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Who Gets Up At 4:30AM To Watch Boys Kick A Ball?

Producer Brian M. Reilly gave me a tour this afternoon of the post-production facilities of Santa Claus 2. I saw the director Michael Lembeck and some hotshot Disney executive dressed like Tom Wolfe.

Brian M. Reilly is a big muscular Irish-American. We spoke at his office in Santa Monica on June 20, 2002.

Brian: "I started small and I got a lot bigger. I grew up in Manhasset, Long Island, a suburb of Manhattan. Everybody there gets on the train every morning and goes to work in banking or the stock market. It's a commuter town. My dad was an electrical engineer. He worked for the same company his entire life, AT&T. He got the gold watch and he played golf. I have two brothers and a sister. I went to a private Catholic school for 12 years. I hated it. It was the birthplace of my rebellion. It was all about discipline.

"I went to Long Island University. I majored in Political Science and English. I graduated in 1967 and then, because of the [Vietnam] War, I made sure I got out of the country. I got a scholarship to study Political Science and Economics of developing nations in Seoul, Korea, for a year."

Luke: "Have you been watching the World Cup [taking place in South Korea and Japan]?"

Brian: "I watched one game during the day - Ireland vs Spain. Gosh it was good."

Luke: "US vs Germany 4:30AM Friday morning."

Brian: "Who gets up at 4:30 in the morning to watch soccer?"

Luke: "I will."

Brian: "You need a job. You need something grown up to do. You can't get up at 4:30AM to watch boys kick a ball."

Brian DePalma's Bonfire of the Vanities

I stayed up until late a few weeks ago reading Julie Salamon's book The Devil's Candy, about the filming of the Tom Wolfe novel Bonfire of the Vanities. It was an absorbing read. Julie, however, lets Brian DePalma off the hook, not mentioning his, at times, out of control pursuit of drugs and sex, which sabotaged some of his films.

Salamon in a new introduction to her book: Mr. De Palma's survival instincts are as powerful as his self-destructive urges, and his life has been a dramatic duel between those conflicting impulses. His movies reflect his twin desires to please and to rebel.

With movies like "Body Double" and "Blow Out" he followed his own dark muse, creating complicated, hallucinatory narratives that don't conform to conventions of plot and character resolution. Yet he has also made big popular movies like "The Untouchables" and "Mission: Impossible," where his distinctive visual flourishes are contained within sturdy Hollywood structures.

I was once the beneficiary of Mr. De Palma's impulsive urges. In 1990, he agreed to give me unrestricted access to the film set of "Bonfire of the Vanities," the film adaptation of the Tom Wolfe novel. He was hoping to expose the pressures of big-budget filmmaking, and that the book I would write would be a glowing record of success against the odds. It turned out differently.

Unquestionably, the movie's failure — and the ferocity of the critical reaction to it, which had much to do with its then-stupendous $50 million cost — had encouraged interest in my book, "The Devil's Candy." Many people thought the book created a rift between Mr. De Palma and me, but we have always stayed in touch, even when he left New York impulsively in the spring of 2000, heading for the airport the instant he finished editing "Mission to Mars," his 25th film.

Strippers With Hearts Of Gold

From the Times of London:

In movieland, strippers have hearts of gold and lesbians are just extra special friends.

Charles Herman-Wurmfeld’s Kissing Jessica Stein, a kind of quasiSapphic New York Bridget Jones for the more broad-minded personal-ad desperado, is the sweetest, sharpest romantic comedy you will see all year.

My only quibble is with the central premise — that women dismayed by the horrors of the dating scene can find solace in same-sex lurrve...

This is my only beef with Kissing Jessica Stein — that it subscribes to the urban myth that love-famished straight women are better off giving up on men in favour of women. It might work in the movies, but, back in the real world, this becomes less a celebration of a woman’s “lesbian side” than merely a rejection of what heterosexuality has to offer. However fluid sexuality is, it must drive genuine lesbians mad seeing their life choice presented as a bolt hole for “failed” heterosexuals. Moreover, it is depressingly infantile for women to assume that a female lover would be their “best friend”, only with added “extras”. No one ever seems to get the idea that sex (proper down and dirty sex) is involved, and that there’s a bit more to lesbianism than hugging, holding hands and bitching about how rubbish men are. Ladies, that might be your idea of empathy or even fun, but it’s nobody’s idea of sex.

While none of the main actresses (Daryl Hannah, Sandra Oh, Jennifer Tilly, Charlotte Ayanna) disgraces herself à la Showgirls or looks bizarre like Demi Moore in Striptease (she’d muscled up so much that she resembled a brickie in a Cher wig), Dancing at the Blue Iguana commits the cardinal sin of being remorselessly worthy and dull, and so soon loses the viewer’s sympathy and attention.

Why are female characters in films such as Blue Iguana always given “worthy” reasons to be strippers, while men are never given “worthy” reasons to be customers? It’s because of inconsistencies like this that, eventually, you lose patience with Blue Iguana (for all its artistic pretensions, it’s just Jerry Springer with A levels), but not before copping a few eyefuls of thespian T&A. It seems that, in return for showing flesh, these actresses got to flesh out their characters. And isn’t that always the way?

Please Pray For England

From the Times of London: ENGLAND fans are being invited to join in prayer that England triumph over the might of Brazil and that Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, its three top players, be rendered helpless.

A leading Church of England liturgist has written a set of prayers for tomorrow’s quarter final. The Rev Jeremy Fletcher, a member of the Church of England Liturgical Commission and chaplain to the Bishop of Southwell, the Right Rev George Cassidy, wants football fans to pray: “Lord, let not this cup pass from us.”

His quarter-final prayer, which he is circulating on the internet, begins: “Arise, O Lord, and let not Brazil prevail over us, Put them in fear O Lord.” It continues: “Rise up, O Lord, lift up your hand, confound the might of Ronaldo and Rivaldo and put Ronaldinho to confusion.”

He has also written a litany, or supplicatory prayer, to be chanted in the event of a penalty shoot-out. The litany, which has already been set to music and broadcast on BBC Radio Nottingham, begins: “O Seaman make speed to save us, O Martyn make haste to help us.”

Fans can plead with God to make the Brazilian keeper guess the wrong way, while England’s shots are “strong and true”. The litany says: “May their goal be unto us like an aircraft hangar, And their keeper be as an ant.”

LUKE SAYS: I went to minyan Tuesday morning and this old pious man, wrapped in his tefilin, refused to say the prayers because of the latest suicide bomber in Jerusalem. The man said he was on strike against God until the Almighty does a better job of looking after His Chosen People.

Fight Club Producer Ross Grayson Bell

On May 23, 2002, I sat down with Fight Club producer Ross Grayson Bell at his office at Lawrence Bender's operation on Beverly Blvd.

Ross: "The job of a producer is to get the train to leave the station. While it is sitting at the platform, people can get on and off, and they will. But once it is gone, those who really want to be involved, jump on. And those who don't, get off. Or they're trapped.

"Sometimes the train leaves the station before the script is ready. There are so many factors that you have to align, maybe ten, and if you've got seven of them, then you might as well go.

"I have a company eager to make Baker Street. We're making offers to actors. But the script isn't ready.

"It's a true story about the largest bank robbery in British history. In 1971, the guys got away with 300,000 thousand pounds. The MI5 [British version of the FBI and CIA] had set them up. The robbers didn't know this. Their walky talky communications were picked up by a ham radio operator and broadcast live as they were tunneling in to this bank on the corner of Bakers Street and Marlaburn Road. The nation knew what was going on but they still couldn't find the robbers because there were so many banks in the West End of London.

"They got away with the money. The MI5 came after them. And the robbers realized that what the MI5 wanted were photographs that were in the vault of politicians and members of the Royal family having sex with prostitutes. The bank robbers blackmailed them. Let us go, we will give you back the photographs and we'll keep the money.

"There was a D-order signed. That means a total media blackout. It can only be signed by the Queen or the Prime Minister. It only happened twice last century, once during World War II and this event. Even if this story has been fictionalized, the fact is that from three days after this robbery, there was never another thing written about it. Myriad will make it for $12 million contingent on casting a star. To get that star, we have to rewrite the script to make the movie more of a star vehicle. At the moment, it is an ensemble piece."

Luke: "Did you have to secure rights?"

Ross: "Yes. One of the reporter, George Mcendoe, is in contact with the bank robbers. He's lived in exile for 27 years. Lawrence Bender is the executive producer and he brought me on to produce."

Luke: "Where did you grow up?"

Ross: "In the lower North Shore, Sydney, Australia. I went to Roseville public school and then to Shaw, a Church of England grammar school. I studied Political Economics for four years at Sydney University. I graduated in 1983 with first class honors. I backpacked around Europe for two years.

"Then I returned to Sydney and with a group of university friends, wrote and produced a cabaret in this little cafe, called Mick's Cafe on Oxford Street. Those were the best six months of my life. We put our own money in and we performed the show and we made our money back.

"Australia is a great place to grow up but it is not a great place of ideas. Ideas come from struggle. When you go through Europe, which has destroyed and rebuilt itself in 50 years. Germans traveling to Paris for an exhibition of an Italian artist. It's mind blowing. I realized that I wanted to work in the dissemination of new ideas.

"The cabaret was about my experiences and the experiences of my friends, but at the end of the night, 40 people have seen those ideas. I realized that the only way to be effective was to film something, put it in a canister and ship it. And then anyone in the world has a chance to see it.

"I moved on from the cabaret group and started as an assistant, a runner as they call them in Australia, on films. I remember graduating to third assistant whose main job was to look after the extras, stop traffic, and make sure the dogs weren't barking.

"I did this from 1986-89. This American guy came out to cut a trailer and the Australian crew were rude to him. They felt it was us vs them, bad Hollywood Vs good Australian independent films. I picked him up at the airport and showed him around. He said I should come to America.

"In 1989, four days after Tianamen Square, I came on a vacation to Los Angeles. He said I could stay with him for two weeks. I had an around-the-world ticket. I was looking for a car. I wanted to drive across America and then fly from New York to London. In the Recycler [Los Angeles classified ads paper], they had a job for a production assistant on a film shooting in Colorado Springs. These kids had $100,000 to make a film (Ice Pawn). They had never been on a set before.

"I ended up line producing the film for free. It was a terrible movie that was never released. The problems that happen on a low budget film and on a big budget film are the same. Having a lot of money doesn't solve your problems.

"I returned to Los Angeles and interned for Roger Corman [B-grade filmmaker]."

Luke: "Everyone seems to start with him."

Ross: "Because anyone willing to work for free can work for Corman. The ones that have commitment and dedication, he picks them out. I didn't have anywhere to stay, so I used to sleep in the office. I'd get up before anyone came in and no one was the wiser. One morning he came in early and found me dead asleep in my sleeping bag on his couch. He said, 'Who the fuck are you?' I said, 'I'm Ross Bell. I work here and you don't pay me.' He said, 'That'd be right. Wash your face and come in and see me.'

"So I sheepishly wash my face and go back in. I think I'm busted. And he said, 'Watch Lethal Weapon and do a scene by scene breakdown.' I did that and came back the next day. He said he wanted me to write a treatment that was a facsimile of Lethal Weapon. A buddy movie set in Peru.

"I realized that my breaking down a movie, and writing down what was happening in each scene, I learned structure. Chase, exposition, love scene.

"I went home that night, and following that structure, with a chase, explosion, love scene, I wrote up an idea. An American DEA officer who goes to Peru to help on a drug bust. The American is the Mel Gibsen character and the Danny Glover character is a Peruvian who doesn't want to be paired with the American. I came up with the title, 'To Die Standing,' from a Midnight Oil song. 'It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.'

"The idea was that the America DEA agent was ready to die standing. The guy in Lima, his wife had been killed by the drug cartel and so he was living on his knees. My first paragraph was the selling paragraph. Roger read it the next day. He read it over the phone to video distributor RCA Columbia who bought it. Corman said to me, 'I'll pay you $3000 to write me a screenplay. You've got two weeks.' So four weeks later, I hand it in a draft. He sponsors me for my greencard [permanent residency in the US as an alien]. Six months later, I was a produced screenwriter.

"I think the wardrobe mistress had a go at rewriting me. But it was an amazing opportunity that could've happened nowhere else in the world and I never went back to Australia. You don't want to be that cliched about the land of opportunity, but it is.

"It was never my intention to leave Australia to make it in Hollywood. I never liked Hollywood movies.

"In late 1989, I went to work for $300 a week for Brad Krevoy, Corman's sales guy. Brad had his own company which he sold for millions of dollars to Orion after making Dumb & Dumber.

"Brad had offices in this new building and it was $50 a month for parking. And he wouldn't pay for my parking. I couldn't afford to pay. I didn't have a car. I did have an apartment. Brad gave me a car, something that he had stored at his grandma's condo. It was a TR7 Triumph convertible, low to the ground. The reason he wanted me to have it is that I could drive under the boom gates so I didn't have to pay the $50 a month. So I drove up to the boom gate. It would hit the windshield. I'd reach out, lift the boom up, and drive underneath.

"And of course those Triumphs are terrible cars. It was always breaking down. It cost me so much money. Then someone told me about a job for a VP of Creative Affairs (Tracy Barone, now married to Paul Michael Glaser) at Ray Stark's company. I realized working for Corman and Krevoy, dedicated B moviemakers, that you can stay in that world forever. But the A list is a different circle of people. This business is about contacts and relationships. You have to jump ship. At the time, you couldn't get more A list than Ray Stark. I worked there for three years.

"I also learned that the new filmmakers I was developing relationships with, it was never going to happen with Ray. He was with Larry Gelbard, Barbara Streisand and that crowd. But I learned a lot. During that time, he did Lost in Yonkers with Neil Simon, Barbarians at the Gate for HBO, Mr. Jones... It was not a particularly successful time.

"What's the joke about producers? You can get rich as a producer but you can't make a living. You only make money when you make these things. I was talking to a writer the other day. He was bitching about all this work we were doing on a pitch. I said, 'Listen. If we sell this, you could make anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million. The producer only gets a development fee of $25,000, $12,500 upfront. If I set up four movies a year, I'm doing well as a producer. That's only $50,000.

"Since Under Suspicion, it's been two years since I've made a movie. All the successful producers are brutal. I don't want to be that kind of person. I want to live a balanced life.

"The success of Spiderman makes it more difficult for films like Fight Club to get made. I've got an uplifting 1964 Olympic drama but it is hard to get it made.

"The Economist just did a piece on the economics of Hollywood. The theatrical release of a film is only 30% of its potential revenue. And this pie is shrinking. Theatrical release is now advertising for all the ancillary markets - video, DVD, pay cable, theme park rides, merchandise, sequels... If I'm running a studio, which is a small division in a huge corporate empire, am I going to invest in Fight Club? With no sequel potential and no upside in ancillary markets. So I go buy a spec script that Roland Emmerich just wrote about the end of the world. The concept will sell. I will get B-grade actors who won't participate in gross profits.

"Of course there are going to be more Spidermans. They are doing Wonderwoman and Batgirl and reinventing Superman. They're remaking Miami Vice as a film, with Michael Mann who created it for TV. We're recycling everything.

"If there isn't potential for a sequel, it can't get my same attention if I want to make a real business out of this. That's the dilemma. Do I stay true to my ideals and make great groundbreaking movies? Now every studio wants one or two of those a year for Oscar considerations. Because Oscar nominations and wins enhance the brand of a studio.

"After September 11th, I was looking for stories about unity, but not in that cloying way with all the propaganda we were given after that event. In 1964, eight oar rowing was a sport dominated by college crews, particularly Harvard. The theory being that college kids have the resources and time to get together and train. And this year, a group of older guys, with jobs and mortgages and kids, challenge them. They had this dilapidated old shell and they beat Harvard at the trials and eventually won the Gold medal.

"These older guys had trained in pairs and singles. And after their gold medal, it was realize that this was a better way of training a crew rather than the college way of having all eight guys train together in one boat.

"One of the great scenes is after they beat Harvard, the guys turn around and row back to the starting line, passed all the college boys collapsed in their boats.

"The sport doesn't interest me. What interests me is that there is no other sport like it where eight men have to be one. It's the Dirty Dozen of rowing and the Magnificent Seven of sports movies. Disney said, 'Why would anyone, after a long week at work, pay the nanny, get in the car, drive out to see this movie?' If it has to be an event movie every time, a feel good escapist, then movies are dead. You say that and then The Rookie comes out, which does well.

"When you look at the most profitable films at the end of the year, they are usually small films made for small budgets. Crying Game, Wedding Banquet, Strictly Ballroom.

"It can be fun to work on movies that you don't care about so much. It frees you up."

Luke: "Like having sex without emotional involvement."

Ross: "I do that all the time. It's easy."

Luke: "How did you come to Fight Club?"

Ross: "I finished with Ray Stark in 1993. I built a company with Josh Donen (son of director Stanley Donner). Josh is now a CAA agent. For two years we put together movies. He produced The Great White Hype and The Quick and the Dead. We were on the Fox lot when Kevin McCormick (under Laura Ziskin at the time, now, May 2002, at Warner Brothers) sent us the novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Fox's book guy in New York, Raymond bon Giavani originally found it, flipped, and sent it over. The LA office [of Fox] was confused by it. Their coverage said, 'Don't make this movie. It is unconventional. It will make people squirm. No. No.'

"I read the book that night. Halfway through, it gets so dark, where they are burning each other with cigarettes. Then the reveal comes and it took my breath away. I felt my heart race and I couldn't wait to get to the end of each page to find out how it all wrapped up. I knew then that this was a movie I had to make.

"I called up Kevin and said that all the reasons given not to make the movie are reasons to make it. It is unconventional and it will make people squirm and you have to make it. I could hear him rolling his eyes over the phone. He didn't care about conventional. He cared about making money.

"I didn't know much then. I think that being naive allowed me to do things that I wouldn't do today. But then I was so gung ho. I got a group of actors together to do a read-through of the book. It took six hours. Over the next two months, I cut out stuff and started turning internal monologue into dialogue and making the structure more linear.

"Jim Uhls, an unproduced but fabulous screenwriter, wanted to do the script. Laura thought of Fight Club as The Graduate, a film that will define a generation. She wanted to assign it to Buck Henry, who wrote Graduate. I said that was his generation. This is a new generation experience.

"I found another script called The Sky is Falling. It is about two priests who have proof that God is dead. And the church hunts them down and kills them.

"Director David Fincher read the book and wanted to direct the movie. Then the studio rallied. The job of a producer is to give the financier the packaged movie before they have to pay for it. By packaging the director and the writer, I had made it more tangible.

"My actors' read-through was now down to 50-minutes. I rented this equipment and taped it. I sent it to Laura Ziskin on a Friday. She listened to it in her car on the way to Santa Barbara on Saturday. She called up. 'I'm making the movie. You've got yourself a deal.'

"I'd been living off my credit cards for the past two years. I was deeply in debt.

"Jim handed in his first draft of the script. The ending was off. In the book, they blow up this building so it will fall on the Natural History museum. It symbolizes how you destroy culture and civilization. I suggested that they blow up the credit card companies. And you have the scene with all the people coming out into the streets and their credit card statements are in shreds raining down. It would destroy and liberate civilization. And the people would celebrate."

Luke: "And you had your own credit card debts."

Ross: "That's where it came from. And from my own background in political economy. I realized that if all the debtor nations in the world got together and formed a cartel and refused to pay their debts, they would destroy civilization. That would be the end of Western Civilization as we know it.

"David thought we would go through many drafts and several writers before we got it right. After we made this change, the script was ready. David committed to make it as his next film. Once he committed, my other film about the priests died at Tristar.

"From book to film was two-and-a-half years. That's fast.

"Film is a director's medium. We made Fight Club quickly because David got behind it. I'm not reducing the producer's role. Fight Club exists because I said so. But David made the movie and got the stars. The film is flawed because it is a David Fincher film. And it is genius because it is a David Fincher film."

Luke: "Many reviewers lambasted the film."

Ross: "Good. Hooray. It shows they're awake. There should've been lambasting. I think Kenneth Turan had a personal agenda against violence in movies. Columbine had happened and there was a lot of debate about how films were creating a more violent society. Anita Busch, editor of the Hollywood Reporter, wrote a commentary that we were morally irresponsible to make a film like this. And I responded and she published my response.

"If you go to an AA meeting, you have someone stand up at the front of the room and talk about the horrors of drinking. It creates a catharsis. People see the horror and they recognize their lives. A burden shared is a burden halved. Imagine that this movie is David Fincher's confession to the world. Imagine the cinema as an AA meeting and the film is Fincher and me at the front. This is how we see the world.

"We're not encouraging anybody to go out and start fight clubs or do anything. We're sharing the burden. We live in a culture where we've been reduced to soundbites, where everything worth fighting for has been coopted and corporatized. We're expressing our beef with society.

"I say people go to that movie and it lets the pressure off. People have come up to me and said, 'Fuck. That was me up there. I understood that. I am now going to live my life the way I want to live it.'

"I also said to Anita in my column that the Soviet Union, in its first 70 years, also tried to create films that were socially responsible. Films that fit what the powers that be said was socially responsible to the glorious worker. And look where it got them? Complete breakdown and the emergence of freedom of speech. If Anita follows through on what she's saying, then we should all be making films that condone what Bush is doing in the war on terrorism, which is what is happening now. Bullshit! That's the death of freedom of speech.

"If movies are making a more violent society, show me the statistics. Come back to Columbine. They say they were wearing trenchcoats, like The Matrix. Those sad unfortunate guys who were so propelled to do that terrible thing, were shooting the jocks because they felt they were picked on. So I would argue that every film that has the jock as the heroic guy who gets the homecoming queen is also responsible. Look at how alienated [the Columbine killers] were feeling because they did not fit in with the buff jock image. And where is that promoted? In films and TV."

Luke: "Were you surprised by the ferocity of the reactions?"

Ross: "No. Chuck's work is all about run towards that which you are afraid of. If we stay knowing what we know, we are not going to evolve. But by embracing the unknown we evolve. The tribe in the village has to go across that mountain range and risk death to find out what's over there. That's evolution. Christ went into the wilderness for 40 days and broke himself apart. The ideas in Fight Club are fundamental to the evolution of humanity.

"There are only four real fight scenes in the movie. It is not as violent as people make out. But the ideas are confrontive and people think of that as violence.

"The marketing didn't work. Fox sold it as a fight movie. The stills that went out to reviewers showed bare-chested Brad with blood on his face, punching Ed Norton. It was one of those films that is hard to market. It was made for $70 million and the studio felt they had to market it as a big star-driven event movie and threw money into the campaign.

"Ideologically we were wrong because Tyler would've blown up Rupert Murdoch and Fox and the corporateness and inflated budget. It was untrue to what the film was saying."

Luke: "It's a low budget independent film."

Ross: "When it got greenlit, David called up and said, 'They've just greenlit a $70 million experimental movie.' The domestic box office was $38 million and it didn't do well internationally. Like every classic before it, it was misunderstood and misjudged at the time.

"Fight Club is a cultural reference point for many people while the latest Jennifer Lopez movie is not.

"After the disappointing box office, people involved with the film, agents and studio executives, all came back and said, 'We told you not to make that.' There was a rubbing of the hands and a smile on the face that said, 'You thought you were going to change the world. You didn't.' But in 15 years, they will be talking about my movie.

"I have a reputation for making challenging movies. It doesn't mean that anybody wants another one like it. Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote Fight Club, introduced me to his writing teacher, Tom Spandbaum. One of Tom's novels, The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon, which is a sister project to Fight Club. It is difficult, challenging groundbreaking. Director Pedro Almodovar optioned the book before me but never had a screenplay written. When he let the option lapse, I optioned it with the New York playwright Craig Lucas. Craig has written a draft of the script and taken it back to Pedro.

"I describe it as a buttfucking western. It's got every permutation of sexuality you can imagine. It's an interesting commentary on the destruction of native Americans, to destroy their mystery and take away their story, which is what the missionaries did. On one level it is a profound deeply moving story about the disintegration of humans by other humans. But again reviewers will go for the juicy sex and misread it. I will die to make this movie. No one will give me the money to make it but somehow I will do it.

"I'm more interested in being known for bringing people interesting people.

"I'm trying to balance my film portfolio between risky and mainstream. I've just set up a Jamie Foxx picture at New Line. It's a broad funny comedy."

Luke: "How did you come to Under Suspicion?"

Ross: "It's a remake of a French film Garde a Vue. I brought the project to Lori McCreary. I got Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman on the phone and they committed to it. I didn't stay involved in the movie and I'm not going to talk about that.

"I think they made the fatal mistake of opening it out and trying to make it bigger. The original was basically in the one room. In the original she kills herself."

Luke: "The ending doesn't make sense. There's no payoff."

Ross: "I don't think it performs for anybody. I think it was a bigger budget ($15 million) than it should've been."

Luke: "Did working on Fight Club change you?"

Ross: "No. Who I was enabled me to see Fight Club. Interestingly, Chuck had done The Forum [formerly EST] by Landmark Education. If you're nothing, if you're not your bad hair, the fact that your mother never loved you, that you're nothing, then you can create anything. I'd done The Forum too. We were somehow in sync. Art Linson passed on the book. It was sent to him before it was sent to Josh and me. And Art's son John championed the book.

"You are the sum of your experiences. I am the sum of my political economics degree, my study of Marx and Lenin. All of that led me to an opening to receive Fight Club. And Fight Club has in turn opened me to further experiences."

Arab Media

Fred writes: The Arab media are a real piece of work. If one spends a few hours reading their articles, one would have no problem understanding why the Arabs are whipped up into an anti-American frenzy. The U.S. State Dept. has no concept of the importance of leaning on the Arab governments to stop their anti-American propagandizing. The U.S. is used to a free press, and in the U.S. it is bad form to order newspapers what to print and what not to print. However, in the Arab world, there is no free press--the press is merely an arm of the government. If the Arab media publish shit-loads of anti-U.S. propaganda, it is because the Arab governments themselves have ordained that this should be. The publication of anti-U.S. propaganda is an anti-American action with very serious and damaging consequences. The State Dept. should realize this and act accordingly.

Go Senegal

From WSJ.com: TAEGU, South Korea -- Every time his team looks ready to score in its tense World Cup soccer match, South Korean Lee Youn Kab, sitting anxiously in the stands, jumps to his feet in a T-shirt and cap in the team's colors, waving the national flag, and cheering as loud as he can. "Se-ne-gal!! Se-ne-gal!!" he chants.

Lee Youn Kab with his wife and son before a Senegal match. Mr. Lee is a born and bred Korean, and he isn't even sure where Senegal is -- just that "it's somewhere in Africa" -- but he spent three months recruiting and preparing 250 neighbors in this southern Korean city to form a cheering squad for the visiting Senegalese team. The reason: National pride. "I want Korea to win, but I also want foreigners to say after the World Cup is over that 'the Koreans were nice,'" Mr. Lee says.

Ma Yun Joo, a 19-year-old student, says she doesn't know too much about Senegal, but she would be disappointed if they lost because she "cheered so hard."

Your Moral Leader says: There's a moral lesson here. We love what we commit to.

Cheering US Soccer

I stayed up late to watch the US beat Mexico 2-0 to advance in the World Cup. I was interested in the dirty play of the Mexican team, including their captain who was given a red card for deliberately giving a head but to US striker Coby Jones. The Latin American soccer players seem to delight in dirty tricks and faking injuries and fouls.

In the last 20 minutes, the Mexicans seemed to give up on the game and concentrated instead on just hurting Americans.

JMT writes: They trot around, they brush against each other, they hurl themselves to the ground & pretend to be in excruciating pain . . . it's so stupid. The fact that soccer enjoys so little popularity in America makes me proud to be an American. I think it's funny as hell that we beat the Mexicans, but it's going to be awhile before I'll feel OK about eating a burrito -- you never know what might be in there . . . .

"JUAREZ — Hundreds of disappointed Mexican soccer fans took to the streets after Mexico’s 2-0 loss to the United States, some physically attacking U.S. vehicles and verbally assaulting people wanting to cross the bridge to El Paso."

In the third hour of his nationally syndicated radio show, Dennis Prager discussed the World Cup. He stayed up late (till 1:15AM) to watch the US victory over Mexico 2-0. DP dissed the American dissing of soccer. He said it is a great sport, easy to understand.

DP wondered why a guy who scores a goal takes his shirt off. DP says he loved understated reactions. "I love it when a guy hits a grandslam in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the World Series and he shakes everybody's hand. Today a guy gets high-five when he bunts.

"What is interesting about the game was the emotional investment of Mexicans. To defeat the United States is so much more important to Mexicans (including Mexicans living in the US) than among Americans for the US to beat Mexico. According to a Zogby poll, 58% of Mexicans believe that the Southwest US belongs to Mexico. Only 10% disagree.

"Unlike the Palestinians, no Mexicans are blowing themselves up to get back that territory. Imagine if Mexicans acted like the Palestinians? 57% of Mexicans according to the poll believe that Mexicans should have the right to enter the United States without US permission. Should Guatemalans be allowed to enter Mexico without permission? Because Mexico has a similar issue with Guatemala, their southern neighbor, as the US with Mexico.

"If I were a Mexican, I too would want to come to the US to get ahead, even if it was illegal."

David Brown writes on alt.sports.soccer.worldcup2002: "Mexico's game plan was cynical, suspect and unrewarding. They were cowardly and their coach allowed them to play like punks and thugs. That they only had one player get a red card was a miracle and once again speaks volumes about what some referees will allow players to get away with. had Frisk the ref who officiated the Ireland/Spain game had the whistle I think Mexico would have finished up with 8 players. Their intimidation, diving, unfair and cowardly and vicious play were all there to see and it was these features which took away from what could have been remembered as a wonderful Mexican performance, Mexico was desperate and instead of trying to beat us by the book they resorted to ugliness. Luis Hernandez was booked for diving in the box on 65 minutes , this being one of three clear times when he was guilty of the same thing with nobody touching him - why was he not ejected, thought fifa was going to stamp this out? Blanco had a great game but will be remembered for an incident with [American] Mastroeni.(with Mastroeni on the ground Blanco kicked him in the kind of incident that got Beckham a red card in 1998).

"Aspe came on and his first action was to try and break Jones legs. The final straw came when marquez was red carded for a foul on jones which was designed to put jones into hospital. To deliberately head butt another player is cowardly and FIFA should throw the book at this animal. Yes mexico was unlucky that they did not get the call when o'brien gave us the updated hand of god in his own box....but you did not deserve that call, had you come out to play soccer I would feel differently... After the game the Mexican coach Aguirre said he was frustrated by what he saw as negative tactics with the usa looking to score on the counter-attack( worked to perfection!) Had Aguirre spent time to talking to his team about patience, discipline and fair play maybe the result would have been different. Aguirre also blamed bad luck and refereeing decisions after seeing his side exit the world cup - pity he does not take responsiblity. {US coach] Arena had every chance to badmouth Mexico after the game for their brutality but he reacted with grace and diplomacy."

Raymond writes: "This game reminded me a lot of the 1990 World Cup championship game between Germany and Argentina. Remember when the Argentinian side took out their frustrations on the Germans when the Argies knew they've lost the game?"

From WSJ.com: 11:35: First dive of the game comes when a Mexican defender, barely grazed by American forward Josh Wolff, goes down like a horse that's been shot in a John Wayne movie. The refs are supposed to be penalizing such Oscar-worthy performances, but enforcement has been sporadic, which, frankly, I love. It's a wonderful part of the game -- except when someone gets away with it.

Producer Peter Samuelson

I ate breakfast at Nate & Al's Beverly Hills deli June 4, 2002, with producer Peter Samuelson.

The fourth of five generations of Samuelsons employed in the film industry, Peter received his Masters Degree in English Literature from Cambridge. After serving as a production manager on 1974's The Return of the Pink Panther, he emigrated to Los Angeles and produced 1984's The Revenge of the Nerds, 1994's Tom & Viv, 1997's Wilde, and 1999's Arlington Road.

Peter: "When you tell people that you are going to the film festival in Cannes, they think you'll spend your time walking up the red carpet wearing a tuxedo, surrounded by girls, hobnobbing with the rich and famous.

"This was my 20th year in Cannes. And it was this year, and is always, a different experience if you are an independent producer. I arrived early Thursday with my brother and business partner Marc Samuelson. He's based in London. I'm based in Los Angeles.

"We've made this $20 million film The Gathering starring Christina Ricci. We didn't yet have an American distributor. We had a big screening planned for Friday night. The RSVPs went so high that we added a second screening at midnight.

"We were in Cannes eight days and we had 103 meetings. We had meetings every hour on the hour. Canne is an amazing opportunity to do business. All the territorial [rights to distribute films in different countries] buyers, and all the producers who sell territorially, go in and it is like an enormous bazaar. Over 20 years, we've gotten many films off the ground because of Cannes.

"We have all our people there - our lawyers, accountants, partners... The various soft money sources [tax breaks and subsidies] in Europe, sale-lease-back, the Isle of Man fund... Everyone is there and you can make projects happen. It is pure entrepreneurial producing.

"In between all our meetings, I'm phoning the cinema. 'Monsieur, we must come to rehearse the print for Friday night.' And the cinema is saying, 'Monsieur, it is not necessary. We are professionals. You will not need to rehearse. And furthermore, you can't come rehearse your print because we have screenings all afternoon and evening.'

"And I'm saying, 'This print is fresh from the lab. The film is still in post production. It is a double system print, meaning that the sound is separate from the picture. And as you know, from our exchange of faxes, it is a flat 2.35 scope ratio print.' 'Yes, yes, it is not a problem. Don't worry about a thing.'

"Eventually I find out the last screening ends at 2AM Friday. We arrive and test the sound. It's gorgeous. Then they throw the picture up. If the screen is 40 feet wide, our film is about 25 feet wide. And if the screen is 15 feet tall, our film is 30 feet tall. It shows not only on the ceiling and on the floor. And what's showing on the ceiling has all the microphones in, and what's showing on the floor has the dolly track in. Because, contrary to the exchange of faxes, they do not have the right lens nor the right projector aperture.

"So, after a lot of experimenting, it emerges that they have a lens which is not really the right lens, but it makes the picture almost as wide as the screen. We're still missing about 5% on the left and right, which is significant. When the credit of Brian Gilbert comes up, the screen says 'Directed by Ian Gilbert.' The 'Br' got cut off.

"But we still have a tremendous problem with the spill of the picture. This cinema has no curtains and no masking on the screen.

"Marc and I have a war council and decide to cancel the screening. It then emerges that names were not taken for the RSVPs. We don't know who's coming.

"Marc and I fear that this will be a career killer. We will have to stand outside the cinema and send people away at 10PM tonight. I say we must try something else. Maybe we can mask it on the window of the projection booth. Maybe we can use tape or cardboard and cut off the top and the bottom.

"I say that we need black tape. They have none. I say we need cardboard. They say they have no cardboard. What about your calendar on the wall? The projectionist has a 2001 Cannes Festival calendar.

"At 4AM, we're kneeling on the floor of the projection booth with a razor blade, a metal ruler and the back of a 2001 calendar, cutting a rectangular hole. To avoid reflections, we tear up five yards of some 30-year old black tape from the carpet in the projection booth and it works perfectly.

"As a result of our screening, Mark Gill, the head of distribution for Miramax, comes out and gives me the Vulcan death grip, and says, 'Don't sell this film until I can get Harvey Weinstein in to see it.'

"Harvey Weinstein shows up to our rehearsal screening with eight people wearing little earplugs. He not only made us an offer for the United States and Canada, but he also buys Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Italy. Their model for the release of The Gathering is The Others, which they released a year ago. They plan a high P&A spend [prints and advertising].

"As we stood there drinking our champagne after closing the deal, I was thinking to myself, 'I'm going to get an enlargement of the photo being taken right now with the champagne, and I'm framing it in the piece of the cardboard that is the back of the calendar. And indeed, I went back to the cinema, and the projectionist had written diagonally across the black carpet tape, 'Mr. Samuelson, thank you so much for having me in your team on The Gathering. Your projectionist, Albain. Cannes, 2002.'

"So I've now got my champagne pictured framed in the back of the calendar with the carpet tape. There you have the true arc of a producer, which goes from kneeling on the floor at 3AM to drinking champagne after a huge sale to a studio.

"We developed The Gathering at Paramount in 1989. The executive, Ileen Mairsel, left the studio and the picture was put into turnaround. We then set the picture up at Fine Line (sister company to New Line). Mark Ordesky was our executive. They fired our writer Anthony Horowitz and hired two lots of new writers before putting the project in turnaround. We then set the project up with Lauren Lloyd at Hollywood Pictures in the mid '90s. They brought in a new writer. Then Lauren Lloyd left Hollywood Pictures and went to Touchstone. Our project went with her. Then she left and Touchstone put the project in turnaround. We briefly set it up with Savoy Pictures. That company imploded. We then got all the rights back and threw away all the versions of the script except the original.

"A couple of years ago, we partnered with Granada, a big British TV and film company, to make the film. It has the great central premise that when Christ was crucified, people gawked. And those gawkers were fated to be reincarnated in every generation. They roam the earth and feed on human catastrophe and misery. And they choreograph and orchestrate it.

"We may be the only people to benefit from last year's threatened strike by the Screen Actors Guild. We were able to finance the film out of foreign sales. Under ordinary circumstances, the foreign buyers might've said, 'Where is the American deal?' We were able to say, 'We can't do an American deal now because if we do, and there's a strike, [American actress] Christina Ricci wouldn't be able to work.'

"We'd sold 1994's Tom & Viv to Miramax. We had a morning screening in Milan for foreigner buyers but all the American buyers showed up anyway. Marc and I were disappointed all afternoon because nobody had made an offer. But when we got back to the hotel, we had dozens of envelopes stuffed in the boxes behind the concierge with offers for Tom & Viv. And the best one was from Harvey Weinstein. Everyone else's letter was three pages long and had terms and conditions. Harvey's letter said, 'Dear Marc and Peter, Miramax Pictures will pay you $500,000 more than anyone else. Best regards, Harvey Weinstein.' And indeed they did."

Luke: "How did you come to make Tom & Viv [about T.S. Eliot and his crazy wife Vivian]?"

Peter: "Marc saw it as a stage play in London. We thought it was the great untold story of T.S. Eliot's first wife, who, like a quarter of a million other English women, were between the Wars, too uppity to satisfy their men. And who were therefore committed to mental asylums forever, diagnosed with an hysterical mental illness. And that is what T.S. Eliot had done to his wife. She lived for years in an institution. He never visited her. And she's been largely written out of the story of his life. And she had been his muse for years. She'd given him the title for The Waste Land [famous Eliot poem], edited The Waste Land, and made as big a contribution to it as Ezra Pound. So the film set out to put that to rights.

"That led to making the film Wilde three years later about Oscar Wilde. It was our first film where we put up a website (www.oscarwilde.com). And on the site, you can send emails to the producer. And they come out on my laptop. And I can see that the film played on latenight cable in Finland because I will get 21 Finnish emails. And I can see when school goes back and people get assigned reading in Oscar Wilde. It was the first time that Marc and I had direct interactions with thousands of audience members.

"The US release of Arlington Road was harmed by the tragedy at Columbine High School. That happened a couple of weeks before we were supposed to be released and it just wasn't the responsible thing to do, to release a film about domestic terrorism and people building bombs in their suburban garage. So Sony pulled the film and it eventually went out in the teeth of the summer, which was a mistake.

"Sony got the movie by osmosis. We were originally to be distributed by Paramount but we could not agree on casting. So we then went to Polygram. I'm on location in Houston shooting the film. My wife calls with the news that Polygram has been bought by Universal.

"The Polygram executives said they'd been given guarantees of autonomy and security. And they kept saying that up to the day near Christmas that they all got fired.

"Universal didn't like the film. The executive, who will remain nameless, watched it during the daytime on a videocassette, and according to his secretary, he didn't watch the second half. And during the first half, he took phone calls.

"Much to our amazement, Universal agreed to sell the movie back and Sony bought it. It was the first release of Clint Culpepper's Screen Gems division."

Luke: "How did you come to Arlington Road in the first place?"

Peter: "I am a final stage judge of the Nicholl Fellowship of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I read this amazing script by Ehren Kruger. I couldn't put it down. I read it twice in one night. Because of the ethics of being a judge, I had to wait until the results of the competition were published in Variety. And then it was open season. With the permission of the Academy, I then bought the rights.

"Then Marc and I went on a search for a director. We wanted someone who could sell the paranoia of Jeff Bridges' character. And our thoughts went to an MTV kind of a director. But the trouble with those guys is that they often can't span a 100-minute narrative. They are used to telling a story in four minutes.

"We saw Director Mark Pellington's show reel. It was brilliant. We saw his one feature film, Going all the Way. And while the script was flawed, the execution was good. What really did it for us was a documentary he made, Father's Daze, about how the terrible scourge of Alzheimer's Disease took over the life of his father. He made it over many months. His father was a vibrant football player who was devastated by the disease.

"We met Mark. He's about nine feet tall, a gentle giant. And we hired him. My phone rings and it is John Matoian, who was then running HBO. John says he's read the script and he will immediately greenlight it. I go in to see him and he says 'I am greenlighting this film.' I say, 'That is kind of you. What are the contingencies?' And he says, 'None. But you have to say yes now.'

"He lays out an appropriate high-end HBO deal. I say, 'I have to talk to my partner.' I call Marc on my cell phone and we agree that it is mad for us to say yes now. We haven't even tried to sell it as a feature [rather than a made for TV movie]. We will give ourselves the ten days of Cannes to set it up as a feature. And if not, we will take the HBO deal.

"We went to Cannes. We met with Tom Rosenberg, the head of Lakeshore Entertainment. He committed to making it as a feature using his Paramount output deal. Lakeshore would sell the foreign rights. 'But if you leave the room, the deal is off.' We said we had to talk to our lawyer. He asked us to come back at 3PM.

"We couldn't find a lawyer in Cannes. Our lawyer, Libby Savill, was leaving for London that day. Her partner, David Bouchier, was due to land at 2PM at Nice airport. We drove to the airport, found David's driver and sent him away. And when Bouchier came out of customs, we said, 'Hi, we're your car. And by the way, you're negotiating a deal for us with Lakeshore in 50 minutes.'

"We then drove at 100 mph to Rosenberg's hotel with Marc driving and me briefing Bouchier, who threw himself into it with gusto. We were on time for our appointment and made our deal. And four months later, we were in pre-production."

Luke: "I found Arlington Road terribly disturbing."

Peter: "It was intended to be. We had terrible fights over the ending with the studios. You can only name a couple of American films where the hero dies in the end. We thought it was an article of faith that the Jeff Bridges character Michael Faraday [an anti-terrorism expert] had to die. The film is a horror story with domestic terrorism as the monster and it would be completely specious and morally bankrupt to do a classic American studio film where you paper it all over at the end and everything is sweetness and light.

"We've learned in the three years since the film was made that it was prescient. We've learned that terrorism is infinitely powerful and infinitely difficult to stop. It empowers extremists who have always been marginalized and treated as the crackpots they are. It gives them a bully pulpit. And the forces of civilized society are ill-equipped to stop it.

"It wouldn't have been worth making the film if Jeff Bridges had saved the day, put it all in a neat box, and sent the Tim Robbins character to jail. We were forced by the studio to shoot two endings. In one, Jeff Bridges did not die. The DVD shows this alternate ending. We had the FBI guys dragging him away from the explosion site to a cell.

"When we tested the film, the scene that was most liked by the audience was the ending of the movie. And that was the last we heard from anybody telling us that we had to be the millionth American film where the hero saves the day.

"I don't know why it is in the American studio system that catharsis is unacceptable in a motion picture other than in horror films. Drama began in ancient Greece where they had comedy, drama and tragedy. And catharsis, making the audience experience something that frightens them, was always an integral part of Aristotle's Poetics. And that has remained true throughout the generations. Where's the happy ending in King Lear or Hamlet?

"There is only one exception in modern culture - the last 60 years of American studio filmmaking. I think it has more to do with the can-do frontiers optimism of the early immigrant studio heads than the tastes of the audience. I don't think American audiences are any less open to Aristotle's different forms of drama and I believe they can be touched and made to cry and made to feel a cathartic release. And people in studios don't seem to agree with that."

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 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 Debra 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."

Luke: "Is it true you are a fifth generation British filmmaker?"

Peter: "My grandfather's (Bertie) mother (Bertha) was his office manager in 1906 in his British distribution company. Bertie Samuelson was a major producer of silent movies in the first part of the 20th Century until 1929 and the flood of talkies. My father Sydney and his brothers founded and ran Samuelson Film Service, which was and remains the largest film equipment rental company in the world. It is now part of Panavision. After my father retired, he became the first British Film Commissioner (1991-98). He was knighted in 1995. My brother and I are the fourth generation. My cousin Adam is one of the leading operators of camera cranes in Europe. My daughter Pamela has had bit parts in a couple of our films. She's just graduated from Sarah Lawrence College on the East Coast.

"There are American dynastic families who can say that three of their generations have been employed in the film industry. I'm still waiting for someone to say five generations.

"My grandfather went bankrupt when talkies came in. He prohibited my father's generation from being producers because it was too risky. He said, 'Do something where they hire you, it's safer.' But my father never passed on this advice to me. I asked him why not. He said because I never asked. So, because I didn't know any better, I became a producer.

"In the English system in the 1970s, you weren't supposed to be promoted if you were young. You weren't supposed to be a production manager unless you were 53 and had been an apprentice for 30 years. I contrasted that with the American way. I came out originally in 1975 on a one-year contract. Studio people would look at me and think, 'Aha, smart young man. Get him in here.'

"When I couldn't get into the Directors Guild as a production manager because my work experience had been overseas, I promoted myself to producer.

"After I'd been out here three years, it dawned on me that I had moved. In the early 1980s, I became an American citizen. It was a very moving ceremony.

"In sheer entrepreneurial accomplishment, there can be nothing bigger than making a movie. You start with nothing and you take a three-year bet on what the audience will find cathartic, dramatic or amusing, and then you have to find a whole lot of other people to agree with you. Attempts have been made in America to marginalize the producer. I think that's a mistake because the only person on a film who can balance art and commerce, commerciality and creativity is the producer. The director, quite rightly, fights from the point of view of the filmmaker. The studio or financier, quite rightly, fights from the point of view of profits. There needs to be someone in the middle who has the helicopter view.

"That's why you need a partner. My hat is off to those who are sole practitioners. I don't know how to do that. I have to have my brother Marc so that when we come out of a meeting with someone completely appalling... And this industry has more than its share of appalling people - completely amoral people, terrible liars, self aggrandizing twerps, people with no talent who have somehow amassed power... One has to deal with all these strange people and put them together. Then I can complain to someone!

"They say that you can tell a Samuelson production because the inter-party agreement that is signed needs two pages for all the signatures [of the various financing entities]. Pulling all that together is like being the man at the circus with all the plates on sticks. You have to find that one blissful moment where all the plates are on top of the bamboo sticks.

"Marc and I equally partnered. Our two companies are autonomous. He owns the British one and I own the American one. We just work together. We've never made a film apart since 1990. We both work on all the projects and we always take joint credit. I once said in a meeting that we are two bodies with one brain. He kicked me under the table because it sounded like I'd said we had half-a-brain each."

Luke: "What are your strengths as a producer?"

Peter: "I learned at Cambridge the analysis of story. When you study comparative literature, you hone your analytic skills. We are good at developing scripts. People regularly say to me that that is the best script that could be developed from that story. Second, we are experienced physical producers. I've hired the Teamsters. I've negotiated with a sheik to put a camera on the top of his palace. No one working for me on a film could pull the wool over my eyes. When the cinematographer talks to me about lenses, I know almost as much about lenses as he does.

"We've become adept at putting together soft money [subsidies and tax breaks] and pre-sales from Europe. Soft money means lottery money, sale-lease-back, Isle of Man subsidies, Anglo-Canadian, Anglo-French, Anglo-German co-production money, subsidy money. Money, which if has to be paid back, is paid back last.

"When you make a film for a studio, you get a high upfront fee but you never see any meaningful back-end [percentage of the profits]. The only thing that ever forces a studio to pay a back-end is embarrassment because the film is so successful or the studio wishes to be in business with you on another project. Other than that, I think they could just save a lot of trees by saying, 'Profits, you can't have any.'

"The reason for that is that everything is cross collateralized [meaning every expense conceivable, including studio-upkeep and any territorial losses are subtracted from profits so the studio doesn't have to pay out any profit-sharing]. But when you do split-rights [meaning if a territory, say Australia, turns a profit, than profit-participants get their share, even if the film loses money in other territories], you pre-sell territories and divide everything up. So if there are profits in Germany, they don't get diminished by losses elsewhere. We gives points [percentages of profit] to people who work for us. That they then earn money from those points, and know that we will have accurate profit statements, means that on their next project with us, they know they don't need to get all their money upfront.

"Because nobody invests more than a modest percentage, we're in charge of our own films. On the first day of principle photography, Marc looks at me and then we look at the director and we realize that we're it. We're making our film our way. To the extent that we've made anything worth watching, it's because we had a single vision.

"Committee filmmaking is not a happy thing. A committee's job is to satisfy everyone on the committee. You start off with a wonderful idea. Think of it as a great big jagged lump of granite with fissures and facets and rough bits. It's memorable. Then, little by little through most studio development, you burnish off everything that bothered anyone. And if the committee is big enough, there will be someone who is bothered by everything. You often end up with a pebble. And then, either they make it and it isn't any good, or they don't make it because it is a pebble. You say, 'Yeah, it is a pebble because all the good stuff got cut off.'

"There is a downside to split-rights. Only the pressure of the oncoming train of principle photography causes the deals to close. It's difficult when you have eleven parties to a financing to get everyone signed. I remember once, while we were in pre-production on Wilde, arriving at the studio in London, and there was the biggest pile of wood outside the door of the studio that I had ever seen. It was higher than a house. My brother said it was the wood for our sets. I said that's great. He said, 'I'm glad you like that wood because you own that wood.' And the film had not yet closed its financing.

"Split-rights means that the producer develops the package. A package means a finished script, a director and the lead actors. You then take that package to Cannes or Mifed [Milan Film Festival] or the American Film Market in Santa Monica and you assemble a financing package. On The Gathering, for instance, a $20 million film, a quarter of the financing came from the government on the Isle of Man, 12% from a British sale-lease-back tax incentive scheme. We also pre-sold the German territory, the United Kingdom territory, as well as Scandinavia and Spain. There were a couple of equity investments, including Granada, and that all equaled 80% of the cost of making the film. You then take your contracts to a bank and the bank puts up what's called the gap. Gap financing is the difference between what you've pre-sold, which is a demonstration of good faith and viability, and your total cost.

"There are 30 significant territories in the world and they are never all down or all up at once. The hegemony of the American studios is waning. When I started out doing split-rights, the American studio put up 50% of the budget in return for North America distribution, because at that time, the United States and Canada were worth 50% of the revenue. Then it went 60-40%, with foreign being the 60%. Now it is 75-25%. I've seen deals where the American studio is only 15% of the budget. This is partly the result of the growth of secondary and tertiary media such as DVDs and pay-TV which have been more rapid in foreign countries than in the US. Another reason is that the American studios have sought to lay off risk by engaging in split-rights. The pioneer was Jonathan Dolgen at Paramount. He preferred to have three times as many films with as third as much exposure on each. And that's the way most US studios do it now.

"In the American market, there are too many titles chasing too few slots. There aren't enough screens. This will change when VOD (View On Demand) comes in. For independent producers VOD and a six-foot diagonal plasma screen hanging on the wall at home are the future. There will always be kinds of films that will be shown in a cinema with 500 people sitting there. There will always be date movies where the motivation is to get out of the house and hold hands in the back row. Epic films, like Lawrence of Arabia, are made for the big screen..... but for everything else, there will be VOD.

"Last year I bought a TIVO box [allows for easy recording of TV programs] for the house, which is a crude and early form of VOD. Since we bought that box, we haven't watched any television commercials. We zap through them. We watch about half as much television in real time. The rest is time-shifted. I would define VOD as 14,000 film titles. What do you want to watch and when do you want to watch it? With adjuncts to that system such as, 'We've noticed that you like films with Jude Law in them. There's a new one. Would you like to see it now?' And it will charge you $3 on your Master Card. This will sweep the planet. Amazon.com already does this with book suggestions.

"This will completely change the paradigm for the filmmaker. Think of how high the hurdle is to get a film off the ground. You have to persuade financiers and distributors that on one weekend several million people will get in the car and simultaneously pay $8 each to simultaneously see the film. No wonder so many studio films are lowest common denominator entertainment. Compare that to books, which have a shelf life. A studio film has none. If it doesn't open properly, it's a disaster by Saturday morning. They phone you on Saturday morning and tell you whether you have a career or not based on what the film did on Friday. There are people in studios who, within 5%, can predict the global box office of a film by what it does on Friday.

"A book store has New York Times bestsellers but they also have books that have been there for three years and can develop an audience over time. Furthermore, the books are filed by sections. All the books about how to succeed in business are on one shelf. All the books about pulp romance are on one shelf. VOD coupled with artificial intelligence is the future. My ten-year old loves robots. He has downloaded through TIVO several programs with titles like Robot Wars. TIVO now reaches out to the Sci-Fi channel at 3AM, without being told by us, and pulls any film with 'robot' in the description or title. It does the same thing with actors and directors.

"VOD titles will have to be made for an economical price. We know how to do that. We just made The Gathering, which is of the quality, scope and canvas size of a studio movie. It has a studio star in Christina Ricci. The average price for a studio film last year was $55 million. We made The Gathering for $20 million.

"My grandfather's dire warning notwithstanding, I still think producing is the highest and best combination of art, science and commerce for me. In The Gathering, I obviously know when the shock moments are. I got to watch the backs of that Cannes audience's heads and to see them repeatedly jump out of their seats. On Revenge of the Nerds at the first Phoenix sneak, I got to hear the film's first audience laugh..... maybe there are better professional moments if you do something that really matters like a brain surgeon or a fireman, but these made me very happy."

A resident of Holmby Hills, Samuelson's married to the former Miss Saryl Hirsch. They have four kids. Peter founded two large children's charities - the Starlight Foundation, which grants wishes to seriously ill children, and its sister charity, Starbright.

Born October 16, 1951, Peter, the eldest of three sons, grew up in the London suburb of Hampstead. Before going to college, Peter worked as a French-English interpreter on "Le Mans," starring Steve McQueen.

After university, Samuelson teamed up with actor Donald Sutherland on several Canadian movies. On A Man, a Woman, and a Bank, the financing fell apart due to a change in Canadian tax-shelter laws. So Peter wrote to Ted Field, 25 years old at the time and the inheritor of sevearl hundred million dollars from Marshall Field.

Ted ate lunch with Peter and agreed to put up the missing half of the budget. The experience of working with Peter turned out so well that Field proposed that the two of them go into business together. From 1980-84, Samuelson headed the film division of Field's company, Interscope Communications. In 1984, Peter helped Field's $40-million buyout of Panavision. Four years later, Field sold it for $100 million.

In the Los Angeles Times in May, 1999, Peter Samuelson wrote this letter to the editor: "Your April 28 article on the Littleton tragedy references the film I produced with Ted Field in 1984, "Revenge of the Nerds," but your writer cannot have actually seen our film. After fraternity jocks trash the house of the nerds, our nerds' "revenge" is inspired by Gandhi: The two leading nerds descend on a football pep rally, seize the microphone and appeal to all those students, faculty and alumni who ever felt victimized by the school's caste system to join them in passive resistance. As the films ends, slowly but surely most of the hundreds of kids and adults present join the nerds' cause and nerds become the tolerant majority.

"We found hard to retain this ending and miraculously won the point when others wanted the nerds to blow up the jock fraternity. It is inaccurate to lump all filmmakers into the category of "violence sells, so damn the social consequences." Many of us care a great deal and find that positive messages are also very commercial."

Sources: LA Times, 8/11/98, Claudia Eller, "Literary Producers Opens a Chapter."