Question of the Day: How much shicksa love can a Jew receive and still maintain that he is Orthodox?
Amalek18: Better for your jewish soul that you know nothing from the shiksa but hatred. She will lead you away from your orthodox lies.
LA Times: Movie Producer Charged With Mob Ties
From the 7/12/02 LA TIMES: During a partnership that lasted more than a decade, [Steven] Seagal starred in films that grossed hundreds of millions of dollars, and [Julius R.] Nasso helped produce them.
Nasso is free on $1.5-million bail, preparing his defense against a federal indictment that depicts him as an associate of the Gambino crime family, ruled in recent years by John Gotti and his kin. Last month, prosecutors revealed that a microphone planted to get evidence of mob influence over New York-area docks had picked up a meeting in a restaurant between the 49-year-old Nasso and a local Mafia captain.
Their alleged topic of conversation? A scheme to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from "an individual [Steven Seagal] in the film industry" who was not named but whose identity was no secret: the don't-mess-with-me actor who broke noses and bones on screen.
Nasso also was a producer of "Narc," which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January. That film [also produced by Randall Emmett], starring Ray Liotta, goes into nationwide release this fall. Tom Cruise signed on as an executive producer.
Imdb.com gives this plot outline of Narc: "When the trail goes cold on a murder investigation of a policeman an undercover narcotics officer is lured back to the force to help solve the case."
Reporter Anita Busch Hiding?
From the New York Daily News 7/11/02: "Los Angeles Times writer Anita Busch has been looking into the federal indictment of reputed Mafia captain Anthony (Sonny) Ciccone on charges of extortion and threatening to kill actor Steven Seagal. After digging into the story for a couple of weeks, Busch recently discovered that someone had come to her L.A. home and smashed her car's windshield, leaving a note that said, "Stop," sources tell us. She also found a metal box on the car. Bomb-squad cops found a dead fish in it. While police investigate the incident and other threats she has received, Busch has resigned from the story and is in hiding, say sources."
David Poland writes: Apparently, she turned over the wrong rock in her efforts to report on Steven Seagal’s former mob connections. Apparently, Anita has stopped, which, given her tenacious nature, had to be difficult for her. But a good death threat over a bunch of crappy movies will do it nine out of ten times. The tenth time is Mark Ebner [who wrote the definite article on the gay mafia for Spy magazine], who would eat the fish, write “Prensa” on his windshield and tell friends that he just got back from a trip to Central America with Ollie Stone, deliver his story and then disappear for eight months, except for appearances in AOL chat rooms under the member name FuckYou239.
Then again, there are some people who think the whole thing is a little fishy… after all, it was leaked to a gossip column and Busch’s journalistic integrity was just publicly questioned by the Vanity Fair article on Ovitz, her close relationship with Ron Meyer being one of the few things in the article that wasn’t pulled apart or denied.
Tom writes on soc.men newsgroup: You can believe there is a "gay mafia" in Hollywood, and the rest of the country for that matter, but it's more effective in Hollywood because of the greater numbers of them there. The reaction to this story is an object lesson in how the gay mafia has gained and maintained their power. It's all on the up and up and has to do with PC and their powerful coalition with the feminists. It's an informal kind of brow beating and a ganging up by harpies and gays agaisnt the offender which ultimately leads to social isolation and career losses. Even the McCarthyites of the Fifties pale in comparison to the "gay mafia" and their allies the feminists.
To sophisticates out there, notice how this journalist [Rachel Abramowitz] spins things to shame Ovitz and portray him as an outcast in the Hollywood community. She will truly be a darling of the gay community and her career furthered. I know, it's just the way things work and it could be worse if we had family and men's advocates doing the same. Great day when that happens!!
I spoke by phone to legendary producer Edgar J. Scherick Wednesday night. He's been in the hospital for a week with complications from his stroke. He should be getting out July 11.
Jack writes: Luke, I stumbled across your interviews with Edgar Scherick via an internet search. Your interviews certainly pick up on his signature style. I'm surprised that he agreed to sit for interviews at all considering the current state of his health, but then again Edgar was never shy about wanting exposure.
I'm glad you've undertaken to do this for whatever reason you have. Edgar has a fascinating mind and a link with a forgotten time in the entertainment business. Many people could use his own history as an example. He was an absolute dynamo until his stroke. I've always thought his life would make a great Hollywood biography, even if his name is not well known outside of the industry.
The Road To Perdition
Newsweek's Dave Ansen pans "Perdition," the long awaited second film by American Beauty director Sam Mendes.
A few sample quotes: "It's also, sad to say, self-conscious to the point of suffocation."
"Though the movie's deliberate, solemn pace is the antithesis of a comic book, it often takes cartoon shortcuts..."
"Worst of all is a showy, silent, slow-motion shoot-out that should be gut-wrenching but just comes off grandiose (not to mention derivative). Mendes has talent to burn; maybe in his next film he won't feel so anxious to prove it."
"It's not the cast's fault that the movie feels slightly remote and unreal, like something observed in an aquarium tank."
"...the movie's airless, overdetermined style doesn't allow them the spark of spontaneity... The harder "Road to Perdition" strives to be Important, the less it has anything interesting to say."
Not Enough Young Flesh On Display
From JOHN GORENFELD: I hope for the sake of the profession that SF Chronicle writer Craig Marine is innocent of the charges against him. But it sure doesn't look good that his review of "Varsity Blues" read, "The plot is thin and predictable, the actors don't have much to work with, and there's not enough young flesh on display to make it worth sitting through."
Speaking of young flesh, I watched this R-rated documentary about models called UNZIPPED. It was a total bomb. Boring. Hardly any flesh, mainly just about designer Israel Mizrachi who seemed gay.
The Last Temptation of Muhammad
Jay Nordlinger writes on NationalReview.com: "How much money would you pay to see the makers of The Last Temptation of Christ make a similar film about the Prophet Muhammad? How long would they be alive? An hour? An hour and fifteen minutes?"
I emailed the comment to the producer of Last Temptation of Christ, Harry Uffland, a longtime friend of Director Marty Scorsese. I asked him if he had any comment. He wrote back, "no."
In an interview with the New York Post, Tom Hanks talked of working with Paul Newman on the film Road to Perdition. Newman was “much more relaxed than you think he’s going to be. Much leaner than you think possible. His eyes are bluer than you think.” And “he was always giving me radical left-wing newsletters.”
In Bed With The Gay Mafia
From PageSix.com: TINSELTOWN tattletales are speculating about what was left out of Vanity Fair's profile on fallen power broker Mike Ovitz. In the piece, once-omnipotent Ovitz blamed David Geffen and the "gay mafia" for his downfall. But writer Bryan Burrough decided not to include some of Ovitz's even more scathing charges. Several of Burrough's sources say that Ovitz claimed several journalists who attacked him in print were literally "in bed with" his business rivals who used sex for leverage. Burrough won't divulge what he cut out. "Your instincts are right, but I'm not going to comment," he told us.
SHOCKING!!PROMISES BROKEN RESULTS IN FALSE REPORTING
Producer Si Litvinoff emails Luke under the above heading: WHEN YOU ASKED TO INTERVIEW ME FOR A BOOK THERE WAS NEVER MENTION OF YOUR WEBSITE AND NOW A WRITER I AM WORKING WITH SENDS ME AS MY "PROFILE"A COPY OF AN INACURATELY EDITED VERSION OF WHAT I SENT TO YOU WHICH IN WRITING VIA E MAIL YOU PROMISED NOT TO EDIT. I HAVE NO TIME RIGHT NOW TO PROOF READ THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW BUT HERE ARE SOME OF YOUR GLARING ERRORS:
ALL OF THESE AND MANY MORE CARELESS GLARING ERRORS ARE CAUSED BY YOUR ATTTEMPT TO EDIT-I CAN GO ON BUT I AM NOT YOUR EDITOR AND YOU AGREED NOT TO BE MINE!!!!
THIS IS NOT A REQUEST BUT A DEMAND YHAT YOU REPLACE YOUR EDITED VERSION WITH THE NON EDITED INFORMATION AS I SENT IT TO YOU.-SI LITVINOFF
Luke replies: Mr Litvinoff, I will make the corrections immediately. Your faxes were difficult to read. I tried to type them as literally as I could, making only corrections for spelling and punctuation. I am working on a book. I've interviewed about 100 producers so far. Most, like you initially, want to know who else I've talked to, so that's why I've posted transcripts on a website.
Fred writes: I'm not entirely certain, but I am beginning to harbor a suspicion that he's upset.
Chaim Amalek writes: As I generally do not read any of those interviews, I am not sure who this "Si Litvinoff" is (but I note with foreboding that Stalin's foreign minister was one Maxim Litvinof). He writes (ALL CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and sounds like those roving not-quite-homeless-but-still-mentally-ill people who wander the streets of the Upper West Side and have for generations, mumbling about vast conspiracies that kept them down in life and the thoughts of others that plague their own affairs. But I could be wrong.
Fred writes: This guy doesn't know how good he has it. Why don't you post on his web site that you have a picture of him with a dog?
Following in the Footsteps of Jennifer Lopez
When I was signing in at the entrance of 100 North Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills this morning, on my way to an interview with David Friendly of Deep River Productions, I glanced who had signed in ahead of me. Jennifer Lopez at 9AM on her way to USA Films.
LA TIMES, 1/5/00: In early drafts, the script of "Big Momma's House," an action-comedy starring Martin Lawrence that starts shooting next month, began with a violent motorcycle chase that left the streets of San Francisco strewn with bullet-riddled bodies. But thanks in part to the public outcry about violence in Hollywood after spring's massacre at Colorado's Columbine High School, that scene -- now excised from the script - - will never be filmed.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't influence us," said producer David Friendly, who is making the film -- about an FBI agent who poses as a Southern grandmother to catch an escaped killer -- for 20th Century Fox. "We talked about it, post-Columbine, and decided the scene was inappropriate to the movie and inappropriate for the time. We said, `This movie doesn't need it, we don't want it, let's take it out.' And it cost too much, anyway."
4/10/02 NEWSDAY: Movie folks love to "dis" the tube. They belittle it, or ignore it. Then they steal from it. The same week the big screen claimed "Shot in the Heart" as its own, Newsday reported, "Paramount Pictures wants to bring back 'The Honeymooners' as a movie - a contemporary movie at that."
How many ways is this brilliant notion insane? Let us count. Who can possibly match Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows, not to mention Art Carney? How will they re-create the Kramdens' Bensonhurst walkup in all its 1950s black- and-white sparseness? And then there's the series' touching simplicity of plot and complexity of emotion. (See above for how the big screen achieves "exquisite understanding" these days.) But here's the true terror. Producer David Friendly was quoted saying, "You can certainly expect to hear the term 'bang-zoom' a few times, and using the phrases and gestures and other staples of the show is critical."
Bang-zoom to you, dude! What makes the movie folks think they can "improve" on TV? And the best of TV, at that. They can't even get "Lost in Space" or "Leave It to Beaver" right. Every now and then, they'll catch a show' s essential flavor without aping its every move - in "The Fugitive" or our all-time TV-to-film fave, "The Brady Bunch Movie," which recognized its source material's absurd charm and reinvented it by sending it up.
From CNN September 22, 2001: "I do think you are going to find a lot of actors who say find me a movie that's set in America," says producer David Friendly. "Because they are, above all else, human beings. They want to be near their families. No one wants to be in a foreign land if another attack does occur.
"If an A-list movie star says he doesn't want to make a movie outside the country, then that movie is probably not going to get made outside the country."
Friendly, who produced "Big Mama's House," "Doctor Dolittle," and "Courage Under Fire," also believes Americans will be clamoring for more comedy and feel-good films.
"What I don't think you are going to see is a mirror image of what happened in New York (two) weeks ago," Friendly added. "That was a situation where the reality was much more disturbing, shocking and frightening than anything Hollywood could conjure up and that's rare."
From Daily Variety over the past ten years: Friendly said the [Honeymooners] movie would be updated and take place in the present. As a result, some of the dialogue may be altered because it now seems out of date and misogynistic. Ralph often threatened to belt Alice - he never did, of course - with famous lines like, "One of these days, Alice, pow, right in the kisser".
"Everyone, including Alice, knew he would never touch her. In fact, the women on the show were always far stronger than the men," Friendly said.
Bona Fide Prods brought "Joe College" to Deep River Prods., which optioned the book and will cover development costs through its $25 million overhead and development fund, in keeping with what Friendly calls the shingle's agenda to pursue "independent fare that has the potential to break through as mainstream entertainment."
DEEP RIVER PRODS: A longtime producer for 20th Century Fox, David Friendly took his exit from the studio lot last year in favor of finding backing from billionaire Marc Turtletaub. Together they have formed Deep River Prods. and are currently seeking foreign partners.
"The greatest upside is creative freedom," says former 20th Century Fox producer David Friendly.. The company has a $25 million war chest for overhead and development and later may move into production financing.
"When you have a partner who finances development, you get to test and flex your creative muscles. What can be a little frightening about the process is we won't know if we've done a good job until we take a script out and see if anyone agrees."
Friendly also says that he was surprised by the number of noncreative issues for which he was suddenly responsible, including such niceties as payrolls, health insurance and office space. "On the lot, there's a tremendous support system in the bureaucracy," he admits.
The deal, which calls for [William] Broyles to write an original script that either he or they hatch, comes out of a long relationship between Friendly and the writer.
"Bill was the editor of Newsweek when I came out of Northwestern to be a researcher for the business section," Friendly said. "I was the lowest guy in the organization and he was the highest. I was nervous just to get into the elevator with him."
The son of the broadcast journalism legend Fred Friendly, David Friendly left a writing job at the L.A. Times to work for Brian Grazer at Imagine, rising to president before moving on to produce films for John Davis, where his credits include "Dr. Dolittle," "Courage Under Fire" and "Daylight." He then got his own Fox deal, which led to "Here on Earth" and most recently, "Big Momma's House." After being a producer of five films in six years at Fox, Friendly was ending his studio deal when he met Turtletaub.
A former journalist, Friendly spent six years as a staff writer at Newsweek and two years at the L.A. Times. In 1987, Friendly joined Brian Grazer and Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment as a VP of motion pictures. He moved up the ranks, becoming production prexy in 1991. At Imagine, Friendly worked on such films as "Backdraft," "Kindergarten Cop," "The Dream Team" and "The Burbs." He also served as exec producer on "My Girl," "Greedy" and "The Chamber."
Producer David Friendly and wife Priscilla Nedd-Friendly [a movie editor] welcomed daughter Madeleine at Cedars-Sinai Saturday .
Jenna Jameson Signs Book Contract
From New York Post's Page Six column: JENNA Jameson has parlayed her porn stardom into a publishing deal by signing a two-book contract with ReganBooks.
Jameson, the Julia Roberts of smut cinema, is slated to write an autobiography packed with plenty of sex tips and a novel of erotic fiction. "I have a very vast imagination," Jameson purred to PAGE SIX over drinks at the Paramount Hotel.
Judith Regan is the powerhouse publisher whose clients include Howard Stern (whose "Private Parts" Jameson appeared in), Rush Limbaugh, Wally Lamb, [Dennis Prager,] Douglas Copeland and Peggy Noonan. Jameson’s book deal is just the latest step in the mainstreaming of the porn princess. Furniture giant Ikea is featuring her in an upcoming ad campaign and high fashion photographer David La Chapelle recently shot her for Vanity Fair and Flaunt magazines.
Bore Your Critics Into Submission
Bryan Curtis of Slate.com writes: Peter Bart and Peter Guber's Shoot Out, one of the Hollywood memoirs we're reading this week, has "rehab effort" written all over it. Last year, Los Angeles Magazine charged Bart with using his position as editor-in-chief of Daily Variety to peddle his own film scripts to a studio, a big no-no, and he had to give up the job for a while. Guber's last prominent gig was as chairman of Sony Pictures from 1989 to 1994, a period during which the studio unleashed box-office lepers like Last Action Hero and lost close to $3 billion. These guys make Sly Stallone's recent films look like a winning streak.
To fend off the jackals, Bart and Guber devised a brilliant tactic. In Shoot Out, they have not smeared their accusers, nor returned their fire, nor even denied their charges. Instead, they have a written a movie textbook—and an incredibly dreary one at that. The strategy here seems to be bore their critics into submission. I am forced to admit that they succeed.
The problem with Hollywood, the authors argue, is that "global mega-companies" like News Corp. and Vivendi now own the big studios and seem more interested in churning out bland content than indulging the artistic whims of the poet-shamans. The solution, they say, is to let stars and directors exert more ownership over their films, just like they did in the early- to mid-1970s, the last golden age of American filmmaking.
LUKE SAYS: In his capacity as Editor-in-Chief of Variety, Peter Bart ensures that his friends, like Peter Guber, receive generous coverage, no matter how horrific their mistakes (as documented in the book Hit and Run). This SHOOT OUT book is so lame that I can find virtually no discussion of it on the internet. Despite the huge promotional website, loaded with content: www.shootoutonline.com.
LMF writes on alt.showbiz.gossip: I took Peter Guber's class at UCLA in 1981. He was fascinating and horrifying, a greedy, reptilian, art-bashing, market research-obsessed nightmare. His inflated ego was so much an aspect of his every thought and action, that he frequently made a fool of himself. He truly thought he was God's gift to Hollywood.
I clearly remember, after 20 years, a lecture he gave about how studios used illegal accounting practices to cheat actors, directors, producers, anyone with gross points, out of all their due and sometimes even plow them into debt. He used his personal experiences with The Deep and Midnight Express to illustrate how they were able to screw him out of everything and get away with it. He went into great detail, item-by-item, trick-by-trick. He obviously put his expertise to good use when he became a studio exec.
Dan Cox writes 11/15/01:
LINKS BETWEEN THE PORN INDUSTRY AND THE legitimate film world are often hard to come by given the sanitized corporate façades of most studios. But Joe Francis, who has earned more money on soft porn than should be allowed, may have surreptitiously and successfully crossed that transitive Valley border. For the last 18 months, Francis has maintained a quiet deal with Peter Guber's Mandalay Entertainment on video series such as "Playboy Mansion Parties: Uncensored." Separately, he has also distributed "Girls Gone Wild" and "Playboy Casting Calls" under the Mantra Entertainment label, which also has a partnership with Mandalay.
Mandalay -- which has had structured official film deals with Sony, Paramount and, finally, Lions Gate -- takes no credit on the videos, and you won't find Guber's name attached to anything.
Sources say the deal falls under Guber's Mandalay Sports Entertainment umbrella, which had originally been designed to foster an interest in minor-league baseball and hockey teams. In fact, Francis claims that the whole Mandalay Enterprise was born out of an interest in developing and distributing wrestling videos. Francis maintains that his videos are not about pornography, preferring to term it "reality TV.
"This isn't porn," he proclaims. "It's girls showing their breasts. It's like European TV."
Some Mandalay executives refuse to even acknowledge that Francis has any official link to the company, which has produced such highbrow titles as Enemy at the Gates and The Score. One former senior executive said he had never even heard of Francis. But other insiders allow for the fact that he works hand in hand with the Sports Division.
Though he personally won't discuss the subject, none of this is alien to former Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Guber. In 1969, after watching a Sony demonstration of its new consumer-video technology at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Guber penned a ground-shaking, 15,000-word Hollywood manifesto about the earliest notions of a video industry. In "The New Ballgame/The Cartridge Revolution," Guber argued that new technologies would create a "great new pornographic market."
"One can make their own home movies, tapes and films as well as find distribution for them," he wrote. "Thus, home nudies with neighborhood actors and actresses are a certainty."
Producer Paul Maslak
With a BS degree in Business Administration (and a black belt in Shorin-ryu karate), Paul Maslak worked for the Walt Disney Company as a project planner on EPCOT and Tokyo Disneyland while moonlighting as editor of Inside Kung-fu magazine. While casting the martial arts film No Retreat, No Surrender, he helped "discover" Jean-Claude Van Damme. Maslak briefly pursued a two-track career, one in corporate America by day and the other as a story analyst for HBO and Tri-Star Pictures by night. Soon he began managing martial arts actors. He worked his way up through the ranks of low-budget filmmaking to become a co-producer on the HBO World Premiere Movie Out for Blood. In 1993, he formed Maslak Friedenn Films with partner Neva Friedenn to produce Red Sun Rising and, in 1997, made his directorial debut with Sworn to Justice.
Friedenn is a former university English instructor, literary agent and film development executive. She founded Unifilm International Company (UIC), which imported more than 200 action and art films during the 1980s, mostly Hong Kong kung-fus.
I interviewed Producer Paul Maslak at a kosher restaurant on Pico Blvd, July 3, 2002.
Maslak stands 5'10. In his forties, he has salt and pepper hair.
Luke: "How did you connect with Neva?"
Paul: "Through Jackie Chan... In 1980, I was editor of Inside Kung-Fu magazine. When Jackie Chan came to the United States to do the Warner Brothers film, The Big Brawl, Neva called my office. She wanted to distribute Jackie's Chinese films. The prices she had been quoted were inflated. She thought that if she could get some guy who was an American-born Chinese to negotiate directly with the producers, what better way? It turned out that I'm not Chinese and I don't speak a word of Chinese. But I found out that she knew more about Jackie than did we. She'd been a stringer for Playboy magazine covering music, principally the jazz scene. I knew she had to be a good writer because that's Hugh Hefner's favorite topic.
"I said, 'Gee, you know so much about Jackie... Why don't you interview him for us?' Neva did the first English-language interview with Jackie and we ran it in six parts. I interviewed Jackie as well. And I got him to come into the magazine offices where I directed him in a series of [martial arts] technique photos. Since then, Neva and I have interviewed Jackie several times for publication.
"The producer in Hong Kong who made Jackie's first comedy hits was Ng Sze Yuen. A now-famous Hong Kong director, Yuen Kwai aka Corey Yuen, told Ng that the film The Karate Kid had ripped off Ng's Jackie Chan films Drunken Monkey In A Tiger's Eye (aka Drunken Master) and Snake In The Eagle's Shadow. Both films are about a crazy kung-fu teacher who makes his student learn things that at first seem unrelated to the martial arts. I know that Robert Mark Kamen, who wrote The Karate Kid, is an original writer, but he very well might have been inspired by these films.
"So when Corey Yuen told Ng that Hollywood had ripped off his films, Ng decided to rip them back. He decided to come to the United States and do a knockoff of the American movie using American actors in a Chinese-style film. That was No Retreat, No Surrender . Neva was hired as the production executive.
"Since I knew everybody in American martial arts circles, and because I ran the S.T.A.R. (Standardized Tournaments And Ratings) System world ratings for professional kickboxing, Neva got me hired to do the martial arts casting. We cast Jean-Claude Van Damme in his first U.S. theatrical feature film.
"Then I put Ng in contact with Linda Lee, widow of Bruce Lee, to see if her son Brandon, 17 years old at the time, would do the film. Ng had the really great idea that the ghost of Bruce Lee should teach martial arts to the real son of Bruce Lee. Linda Lee said no way. Brandon was too young. Kurt McKinney got the role. Jean-Claude played the bad guy. And that's how I got started in the movie business.
"Some time later, after Jean-Claude was a success in Bloodsport, famed B-movie king Roger Corman decided he wanted to do a Bloodsport knockoff. His people saw the name of kickboxing champ Don "The Dragon" Wilson in my world ratings. Don is one of the greatest kickboxers who ever lived. He's one of those rare champions who would go anywhere in the world, fight under any rules, any time... Even knowing that he was facing hostile judges, Don would go into a rigged competition and knock out his opponent.
"Roger Corman's people noticed Don lived in Beverly Hills. They called him up and put him in a film. Now Don's a handsome man with a great physique. He starred in Bloodfist. When it was successful, Roger signed him to a multi-picture deal. At that point, Don asked me to manage him. I was the only person he knew that understood the kickboxing business as well as something about the movie business and whom he also trusted. I managed him for a couple of years until he got a handle on Hollywood for himself. We remain good friends.
"As Don's manager, I became better networked into the indie film community. I got to know financiers, executives, distributors, producers, directors, stars, agents, other managers, casting directors and - most especially - about deal structures. I also began taking film school courses as well as working hands-on in film production. Initially I organized Don's fight action units, working as the fight coordinator or even as a fall guy. Sometimes I directed second unit.
"Later, Neva and I developed story material for Don and other clients, and I began to associate producer. Eventually Neva and I developed with Don and coproduced with PM Entertainment the Don Wilson vehicle Out for Blood. That film earned gross revenues of about five times negative cost.
"Following that project, Neva and I had the ability to raise film financing on our own. At the same time Don wanted to take charge of his career. So Neva and I released Don and our other clients from their contracts with us, dissolved our management company, and founded our production company. Our first film, Red Sun Rising , naturally stars Don along with Terry Farrell and Michael Ironside. It became HBO's highest-rated world premiere movie for that year."
Luke: "Is there a true ethical system behind the martial arts?"
Paul: "Yes. Forged within a never-say-quit discipline, there's a philosophy of chivalry. When I produce an action sequence, whether martial arts or otherwise, I'm completely aware of the principle of reasonable restraint. You won't find a hero in one of our stories, after he's defeated the bad guy, continue to beat him -- unless there's another ethical precept at stake.
"If you're a gun fighter in the old West, say, and you badger someone who's not as good as you to draw first so you can shoot him, that's unethical. That also doesn't fit with the ethics of either a samurai or a Shaolin monk. Our action heroes would intervene in that type of situation.
"Sometimes my martial arts teachings help me with talent relations. To illustrate - no matter how realistic one of our action sequences may appear, its violence has been stylized both in the way it's shot and the way it's edited. Because of my martial arts philosophy, we will not want to provide a visual instruction manual on how 12-year-olds can hurt other 12-year-olds. We also do not want to entice some nutcase into committing a heinous act. So we are careful about what is seen and what is glamorized.
"Now one of the scenes in The Right Temptation has Rebecca DeMornay's character discovering a disfigured body. Rebecca is a strong anti-violence advocate. So she was completely reassured and comforted when she learned that the director and I had already instructed our crew not to dwell on the gore in that scene, but to keep the visuals pulled back to about a softball PG-13 rating. That became the starting point for a solid creative relationship with Ms. DeMornay.
"The martial arts ethic also guides me as an independent producer. Until now, we haven't enjoyed studio backing. And making a movie, in the best of times, is heavy lifting. Within our inner circles, we say that movies aren't made, they're forced. When you're on the firing line, making a motion picture, on any given day, the whole thing can come to a screeching halt if you're not massaging the production. So you better have a warrior mentality about confronting those obstacles.
"If you were to check my reputation in the industry, I think you'd find that with reputable people I have a very good reputation; and with unscrupulous people, if we've tangled, they've had their tail fur singed. That's my ethical martial arts mentality coming out."
Luke: "Is martial arts the dominant ethic in your life?"
Paul: "No. I am an American. The martial arts simply channel the ways I express my American values."
Luke: "What are the budgets on the films you make?"
Paul: "They've ranged from $1-5 million. But that's about to change... We're no longer trying to produce completely as independents. The market since 9/11 is just too tough. We're now in negotiation to coproduce with partners who have both a studio and a network deal."
Luke: "Are stars essential to raise money to make a film?"
Paul: "Ultimately ... yes. I've heard about economics professors who did analyses of the box office performances of films to see whether stars make a difference, and they concluded that stars make little difference. So why bother with stars? Yet a large part of getting a film distributed is getting territorial distributors interested in the film. And what interests them is the stars.
"But the process really shouldn't begin with the stars. First you have to find or develop fabulous material. Then you have to get a financier who says, if you get the right caliber of stars, they will back the project. Then you will need to get a director. Once you get a recognized director, you take him and the material and the promise of potential financing, and you try to get a star to look at it. The problem is, you have to get through the star's representatives who don't want their stars to do any of this. What the representatives want is for you to produce something written by one of their client writers, directed by a client director, and starring client stars for a major studio release. At the very least they want you to come with a checkbook or they don't want anything to do with you at all. And you had better be able to make a pay-or-play offer [whereby the star gets paid whether or not the film is made]. For the bigger stars, you also have to be able to guarantee a certain size of U.S. theatrical release."
Luke: "How do you break through that?"
Paul: "Through your existing relationships and strategic alliances. A lot of what goes on for us at the dealmaking stage is a matter of juggling little pieces of divergent financial elements… We can get part moneys here … and here … a tax subsidy there … and someone has an output [distribution] guarantee over there. The trick is finding ways to make the requirements for each little piece line up into a master deal."
Luke: "You've only directed one film, 1996's Sworn to Justice. Why?"
Paul: "I plan to direct again. But directing is the most physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting thing I've ever done. I'm a preparation person. I'm most creative when I have time to think things through. Whereas I think a good director has to be creatively spontaneous. And charismatic. A good director gets people with very different ideas to cooperate. I know many directors who are better at that.
"The producer and the director have many things in common. Foremost both should have great story sense. That's why so many good producers and directors come out of the ranks of writers and film editors. Neva and I are writers first. Further, the producer and the director are the only people on the set who are completely responsible for everything. The producer has macro responsibilities for creative matters, but micro responsibilities for the finances. The director oversees the creative choices at the micro level and finances at the macro level. And therein lie their alliance and their conflict.
"Let me give you an analogy. If you're a producer, you feel like a fox being chased by the hounds because you're the one who has the final control over the purse strings, and everybody wants a piece of that purse. And everybody's scheming and cheating and thieving to get it from you. And your job is to be smart enough to make sure the money goes where it is supposed to go.
"When you're a director, you don't have time to think about that. It feels more like being one of the early Mercury astronauts, being strapped onto a rocket and blasting off into orbit. And you know that as long as you and your team have done enough advanced planning, and you run the right sequences in the right way, and you fine-tune the orbit and trajectory of your capsule, everything will work out. And if you don't do that, the whole thing could blow up and you with it.
"Then, too, directors come out of film school with some bad models. To a large extent, studios are unable to control their directors. Look who's become successful? Steven Spielberg on one of his first films, Jaws, reputedly went 100% over budget. It wasn't really his fault. He had a mechanical shark that wasn't working. And they had to do all this footage at sea. Shooting anything on water is a nightmare because within 60 seconds, the look of the water can change. Still, Jaws became a huge hit. The first film to break $100 million in domestic box office. And Spielberg became the 800-pound gorilla in town that nobody can touch.
"With Titanic, director James Cameron put the studios hugely at risk. So young directors get the wrong impression. They see the few genius filmmakers for whom it worked out, but not the legions whose careers crashed and burned. Thus directors tend to be undisciplined with finances. Same thing with movie stars who want to side with their directors.
"Neva and I operate our productions on the creative unit theory. That's an updated version of the concept the studios used prior to the auteur theory. We believe that those people with main title credits on a film are the author. All those people -- the writer, producer, director, director of photography, composer, costume designer, production designer, film editor, stars... We try to build a collegial relationship during production between all those authors.
"That means we agree to agree on key creative matters. If one person feels strongly about something, the others try to see his or her point of view.
"Then we use the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table approach to management. If you have a major creative decision that needs to be made, you call to the Round Table all the knights whose opinions are relevant and you try to come to consensus about what is best for the project. If you can't come to a consensus, or if there isn't enough time to call a Round Table, there is always a King Arthur empowered to make a decision."
Luke: "Is martial arts a great place to meet women?"
Paul: "Not really. But I know many men are attracted to the movie business for that reason. I'm not one of them. I may be the only heterosexual guy who did not get into Hollywood to meet women. I have no interest in the casting couch."
Luke: "Much has been written about Madonna sleeping her way to the top."
Paul: "It's probably more prevalent in the music industry where perhaps that's a more viable way to advance your career. I don't think it's like that in the movie business anymore although it used to be in the old studio system days.
"Nevertheless somebody has to grease the wheel to get you paid attention to in Hollywood because there are so many people coming at decision-makers all the time. So, obviously, many actresses are comfortable using their beauty and physical charms to get noticed.
"I know of a case where an unknown supporting actress met a movie star on one film. She played up to him and then, a couple of years later, that movie star helped the actress get seen for a feature role in a Steven Spielberg movie. That's not to say she wasn't qualified. Just that she got brought to Mr. Spielberg's attention because of that liaison.
"However if you're a producer or a director or a studio executive, it doesn't matter how good she is in the bedroom if she can't deliver on camera… Anyone can make a bad movie by accident because enough things can go wrong that are beyond your control. But nobody makes a good movie by accident. So nobody can afford to take a chance on an actress simply for the sake of an assignation."
Luke: "Until recently, weren't all actresses regarded as hookers?"
Paul: "I suppose that was true in the 19th century until Mary Pickford and the silent movie stars came along. Then it became all actresses were hookers except Mary Pickford, because she was the first 'America's Sweetheart.' After that, acting gradually became completely respectable.
"But if you think about it, particularly today, every pretty ingenue, to get ahead, at some point is going to be pressured to take her clothes off. So in certain low brow projects, there's more reason than ever to consider them as showgirls."
Luke: "I wouldn't allow my girlfriend or wife to strip or do sex scenes in a movie."
Paul: "I've dated actresses and it has never worked out for me. So it's not an accident that my fiancee is not from the movie business. But if she were an actress and a serious artist, and her part called for it in a way that was central to the drama, like Halle Berry's role in "Monster's Ball," then I could understand it.
"I guess my real point is that you have to see the movie business as a higher calling. If you don't, you can't do it. You have to see it as the thing you give to society to entertain, to inspire, to help people get through the day, to give people pause to question, to model ways for people to deal with life crises.
"And for those who want to get into films, I would warn them that the whole business seems to operate on a hurry-up-and-wait rhythm... You have to work furiously to make deadlines, then wait while busy decision-makers review what you did. Similarly, except for a fortunate few, your whole career will go through periods when you're too busy to breathe, followed by periods when nothing's happening.
"So the film business may be your 'A' business, but you better have a 'B' business. Many producers come from the ranks of attorneys, studio executives, managers, agents, distributors and writers. They have that to fall back on. Directors might moonlight as commercials or music video directors. Unknown actors typically work as waiters. Harrison Ford was a carpenter. A 'B' business I would not recommend is being a call girl. I have heard of actresses who do that. That is not smart. If you start climbing up the Hollywood ladder, you are going to run across some clients. And when they see you, that's the end of your career.
"Think about it -- If you were a studio executive, would you want the call girl you slept with to be the star of your next movie? And when the movie comes out, and the media starts investigating this new star, and they discover she was a call girl, do you want to be the producer of that movie?
"The first thing I tell people who want to go into the movie business is that if there is anything else you can do, do that, because this is the toughest business there is. And the industry is designed to keep people out."
Luke: "In what ways?"
Paul: "Let's take the screenplay... When you open yourself up to unsolicited submissions, you get in such a pile of crap... And suppose you have a film in the can, and an outsider submits a script with a similar story element. You might find yourself in an absolutely frivolous lawsuit for having allegedly ripped them off.
"Or a project could have been shopped around town, and a synopsis of it is on everybody's computer. If you then greenlight the project and announce it in the trades, someone else might take that synopsis and do a knockoff script.
"When that type of thing happens to you a couple of times, your natural reaction is that you don't want to look at anything unsolicited unless it comes through an agent or an attorney. Or you make the person sign a release saying anything they give us, they give at their own risk.
"I already told you that producers are foxes chased by hounds. People calling you up cold on the telephone are just one more hound. So there's a natural leeriness. Every producer has ways of getting around that. Most of it is -- don't answer phone calls yourself. Have an assistant return phone calls. Have a network of people to get through before you... When I'm in production, I'm much harder to reach.
"Agents are a whole network of nonsense in themselves. You can call them up with money and if they don't know you, they don't want to talk to you. They don't believe you have money. They don't believe you're serious because you haven't come to them as someone they know. They won't allow their stars to look at your script unless you make a pay-or-play offer. And then they will use your offer to leverage up a preferred producer's offer. Everything is designed to keep you out.
"So unless you're lucky enough to find an entry-level job at a studio or agency at a young age, and work your way up through the ranks, then you will have to find your way into the business through the back door, the side door, a broken window, or through any other unconventional fluke manner … such as we have done.
"But I'm just giving you the obvious barriers. The subtle barriers go deep. There's an enormous caste system of snobbery in Hollywood. "Neva and I started out doing martial arts films. It took us awhile to climb out of that niche. Today we'd still be willing to do a martial arts film with say Jackie Chan, but we wouldn't be interested in doing low budget martial arts anymore.
"When I finally become a full-grown producer, what I really want to do are historical dramas. I haven't done one yet. And I'm keenly admiring of Spielberg for doing Saving Private Ryan. That's my kind of project."
Producer Christopher Coppola
Adrienne Coppola writes on Imdb.com: Christopher Coppola began his filmmaking at an early age by creating super 8 films that starred his brother Nicolas Cage. He both scripted and scored these very early films. As a teenager Christopher apprenticed to composer Carmine Coppola on the film Apocalypse Now. He went on to study music composition at Redlands University where he received the prestigious California Arts Council Award for his opera Plato's Cave and for his clarinet quintet Reverie. He then began his film studies at The San Francisco Art Institute. While there he completed four student films and graduated in 1987. As a Producer/Writer/Director, Christopher has completed seven feature length motion pictures. Christopher's first feature, Dracula's Widow, was produced for De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. Christopher's next feature, Deadfall, was a film noir-style thriller starring Michael Biehn, Nicolas Cage and James Coburn. It was distributed by Trimark Pictures. His third feature, a children's fantasy film entitled Clockmaker, was shot in Romania for Kuschner-Locke.
Christopher next completed the Western, Gunfighter, with Martin Sheen, Robert Carradine and Clu Gulager. It was produced by his own company, Plaster City Productions. Also completed in 1998 was “Palmer's Pick-Up: An American Roadshow Odyssey”, a black comedy about the end of the world starring Robert Carradine, Richard Hillman, Patrick Kilpatrick and featuring Rosanna Arquette, Soupy Sales, Piper Laurie, Morton Downey Jr., Garrett Morris and Talia Shire for Plaster City Productions and Winchester Films. “Palmer's Pick-Up” had its world premiere at the 1999 Berlin Film Festival. Christopher completed principal photography on “G-Men From Hell” in the Fall of 1999. This film based on Michael Allred's comic Grafik Musik stars William Forsythe, Tate Donovan, and Gary Busey. Since then, Plaster City Productions has embarked on an ambitious slate of feature-length digital films. Its first production, entitled “Bel-Air”, starring Barbara Bain and directed by Christopher had its world premiere at the Cinequest San Jose Film Festival (March 2000). Christopher's television work includes writing and directing numerous America's Most Wanted segments for Fox Television, directing the premiere episode of Bonechillers for ABC, directing the two Nickelodeon childrens' shows The Journey of Allen Strange and 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd and directing Disney's hit show The Jersey.
According to the Imdb.com, Christopher Coppola is the Nephew of Francis Ford Coppola. Brother of Nicolas Cage and Marc Coppola. Grandson of Carmine Coppola. Grandson of Italia Coppola, nephew of Talia Shire, brother-in-law of Patricia Arquette, cousin of Gian-Carlo Coppola, Roman Coppola, Sofia Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, cousin-in-law of Spike Jonze.