When is a Kiss just a Kiss?
From the New York Times: AT the heart of Yvan Attal's [born in Israel] film "My Wife Is an Actress" lies a simple question: when an actor and actress are shown kissing on screen, are they acting or are they really kissing? The stock answer from actors is that they are just doing a job ("someone has to do it") and that sexual attraction plays no role. It is certainly what they tell their spouses. But Mr. Attal, writing and directing his first feature film after more than a decade as an actor, begs to differ.
MBeltzner writes this review on Imdb.com: "It's a wonderful romantic comedy that occasionally strays into the darker subject of sexual jealousy and paranoia that can rip lovers apart. Yvon Vital writes and directs with a mature sense of balance - darker scenes balanced with humour, imagined problems weighed against real crises, love compared with lust. Vital uses his dual role as writer and director to make reference to plot points in his own choice of framing and direction of the scene - this again balances the film, giving the viewer the feeling that they're being let in on a joke or personal reference."
I also want to see the new British film Me Without You. From the NY Times: "Sandra Goldbacher's small, psychologically savvy film "Me Without You" is the story of a toxic friendship, established in early childhood, whose poisons continue to circulate and infect both partners well into their adult lives.
"Holly, who is self-conscious about her Jewishness, is brought up by a fastidiously mousy mother who advises her not to expect too much in the way of love and to doubt her own sex appeal. Intellectually curious and socially conscious, she is always a little surprised when men find her attractive."
Rocco and his Brothers
A.O. Scott writes in the New York Times: "With the emotional sweep of a Verdi opera and the narrative density of a 19th-century novel, Luchino Visconti's film represents the artistic apotheosis of Italian Neo-Realism." Well, I gotta see that then. I can't miss the artistic apotheosis of Italian Neo-Realism.
Another Fawning Movie Star Profile
I never read movie star profiles until I started my current book on movie and TV producers last September. And now that I'm reading them regularly, I know why I previously avoided them. They are trite and predictable. I estimate that 75% of them are fawning and 15% are bitchy and perhaps 10% avoid either cliche.
I remember reading one of Halle Berry in the NYT just before the Oscars. I dismissed its fawning style was due to its subject being half-black. Typical liberal double standards. But I was wrong. Most profiles are fawning. I guess it's the only way reporters can get past the publicists to get access to their subject.
This profile of Jill Clayburgh by Jennet Conant in the New York Times is fawning. Comparie it's style to the perspective I got from Producer Edgar Scherick.
From the NYT: Audiences who identified with Ms. Clayburgh's hilariously neurotic New York divorcée in "An Unmarried Woman," and rooted for her as the mousy school teacher who has to compete with Candice Bergen to win Burt Reynolds's affections in Alan Pakula's 1979 romantic comedy "Starting Over," will find it hard not to share her pain at the prospect of re-entering the dating scene at middle age in "Never Again," which opens on Friday in New York and Los Angeles and in other cities July 19.
Ms. Clayburgh, who earned consecutive best-actress Oscar nominations for those early star turns, admits the appeal of doing another romantic comedy is that it completes a kind of cinematic triptych, bringing back her familiar discombobulated but determined heroine. When her character loses it in an early scene in "Never Again" — humiliating herself and embarrassing those around her — it is an instant reminder that few actresses play single, emotionally frayed women as well as she does. You laugh at her performance, and at her predicament.
[Director and writer Eric] Schaeffer said he could not resist making similar overtures to Ms. Clayburgh, who at 58 has retained her lithe figure and soft red hair, her impish charm undiminished by the lines on her face. "She was such a menschy mom, running around the set in Birkenstocks and old sweaters and offering everyone chicken soup," he recalled. "At the same time, she was fall-down funny, and could pull off this smart, sophisticated, subtle comedy with tremendous depth. I was intimidated by her because she was a real movie star from the old school."
Scherick: "Michael Eisner said, 'Let's make the first Valium movie.' I think it is the only Valium movie. I hated the guts of our lead actress Jill Clayburgh. She was cruel to everybody. I hate cruel people.
"It wasn't a bad book. Jill Clayburgh was Michael Eisner's cousin or something like that. He wanted to make a picture with Jill Clayburg. I never thought much of the picture."
Nikki Finke writes in the leftist LA Weekly: Bryan Burrough's apocalyptic interview with Michael Ovitz > consisted of page after page of the one-time most powerful man in > Hollywood blaming a "Gay Mafia" for his professional demise and obvious > personal dementia.
Kar (Findme@earthlink.net) replies on alt.gossip.celebrities: An untrue statement from the "Weekly". The term 'Gay Mafia' appears twice (outside the precis at the front of the article), most significantly in the writer confronting Diller with "...Ovitz's use of the term Gay Mafia..." which is the only de facto attribution of the term to Ovitz who has already apologized for the use of the term. The other time is in a setup on its usage which is arguably hyperbole by the writer, Bryan Burrough.
...[T]here is most certainly a gay network in Hollywood. There is a black network, a women's network, a disabled network and any number of various networks whose members are frequently members of more than one network. Anyone who has gone to the unbelievable amount of special interest group banquets which is part of the awards season (1st and 2nd Quarter of each year) is aware of the huge amount of special interest groups that are seeking representation in both film content and in the film industry. Hardly surprising. A gay woman producer might very well be in Women in Film, The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and the Producer's Guild (I certianly know several people for whom this is true). With each of these memberships, the special interest of the group would be the primary connection between that woman and the members of that group. I've heard the term Gay Mafia used many times before this article came out.
Ovitz's impropriety was not keeping his guard up when using colloquial terms in an interview for the general public. It is irresponsible and creates a false image. I also believe that Geffen is a man with an agenda, who also happens to be gay. Tabling the Diller discussion, there is really only one other (ostensibly) out gay man in the group that Ovitz's was venting about. I think it was irresponsible of Ovtiz to use the term in the first place, but more irresponsible of Vanity Fair and Burrough (who otherwise wrote a terrific article) to somehow suggest that Ovitz rage is at a gay mafia when it is at individuals, some of whom are indeed gay.
This is the LA Weekly playing Southern belle then, since Ovitz never once uses the term "faggot," nor does he claim they are controlling American Culture.
Ovitz didn't rant. He wasn't even quoted using the term with respect to any of the statements the article puts in his mouth. He was referenced as using it.
The article is (fairly) titled "Ovitz Agonistes," it is hardly intended to be a discussion of the two sides to each argument Ovitz is involved in. It's Ovitz's perception of his side of things. To accuse the article of not doing what wasn't its intent is to create a strawman.
Prior to defecting from William Morris and creating the culture of the agent as celebrity as part of the CAA MO, the general philosohpy was that clients, NOT agents were the celebrities and that was the prevailing culture in Hollywood. There was an occasional Swifty Lazaar (book agent, though) but for the most part, the agent was not as well-known a commodity prior to Ovitz inventing the concept. Not to defend his homophobia which may well exist (I suspect it does), but in creating that culture, he was taking steps professionally out of a cultural closet and didn't tolerate anything that was going to alter the perception of agent as celebrity. As I stated previously, the whole agent culture was an Ovitz' construct (which I find to be his most vulgar and blameworthy achievement); which the article unfortunately, to my tastes, also doesn't deal with. The article deals with the Nixonian finality they claim has finally befallen Ovitz.
Most VF cover subjects have been CAA clients. That's hardly a coincidence. One suspects Ovitz's willingness to sit for the interview in the first place is a result of this. Playing Footsie is another hardly new hardly Hollywood concept.
Director John Frankenheimer Dies
From the New York Times: John Frankenheimer, one of the foremost directors of the 1960's with classic films like "The Manchurian Candidate," "Seven Days in May," "Birdman of Alcatraz" and "The Train," died of a massive stroke today from complications after spinal surgery. He was 72.
Mr. Frankenheimer, whose career stumbled badly in the late 1970's and 1980's because of personal problems and alcoholism, came back in the 1990's with significant television work that was flourishing at the time of his death. "It's a town with a short memory: it grinds people up and throws them away," Mr. Frankenheimer told a reporter in 1998, shortly before the release of an action film, "Ronin," with Robert De Niro.
More recently, Mr. Frankenheimer won four consecutive Emmys for best director for the television movies "Against the Wall," "The Burning Season," "Andersonville," and "George Wallace." His last film, "Path to War," an ambitious HBO drama about the Johnson administration's decisions to escalate the war in Vietnam, was shown in May to strong reviews.
I just wasted 90-minutes watching the nihilistic debut effort of Director Bryan Singer, Public Access . Doing some research after the film, trying to figure out what the heck it was about, I found out that its lead actor Ron Marquette committed suicide in 1995. Do nihilistic movies lead to suicide?
I loved Singer's 1995 film The Usual Suspects.
Ryan Davis reviews Access on Imdb.com: "...[I]f you are as big a fan of "Suspects" as I am it might be worth renting "Public Access" to see where some of the techniques used in the later movie came from. For example, all of the following are present in both Singer-McQuarrie productions: a jumbled voiceover with many people talking at once, a montage of shots of key characters, ominous music and an overall darkness of tone. Perhaps the ending of "Public Access" left the two filmmakers feeling as empty as I felt, and set out to blow the audience away with the ending of their next movie."
Why won't Hollywood admit terrorism's Islamic link?
Michael Medved writes on JewishWorldReview.com: Just 10 days before the government announced the detention of Jose Padilla (also known as Abdullah Al Muhajir) on charges of plotting a "dirty bomb" explosion on American soil, Hollywood unleashed Bad Company, its second thriller in two weeks about nuclear terrorism in the United States.
But in that Anthony Hopkins-Chris Rock box-office dud - as in its high-profile predecessor, The Sum of All Fears - Islamic extremists bear no responsibility for the deadly designs against our country.
The politically correct position therefore suggests that it's merely coincidence that most Islamic societies oppose Western ideals of liberty and progress, and it's only an accident that nearly all mass-murdering conspirators pledged to kill Americans take their inspiration from the Koran.
Ideas - including religious ones - have consequences, and examining those consequences is the best way to judge them. Americans are mature enough to handle the inescapable truth that our daily dangers come not, as Hollywood would have it, from freelance misfits and nostalgic Nazis, but from a serious and frightening Islamic mass movement implacably devoted to our destruction.
JRob writes: I agree with your assessment of politically correct whining stopping us from stating things as they are. In an editorial, Ann Coulter (with whom I rarely agree) made an interesting point. Commenting on the complaints of ethnic profiling by airport screeners, she pointed out that in the last twenty years, ALL airline hijackings (especially those that resulted in the loss of life) were perpetrated by muslims. All of them. I paraphrase her strikingly true statement: Being on the alert for muslim men is not ethnic profiling, IT IS A DESCRIPTION OF THE SUSPECT. What are we going to say next? That Jeffrey Dahmer gave a bad name to serial killers and we shouldn't just assume that ALL serial killers eat their victims? All religions are violent and xenophobic, but islam is the worst of the lot. If you are a muslim and you are not an American citizen, you are guilty until proven innocent.
Ann's direct quote: "When there is a 100 percent chance, it ceases to be a profile. It's called a "description of the suspect." This is not a psychological judgment about an ethnic group – it is an all-points bulletin: Warning! The next terrorist to board a commercial flight will be an Arab or Muslim male."
Phyllis Carlyle - Producer of Se7en, Accidental Tourist
I interviewed manager - producer Phyllis Carlyle at her home June 26, 2002.
Carlyle produced such films as The Accidental Tourist and Se7en, and guided the careers of such actors as Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, Pierce Brosnan, David Caruso, Geena Davis, Salma Hayek, Joseph Fiennes, Andy Garcia, Melanie Griffith, Jude Law, Ewan MacGregor, Jon Stewart, and Lou Diamond Phillips.
Phyllis lives alone with half a dozen cocker spaniels. Married twice, she has no children.
Phyllis: "I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I grew up traveling. My father Russ Carlyle had a big band orchestra and he traveled the country. I have a brother Jeffrey, seven years younger than myself. When he was born, my family settled down outside Cleveland.
"I didn't belong to any particular cliche in high school. I was the different one. We lived in the country and the families were predominantly farmers. I had been to New York. For college, I went to the American Academy for the Dramatic Arts. I got married to a radio disc jockey and I went back to Cleveland for a year. Then we moved to Chicago. I divorced after a year. I stayed in Chicago. I worked at a talent agency and then I started my own.
"My goal has always been to make movies. I moved to Los Angeles [around 1973]. My cousin had written a book, Will There Really be a Morning? It was the autobiography of [actress] Frances Farmer. She'd had a dramatic life and had lived with my cousin for 15 years before her death. The story that was eventually made into the film Frances  starring Jessica Lange was not the truth.
"My cousin (Jeanira Ratcliffe) was a rebel. She lived in Indianapolis. She was terrified by Hollywood and screwed the whole thing up. She couldn't trust anybody. But I came here with that book. There was a substantial level of interest from people in doing it as a movie but the project didn't happen as it should've."
Jack Randall Earles, who as a kid watched Frances Farmer on TV, writes on this web site: I had never heard of Jeanira Ratcliffe or her family. I had done a little research on Frances since she had left television and knew at least one husband was missing. The sequences in the asylum seemed false. Frances’ voice was coming through, but something was wrong.
Jean returned my script saying she was planning to write one herself (the later teleplay did not mention her although Farmcliffe Enterprises was credited). I said that I had enjoyed the book but that I was disturbed by it.
Jean asked me how she could help me. She told me that she planned to write the screenplay for Morning herself. She told me she would be glad to read another screenplay and give me some tips if I wanted her to. Jean had brought along some scripts of films that I might want to see to understand how a screenplay was written. At the end of the evening, I started to take them with me. To my embarrassment, Jean had intended for me to study them there and asked that I not take them. She wrote out an address and gave it to me. She said I could send my material there.
I later found out that it was the address of her father’s barbershop. I sent another letter and a script a few weeks later. I never got a reply.
That was my last brush with Jeanira Ratcliffe. My personal impression of her is that she was an interesting looking woman. She resembled photos of the young Sophie Rosenstein. She was a woman of ambition and charm. She was very bright and personable. I am still uncertain as to her sexual orientation.
I know she was very important to Frances in the last years of her life. I am not so certain that most of the relationship described in Morning is accurate. Time frames and locations and residences just do not add up.
We also owe her a great debt. Without Jean first taking on the challenge of writing Frances’ story, we would not have a beginning from which to explore her life. All of us owe this debt not only to Jean but also to Lee Mikesell who found Frances on the streets of Eureka, California, and put her back in the public eye. They were a couple of people that might have seen in Frances some of the things they lacked in their own lives.
That they profited from their relationships with her (Jean more so than Lee), was just another link in the chain of Frances’ life. There is a lot of evidence to say they hated each other and that Frances was caught in the middle. Thanks, Jean, for the dinner, for being a friend to Frances Farmer, and for pointing us in the right direction. You were not completely honest. But you did all of us a great favor.
Luke: "How did you like the Jessica Lange film?"
Phyllis: "When you know a lot about somebody's life... For example, Frances never had a frontal lobotomy. It's not true. The film was well done, dramatic and interesting. But it was not an accurate portrayal of her life."
Luke: "Did your parents encourage or discourage you from getting into showbiz?"
Phyllis: "I don't think we ever talked about it. My first word, as a two-year old, was 'movie.' I don't think anybody thought it was up for discussion. I was headstrong. I don't know why any of this has to do with how to get movies made, but... They were happy that I was focused on something I loved because I was floundering.
"I came to Los Angeles believing that I could use some of my financial relationships I had in Chicago to make movies. It's funny because I am still doing the same thing. I was way ahead of everything. I look back and I am surprised I saw the future.
"I met Barbara Boyle [who now runs Gail Ann Hurd's operation]. She's an attorney. She liked me. She agreed to be my lawyer. Shortly after that, she went to work for Roger Corman. We thought that an investment group I knew might match up to a slate of Corman films. The investment of $750,000 would've been spread over four films but the group decided not to invest. Two of the Corman movies [Big Bad Momma and Deathrace 2000] turned out to be the top moneymakers he ever had.
"Burt Kantor, the mother of the tax structure deal [to finance films] was a mentor to me.
"My friend Kathy Bishop, a commercials producer from Chicago who moved to Los Angeles before me, got me work as a commercial casting director. I probably became the top commercials casting director.
"Naivete can be a great quality because you think everything is possible. While if I had listened to the advice I was receiving, I would've done nothing. Everybody cautions you against everything. I didn't know any better. I decided to start a management business. From my work as a casting director, I saw a lot of young talent. And I started picking people out of that pool to discuss management. I figured that I would build their careers. They would become stars. And I would learn the film business.
"I took this master plan to a producer. He looked at me and said, 'Why don't you just produce?'
"One of the people I managed was John Malkovich. There was a tremendous amount of interest in him [around 1986]. Mark Rosenberg, who ran Warner Brothers at the time, offered John a production deal. This was my master-plan come true. I went to John. He said, 'Oh honey, I don't want to do that. Why, do you want to do it?' I said, 'Oh yes.' John said, 'Ok. As long as you don't bug me with it, go ahead and do it.'
"So we put together a two-year deal at Warner Brothers. I think John showed up twice in two years. That was the beginning of my relationship to a studio.
"Mark Rosenberg (formerly married to Paula Weinstein) was fired about four months later. Mark was a truly wonderful man - intelligent, creative, kind. That's of course why they fired him. He wasn't fitting the mold. He was succeeded by Mark Canton who was in bed with Jon Peters. I was among the first women with a production deal.
"A William Morris assistant in New York tipped me off to the book, The Accidental Tourist by Ann Tyler, while it was still in galleys. I bought the rights. The exec I worked with at Warners was Bonnie Lee. We got Frank Galati, a professor at Northwestern, to do the screenplay. Nobody knew who the hell he was. Mark Rosenberg thought Frank was a great creative choice. The new regime didn't agree.
"I got a call from Bonnie. She said, 'I've got good news for you. A wonderful director wants to do the project.' I said, 'Well, we haven't even talked about directors. Just do me a favor. Promise me it isn't George Roy Hill.' There was dead silence on the other end of the phone. Finally she said, 'How do you know?'
"I said, 'Bonnie, he's wrong for the project.' She said, 'Phyllis, he's a world class director. He's making a few notes now on the script and then he wants to meet with you. At least give him a chance.' The notes dragged on for two months and it turned out that he was writing his own script. I read it and it was truly horrible. Even the studio had to agree. He took this sad and wonderful story and turned it into something that Walt Disney would do with dogs.
"It turned out that Warners had a huge deal with George. They paid him an enormous amount of money every year and he didn't make anything. This was the first thing he liked and this was how they were going to pay themselves back. Warners was sure he was right for the project.
"I caused enough trouble that Mark [Canton] wanted to see me. He told me, 'This is my studio. If you don't like it, get the f--- out. If you want to do everything your own way, go get your own money and your own studio and do your own movies. But if you're going to stay here and make this movie with my money, you're going to do it my way. And George Roy Hill is going to direct this movie and Bill Murray is going to star in it.
"My head of development was with me. We were walking back to my office. He said, 'I've never heard you that quiet.' I said, 'I've never been that close to killing anyone.'
"I racked my brain trying to think how to save my project. I got a call an agent at UTA (United Talent Agency) who said that Larry [Kasdan] would love to talk to me about directing the project. We sent him the script on a Thursday and by Monday morning I got a call back saying Larry would love to do the movie. I called Bonnie. 'I have such wonderful news for you. A world-class director wants to make this movie. Larry Kasdan.' There's dead silence. Larry Kasdan was very hot at this time.
"Warners had this Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm. They called George and asked him to direct it. 'Chevy loves you. Accidental Tourist isn't ready yet. This movie is ready to go. Do this movie while we're getting Tourist ready and we promise you we will then bring you on to Tourist.' Once they had George signed, sealed and delivered, they dumped him from the Tourist project."
Funny Farm  was the last movie George Roy Hill would ever direct.
Phyllis: "After we saw the first cut of Tourist, it was strong. Larry wanted to test it. He didn't get the test scores he wanted. They were only in the seventies and he thought they should be in the eighties. And Larry had the right to final cut. He was that strong then as a director. So he rewrote and re-shot half of Kathleen Turner's scenes. Because in the test results, people didn't like her. She was reduced to this character on the phone. One of the strongest scenes I've ever seen was cut out of the movie because it tied too strongly into the essence of her original character.
"In the original version, she was a deeply conflicted woman over the death of the child. Warners exec Lucy Fisher oversaw the project. She sums up completely what I felt about the movie. After Larry re-cut, re-shot and reedited the movie, I wrote a five-page letter to him pleading for a return to the original version. Lucy tried to talk to him as well. Larry told us, 'History will show that I was right.' I said to Lucy, 'Isn't there anything we can do?' She said to me, 'Phyllis, we had brilliance. Now we will have to settle for very good.'"
Luke: "How did you feel about the casting?"
Phyllis: "It beats Bill Murray, doesn't it? Bill is talented but he would've been the funny version of the character. He wouldn't have been the true version. I'd developed Accidental Tourist for my clients Melanie Griffith and John Malkovich. Melanie turned it down to do Working Girl."
Luke: "You were quoted in a 1999 Vanity Fair piece about Melanie. Was it accurate?"
Phyllis: "They quoted me accurately. Is it accurate that Melanie had grown up in Hollywood and gotten lost at an early age? Absolutely."
Luke: "Did you know at the time that in the studio process, once a director signs on, he becomes the king of the project?"
Phyllis: "I learned that. I didn't know that going in. I didn't know anything. I learned some hard lessons, particularly if you are somebody who has an independent spirit. I was slapped around right and left by everybody. And nobody cared. I was really hurt. I'd just gotten married to my second husband. And I'd just be sitting there at 4AM staring at the wall. I'd loved movies since two years old. I'd come to Hollywood to make wonderful movies and I'd run into the boys club, the politics, and things you don't have a reference for. It was horrible. It was done in such a brutal way. I was robbed of much of the credit I should've had for that film.
"I had brought Larry to the picture. Then Larry was finalizing his contract with Warner Brothers. I got a call from Peter, Larry's agent at UTA. He said, 'We're almost done with Larry's contract. We just have a couple of deal points left but they pertain to you. I want to run them by you. The first one is, we want to remove you as the producer. The second one is that we want to be attached to your turnaround in case we don't make the movie at Warners. I said, 'Peter, you want to remove me as the producer, but in case anything happens, you want to be attached to the project so that you can fuck me at another studio? Is that what you're saying?' He said, 'Yeah, pretty much.'
"Larry wanted me off the project because I'd never produced a movie. He had his own producing team. I didn't know enough at the time to preserve my producing credit. But I had this powerful attorney (Jake Bloom) who'd worked hard to convince me that he was going to take care of me. I told him the situation. He calls me back in 20 minutes and says, 'Phyllis, I don't want you to get emotional about this. This is your first movie. You're going to get it made. You're going to get a credit. I think we should take the executive producing credit and give them their turnaround clause.'
"I said, 'Jake, why would I want to do that?' He said, 'Ach, I knew you were going to get emotional.' There was just nowhere to turn. That ended my relationship with my attorney. So I agreed to everything because they were going to throw me off the picture completely if I hadn't. When the picture was nominated, I had to fight to get a ticket to the Golden Globes.
"I got to Se7en because Jim, a partner at UTA, sent me the script for a client. I read the script and I liked it. The studios were turning it down.
"After Tourist, I wanted to leave Warner Brothers and go to Columbia Pictures. I called David Putnam and asked for a producing deal. He said I'd have to earn a deal by bringing in two pieces of material that they believed enough in to develop. So I did and moved over to Columbia. I was happy there with Putnam and David Picker. I went from feeling like a stepchild to a favorite kid. I believe if that regime had stayed in tact, we would've done a lot of terrific films together.
"Gary Lucchesi was the agent at William Morris who I'd given John Malkovich to. He became the president of production at Paramount.
"After Putnam had gone, Columbia brought Dawn Steel in to pump up the place so they could sell it. Dawn was kind to me. She had the right to cancel all deals on the spot. She gave me six months to find another home. So I moved to Paramount. I went through several regime changes. I had an executive who wanted Gary's job. Because Gary had brought me in, he didn't want anything that Gary had touched to work. Everything I was bringing to this executive he was turning down. I brought him Stan Lee and Marvel Comics, Zoro... I pitched the idea of a major meteor hitting earth [which turned into two big movies in the summer of 1998].
"By the time my deal at Paramount had ended, I'd decided that studio life was not for me. Then Harvey Weinstein wooed me. We made a one-year deal that failed for a variety of reasons. I'm not going to go into that because this is the one group that's still playing the same game as when I came into the picture. David Putnam, Mark Canton et al are not doing the same things they were.
"The agencies were much aware of my attempts to get this movie made with various talent. [Director] David Fincher had not done a film since Alien 3, which he got a great deal of slack for. I was initially against hiring him. I thought he was a music video guy who'd had his shot. I heard all these stories about how difficult he'd been. I was very wrong. He was brilliant."
Luke: "Were you on set?"
Phyllis: "Not much. There wasn't any need."
Director David Fincher said in an interview: "Michael De Luca [former President and Chief Operating Officer of New Line Productions] went to the mat for Se7en. When we needed 18 more days to reshoot on Se7en and Phyllis Carlyle [producer of Se7en] was saying, "We need to fire this guy. He's a music video guy. He doesn't know what he's doing. We need to redo the ending. The head can't be in the box." When all that shit was going on, Mike De Luca was watching my back."
Phyllis: "That is not true. I did not try to fire David Fincher. I think almost all of us thought that the head in the box was too much. Arnold Kopelson wanted to change the ending. He walked around saying, 'I'm not making a f---ing picture with a woman's head in a box.'
"Brad [Pitt] did change the ending. The shooting draft had Morgan [Freeman] pulling the trigger. And Brad argued strenuously with David that his character should do it.
"When a movie does what Se7en did, you keep quiet. Everyone was right and we did it perfectly.
"I had so many arguments over the years with people on how to do Se7en. Paramount had this list of changes. I said, 'Why don't you do those things with the ten movies you've already got?' I went outside of the system completely to revive this project. New Line eventually financed the film. They called Arnold Kopelson in to help produce. Arnold is a complex guy. One part of him is a big teddy bear that will take care of the world. And then there's this other side of that is ego and has a hard time sharing any credit."
Mike Peck writes 3/18/99: Several big stars have already become caught in the crossfire of the battle between Hollywood managers and agents, but how in the hell did Melanie Griffith's old bathing habits become part of the discussion? Well, Griffith can thank her former manager, Hollywood veteran Phyllis Carlyle, who lays claim to "the entire masterminding" of Griffith's career in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Carlyle weighs in on the current debate between agents and managers (ignited by the reincarnated Mike Ovitz) that's already engulfed such A-list names as Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Robin Williams and Martin Scorsese. While making the point that managers pay attention to the day-to-day concerns of stars and do more hand-holding than agents, Carlyle recalls relaunching Griffith's career after the actress's "spurt of being nymphet of the year" while still a teen.
"When I met her, she was 19 or 20 years old and 25, 30 pounds overweight," Carlyle says. "She was this vulgar, sexy, funny girl who truly had never had much of a family in her life. And I loved her."
Carlyle says she demonstrated that love before an audition, when Griffith looked less-than-stellar. "I literally made her strip. and threw her in the bathtub," she says. "I put makeup on and did the hair and got nylons on her... No one had ever shown her anything. I became the mommy figure that she needed."
Carlyle also takes credit for Griffith being cast in Brian De Palma's Body Double, Jonathan Demme's Something Wild and Mike Nichols' Working Girl, for which the actress received an Oscar nomination.
Griffith doesn't paint quite the same picture. "It was Jonathan Demme, Brian De Palma and Mike Nichols who put me in those movies," she tells the magazine. "[Carlyle] made a few phone calls and was paid handsomely."
Here are some highlights from the American Movie Channel's Backstory program on the 1998 comedy There's Something About Mary.
Director Bobby Farrelly: "It's a stalking movie. It's about stalking. And we've stalked."
Director Peter Farrelly: "Every guy's stalked."
Narrator: "In 1988, struggling writers Ed Decter and John J. Strauss came up with the idea of Mary for their first script."
Ed: "We heard a story about someone who hired a private detective to find their highschool girlfriend who they had lost touch with. And we said, what if this private detective was like us, a little bit sick, and was watching this girl and fell in love with her from afar, then reported back that he didn't find her or was undesirable."
Narrator: "The screenplay was quickly optioned but for a decade did nothing but collect dust. Enter Frank Beddor, a former actor and friend of the writers who was eager to become a film producer."
Frank: "I said, 'Do you have a script that I can revive or producer?' They said that Something About Mary was on a shelf at Interscope, and if you finagle it out of development, you can do with it what you like."
Narrator: "Beddor rescued the script out of turnaround and began looking for the perfect director."
Frank: "We decided to talk to the Farrelly brothers. [Ed and John] introduced me to them six years before and we used to drink beer and play pool together."
Narrator: "In three short years, Bobby and Peter Farrelly had gone from total unknowns to major Hollywood players. Their film Dumb and Dumber became the surprise smash of 1994. When Frank Beddor pitched the duo his project, the Farrellys signed on and gleefully punched up the script with their trademark shock humor."
Frank: "I pitched the executive at Fox on a chairlift at Sundance. I gave him the one-liner and I said the Farrelly brothers were interested."
Tom Rothman, Fox Film Group President Tom Rothman: "It was so far out there. When this movie was done, there had not been a real strong R-rated sex comedy since Animal House or Caddyshack.
"I read that script and my wife looked at me as if I were crazy. I was laughing and tears were coming out of my eyes."
Narrator: "Rothman quickly said yes to a script that the Farrellys had packed with both gross out humor and some personal experience."
Peter: "The scene where the guy gets tangled up in his zipper - that happened at our house to a friend of ours. Our sister had a party when she was 12 years old and the cool kid went to the bathroom and didn't come out for an hour. And our parents had to go in there and untangle him for quite a while."
Tom Rothman: "The matter of confounding, embarrassing or extravagant situation that the characters find themselves in, the characters are approached with love, sweetness and kindness."
Narrator: "To play the title role, the Farrellys needed an actress that was not only beautiful but possessed something extra that would make every characer crazy about Mary. They had one woman in mind - the beautiful and vivacious Cameron Diaz."
Frank: "There was no discussion. It was Cameron Diaz is Mary."
Peter: "She's the perfect woman. She hangs out with the guys. She likes to throw back a couple of beers. She likes sports. Yet you'd love to sleep with her. She's the perfect Mary."
Narrator: "But getting Cameron Diaz to agree with the Farrellys was another different matter."
Frank: "She said she didn't want to do it. Then her manager, Rick Yorn, said, 'You've got to read the script'."
Cameron: "I'd never read anything quite like it. It made me laugh."
Frank: "After she read the script, she said, 'Whoever has the balls to write this movie, I'd like to work with.'"
Narrator: "But Diaz was about to get a shocking peak at what working with the brothers Farrelly would be like. During their first meeting, Peter decided to show something very private."
Frank: "He has this ploy to show his own private parts."
Mark Iwin, cinematographer: "It's not exactly an ice-breaker but it's a way of indoctrinating people into his circle of friends."
John J. Strauss: "Anyone else, arrested, in jail. The Farrellys make it a treasured moment in your life that somehow they've dropped trou."
Frank: "Usually he has to have a straight person with him. And the straight guy will say, 'How's that melanoma?' Invariably, the third person with him will say, 'What is it?' Peter will say, 'No, it's nothing.' Then I will say, 'No, it's a big bump. Show her.' So the person leans in."
Mark: "Meanwhile, Peter has arranged his private parts so that the tip of his private parts is showing above the waistband."
Frank: "People would put their head in to see it and he'd [open up his shorts]. It didn't matter, male or female. He just did it to get a reaction."
Actress Lin Shaye: "If he wasn't a director, and if he wasn't such a nice guy, he probably would've been arrested by now."
Tom: "I have seen it. I did not wish to see it. And I will be seeking redress in the courts."
Narrator: "When Farrelly flashed his leading lady, Diaz roared with laughter, proving to the Farrellys that they had found their Mary.
"For the part of lovestruck loser Ted Stroehman, the Farellys had another inspiration - comedian Ben Stiller. But 20th Century Fox wasn't convinced."
Frank: "He didn't have a big profile in middle America so they got nervous. They wanted us to do a search and go out and discover the new Ted. We did this three-week search and found Owen Wilson. Then the studio panicked and said, 'Who's Owen Wilson?' Ultimately, Fox agreed to take a chance on Stiller. But another casting struggle emerged - over the part of sleazy private eye Pat Healy. Bill Murray, Vince Vaughn and Cuba Gooding Jr were considered but finally the part went to Cameron Diaz's real life boyfriend Matt Dillon."
Frank: "We fought for Matt. I thought we all had that instinct that he could do comedy. He just hadn't done that recently."
Narrator: "On December 2, 1997, cameras rolled on There's Something About Mary. Directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly planned a ten-week shoot in Florida and their native Rhode Island. A shoot that often seemed more like a nonstop party than serious filmmaking."
Lin Shaye: "The Farrellys like to surround themselves with family. Their mom and dad come. Their friends from gradeschool come."
Actor Chris Elliott: "There's no seriousness going on on the set and very unprofessional. They're more concerned about making it funny."
Chris Elliott helped devise his character's repulsive Hives makeup. And Ben Stiller threw himself into his onscreen battle with canine costar Puffy.
Lin: "He completely choreographed that whole scene. The way he fought with the dog and his reactions, that was all Ben."
Narrator: "But it was Farrelly brothers favorite Lin Shaye who topped everyone with an impromptu dog smooching session."
Lin: "We're shooting the scene and I pick him up and put him in the air and all of a sudden I can feel every muscle in the dog's body lunge towards me and lick and lick."
Frank: "She just went crazy and would not stop."
Lin: "I could hear the crew busting a gut and they were trying not to make any sounds so they didn't ruin the tape. Cameron was laughing so hard that she was crying. She had tears running down her face."
Narrator: "But not every bit of comedy was quite so voluntary as some stars raised objections to the Farrelly's requests. Ben Stiller was forced to handle one of the most awkward actions - a bathroom scene he almost refused to do."
Mark Irwin: "Ben was reluctant to do the scene that produced the hair gel."
Ben: "That's probably the most embarrassing thing in my real life because I am going to have to live with that for the rest of my life."
Narrator: "But the biggest onscreen indignity befell Cameron Diaz. Her scene involving hair gel that would become Mary's most infamous moment."
Frank: "There was a lot of conversation about that. It seemed like it would be in such bad taste."
Mark: "I think everyone thought the hair gel scene was one step too far."
Narrator: "At first Diaz flatly refused to do the scene, thinking it might damage her promising career."
Cameron: "The thing that you learn very quickly with Peter and Bobby is that you can never go too far."
Tom Rothman: "We thought it was all too much. I'd come back from dailies every day saying, 'He can't do that. No way. We're drawing a line. Absolutely not.'"
Beddor grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He attended Catholic school for 12 years. "I lived an hour away in a small town but it had a wonderful theater called the Old Log Theater. And the town next to ours had three dinner theaters. My father was an entrepreneur and showman in his own right. He started his own traveling waterski show called "Ski Antics." He hired the girls from the Ice Follies and some ex football players from the University of Minnesota and taught everybody how to ski. They had pyramids, fire jumps, even my old man's dog Rowdy was in the show. As a promotional stunt for Paul Bunyan Land in northern Minnesota, he dressed himself up as Paul Bunyan. The boat was Babe the Ox and he waterskied down the Mississippi from Minneapolis to New Orleans."
Luke: "Any resemblance between you and the Ted Stroehman character in Something About Mary in highschool?"
Frank: "When I was a Freshman, I met the prettiest girl in the school. And we went out for three weeks until she dumped me. I had no ability to talk to her. I remember being on the bleachers of the basketball court when she blew me off. I wasn't cool enough. I had a hard time in highschool after that with the girls because I'd had the most beautiful girl in the school as a Freshman.
"I think every guy has had a piece of scrotum caught in a zipper (or at least a near miss). It is horrifying. It's a funny thing to watch an audience during that [penis stuck in a zipper] scene, particularly the men's faces. When they showed the cum (hair gel) on the ear, the audience rocked back and forth in unison, like a wave. Three feet back and forth. I think that should've been in the trailer. Instead of having testimonials, show the audience doing the whiplash."
Luke: "How did other countries react to the film?"
Frank: "Great. It made more money internationally than domestically because it had many site gags and broad comedy. A number of scenes had their own beginning, middle and end, it worked universally. You don't need to understand the dialogue to get the masturbation scene. It succeeded in places that would not normally embrace American comedies. However, it did not do as well as we expected in Japan.
"There was dialogue humor (some of Matt Dillon's dialogue about working with retards) that didn't play as well overseas while here it would get huge laughs."
One internet poster to did not appreciate the humor. Kelly Himes wrote on bit.listserv.down-syn newsgroup: "Outraged isn't even descriptive enough to tell you how mad I am. Dave and I just went to the movies. Our nine year anniversary on Monday. We decided to see a comedy so we choose to see "Something about Mary." Well, needless to say, this was not a movie that I sat quietly through. Not even 20 minutes into the movie, Mary ask this guy was he does for a living. This is what he said: "I work with a bunch of retards. Those Mongos are the best. They started being better once we were able to put them in their cages and then when we go out I get to use my leash." I was so startled and outraged that I yelled I can't believe that they would say something like that. I can't believe that they would make my son into less of a human being by saying these things. I wanted to puke. I have never been so appalled in my whole life. Not ever. God! I will be screaming about the this forever. I suppose that I will be more constructive with my anger once I am done being mad. If that ever happens."
After graduating high school in 1977, Beddor went to the University of Utah and joined the U.S. Ski Team, where he was a member for five years. Free Style Skiing was not an Olympic event until after he retired in 1983. However, he was Free Style Skiing World Champion in 1981 and 1982.
"I did endorsements for Northwest Airlines, Audi, Fila, as wells as commercials for Juicy Fruit and Nikon, among others. However, I started my entertainment career doing stunts in HOT DOG: THE MOVIE, followed by doubling John Cusack in BETTER OFF DEAD, which brought me to Los Angeles to start what became a brief acting career."
Luke: "You worked in that classic teen sex comedy Hot Dog ."
Frank: "Shannon Tweed's tits, skiing and some raunchy B-movie dialogue sold that movie. Kids still talk about it. It's a cult fave. I was on the set the whole shoot and it was quite hedonistic. It was quite an introduction to "moviemaking" -- girls, drugs, gambling, skiing. Not a bad way to spend six weeks and make a few bucks. The film only cost $1.8 million and I believe it did around $20-25 million at the box office."
Luke: "What similar qualities does it take to be a champion skier and movie producer?"
Frank: "They both require a great deal of self-motivation. You have to wake up, kick yourself in the ass to generate a great deal of energy for your passion. It takes an equal amount of focus, ambition and setting your aspirations at a high level for success and quality. It's true for skiing or film.
"The reason that I stopped acting was that I couldn't wake up in the morning and go act. You had to wait for somebody to tell you it was ok. With writing and producing, at least you can wake up and generate material, which you can do without anybody knowing who you are. Of course if you're not known you have to figure out a strategy to circulate your material. Since I never worked as someone's assistant I didn't know anybody. I reasoned that everyone needed good material. If I had something someone else thought was viable, then I would coattail my way into the business, which is exactly what happened.
"I was reading scripts and doing freelance coverage while I polished my first treatment, which I sold in 1993 - the story of the 10th Mountain Division, the first skiing and climbing troops that trained and fought during WWII. It was before that wave of movies about WWII. I partnered up with Kennedy/Marshal [Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshal, widely regarded as the best producing duo]. That gave me credibility because I was in business with Kennedy/Marshall and we had a deal at Paramount.
"I usually generate my own material versus getting scripts from agencies. On occasion I will find something I like but generally it's difficult because the bigger producers (the Scott Rudins and Brian Grazers of the world) get the first crack at the best material handled by the agencies.
"I met the writers (Ed Decter and John J. Strauss) of There's Something About Mary during an extensions Shakespeare class at UCLA in 1989. The teacher was quite boring and we'd commiserate over a beer after class. They told me they were working on their first script for Disney. They gave me a number of drafts to read. It was in development hell for quite some time after that. Meanwhile we became good friends, and that's how I knew about the script THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY.
"In 1996, after I'd completely given up acting and taken up producing full time, I asked Ed and John if they had any forgotten scripts in the trunk of their car that I could produce. They said "We've sold everything, but do you remember There's Something About Mary? It's sitting on a shelf at Interscope. And if you can get it in turnaround [studio is willing to sell the script it has developed], you can produce it."
Luke: "How close is the original script to the finished movie?"
Frank: "The original narrative, the hook, the romantic comedy and the sweetness are all Ed and John's invention. Peter and Bobby created the set pieces, the broad comedy and hilarious new dialogue, but most importantly they changed the lead character from a hard-charging type to a lovable loser. When Ed and I went to the Farrelly brothers about directing, they were working on a project called THE LOSER, which is where Ben Stiller's character came from. They wanted to take that character and combine it with the pre-existing script.
"I think Disney and Interscope thought the original script was too soft, but bringing together the Farrelly brothers with a script that had a great hook and a solid structure was a perfect combination.
"We tested the movie in April of 1998 and it tested off the charts. The marketing people started sweating because they knew the movie worked and would be better suited to a summer release as opposed to the Christmas release that it was on the books for. The studio decided it was a summer movie and pushed up the schedule five months, which meant we only had May and June to create a buzz. We missed all the magazine sneak preview issues. Nobody really knew about the film until it opened on July 13. The opening weekend we did $13-15 million, second or third place. For eight weeks we had virtually no drop off, then we accomplished something that never happens during the summer - the eighth week we reached number one.
"On opening night, I took the writers in a limo to the premiere in Westwood. We drank champagne in the back. As soon as Ben Stiller gets his dick stuck in his zipper, I saw this guy halfway down the aisle. He falls out of seat and he's slapping the floor. And I turn to Ed and say, 'This is going to be huge. It could make $200 million.' And he replies, 'That's impossible. People will think you're crazy if you say that.'
"Fox's marketing strategy was to start with the teens and young adults and broaden out but it worked out a little differently. We started out with a broad demographic but weeks later after seeing the Lethal Weapon sequel the teens caught up with us."
Luke: "Did people start returning your phone calls after Mary?"
Frank: "Not only that, but people I hadn't heard from in years, some of whom I'm not even sure I knew. High school friends, skiing friends, business associates I had met along the way. They were all calling to congratulate me but really they had a movie idea or script to pitch. It certainly pointed out the reach a successful film can have.
"I went to London and introduced myself to the entertainment crowd by inviting them to the U.K. premiere. It was a sly way to get a little attention and set up some future business.
"But separate from that, the regular movie going audience had such a visceral laugh with the film that upon meeting them they seem to connect with you through the humor and pleasure the movie provided, which is a very satisfying byproduct of making a comedy."
Luke: "Is there a type of movie you want to make?"
Luke: "Is there a type of movie you want to make?"
Frank: "I'm eclectic. I love a variety of genres, but I primarily sold comedies after Mary. A number of romantic comedies, a satirical comedy and a couple of broad comedies. But it's really tough to make comedy work on the level of Mary. I'm currently prepping a movie about the creators and creation of Napster [Internet file sharing service], an original premiere for Starz-Encore. We've interviewed most of the principals behind Napster and we're doing a satirical look behind-the-scenes of the making of Napster. (assume you asked a question about the toughest and best aspects of the business)."
Luke: "What do you love and hate about the biz?"
Frank: "The toughest part of the industry is the uncertainty. The risk/reward is also the juice. Dealmaking, protecting one's position, intellectual property, becomes intense. The best part of the industry is coming up with an idea that you know is going to work and having your own secret that will soon be shared."
Luke: "Have you ever worked on a movie that's changed you?"
Frank: "I may be working on one right now. What I do know is that I've been able to immerse myself into this story without obsessing over any expectation of the outcome. It's more a labor of love, and we'll see if my instincts prove to be right. Being a Type A personality in an industry filled with them, it's been my attempt to be Zen-out on this one and be content creating the story, characters and universe and pray they carry the day.
"The property I'm creating is based on works in the public domain, which I've reimagined for a contemporary audience. It's something I have total creative control over. I've enjoyed assembling a great team to express my vision, which is creatively very satisfying. I've hired conceptual artists, interactive game designers, I'm co-writing the script, created a musical and even a roller coaster. I've partnered with a toy company and done a couple of prototypes. All in house, and all with a very specific vision. This experience has changed my creative outlook."
Luke: "What do you do when all your projects are set aside and you just are?"
Frank: "Instead of doing flips on skis when I was a kid, now I play golf, something safe. I love to travel up the coast and hang out in a Bed & Breakfast. Take a book, play some golf, create a little space away from the office.
"My 1998 movie Wicked, people either loved it or hated it. It was excruciating to be at a screening where people didn't get the black comedy we were going for. But at the same time Wicked was my greatest learning experience. Doing an independent film, the difficulties and challenges of a low budget film, the countless rejections from distribution companies, juxtaposed with invitations to Sundance and other prestigious film festivals, culminating with the success of choosing an unknown actress and launching Julia Stiles' career. I knew she was going to be a movie star. I told her she'd be a movie star. And to back it up, I put only her image on the poster and her name above the title. I might not have paid her movie star fees but I'm happy to say that she's well beyond the $18,000 I paid her now, getting $4 million per picture."
Luke: "What ended your relationship with Director Michael Steinberg?"
Frank: "The difficulty in securing a distribution deal for WICKED was at the heart of our falling out. Tom Skouras claimed he was starting a new distribution company that was going to release five movies per year - WICKED was supposed to be the first one. I signed a deal memo that he would release the movie through Paramount. Months later, he changed contract terms, which forced me to back out of the deal, which I thought would ultimately be a bad business decision. Tom had a lot of skeletons in the closet and I found his re-negotiating tactics to be quite suspect. Michael wanted me to make a deal regardless of any of the disputed terms or financial ramifications. It was at this point that our interests diverged and the relationship spiraled down from there. But at the end of the day I am extremely thankful I did not make a deal with Tom Skouras, which surely would have been a financial disaster. Subsequently, he never closed his alleged deal with Paramount Pictures, never released a movie (let alone five movies per year), abandoned his distribution company Rivoli Pictures altogether, and as far as I know, has never been able to release any film since my decision not to sell him WICKED. Happily Columbia-TriStar bought the film, it has performed way above expectations on VHS and DVD and soon I will have recouped the entire budget."