Anita Busch Returns To LA Times
Journalist Anita Busch has returned to work at the Los Angeles Times. But she remains in hiding after alleged mafia death threats for her reporting on shady producer Julius R. Nasso.
I bet Bush herself was the source for this hysterical New York Daily News report by gossip columnists Rush & Malloy: "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."
Busch is known for her histrionic personality and exaggerated claims. Most of her peers are highly skeptical of her claims above.
Busch is known around town for screaming obscenities. As in first thing in the morning to a source, "You fucked me!" (Salon 10/3/97)
As much as I hate to write anything that will rock the boat, but why are there so many mentally unbalanced hysterical women writing on entertainment when they should be at home looking after husbands and babies? Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Anita Busch, Claudia Eller, Nikki Finke, Andrea Thompson...
I've long warned about the dangers of allowing women into the hallowed profession of journalism. The story about Washington Post journalist Sue Schmidt dealing with her critics by writing to their bosses reinforces my lifelong belief that many women are hormonally not suited for public positions such as journalist. Could you imagine a man pulling that? No way.
Women tend to be more sensitive than men, and many are not able to hack it in the working world without reducing standards and requiring their co-workers to undergo sensitivity training to accommodate the hormonal tides of the new female hires. Women were designed by God or nature to stay home and look after their children. If women desire to affect society, they should exercise their influence in the bedroom and the kitchen, and not the newsroom.
Calmglass writes on alt.gossip.celebrities: "lol oh gotta love these inbred, cow fucking, donkey/horse/redneck threesome-having, bed sheet wearing, bonfire burning, good for nothing trolls."
Martin Brimmer writes on LF.com: Over at his new homestead at lukeford.net, the former occupant of this site - a self-described journalist with the cranial capacity of a cantaloupe and the all the ability to reason of an inbred orangutang - issued a harangue against female journalists titled "The Hormonal Perils of Hiring Female Journalists" wherein he reflected on his "lifelong belief that many women are hormonally not suited for public positions such as journalist."
My favorite entertainment journalists include Amy Wallace at Los Angeles magazine, and Catherine Seipp at UPI.
Never married, with no children, Busch, a hot-tempered aggressive reporter, has covered Hollywood for the two trades (Variety and Hollywood Reporter) as well as the NY and LA Times and Entertainment Weekly.
Like the volatile and psychotic Nikki Finke, she seems to never be able to hold a job for long. In the fall of 2001, she lasted less than a month at Entertainment Weekly before getting fired.
Busch has an erratic uneven temperament, bordering on the psychotic. She screams threats and obscenities at people yet is terribly thin-skinned about any criticism directed at herself.
Busch may belong however at the LA Times, which pays many reporters good wages to do powderpuff mediocre work covering the entertainment industry. For best industry coverage, see the Wall Street Journal.
Like NYT's Bernie Weinraub and the LAT's Claudia Eller, Busch is known for playing favorites (writing positively about people she likes and ripping people she doesn't). Michael Ovitz told the 8/02 Vanity Fair: "Anita Busch plays pool with Ron Meyer [president of Universal] three nights a week."
Busch grew up in Granite City, Illinois. She worked for advertising trade publications in Chicago before moving to Hollywood because of the moderate climate and the opening at the Hollywood Reporter covering marketing. She was lured over to Variety but later quit because of unethical behavior on the part of editor Peter Bart. She then went to the Hollywood Reporter where she quit over the unethical behavior of its publisher Bob Dowling.
When Lew Wasserman died, the New York Times mentioned prominently the definitive book on Wasserman by former LA Times journalist Dennis McDougal. The LA Times mentioned the book in passing, even though McDougal, who did not speak to the New York Times, spent close to an hour holding Anita Busch's hand, correcting her on everything from the 1952 SAG waiver to Lew’s not-so-subtle support of Bill Clinton.
XXX writes: "The new Los Angeles Times indeed. It used to irritate me. Now I just chalk it up and keep going….."
New Times journalist Jill Stewart wrote (12/10/98) a great piece about how the Los Angeles Times sucks up to Hollywood and the city's rich and powerful while ignoring how many of these powerful achieved their wealth and power through thuggery. For instance, when Lew Wasserman died (in 2002), the LA Times wrote laudatory things about this man who rose to power through dirty dealing and organized crime connections.
Jill wrote: ...[T]he Times has made no mention of The Last Mogul [Dennis McDougal's scathing unauthorized biography of Lew Wasserman] since its release a month ago, even as the East Coast media gives wide play to the book, including a gushing review in the New York Observer.
"Ignoring a book this big!" New York Post gossip columnist Richard Johnson cried out to me before I could even ask what he thought of the L.A. Times initial blackout on the Lew Wasserman biography.
"The arrogance of that paper is beyond belief!" Johnson boomed. "They are toadies to the industry! They are a shameless embarrassment to journalism!"
New Times columnist Rick Barrs writes 5/3/01: "A former top editor at one of the trades marveled at The Finger's naïveté about the Hollywood Reporter. "It's a fucking trade paper, and a trade paper's a whorehouse. What did David Robb expect? He knew he was working for whores.
""I like Anita Busch, and I think she wants to do the right thing, but the Hollywood Reporter ain't the goddamned New York Times. Whether she likes it or not, an industry ass-kisser like George Christy's more what the Reporter's about than David Robb. Hos are damn sure going to protect their own.""
Busch can dish it out but not take it, as this exchange with David Poland indicates.
David Poland writes 2/15/01: The new [Hollywood lie] is that Anita Busch took a brave stand when she attacked Fight Club in print... Anita came inches away from being fired on that story and was absolutely enraged by being called to task by me, in print and on the radio, for reaching beyond her appropriate place as a news editor. The reason it was such an issue was not the editorial that Anita wrote about the movie. By the time that ran, Fox's threatening stance had already passed. It was the supposed "news" story that suggested a level of unanimity of rage and anger about the picture on the evening of the premiere. There was certainly a large group of angry people, but there were a lot of supporters as well and they somehow never got quoted. Fox also stated at the time that Anita hadn't even seen the movie in its entirety, arriving late to the screening. To her credit, Anita told me that she went back and saw the picture again before writing her editorial... an editorial that was completely appropriate, however wrong-headed it might have been. I am a big John Horn fan, but what Anita got caught doing was not being fearless, but taking a cheap, personal shot inside what seemed to be a news story.
LATER THAT EVENING, POLAND GOT THIS:
Mr. David Poland - TNT Roughcut
Dear Mr. Poland: We are the attorneys for The Hollywood Reporter and Anita M. Busch, the editor of The Hollywood Reporter. We have received a copy of an article written by you on Thursday, 15 February 2001 and which is included on a TNT Roughcut web site – which in part states (respecting Anita Busch) "However, Anita came inches away from being fired on that story…". Your comments respecting Ms. Busch are false, defamatory and outrageous. They are totally reckless, unsubstantiated, irresponsible and uncorroborated. Your article egregiously violates the rights of our clients, and you and TNT Roughcut and its affiliated enterprises ("TNT") will be held strictly accountable and liable for any and all damages sustained by our clients.
As you are no doubt aware, your publication of false statements, which have not been substantiated or corroborated, and which consequently lack any credibility or truth, are clear evidence of actual malice on your part and on the part of TNT. Your malice is evidence of your failure to undertake a proper investigation, fabrication of information, and reliance upon persons who lack appropriate knowledge, among other factors.
We hereby demand that you and TNT forthwith cease and desist from any further use or publication of any reference whatsoever to Anita Busch or The Hollywood Reporter, and that any such references be forthwith redacted and removed from your article. Demand is furthermore made that you forthwith print on your web site in a conspicuous and prominent manner and position designed to reach the same readership as the offending article a retraction and apology acceptable to my clients with reference to this matter. Do not misunderstand the importance of this communication as it will not be one of a series of demand letters regarding this matter. Your reckless publication of the subject article has struck at the essence of our clients’ reputation, character and professional activities and business. We will not permit or tolerate the good names and reputation of The Hollywood Reporter and Anita Busch to be sullied by your reckless and wanton disregard for the truth.
This letter does not constitute a complete or exhaustive statement of all of our clients’ rights, claims, contentions or of the remedies of our clients, and does not constitute a waiver or relinquishment of any of our clients’ rights or remedies, legal or equitable, all of which are hereby expressly reserved. It is the intention of our clients to hold you and TNT responsible for your irresponsible behavior.
Yours truly, FREDERIC N. GAINES FNG/cm
Reporter Anita Busch Hiding?
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.
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."
Getting Ahead in Hollywood
Mr. Predictable aka Patrick Goldstein writes in the 8/6/02 LA Times: What could it possibly say about today's movie business that the coolest guy in Hollywood is an over-the-hill 72-year-old ex-studio chief who hasn't had a hit in years? That would be larger-than-life producer Robert Evans, star of "The Kid Stays in the Picture," a new documentary about the long-ago head of Paramount Pictures that has generated a tidal wave of glowing reviews and press coverage.
It's no surprise that young directors like Brett Ratner, David O. Russell and Wes Anderson are eager to sit at Evans' feet, soaking up the stories of his seesaw relationships with Francis Coppola, Roman Polanski and Blake Edwards, who Evans says once challenged him to a duel.
"The studio mind-set today is all about franchises, but Bob was an idea man," says Ratner, director of a franchise series himself, "Rush Hour." "If Bob were running Paramount today I'd make a movie there in a minute. He never made a movie that was a generic copy of something else."
LUKE SAYS: Brett Ratner loves the ladies like Evans. I spoke to producer Fred Weintraub 8/5/02 about Evans.
Fred: "Robert Evans real job at the beginning was not to make movies. It was to take care of [Charles] Bluedorhn. [Robert] had some gorgeous girls."
Many people became producers in Hollywood through procuring girls and boys for sex with Hollywood power players. See Melissa Prophet.
"Melissa Prophet," Ivan Nagy said, was a "house girl" for international financier Adnan Kashoggi, procuring women for him while living in his home, a statement echoed by former Playboy model Cathy St. George, who was friendly with Prophet in the late 1980s, and by film executive Paul Rosenfeld, who knew Prophet through the man she would later marry, longtime Simpson friend Craig Baumgarten. Producer Joel Silver knew Prophet well, too, but was not actually a customer, though Melissa would set him up on dates. Producer Robert Evans actually went into business with Prophet..." (High Concept, pg. 96)
In 1986, Playboy Playmate Cathy St. George was invited by her friend Melissa Prophet to attend a Malibu beach party. St. George knew of Prophet as "one of the biggest madams in L.A. at that time." (High Concept, pg. 126)
High Concept says Prophet snorted coke with Simpson. (pg. 127)
You Should Interview Mark Damon
XXX says: You should interview Mark Damon, the inventor of pre-sale financing, meaning raising money through selling off rights to foreign territories. Ask Mark Damon about his dealings with Moshe Diamant. Mark was pulling his hair out dealing with that Israeli.
Mark, normally tightly controlled and carefully spoken, is writing a book about his producing career.
Propax.com to the Rescue
A couple of weeks ago, after listening to Dennis Prager's repeated endorsements of Propax.com, I tried the product and immediately felt more energetic and clear thinking. Thanks Dennis.
Pentagon Heeds Advice Of Fred
Curious writes: A few months ago the astute Mr. Nek called into question the anti-American rhetoric of the Saudis. Now it appears that the Pentagon is reevaluating Saudi Arabia's staus as an "ally." Interesting....
Fred replies: Actually, I have a confession to make. Fred Nek is actually a pseudonym, and I'm not really a patent lawyer. I actually run American foreign policy, and in my spare time, I control the world. (This crap about being a patent lawyer is just a cover.) If there's anything in particular that you'ld like to know, just drop me a line. Also, if there's anything about the world that you'd like me to change (perhaps the interest rates in Sweden, whether there should be a truce in Sudan, or the selling price of Anabolic Video Cassettes), just call.
BTW, the Wall Street Journal has habitually been taking the Saudis to task for being lousy allies (if you can call them that). Fred predicts that relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia will get dicier.
On a completely different matter, check out today's "diary entry" on annabelchong.com. Looks like she's turning into a social conservative. My god--what's the world coming to? Reactions, gentlemen?
Annabel Chong, gangbang queen and porn star, writes: There is an interesting article in the AOL online zine today about couples who would live together, but save sex for the wedding night. Now if I had read this years ago, I would have though it was pretty naf, However, Now that I am older and wiser, I am beginning to see the logic of it. Screwing the bejasus out of a guy is the easy part. Having to live with a persom is a totally different ball game. Now, I personally have a hard time sleeping together with a partner, male or female. After sex, I usually sit around wishing that they would turn into a pizza and a can of Budweiser. Or maybe a large screen telly with 20 different channels of Sports. It began to dawn on me that maybe this is not the way I like to live my life after all.
At this point in my life, I cannot imagine having sex with anybody unless we are in a deeply commited relationship. I am too old and cranky to be screwing around, and I have already sown enough wild oats to last me for my next 3 lifetimes. I have seen more men that you have seen traffic lights, and if I cannot find a person I like, I'd rather be celibate. Thus, I have not had sex with anybody for quite some time, and it is all by choice. I am a very sensual person, and I can give myself satisfaction when the need arises, and so I do not miss it enough to return to my old profligate ways.
I broke new ground in my interview 7/1/02 with blonde Producer Diane Sillan Isaacs at her office in Green Mountain Productions in Santa Monica. She's president of the company owned by Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas.
Diane's the skinniest producer I've interviewed. And in fantastic shape. She competes in triathlons. In a couple of months, she'll do the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii which consists of 2.5 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride followed by a marathon (run of 26.2 miles). She finished this race last time in eleven hours, about two hours behind the winning female, and about four hours behind the winning male.
In addition to her training and work, Diane is a wife and mother. She has two boys.
Diane: "I grew up in Wicopee, in rural upstate New York, 60 miles north of the city. I had a girlfriend who lived in the city so I took a train to New York City about every other weekend to be in the action. When I was 11 years old, I got to know [the future actor and Miami Vice star] Don Johnson, who was about 21 at the time, and was living with Melanie Griffith, who was 15. Melanie had just got a tattoo. My first brush with Hollywood was intense. Melanie tried to teach me to astral project. I knew how to play baseball, but metaphysical travel?
"I kept in touch with them over the years.
"I went to NYU film school. Then I worked at the David Letterman Show for a year. Then I realized that New York was either going to be commercials or live TV [and that most of the other TV and movie production would take place in Los Angeles].
"I had interviewed with Michael Mann and was on my way to Hollywood when I ran into Don. He had come on Letterman. Don's life was getting out of control because of the Miami Vice groundswell. He asked me to help him out in Miami. I got there the beginning of the second season and stayed on till the end (1984-89), working my way up to associate producer. The TV series was a great producing bootcamp. So many of the guest stars and directors have become big - Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, Helena Bonham Carter, Director Rob Cohan...
"I finally arrived in LA in 1989 and I ran a development company at Universal for Don. We made the TV movie - In the Company of Darkness (1993) starring Helen Hunt.
"The company shifted to Paramount for several years. Then we geared up for Don to go back into television with Nash Bridges. I produced the pilot and then I realized that I was not ready to go back into the grind of series television. It's 18 hours a day. I would've had to relocate to San Francisco. I was married with two young boys.
"Melanie and Antonio [Banderas] were just forming their own company through a deal at Warner Brothers. I met Antonio through Melanie. They asked me to come over and run a company we called Green Moon Productions. Antonio saw Green Moon as an opportunity to do things that would not normally be done by a studio. Projects true to his heart may not be easily financeable. That was a little different from Warner Brothers fare."
Luke: "Why do studios offer stars producing deals?"
Diane: "Studios do it to build relationships with stars. If the studio made an overall deal with a star, then the studio believed it would have first dibs - an inside line - on getting the star to do your movies. It was a big part of the Warner Brothers model. They made these deals with Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, George Clooney... It worked up to a point, especially with the films that Clint Eastwood developed to direct. But there's no guarantee that the stars' next film will be with the studio that's given them a producing deal.
"Warners was ahead of the game in recognizing Antonio in his early U.S. days. Warners had just made Assassins with Sylvester Stallone and Antonio. They saw that Antonio was going to become a leading latino man. They made a deal with him and Melanie but Warners focus was not on developing latin material. Antonio is a cross-over actor but he came with a unique edge. I'm not sure it fit into the kind of films Warners made at the time. Making deals with stars where the studio pays for the overhead for the stars production company sounds good but there are fewer of them. The business model must be flawed.
"We were at Warner Brothers four years (1996-2000). We'd bring them material for our first-look deal and it didn't feel urgent to them. In giving Antonio and Melanie a company deal, they made a corporate decision that did not necessarily translate into day to day operation. Warner Brothers makes a specific kind of movie [highly commercial] and they make it well. They do great with big actioners and high concept thrillers. The things Green Moon was developing was not in sync with their slate.
"One of the first ideas I took to them was an Ann Rice mummy project. Our instincts were right about the genre, as evidenced by Universal's big hit, but it wasn't for them. We did set up the Ayrton Sena story, about a formula one race car driver from Brazil. We started to develop it and then the regime change and it lost focus. I find it's hard to fit into a studio's immediate needs and agenda.
Luke: "Do they take actors seriously as producers?"
Diane: "Antonio is a filmmaker and he's made more films than most producers. He has a great sense of material and is a powerful salesman. Melanie is smart. She knows the business better than most producers. She may not even consider what she's doing producing but she's great at pulling things together. Unfortunately, we didn't have the chance to show Warners their producing abilities."
Luke: "Was Crazy in Alabama dear to Antonio's heart?"
Diane: "He loved it and he still holds it very close to his heart. After he read the script, he called me at 3AM saying he sees the film and he needs to make it. Some of the specific things he told that first night are in the film. He was inspired. It'd been set up at Disney years ago. It wasn't your obvious commercial quality with two divergent stories [that never meet up]. Somehow, we convinced Sony to take the gamble.
"Antonio and I went into John Calley and Derek Wiggins office at Columbia. In retrospect, I think they were ready to pass on the movie. The material was too far outside their 'box.' But Antonio came in with such passion and animation. He acted out almost every part with vim and vigor. It was an amazing and entertaining two hour meeting. The studio execs were beside themselves, and through Antonio's eyes, were able to see the film. 'How much do you want to make this for?' 'We think it's around $16 million.' 'Ok.'"
Luke: "This was the first film Banderas directed."
Diane: "I've worked with a bunch of first-timers and Antonio didn't come across as a first-timer. His set was calm and focused. He could articulate his vision beautifully. I was truly blown away by how smooth and creatively stimulating the whole shoot went. He was a leader and a visionary. The cast and crew became a big family. It was a joy."
Luke: "Were you pleased creatively with how the movie turned out?"
Diane: "I was. I think it is a special movie. As time goes on, it will hold up.
"Antonio likes to go for emotions in a confrontational way. He likes to hit it where you'd least expect. His first cut of the movie was three hours and 47 minutes. We loved every minute of it. The true creative process began at that point - how to cut it down, weave together the two stories and make it have emotion."
Luke: "How did you deal with the reviews and the box office?"
Diane: "It was terribly disappointing. Antonio had said that he didn't see this as box office material. The reviews were harsh and at times personal. Some reviewers seemed to have a built-in attitude about the husband and wife thing.
"We were coming off a wonderful European tour. At the Venice Film Festival and at San Sebastian, the film was truly applauded. I think reviewers acted as gatekeepers to the first weekend. I recieved so many calls from people that saw the film on video and said they had no idea it was so good.
"Antonio wants to do left-of-center pictures. We have a slate of 40 projects, and 90% of them have a Latino element.
"Antonio comes from the [Pedro] Almodovar school of the pregnant nun. Anti-Franco. He is a rebel inside from his youth as an anti-Franco artist. He loved that 'Lucille' cut her abusive husband's head off and is ultimately set free. He likes to be in your face."
Luke: "Tell me how you got involved with The Body ?"
Mieko writes on Imdb.com: "An archaeologist finds a body which is seemingly that of Jesus Christ. If it WAS him, it would disprove the whole Resurrection thing and bring the whole Christian world into chaos, so the Vatican sends a priest (Mr Banderas) to investigate. As I said, fantastic premise. They could have made a really powerful film based on that, bringing in all the religious and scientific elements such a discovery would have... only it sort of falls flat."
Diane: "That was an incredible script by Jonas McCord that had been floating around for many years [based on a Richard Sapir novel]. The financing was tricky and hard to keep together. As we went through the process, the script got watered down because of religious opinions and money needs. We shot in Israel. The Israeli money pulled out at the last minute. The Spanish money didn't want the priest to leave the priesthood. Every financial source seemed to have a vote. Everyone argued about the ending. We lost the simple clarity of the original script. I saw us losing focus during the filming. It became too confusing. Yet the premise was compelling."
Luke: "Did you have any trepidations about dealing with such sacred material?"
Diane: "I thought the script had handled any controversial religious issues so that in the end it was about faith. Conclusions were up to the individual. I wasn't worried about the controversy. We veered away from anything preachy."
Luke: "It seems that Hollywood is afraid to tackle organized religion?"
Diane: "Hugely. That's why the script couldn't get made in the studio system. For many years, it was considered one of the ten best unproduced screenplays.
Luke: "How do you choose which projects you want to develop?"
Diane: "We weed through and come up with most of our material here at Green Moon. Then I take it to Antonio and Melanie to see which projects they want to develop. Ideas are cheap. You have to be able to attract talent and financing for it to become real. The work begins when the interest level is piqued."
Luke: "What are the common elements in your passion projects?"
Diane: "Finding compassion in a tale. Love overcoming. Making a statement about our humanity in the details of the characters. But I want it to be entertaining. I am so not about doing anything 'important' or 'difficult' or 'good for you'. The message is much more powerful if it is below the surface of the human portrayals."
Luke: "I've heard that women are particularly suited to producing because they are nurturing?"
Diane: "We have the ability to multitask. We're used to having nine balls in the air."
Luke: "Have you run into any taboos in making movies that have surprised you?"
Diane: "I had this wonderful story about a Cuban pitcher that was at the time impossible to set up because everyone is afraid of baseball movies [they don't travel well overseas], particularly ones without a leading American character."
Mike Medavoy's Book - Your Only As Good As Your Next One
Wall Street Journal assistant managing editor Laura Landro writes a provocative review of producer Mike Medavoy's memoir 'Your Only As Good As Your Next One' in the February 15, 2002 issue of the WSJ.
During the 1970s, Hollywood transformed a small business controlled by a few men to a large business controlled by multinational corporations.
Mike began in the mailroom around the same time as his more famous peers Barry Diller, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner.
The book's thesis is that the "corporatization of Hollywood has killed its creativity. But he is especially keen to let us know that he is just as important as those more famous guys. Everywhere he goes in the world, he tells us, "I can turn on the television and see a film being broadcast that I had some hand in getting made."
"Mr. Medavoy manages to insert himself, Zelig-like, into nearly every important creative and corporate event during the past three decades in the movie business.Mr. Medavoy's self-aggrandizing saga is as much as anything a plea for recognition and a settling of old scores."
Medavoy appeared on the cover of the New York Times Sunday magazine in 1977 under the headline "The New Tycoons of Hollywood." But from there it was largely downhill, writes Landro.
Mike doesn't say much about his personal life. He's been married four times. He never mentions his third wife "who shared his passion for Mr. Clinton, the notorious Democratic hostess Patricia Duff."
"While screenwriter William Goldman famously said that no one knows anything in Hollywood, Mr. Medavoy's book proves that some know even less than others do. As a talent agent, Mr. Medavoy tells us, he fired a young Steven Spielberg as his client because the fledgling director wouldn't abandon his loyalties to Universal Studios. Years later, he was thrilled to get Mr. Spielberg to direct a movie for TriStar -- but that movie, "Hook," ran disastrously over budget and helped seal Mr. Medavoy's fate at TriStar. Though Mr. Medavoy takes some credit for Arnold Schwarzenegger's success, he first suggested O.J. Simpson to star in "The Terminator," a tidbit he offers us without a trace of irony."
Medavoy relates how Madonna secured her part in "Desperately Seeking Susan" (she shows up at the office, sinks to her knees and purrs: "I'll do anything to get this role").
"Mr. Medavoy understands how the business works -- he just has never seemed able to make it work consistently for him. Among the movies he passed on: "The China Syndrome," "Good Morning Vietnam" and "All the President's Men.""
Medavoy blames others for most of his failures. He derides Hollywood practices such as the "high concept" film perfected by Disney and Paramount. Mike says he's never interfered with the director's vision.
Barry Diller's regime at Paramount began "movies-by-committee syndrome that pervades Hollywood to this day." In this approach, studio executives get in early with the script, hold story meetings and make their own suggestions to filmmakers. The men behind this system - Diller, Katzenberg and Eisner - "spread it like cancer across Hollywood over the course of the eighties and nineties until it became the accepted way to develop, make and market a film."
Laura writes: "Though the business of making movies remains as unpredictable as it ever was, someone has to at least try to treat it like a business. Mr. Medavoy, on the other hand, sticks to his "life-long philosophy of not tinkering," even as millions of dollars of other people's money go up in smoke."
Johnathan Last writes in the 3/10/02 Washington Times: Mostly though, Mr. Medavoy stays wrapped up in himself. He opens by announcing, "I have a library full of books about history, politics, and culture, and I've read them." As he considers leaving UA, he visits the New York City corporate apartment owned by Transamerica, the studio's parent company, and wonders aloud, "Why hadn't I ever been invited to stay here?" A few pages later he bemoans the fact that in his first year at Orion, he made only $500,000 (in 1978 dollars, not counting bonuses), which "wasn't bad," but wasn't what other studio chiefs were making. He picks fights with Mark Canton, James Cameron, and others, and somehow it's always the other party who has misremembered events or acted in bad faith.
Yes Mr. Medavoy's book is self-serving, but in a sense, that's like complaining that water is wet. The real problems are his errors and disputes with history. He complains about the 1996 Sony expose "Hit and Run," saying that the authors got many small facts (such as Mr. Medavoy's birthday) wrong. Yet his own book contains numerous factual mistakes. For example, he claims that "Hannibal" made $200 million domestically. It made $165. He writes that "Total Recall" made $200 million domestically and was the number one movie in 1990. It made $119 million and was the sixth highest-grossing movie that year. He dramatically overstates the importance of a film's opening weekend, saying, "If your film didn't have a big opening, it was basically dead." Wrong again. Six of the top 15 grossing movies of all time opened to $42 million or less, including "Forrest Gump" ($24 million in the first weekend), "The Sixth Sense" ($26 million), and "Home Alone" ($17 million).
In one aside, Mr. Medavoy attacks Peter Biskind's 1998 book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," saying that Mr. Biskind exaggerated the influence of drugs in Hollywood during the '70s. While refuting Mr. Biskind, Mr. Medavoy says triumphantly, "I was there . . . and drugs didn' t dominate the movie scene." He adds, "The American directors might have been movie brats, but they weren't movie druggies."
In "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," Martin Scorsese, one of Mr. Medavoy' s American directors, tells Mr. Biskind, "I did a lot of drugs because I wanted to do a lot, I wanted to push all the way to the very very end, and see if I could die. That was the key thing, to see what it would be like getting close to death." Readers can draw their own conclusions.
Also, Mr. Medavoy misuses the words "restraint" and "apocryphal."
But there is a deeper truth to this memoir. While we get an unreliable picture of Mr. Medavoy, we get a piercingly clear image of how he sees himself. And it explains a lot about Hollywood.
Kenneth Turan writes 3/10/02 in the LA Times: "You're Only as Good as Your Next One" is particularly vivid, however, when Medavoy takes off the gloves for a bit, when he abandons the avuncular for the acerbic. As the book makes clear, being treated with decency and respect is critical for Medavoy, and when he is not, he does not forget all about it.
Bob Rafelson, for instance, is referred to as someone who "gained a reputation as an abrasive know-it-all," and Michael Cimino, whose "Heaven's Gate" crippled UA after Medavoy left, is labeled "a director who could charitably be called a megalomaniac." Medavoy is especially dismissive of people he feels have tried to rewrite history. He is irked with Sylvester Stallone for claiming the studio tried to buy him off "Rocky" and with James Cameron for asserting that Medavoy had insisted that O.J. Simpson play the Terminator.
The people Medavoy is most angry with are the former Sony Pictures triumvirate of Peter Guber, Jon Peters and Mark Canton, who he claims made his life a living hell while he was running Tristar Pictures after leaving Orion. He describes Guber, among other things, as "a secretive meddler by nature," is acidic about a tennis bet he says Canton lost and never paid and pointedly calls the chapter on his Sony days "The Fish Stinks at the Head." What especially gripes Medavoy is having aided all three men earlier in their careers: "I helped load the gun," he says, "that later executed me in public."
Mike Medavoy writes: "Luke, You must be some great guy; you request an interview, my wife is ill, my time is limited and you re-print the only article that I know is a silly, personal attack. You disgust me as a human being. I hope you are happy. Print that."
Marcia Nassiter is widely regarded as serving as the brains behind Medavoy during his years at Phoenix Pictures.
A rival producer says Mike has the most manufactured career in Hollywood, helped by such folks as his father in law of his first wife, Henry Rogers of the Rogers & Cowan publicity firm. They secured him the cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine in 1976. In his book, Mike professed surprise at his selection
Mike is notorious for being the executive least likely to read a script. Marcia Nassiter was the brains behind Mike at Phoenix Pictures.
Medavoy's most respected for his rapport with talent. He woke up United Artists during the 1970s, when the company won best picture Academy Awards for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Rocky and Annie Hall. In 1977, Medavoy joined a breakaway group of UA executives and became the head of Orion.
Hit & Run says: "Barbara Boyle, who was head of production at Orion, says Medavoy's strength was his ability to mix together the key ingredients in a project like "a master chef." He did his job "in a non-bullying way, took a gentle approach to getting talent involved," she says."
Medavoy became the co-chair of Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign. He met beautiful blond Patricia Duff who moved to Los Angeles from Washington D.C. with the Hart crowd. Mike's attention on films, never strong, waned. Orion lurched towards bankruptcy. Then Guber and Peters came along and offered Medavoy the chairmanship of Tristar.
Mike did not impress, according to Hit & Run: "And his [Mike's] low energy level annoyed Guber. Several insiders say Medavoy was indolent, leaving the legwork - especially script development - to Platt and Snider. "He's a pretty lazy guy when it comes to doing the homework of a studio executive," says a producer who made films for TriStar. "He loves to go to the White House for dinner and he's got a wall full of pictures and autographs. But when it comes to reading scripts and doing notes, he doesn't confuse his staff with an aggressive style."
"Medavoy's conference room wall, covered with photographs of famous friends and acquaintances, symbolized his self-aggrandizement and became known as his "wall of shame."
""There's something wrong with people who have to build a monument to themselves while they still exist," says one former Tristar executive.
"Then the faltering Medavoy had a video made and given out to members of the press. Mike Medavoy: A Life in Film consisted of nothing but old trailers for movies made at United Artists and Orion - including The Pink Panther and Annie Hall, pictures for which Medavoy could hardly claim credit. The self promotion annoyed his former partner, Eric Pleskow, who said that many of the films included were made without Medavoy's involvement." (pg. 354)
Mike and Patricia built a massive vanilla-colored house in Coldwater Canyon. It received a full-color spread in the November 1992 issue of W magazine. The article described the mansion as an intellectual salon in pagan Hollywood. "Years from now, when they talk about the Medavoy house - and they will - it's quite likely to be listed alonside those other celebrated Hollywood salons where art, commerce and style mixed."
Beside Patricia's desk was a photo of her snuggling with Bill Clinton. Mike was among the first Hollywood players to introduce Clinton to the industry.
Hit & Run: "Medavoy was living a nightmare. He exuded a depleting depression. His marriage was foundering. One executive ran into Patricia in Hawaii over the Christmas holidays and she said she was there with multi-millionaire financier Ron Perelman [they married two years later]. (pg. 357)
"Stories circulated about Mike telling disbelieving callers that he had just gotten off the phone with the president. And Medavoy infuriated Dawn Steel by sending her a condolence note on White House stationary after her mother died.
"Patricia Medavoy was accused of trying to convey the impression that she and Clinton were exceptionally close. At a dinner party at a producer's home, which took place after she and Mike had slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, she told the gathering that Clinton was "a full-service president."" (pg. 358)
What is a Producer?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines produce: "To lead or bring forward, bring forth into view or notice; to offer for inspection, consideration, exhibit."
Judd Bernard suggested I call my book on producers "Profiles in Discouragement."
Humorist Fred Allen described the typical Hollywood producer as "an ulcer with authority." He defined an "associate producer" as "about the only guy in Hollywood who will associate with a producer."
During the 1960s and 1970s, moviemaking was primarily about directors doing their thing. But in the late 1970s, Barry Diller and Michael Eisner, coming from a television background, tired of inefficient and money-losing auteur excess. Diller and Eisner decided to follow the television model where the producer is the real creative power and directors are hired technicians.
In TV, executive producers have the most power of any producers and in features, producers have the most power of any type of producer. With but a handful of exceptions (Jerry Bruckheimer, Scott Rudin, Brian Grazer), feature directors have more pull with studios and financiers than producers.
On June 20-22, 1975, the movie business was changed in a weekend by the success of Jaws. The blockbuster mentality took over. Movies were no longer released in certain cities and allowed to find their audience. Now big movies would be released on over a thousand screens at once across the country, supported by massive TV advertising.
A big exception to the trend - producer Mike Medavoy, who still believed in giving power to directors.
Charles Fleming's 1997 biography of Don Simpson is an interesting introduction to the world of producing movies.
By the mid nineties, writes Fleming, hands-on producers like Simpson were becoming powerless.
At a wake at Mortons for Don Simpson in 1996: "There was the film producer whose idea of a good time was taking hooker shopping on Rodeo Drive for lingerie - and then wearing it himself while having sex with her. There was the film producer who paid young women substantial sums of money to defecate on him. There was the former studio executive so paranoid and so covetous of his good name that he would only meet hookers at the seediest of motels. There was the husband-and-wife movie producer couple who were among the industry's biggest cocaine users... And there around them were there managers, lawyers and colleagues - the executive enablers - who knew all of this...and were paid handsomely to keep it to themselves." (High Concept, pg. 8)
Rick Lyman writes in the 5/29/01 NY Times about producer credit inflation: "It's embarrassing when you see 10, 12, sometimes 14 people credited as producers on a movie," said Mark Gordon, a producer on "Saving Private Ryan" and other films. "It's become a joke."
Outside of money, no topic generates more discussion in Hollywood than credit: whose names appear up there on the screen, how big and in what order.
If anyone can be called a producer, and recent history, they say, has shown that virtually anyone can, then the title is diminished, the chain of command is degraded, and real producers gradually lose their position in the industry's pecking order.
The producer is the last remaining on-screen category for which the rules are so diffuse and the restrictions so loose that almost anyone can potentially negotiate a credit.
Directors often take one, arguing that they were involved in the early development. Studio executives sometimes insist on one. Top- name actors and screenwriters sometimes get them, as do their managers, and, if the apocryphal tales are true, their drivers, hairdressers, assistants and relatives.
In the recent David Mamet comedy "State and Main," one of the running gags is that the film-within-a-film's unscrupulous producers toss around associate producer credits like beads at Mardi Gras, in return for the slightest service.
Part of the problem is that there is no set job description for being a producer.
The dilemma is that the old answer a producer does whatever needs doing to keep the project moving forward is just vague enough to open the door to stowaways and pretenders.
Luke Gets Mail
Eliefan writes: "Your A fucking bustard i swear to God, i hope u go to hell, u need to get all your facts straight before you write such cruel things about Elie Samaha that I personally know and have working with him for 1 years, He does read scripts because he went on a vacation with me and all he did was read fucking scripts all day, and he visits the set when ever he can, and he does own a computer and he knows what your saying about him because he has a I. Mac computer that he uses everyday, he doesn't respond what asshole like you say because he has better things to do then jack off gay porn like you do. So if I was you I would shut the fuck up because you know nothing better then to."
Luke's mom writes: Dear Luke: My name is Gillian Ford. Do you remember me? I used to know you some years back and have written you a few e-mails, but have not heard from you for a while. Are you still alive or is the Goddess authoring your website in your absence?
Lovely weather here. I fly tomorrow to Sydney, dad has already gone. He is speaking with Dr. Michael Denton in a meeting on Genesis 1-11. Dad has put so much work into it, I wanted to hear it. We come home the same day, so a quick trip. Cats are all well. They have a lovely life here.
We went to Sydney yesterday and dad did his talk with Michael Denton. Interesting talk. The first half was on why Genesis 1 is not historic and the basic view on why evolution is held to be true. The second part was on design and how even hard-boiled scientists now reluctantly admit this cosmos was made to sustain life, particulary man. Very fascinating. He is not a Christian, but says Christians would be happier with what science is showing that atheists. There is a case for design.
Do you know any good sources for information about the navel stone (the stone on which the temple was built, under which the River Euphrates rose, from which traditionally creation began and vegetation spread throughout the earth, making Israel the center of the universe?
I found the stuff I needed on the stone by Paul Porter in dad's first Daniel book. It was a very common idea in near Eastern and far Eastern countries (Cambodia, India, Greece). Interesting. The Jews elevated the story and made it their own. The temple was built at the navel of the earth where the river of life came up. The foundation stone was the navel and creation began at that point and spread out across the globe. Each civilization took the story and made themselves the center of the world. But it's one reason the Jews and Arabs fight for possession of the spot (Dome of the Rock). No doubt, you now more on this than me.
Chaim Amalek writes: "Your Mom's letter touched upon some interesting ideas. Read "Rare Earth" by Ward Brownlee. He notes how thin the margin for advanced life really is. You need a star that is neither to close in to the center of a galaxy (too much radiation for life to form) nor too far out (not enough of the right elements there). Then you need a star system with the right sort of planets, including a big one to sweep up all the loose debris that might wipe everything out, a planet the right size (OURS) and the right composition in just the right orbit to accomodate water, etc. This whittles down the possibilities long before you even get to the question of how life began."
Suzanne Bauman is the producer, director, and writer of more than eighty films, both documentary and drama. Suzanne recently produced, directed and wrote "Jackie Behind the Myth," a two-hour definitive biography of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, for PBS, which was People Magazine’s "Pick of the Week," and is now a runaway best seller for Warner Home Video and PBS Home Video.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Vassar College and the NYU Institute of Film and TV, her two student films, "Button Button" and "The Father" starring Burgess Meredith, won numerous festival awards. She started her first production company in New York at the age of 26, and has taken crews all over the world, including Costa Rica, Cuba, England, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, Peru, and Turkey. She received an Academy Award Nomination for her documentary feature "Against Wind and Tide: A Cuban Odyssey," and an Academy Award of Special Merit for "La Belle Epoque".
With NEH grants she produced and directed "The Artist Was a Woman" about the history of women painters, and "The Women of Summer," about the experimental Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers. For these films she won the American Women in Radio and Television Award and a Special Jury Prize at the San Francisco Film Festival. Her clients include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian, Vogue Magazine, ABC, CBS, and PBS. Films from this period include "Suleyman the Magnificent," "Cuba in the Shadow of Doubt," "The Vever Affair," "Light of the Gods," "Merchants and Masterpieces," "In Vogue," and "The Vision of Vanity Fair". She produced and directed the concluding documentary for "Art of the Western World: In Our Own Time" hosted by Michael Wood.
In Los Angeles, Suzanne wrote and directed "Maya" for the AFI Directing Workshop for Women, and directed several plays for the Malibu Summerstage. She created and became Executive Producer of 65 episodes of the highly successful series "Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures" (formerly "ZooLife with Jack Hanna").
Suzanne has worked with an eclectic group of celebrities, including Jane Alexander, Jules Dassin, Sir Ian McKellan, Fidel Castro, Gloria Steinem, The Rockefeller family, the Kennedy family, Gianni Versache, Ralph Lauren, Stacey Keach, Norman Mailer, Tina Brown, the Sixth Earl of Carnarvon, Barbara Cartland, Colleen Dewhurst, and Diana Vreeland.
I met Suzanne, a matronly short-haired blonde woman about 5'6" tall and around 50 years of age, at Starbucks on May 15, 2002.
Suzanne: "For the first time, I've been teaching [at UCLA Extension about producing documentaries]. The name of my company is Film for Thought, and I may call my book that. Maybe there's a jazzier title.
"I'm of the generation that fell madly in love with the art form of the 20th Century. And I've been experienced its transformation. In the '60s and '70s in New York City, there was an explosion of experimentation and openness to what film could do... And yet exclusivity as well because not a lot of people knew how to do it. It took a certain amount of hustle and chutzpah to get the $25,000 to shoot something. Film is so much more expensive than video. In that environment, if you got something done, that was enough. But now you can't even make an entry with a finished film. You've got to have a marketing plan and buzz and branding. There's just a sea of material.
"There was not a single person in my class who understood how film went through a camera.
"I think digital will take over in five years. The metaphor I use is what happened to painting when acrylic took over oil.
"I was in the first graduating class (1970) at the NYU Film Institute. Marty Scorsese was hanging around. Director Jeremy Kagan and producer David Axelrod were in my class. There were only three women in my class and 27 guys.
"I've heard people say that women can get big jobs as producers easier than directors because producing is essentially a maternal action.
"At school, I was more interested in producing drama than documentaries. A film like American Beauty would be the kind of film I'd like to make. But I've never made a feature. I've written screenplays and pitched projects but they didn't click.
"I made two documentaries about Cuba. Against Wind and Tide: A Cuban Odyssey was an Academy Award nominated documentary feature tracing the Mariel boatlift from Cuba to Florida. Cuba in the Shadow of Doubt  was a history of Cuban-American relations. I did 17 hours of interviews with [Cuban dictator] Fidel Castro over two nights.
"After Shadow of Doubt was locked, meaning we had made the final cut on the documentary, I received a visit from a representative from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The documentary was already approved by WNET in New York. He watched a late night screening and said, 'The film as it is will never air.' Because in the one hour documentary, seven more minutes were given to pro-Castro speakers as opposed to anti-Castro speakers. I said, 'We are making a film about Cuba. Most of the Cubans still live there. And when you have people speak in Spanish, needing translations, every soundbite is going to be longer.
"The CPB had no right to do that. Only PBS can say whether a film can air. It was horrifying. We were shocked. I learned that day that public television is corrupt.
"We [Suzanne and her husband Jim Burroughs had a documentary producing company Seven Leagues Productions] argued through the night that this was not right. But we had $350 left in our bank account. We made changes. We took out three minutes of Cuban talk and put in more pictures of Cuban art.
"A reporter at the New York Times got wind of what we'd gone through and he wanted to blow the whistle. But I declined to speak out. We'd been through hell and back making this film. We'd been asked to spy when we went to Havanna.
"We happened to be in Key West, Florida, during the Cuban boatlift in 1980."
Luke: "Were your phones tapped?"
Suzanne: "I know it was on the second one. I had a relative whose job it was to tap phones, checked my phone and confirmed that it was tapped.
"I don't know if it was worth it. I remember thinking that thought after Fidel said goodbye at 6AM after driving us into the ground with hours of monologue. So I've met Fidel Castro. He's tall and he talks a lot and he's brilliant."
Luke: "Are those two Cuban documentaries the most controversial thing you've done?"
Suzanne: "I think the one we're doing now about dying in Afghanistan. We're waiting on ITVS (International Television Service, a branch of public television). It's one place you can go for funding for an independent view of a subject that might be controversial and of interest to an underserved audience. It's the antithesis of Ken Burns [producer who made a PBS series on the Civil War] doing baseball. Those are the type of mainline series that big corporations will underwrite without blinking an eye. I can't imagine a major corporation underwriting a serious look at the last 25 years of painful and tortured history of Afghanistan. We have footage that never got made into a film that was shot originally of the Soviet war. We went back in November. We happened to be in Jallalabad when they were bombing Bora Bora and journalists were being killed on the roads.
"Every once in a while, a documentary comes along that is an epic. This has got that potential. We have the Soviet story, then the Taliban thing and whatever you want to call the post 9/11 thing. And we have people who've lived through all of the devastation. The people are so strong. They grow like weeds through rocks."
Luke: "What's so controversial?"
Suzanne: "I think we're learning that the Soviets were not as... The Afghans think that they were really evil."
Luke: "Didn't the Soviets kill or maim a million Afghanis?"
Suzanne: "They did. Some of them did. We're understanding now that there was this Islamic [resistance to the Soviet Union] who had an agenda that has now become clear to us. The Soviet Union got it way back then because they were having their own problems. The Soviets had a point. And the kind of actions that the United States is taking right now are extraordinarily self serving. And the people aren't getting any help. Everything is getting blocked at the borders. The story of what they're going through is not being told whereas we are allowed to see American heroes marching in to save the day. We're being managed to the hilt with our news, up to and including bin Laden's relationship with the United States. We have some interviews with a Taliban guy who was with bin Laden and says that bin Laden was conferring with Americans at a certain point. I'm not clear when this was and what it was about.
"I don't have a political agenda except please stop the wars. The documentary is non-political except what is really going on here. I get really annoyed when people manipulate information."
Luke: "So you feel the American news media is being spun about Afghanistan?"
Suzanne: "I think it is obvious. This isn't even news anymore. If you got out of the United States for one second, or talked to anybody from Europe, you'd know that that's what the whole world thinks. Of course we're being spun. We got good practice at it during the Gulf War [against Iraq]. It's a well-oiled machine and hard to crack.
"There is a poetry to my documentary. I didn't want to go to Frontline with it. I don't want it hardline investigative. It's meant to be about what these people have been through. What is it like to be the chess board for the Cold War. What does that do to generations of people? It's about covering a story that no one wants to hear about.
"I moved to Los Angeles in 1989."
Suzanne has one son and four step children.
Luke: "How did you come to make your documentary on Jackie Kennedy?"
Suzanne: "I was editing a documentary on the life of John Kennedy for the Kennedy Memorial Library. I had the luxury and pain of watching every frame of footage from his entire life. And I became intrigued with her. I met her one painful day [in 1977] when she came in to screen the rough cut. She still hadn't recovered from the pain of the assasination. She was still dressed somberly.
"In the 1990s, I wrote out a five page proposal and we pitched WNET, public television in New York, about a documentary on Jackie. We figured that the only place we could make a sober documentary on Jackie and get cooperation from her estate would be PBS. If we went to A&E or some other cable place, they would want to know about her clothes and affairs. And then her estate would say no to cooperating with us because they wouldn't want Jackie sensationalized.
"I made the documentary to correct misperceptions that the woman wasn't really smart and effective. She wasn't just a pretty face. She helped form the cultural identity of the Kennedy administration. After Onassis [Greek shipping tycoon and Jackie's second husband] died, she became a book editor in New York. She would just tap people, like a millionaire, and get them to write a book."
Luke: "As a journalist, I'm always suspicious of documentaries because they are limited to what the camera can capture."
Suzanne: "I agree. That's why I wanted to do drama because then I could recreate anything I needed.
"Worse than that, when you're making documentaries, you're stalking horrible scenarios. It becomes predatory."
Luke: "Have you ever made a movie that's changed you?"
Suzanne: "Yes. Repeatedly. That's always a sign that you've done it right. Every film is the filmmaker's journey."
Luke: "That may be a benefit of documentaries because most producers I ask this question can't say yes. You work on projects you believe in."
Suzanne: "Most people would rather see a film on staying beautiful than a film on Afghanistan. So commercially I should be doing something else."
Terry Gilliam, a member of the Monty Python comedy troup, writes in his book The Life of Gilliam, about money troubles on The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988):
"There were secretaries being sent to Munich for attache cases of money to keep things going. There were two sets of books being run on the production: the white books were for the taxmen and then there were the real accounts, the black ones. Apparently, this happens all the time in Italy. And, with a couple of weeks to go before shooting, the first assistant director, who has been holding the production together for months, quits. So the nightmare begins: we start shooting and by the end of the first week we're two weeks behind schedule. This isn't possible but we did it. The whole thing was about to collapse. While all of this was going on, my wife Maggie was pregnant with our son Harry, and Film Finances were threatening to seize all my assets. So Maggie is trying to get the house out of my name, they're talking about bringing in another director to replace me, and we're still trying to work.
"Eventually, they sent out David Korda, one of the Korda boys, who is actually quite nice, but he's shy and when you first meet him he' s very cold. This was the last thing I needed - a cold, judgmental man coming into the midst of this nightmare. But while we were getting ready for a night shoot, I bumped into him in the production office. I started raging about how dare he threaten my wife and family, and they had to pull me away before I attacked him. So I'm downstairs where the cars are parked and I catch sight of him up on the first floor. Instead of throwing a rock, I started hitting the car nearest to me, until I put my fist right through the windscreen, smashing it to smithereens. It felt very satisfying until I looked at the car and realised it was my own."
I sat down with producer David Korda at a restaurant near 9100 Sunset Blvd May 15, 2002. David ordered a Turkish coffee and I had a cup of herb tea.
David: "I had left Film Finances Corporation in 1985 to join RKO. But I still had a financial interest in the company. And Baron Munchausen, for a variety of reasons, became an enormous problem. Terry is an absolutely devoted to his work and he wanted to fulfill his vision. And the vision that had been sold to the completion bond company and to the studio had not properly translated into a realistic budget.
"I spent ten months with Terry finishing the film. I thought we had a good working relationship. We shared an office. I know that in the book it comes across as hostility, but I never felt hostility that. I know he was angry at the time because he was under tremendous pressure. He was caught in an impossible situation that was partly of his own making.
"Terry didn't care about any of the frills of the business. He didn't want limousines or private planes or private offices. He was cost conscious about the things that didn't matter. He was inflexible about getting the right shot. I thought we had a civil relationship.
"When a film starts like that with a major auteur director, there's little you can do to change the course of it.
"This is one of the continual dilemmas of the business. People want to get a film made. They know it is going to be too expensive. It's going to take us 16 weeks to shoot this movie but the studio will never approve that. So let's do a schedule for 12 weeks and we'll somehow make it work.
"There were three Korda brothers - Zoltan, my father the director, Alexander the larger-than-life British filmmaker, and Vincent the production designer. [All three Jews married non-Jewish women, making their children not Jewish according to Jewish Law.] Michael Korda [Simon & Schuster book editor] was the son of Vincent. Michael lived with us in Los Angeles during World War II. We both went to the same school in Switzerland and Oxford, though I'm younger than Michael by five years.
"I was at Oxford in the early 1960s. I studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Then I ran a small theater just outside of London. It was wonderful but it didn't make any money. A director who worked at my theater said that his friend Peter Brook is making a film of Lord of the Flies. None of us were paid to work on it. I was second-assistant director. It was shot on the now famous island of Vieques. They were still bombing it then.
"After the Lord of the Flies, I returned to England and started working my way up in the movie business the traditional English way. You do years of apprenticeship. Unless you've brought cups of tea to the directors for years as third assistant director, you don't get promoted to second director. In a way it is good because if you look at a certain selection of British technicians, they are the best in the world because they've served a long apprenticeship.
"England was home at that time [1960s] to lots of American expatriate producers. You could live and work in England and not pay American tax. I worked for producer Charlie Schneer who made many special effects movies. I worked for Peter O'Toole's company. We made such films as Murphy's War, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Man Friday.
"My son Nikolas Korda has just finished three years as a production manager in New Zealand on Lord of the Rings. He's now producing his first film, Nine Lives. I did my best to dissuade him from coming into the business. My daughter Lerryn is an art director in commercials and music videos. I didn't want her to do that.
"So many films are made on location. It is extremely disruptive to family life. I was first married in 1964, when I was 24. We had the two kids. The marriage lasted about ten years. Then I married again in 1980. That lasted about ten years. I don't blame the film business entirely for the dissolution of my marriages but it is a hard business on relationships. You are away so much and the work is intense.
"Around 1980, I had the opportunity to join Film Finances Ltd, a completion bond company in London. So instead of spending six months on location, I'd spend two weeks. I'd go on 50 film sets a year.
"Film Finances invented the whole idea of completion guarantees in the late 1950s, whereby a producer could put up 6% of the budget and the completion bond company would guarantee that the picture got finished. At that time, independent producers who wanted to borrow money from the bank couldn't do so because the bank had no security on the film being finished and how much it would cost.
"Film Finances was very conservative. For a long time, they didn't want to bond films that were made ten miles outside of central London. Then the business changed. When we were asked to provide a guarantee on a Coppola film, well, he had a certain reputation as an extraordinary filmmaker.
"I met Director Francis Ford Coppola on the set of The Outsiders. I met him briefly again on The Cotton Club. Film Finances was deeply involved in The Cotton Club. They had a representative at Astoria Studios in New York where the film was made. It's a long complicated story. The makers of the film were desperate to have Film Finances give the guarantee on the film. One of the guarantors absolute requirements is to see a copy of the final script. And the script for Cotton Club was being continually rewritten.
"We had this great creative force, Coppola, with a script that had not been approved, and a lot of oversized personalities, and it just got out of control.
"In 1985, I became head of production at RKO Pictures where we produced such films as Plenty and Hamburger Hill. We'd try to finance films through pre-sales and selling rights to video. We'd try to find a theatrical distributor in the United States. That was typical of the 1980s business model. It's no longer doable.
"Being an independent producer now is a hopeless job. I suppose if you were an ex-agent with multiple contacts with important clients, or an ex-studio head with contacts. Or if you happen to be wealthy..."
In 1990, David moved to Los Angeles. He produced Wolfgang Petersen's first American movie, 1991's Shattered.