in my car all the time. I realized that all the wardrobe women were crazy.
"Then I went to work for a couple of low-budget exploitation movie producers. Those were the kind of movies they were making in Miami at the time. Skin flicks. We shot in Paradise Island in the Bahamas. We stayed in a resort. This wealthy man had $5 million and he wanted to direct his own movie. So he spent his own money and he wrote the script. Well, at least half of it. He thought he'd finish it while we were there. We shot half the movie and then he didn't want us to leave. We stayed in the Bahamas for a month doing nothing. I was the only young girl on the crew. I got freaked out because there these guys who were married who were knocking on my door at night.
"We would show up on the set and this guy [financier] would sit on a cooler and try to write what we were supposed to shoot that day. I thought that was how things were done. He didn't want us to leave.
"I then went to work at a New York talent agency for six months and hated it. I would come home every night and cry about it, it was so horrible. I thought I'd become a trainer. Then I got a call out of nowhere that producer Abel Ferrara needed an assistant. I said no but my mom and my boyfriend of the time talked me into it.
"Abel is out of his mind but he's extremely smart. He doesn't do anything by the book. He wakes up at 4PM and wants me to work through the night.
"I'd been with him for a week when he had a meeting at October Films about the film The Funeral starring Christopher Walken. He showed up to this meeting with all these executives with a six pack in his hands. He said, 'Just tell everything to Karen,' and he walked out the door. I was 23 years old. The executives were all men. They don't say anything to me except to ask, 'Is he coming back?'
"I walk around the office looking for him. He's in the kitchen making a sandwich. He says, 'Make them tell you whatever they have to say.' I say, 'Abel, they don't want to talk to me.' He walks back in the room, 'I said you tell everything to Karen.' And then he leaves the building. That's how I got forced into everything. I ended up producing his life. He was a drug addict and he was paranoid of his agents and his lawyers. I did all the work. Everything came through me. I took care of him.
"We made a couple of movies during my two years with him. I helped him write and edit. He always wanted to cast Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel. He doesn't watch many movies so I'd help him cast. If the script called for a 25-year old Mexican, he'd say, 'What about Chris Walken?'
"We made these Subway Stories for HBO. I read through hundreds of submitted scripts and chose some. I helped cast.
"I'd quit all the time and he'd beg me to come back. We had a codependent relationship. When I started, he was not as bad of a drug addict. It progressively got worse. I'd help him through rehab. Our movies went from ok to worse. The last two we did didn't even get distribution. Actors wanted to work with him but he was becoming incoherent because of the drugs.
"I helped write the script for One Tough Cop, which starred Mark Wahlberg. I've never answered phones and rolled calls. I didn't want to be an assistant. Marty Scorsese's office called me to see if I wanted to work as an assistant. I tried it for a week and went back to Abel. Then a couple of weeks later, I got a call from Robert DeNiro's office. It was one of the days when I was truly determined to quit Abel.
"I went down to DeNiro's office and there were all these people there interviewing. And I had never interviewed for a job. All my jobs had been given to me. I didn't even have a resume. But an hour after I left, I got a call saying I had the job. The woman I replaced had been with DeNiro for 15 years. Robin Chambers.
"Working for Bob was the opposite of Abel. Bob does everything by the book. He uses his agents and his lawyers. I worked on the movie Jackie Brown. I remember when Lawrence Bender would call. I felt so intimidated. DeNiro had so much going on. Abel gets up at 4PM. Bob gets up at 5AM and works out. I had a car service that took me everywhere. I ate lunch every day at Nobu [fancy restaurant]. I made good money.
"I grew up in Woodstock with Todd "Kip" Williams, who wrote and directed The Adventures of Sebastien Cole . His wife Famke Jenssen and I told that his first movie should be personal and done for no money. So in three weeks, he wrote Sebastien Cole. He had $250,000 in family money. He wanted me to quit my job to produce his movie. I kept refusing. He manipulated me. He said I was a loser. I'd been an assistant for so many years. I'll never amount to anything. He convinced me to quit my job and produce his movie. My family contributed some money. I loved Todd's script. I'm a sucker for high school love stories.
"Through the contacts I made working for DeNiro and Abel, I got a great crew. Everyone worked for $500 a week. I got a camera package for nothing. We shot the movie in 24 days in Woodstock.
"I like getting things for free. I got every location for free. I got the Super 8 motel. I asked for the cheapest corporate rate and it was about $40 a night. I calculated how much we had to spend. It was about $15,000. They accepted it before they calculated how many rooms we'd need. It worked out to $16 per person per night.
"The only producer I knew, Ted Hope, advised us not to take the film to the Toronto Film Festival. We did anyway. Ted then advised us that if we got any interest in the film, if anyone was willing to distribute it, we should accept the offer, even if we weren't getting any money.
"Our film played on opening night. There was a line around the block for our screening. Six hundred people. Kip and I did a couple of shots of tequila before we had to speak in front of everybody. All the studio heads came by and said hello to us. David Dinerstein from Paramount Classics was moved by the movie.
"Our William Morris agent Cassian Elwes said five different people had made offers. We met with everyone that Saturday. We had breakfast, lunch, another lunch and dinner. The heads of studios would write down numbers on pieces of paper and pass them to us. We'd have another table at the other side of the restaurant. They'd make an offer and then Cassian and I would sit at our table and talk about it. We'd call my lawyer and the William Morris lawyers and come back with out counter offers. Then the heads of the studios would call their lawyers.
"One executive at a studio told us, 'This movie is brilliant. If we just reshoot the entire thing, it will be amazing.' Everybody said they loved it but everybody wanted to change it. Paramount Classics offered the most amount of money ($1 million for domestic distribution rights) and they best understood the movie. It was the first movie they'd bought after being open for a year. They'd asked us how much we'd made the movie for (it was $350,000) and I said I didn't know. When they found out, they were annoyed.
"I wanted to do my second movie with Kip. We optioned a John Irving book, A Widow for a Year. We pursued a book owned by the BBC. I was offered the Pumpkin project a few times and I passed. Finally my William Morris agent talked me into doing the movie."
Producer Deborah Del Prete told me February 19, 2002: "I reject projects when I find the subject matter disturbing. A movie called Pumpkin was a success at Sundance. I haven't seen the movie. I saw the script two years ago. It's a black comedy about a sorority girl who has an affair with a retarded boy. It's a comedy that plays off him being retarded. It was incredibly distasteful. Despite having a commercial sheen to it, the script was making fun of people who were retarded. And I couldn't get on that bandwagon."
Karen: "The script is politically incorrect in every way. I met with the directors Anthony Abrams and Adam Larson Broder. They had a specific visual vision and I liked their ideas. It was a Heathers-type movie. It could go either way, depending on the director's vision. They brought me to meet the $2 million investor funding the movie. There were five other producers attached to the movie. They'd been trying to make the movie for years and anyone who promised them anything, they attached as a producer. I said that I didn't need to work with anybody. All the other producers were let go.
"I sent the script to some agents to try to attach talent. The first agent told me, 'Oh, I read the script a couple of years ago and it is not very good.' I was honest. 'I read it once and I was totally wrong about it. The script is so smart and there are so many different levels to it, that you'll only see it on a second reading.' She liked me and so she read it again. And she called me and said, 'You're right. This is my new favorite script.' So this script which had gotten bad coverage at all these agencies, I would call the agents and tell them that they had read it wrong. So they'd reread it and it was their new favorite script."
Luke: "What attracted you to the Pumpkin script?"
Karen: "It was different. I've always been fascinated by sororities. I've never been a part of any group. I've never been in Girls Scouts or Sororities. I've always had friends in lots of different groups. To me college is the most liberating experience, a time to try everything.
"My mother worked with mentally challenged kids. Some were high functioning to the point of normal and some were low functioning. If you have a 70 IQ, you're considered normal and you can be put in a Special Ed class in a regular school. If your IQ is 69, then you're retarded.
"The retarded kid in this film was put in with low functioning people and he never had anyone to inspire him. These people are locked up and they have no life.
"The director's vision was to take this sappy movie-of-the-week and do it as a satire. The point of the story is that these retarded kids are more intelligent than the girls in the sorority.
"I produced Pumpkin for Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studios. Because I'd only tried to do two movies, and got them both made, I was getting attention. People thought that with my specific tastes, I'd find the next American Beauty. I had a meeting at Dreamworks. I realized midway through the meeting that I didn't want to be locked up in a room trying to find the next American Beauty. I didn't want to stay in LA and drive to the studio every day. I wanted to find and make my own films. Dreamworks called my agent, 'We really liked her but she didn't seem interested in us.'
"I wanted to return to New York but my agent asked me to see Lawrence Bender. I met him the day before my 30th birthday and then the next day he called me and offered me a two year deal.
"LA is growing on me. My stuff is still in New York. I'm still driving a rental car and have a month-to-month lease on a furnished house. I thought I'd go back and forth a lot more. Most of the film people that I want to work with are in New York. Then September 11th happened, and I stopped traveling so much. When I went home for Christmas, and I was freezing, I missed LA. It was the first time I was excited to come back to LA."
Luke: "What happened to your John Irving book?"
Karen: "Kip is still trying to do it. The lead female character is about 45 years old and there's a lot of nudity. So a lot of the women don't want to do it. The movie would just be a sappy drama without the sexual tension."
Luke: "Annette Benning?"
Karen: "She won't get naked."
Luke: "She got pounded hard in American Beauty."
Karen: "But she didn't get naked."
I read a fascinating David Brooks article in the Sunday New York Times Sunday magazine:
Overall, this is not a picture of a nation of orgiastic self-indulgence. Furthermore, despite all of our earnest resolutions, Americans are still terrible at languorous ease. We can't take a vacation for a week without bringing our laptops along, let alone laze away at health spas for weeks on end slicing sausages, the way the Germans do. American beaches still aren't Rio-style thong expos, nor are they southern European nudist zones, where 70-year-old women who grew up with corsets and propriety suddenly get the urge in advanced retirement to throw off the vestments of civilization and let the vein patterns protrude in the breeze. Despite leadership from the top, we haven't really learned to relax about adultery, and serious sex surveys do not depict a nation of serious kinkiness and sensuality. Picture a typical American man going on the Internet looking for some pornography. In a few minutes he can't help himself: he's clicked over to LendingTree.com and he's checking out the latest mortgage rates. His sexually bored wife bursts in on him with disgust etched in her voice: ''What is it men have about refinancing? Can't you at least look at a few leather or barnyard sites and at least pretend to enjoy yourself?''
From EW.com: This spring, the networks have been pushing more envelopes than Publishers Clearing House. Consider this tally of tastelessness: NBC's ''Crossing Jordan'' featured a decomposing cadaver, while the season finale of CBS' ''CSI'' had a model's tweezer-gouged face. When Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy wasn't in a naked clinch with Spike (James Marsters), her pal Willow (Alyson Hannigan) was skinning and setting fire to a nerdy nemesis on the May 14 ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'' Network censors even allowed unbleeped expletives like s--- (on April 10's ''48 Hours'') and f--- (courtesy of -- who else? -- Ozzy Osbourne on the May 2 ''Tonight Show''). All of which leaves a few couch potatoes wondering: What the #@%&! is happening to TV?
In April, the same week a ''Real World/Road Rules Fantasy Challenge'' contestant urinated on screen, MTV showed ailing ''Real World'' housemate Tonya Cooley pass a blood clot and scoop it out of a toilet with a jumbo plastic cup. The net followed with a typically foulmouthed ''Osbournes'' episode that featured the family bulldog vomiting. Gulp. "The idea is not to shock the audience," says MTV spokeswoman Carole Robinson. "It's to reflect their lives. We don't have nudity and you're not going to see somebody shooting a gun." How to explain, then, MTV's annual spring break extravaganza -- including reunions of former flings and sorority girls doused in whipped cream? "You can't whitewash spring break," she argues. "We don't make that behavior happen. We go there to cover it." Uh-huh.
Luke asks: What's so wrong with showing someone shooting a gun? What if it is at a firing range?
From Eonline.com: ABC has bleeped the "Jesus" out of one its shows. And conservative Christians are mad as hell about it.
The bleepin' controversy began May 23, after network censors snipped the name of the Lord from The View when the opinionated femme chat show aired in tape delay on the West Coast on May 23.
Viewers in much of the country, where the daytime show airs live, heard cohost Joy Behar say, "Yes, and thank you, thank you, Jesus, is all I have to say."
Julie Hoover, the ABC spokesperson stuck with trying to explain why the bleep was employed, tells AP that the context in which "Jesus" was used ran afoul of the network standards. Hoover explained the network doesn't have a problem with Jesus Christ's name if it is used in a "prayerful and respectful manner," but does not allow it to be used in an exclamation.
Howard Baldwin Taken To Hospital
President and Chief Executive Officer of Crusader Entertainment, Howard Baldwin (60 yo), was taken to the hospital today with general amnesia. He's now back at work.
Prior to forming Crusader Entertainment with Philip Anschutz in March of 2000, Mr. Baldwin founded and ran the film production company Baldwin/Cohen Productions (BCP). Since its inception in 1985, BCP has developed and produced several films with major studios. These works include: FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR, HOOSIERS, SPELLBINDER, SUDDEN DEATH, and MYSTERY, ALASKA. Prior to his career in film, Mr. Baldwin was integral in the formation and ownership of several sports franchises. He started the Hartford Whalers NHL hockey franchise and helped form Prism New England Sports Channel. Mr. Baldwin was Chairman of the Board and Owner of the two-time NHL Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Meeting Bob Kosberg
I came out of a meeting with Producer Michael Jaffe this morning in Santa Monica and run into The Pitch Man - producer Bob Kosberg. He looks about 40 years of age. He's sitting in the waiting room wearing Hollywood black. I introduce myself. I interviewed Bob over the phone a few months back.
He's amiable. I chuckle about how fast he talks and thinks and wonder if he can sleep at night. He says he doesn't sleep at night, that's why he has dark circles under his eyes. And then he got called into a meeting with Michael Jaffe and Howard Braunstein.
You should've seen the darkly beautiful latina girl who answered the phones and brought me my cool Perrier. Though I'm sure you'd find her looks less interesting than the amazing insights I gained into financing television movies.
Michael Jaffe, partner of Jaffe/Braunstein Films Ltd., began his career with his father, Henry Jaffe, in 1971. Together, they produced 15 television movies and mini-series. He founded Michael Jaffe Films, Ltd. in the early 1980's and developed, produced or executive produced 5 feature films over the next several years and then produced the second year of Michael Mann's series, Crime Story. Returning to Television, Michael produced The Great Escape, a four-hour mini for NBC starring Christopher Reeve, and then established Spectacor Films, a partnership with Philadelphia based sports and entertainment businessman, Ed Snider, with whom he distributed, produced, financed or executive produced more than 20 films.
Jaffe was a founding Partner of and served on the Board of Directors of Allied Communications, Inc. ("ACI"), a new distribution company which created a 200 title MOW library of new Network movies and mini-series which was ultimately purchased by Pearson Television. Jaffe is currently partnered in JBFL with Howard Braunstein and, together, they have produced over 45 movies-of-the-week and mini-series. In the year 2000, JBFL began production on the first year of the one-hour series, 100 Center Street, starring Alan Arkin and executive produced by Sidney Lumet for A&E and the one-hour series, Nero Wolfe, starring Timothy Hutton, also for A&E. Jaffe/Braunstein Films also delivered Deliberate Intent with Timothy Hutton for FX Cable Network, The Monkees for VH-1 MUSIC FIRST, Walking Shadow for A&E, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific for ABC starring Glenn Close and Harry Connick, Jr. In 2001, JBFL delivered the four-hour mini, Steve Martini's The Judge, to NBC, The Rosa Parks Story with Angela Bassett for CBS, Sons of Mistletoe for CBS and has begun production on the second years of 100 Centre Street and Nero Wolfe which have both been picked up. Jaffe has a B.A. from Yankton College, and did graduate work at the University of Chicago and Cornell University, where he earned an M.A. in theater.
Luke Gets Mail
Khunrum writes: The site is so boring now it couldn't get any worse. Wait, it could. After running out of Hollywood Producers he might start a new series. Luke Interview's Patent Attorneys........"I sat down with patent attorney Fred at his cluttered hovel in ...........so what was high school like Fred?
Chaim writes: Let's flesh that out: Luke interviews all the great jewish accountants and lawyers of LA, leading up to an interview of jewish patent lawyer fred to explain how jewish lawyers kindly manipulate the laws of patents and trademarks to protect the inventions of the goyim (yes Fred, even you will have your fifteen minutes!), followed by interviews with jewish paralegals, jewish social workers, and finally, jewish dental technicians.
On June 9, 2002, I walk into Edgar Scherick's bedroom.
"I'm on the edge," says Edgar.
"Edge of what?" I ask.
"The edge of shuffling off this mortal coil."
I put my chair close to Edgar's bed and pull out my tape recorder. Edgar's substitute nurse Craig brings out ice tea and then sits down with us. I'm grateful because I'm running out questions.
Luke: "You got on the plane for the first time to fly to New York and Washington D.C. for premieres of your new HBO film The Path to War, directed by John Frankenheimer."
Edgar: "When we got there, there was a wheelchair for me. I got into a van. The putz driver didn't know where the Plaza Hotel was [it's in Manhattan].
"I'd bought a beautiful black jacket with me but it was nowhere to be seen. I thought it had been stolen while we were out of the room. I reported it stolen and the detectives came up, blah, blah. When we got back, it was in the closet. I love that jacket.
"The Washington screening was at the French embassy. I went over to Ben Bradlee [former Washington Post editor]. He said, 'That's the most beautiful picture I've ever seen. I cried from the beginning to the end.' That made the trip to Washington worthwhile. I have a lot of respect for him.
"The retiring senator from Tennessee was there, Fred Thompson. Jack Valenti [runs the Motion Picture of America Association]. There were many Representatives [from the US House]. A friend in New York told me it was the best thing I've ever done. I received universal approbation."
Luke gulps: "It was very interesting."
Edgar: "[Director] John Frankenheimer [in his early 70s] went to the hospital for an operation. He had two discs removed from his back."
Luke: "Why did you make so many [lousy] sequels to the Stepford Wives."
Edgar: "For television. To earn some money. This [new theatrical ] one is a real sequel. Scott Rudin and I."
Luke: "What do you remember about casting Matt Damon in your 1995 film Good Ol' Boys?'
Edgar: "I liked him. Very handsome. He had a beautiful girlfriend. Oh, ravishing.
"Ben Affleck's father [Tim, a former Social Worker] lives in this building. He was in The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3."
Luke: "You had Sydney Poitier in your movie For the Love of Ivy and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."
Edgar: "He was the number one box office star in the United States at that time. Wherever we went, the women went crazy about him because he was so handsome."
Luke: "What do you remember about Director Robert Aldrich who directed The Killing of Sister George?"
Edgar: "I liked him. He was a tough bird. I read the script. And one of the stage directions seemed impossible to me. So I called him up. He said, 'That's a stage direction. I never read stage directions.' A good director doesn't read stage directions. He does his own directions.
"He used to cause me problems. I finally figured it out. He was always fighting the system. I had a three picture deal with him. He'd pick up the phone in the morning and say to himself, 'How can I screw this guy today?' And he'd do something ridiculous. Then I caught on and I didn't get upset about. And we stayed good friends until he died."
Luke: "What do you remember about working with Director Billy Friedkin?"
Edgar: "He was a pain in the ass. We were in England and we had a difference of opinion. He goaded me and I got upset. Someone asked him, 'Why do you treat Edgar like that?' He said, 'Because it makes me happy to see him so upset.' He was a real prick. He's talented. It looks he's run out of steam. He's married to the head of Paramount, Sherry Lansing. I'm mellower now. I have good thoughts about him."
Luke: "You used to get upset more easily?"
Edgar: "I was in a perpetual state of upset. I cared about every detail. I couldn't stand stupidity. I couldn't stand anybody who was duplicitous. If you tried to bullshit me, it was a problem."
Luke: "What do you remember about Cybil Shepherd in 1972's The Heartbreak Kid."
Edgar: "She was having an affair with [Director] Peter Bogdanovich. Peter was in Europe. We were shooting in a Miami Beach hotel. The telephone rings. It was for Cybil Shepherd. The last thing I was going to do was pull her off the set to Peter Bogdanovich. So I said something to him and that was that.
"I remember how breathtakingly beautiful she was in a bathing suit. She was very polite. At that time, I don't think she could act a lick. Elaine May really worked with her to get a performance out of her."
Luke: "What do you remember about working with Director Gillian Armstrong in 1984's Mrs. Soffel?"
Edgar: "She said that she didn't work with anybody over 40 years of age. I put that aside quickly. I got to be like a member of her family. I was like Uncle Edgar. I think about her a lot lying here. I think about that picture and Mel Gibson. I like the Australians. She had a lot of Australians on the crew. She wasn't going to have any strangers around her if she could avoid it."
Luke: "You used Director Larry Ellikan in about eight films during the 1980s."
Edgar: "He started out as a cameraman in the early days of television. CBS had studios in New York above a kosher dairy restaurant. Then he became a T.D. (Technical Director). We became good friends.
"At a screening of The Path to War, I saw the director of Marty , Delbert Mann. I did [1978's TV movie] Thou Shalt Not Commit Adult with Delbert Mann. I got this idea of doing a dramatic series for television about the Ten Commandments."
Luke: "Tell me about Jaclyn Smith [on her fourth marriage] who appeared in two of your movies, Nightmare in Daylight and Rape of Dr. Willis."
Edgar: "Her ex-husband [Anthony B. Richmond] was a cinematographer. She was professional and beautiful. She had lovely children. She was a good mother. When you looked at her, you couldn't believe she was so beautiful. A classic kind of beauty. A Titian [Italian painter] kind of beauty. You don't know who Titia was? Wow, you're supposed to be an educated man. He was an Italian painter who painted voluptuous women during the Renaissance."
Luke: "What about that scene in Rambling Rose with Rose and that 14-year old boy in bed."
Edgar: "It's right out of the book. It takes 80 pages. The book is autobiographical. The guy who wrote it was pure animal."
Luke: "What do you remember about working with Bette Davis in Little Gloria: Happy at Last?"
Edgar: "We were shooting in the Flagler mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. And unbeknownst to us, there was a city ordinance forbidding shooting movies in that area. So Bette Davis stormed to the front of the mansion and said, 'Arrest me. It will be all over the country.' So they let us finish the shoot.
"She wrote me a letter once about what a beautiful picture she thought it was. But she only signed 'Bette,' not 'Bette Davis,' so I couldn't sell her autograph. She was a tough wizened old bird.
"We had a deal that she could not be called to the set except one minute before they were ready to shoot. They didn't want her waiting around. But she didn't want to miss anything. She'd stand there while the next scene was lit.
"We used a classic Canadian actor in that mini-series. He's simultaneously playing [Shakespeare character] Ilago on Broadway. It's becoming time for the Tony awards. The critics are coming. He didn't want to miss the evening performance. So, to keep him happy, I'd hire a helicopter to come out to Rhode Island and fly him out of there at 4PM. That pissed Bette Davis off no end. She'd say, 'Is that sonofabitch in this picture or isn't he?'"
Craig: "Tell him the Robert DeNiro story."
Edgar: "When he started off, he was broke. I'd buy him lunch at The Players Club. He was nobody. A few years ago, I called him up in New York. His assistant said he'd call me the next day. So, the next day, the housekeeper comes in. 'Robert DeNiro is on the telephone.' She was awestruck."
Craig: "Edgar's more impressed with sports figures than actors."
Edgar: "I've got thousands of anecdotes. Joe Mankiewitz won the Academy Award as a writer and a director in two consecutive years, a feat unequaled. He directed Sleuth.
"Now the play Sleuth had an intermission where the police inspector comes back as a detective. I thought we should have an intermission with the movie. Joe was unalterably opposed. We locked horns.
"We went to New Haven for a screening. I still thought it needed an intermission. So I'm sitting in one limo and he's sitting in another limo. Somebody said, 'Why don't you go over and talk to Joe?' And I said, 'If he wants to talk, he can come over here and talk to me.' I wouldn't get out of the car. Finally we talked but we never had an intermission. He said, 'That's the worst idea I've ever heard. I'll go to the press and I'll blacken your name all over the country.'"
Luke: "I interviewed his son Chris the other day."
Edgar: "He used to work for me. Lazy, lazy, lazy. I haven't seen him in 25 years and I am not anxious to see him."
Luke: "Your former assistant Brian Grazer."
Edgar: "He was assiduous in pursuit of his own interests. There's nothing wrong with that. He wasn't a tower of moral strength. He did certain things that I thought were reprehensible. There was a football coach at USC named John [Robinson?]. Brian married his daughter. They had a son and Brian paid no attention to him.
"I purchased a screenplay by Bo Goldman called Twitching. It later became Shoot the Moon. I wanted to get Al Pacino to play in it. I talked to Pacino's agent Stan Kamen at William Morris. They sent the script to Pacino. The word came back that he wanted to hear the script read. So I called up Juliette Taylor, who'd done a lot of casting for me in New York. She said she was too busy to set up a reading. 'But I'm going to give you a young man who will do a good job for you. His name is Scott Rudin.' He set up the reading and it was set to perfection.
"After the reading was over, Pacino went into his shell to communicate with himself. Then Stan Kamen called. 'Al wants it read again.' We went through the whole routine again. He'd just made a movie called Bobbie Deerfield, about a racing driver. It was a failure. He was nervous about doing another introspective picture so he ended up not doing it.
"Scott Rudin worked for me for five years. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of show business.
"Alan Parker directed Shoot the Moon [starring Albert Finney and Diane Keaton]. Alan was an arrogant pain-in-the-ass.
"Luke, you're almost out of here."
Luke: "In your battles with directors, any of them get the best of you?"
Edgar: "Not really. I'm not interested in getting the best of anybody. I had some real scene with Director Elaine May."
Luke: "So what do you think about most of the time?"
Edgar: "I lie in bed and I watch television. I have the newspaper read to me. I think about what's going on in the world. I think about my life."
Luke: "And what do you think about your life?"
Edgar: "It's tinged with sadness. Fishing was a great hobby of mine. You should get a copy of an essay I wrote called 'Redfish.' Every once in a while I see men standing in water up to their knees with a fishing rod. That was my favorite activity and I can't do that anymore."
Luke: "What else do you think about?"
Luke: "Which ones?"
Edgar: "All my ex-girlfriends. I was basically monogamistic. Once I was married, I was completely monogamous. I never cheated on one of my wives once."
Luke: "How many women were you with in your life?"
Edgar: "God knows."
Luke: "Any actresses?"
Edgar: "I stayed away from actresses. Don't shit where you live.
"I went with one girl for five years [before Edgar's first marriage]. Her name was Hatfield Orly. At the end of five years, I asked her to marry me. She said no. I was stunned. She did me the biggest favor. We were not meant for each other. She was the biggest party girl. Always with a glass of Jim Bean [bourbon]."
Craig: "How did you meet your first wife?"
Edgar: "I was working in the advertising business. We had a Falstaff Beer account. Falstaff would sponsor the radio broadcast of the St. Louis Hawks baseball team, which moved from Minneapolis. Ben Kerner owned the team. One day he said to me, 'My office assistant Jeanie Bilgray is coming to New York with a friend. Look out for them.' I had scheduled a fishing trip to Bermuda. I had a guy who worked for me, Jack Lubell. He was a television director. A real character. An alcoholic. He was the neatest drunk I ever saw. Immaculate. I told him to watch out for these people and I went fishing.
"I caught a 210 pound Marlin. When I came back to New York, my arm was in a sling. Those two girls came to my office to give a box of chocolates to Jack Lubell for taking care of them. That was the first time I'd ever seen my first wife, Cal Roman. I took her out that night and began a romance that culminated in my first marriage and the birth of my daughter.
"She'd come up from St. Louis to New York for a week. I didn't want anyone to find out that she was staying at my apartment. There was a hotel across the street. I lived at number two Fifth Avenue. There was a hotel at number one Fifth Avenue. I got her a room where she could get messages but she really stayed with me. There was something about her that I liked. She was classy.
"One day she calls me up from St. Louis in tears. 'I'm pregnant.' In the blink of an eye, I said, 'Come on up. We'll get married. There were all these churches around but they wouldn't marry you unless you'd posted ahead of time announcements that you were getting married. She wanted to get married in a church. [Edgar was Jewish at the time.] I finally found a place on the island I was raised, Point Lookout, Long Island. It was a little community church. The minister called up some people from town as witnesses and he married us in that church. The minister ended up christening some of my children."
Luke: "Have you worked on any films that have changed you?"
Edgar: "Raid on Entebbe. The emotional ties to that story have never left me."
Craig: "You were on Larry King a few weeks ago. I remember Larry King asked you that."
Edgar: "I was on with Jack Valenti, John Frankenheimer and Donald Sutherland."
Luke: "Do you ever feel like you are living out one of your movies?"
Edgar: "I had gone to weather school in the army at Grand Rapids, Michigan. Now I was stationed at Winsla, Connecticutt. They are getting ready to ship me north to Prestile, Main, from whence I would go overseas. There was a guy named Ben in Connecticutt. His father was a commanding general. We went into town to the USO on an overnight pass. We met two girls and we home to their apartment. Barbara Rappenport was the girl I met. There was no real sex, just holding on to each other. We went to sleep. And wherever our bodies had touched each other was wet with perspiration.
"I lied to her about myself [about age and education]. We had a passionate correspondence for six months. It kept me sane in Iceland for the first six months. Then I stopped writing to her because I didn't think it was fair of me to perpetuate this myth that I had created. I come back from overseas [two years later]. I get her number and call her. I say, 'Barbara, this is Edgar Scherick.' She says, 'I'm being married in two weeks.' And she hangs up. That's quite a story. It would make a marvelous film. All men have bullshitted a woman."
Luke: "Were there any innovations you introduced?"
Edgar: "I was closer to editing than most producers. I made this television movie Good Ol' Boys, directed by Tommy Lee Jones. I wanted to make some cuts in it. I thought it was slow in moments. I spent a full day making edits and then I called him. 'Tommy Lee, I've made some cuts. I'm going to send you a tape. Anything you don't like, I will restore it the way you had it.' He bought all the cuts and that is the way the picture went.
"A guy sent me a book called Jaws. I read the book. In those days, I would fly home from Los Angeles to New York to be with my family for the weekend. I get on the airplane and [Producer] David Brown says, 'Edgar, how are you?' I said I'm pretty good. He said, 'Have you seen anything good lately?' I said, 'I've seen a book that I think is interesting and I am in negotiations with the agent.' He said, 'What's that book?' I said, 'It is called Jaws.'
"On Monday I called the agent and he said he was in negotiation with David Brown [who secured the rights].
"I had 70 pages of a book [manuscript] called The Godfather. I gave it to Stanley Jaffe at Columbia Pictures. His father was a big mogul. Nothing happened. Later, Stanley said to me, 'I didn't know you had access to Bristol Myers money. I would've done something with you.'
"I wanted to do a picture with Francis Ford Coppola called The Conversation. I went up to San Francisco with agent Jeff Berg, now president of ICM, to see Francis about financing his picture. He was cutting The Godfather. He was cutting the scene where Marlon Brando got shot.
"I went to a screening in New York of Coppola's first feature, You're a Big Boy Now. When I'm coming out, I run into Steve Canther, a movie critic for Time magazine. He asked me what I thought. I said, 'A new American filmmaker has made his debut. This guy is talented.'
"Coppola was like an Eastern potentate. He walked around in these velvet robes in his hotel room.
"One day Albert Brooks came to me. He said he wanted to do a movie for $750,000. I asked him to let me read the script. He said, 'There is no script.'"
Luke: "Which producers are you jealous of?"
Edgar: "I'm jealous of no one except David Geffen, because he's a billionaire. If I were a billionaire, I could have my specially constructed fishing boat with a hoist. And I could go fishing.
"I was never money oriented. I never did anything purely for money in my life. I thought that if you did good work, money would follow. And that's the way things worked out."
Luke: "What are you most ashamed of?"
Edgar: "I'm not ashamed of anything. Well, I once had a difference of opinion on Rambling Rose and I did this guy (Michael Houseman, personal producer of Director Milos Foreman) out of a credit. I'm ashamed of it.
"I was never egomaniacal. I was only concerned with one thing - the work. The world is divided into two groups. Group one is those people who are more interested in themselves than in the work. And group two is the people who are more interested in the work than in themselves. I've always belonged to group two.
"I believed in live and let live. You get the best out of a person if he is free to use his creative powers."