Producer Scott Kroopf
I interview Scott Kroopf, president of Ted Field's Radar Pictures, at his Westwood office July 29, 2002.
Scott: "I was born in Palo Alto, California. My father was a doctor. Two of his children went into show business. My older brother Sandy wrote Birdy (1984). He's going to produce a movie in Italy, Under the Tuscan Sun. I have an older sister.
"I went to the University of California at Irvine. I had no idea for the first quarter what I wanted to do. I took a nature of drama survey course from Professor Robert Cohen. He was such a brilliant lecturer that it got me into drama. I then wrote an autobiographical play, Alice Through the Needle, which I then produced and directed the following year. It's the story of a young boy, disappointing all of his friends, by going out with a wrong druggie hippie girl and how all of them, three years later, were coming to him to score pot, having gone through their own ridiculous transformation.
"I wrote the story in detail and then I had the actors improv the whole thing. It came out great. It was totally hilarious. I was off to the races. I studied directing and acting. I went to the American Conservatory Theater's summer acting program in San Francisco. I worked the Utah Shakespeare festival. I graduated in 1973 and made my first strategic career mistake. I chose to stay in Los Angeles instead of moving to New York. If I had moved to New York, I would've most likely stayed in theater.
"Here I got a job working at a theatrical supply company to make money. Then I became one of the founding members of Ramama Hollywood and produced and directed plays in this theater underneath the Ford amphitheater across from the Hollywood Bowl.
"I did lighting designs for nightclubs and rockn'roll shows. I designed Xenon in New York, the big rival to Studio 54. I did the Hollywood Palace here. I got tired of it because I felt I was recreating the drug experience for people on drugs. My services were redundant.
"My brother got me a job as a reader for a friend of mine who worked in the TV business. I worked on commercial and documentary crews. I got a job in 1982 reading for Embassy Pictures, owned by Norman Lear and Jerry Perencio. I became a story editor and then production executive over the course of three administrations (Jeff Young, Rafi Edkus, Marty Shafer). Norman and Jerry didn't see eye to eye so it was hard to get movies through. I worked on The Sure Thing, Chorus Line, Emerald Forest, and Stand by Me.
"I worked with Lindsey Duran, the only person from Embassy they kept. She went on to work for Paramount and then ran Sydney Pollack's company. She then became the head of UA (United Artists) and she now has a deal with us. She was my mentor on story development. I worked on a great cult movie, The XYZ Murders, written by Joel and Ethan Cohen and directed by Sam Raimi.
"Not knowing what was going on at my company (it was being sold to Coke) in 1984, I phoned up Lindsey to talk about Interscope, run by Robert Cort and Ted Field. She got me in to see Robert and he hired me. My first movie was Outrageous Fortune. It was a baptism of fire because we had the classic problems. The studio hated Bette Midler's wardrobe and hair and made a meltdown over it. Bette Midler and Shelley Long didn't get along resulting in a large fracas to which Jeffrey Katzenberg said to Robert and I when we phoned up about it, 'That's why you guys are producers and I am a studio executive. I don't have to deal with it. You take care of it.'
"Then I produced Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Warners put it in turnaround. DEG (Dino De Laurentiis Entertainment Group) picked it up. Dino had no idea what it was about. He didn't understand what dudes were until someone explained to him that 'dudes' meant guys who had big dicks. Then he said, 'Oh, great, now I get it.'
"We finish the movie. We never test it. Rafaella and Alan Rich are out. Howard Koch comes in. The company is circling down the toilet to bankruptcy. Everyone's bailing out. I'm facing my baby being released on HBO. I went in to see Rick Finkelstein, who used to work at DEG. He moved over to Nelson Entertainment owned by Barry Spikings. Rick had always liked the movie. I said, 'Rick, you can buy this movie for ten cents on the dollar. For a million bucks and you get all rights.' So they did. They tested it. They immediately realized that it tested great.
"It was amazing to me that none of the DEG guys bothered to test the movie. They just all looked at it in a screening room and decided it was no good. It was too silly.
"Between Excellent Adventure and Outrageous Fortune, I got a strong producing start. When we screened Fortune for Disney executives, several of them thought it was awful. Then it tested well and they loved the movie.
"In the last five years, producers have become the low man on the Hollywood totem pole. Writers have surpassed us. "Producer" has become such a watered down credit that people think that producers do nothing other than be lucky. There are a ton of do-nothing producers. I don't want to name any. They fall into categories. They are the tagalong producers. Either they're managers or someone who knew someone. The obscurity of the connection and the desperation that people cling to these credits. I understand about putting your foot in the door, but if you don't do anything, then what's the point of the foot in the door? There are packaging producers. They find good material, let the studio develop it, and never walk on a set. Then there are line producers who creatively do nothing.
"The difference between a good producer and a bad producer is how much courage they have to confront people over problems. Now, you don't want to take on a director in front of an entire crew. I've seen it done. It's folly. But you've got to confront over problems. More often than not, producers don't confront. They let things slide.
"Some directors will not pay any attention to actors because they are more interested in the technical things. Sometimes a producer must work with the actors and let them express themselves, but without undercutting the director's authority. If a director won't give people what they need, be they actors, technicians, makeup artists, someone's got to go in and do that. But you don't then want that person turning to you after a take before they look at the director.
"One guy told me that the job of the producer is to keep the atmosphere on a set like a freshly opened bottle of champagne. Keep everyone's spirits up. Parties are good. Little signs of appreciation. Bring a masseuse on to the set. Anything from icecream to hats. It's like camp. There's the army metaphor and the camp metaphor. You want to keep the atmosphere light because people can get hunkered down.
"We're doing Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was in Texas last week. The actors were working in a van while the temperatures outside were over 100 degrees. They were acting their guts out. So we gave them each a one-hour massage this weekend as a show of thanks."
Luke: "What are your guilty pleasures?"
Scott: "I have smoked. I don't anymore. Occasionally, if I need to really think about something, I'll get a cigarette. I've drunk countless double espressos and iced cappuccinos. I'm always trying to not eat all the time. You can sit, if you're working with any level of anxiety, at a crafts service table and just eat yourself to death. And then you end up feeling like hell. I think a drink at the end of the day is a good thing. I drink martinis. I've found you can't drink at dailies because it results in too much exhaustion.
"I like a good party. I'm the last guy out of the office type. I'll go to all the dailies. I've had a couple of movies with outstanding party schedules. One of the best was The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag because the director, Allan Moyle, was a brilliant party thrower. We shot in Oxford, Mississippi for ten weeks. We had parties at every different duke joint in 100 miles.
"Whenever there's that level of partying, it's never good for the movie. People just burn out. Actors can party because they get a lot of down time. It's really hard on department heads, directors, to party.
"We had a great wrap party on an 80-acre cotton farm. I can't call it a plantation. We had four blues bands and a Mardi Gras-style parade where the grip, electric and camera department dressed up as women and threw junk at people."
Tito reviews The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag on Imdb.com: "I just don't understand what was supposed to be funny about this movie, which is a pretty major flaw in a comedy. As opposed to many bad comedies where "thud" can be heard every few seconds due to the pathetic jokes, this movie had no thuds. I couldn't identify what was meant to be funny but simply wasn't. It didn't have jokes...even bad ones. It didn't have anything."
Scott: "It's good to find sporting events and concerts for people to go to. It's always good to hang out with your actors because the producer is usually the one who has to ask them favors."
Scott's been married 18 years. It's his first. He has a 14-year old son and 8-year old twins, boy and girl.
Luke: "How has being a father affected you as a producer?"
Scott: "It helped me focus. I'd always thought about directing. Then, when I had kids, I made the judgment that if I put my mind to producing, it would be better for my family. If I wanted to direct, I'd have to go backwards and fight my way up. My first kid was great. For about five years, you can pack them up with you. My wife, Kristine Johnson, is a screenwriter (I am Sam, Imaginary Crimes). I met her at Embassy Pictures. She was the head of acquisitions.
"We'd bring our son on location. But once they are in school, it's no good. Once the twins came, it let me know I was really a father. I had to go off and do a movie (Terminal Velocity) shortly after they were born. The first day of the movie was the big 1994 earthquake. I'd hoped it would go smoothly and I could bail out. It turned out to be a battle to finish it. It was a big action movie that wasn't budgeted as big as our director's appetite. It built the appropriate resentment from my wife.
"Everyone goes through the on location resentment. Now I'm running a company and I'm doing more executive producing, though I find it the most fun to be on the set all the time.
"I love development, because it is pure. You are just dealing with a writer. You don't have a big committee yet. I find packaging interminable and agonizing. Then I enjoy production. Editing is tough. It means previews and the attendant anxiety. You get to figure things out and if necessary, reshoot. We made many movies initially with Disney and I don't think there was a movie where they didn't do a reshoot."
Luke: "Tell me about Ted Field."
Scott: "I've worked with him 18 years. He's a friend. Ted gets a bad rap. Anyone who comes from a wealthy family, there's an immediate stamp on them that they are a dilettante. Ted works hard. He has multiple businesses. He has so much money there's no reason he couldn't take six vacations a year and roll into the office at 11AM. He shows up at 9:30AM like everyone else. He works late. He goes out 365 nights a year. He has his finger on the pulse of American culture. He sees every movie including weird little independent movies. He sees music. He has a great sense of the marketplace. We see eye to eye on commercial material. We disagree on artistic movies. He loves dark indie movies.
"The key part of our business is making commercial movies. While we'd like to make movies like Very Bad Things and Gridlock, it's an indulgence. You are making movies to break even because they are artistic."
Luke: "How are you adjusting to the tougher commercial climate?"
Scott: "It's been good for us. We were a part of Polygram until it tanked. Then we had a big deal with Universal and USA. We sought a business model that gave us wherewithal to get our own movies made with an independent flexible style and profit from them more. We made an incredibly successful roster of movies for Disney and Polygram, with one in four a hit, spawning several franchises.
"We did Runaway Bride. We developed it for ten years. We gave the script to Richard Gere about ten times. He wasn't interested. Then we gave him a better draft. The moment was right. He signed on. Then we got Julia Roberts and Garry Marshal. Sherry Lansing at Paramount arranged financing. The movie grossed $350 million in theaters worldwide.
"We decided we had to start arranging our own financing and keeping more of the profits. This was at the height of the stock market (early 2000), Elie Samaha stuff. I kept thinking this is crazy. It can't last. These people are just ripping these companies off who are ripping off their shareholders. Nobody knows what they're doing. Their plans don't follow form with the movie business. We did the slow patient thing. We made an alliance with Good Machine, a foreign sales company based out of New York.
"We're making under $15 million independent movies that we are independently financing. That allows us more control over our destiny. We are continuing to make studio films. Rather than make output deals with foreign territories to raise money for our overhead, we make the deals to fund development.
"Output deal means that we can take any movie we make and give it to our partners in Germany and Spain and Scandinavia and put the movies out through them. And output deal puts teeth in an agreement but you truly want to be a good partner with people.
"We're in the middle of the best run we've ever had. We made The Divorce in partnership with Merchant/Ivory. We're making this Mandy Moore movie How to Deal in Toronto. Michael Bay is producing for us a remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We've made a deal with Michael's company to feed our lower budget division with a couple of movies a year."
Luke: "Why do directors like Michael Bay want to produce?"
Scott: "Michael is a good businessman and he sees it as an opportunity to broaden the brand of his name. He admires Jerry Bruckheimer. He got the rights to Texas Chainsaw. We sold it based on a 70-second preview that Michael did. It was ten seconds of imagery and the rest sound. It was so cool that we sold the foreign and domestic rights.
"We've got a good director who Hollywood thought was a bad boy - Marcus Nispel. We've never had that experience with him. He's strong minded which equals bad in many people's way of thinking. Marcus is like Michael, who gets a lot of shots every day. He's bold and aggressive with a high energy level. He cranks out great material. We're ten days in.
"Marcus was supposed to direct End of Days. He was blown off because he told the studio the movie would cost $20 million more than what they had budgeted unless they cut the script. They fired him and the movie came in $20 million over."
Luke: "Which of your movies have broken your heart?"
Scott: "What Dreams May Come was disappointing. It was such a great script and bold idea. The movie looked the way we wanted to, yet it didn't catch on. When we finally tested our best cut, we realized that this movie, which we thought all women in the world were going to love because it was a story about love that never dies, the people who really dug it were boys under 25. It was dark and visually cool and twisted, all the things that young guys dig.
"We made a couple of miscalculations. As a parent, I always had this bad feeling and everyone told me not to worry about it. I had this bad feeling that when you kill two kids in the beginning that an adult audience would have a difficult time recovering and they would just tune you out because it was just too painful to go there. That got us. There's nothing worse for a woman than the idea of her own child dying.
"Gene Siskel was a gigantic fan of the movie. Of course, he was in the process of dying."
Luke: "Do you sense your stock rising and falling with the box office results of your films?"
Scott: "Yes. Right now our stock is up. We have the sequel to Pitch Black with Van Diesel and the other is The Last Samurai, which Ed Zwick is directing with Tom Cruise. During Polygram times, we had a bad run."
Dan Gordon's Credibility
A former Sergeant in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), Gordon is a peace activist and a dual Israeli-American citizen.
The Hurricane was a sympathetic portrait of a guy who most likely murdered three people. Not to mention being a boring film. It was one of the few that I've rented, and then couldn't finished. I eventually turned it off 90-minutes in.
FesterSam writes on imdb.com: "Rubin Carter [The Hurricane] was tried and found guilty of murder. Read the evidence. This man is a nightmare. His own people call him Satan. He has lied, beaten and murdered. He was not able to pass ANY lie detector tests, and ballistics matched bullets found in his car to bullets that killed the 3 people. This evidence was found in the presence of unbiased 3rd party reporters. Do not let a good film could the truth. Rubin Carter is a stone cold murderer who walks the streets today while his victims are 6 feet under. The movie is inaccurate and portrays Carter as a victim when he is the true predator. This psychopath deserves to be behind bars now. Do some research and decide for yourself."
There's another question today about Gordon's credibility.
Dennis Prager hosted guest screenwriter Dan Gordon on his nationally syndicated radio show May 29, to talk about his May 24 article in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles about his recent trip to the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin.
Gordon wrote in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles: "I was in the Jenin refugee camp on April 16. In addition to noting that there was no smell of death in the camp and that the booby-traps and anti-personnel bombs laid out by the Palestinian gunmen were still very much in evidence, I heard a story, which I did indeed find chilling. It was told to me by Dr. David Zangen, chief medical officer of the Israeli paratroop unit, which bore the brunt of the fighting in Jenin. Zangen stated that the Israelis not only worked to keep the hospital in Jenin open, but that they offered the Palestinians blood for their wounded. The Palestinians refused it because it was Jewish blood.
"That is a chilling story to an American of my age, with memories of white, bigoted-racial purists refusing to accept blood from African Americans in the segregated South. The Israeli response, which could easily have been, "fine, have it you own way," was to fly in 2,000 units of blood from Jordan, via helicopters, for the Palestinians. In addition, they saw to it that 40 units of blood from the Mukasad Hospital in East Jerusalem went to the hospital in Ramallah, that 70 units got to the hospital in Tul Quarem and they facilitated the delivery of 1,800 units of anti-coagulants that had come in from Morocco, and thus, were somehow acceptable to the Palestinians where Jewish blood was not. (This information was later confirmed to me by Col. Arik Gordin [reserves] of the IDF Office of Military Spokesman, who supplied the exact numbers of units of blood and anticoagulants and the names of the hospitals to which they were delivered.)"
Now, Harold Zwier from Melbourne, Australia, writes the Jewish Journal 9/6/02: "On Aug. 25, there was a meeting in Melbourne, Australia, organized by the State Zionist Council of Victoria. The guest speaker was Zangen. I was not at this meeting, but I understand that Zangen categorically denied ever having said anything like that to Gordon, and denied being aware of any incident in which Palestinians had refused blood from the Israelis."
Dan Gordon responds:
I spoke with some 50 Israeli soldiers, officers and enlisted men, reservists, conscripts and career army personnel on site in Jenin, Bethlehem, Beit Jallah, at military headquarters (the Kirya) in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. I did not write the article in question until almost a month after my return from Jenin. Could I have misattributed a story told by one Israeli officer to another Israeli officer; in this case, Zangen? Yes.
I did not, however, misattribute who confirmed the story. That was Col. Arik Gordin (Res.) of the Israeli Military spokesman’s office. On May 13, I received the following e-mail from Gordin:
"I made some inquiries about the blood donations. It was confirmed by the spokesman of the office of the coordinator of the government activities in the territories that the Palestinians refused our offer of blood. They said they would not take blood from Israel ... in short, the story you heard onsite is true."
If I misattributed the source of that story to Zangen, I again profoundly apologize. I did not however, misattribute the confirmation of that story, nor misstate it as it was related to me.
Producer Andre Morgan
I interview Andre Morgan, who's partnered with Godfather producer Al Ruddy, at their Beverly Hills office July 29, 2002.
Andre: "I was born in French Morocco. My father served in the American Navy. My mother is English. An only child, I traveled back and forth. We moved, on average, every six months. I went to twelve different grade schools, mainly in England and the States. I learned French and German.
"When it came time to go to university, I needed a scholarship, so I decided to enroll in whatever department gave me the greatest opportunity to gain a scholarship. And that was the Department of Oriental Languages and Literature at the University of Kansas. So I majored in Chinese and got a draft deferment that kept me out of the Vietnam War.
"I've always loved the film industry but I had no particular penchant for the Chinese language."
Luke: "Were you a good student in high school?"
Andre: "I was average. I guess I was usually in the top ten percent of my class."
Luke: "And you were a film buff from what age?"
Andre: "As soon as I began sneaking into theaters, around age ten. In England they had this rating system where you, as a child, could only get in to see certain kinds of movies. We figured out how to get somebody in the theater, run around the back and open the emergency exits and we'd all slip in the back door."
Luke: "What did your parents think of your obsession?"
Andre: "It wasn't an obsession. It was more of a passion. They didn't discourage it. From any parent's point of view in the 1960s, they just hoped their kid would go to school, get a job, be a lawyer or engineer or something respectable, and don't end up getting arrested for doing drugs.
"I left the University of Kansas in my senior year in 1972. I dropped out, with one semester left, to go to Hong Kong to polish my Chinese. I was supposed to be in Hong Kong for one year. Then I planned to return to Kansas to finish my degree.
"Then, when I got the job with [Raymond Chow's film production company Golden Harvest] and got to Hong Kong, it became obvious to me after a few months that I wasn't going back to academia. I was already in the industry I loved."
Luke: "How did you get the job?"
Andre: "The head of the Chinese department at Kansas had been a close friend of Raymond Chow's in the late 1940s. They'd set up Voice of America in Hong Kong together. When I told my professor I wanted to go to Asia, he said he'd make a few phone calls and see if there were any jobs available. Serendipitously, Raymond Chow had formed Golden Harvest five months previous. They made a compact that if I were to come out and spend a year in Hong Kong, working for a local Chinese salary, he'd give me a job as an office boy.
"I met Bruce Lee on my second day in Hong Kong. We were the only two Americans in the company. Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco. He was then fast becoming a superstar in southeast Asia.
"Before I got to Hong Kong, I didn't know Bruce Lee from any other actor. I had vague recollections of having seen him in a couple episodes of The Green Hornet and in one episode of The Streets of San Francisco. But when I arrived, they sat me down and, before I met him, I screened Bruce's first two movies, Fists of Fury and The Big Boss."
Luke: "Were you starstruck?"
Andre: "No. You can't really be in this business and be starstruck. The magic of the industry is watching the impact that the talent has on the public. I remember the first time I met Steve McQueen, I was starstruck. It's like anything else. Once you get to know the people, they tend to lose their aura.
"I stayed in Hong Kong until 1985 [when British prime minister Margaret Thatcher decided to give it back to the Chinese]. I started as an office boy and by the time I left, I was running the largest division in the largest film company in Asia. We had offices in London and Los Angeles. We had a huge theater system to distribute our English-language and Chinese pictures.
"In 1972, we were at a point in Hong Kong cinema where there were no rules. We were making up the rules as we went along. Nobody in America at this time really knew what kung fu was. There had been one Billy Jack movie and a bad TV series called Kung Fu. Once we introduced the Bruce Lee films, and got over the initial market resistance, it was a trip to watch the number of kung fu fans grow. Over time, it's been fun for me to watch it spawn new generations and new genres."
Luke: "Do you have a personal attachment to kung fu?"
Andre: "No. I've never studied kung fu. I've never had any interest in studying kung fu. But I recognize and appreciate it as an important skill set for young action stars. I've worked with some of the top action stars in the world like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, you realize the tremendous amount of skill, coordination and study required."
Luke: "Hong Kong was ruled by the British."
Andre: "Hong Kong has gone through many changes over the past 30 years. In 1972, it was a sleepy colonial backwater port that was primarily a low cost manufacturing center for wigs and computer chips and a transshipment center for raw produce going in and out of China in the days when embargoes were still in effect because of the Vietnam War. That's what you see in [the 1973 film] Enter the Dragon. The big oceangoing fishing junks in Aberdine Harbor. Hong Kong has a skyline but it is not a dynamic skyline. It's a picturesque skyline. In the mid seventies, Hong Kong's became a finance center for the region. In the eighties was the real estate boom and the transition from being a manufacturing center to a service center."
Luke: "I've heard it was the most truly capitalistic country in the world?"
Andre: "By definitions of government involvement, that was true. It is no longer. The Chinese government has made significant changes."
Luke: "Did you feel happy or sad when the sovereignty of Hong Kong changed from Britain to China?"
Andre: "Both. It was sad because it was the end of an era in which I'd grown up. I got to Hong Kong when I was 20 years old. On the other hand, for China and the people of Hong Kong, it was a good thing the British were gone and it had returned to Chinese sovereignty. And if they do a good job of reabsorbing Hong Kong into the bosom of the mainland, it will only facilitate a more peaceful and rapid solution to the China-Taiwan issue."
From the 6/25/01 issue of Variety: "The L.A.-based Ruddy Morgan Organization (RMO), whose principals have long-standing relationships in China, is teaming with two private investor groups to set up a full-service production facility in Shanghai. Their partners are the China-based Intl. Cultural Exchange Audio & Video Publishing House (ICE) and Hong Kong's Belford Group. The new company, to be called the Hweilai Organization, will initially consist of Hweilai Studios and related Hweilai film and TV companies. Idea is to create English-language TV and film product for the U.S. and international marketplaces."
Luke: "How did you come to set up this huge studio in China?"
Andre: "We've been going in and out of China since 1978. We've been waiting for the right opportunity. Meaning, the infrastructure to support the day to day grind of filmmaking. The bureaucracy had arrived at a level of workable understanding with the film and television industry. We also had to gauge the American market to see if there was a renewed interest in things Chinese. You realize after 30 years in the industry that everything has an ebb and flow. And every eight years or so, there's a new cycle and everything Chinese and Asian is hot for a year. Then America loses interest for a while.
"We concluded the timing was right for several reasons. One, China was close to achieving entry into the WTO (World Trade Organization) and they were making a significant bid for the 2008 Olympics. We met local entrepreneurs in China who represented what is the first generation of private sector enterprise in China. We had the opportunity to put the studio together without having to joint-venture it with the old rustbelt state-run organizations."
Luke: "Do you feel comfortable with comparisons to Armand Hammer?"
Andre: "No. I'm not selling pencils and I'm certainly not selling secrets. We have little in common except that he went behind the Iron Curtain in his day and I've been going in and out China for 24 years."
Luke: "Are there rumors that you are a Communist spy?"
Andre: "No, that I am CIA. I just heard that from somebody who's been working for me for nine months in Shanghai. That was the rumor amongst the Australians there.
"Under the Freedom of Information Act, I should probably pull my file. But then again, who cares? You can get obsessed with this stuff or just get on with living your life."
Luke: "Are you married?"
Andre: "For six years. My second marriage. It's my Chinese phase.
"My home was Hong Kong until 1985. Then I re-domiciled to LA. I met my first wife, a Philipino-American, in 1987. We were married for 18 months and then divorced.
"I took John McTiernan to Malaysia to do a location survey for Medicine Man, starring Sean Connery. They needed a rain forest. We were in Kuala Lumpur, where the rain forest is second growth. It's been harvested once. John wanted to go to where we shot Farewell to the King. We charted a flight and flew back down to Borneo where I bumped into my now second wife (Maria) in the coffee shop of the hotel in Kuching. She's pure Chinese."
Luke: "Is she in the entertainment industry?"
Andre: "No. She has a Masters degree in Psychology. She was a director for PR and marketing for a hotel chain in asia called Pan Pacific Hotels."
Luke: "How much are you on the road these days?"
Andre: "Last year I was gone ten months but that was an incredible bizarre year because of 9/11.
"We were on location [in Shanghai, China] shooting [on 9/11] while watching this whole nightmare unfold on CNN, MSNBC and BBC.
"We decided to shoot the TV series [Flatlander starring Dennis Hopper] in high definition digital video. We created the first entirely digital post production facility in China. Then we set up our own CGI department in China to do the graphics, because the show's look is The Matrix meets Crouching Tiger."
Luke: "Is there a network for this show?"
Andre: "Not yet. We're in negotiation for it right now."
Luke: "That's bold going out there and shooting a show before you sell it."
Andre: "It's certainly out of the box. We've spent close to $40 million in the past year on the studio and the series.
"We decided that the fastest way to train people was to do TV. It was reminiscent of things we'd done in Hong Kong in the early seventies when we made kung fu movies for $100,000 a piece. We set up the studio. We set up the training program. We bought 500 hectares built three soundstages in the first four months of 2001."
Luke: "Did you use slave labor?"
Andre: "No, but we worked three shifts, 24/7, banging them out."
Andre shows me pictures of the work.
Andre: "That stage is 18 meters high, that's five stories. We started shooting on the 15th of July. We'd just finished our first section with Dennis Hopper. We'd shipped him back to the States. I was getting ready to come back to the States.
"Shanghai is twelve hours ahead of New York. Nine AM in New York is Nine PM that same evening in Shanghai. This came down at dinner time, at 8:45 PM our time. First you're getting the news reports on Chinese television. We had many Americans in Shanghai working on the show who were cut off from their loved ones in the US. They could leave China but they couldn't land on the West Coast of the US.
"We decided to keep shooting, that it was better for the Americans to keep them busy working the normal 12-hour days. That way they're only watching CNN in their off hours.
"We were flying, on average, three actors a week to China to be guest stars in the TV series. We couldn't get anybody out of the US for two weeks. We couldn't get any equipment out of the US. We had people stuck in Seoul, Beijing and Hong Kong.
"It disrupted our production for three weeks. In selling the series, it set us back a good six months. After 9/11, the fall TV season was delayed. We'd originally planned to sell the series in December. We're out there selling the series now."
Luke: "Have you lost any projects because of 9/11?"
Andre: "It's a good excuse but if it is a good product, you'll find another way to reconstitute it and get it going. I consider some things delayed but I don't consider any project killed by 9/11."
Luke: "What's Flatlander about?"
Andre: "It takes place in Shanghai in the year 2010. It's the story of Saint Michael versus the Devil. Dennis Hopper plays Saint Michael who's out to catch the Devil. Dennis Hopper is the meanest baddest angel they got. His job is to catch the Devil and round up the Devil's colleagues on earth. We have various villains who are white and black and Asian. The idea is to make it non-race specific, the same we did [the TV series] Martial Law for CBS."
Luke: "Weren't you concerned about hiring Dennis Hopper, whose got a reputation for being psychotic?"
Andre laughs: "Dennis is a sweetheart. If you want to believe everything that is ever put out about any actor or director or producer, you can always find stories that will convince you that they are crazy. My experience in dealing with these guys over the years is that if you come on to them straight, and you don't play games, they'll deal with you honestly. It's only if you start messing around that you'll have trouble. What drives people nuts is people who shine them on.
"Nobody's perfect. We all have temper tantrums from time to time and we all scream and yell and we all melt down. So, if they're having a bad hair day, you ask, 'What triggered their bad hair day?' You cut through and figure out the real problem. If you've been straight with people, they'll usually be straight with you. You will rarely get a truly psychotic actor unless they're having a serious drug or alcohol problem. And that's a different issue, and something you have to watch like a hawk.
"We did two movies with Burt Reynolds and two movies with Tom Selleck. I've heard all the stories about these guys and they were pussycats. But you have to deal with them straight. It doesn't mean you have to go in and suck up to them and kiss their ass.
"The relationship between a producer and an actor has to be a two-way street. You need them to do things for you that go way beyond just giving a good performance - to promote the film, to do interviews. And they are going to want things from you that aren't in their contract. Their agent can't anticipate everything that can come up. If you're reasonable, you're going to find a way to work things out. That's part of being a producer. You've got to keep the family going. Don't sit there and think you're the headmaster and you're going to cane everyone. At the end of the day, you want everyone working together because they are getting your vision on the screen.
"In any large gathering, there are bound to be personality problems and conflicts of interest. So if you can set yourself up as the person who is fair, you can have a successful production."
Andre takes a long drink of coffee.
Andre: "My first cup of the day."
Luke: "How many cups do you normally drink?"
Andre: "It depends. I used to own a coffee plantation. I've had periods where I've drank ten cups of coffee a day. And then I go to China and I don't drink any."
Luke: "What are your other guilty pleasures?"
Andre: "Smoking. You've got me on the first day of me quitting smoking for the fourth time this year. I quit for seven years twice."
Luke: "Which actor drove you to resume?"
Andre: "This is probably a terrible insight into a producer's psyche. I started smoking when I was 14 because it was cool. I went off to Hong Kong when I was 20. Everybody smokes there. Then I quit smoking for four years. I came back to the United States in 1985, and out of boredom, picked up a cigarette. My partner, Al Ruddy, smoked like a chimney. In 1991, we decided we were going to quit smoking. In 1992, I signed us up for a quit-smoking clinic. We'd tried everything - hypnosis, this and that. This quit-smoking class worked even though my wife is a chain-smoker and smokes two packs a day. Al lasted a year-and-a-half. I didn't have another cigarette from June of 1992 until December of 2000.
"I'm sitting in Malaysia, two days before New Year's Eve, having a Margarita. 'Gee, that smells good. Why don't you give me a puff?' I'm thinking, what's the big deal? It tasted so good that I decided I was going to smoke through the New Year and then I'd quit when we left Malaysia for Hong Kong. And I've been smoking ever since.
"I smoke about two packs a day."
Luke: "What are your other guilty pleasures?"
Andre: "Everything. You indulge all your sensory perceptions all the time. It's all part of living. Filmmaking is an extension of life. How can you draw on life if you haven't lived it and experienced it?
"I've been watching this program on the History Channel about the History of Sex in WWII. They had something about Jack Kennedy. He talked about war being hours of boredom interrupted by minutes of abject fear. That's exactly what producing is all about. You sit around for weeks and months while the script is whipped into shape. You wait for the actors and studio execs to read it. You get someone to agree to make the movie. The making of it is the fun part. Then you go into the editing period, probably the single most important period.
"Each ones of those periods requires a different part of your personality to come into play, whether I'm indulging my passion for smoking or good wine or spicy food. When you've got the stress from managing multiple projects, why are you going to put restraints on yourself? I thank God that I never had a serious drug problem."
Luke: "Many producers tell me that their least favorite part is the shoot?"
Andre: "That's because they are not in control. But if you've done your job right, and you have the right director and the right actors, it's fun to watch. Most producers, by definition, are control freaks. You are so used to micro-managing different things it's hard to let go and let the director run with it. My perspective is different from most producers because at Golden Harvest, I was overseeing the production of ten movies a year. You learn to be dispassionate.
"Many producers are frustrated directors. I do not want to direct. Do you know how boring it is to wait on a set all day long to get the one take you think is right while the lighting crew fiddles around? That is a death of a thousand cuts."
Luke: "How did you come to partner up with Al Ruddy?"
Andre: "We've known each other a long time. We teamed up at Golden Harvest to do the Cannonball Run movies.
"When I decided to return to the States in 1984, Al suggested we set up a company together and see what trouble we could get into. We looked at Ruddy-Morgan as a loose fraternal organization of non-dedicated tennis players that evolved into today's company.
"Al is like a big overstuffed teddy bear and one of the kindest people you'll ever meet. He loves this industry. We both came out of a different time and place when it was possible to put things together on your own. We're probably the only guys in town who, if we want to make a movie, and the studios say no, that doesn't mean anything. Studios aren't always right.
"Cannonball Run. That script sat around for two-and-a-half years and everybody said, there's no point in making this movie. By the time we had put Hal Needham and the script together, every studio had passed on it twice. By the time we had put Hal Needham, Roger Moore and Farrah Fawcett together, the studios had passed on it three times. When we added Burt Reynolds to the mix, every studio said they had made a mistake and they wanted to reconsider that they had passed on the project. Our job is to make a sexy package that people want to buy."
Larry White writes: Kids can now "fly" a Nimbus 2000 broomstick just like the members of their favorite Quidditch team. A replica of the broom Harry uses in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the Nimbus 2000 features a grooved stick and handle for easy riding. Enhancing the excitement are the vibrating effects and magical swooping and whooshing sounds the broom makes when on. Sounds can also be activated when the switch is set in standby mode. Requires three AA batteries (included).
Toy enthusiast writes on Amazon.com: This toy was #1 on my daughter's Christmas list. So what the heck, although it has no educational value I figured it would be good for imaginative play. It wasn't until after she opened her gift and started playing with it that I realized that the toy may offer a more than sensational experience. The broomstick has cute sound effects and ***VIBRATES*** when they put it between their legs to fly. Come on---what were the creators of this toy thinking? She'll keep playing with the Nimbus 2000, but with the batteries removed.
KPCC Employee Disses Luke On All Things Anita Considered
From the NY Times 9/4/02: The author of a article in Vanity Fair about the actor Steven Seagal's allegation that he was extorted by the Mafia has told the police that he was threatened at gunpoint last week in Los Angeles, the police said yesterday. The writer, Ned Zeman, is the second journalist to report being threatened while working on an article about Mr. Seagal's allegation, which grows out of a federal investigation into charges of corruption on the Brooklyn waterfront.
John Rabe from KPCC's "All Things Considered" writes www.laexaminer.com: "This [NY Times article] offers some pretty good substantiation to Anita Busch's story ... if Luke Ford can read. Anita has been an asset to us at KPCC, and she's been nothing but professional, helpful, journalistic, and generous. Oh, and yes, she hasn't kissed any ass."
Kate Coe writes: "An asset to KPCC? Static would be an asset at KPCC. Today, the station broadcast a story and call-in (at 10 in the am!) on "Your favorite Hollywood clubs". Hard-hitting journalism at its best and your tax dollars at work."
Guff writes laexaminer.com: Finger probes Busch was quite a sexy story.
From DAVID GARCIA, Director/Media Relations, Los Angeles Times to Jim Romenesko 9/1/02: I'd like to make one point regarding your posting of the Anita Busch story. Our reporter was threatened. After discussions with law enforcement, we took the measures recommended to ensure the safety of our reporter.
David Poland's Hot Button reports 9/3/02: The idea that a reporter had been pulled off a story and sent into hiding by a paper on American soil because of a mob threat is a major story. And by refusing to cover it themselves, the L.A. Times has perpetuated the idea that whatever accusations of paranoia made against Ms. Busch must have some validity because otherwise, the paper would be busy chasing a Pulitzer by exposing the whole ugly business.
Even more to the point, if the threat against Anita is real, exposure of that threat on the cover of the L.A. Times would do a lot more to assure her safety than hiding out in a variety of hotels. People tend not to attack people after they have been publicly accused of threatening those people.
From PageSix.com 9/5/02: TWO reporters covering the dispute between Steven Seagal and his former partner, Jules Nasso, have been threatened with death - and Nasso himself is said to be afraid to leave his house on Staten Island.
Both Busch and Zeman are said to be terrified, and neither returned calls to PAGE SIX. Neither did Nasso, who filed a breach of contract suit against Seagal last March charging the star had reneged on a four-picture deal.
Zeman writes in Vanity Fair, "Seagal's film career is in a death spiral, thanks in part to his vile, simian behavior toward colleagues, women, employees, and reporters - not to mention his serial dissembling, his dime-store theology, and his all-around vulgarism."
"With each misstep, from 'The Glimmer Man' (1996) to 'Fire Down Below' (1997), Seagal became a bigger liability, his waistline increasing, his hairline retreating," Zeman reports. "When Warner Bros. put him on a strict diet and supplied him with a trainer, they found cookie crumbs on the fitness equipment."
From New Times LA 9/5/02: Bush felt she'd been threatened by the Mafia, and her employer saw fit to put her up in hotels around town so that the goodfellas couldn't find her. She returned to her desk at the Times just last week (a source spotted Times top editor John Carroll giving Anita an avuncular shoulder-clasp on her first day back, as if to say, We're behind you, gal!)
LAPD spokesman John Pasquariello said last week that while the department's definitely been investigating the Busch incident, nobody there had advised her to go into hiding for a couple of months. But he told The Finger just before press time that Busch telephoned him to say he had misinformed this digit -- that somebody from the LAPD had indeed advised her to stay out of sight. He said, "I'm checking into this, and I'll get back to you."
Some Nudity Required
I interviewed producer Anthony Unger at his home in Los Angeles August 28, 2002.
Tony: "I was approached by a woman [Odette Springer] who wanted to do a documentary about what it's like for women breaking into low-budget films and where it leads. She'd worked for Roger Corman."
Luke: "That sounds a lot like that documentary Some Nudity Required."
Tony: "That was Some Nudity Required. Let me tell you what happened. Halfway through the film, there was a disagreement over the direction the film was taking, as opposed to the original presentation. I had sold the foreign rights to the film. The foreign distributor was alarmed as well about the new direction. It was finally decided that we would split the rights. She would keep America and cut it the way she wanted. And we would cut our version and that would be the foreign version (The Dark Side of Hollywood).
"As far as I know, her version, Some Nudity Required, was never released in America. It was shown at Sundance and got a lot of publicity... She was good at self promotion. She turned it into a woman's issue film. The film was financed personally by me and the foreign distributor.
"We were going to focus on the careers of two actresses working in Roger Corman type films - Julie Strain and Maria Ford. Julie Strain thought it [exploitation films] were the greatest thing to ever happen to her. She was a Penthouse Pet. She was totally inhibited. She married the guy who created Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She has a nice house in Coldwater Canyon. The other actress, Maria Ford, was going insane. She felt like she was going insane. She would never be taken seriously. She felt like her career was destroyed.
"So one thought it was great and one thought it was terrible. It made for an interesting story. We had access to the Corman library and other interviews and footage that I'd arranged for her to get. It showed that men can survive starting in B pictures as actors and directors, Jack Nicholson worked for Roger Corman for five years doing 18 pictures (also Sylvester Stallone, Ron Howard). While for women, it was a dead-end. No actress who worked in a Corman picture was ever heard of.
"I arranged for her to film an interview with Sam Arkoff and get clips from his early films. In the course of the documentary, Springer decided that the making of the film had triggered memories of the sexual abuse she'd suffered at the hands of her uncle. She shot footage of herself and her own story and tried to bookend it. I felt that this was not of great commercial interest. We reach loggerheads on it and we decided to go our separate ways. We made our money back. The distributor wished he'd never met us and got involved with the project.
"She was on her way to making a brilliant film. She had this wonderful way with the actresses. She was a good interviewer. Then when she decided the movie was about her, and that her uncle raped her... She went to all these feminists groups and showed it to anybody who'd sit still long enough to watch it."
From the Associated Press: After terrific film-fest and media buzz over her documentary on Hollywood's B-movie industry, Odette Springer still had to be her own best cheerleader when the film hit the theater. "Some Nudity Required" opened for a one-week run last fall at a single theater in Santa Monica, Calif., with Springer standing in the street and handing out fliers to encourage passers-by to come see her movie.
A classically trained musician, Springer wound up as music supervisor for dozens of sex-soaked, blood-spattered movies by B-movie czar Roger Corman. Springer turned her insider's knowledge to good use, creating an insightful, personal and humorous look at this underbelly of Hollywood's output.
"We're all voyeurs. We want to see inside other people's lives, and because it's real life, it's actually more exciting. A real-life 'Boogie Nights' is far more exciting because it is real. You just can't make up people like that," Springer said.
Despite the provocative material, good press and warm receptions at Sundance and other film festivals, "Some Nudity Required" landed only a small distribution deal. After its week in Santa Monica, it played one more week in downtown Los Angeles. "Some Nudity Required" had a fair run at the Laemmle theater in Santa Monica, but documentaries rarely draw big crowds, said assistant manager Aron Knight.
After the documentary came out, Roger Corman filed a lawsuit: Director/producer Roger Corman – The King of the B-movies -- has filed an $8 million suit against the producers of a documentary called "Some Nudity Required" for allegedly defaming him and using clips and music without permission. The complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Odette Springer, the producer and director of the documentary, "deceived and tricked Corman into granting an interview" by telling him she was making a feature on "women in film."
Instead, the suit claimed, Springer's was out "to make a documentary for exploitation purposes intended to appeal to the prurient interest of certain viewers." Corman’s more than 270 credits as a producer and/or director include "Night Call Nurses," "The Wasp Woman," "Queen of Blood," "Alien Avengers," "Club Vampire," "Teenage Doll," "Naked Paradise," "Attack of the Crab Monsters," and "Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent."
Filmthreat.com comments on Some Nudity Required: "This confused personal documentary by Odette Springer, a former Roger Corman employee, explores the world of scream queens and the actresses who would bare more than their soul to be maimed in schlock Corman flicks. The film follows the scream queens on their quest for respect as well as revealing Odette Springer's personal journey while working for Corman as a music composer for these B-movies. Springer learns that she was molested as a child. Sequences of the film are intercut with 8mm films of Springer as a three year-old doing her own brand of nude dancing. The frequent use of herself as an innocent naked child borders on exploitation itself. Neither story is successfully told -- the scream queens' or Springer's alleged molestation leaving a less than satisfying experience for viewers. (And that's really hard to do in a film that features so many bare breasts!)."
Jonathan Delacour writes on his weblog: Odette Springer's documentary about the B movie industry is, for the most part, little more than a series of talking heads intercut with scenes of sex and violence from the schlock movies they've made. Producer or director, male or female, bartender wannabee-actors or Penthouse pets, they offer an ingenious array of justifications for participating in the creation of meretricious junk. With a few exceptions, they delude themselves that the B industry is a necessary (though admittedly evil) step on their journey to mainstream Hollywood.
Only the relaxed and urbane Roger Corman (Attack of the Giant Leeches, Swamp Women, Little Shop of Horrors) seems completely comfortable about his "minor part in the history of the film industry" (his words). Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall, Sorority House Massacre 2, The Bare Wench Project) candidly admits that he got into the industry to make money and get laid, points out that large breasts are the B movie's most important special effect, then goes ballistic at the "boring questions" Springer is asking him.
But it's Maria Ford (Strip for Action, Strip to Kill 2, Stripteaser) who makes Some Nudity Required worth watching. In a series of heartbreaking interviews she articulates her desperate desire to be an actress within a production system that only allows her to "act" in exchange for appearing nude. At one point she says: "I asked them if I could do the part without doing the nudity and they looked at me as though I was crazy." She talks about the pressure to have breast implants and how she would look at herself in the mirror, wondering what was wrong with her breasts -- too small, not high enough on her chest?
Finally, there's a masterful cut from Dan Golden's throwaway remark about the disposable nature of the character Ford plays in his movie Naked Obsession to Ford herself, telling of her fears of getting a reputation for being "difficult" then bewailing the Faustian pact she has made:
"What the fuck am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do? I don't want to be difficult. And I don't want a rumor going around town saying I'm difficult so I go in and I do the nudity and I do exactly what I'm told. And I look at the movie and I want to throw up when it's done because all that's left in there is my fucking nudity and my acting's not even there. And they're the same people that are going to walk around and say she's nothing but a sleazy bimbo, you know, who's good for nothing but her body and she's not an actress. What am I supposed to do? What is the answer for me?"
Unfortunately, Springer couldn't come up with an answer. According to her unofficial fan site, Maria Ford went ahead with breast implants as well as collagen injections for her lips.
Bazdol writes on Imdb.com about the 1998 documentary Some Nudity Required: The Dark Side of Hollywood: Ms. Springer obviously has a bone to pick with the industry and she has her right to do so, of course. However, not all B erotic movies are filled with sex coupled with violence to the extreme, as she seems to suggest. Some are well done with fairly high production values for the genre, excellent acting, and even decent plots; for example, "Secrets of a Chambermaid," "Testing the limits," "Lolita 2000," "Virtual Encounters," and many more. I believe some actresses, such as Nikki Fritz, take their roles with a professional attitude and are to be admired; there are others, such as Kira Reed, Amber Newman, Brandy Davis, Jacqueline Lovell, Samantha Phillips, and Regina Russell, who also do quite well and need not be ashamed of their work. These women, after all, have not gone into hardcore, although I'm sure many of them could have. I notice that Stephanee LaFleur. one of the better actresses in this category who either voluntarily or under pressure has her breasts grossly augmented through surgery, provides a negative comment below though.
Ufotds writes: The interesting and highly entertaining part of this doc is to hear about everybody in the business say that this is only on the way up to the A-movies. At the same time all the actresses are extremely unhappy, feel abused and discriminated, feel that they are treated in the most sexist way possible(yes, they DO realise that, you know). In the doc, the directors also openly admit that they choose the actresses on their tit-size and nothing else ("and of course, we assume that you are prepared to do the nudity, don't you love?"). Therefore half of hollywood is filled with actresses who had boob-jobs done, only because they saw that as their only option to ever make it in hollywood, and now regret it. What a wonderfull world! It is no secret that there are quite some men out there trying to get horny on big boobs, but that the industries apply the theory of low level sexism to the letter, was a suprise for me. Check out this one quote, from I think a producer: "On one hand, you have snuff-movies, which are extremely violent. On the other hand you've got X-rated movies, which are completely sexual. The best way to make that acceptable and combine that for the broad public is an "Erotic thriller," cause that's what every hollywood B-movie is called.
Libra writes: When i saw this documentary some time ago, i found it really irritating. It is in many parts Odette Springer's annoying tribute to Odette Springer with it's to many "i'm-a-extremely-fantastic-and-talented-person-but-nobody-understands-it" scenes. What makes it more annoying is that Springer looks down on the people she wants to depict (Except Maria Ford who is "a-extremely-fantastic-and-talented-person-but-nobody-understands-it".) and sometimes steps on them. It is also filled with faked documentary scenes like the ridiculous scene where Springer looks at a violent video and gets "excited" what leads us to the scene that gave me a bade taste in my mouth- in the end of the movie tries Odette Springer to find a reason to why she got "excited" when she saw the violent video and from the clear blue sky the truth falls over her (and the poor audience)- all of a sudden she remembers that she was subjected to sexual abuse by her grand parents. What makes me feel bad about that scene is that she don't presents any real evidence and that the grand parents both are dead so they don't have any chance to defend themselves from the accusation.
A-chriw writes: Director's look at the B-Movie industry is thought-provoking, at its best, but spends a good deal more time with her own interpretations of her experience than really trying to show us what the industry is like. Odette Springer is in many ways embarrassed about her involvement in the industry, and attempts to explain both her attraction to such work and the involvement of people in the industry in terms of personal weakness. A great deal of time is spent making the argument that women are 1) discriminated against based on looks 2) intentionally kept out of good roles and 3) only like the industry if they are mentally disturbed. This documentary (which watches like a TV movie for Lifetime TV) really, really begs some questions, such as: Did any of the "exploited" women portrayed take any acting classes? Did any of these women explore other, more "tasteful" options like dinner theater? The underlying, unquestioned premise here is that "Any woman should be able to get tasteful roles which do not require nudity in 'A' grade films." Had the director worked on questioning this a bit (by interviewing women with acting ability or in live theater), this would be a 7. Without ever explaining or questioning that, it is a 5.
Big Guy writes: Being a fan of typical "bad" movies I was very interested to see this documentary. I have seen numerous of the movies that were featured (I have to admit) but never really thought about the people making the movies. One thing that amazed me was how good the at acting the actors became outside of the movies. Julie Strain displayed more emotion and feelings in the few minutes she was featured than in all of her other movies combined. Of course in those few minutes she showed what a shallow person she is. As most of the directors and producers seem to be. They all seemed very paranoid about their movies being called exploitative. Overall the movie was quite good. I could have done without the home video of the little girl naked (flashback to molestation of Odette as a child). Also it seemed that the footage of Maria Ford (one of the main interviewees) was overdone. I am a fan of hers but it seems that she was exploited for this film to make it more gritty. Many of the others interviewed didn't see a problem (being more concerned about making money).
Oliver's brother Steve appears in a 1/7/02 article in Fortune about the decline of the Disney company. "Disney has not done enough to retain its key executives," says Steve Unger, director of the media and entertainment practice at the Heidrick & Struggles search firm. "There was a certain arrogance and hubris attendant to the success. Now it's compounded by a certain defensiveness."
Magpie writes on RAME: I've just watched "I Like to Play Games Too" starring Maria Ford, and although it's only softcore I was surprised to find that Maria Ford's performance was more erotic that just about any hardcore stuff I've seen in a long time! The last time I saw her was in the doco "Some Nudity Required" where she was insecure about her looks, feeling that she had to make movies with nudity in order to be an actress, and awaiting her big break into the mainstream. She was very upset about how audiences might misunderstand her due to the roles she plays, and scared that this was taking her further away from her dream of being a hollywood actress. However, she's now had implants (and they look good!) and making movies that are just short of being hardcore. I was surprised to discover that she has almost no prescence on the internet; I've done several searches, using different engines and have found no fan sites, galleries etc. Nearly all the other actresses who appear in these films have got their own sites, merchandising, pictorials for Penthouse and or Playboy, but not Maria Ford? Am I the only person who finds her attractive? Is the fact that unlike the other performers in these films she can actually act unappealing to people?
The following story is true. The names have been changed.
Jay, Jeff and Jack were homosexual lovers at an Ivy League college. They all went on to important positions in television. Jay had the least important position. He was a talent seeker for a reality show. Passing himself off as an important figure in TV, he'd give people the business card of a TV executive who he impersonated. This enabled him to get laid. Jay's bisexual. He enjoyed having women blow him to get on TV. Once he lured this young woman into his car, got her to take off all her clothes, and give him oral sex. Then he pushed her out of the car, keeping her clothes, and drove away. The woman was in hysterics and devastated. But the show's producers managed to talk her down and away from bringing suit. Jay's important friends, Jeff and Jack, key TV executives, went to bat for him. There was a big coverup. And that was the last anyone heard of the scandal.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura Quits
From Daily Variety: "In a decision that stunned the entertainment community Tuesday, Lorenzo di Bonaventura stepped down as Warner Bros. exec VP of worldwide motion pictures to become an indie producer for the studio. The move, effective immediately, surprised the town because not only is Warners' movie division in good shape overall, but for more than a decade di Bonaventura has been one of Hollywood's more ambitious and hard-working studio execs."
Luke says: I know nobody stunned by this. Lorenzo did a lousy job at Warners and it was just a question of when he'd get fired. Now it's time for John Calley and Amy Pascal to get the boot from Sony.
I wrote August 9 on this site under the headline "Dangerous Time to be a Mogul":
"I was talking to someone much wiser in the industry than I am today about when a broom was going to sweep through our industry and bring in some fresh blood as studio heads. It's about eight years past time for Michael Eisner to go at Disney. Amy Pascal and John Calley have failed at Sony. Won't their contracts expire in October? Lorenzo di Bonanventura hasn't accomplished anything at Warner Brothers."
Bonaventura, born around 1957, is the Harvard-educated son of a symphony conductor. A former river-rafting guide, Lorenzo has two kids.
Lorenzo Bonaventura and Alan Horn had different creative tastes and work habits. Di Bonaventura, for example, loved Denzel Washington's "Training Day," which Horn found too dark.
Di Bonaventura joined Warners in 1989 as a production exec. He soon became VP of production. He was named senior VP of production in 1993 and exec VP of production in 1995. In 1996, Di Bonaventura became the co-head of Warners' theatrical production, assuming his position as sole president of Warners' worldwide production in April 1998. In July, he was named to the corporate post of exec VP, Worldwide Motion Pictures, Warner Bros., assuming additional oversight of all feature film marketing.
Some of the hits produced under di Bonaventura include "The Matrix," "Analyze This," "Three Kings," "The Perfect Storm," "Training Day," "Ocean's Eleven," "Scooby-Doo" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
From the LA Times article by Anita Busch and James Bates: "Lorenzo di Bonaventura had periodically clashed with Warner President Alan Horn over budgets and picking movies during the three years they worked together. They frequently had icy relations..."
But that wasn't the reason Bonaventura left Warners. He left because he was pushed out. And he was pushed out because he did a lousy job.
David Poland is the only one who gets it. Poland writes on the Hot Button: "The first mistake will be to blame only Pluto Nash for Di Bonaventura’s demise. Even had Pluto Nash not existed or not been part of this summer, Warner Bros. would still have been the second worst performer of this summer, perhaps a few million in the black when all was said and done. With Nash, the studio lost tens of millions overall.
"But the screw-ups don’t end there. Di Bonaventura should be held directly responsible for the studio’s inability to get a DC Comics superhero movie off the ground in the midst of a genre craze, managing somehow to assure that at least three supposedly near-greenlit or greenlit projects will not happen anytime in 2002 or 2003."
Producer Michael Heuser
I took a drive into Santa Monica July 24, 2002, to interview H. Michael Heuser (born in 1958), CEO of Storm Entertainment.
Michael received about four faxes from me over the past year, requesting an interview. Respecting my tenacity, he finally gave in.
Heuser reads about seven scripts a week. His office receives about a 1000 unsolicited scripts a year.
Heuser is a straight shooter. Happily married for 21 years, he has three kids (aged 20, 16 and 13).
I arrive at his office 30 minutes early, so I stroll down to the ocean overlook. As I gazed out at the deep blue waters, I think about the state of my soul and the direction of my religious journey.
After three minutes, I turn around and buzz Michael's office. His female secretary answers the door. She sits me down and gives me water.
"Oh," she should say, "You come from the land down under, where women glow and men plunder. Oh, can you hear, can you hear, the thunder? You better run, you better take cover."
I read the book Crying at the Movies. I tried not to look as though I am peaking into Michael's office and overhearing his phone conversations.
I wonder if Michael has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior?
Does he believe in the immortality of the soul?
These are the questions I need to add to my repetoir to put more pep into my producer interviews.
I'd read about Heuser in the 10/21/02 issue Variety. Here are excerpts:
In Hollywood lingo, a locomotive is a big commercial picture buyers can't resist, so much so that distribs bundle it to sell a package of films.
"In the old days if you had a locomotive you could accompany that with five to seven films," says Storm Entertainment's president and CEO Michael Heuser. "Today it's one, two, a maximum of three films."
To make an average of six films a year (three at $20 million and three in the $3 million-$6 million range), Storm relies on the bigger-budget projects to help sell the smaller ones.
"There's no formula for financing movies today," says Heuser. "You have to replace pre-sales with alternative collateral. Inevitably there's a gap, but ideally the leverage from higher-profile films will benefit niche market films." Storm chooses not to impose any predetermined genre mix on its lineup.
"The best rises to the top," explains Hauser. "Some years we may not have an action or comedy picture."
I take the only open seat around a large table in Michael's inner office. The other chairs are piled with scripts. His company is one of the few that reads unsolicited scripts.
Luke: "Where did you grow up?"
Michael: "I grew up all over the world. My father, Henry Heuser, was a career diplomat and an American ambassador. We lived mostly in developing countries in Africa, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Korea, Italy... You're assign to a post in a foreign country for usually two years and then you come back to Washington D.C., where the State Department is. You go back and forth. My father did that until retiring in the mid-seventies, at which point I was ready to go to college.
"I was born in 1958. I went to high school in Italy. I then went to Colgate University in upstate New York."
Luke: "How many languages do you speak?"
Michael: "I speak four languages - Italian, French, Spanish and English. It's something I took for granted. I was able to be in myriad communities around the world and accommodate well because I could speak the language. Speaking a language allows you to absorb certain cultural idiosyncrasies and feel comfortable.
"When I graduated from university (with a double major in Economics and International Relations), I had a choice of six banks to work for. In 1980, the recruiting process for banking was aggressive. They'd send recruiters to strong liberal arts colleges around the country. They wine you and dine you and put you up in the best hotels and take you to where you'd theoretically work in the following year. It was an environment that was not attractive to me.
"My father had always said, 'Whatever you do, you're going to be selling something. Choose a product that you like.' Films came to mind.
"I interviewed at all the studios and ultimately was hired by a company that still exists today, UIP. It's the world's biggest film distribution company. It's a joint venture between Paramount, Universal, MGM and UA (United Artists). They're not allowed to get away with it [collusion] in this country but overseas it still operates. I worked for UIP for several years. Then I worked for Jack Valenti (MPAA, Motion Picture Arts Association) in latin America.
"I then had an opportunity to work with an icon of the independent business, Mark Damon, and John Hyde at PSO (Producers Sales Organization). At the time you don't realize how much you're learning, but in retrospect it was a golden opportunity. Regretfully met its fate by committing excessively to production. I believe Mark is writing a book.
"We then started our own company (Interaccess) with a number of executives from PSO. We were absorbed by Vestron, which [in the eighties] was the premiere video distribution company. Vestron also got the production bug and that also didn't work out for them. We made Dirty Dancing.
"In 1988, a number of us then chose to create our company, August Entertainment, which still exists. It's now more of a library company, selling licenses to its product.
"At a certain point in your career, you decide to give it your own best shot. In 1996, I formed Storm Entertainment.
"August had run into some difficulties and two of the four partners chose to associate themselves with Kushner-Locke, a successful public company at the time.
"I created my own company from my bed with my fax and my phone and the cats and the dogs and kids running around. After six months, with our first movie up and running, that allowed us to find some office space."
Luke: "How long have you been married?"
Michael: "Twenty one years. It's the smartest thing I ever did. Everything else is peripheral. At the end of the day, it's the family unit that matters. It's nice to be surrounded by that kind of love."
Michael answers rapidly after I pose my questions.
Luke: "How does being a father affect you as a producer?"
Michael: "As they grow older, you become less sensitive to the kinds of films you're making. But I've never been the kind of person who makes excessively violent or erotic movies. It's more about being in a position to show your kids what a work ethic is all about and you hope that the most important lessons will filter into their lifestyles. It's more about who you are [as a father] then the kinds of movies you do.
"Every once in a while there's a strange movie that comes across one's desk that has to do with child molestation or child murder or serial killers, and your instinct is to just shy away from it. On the other hand, if Tom Cruise wants to play the serial killer, you have a second thought about it.
"My kids have worked here during summer, filing, faxing and running errands. Depending on what stage of math they're at, they've run certain analyses. I let them see that their father is enjoying what he's doing and working hard at it. That the people around him have a good relationship with him and vice versa. How he treats people and how people treat him. You just want your kids to see the best. They learn when times are hard and when times are good."
Luke: "What was your mission when you started your company?"
Michael: "To do the things you feel strongly about as opposed to doing the things you think the community feels strongly about. I can't compete with the special effects movies. I can't compete with the studios. I can't compete with the Miramaxes. I can't follow the trends. I compete in my own world by making movies that I can sell with conviction."
Luke: "How did you come to make Hurlyburly?"
Michael: "The project came to us through an agency. Eight other companies had tried over the course of eight years to make it. It was tough material. It hits at the heart of Hollywood. I couldn't be prouder of it. It's been our highest profile film.
"Our budget range is anywhere from $2-$30 million."
Michael smokes his second cigarette.
Luke: "Are there things that you do just for appearances?"
Michael: "None. I don't go to places to be seen. I don't go to parties. I don't have time. I'm up at 6AM. I'm in the office by 7:30AM."
Luke: "Do your wife and kids give you good advice about the industry?"
Michael: "I don't think my wife is enamored of the industry. From the kids point of view, when you grow up in this industry, you become blase about it. They've all been in the Beverly Hills school system since kindergarten."
Luke: "I interviewed your friend Steven Wolfe. He makes twisted movies."
Michael: "He's not a twisted person. He's an independent producer who has to turn to companies such as mine for financing. I'd work with him in a flash. There are certain people you have a pleasure of working with that you can only wish that everybody could be as good."
Luke: "What's the smartest thing you've done?"
Michael: "Start my own company."
Luke: "How often do you go to the Valley?"
Michael: "Whenever I have a meeting there, about twice a month. But most people prefer to come to the beach. I should open the shades so you can see the ocean."
Michael opens the shades.
Michael: "You can see the palm trees and the sand and the umbrellas on the beach. You can see the Santa Monica Pier. It doesn't get better than that."
Luke: "What's your strong point as a producer?"
Michael: "Assembling the different pieces of the financial puzzle."
Luke: "When was the last time you found yourself unexpectedly starstruck?"
Michael: "When I met [black American Olympic sprinter] Jesse Owens in Africa when I was 14."
Luke: "Have you worked on movies where loads of attractive women disrobed for you?"
Michael: "No, because I was a victim of that once. I [at age 22] was harassed. It didn't have a capital H at the time. It was effectively if you do this, you get that. I ran in horror."
Luke: "What did you think about the meltdown of Michael Ovitz?"
Luke: "Have you ever worked on a film that's changed you?"
Luke: "Are you willing to risk your life to make a film?"
David Poland writes: When I suggest that the editor and publisher of the L.A. Weekly have significantly lowered the prestige of their paper by allowing Nikki to spew poorly reported, admittedly biased bile in their pages, I am speaking to their responsibilities. I doubt that a reporter in any non-entertainment capacity would be allowed to write about companies with which they are in virulent litigation, much less to spin negative stories with consistently unnamed sources. (Perhaps this is Finke’s objection to the WSJ… they actually have sources that go on the record sometimes! Ironically, there is not a single story source quoted in Finke’s anti-Disney attack. The only quotes – there are 3 - are anecdotally repeated from other sources.)
MSNBC reports: Style over substance at Celebrity Central: So let’s consider important issues ... like the National Enquirer.
Michael Tolkin Praised By Jewish Journal
Howard Kaplan writes for the 8/30/02 www.Jewishjournal.com about Michael Tolkin's latest book Under Radar:
Recently, I heard Michael Tolkin speak at Temple Beth Am about "Under Radar." Pacing frenetically, he explained that midway through the writing he had stalled and shelved the manuscript. During that time, slipping on his own spiritual path — parallel to the novel’s — he had ransacked various synagogues for answers and had succeeded only in worrying his wife.
Tolkin has regained his footing, and in this magnificent novel, so has his main character, Tom Levy. Best-known for his screenplay of "The Player" (based on his first novel) and for scripts like "Changing Lanes," Tolkin writes characters who move through a mire of moral and spiritual ambiguity. Like their creator, they don’t have an easy time of it. "Under Radar" chronicles one such man’s journey to redemption.
Luke says: I wonder if Tolkin, during his search for spiritual truth, stepped inside an orthodox synagogue? Most Reform and Conservative synagogues are not religously and morally seriously. They are more like ethnic clubs. I loved Robert Altman's film The Player, based on Tolkin's script and novel, but aside from that I'm dubious of Tolkin's writings. I watched The Rapture. I've read his essay on the Exodus in the Jewish Journal and reviews of his books but I just don't sense a genuine moral struggle or exploration of serious religion in his fluffy new age lite books. Not that I've read any of them, aside from The Player.
I suspect that Tolkin's book is another pretentious exploration of moral themes that will make no intellectual, moral or religious demands on its readers. Just the stuff the secular Jewish establishment loves.
If Luke Ford doesn't speak up for moral and religious seriousness, who will?
Curious interjects: I must admit that yes, Luke does work in an extremely sordid and sinful environment, but in his defense, I must point out that he has remained pure, untouched and insulated from the gross depravity and vile temptations that surround him. Luke continues to be a gentle soul whose commitment to God and truth is absolutely unassailable. He stands alone in the cesspool of Hollywood as a shining beacon of both dignity and class. Luke has proven time and again to be an upstanding entertainment journalist deserving of both industry accolades and his peers' respect. Luke. I salute you.
Should An Actress Best Known For Getting Naked Host Tribute To Heroes Events?
This burning moral question was brought to my attention by my friend Marc W..
Jaime Pressly was born on July 30, 1977 in Kinston, North Carolina.
After years of gymnastic and dance training, Jaime entered modeling at age 13.
At the age of fifteen, Jaime was legally separated from her parents. She now lives in Los Angeles, California.
Jaime's has been on the cover of Teen Magazine and has also toured the United States, Italy and Japan doing modelling work. She has also appeared in Playboy Magazine.
Her acting debut came with her starring role in the movie Poison Ivy: New Seduction. The series has used such actresses in the past as Drew Barrymore and Alyssa Milano. Jaime won the starring role after her work as Barrymore's body double in the first movie in 1992.
Pressly was also in the teen movie "Can't Hardly Wait", starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. It was Jaime (who played one of her girlfriends), who captured the attention of many. Jaime also has a recurring role on the television show Jack & Jill, playing dancer/actress Audrey Griffin. She has also slummed as trailer trash in the Jerry Springer's "Ringmaster" and this year's "Trash." Pressly has appeared with Richard Greico in both "The Journey: Absolution" and "Against the Law," as well as with Jean Claude Van Damme in "Desert Heat."
She is best known as an actress for getting naked. She says she hates doing love scenes. Jaime says that even a stage kiss is too intimate.
She is 5'5" tall and has a tattoo on her lower back of a blue Leo sign with Japanese writing that means "healthy, strong and brave."
From MarksFriggin.com: "Jaime Pressly Comes In. 12/10/01. 8:00am. At one point in the interview Jaime made a comment about how Howard ''got slapped a yarmulke'' [to account for his ugly looks]. Howard and the guys kept bringing that offensive statement up over and over again through the rest of the show and Jaime was upset about that. Later in the show Howard played tape of Mike Gange interviewing her when she was leaving and she seemed a little upset about them goofing on her. She apologized to Howard for the statement but she didn't seem to realize it was offensive. Howard found that kind of odd. She did say that she has nothing against Jewish people after making that comment. Howard said he can't wait to hear her explanation of that comment on other shows."
Edward Lozzi, of Edward Lozzi & Associates Public Relations, writes Marc W. 9/2/02 on behalf of The California Jewish Center: "We would like to thank actress Jamie Pressly for her unselfish support for the Tribute to 26 Heroes sponsored by our organization. Her presence and comments in front of the entire Southern California Jewish Community was well-received. The young survivors of the suicide bombs were thrilled at seeing Jamie and appreciated her being there. We were happy to have her. Those of us in The Entertainment industry have put up with the antics and callous diatribe of Howard Stern. Do you think he is an appropriate spokesperson for Judaism? Pul-ease!"
Photo. Moishiach Kashi (L), whose wife Zilpa Kashi was killed during a bus attack in Israel on July 16, 2002, is honored at the "Tribute to Heroes" dinner August 26, 2002 in Beverly Hills by actress Jaime Pressly and Rabbi Shimon Kashani. The Southern California Jewish Center honored 26 victims of attacks in Israel at the event and had hosted them for a two week visit to California.