Email Luke Essays Profiles Archives Search LF.net Luke Ford Dennis Prager Aug 13

Great PR For The Jews

Chaim Amalek said in a snarky sort of way. Check out the current NY English Language issue of the Forward at www.Forward.com. It includes a special supplement, with 18, count 'em EIGHTEEN broadsheet pages all dedicated to the topic of JEWISH GENETIC DISEASES.

It's a big special supplement [not on the web]. You may need to go to your Jewish bookstore or newsstand and buy it.

I don't know about you, but after perusing EIGHTEEN PAGES of stories about the hideous diseases that lie in the blood of "ethnic" jews, any stories that they may put in the main section about the evils of intermarriage and the need for jews to CONTINUE to inbreed just don't carry as much heft as they otherwise might have.

Also of interest is the very clear and rational tendency of orthodox jews to practice eugenics as best they can within their group.

New Books On Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty

Johnathan Last writes in the Wall Street Journal: Patrick McGilligan's "Clint" (St. Martin's, 612 pages, $35) "accuses the actor of nearly every sin available. He reports, based on the thinnest evidence, that Mr. Eastwood beat his first wife. He suggests that Mr. Eastwood may have dabbled in homosexual activities to further his career. He intimates that Mr. Eastwood's vanity caused the death of a crew member during the filming of "The Eiger Sanction.""

According to Ellis Amburn's "The Sexiest Man Alive" (HarperCollins, 411 pages, $25.95): "The younger brother of Shirley MacLaine, Mr. Beatty rolled into Hollywood in the late 1950s and promptly began seeing Joan Collins. Or as Mr. Amburn puts it: "With more testosterone than even the concupiscent Collins could imagine, Warren gave new meaning to the word compatible, making nonstop love to her with a stamina she'd never before experienced."

"His compatibility with Ms. Collins put him in the gossip pages, and his friendship with a group of gay playwrights, including William Inge, put him in the movie business (Inge's gay friends would refer to Inge as "Warren's fairy godfather"). For his debut in 1961, Mr. Beatty was given the lead in the film version of Inge's "Splendor in the Grass," where he won enough acclaim to begin demanding $150,000 a picture. He also traded up girlfriends, from the moderately famous Ms. Collins to his co-star, the very famous Natalie Wood."

Over the years, Beatty would be linked sexually with Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Vanessa Redgrave, Brigitte Bardot, Candice Bergen, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Julie Christie, Madonna, Goldie Hawn, Margaux Hemingway, Elle Macpherson, Kate Jackson, Connie Chung and Mary Tyler Moore.

David Poland vs Nikki Finke

It is rare to see journalists attack each other. While notoriously thin-skinned, prone to jealousy, and emotionally unstable, journalists normally give other journalists a free pass. Not anymore with the internet.

David Poland has written a daily internet column on the industry for about five years. He goes to great effort to maintain journalistic standards and is about the only journalist around who consistently critiques the work of his peers. Poland has frequently attacked Finke over a host of matters. She's never replied publicly.

I've never met Nikki Finke. I was at a journalist drink-up a few months ago and someone raised Nikki Finke's firing from the New York Post and her subsequent lawsuit against the Post and Disney. Should we all be going to bat for Finke? Was she a good reporter hard done by? A vigorous discussion ensued.

David Poland writes on www.TheHotButton.com 8/16/02 about Nikki Finke's columns in the LA Weekly: Before I get the threatening e-mail from Ms. Finke’s cadre of always-ready lawyers, I will explain just one thing – truth is an absolute defense. It’s Nikki’s best defense as well. Because she doesn’t print outright lies. What she does do is to take the facts and spin them into near-libel.

How do the editors of the L.A. Weekly allow Ms. Finke to continue to write about and aggressively defame Michael Eisner when she is in the midst of a lawsuit against the company… particularly when the issues behind the suit speak specifically to Disney’s contention that Ms. Finke has a predisposition to overstate the facts in the Pooh situation?

One of Finke’s specialties is to embarrass people with small comments and awkward moments that would be assumed to be off-the-record by most journalists not looking to grind an axe.

Ms. Finke regales us with this: “IN THE LAST DAY OR SO, TIPSTERS HAVE phoned influential entertainment journalists detailing a laundry list of Eisner errors…”

Okay, Journalism 101 time. What question do you ask when someone calls you and offers a laundry list of someone else’s errors? “Why?” You ask, “Why?” Did it occur to Finke that “influential entertainment journalists” are actually “writers who are willing to spread the bad word without questioning the motivations behind the effort?” I guess not. She just prints the list.

Lunch With David Poland

While waiting to have lunch at The Newsroom on Robertson Blvd with Hollywood journalist David Poland on 8/15/02, I spotted Hollywood A-list producer Mark Johnson eating with two striking women. The redhead, I learn later from David, is actress Rose McGowan.

We see other Hollywood types.

After a lengthy lunch, David and I walked around Beverly Hills, before stopping for herbal lemon tea drinks at Starbucks. Walking to our cars, David got a parking ticket, we saw novelist Raymond Bradbury eating dinner at The Ivy.

Luke: "Tell me about you and Harry Knowles."

David: "I first met Harry when the web first started. I was on AOL. There was no world wide web access on AOL for a long time. Then all of a sudden everything opened up.

"The first time I wrote about him was for Entertainment Weekly."

David's article appeared in the 9/26/97 edition: "Their work is secret, risky, and without reward. Their mission: to sneak into the test screenings studios use to fine-tune unreleased movies. These amateur spies are film buffs and industry insiders--from studio execs to stagehands--who post their candid reviews on Ain't It Cool News (www.aint-it-cool-news.com) [AICN], the Austin, Tex.-based gadfly website run by one Harry Knowles, a scoop-hunting gossip and, according to Hollywood publicity types, one-man film-wrecking crew.

"Knowles has been cited for negative buzz on Batman & Robin and Speed 2 and for glowing reviews of Titanic. The studios would love to cool Harry. So far, they've had no luck. When Sony hit him with a cease and desist order for publishing Starship Troopers pictures prematurely, he ran the lawyer's letter. Fox tried to fool him with four good "reviews" of Alien Resurrection--a movie his spies happened to love. He ran one--plus a story on the episode. As for duds, he sees his whistle-blowing as a public service. "Studios like to blame people for negative things," he says. "And when the film does well, they like to say, 'Look what we did!'""

David: "It was before Chris Pula, a marketing executive at Warner Brothers when Batman & Robin happened. It was him saying publicly to the New York Times that Harry had hurt Batman & Robin with early test screening reviews. That legitimized the idea that AICN and any website could have an affect on opening weekend [grosses]. I thought that was absurd. Batman & Robin opened at around $44 million. Harry's audience is preaching to the converted [they're film geeks]. What anybody on his site said about Batman & Robin was irrelevant. Almost everyone who read his site was going to see Batman & Robin opening weekend. They're into those movies.

"My issues with Harry had more to do with how the studios reacted to him than how I personally reacted to him.

"Morally, I've always felt that early test screening reviews and script reviews hurt filmmakers. Harry's position is that his test screening reviews help filmmakers and hurt the National Research Group [NRG, which conducts most test screening previews]. I hate the NRG too."

Luke: "Why?"

David: "The process of test screening has become one in which studios pay a lot of money for somebody else to blame if the movie doesn't work. NRG is sloppy. I worked for them when I first came to Los Angeles. They always invite to the focus groups people who liked the movie, not people who didn't like the movie. They've been known to twist numbers. There's always the sense that the reason the NRG is there is to back up executives who want someone to blame when the film goes wrong.

"The worst thing that happens is when NRG hands out cards at a test screening for people to write what they don't like about a movie. Executives who are more prone to suggestions than they should be then often try to force a filmmaker to do things he doesn't want to do. The flip side is that filmmakers are often too indulgent with themselves and want things in that should be cut. I don't think you should decide how to cut your film based on what a room of people you've recruited in malls have put on cards.

"Test screenings can help filmmakers feel the wave of the movie as it goes along. A comic director knows when the jokes are working. Even a dramatic director can tell when a room gets antsy and people start shifting around in their seats. Francis Coppola complained when he didn't have a chance to test screen Godfather 3, because he didn't have a chance to sit with an audience and feel the movie. Then cut it some more and feel the movie. It would've taken another six months to do that but Paramount wanted to rush to a Christmas release.

"AICN is read by a lot of journalists who are looking for stories, for hooks, and for direction on how they should feel about some movie that is six months away."

Luke: "When did AICN decline?"

David: "Gladiator was the turning point. When Dreamworks decided to give AICN a screening a month before the movie opened, before the long-lead press had even seen the picture... Dreamworks is generally an honest group of people. They were open. They said, 'We wanted 30 positive reviews on the internet. We gave it to AICN knowing we'd get 30 positive reviews and guess what we got? Thirty positive reviews.

"I protested because no studio has ever done that for any other outlet. And it was the last time it happened."

Luke: "It seems there are no longer as many advanced screenings?"

David: "The studios have changed their attitude to the internet. The studios don't respect the power of the internet as much. Harry Knowles has become part of the system. His whole hook was that he was this against the system guy.

"A few months after that Gladiator screening, a studio executive said, 'Harry couldn't be more in our pockets if we made him small and put him in our pockets.' The studios now feel that they control AICN. There are moments when they don't. Those are moments he revels in. He had a huge moment when he went against Roller Ball, even though the director flew him in to see it, trying to get some influence at AICN by having Harry see it. That's the first and only time when Harry's been given an advanced screening and he didn't like the movie. The idea that he's straight as a critic and a person is gone. Filmmakers go out of their way to seduce him. He's friends with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. New Line did a year deal with him to run advertising all over his space.

"There's also a lack of scoops now on AICN. This week AICN and Corono's Coming Attractions were fighting about who knew the truth about the casting of Batman vs Superman. Then it turned out there was no Batman vs Superman movie. AICN didn't get that. They supposedly had these spies in Lorenzo's [di Bonaventura, Warner Brothers studio chief] office. The story still has not been told on what really happened on that picture.

"Having a Superman and Batman franchise is critical to Warner Brothers. They've gone years without having either one while everyone else is doing nothing but super-heroes. Warners blew up their year one project with director Darren Aranofsky. Batman vs Superman is the biggest story of the month so far and nobody's had the story about what really happened."

Luke: "Are studios now more careful about doing test screenings?"

David: "They rarely do them anymore. Harry would argue that he's had the effect he wanted - less business for NRG. There was a comedy earlier this year where the director said if he had had more time and more test screenings, he would've made a better movie. They just couldn't do it because it is too risky. You might get some negative buzz and all of a sudden the New York Times might publish a test screening review.

"I've been told in the past two weeks by two publicists about two different movies where the first positive reviews came out on AICN and they were both put there by the studio. I'm sure some of them don't get by Harry but I'm sure that some of them do. Whenever Harry and I have had this conversation, he says he has layers of defense, he always gets confirmation, etc... but in the meantime he relies on people who are not supposed to be giving him information, giving him information.

"People who work for magazines and newspaper and can't write what they want to write, will send Harry stuff. People have figured out how to use it, how to abuse it and how to limit it. Harry's not interested in a wide variety of stuff. In the world he likes - scifi, comics, etc, they've battened down the hatches or sucked him in.

"You have sites like www.moviepoopshoot.com who've hired some of the people who used to write to Harry for free.

"I had a disagreement one of Harry's people, the lovely Moriarty [Drew McWeeny]. He's a good guy but so caught up in things he loses perspective. He's the smartest guy who's a regular on that site. He does not take criticism well. Neither does Harry. Nor does Robogeek, the other regular. If you write something negative about them, one of the three will go off.

"I've stopped writing about them mostly because there's no reason to write about them. I try to write about things that are relevant and AICN is less relevant. There's just not much there.

"Journalists write about AICN because it's safe. Harry's not going to take anybody's job. Harry's still the fat redheaded kid in Texas. He doesn't aspire to work for the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or Premiere magazine. He's an iconic caricature of a human being. On his site, he has an animation of himself.

"I wrote the first Spiderman review. AICN linked to my review. The New York Times then wrote about the first Spiderman review appearedon AICN, but they did not mention me. They know who I am. Credit is due where credit is due. I see it all the time when the major media, like the LA and NY Times, and the WSJ, riff off other writers, like Jeffrey Wells, without giving credit.

"With AICN, you always give Harry credit. It's like a test screening. You don't have to take responsibility for it. If it's on AICN, it's no longer you opinion, it is on some site. What drives me nuts about entertainment writers is they'll disguise their opinion in the selected quotes they'll use. They will hide behind other people's opinions."

Luke: "How much influence does Matt Drudge have on the industry?"

David: "Matt Drudge is read but he doesn't write much about the film and television industry. He links to the box office results.

"When I wrote EW stories about Matt, he wouldn't talk to us.

"I found Drudge more offensive than Harry. Like Harry Knowles, he hasn't broken anything in a long time. It's mostly links to other people's stuff.

"I had someone at a studio write to me today to say that the only people he read every day on the internet were me and Matt Drudge.

"I'm much more interested in Jim Romenesko [Medianews.org]. Jim's always said he doesn't like entertainment. His site is mainly about "more important things" like stock prices. I go to him five times a day because you never know what he's going to put up.

"I don't consider me a mass read. I'm an industry read. Reading my column is a commitment. Two thousand words is a lot to read on the web. My site is not a free-for-all for 12-year olds. It's a dialogue about issues. On a bad day, I'll get 50 emails from my column. On a good day, 400.

"I got some weird mail the week Drudge linked to me and Rush Limbaugh spoke about my column. Amazingly, I don't get hate mail. Jeff Wells gets hate mail. He'll send me his hate mail. It's funny.

"When Jeff Wells first wrote me, he wrote me nasty emails under an assumed name. He and Rod Lurie found me the same day. Rod wrote me a nice note. And Jeff would send me these vicious emails. Eventually I figured out it was Jeff. He accidentally wrote me under his real email address. For two years after that, whenever I got vicious mail, I'd suspect it was Jeff."

In the 9/5/97 Entertainment Weekly, David Poland write about Matt Drudge under the headline: "FACT-FREE SPEECH NET NEWSIE MATT DRUDGE PILED HIS DIRTY DISH TOO HIGH THIS TIME. NOW HE MAY BE TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS."

Poland writes: "On Aug. 11, he posted a flash claiming that White House aide Sidney Blumenthal had a history of spousal abuse. One problem, says Blumenthal: Drudge was wrong. On Aug. 12, he issued a retraction. By the weekend, Blumenthal had put out a flash of his own--a multimillion-dollar libel suit.

"Suddenly, Drudge turned into Garbo, no-commenting the world (including EW). However, Blumenthal's attorney, William McDaniel, was talking: "These people don't seem to think they have to respond to anything," he raged. "They hear something, they go home, they put it on their computer, they press a button, and it goes around the world."

"Will this signal the end of the Net press' Wild West era? No, says Drudge online counterpart Harry Knowles, whose Ain't It Cool News site dishes film-industry dirty laundry. "They have to realize it's not going to go away," he says. "If something like my site goes away, there are a half-dozen others waiting in the wings." Maybe so, but lawyers are plentiful too."

Luke: "Why didn't you read Tom King's biography of David Geffen?"

David: "I avoided Tom King's book. I had no interest in finding out David Geffen was gay. I know David Geffen's gay. I know about David Geffen from before he was David Geffen. I have family members and friends who've known him for 30 years. I don't care about his sexuality. I don't care about who he's f---ed. I don't care about who he's f---ed in business. If I thought it was a book I might gain some insight into the business from, I would read it."

Luke: "What do you think about Tom King's column in the Wall Street Journal?"

David: "I think it's an embarrassment to the Wall Street Journal. I'm a huge fan of the WSJ's coverage of the industry. I think John Lipman and Bruce Orwell are the best [reporters on Hollywood]. Tom King is in the Weekend Journal, which is meant to be light and easy. Tom King's touted as an expert. He writes as though he's an expert. He gets it wrong most of the time. He has factual errors in his pieces. He gets by because it is the Weekend Journal and nobody takes entertainment that seriously. I take entertainment seriously. It bothers me that one of the newspapers I respect for their movie coverage, who are usually ahead of the curve, and when they are behind the curve it is because they are being more thorough than anybody else, this is what they're representing themselves with...

"He's like Nikki Finke, only more innocous than Nikki. He's not out to get anybody like Nikki. He often reads like he got a phone call from somebody that week who said, 'Hey man, this is what's happening.' Then he fills out that story without really knowing the other parts of it. I don't expect that from the WSJ. If he were writing for Movieline [magazine], then, who cares? It's not representing itself as serious journalism. But this is the Wall Street F---ing Journal.

"It bothers me when the New York Times write puff. There's so little of a standard left in entertainment journalism that it enrages me when the few places left do that stuff. It bothered me when Bernie Weinraub ran the American Beauty story a month before anyone else had seen the picture, in August of 1999, saying everybody in Hollywood was abuzz, which was not true, and quoting an anonymous review on Imdb.com. He had no idea who wrote it. It was likely from the studio.

"I understand why studios do that. They're doing it in self defense. He ran it though as if it were news. When did the New York Times start running quotes from people they don't know? It made me sick to my stomach.

"It turned out he was right about the movie but it's not an excuse. Your responsibility comes before you print, not after."

Luke: "How come you were at the Miami Film Festival for only one year?"

David: "We'd agreed to three years. I did not force them to do a full contract because I trusted them. Ha ha. They committed to me to do a certain budget but it was cut by 25% within a few months. I was not allowed to hire staff until late December [2001, the festival started the following March]. My employers essentially were rich older women who enjoyed the idea of a film festival but didn't understand what it was.

"This reporter at the Miami Herald, Rene Rodriguez, who was a friend who lives in New York and writes for the Herald, was positive until the day of the festival. He'd called up Florida International University, which owns the festival, to tell them they should hire me, when I was in the running for the job... Rene came to Miami and lost his mind, writing three of the nastiest articles imaginable.

"This woman who was in charge of our piggy bank [Pauline Winick, a VP of marketing for the university, mother of Los Angeles film producer Gary Winick] would not return our phone calls or show up in the office. Rene was Mr. Outside and she was Mrs. Inside. Between them, I didn't have a chance.

"There was something very Cuban and big-dick measuring with the thing that happened with Rene. Rene's gay but it doesn't matter. It was a Cuban macho thing. The guy I was replacing was a 55-year old Cuban guy who'd been there for years.

"From the second day Rene was at the festival, people were warning me that he was coming after me. I had an off-the-record conversation with him in the middle of the festival. It was light and jovial. He understood the problems we were having and why. But it didn't matter. He ran the most vicious piece I could imagine. It could not have been worse.

"When I wrote in to the Herald to complain, they eliminated all my complaints about the Herald, and just published my positive stuff. They would not the criticism.

"Every other media outlet aside from the Herald was positive. Indywire called it the Sundance of the East.

"They hired someone from Sundance [Nicole Guillemet] to take the festival back to where it was. It will be a nice sleepy 25-film festival, with lots of French and Spanish films...

"I'm sure Gary Winick is a nice guy but his mother, Pauline, lost her mind. She hired me. Why, after a month I was hired, she decided to kill me, I don't know. I think it was because I brought someone else in to replace her. She then resented that she wouldn't have the authority she once had. She had some medical problems. She freaked out. And she wasn't exactly a stable person to begin with. I thought I could handle it and I was wrong. It just got out of control."

Luke: "What's your position on outing someone sexuality?"

David: "Rose McGowan did a live chat with me on Yahoo at the Sundance Film Festival. I kept her cup, which had a lipstick stain on it. She's one of the smartest, sexiest women in this business. She used to date Marilyn Manson.

"My position on outing in this business is, who gives a sh--? I don't need to know who's f---ing who. It's become an obsession in this business. It's part of how they sell some actors based on their sex lives. I don't care about it. It's always titillating. There's always that table chat about. Sometimes it gets interesting.

"There's an emerging action star who may be gay. If he's ever outed, it's a serious career issue. The tabloids and other magazines know what is going on but they don't run it because it's bad for business.

"Most of what passes for journalism in this business is placed by publicists. There are little moments every once in a while, there will be a cover story on The Star or The Globe about a major star being gay. Then it suddenly will disappear next week and never spoken of again because they get smacked hard. They suddenly have 20 pages a week that they can't fill because of this agency and that agency won't give them information. It's not good business to out.

"Everybody knew Rosie O'Donnell was gay the entire time. Nobody wrote anything about it until she was ready to come out. When a star fades, sometimes they'll be gone after. But when somebody is hot, never. You can sell more covers with so-and-so is [falsely] sleeping with whomever than so-and-so is gay. We haven't had a test case with a serious outing. Everybody [in the industry] knows that celebrity X and celebrity Y are gay. Some are more iffy."

Luke: "I thought the tabloids were hostile to the industry?"

David: "That's an illusion. Ten percent of tabloid journalism is opposition journalism. Ninety percent is friendly. It's the same with Harry Knowles. It's not in the tabloids interest to ruin the careers of anybody they make money from by putting them on the cover. It is not in Vanity Fair's interest to out anybody who will sell a lot of magazines for them. When a career fades, they will sometimes go after somebody because they can. That's what you're seeing with Mike Ovitz and Michael Eisner. Two years ago, they wouldn't have dared. Everybody's getting in on the feeding frenzy over Eisner, which I find disgusting. Even if it is deserved.

"What bothers me about Eisner's case is that there's nothing that's a problem now that wasn't a problem five years ago. It's the same exact problem except the stock market sucks. I've been writing for years about Eisner not having a second in command.

"The same reason why Bob Pittman wasn't pillored on his way out of AOL. The stories were genial. A year from now, when somebody writes the real story about what happened to AOL/Time Warner, he will get his ass handed to him because he was part of the sales group that sold a lie. AOL was a lie.

"Today I figured out that Yahoo may survive because they did not make a merger deal. Their stock is not worth anything anymore but because they did not bring another company down, they've survived to rebuild whereas AOL is tainted and busted up and it's ugly over there because they brought another company down. Time Warner hate AOL people because they cost Time Warner people so much money."

Luke: "How would you do a profile of a star you believed to be gay? Yet his publicists are always trotting him out with some female actress as his girlfriend?"

David: "When Kevin Spacey came out as aggressively heterosexual, it offended me. He's had an established [homosexual] life in this town before he became a star. As a movie star, it's in his interest to appear to be straight. If he just wants to be a character actor, he can be as gay as he wants. Nobody cares. If you want to be the male lead, you need to be straight, at least in perception. Now he's run his course as a male lead so maybe he will become gay and a character actor again.

"When he said to Playboy magazine that he was straight, that's like saying there's something wrong with being gay. When Rosie O'Donnell kept insisting she was straight, and she had that whole Tom Cruise thing on her show, I found it offensive. To me, it was important that she come out. I wish she had done it two years earlier because it would've had a real effect. Now she's just come out and become the evil bitch at the same time. She's dissipated the value of her coming out.

"The only time it really bothers me, when I think it is immoral, is when they're actually damaging the progress of their people. I don't think I'd feel the same way about someone pretending not to be Jewish. I know one woman who is not Jewish who pretended to be Jewish because she thought it would help her career as a manager.

"When Anne Heche went gay for a few minutes, it killed her career. The studio did not believe in her anymore as a heterosexual in the movies. They reshot sequences in Six Days, Seven Nights, so it wasn't as romantic. It had nothing to do with them hating gays. It had to do with their perception of what the perception would be.

"Anne Heche wasn't a big enough a star to test the water for it to matter. Like Sharon Stone showing her vagina. Her labia weren't important in the business to make a difference. Demi Moore, on the other hand, had her career dissolve because of her being so overt with her sexuality (Striptease, Blame it on Rio, Disclosure). She became about her sexuality. It's not attractive for a woman to be a sexual predator. That was it.

"The biggest stars don't show their breasts. Julia Roberts has never shown her breasts because it would be bad for her career. Sandra Bullock will never show her chest. The moment you disrobe, it changes everything.

"Once you've lost the illusion of that person being a sexual being, you've broken the mystery. It's like falling out of love. Movie stars have a romance with the public. It's infatuation and love and mystery. The reason you don't see Tom Cruise when he's not in a movie is that they know you will get sick of him if you see him too much. You get overexposed easily."

David Poland's The Hot Button

David Poland writes on www.TheHotButton.com: "I recently ran into a guy named Luke Ford, who I had lost over time. When I caught up with his website at lukeford.net, he was shredding some shreddable industryite or another. But after more digging, I found that Luke has done some pretty unusual journalistic work… he is building a database of in-depth interviews with Hollywood producers, the least interviewed group of high-profile industry players. The list he’s developed is pretty jaw-dropping. So take a look."

Dennis Prager on Joe Eszterhas

On his nationally syndicated radio show 8/15/02, Dennis Prager said he laughed throughout the 2001 Jerry Zucker movie Rat Race. His wife Fran laughed so hard she choked on her popcorn.

Dennis spoke for the first time about Joe Eszterhas' recent column in the NY Times. Joe's written 14 films, many of them filled with sex, infidelity, violence, slashing, prostitutes, etc... He now goes to church and he regrets his life work. So he writes an article for the New York Times regretting his work. And which part of his work does he regret? That he had characters who smoked. It is so absurd.

You can't argue that Basic Instinct and his many other films have been a service to humanity. The way he eroticized murder.

Joe Eszterhas's piece is so funny that only someone in Hollywood could write it. Because Eszterhas has throat cancer, ergo, smoking is wrong. The narcissism is amazing.

Joe Eszterhas writes 8/9/02: I've written 14 movies. My characters smoke in many of them, and they look cool and glamorous doing it. Smoking was an integral part of many of my screenplays because I was a militant smoker. It was part of a bad-boy image I'd cultivated for a long time — smoking, drinking, partying, rock 'n' roll.

Smoking, I once believed, was every person's right. Efforts to stop it were politically correct, a Big Brother assault on personal freedoms. Secondhand smoke was a nonexistent problem invented by professional do-gooders. I put all these views into my scripts.

DP: Has Eszterhas ever portrayed marital sex? And what about alcohol? How many tens of thousands of innocent people die each year because of drunk drivers and criminals committing crimes while under the influence of alcohol?

Kathleen Parker writes on Jewish World Review: Between the woman in "Basic Instinct" ice-picking her lover to death during sexual intercourse and the pantyless woman crossing her legs while smoking a cigarette, which is more offensive? Which more likely to be imitated? And by whom, young girls?

First, one might hope that young women impressionable enough to want to imitate fictional movie characters aren't watching "Basic Instinct." If they are, the cigarette is the least of our worries. I'm far more concerned about the brutality of the imagery on our collective psyche and spirit than I am that someone might think Sharon Stone looks cool smoking a cigarette.

Tammi Bruce writes on FrontPageMagazine.com: Of what exactly has he finally realized his culpability? His portrayal of Sharon Stone as a psychotic lesbian ice-picktress? Or Stone as a stalked victim-to-be in “Sliver”? Or Linda Fiorentino as psycho-whore-maybe killer in “Jade”? Nope — he’s upset he glamorized smoking. That’s right. Why? Eszterhas has been diagnosed with throat cancer, has lost most of his larynx, and has difficulty speaking after years of what he termed being a “militant” smoker.

While anyone getting cancer is a tragedy, and he deserves the best of luck in his recovery, Eszterhas’ personal hypocrisy is truly stunning and worthy of criticism. Yes, it’s good he finally recognizes that glamorizing smoking can influence people, but what about glamorizing violence? Perhaps I’ve been living on a planet different from Eszterhas’ but the fact that smoking causes cancer has been known for decades. As has film’s impact in general on an audience’s social attitudes and mores. This is where the real danger of his movies comes to light. Choosing to smoke is ultimately a direct personal decision. The impact on attitudes, however, especially about women, is much more sinister and insidious problem.

What are the common themes in his films from the 1990’s? Like “Basic Instinct,” “Jade,” “Showgirls,” and “Sliver,” alternately sexualized violence against women (and men!), glamorized murder, portrayed women as whores who were not to be trusted and declared in image and word that violence against women is erotic, understandable and inevitable. After all, if you don’t kill them, they’ll kill you first! This sick contribution to our popular culture demeans both women and men, and has made Eszterhas, and other associated with his films, very rich and famous.

Producer Brian M. Reilly

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

Luke: "Tell me about your life."

Brian: "I started small and I got a lot bigger.

"I grew up in Manhasset, Long Island, a suburb of Manhattan. Most everybody there gets on the train every morning and goes to work in banking or the stock market. It's a commuter town. My dad was an electrical engineer who loved Lionel Trains and tap dancing to Broadway songs. He worked for the same company his entire life, AT&T. When he retired, he got the gold watch and he played golf. I have two brothers and a sister. We went to a private Catholic school for 12 years. I hated it. It was not a nurturing place at all. It was all about discipline. It was the birthplace of my rebellion against authority.

"I went to Long Island University. I majored in Political Science and English. I graduated in 1967 and then, because of the [Vietnam] War, I made sure I got out of the country. I got a scholarship to study Political Science and Economics of developing nations in Seoul, South Korea, for a year. While in Southeast Asia my worldview got a real shakeup, which in turn sharpened my anti-war and anti-authority feelings."

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

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

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

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

Luke: "I will."

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

Luke: "After Korea?"

Brian: "I came back to the United States. I was called to a physical for the draft, and by this time I had resolved not to go to war in Vietnam. I devised a plan to 'underachieve,' and it worked! That was a big day for me. I took off for the Vermont Mountains and was a ski bum for a year. I was a ski bum for a year in Vermont.

"Then, wanting to do something meaningful, I got a job at NBC News at 30 Rockefeller Dr in New York. I was a film editing assistant. I was there for two years. I then worked freelance production in Manhattan for a few years. Then I met the Madison brothers. These two filmmakers had made a marvelous documentary about the effects of architecture on childrens' self worth. How they valued themselves in a school environment... Did they feel good about going there. I thought this was great. This is what I wanted to do. I want to make these kinds of stories. I went into business with these two talented filmmakers and seven years later, I'd produced a ton of television commercials and no documentaries.

"I made some money at real estate ventures. I wrote a few screenplays but they were bad. I was such an inveterate New Yorker that I never considered going to California. I had a summer place in Amaganset where I met the wonderful woman [Barra Grant, daughter of 1945 Miss America Bess Myerson] who became my wife. We got married in 1982 and moved to Los Angeles in 1983.

"I didn't know what I was going to do. Having television commercial credits doesn't mean much to the people in the motion picture business. In my New York career, I had sold a lot of soap. Now it was time to learn how to make a movie.

"I took a number of film and screenplay courses at UCLA and bega to read as many screenplays as I could. I met as many people in the industry as I could. A friend from New York introduced me to Bobbie Newmyer, who was leaving Columbia Pictures to produce independantly. I had some money, which is a good thing for someone who wants to be a producer. It's hard to make money right away.

"Before long I found a script called The Real World, [which became 1991's Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead] which was in turnaround at Fox. We redeveloped the script and took it to Susan Cartsonis at Fox. Roger Birnbaum, who ran Fox at the time, told us we had to get certain elements, such as actress Christina Applegate to play the lead.

"It so happens that during my time in New York, I'd run a restaurant. And I hired someone who became a good friend and successful actor [Ed O'Neill]. I went to Ed's TV show (Married With Children) and he introduced me to Christina. The next Monday, Christina said she was interested. Big day! Then Fox gave us a short list of directors. Stephen Herek was on the list. He said yes. Another big day! On a Friday, Fox said they were going to make the movie. On Monday, they changed their minds. They had another family comedy (Home Alone) and they didn't want to compete with themselves when it came time to market the two films. This was a bad day. We ended up making it for about $10 million for Cinema Plus, part of HBO Films in New York. Subsequently, the Time/Warner deal came about and our little comedy became a Warner Brothers release. And the movie turned out well. And it became a box office success. It was a terrific experience for a first film."

Luke: "Tell me about The Santa Clause, the third highest grossing film of 1994."

Brian: "Martin Spencer, an agent at CAA, sent it to me. I had never read anything like it. The premise was wildly original and very funny. I remember sitting at my desk and laughing out loud."

From Imdb.com: "When a man inadvertantly kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place."

Brian: "The screenwriters had known Tim [Allen] from the comedy club circuit. Tim was a big star as a stand-up comedian. It so happened that the writer's manager and Tim Allen's managers were in business together at the time. Tim became aware of the script as we were about to submit the screenplay to the studios. To be honest, I would've never thought of Tim to star in the movie. We were thinking of people who were established movie actors. Meanwhile, we learned that Disney's Jeffrey Katzenberg was looking for a movie for Tim to star in. I asked to see some of his Home Improvement shows on tape. I remember sitting watching those shows and thinking, 'This guy could really do this.' He had the comedy chops in spades, and he was able to play emotional scenes. It was an exciting day."

"It was a challenge getting to know him because he's a guarded person. He had had so much success and he was brilliant as well as killer funny in person. But over time, we've developed a mutual trust and a lasting friendship. He asked me to produce for him."

Luke: "How did Joe Somebody come about?"

"When Joe (Allen), a divorced, listless, Minneapolis corporate drone, gets beat up by a coworker (Warburton) over a parking space, humiliating him in front of his daughter (Panettiere) on "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day", he decides to fight back. His new quest for vengeance revitalizes him, even leading to romance with Meg Harper (Bowen), a young office counselor... (Belushi plays a "former B-movie star turned martial arts expert who becomes Joe's mentor and helps him prepare for his rematch with his coworker"." (The Hollywood Reporter, 3/7/01)

Brian: "We'd struggled over the script for The Santa Claus 2 for two years and it still wasn't ready. We wanted to shoot it in early 1991. When we postponed the sequel, that created an opening in Tim's schedule. Fox's Tom Rothman wanted to put something together for Tim. They sent over a couple of projects. Joe Somebody offered Tim the opportunity to do something that he had never done before in the movies - to play a straight part. It was Fox's pursuit that made it happen."

Luke: "How did you feel about the material?"

Brian gets a mixed up look on his face. "Conflicted. The original script needed to be a smaller movie. I was surprised by the level of money that was put into the movie. Fox had a vision of the movie that wasn't on the page. We had a reading and it wasn't that funny. It wasn't intended to be funny. The investors wanted the movie to be more of a comedy. We rushed to make the movie before the [proposed] strike. The studios wanted product in the pipeline. It was not the best environment for Tim to chart a new direction in his career."

Luke: "You worked with some powerful producers such as Arnon Milchan and Arnold Kopelson on that movie."

Brian: "That's part of the challenge. The original movie script presented to Tim was mostly a dark drama. Once the studio did the arithmetic on how much money was being spent to make this movie, they wanted to make a different movie. And to get their money back, they wanted to transform the script and make it into something it wasn't. Many writers were brought in. We all felt the need to be responsible to the studio's need to make a film that would appeal to a large, Tim Allen audience. Tim had signed on for one thing and the studio pressured him and everyone involved to make another movie. In the words of one of the studio execs, 'It was a classic bait and switch.'

"The most harmful decision that robbed a lot of people of the opportunity to see the film was the release date, which was during the 2001 Christmas glut, on the same day as The Lord of the Rings. None of us who worked on the film ever thought it was a big family comedy for Christmas release, but that's what the studio wanted it to be. The release date doomed the prospects of the film making money."

Luke: "What was the message of the film?"

Brian: "This guy Joe chose badly with his first wife. She dusted him off when she found a younger man. She was immune to the fact that her daughter was witness to this. Joe lives a loveless life. The fight with the bully, in front of his daughter, wakes him up to the need to find something that will put passion in his life. Julie Bowen, the human resources manager, challenges him to take responsibility for his life. And ultimately what he wants in life is to be with her."

In late December, 2001, I listened to Dennis Prager discuss the movie on his nationally syndicated radio show.

DP says Hollywood films reflect society more than they push society. Hollywood particularly reflects urban liberal opinion, as the people who write and make the movies are urban liberals (aka Jews).

DP says we can live without "Bring Your Daughter To Work" day.

As for the movie, Allen's about to park in the lot for employees who've served more than ten years when a new employee takes his place. Then the bully smacks Allen down.

Allen is humiliated and he resolves to fight the bully again and beat him. DP asks: What does the movie want you to think about Allen's desire to fight the bully? Do women prefer men who fight bullies? What is the right thing to do?

The movie teaches that if you are a real man, you don't hit back. You are gentle. You're a peace maker.

To DP, sometimes it is right to hit back and sometimes it is right to be a peacemaker. But to the Hollywood mindset, to be a real man is to be essentially pacifistic.

It is the burning desire of men to attract lovely women. And the beautiful woman in this movie pushes Allen in the direction of a non-physical response. But if a bully hits you and humiliates you, it is a good idea to hit the bully.

Recent articles have claimed that protector-men are now in. Women want men like the New York City firefighters or police. And men will do almost anything to get women. Women's primary power is in signalling to men what they want.

Joe Somebody says you get the beautiful woman if you don't hit back.

Luke: "What does the movie want you to think about Allen's desire to fight the bully?"

Brian: "Joe was fearful. The Jim Belushi character allows him to deal with that on a physical level. Joe comes prepared to fight. And with his working out and his training with Belushi, he would've beaten the bully. But that would've been a different way to go. Maybe it would have been a better way for the story to unfold. There was always a dilemma about what to do in the film because either way you can't win. By not fighting the bully, you are going to disappoint and anger much of the audience, particularly young guys. But there was another tack, to show that Joe had to earn the capacity to not fight the guy, and to make a statement that has an impact on the bully and on all the co-workers who cheered Joe on. It was always thought of as a high school drama with the adults behaving like teenagers and the pre-teen daughter behaving as the parent."

Luke: "If you were Joe Somebody, would you have fought the bully?"

Brian: "Probably. I think I would've fought him as soon as he hit me. I would've wanted to run him over."

Luke: "And would you have advised your son to fight back?"

Brian: "No. I'm not a fan of violence. It's a tough call. In the moment, I would want to get in the car and run the bastard over."

Luke: "I think the moral response is to fight back."

Brian: "I don't know if that is the moral response. Should human beings be hurting and killing other human beings? [Physicist] Stephen Hawking's greatest fear for the future of the planet is man's aggressive tendencies. I agree. What is the root of all the horrible things that happen on this planet? That men can't contain themselves. 'He hit me. I'm going to hit him harder.'"

Luke: "If you had a boy, and he was punched at school, would you teach him to punch back or to turn the other cheek?"

Brian: "I would certainly have him prepared to fight, certainly if it is in self defense and to avoid getting hurt. If a guy hits you and taunts you and it becomes a psychological game, then I hope a sense of self would prevail rather than the need to prove oneself. I think people show who they are in moments like that. That's where character is revealed. I could never give a hard and fast answer. There are too many grey areas. There are some people you have to hit. You shoot them if you need to."

Luke: "Were you bullied as a kid?"

Brian: "Everybody's bullied. As a teenager, I had a big guy come after me once because of a girl. He was drunk and I wasn't. It was a huge mistake on his part. I just got out of the way in plenty of time and he did the rest himself. He just kept flailing away and I would just take a little shot until he was exhausted."

Luke: "How did you get this niche of family producer?"

Brian: "It just happened. If you're lucky in life, you get to do what you want."

Luke: "Were you pleased with Don Juan DeMarco?"

Brian: "No. That's the single best script that was ill treated. There was so much complexity and wisdom in the writing. Johnny Depp was brilliant. The potential of that story was great. That's the one that's most troubling to me because it had the potential to be a great movie."

Luke: "Did you feel your career zooming up after The Santa Clause?"

Brian: "I guess so. I'm not the networker that a lot of people are in this business. I don't have that army of people that I stay in touch with. I'm project oriented. Most of my relationships are with writers, directors and talent. I don't have a swell of phone calls to come back to each day. I work hard to find good stories and turn them into good movies."

Luke: "What do you love and hate about Hollywood?"

Brian: "I love that they make movies here. I hate the traffic. I hugely hate the traffic. I've gotten to the point where I don't want to leave Santa Monica, where I live. The commute is not just troubling, it's like crossing through Chechnya. It's abominable to go to Disney [in Burbank]. I crossed over the 405 freeway yesterday and had heart palpitations.

"I'm not sure that this book will be read, if it is ever published... Or if you will actually write the book. I was on Sunset Blvd yesterday on the bridge over the 405 freeway and looking either way, there's a sea of stopped cars. When traffic is acceptable, it can take me 40 minutes to drive to Disney. On a bad day, easily two hours. One way. I always leave 75 minutes before my appointment in the Valley. It's Russian roulette out there and it is only going to get worse because this place is too popular.

"Manhattan is the best city on the planet. You don't have the density and the neighborhoods here and people on the street. I love California's natural beauty. I love the beach.

"I love everything about the movie industry except some of the people in it. It's a cliquey club. There are pockets of people who root for one another, then they'll turn and gloat at the other persons failings. It's a strange mix of dreamers/story tellers and dream makers. And there's this weird interdependence where they all need each other. I find myself more comfortable with the people with the dreams and the talent to make those dreams come to life on the screen."

Luke: "How significant do you think your work is?"

Brian: "On some level, not at all. Other people make significant films. I show up every day wanting to make really good movies. I don't think I've done anything bad. I've been delighted to see people's faces light up in the theater. The original Santa Clause gave me that opportunity that I took advantage of many times."

Luke: "Have you ever seen a movie that's changed you?"

Brian: "The first movie that made a significant impact on me was [1966's] Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton."

From Imdb.com: "New Biology instructor Nick and his wife Honey visit the campus home of burned-out History professor George and his viperish wife Martha. Exchange of late-night pleasantries turns into an ugly battle of words between George and Martha who use their guests to cut each other more and more deeply."

Brian: "They're drunk and always fighting. Movies before that were from the Mary Poppins world. I went, 'Oh boy, that's powerful. That's not just passive entertainment. I'd seen On the Waterfront on television and I knew that movies could be that. It was an amazing experience to sit in a dark room and witness these raw emotions."

Luke: "Isn't it tough on a marriage for you to go away six months on location?"

Brian: "Yes it's tough. My wife is also in this business. We make it work."

Luke: "Were you pleased with how Jungle2Jungle turned out?"

Brian: "That was an under-achiever. It was a remake of the French film 'Un Indien Dans La Cite'. For an American audience, we had to reinvent the movie. The French are at ease with unmotivated action. People just do things. That doesn't work for an American audience. At the same time, there was pressure to make the same movie. I didn't want to make the same movie and neither did the director John Pasquin.

"A pair of highly touted writers took too long to come up with a slightly altered English version of the French story. We brought in Charli Peters and he rewrote the script while we were scouting. We did the best we could."

Luke: "Are you pleased with how Santa Claus 2 is shaping up?"

Brian: "I am way more than pleased. I'm scared. It's frightening. The whole recent history has been fantastic. The shooting of it thanks to the marvelous director Michael Lembeck. It's been the best movie-making experience of my career. It was an enormous challenge to make a film that would be as good as the first one.

"I'm working with my wife (Barra Grant) on my next movie - Glory Days. She will direct. We're looking to produce in the fall with independent financing. I'm excited because we will have control of the project, written by my wife. There won't be studio involvement until we need one for distribution.

"I've just finished a film for $60 million and now I would like to do one for a pittance of that. Santa Clause 2 was a big fantasy comedy with over 170 visual effects shots and a 62-day shooting schedule. Now I want to make a character driven story with a whole ot of comedy and heart, half the number of shooting days and no visual effects. Not one."


"It may be time for the FCC to place a cop on the information superhighway."

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the (Simon) Wiesenthal Center aka the Museum of Tolerance. Home Office Computing, November, 1994, p. 18.

What Happened To Marc W.?

Khunrum writes: Luke, I have noticed that Comrade W. has without explanation or fanfare been removed from the Advisory Committee list. This reminds me of those doctored old Russian and Chinese Communist politburo photos that would be sporadically reissued with one or more revolutionary founding father's photos being airbrushed I.E. removed (for some transgression) without explanation......... has the same fate fallen on Comrade W.? Are to we to just forget he ever existed and go on about our business? Was he shot at dawn this morning and his name wordlessly removed from our ranks? What was his crime? Being a Canadian citizen? He sent me an E mail last night so I know he was well then...very strange...do you have an explanation Big Brother?

Fred writes: I heard a rumor that he had been found guilty of incorrect thought. I had hoped that this was mere rumor, but when I tried to call him on the phone, I noticed that his name and number had been removed from the phone book. The databases no longer have a record of him. Hopefully, he is merely going through reeducation, and big brother will be able to tutor him back into existence.

Did Luke Let Randall Emmett Jew Him Down?

JMT writes Luke: You wuss. "I have resolved a misunderstanding with producer Randall Emmett. He was out of town."

Did you at least get all the money, or did you let him Jew you down on your bill, too?

Luke replies: He paid me for the hours I billed him for working on his speech. The $225. He did not pay me for the extra $75 I suggested for the time and aggravation it took me to collect.

Neal Gabler, a nice enough chap

Neal Gabler is a decent writer except when his predictable kneejerk secular Jewish liberal tendencies get the better of him, which is often.

His Sneak Previews cohost Michael Medved recounts that Gabler felt obliged to give a thumbs up to the stinker film LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST simply because Christian fundamentalists opposed the film.

Gabler led a hysterical unthinking charge against British journalist William Cash's article on the Jews of Hollywood. Comparing the writing of Gabler to Cash exemplifies the widespread inferiority of Americans with the English language. Poor Neal, a nice enough though simple-minded chap, who was simply outmatched, out-thought and out-written.

William Cash writes: The row about my article, in reality, has far less to do with perceived anti-Semitism, than the glib tone of my piece which badly ruffled sensitive egos in a town where journalistic criticism on a personal level is as taboo as having badly capped teeth. In Hollywood, where insecurity is endemic, with the livelihood of entertainment journalists depending on access to the executive power suites, most write about suzerains such as David Geffen, Mike Ovitz or Jeffrey Katzenberg with a caution and timidity once reserved for birthday odes to Nero.

Moguls have become used to viewing themselves as above criticism and the media as their servants. They are used to employing bullying tactics to get the press to oblige with their personal presentation. One dirty secret of Hollywood is the remarkable transfer rate of Hollywood-based journalists who behave themselves, and play the gameto nicely overpaid jobs in the industry.

Luke says: Let's be honest. The LA Times covers Hollywood, and has always covered Hollywood, on its knees before moguls like Barry Diller, David Geffen et al. Ovitz got his face slapped because he no longer has power and said naughty things about homosexuals, another group that gets puffball treatment from the Times.

The Times Hollywood writers are a bunch of clapped-out hacks. I bet many hope to transition to lucrative jobs in the industry like many of their predecessors. I've already interviewed two Hollywood producers who comfortably made the transition from the LA Times to good jobs as development executives (Dale Pollock went to work for David Geffen, David Friendly for Brian Grazer). How many other LA Times journalists got cushy jobs in Hollywood straight from the paper?

Susan Lyne bounced herself from Premiere magazine to ABC.

Khunrum writes: Luke, We know you are one of the few journalists in Hollywood today with a sense of integrity. Are you willing to sell out as soon as someone offers you a cush job or will you keep the faith and grow old in your hovel....

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls about 1970s filmmakers has been shopped around town for years, seeing if anyone wants to make it into a movie or a TV show.

There were no takers because Biskind unmasked many of these guys who are only used to softball media coverage. The late director Hal Ashby was regarded as a secular saint until Biskind unmasked his destructive drug-addled ways.

Today Variety reports the book will be adapted for a feature-length documentary to air on arts channel Trio.

Rodger Jacobs writes: Both Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson refuse to cooperate with Biskind on his follow-up book, about the indie directors of the 90s with an emphasis on Miramax. I would think, considering the arc he used in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls -- indie film makers get a measure of success and then end up "going Hollywood" and contributing to the studio system they despised in their idealistic youth -- that he will use the Disney acquisition of Miramax as another tale of "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

I loved Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, though there was a bit much of Warren Beatty in it, but Beatty is a friend of Biskin's. The expose of Robert Towne as one of the most over-rated screenwriters was dead on-target. "Greystoke" and "Tequila Sunrise","Love Affair" and "Personal Best" made me go, "Huh? This guy really is mediocre." With his hit films he had a lot of help: Beatty contributed greatly to the script for "Shampoo" and "The Last Detail" was based on a very good novella by Darryl Ponicsan with most of the dialogue that's in the movie intact in the book. "Chinatown" was brilliant but something of a fluke, I think. The subject matter of William Mulholland and the theft of the water from the Owens Valley was always a pet subject of Towne's so the idea for the story gestated in him for some time before he penned the screenplay.

The Times Grudge Against Michael Ovitz

Cynthia Cotts writes 8/14/02 for the Village Voice: According to two people who have worked with her, [Anita] Busch is willing to trash people she doesn't like—and she hates Ovitz. (Once, when Ovitz was still at CAA, she wrote something that pissed him off. Knowing that Busch is allergic to monosodium glutamate, Ovitz sent her a bottle of the stuff in response, with the one-word note: "Enjoy.")

Ovitz's latest beef with Busch is that she is friends with Universal head Ron Meyer and supposedly plays pool with him three nights a week. As the head of a studio that was in partnership with AMG, Meyer was in a position to at least know about the AMG audit, Ovitz claimed in VF, insinuating that Meyer leaked the story to Busch.

Producer James G. Hirsch

I interviewed writer-producer James G. Hirsch by telephone July 10, 2002.

Jim: "I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. During the summers in high school and college (1964-68), I worked at the CBS-owned and operated television station KMOX, Channel 4. In those days, a network could only own a maximum of five stations. I was a floor director on the morning news.

"I went to the University of Wisconsin. I took writing courses. In my senior year, I studied with screenwriter Jerry McNeely and became interested in writing for a living.

"After graduation in 1969 with a degree in history, I moved to Los Angeles and tried to break in as a writer. I worked for my cousin Producer Larry Gordon at AIP (American International Pictures) reading scripts and writing synopses. I read material by people like John Milius, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, who were about to make their mark in the industry.

"In 1971, I wrote my first screenplay and I sold it to ABC for a movie of the week [1972's No Place to Run]. I pursued my writing career for several years until I was offered a chance to become a story editor for a series (Jigsaw John) produced by Universal. Eventually I became a producer for Universal on the show Kingston: Confidential starring Raymond Burr.

"In 1979, I started my own production company with writer Jim Henerson. We made six TV movies together and the TV series Starman. In 1987, I started my present partnership with producer Robert Papazian (The Day After, Inherit the Wind).

"In 1997, Bob and I bought a 12-acre facility in the Warner Center in Chatsworth that we've named Ray Art Studios. We have six soundstages and all the other support facilities of a full service studio.

"We'd been independent suppliers of television for years. But with the changes in the rules [allowing networks to own production companies], there were fewer opportunities for independents to own their own product. In 1996, we hired ourselves out for four years to run the Nash Bridges series for CBS, which shot in San Francisco. When the movie of the week business was still more of an independents business, we probably would not have signed on to do a series like that for somebody else. It's become difficult for small independents to survive in the television business.

"Recently we made three TV movies without an American buyer. We teamed up with foreign distributor WIN and we raised the money through foreign sales to make three pictures. We eventually sold them to Lifetime and Court TV for American broadcast. The old way was that you sold your picture to an American company like ABC, and then went out and got a distributor who sold the foreign rights. We reversed the process."

Luke: "You've made many TV movies. Which ones stand out in your memory?"

Jim: "In 1985, I was nominated for a Writer's Guild award for a movie I did with Richard Crenna, The Rape of Richard Beck. Crenna won an Emmy for Best Actor."

Cwd writes on Imdb.com: "A movie about rape with a shocking twist. This time a straight man gets sodomized by the criminals he's after. Richard Crenna gives a powerful and tender performance as a macho cop who thinks he's all that and ends up being violated sexually by two sadistic criminals in an alley. This is a tale that in reality I'm sure has happened to men but you never hear about it.

"To see a man like Richard Crenna go through the humiliation of rape was powerful and gripping. His emotional journey and the fact that he has been violated in such a terrible way is shocking. After he is raped, he becomes more aware of his emotions and his sensitivities as a man and his machoness a front to cover his tender side."

Jim: "The network was afraid of the subject matter. They didn't know how to sell it.

"In 1990, we helped put USA's movie nights on the map with The China Lake Murders. Until recently, it was the highest rated movie ever made for basic cable. It became a cult classic.

"In 1991, we made Crazy From the Heart starring Christine Lahti and Ruben Blades. It the first directing job for Christine's husband Thomas Schlamme. Tommy is now one of the executive producers of West Wing.

"When I started in television, there was a truism that everyone working in television wanted to be in features. In the last few years, we've seen that wall breakdown as the Jerry Bruckheimers, Scott brothers, Wolfgang Petersons work in television and the David Kelleys and Aaron Sorkins work in features.

"I remember one director who looked at a cut of a successful picture we did. He didn't like it. He said, 'Well, I'm a feature editor. I don't like the way you cut for television.' It was a silly statement.

"I remember the day when to approach a feature actor about a television project was anathema. There were big announcements when anybody would cross over. Now, look at the announcement yesterday that Robert Altman has chosen to do a three hour HBO television movie rather than a feature on Matahari. Look at the number of television series that are being turned into features."

Luke: "As you've become a bigger businessman, have you resented the time that's taken away from your writing?"

Jim: "No. But I noticed that the more I worked with the networks on TV movies, the more I found that I was writing projects to get film orders and I was losing my creative juices. I was painting by the numbers. I was fixing scripts for networks to get the order but it wasn't creatively what I wanted. That's the tightrope walk between art and commerce.

"Most of my time today is spent on business and I write occasionally when a project interests me.

"There are always rules that you get from people you pitch to. 'Oh, we're not doing those kind of movies.' You can always break those rules if you convince them that your project is good. I remember a conversation I had with a guy who was VP of movies for ABC. He said, 'I can tell you three things we're not looking for. We're not looking for baseball movies, anything about old people or anything about blacks.' The next day in the trades, the network announced The Story of Satchel Paige [an old black baseball player]."

Luke: "Have you ever had to risk your life for a project?"

Jim: "We made The Morris Dees Story [1991]. He's a lawyer in Alabama who's taken on the Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups. Morris had been targeted for assassination on any number of occasions. We interviewed him at his home in Alabama. I remember when he picked us up at the airport in an armored car loaded with shotguns. We drove to his house and I remember the guards walking around with rifles folded across their arms. He lived in an armed camp. He's still a target of the right wing because he still fights them successfully.

"I wrote the script. We got some threatening anonymous calls for shining a light on the Klu Klux Klan's murder of a young black man in Mobile, Alabama in 1985. When you put together the various crimes, you realize that the white supremacy groups are tied to gether. Morris helped prove this. They're linked by similar goals and by the internet.

"You can't let someone bully you into not doing what you believe in. We took extra security precautions during the filming. I remember when you could call a number and get a message from the head of one of the white supremamcy groups in southern California. That recorded call would talk about us and about us doing the movie."

Luke: "Are you married with kids?"

Jim: "Yes. My wife understood what we were doing and she was behind me all the way. My wife was an Elementary school English teacher and for years I would go to her class and show a section of the film and she would teach about tolerance and racism and the right-wing and the Klan."

Luke: "What do you love and hate about the business?"

Jim: "I love that the business constantly forces us to use our creative juices and think of new ways to do things. We use the best of technology and creative artistry. It keeps us stimulated.

"I hate that there is so much human waste. This is a tough business on people. We've all heard stories about stars and executives who brutalize emotionally, who pound on people beneath them. I'm not a fan of the auteurs who beat the hell out of everybody beneath them to mold everyone to their vision. I don't think film is more important than people.

"Both of my kids (Rachel and Charlie) are pursuing acting. I never pushed them to enter this business. But when they perform, I'm there watching at every show. When my son played King Arthur in the musical Camelot, I saw every single performance and when my daughter recently played Annie Sullivan in the Miracle Worker, I saw the play ten times."