Better To Light A Candle...
I sat in shul the other day and looked around and saw all the people I used to know from Jewish singles events. Now they're married with kids. But I'm still single. Damn.
So I was walking home from shul in my typically angry, passive-aggressive, depressed, lonely manner, blaming others for my problems. I got home and got into bed and cursed the darkness. Then I remembered a phrase - better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
Ahh, to get self esteem, I must act esteemably. I must light a candle and be a light of goodness.
Rob writes: Have you got a couple million dollars put away yet Luke? Or is this future wife going to provide all the financial security you may need to provide for these kids? Going into that long term situation without a few million put away or a least a very large life insurance policy is like having condomless sex with someone who is HIV positive. Nothing but a big gamble. Of course the human race would probably go extinct if everyone went by my rules so what do I know. Go volunteer, Go spoil your nieces and nephews if you got em, they'll love ya for it. And you can come and go as you please. You can't beat that.
American vs Chinese Films
American films are largely about underdogs who take on top dogs and win. Panicwatcher writes on Imdb.com: "Most Chinese movies are about victims of the culture or political system or how beautiful you men and women are kept apart or forced together by forces outside their control."
In America, it's the individual that matters. You can become anyone you want.
Just War On Iraq
From LA Times: Jewish groups have been struggling with Bush's new military doctrine that allows for preemptive, unilateral war by the United States.
The Rabbinical Council of America, a leading Orthodox group, supports Bush unequivocally. "The longer we wait, the more problems that could ensue," said Rabbi Steven Dworken, executive vice president of the council.
A war with Iraq is "a continuing of a war on terrorism," he said, adding that Hussein is of the same "genre" as Osama bin Laden. "He has a regime that could destabilize the entire region and have repercussions all over the world," he said.
The executive committee of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, an organization of Reform synagogues, also supports Bush, but with some caveats. International cooperation is "far better" than unilateral action, the organization said, and it emphasized that nonmilitary action is preferable to war. But it asked only that the Bush administration explore those options while insisting that it get the approval of Congress before acting.
Please Stop Jeffrey Wells Before He Kills Again
Movie columnist Jeffrey Wells has another actor in his sights today: "Jake Gyllenhaal has become a huge problem for me. I don't know if I can tolerate his hesitant, inarticulate, inwardly damaged basset hound droopiness in a film ever again."
On AICN.com, Harry Knowles contributor Moriarity aka Drew McWeeny rips J.J. Abrams script for Superman 5. I'm with Jeffrey. I couldn't give a damn about any Superman film. I'm not eight years old anymore.
Harry Knowles claims to have 4000 signatures on his petition against the script. I thought Harry claimed a million readers a month. His low number of signatures shows how dishonest he is with his website traffic numbers. (Pointed out to me by a fellow entertainment journalist.)
Jeffrey writes: "Now, at the ripe old age of 31, [Kristy] Swanson has turned up in a nude spread for PLAYBOY, which can sometimes be a kind of career resuscitator. She looks great in the photos, although I somehow doubt that the town's A-level directors will be clamoring for her services anytime soon."
Reel.com ran out of money and could no longer afford Wells who moved over to Kevin Smith's website a month ago. He's replaced at Reel.com by Montreal's Sarah Chauncey who's copied Jeffrey's old format with her column "The Reel Deal." Couldn't she come up with something on her own?
On The Superiority Of Orthodox Judaism
I prepared for the Holy Sabbath Friday afternoon watching a black art film soon to be released by Fox Searchlight Pictures - Brown Sugar. It's a piece of crap.
This movie is horrible. It fails on all counts - script, direction, acting.
It tries to be a romance set against a hip-hop music background. It's so depressing to see people finding meaning in their lives out of such a primitive form of music.
The Mishanic chapter, Pirkei Arvot (Ethics of the Fathers) instructs that one should not talk over much with women, not even one's own wife. The lead male character of Dre, played by Taye Diggs, would've done well to have abided by that Talmudic instruction. Instead, while married, he tries to keep up a lifelong friendship with Sidney, played by the terrific actress Sanaa Lathan.
As Dennis Prager and the Jewish tradition teach, men and women can't be platonic friends without one person wanting more.
And is no one going to step forward and call hip-hop the low, primitive drug and violence racked degenerate social disease that it is? It doesn't do the black community any favors to have blacks walking and driving around blasting this crap at high volume.
The movie agonizes about authentic artistry in hip-hop. It's like looking for authentic artistry in pornography.
From the press release synopsis: "Dre (Taye Diggs) and Sidney (Sanna Lathan) can attribute their friendship and the launch of their careers to a single childhood moment...the day they discovered hip-hop on a New York street corner. Now some 15 years later, she is a revered music critic and he is a successful, though unfulfilled music executive. As they lay down the tracks toward their futures, hip-hop isn't the only thing that keeps them coming back to that moment on the corner..."
Sheesh. A "revered [hip-hop] music critic"? Sounds like the basketcase Alisa Valdes-Rodrigeuz.
Brown Sugar is Earvin "Magic" Johnson's first feature film as an executive producer. He should be ashamed.
Director Rick Famuyiwa: "I thought it would be interesting to make a film where the characters' love for the music spoke to the love that they had for each other." No wonder the characters were so screwed up and lived such shallow lives.
In Bed With The Mob
Entertainment journalists who owe their careers to the Gay Mafia - Nikki Finke, Anita Busch, Bernie Weinraub.
Over-rated studio execs who seduce journalists - Amy Pascal, Lorenzo di Bonaventura.
LA Times Cries For Poor Misunderstood American Muslims
LA Times says American Muslims are victims of a sad fate. Because Muslims attacked the US, they've been isolated.
Muslims say in the article: What more can we do?
Dennis Prager says there's been nothing more disappointing than the total lack of Muslim condemnation of Islamic terror bombers in Israel. The Muslims have set themselves back. How come there has not been a single Muslim demonstration against terror in the US? Or elsewhere? How about a demonstration that Salmon Rushdie should be allowed to live? How about a demonstration that suicide bombers go to hell rather than heaven? How about a demonstration for the woman in Nigeria who was sentenced to death for having sex outside of marriage?
Given that America's enemies coalesce around radical Islam, you'd think that American Muslims would hit the streets to distinguish themselves from their terroristic co-religionists. German-Americans took great pains to distinguish themselves from their mother country during WWII.
It's remarkable how tolerant Americans are of Muslims given their lack of condemnation of their co-religionists.
The Times article is written by secular Christian Teresa Watanabe, who on the first day of Passover, in year 2000, published a long blistering article to the effect that the Exodus from Egypt never happened. I'm still waiting for her followups ripping the foundations of other religions on their holiest days.
I wonder why Watanabe has never written an article dismissing Islamic claims that the Koran comes from God, and instead reveal its post-Mohammed composite nature? Could it be that she knows that Muslims might kill her, while Jews won't, even if she denies the Exodus?
Teresa Watanabe writes: A year after the Sept. 11 attacks, American Muslim leaders increasingly fear their community is being pushed to the margins of the American political system.
Until the attacks, Muslims had been making steady gains in moving into the American mainstream. Muslims were just beginning to win appointments to government commissions.
Evidence of a hardening of attitudes against Muslims—at least on the part of some Americans—comes in several forms. So far this year, more than 20 books on the "Islamic menace" have been published. Two of those books are the best-selling titles among 7,219 books on Islam at Amazon.com: "American Jihad: The Terrorists Among Us," by Steven Emerson, and "Militant Islam Reaches America," by Daniel Pipes.
Leading figures among evangelical Christian denominations have made a series of public statements denouncing Islam as an evil.
And polls show that although Americans have gained familiarity with Islam, their increased knowledge has not led to greater approval.
"The tragedy," said Aslam Abdullah of the Los Angeles-based Minaret magazine, "is that American Muslims were working so hard to be accepted as equal citizens, and now all of a sudden they find they have to prove their loyalty all over again."
Many Muslim activists blame what one called "a troika of evangelical Christians, right-wing conservatives and the pro-Israel lobby" for their plight.
Indeed, the Times poll showed that unfavorable impressions of Muslims are stronger among Republicans than among either Democrats or political independents.
Rob writes: I guess Dennis Prager missed seeing the anti-terror demonstrations after 9/11 in such places as Turkey and in Iran which scared the ruling Muslim hardliners in that country. Get on the ball Prager.
Thank God It's Not Gore-Reiner
Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post: The New York Times reports that Gore wrote the speech "after consulting a fairly far-flung group of advisers that included Rob Reiner." Current U.S. foreign policy is the combined product of Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz and the president. Meanwhile, the pretender is huddling with Meathead.
Had it not been for a few little old ladies baffled by the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach, Fla., American foreign policy today would be made by Gore-Reiner instead of the Bush brain trust. Who says God doesn't smile upon the United States of America?
Barbra Streisand Advises Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt
From DrudgeReport.com: Barbra Streisand has reminded Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt in a blistering memo: "Sadam Hussein did not bomb the World Trade Center."
The Streisand memo, released by the President of the Barbra Streisand Foundation, Margery Tabankin, warns Democrats to "get off the defensive and go on the offensive."
The singeractressdirectorproducer took time out from rehearsals for a performance she's giving on Sunday for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to remind Gephardt [spelled "Gebhardt" in a faxed memo obtained by DRUDGE] not to "ignore the obvious influence on the Bush Administration of such special interests as the oil industry, the chemical companies, the logging industry... just to name a few." Streisand notes: "Many of these industries, run by big Republican donors and insiders, clearly have much to gain if we go to war against Iraq."
Streisand urges the Democrats to "publicly convey this message to the American people." While there are serious problems with Iraq, Barbra feels that we can't let this issue become a distraction from the country's domestic problems and the President's inability to fully dismantle the al Qaeda [spelled "Al Queda" in the fax] network. After all, Saddam [spelled Sadam in the fax] "Hussein did not bomb the World Trade Center."
Feel free to call Barbra or me at 310-395-3599 if you would like to discuss this further, Tabankin offers to Gephardt.
LA Times Journalist Claudia Eller
Claudia Eller wrote a regular column for Variety before moving to the Los Angeles Times. Both are essentially trade papers with a softball approach to the entertainment industry.
Journalist David Poland calls Eller "the reporter most likely to get a phone call from a studio chief who wants to tell their story."
Eller is a lesbian. She's raising an adopted child.
Like her former Variety editor Peter Bart, Eller has a reputation for playing favorites by praising people she likes and ripping those she doesn't like.
Veteran industry journalist David Poland writes 2/16/01 on his website www.thehotbutton.com: "I got an e-mail from Roland S. Martin, publisher of Black America Today News Report E-Letter, pointing out that the Times' Claudia Eller had refused to be interviewed for the story without the conditions that, according to David Shaw, "one of her editors be present for the interview and that she be allowed to approve or veto before publication the use of any direct quotations to be attributed to her." Shaw soft pedals the second demand as "not uncommon in Hollywood," but I have to tell you that I have NEVER done an interview in which the interviewee got to approve or veto quotes. At the New York Times Magazine, one writer was recently said to have been fired for letting an interviewee see the story before publication. Interview subjects are free to say what is on the record or off, for attribution or not, and how some things can or cannot be attributed. But that's during the interview, not pre-publication. And, as Martin wrote in his letter, "My anger stems from the fact that a journalist who would be appalled at such a request by someone else would ask for the same thing from a fellow journalist -- at her own paper!""
The long boring and uninspired LA Times series on showbiz journalism by David Shaw in February 2001 quoted Poland questioning a Claudia Eller column on Cameron Crowe. Poland said Eller, in a column, was hard on Crowe for apparently no other reason than he didn't return her call.
Poland writes 2/16/01 on www.thehotbutton.com: "Shaw allows Eller to deny that there was any bias by standing by her facts. But, as my column said back then, it was not the facts… everyone, including me, had already written about the troubled relationship between Crowe and DreamWorks… but the tone of the piece that was problematic. Of course, this is a theme throughout Shaw's series. What is a lie? What is just spin?
Shaw writes, "Poland said the only reason he could think of for Eller's story was that Crowe didn't return Eller's phone call." He continues, "Eller denies that. She says she had numerous sources on the story and stands by its accuracy." Well, I never said the core facts were wrong.
"What I wrote was, "What I do think is that Ms. Eller's piece on Almost Famous' failure to light up the box office was a story worth telling. (I've been writing about it for weeks, as have others.) But I also feel that Ms. Eller went way out of her way to turn a piece about the box office into an attack piece. And the only reason that I can figure out for the attack, based on the article, is that Crowe didn't return Eller's phone call. Now, there's a good reason to slam a man, a studio and a movie!" (You can read my whole piece by clicking here.)
"Shaw also goes light on Eller by writing, "…she said that Crowe was so pained that he `refuses to come to the phone now to discuss' the film." What Claudia actually wrote was, "Crowe is understandably pained. So much so that the man who granted tons of interviews before his movie's release refuses to come to the phone now to discuss it." The first is about his pain... about the story that there was tension. But what she actually wrote sure seems to me like a shot at Crowe's choices about how he makes himself available to the press. Maybe I'm crazy… you tell me. In my book, these are the subtle differences between strong journalism and attack journalism.
"And then there is her falling out with Jeffrey Katzenberg, which is said by many to have been about his decision to give the DreamWorks SKG scoop to someone else and then exacerbated by the L.A. Times' coverage of his separation trial against Disney. Or look at her love letter to Amy Pascal at a critical moment at Sony."
Poland writes: "...[R]ecent years have seen more and more of how Claudia feels in her writing and less and less straight reportage."
Poland provides such examples as Eller's fierce attack (May, 2000) on Disney Peter Schneider. She mocks the executive for his personal behavior at lunch with her rather than the mess over the movie Dinosaur.
Poland writes 5/15/00: "There isn't really a journalist in this town that I can remember having a more public rollercoaster relationship with Disney than the Los Angeles Times' Claudia Eller. I don't want to relive the history, but the switch from friend-of-the-family to enemy-of-the-state has taken place a few times over the years in a matter of hours. If anybody had any doubts about where the relationship now sits, they must have found Ms. Eller's Friday story to be a jolt. In one of the great bridge burning stories I've ever read, Eller leads a piece on Dinosaur not with the information she got in a lunch interview with studio chairman Peter Schneider and animation chief Tom Schumacher, but with a detailed and mocking account of the lunch itself. She wants to know why the studio is spending $200 million on a "kids' flick about dinosaurs." Schneider "bound(s)" up to the table. Schneider and Schumacher respond to her question about the budget in unison. Schneider snaps at Claudia and gets tagged with a rep for "a Peter Schneider three-veiner" for his trouble. He is "frazzled and flushed." Schumacher is "mortified by (Schneider's) behavior." When Schneider finally goes on the record, spinning Dinosaur as more important than its cost, Eller has already cut him off at the knees by earlier poo-pooing an earlier attempt at a similar argument, leaving a lingering doubt in the air even before the meat of the argument. Eller pegs the cost of the movie between $245 and $275 million before P&A, about $75 million of either figure attributable to the new animation studio that Disney built around this project. After lightening up and saying that Disney rivals think the film will be a hit, she can't resist a closing jab: "The unflappable Schumacher gave me a kiss on the cheek goodbye. Schneider shook my hand." Killer. And such is the glory of a big name journalism gig. Peter Schneider probably has hired a hitman for Claudia, but can't afford to blackout the L.A. Times completely, while I could face a feces storm just for mentioning the article in this column. Nonetheless, this one is destined for the "keeper" file.
Claudia Eller was the first mainstream journalist (in January, 1994) to write about manager Sandy Gallin's homosexuality.
New Times LA journalist Jill Stewart wrote (12/10/98) a great piece about how the Los Angeles Times sucks up to Hollywood and the city's rich and powerful while ignoring how many of these powerful achieved their wealth and power through thuggery. For instance, when Lew Wasserman died (in 2002), the LA Times wrote laudatory things about this man who rose to power through dirty dealing and organized crime connections.
Jill wrote: ...[T]he Times has made no mention of The Last Mogul [Dennis McDougal's scathing unauthorized biography of Lew Wasserman] since its release a month ago, even as the East Coast media gives wide play to the book, including a gushing review in the New York Observer.
"Ignoring a book this big!" New York Post gossip columnist Richard Johnson cried out to me before I could even ask what he thought of the L.A. Times initial blackout on the Lew Wasserman biography.
"The arrogance of that paper is beyond belief!" Johnson boomed. "They are toadies to the industry! They are a shameless embarrassment to journalism!"
New York media consultant Wayne Rosso, who monitors coverage of Hollywood, lays the blame largely on former Times editor Shelby Coffey III, a suck-up to Hollywood who in the late 1980s ordered investigative reporter Bill Knoedelseder to stop digging into MCA's Mob ties. Knoedelseder quit soon after and published some of his findings in his book, Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business and the Mafia.
"Lew and the boys called Shelby and put the kibosh on all the Times coverage of MCA and the mob," Rosso maintains, "and even though Shelby Coffey is gone now, all his people are still in place. That paper is a sell-out to Hollywood, period."
True to its nature, the Times last Friday published a pro-Wasserman front-page story about the troubles facing Universal Studios in the era since Lew and his successor, Sidney Sheinberg, sold the company to the Japanese, who then sold it to Edgar Bronfman Jr./Seagram's.
Times writers Eller and James Bates wrote a lengthy story about Bronfman's many missteps, allowing the deposed Sidney Sheinberg to bemoan how Bronfman "destroyed our company" as well as the "culture that Jules Stein started, Lew Wasserman built, and I worked on."
Had the writers bothered to read McDougal, they could have written that when Sheinberg and Wasserman were bought out, MCA was aging badly--because of Sheinberg and Wasserman's stinginess and inability to change with the times. Sheinberg and Wasserman pushed the unpopular videodisc technology, fought the onset of VCRs, and dismissed the importance of cable.
As the stock market slides into oblivion, holyman Khunrum celebrates Sukos with wandering Jews at Vientiene airport and sends pics of the object of his long time affection, Ms. So. Peace be with you.
Hollywood Jews Ambivalent About Israel
There's hardly a cause in the world that isn't attempting to harness Hollywood's star power to raise awareness and cash.
Yet the question of Israel and whether to wholeheartedly embrace its cause is posing a surprisingly provocative and uncomfortable dilemma for many in the industry, all the more notable because the movie business was founded by and is still well-populated by Jews. It's one issue on which few are speaking out, rare in a town where people spout off on almost every political concern from guns to whales.
"There's been a puzzling silence," says Dan Gordon, screenwriter of "The Hurricane" and a strong supporter of Israel. "We're in an industry that takes stands on everything. People can't shut us up! I'd love to see the indignation about homicide bombers that is reserved for smokers. You smoke in this town, and you're dead. Rob Reiner will come after you."
And though few in Hollywood are nervous about appearing pro-environment or anti-smoking, there is trepidation about the unwelcome typecasting that being unabashedly pro-Israel might bring.
Publicist Howard Bragman goes further: "It's easier to come out as a gay in Hollywood than as a Jew. I'm frankly shocked at how many people are in the closet about their Jewishness."
Israel's consul general in L.A., Yuval Rotem, says he's made dozens of phone calls trying to get a high-profile Hollywood figure to visit Israel and so far has failed. "Ever since March, when we lost 140 people in one month, which was the trigger for our incursion into the territories, I've asked this question over and over again: 'Where have they been?' " Rotem says.
Even today, with the exception of Holocaust-related films and documentaries, it's not uncommon for projects to be dismissed as "too Jewish." There have been few movies made about Israel...
"Liberals are on the side of the underdog," says writer-director Michael Tolkin, author of "The Player" and "Changing Lanes." "The people who've had their cities turned into rubble look like the underdog. There's embarrassment about being a Jew and a feeling of alienation from the Jewish community, a fear that it's been taken over by the right wing." At times, the left in Hollywood sounds as anguished as the left in Israel.
"One thing everybody shares is total depression and disappointment over the peace process' failing," says Marge Tabankin, who runs both Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation, which is devoted to domestic Jewish causes, and the Streisand Foundation, which handles actress Barbra Streisand's diverse charitable donations. Speaking personally, she says, "I don't know where to put my heart and soul in my volunteer time as a person who cares both about human rights and the existence of the state of Israel."
Reiner, Katzenberg, Seinfeld, David Geffen, Harvey Weinstein and Adam Sandler all declined to comment for this article.
As Tolkin sees it: "Everybody in Hollywood is obsessed with story and used to thinking their way out of a plot. There's no obvious way out of this. I don't know anyone who can get three paragraphs through a discussion of the Middle East crisis without being struck mute."
LUKE ASKS: How come Abramowitz doesn't point out how solidly Republican Jews and non-liberal Jews in Hollywood support Israel? She doesn't bother to talk to Neal Edelstein or Edgar Scherick or David Horowitz or the Wednesday Morning Club...
Pierre Spengler's Superman
Pierre Spengler produced the first three Superman movies.
From DVDverdict.com: "From the comics, both four-color and the daily strips, to radio and of course film and television, Superman has been with us in some form or another for what seems like forever. So it was in the second half of the '70s when the producing team of Alexander and Ilya Salkind, along with Pierre Spengler, decided it was time for a new Superman to fly into the public view. They wanted to make this version of Superman a big-budget movie with an epic feel. The main problem was Hollywood only saw Superman in terms of the "Batman" television show of the late '60s. So in order to secure financing, the Salkinds had to line up someone who would give the project instant credibility. That someone turned out to be writer Mario Puzo. The author of "The Godfather" and other works turned in an outline that was more than enough to lure in Warner Brothers who owned the Superman property through their company DC Comics. Once Puzo was onboard, Oscar winners Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were added to the mix and the project started to generate some real buzz."
Dismayed when Richard Donner was replaced in "Superman II" by director Richard Lester, actress Margot Kidder branded the producers Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler "scummy," "devious" and "untrustworthy." (People 5/1/96)
From the Independent, 10-05-1994: THE WIDOW and children of Roy Kinnear, the actor who died filming a stunt in Spain, were awarded pounds 650,000 damages and their legal costs in the High Court yesterday.
The settlement came on the second day of the case against the producer Pierre Spengler and the director Richard Lester, of the Falconfilms production company. They denied exposing the 54-year- old actor to unnecessary risk during the making of TheReturn of the Musketeers in 1988.
Mr Justice Hidden heard that Mr Kinnear, playing the servant Planchet, was thrown from his horse after Mr Lester's order to 'thunder' at speed across the Alcantara bridge near Toledo. A stunt co-ordinator and fellow actors Oliver Reed and Michael York regarded the scene as hazardous, but Mr Kinnear, a 'nervous, incompetent' horseman, was not offered a stunt double. The 16-stone actor suffered severe pelvic injuries followed by massive internal bleeding. He died in hospital 24 hours later.
But the defendants claimed that the immediate cause of death was medical negligence by the Madrid hospital where he was treated, and that it should pay at least part of the damages. These third party proceedings involving the Hospital RuberInternacional and an orthopaedic surgeon, Juan Ayala Andrades, were adjourned until tomorrow.
Carmel Kinnear gave evidence about her husband's death. 'That night is indelibly printed on my mind for ever,' she said. Outside the court, she said: 'I feel justice has been done. Somebody can't just die and we all forget about it. Nothing will ever make up for the last six years of hell or the rest of our lives without him.'
Other deaths on set include Brandon Lee, son of the martial arts expert Bruce Lee, who was killed by a bullet while filming The Crow last year. The largest number of deaths occurred in 1931, during the shooting of The Viking, in which 27 people died when the Viking ship blew up off Newfoundland.
I interviewed Pierre Spengler at the home of American Tony Unger on September 9, 2002.
Pierre: "I was born in Paris and grew up there. I had a Russian family. We spoke Russian at home. My parents left Russia in 1920. My mother was eight years old. My father was accidentally born in France while his parents were traveling Europe. When the revolution came, they didn't go back."
Luke: "Where were you during WWII?"
Pierre: "I wasn't born."
Luke: "Your family?"
Pierre: "They stayed in France."
Luke: "What did your father do for a living?"
Pierre: "For a living is a difficult question. He (Alexander Spengler) was writing symphonies and books. None of the books were published but his music got played."
Luke: "Were movies a childhood dream?"
Pierre: "Yes. I wanted to be a film director. I had great admiration for Orson Welles. I met with Alexander Salkind and his family when I was 11. There was a play written by Dwight Bertha. It was set in Paris. My stepfather worked in it as an actor. There was a role for a young boy that he offered to me. I went and rehearsed for two weeks. It was 1958. Then the director came. He said, 'This little boy doesn't look Mexican at all.' So I got kicked out of the play.
"In the meantime I met Alexander's son Ilya Salkind. He was always coming up with interesting stories. We remained friends.
"I had another attempt at being an actor when I was 16. It also didn't work out. I didn't want to study any more. I wanted to work. I asked Alexander to get me a job. He asked if I wanted to make tea and answer the phones, I had a job. It's 1965. I'm 17 years old. I did my military service from 1966-67.
"I showed up in Spain and worked as an assistant director on The Hot Line  starring Charles Boyer and Robert Taylor. I met Tony Unger on the set [he was overseeing production for the Mid Atlantic film company]. He was preparing The Mad Woman of Chaillot. I eventually worked on it as an assistant director. I'd spent time working for Alexander Salkind and then go off and work on other films.
"Alex was more of a financier and his father Michael was more of an artistic producer.
"My first effort with Ilya Salkind was Kill  starring James Mason and Jean Seberg and directed by Romain Gary. The film turned out terrible. I then worked with Richard Burton on Bluebeard and then The Three Musketeers . Ilya and I started developing the Superman idea in 1974 and we started shooting in 1977.
"The idea to do a Superman movie came from Ilya. Alexander checked the markets and got a good reaction. I thought it would be very expensive and I was proven right. We bought the rights from D.C. Comics, then NPP (National Periodical Publication).
"We hired Mario Puzo to write the first draft of the screenplay. Even though people knew what Superman was, they didn't see how it could be a film. We needed to give credibility to the project. We needed names that were recognizable and intrigue the distributors. We then engaged James Bond director Guy Hamilton to direct Superman. Again, people said, 'Ah! James Bond, Superman.' The final coup was signing Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando. People saw that it was a real movie."
Luke: "How did you come to sign Margot Kidder?"
Pierre: "We tested many girls and she turned out to be the best."
Luke: "Did you see then that she was mentally troubled?"
Pierre: "Not really. You'd say, 'She's crazy.' But there was no sign of a clinical problem.
"It was a difficult shoot. We ran behind schedule. We had a delivery date. We had to finish with the actors by certain dates. So we started adding more film units. We ended up having eleven units. We had a second unit, a mobile unit, a flying unit, a bluescreen unit, a second unit in Canada, a unit in Mexico."
Luke: "What was your role with the production?"
Pierre: "I was more focused on the budget, scheduling, and business affairs. Ilya Salkind had more focus on the creative and promotional side.
"The first two Supermans grossed well at the box office. The third one not so well, particularly overseas. People weren't ready for Richard Pryor as Superman. We had a franchise going and we probably should've stuck with it but Ilya and I wanted to move on to other projects. I've been on my own since 1986.
"Menahem Globus and the Canon Group made Superman 4. It bombed. Alexander Salkind made a deal with Warner Brothers to do Superman 5."
Luke: "How do you mind your career being primarily seen in the light of your Superman movies?"
Pierre: "I'm not sure it is still but there's nothing not to be proud of. The Musketeers were films people remember as well as Emir Kusturica's Underground .
"It was a coincidence. I was eating with the boss of CB2000. It was founded by Francis Brig who owned the biggest building company in the world. When it came time to retire, he decided to create a film company. The focus was to encourage to big directors like Bernardo Bertolucci and David Lynch to make big films. I was having a meeting with the guy who runs the company. They had Underground in preparation. I was pitching my projects. He was not clicking with them. He asked me to come on board Underground."
Luke: "What was it like working with Emir Kusturica?"
Pierre: "It was comparable to being on a rollercoaster. From an organizational point of view, it was a challenge. From a creative point of view, there was tremendous satisfaction. When you watched the daily rushes, you saw that it was all worth it.
"I'm not embarrassed by any of my films. Some have disappointed at the box office. Santa Clause  disappointed. It was number one in England. Here it was a disappointment. It came out at Thanksgiving and had a four week release. The day after Christmas, people didn't want the film."
Luke: "Which project most broke your heart?"
Pierre: "The Return of the Musketeers . Fifteen years later, I took the same team as The Three Musketeers  and did an adaptation of the Alexander Dumas novel. All the musketeers are semi-retired and then brought together for one more adventure. The film turned out well. We miraculously got everybody together. But in the middle of the shooting, there was an accident. One of the actors, Roy Kinnear [beloved British comedy actor], fell from his horse [dislocating his pelvis]. The hospital in Madrid didn't react properly and the poor man died after 24 hours. That's the most painful memory. We finished the movie but the heart wasn't there any more."
Luke: "Did you or your production staff do anything wrong?"
Pierre: "I don't think so. That morning, the assistant director felt that we needed the scene. I saw Roy an hour after his fall. He still had the spirit to make a joke. He told me that the horse was galloping and when he turned the corner, he decided to get off. There was tape of the action. You can see he tried to get off. He was a very heavy man. The wound was a dislocated pelvis, which is painful but certainly not a fatal wound. But the traumatic shock and pain had an affect on his blood pressure. The hospital didn't monitor. The blood pressure went down and down until it went to the point of no return."
Luke: "What are your thoughts on French vs American cinema?"
Pierre: "It's a difficult debate. It's no question that American cinema is the most popular. I think the debate is between American and indigenous cinema. Twenty years ago, we had a thriving European film industry. That's diminished. France holds up better than the others."
Spengler's made American-style films, all independently financed but designed for studio distribution.
Pierre's family lives in Paris. His young wife, 32 years old, is finishing her degree in genetics. The major source of Spengler's financing comes from Holland. He plans to move to Los Angeles in 2003.
Pierre: "I don't know if it is the world economy, but being an independent is a much more difficult exercise today. The European television networks have enough product and have become picky. The local distributors, which used to rely on television to mitigate their investments, no longer rely on it, and therefore don't buy. If you take Germany, France, Italy and Spain as not being a sure market... It used to be. England has always been a difficult territory because it has a limited number of theaters. Japan is not a good market. United States is tough. What's left?"
Luke: "Do you ever get starstruck?"
Pierre: "Inevitably, with some stars, you do. Marlon Brando impressed me. I recently made Snapshots (formerly The Hermit of Amsterdam) with Burt Reynolds and Julie Christie. There's inevitably some admiration."
From a description on imdb.com of Snapshots: "Larry Goldberg is the owner of a second-hand bookstore in Amsterdam. He came to The Netherlands 30 years ago. He's a middle aged hermit who likes to talk and has an answer to everything. He is intelligent and has a sense of humour. One day, a girl walks into his store, who looks like Larry's lost love from Morocco. The girl makes Larry rethink his life. In the surroundings of the bookstore, a lot of criminal, but also funny activities take place. Besides Amsterdam, the movie also travels to Morocco, to see Larry and his love 30 years before, and to the United States, where Aïsha's family lives."
Luke: "Was that movie based on your life?"
Pierre: "No, no. It's an original screenplay written by the director Rudolf van den Berg. The first inspiration for the hermit character came from a character in a book by Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude . The extraordinary thing is that that character that Paul Auster describes is my father. I was almost in production on the film before I knew that. Paul Auster knew my father well. I put a dedication on the film to my father, who died in 1996. My mother passed away in 1975.
"I have two children from my first marriage. My daughter Oona is 19. She's an aspiring actress studying in Paris. My son is 17. He's studying biology and wants to pursue a career with animals."
Pierre speaks seven languages - Russian, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Bosnian.
Luke: "How did you learn Bosnian?"
Pierre: "From working on the film Underground. I vowed that I would be able to understand the film without looking at the subtitles. Our editor didn't speak a word of Bosnian. I met my wife on the shoot. She was a translator on the film. She was smart. We kept her in the production office and eventually she became my personal assistant. We shot Underground in Prague, Czech Republic, and Belgrade, Serbia."
Poland Strikes Back
A fellow journalist says: "David Poland rips every journalist who doesn't do a good job. Entertainment journalism is too cut-throat as it is. I don't see ever ripping into another journalist. This is war. You do not take shots at guys in your own trench no matter what they've done."
David Poland replies on www.theHotButton.com: I rip very few of the many, many journalists who don’t do a good job.
I have the hubris to judge the work of the artists who make movies, the businessmen who finance movies, the executives who develop movies and the marketers who sell movies. I do this five days a week. And I am often merciless, the way I am supposed to be as an honest journalist.
Why should the media that judges as easily and mercilessly as I do – often less honorably – get a free ride? More so, what kind of self-serving jackass would I be to let the people who do what I do get a pass while I feel free to rip away at everyone else?
I haven’t heard from one columnist since I ripped his column two weeks in a row.
There are only two movie journalists working today whose firing I would celebrate.
LUKE GUESSES: Tom King and Nikki Finke? The hurt columnist? Patrick Goldstein?
David Geffen Got Jeffrey Katzenberg Fired From Disney
I've been talking about entertainment journalism with various producers. One asked me if I were able to interview all the producers I wanted to. I said no. I said the biggest producers have their favorite journalists, and when they want to go public with something, they use their favorites. For instance, New York Times entertainment reporter Bernie Weinraub is David Geffen's mouthpiece.
The producer said that David Geffen used Bernie Weinraub to get Jeffrey Katzenberg fired. Geffen kept agitating through the New York Times, after Michael Eisner had his heart attack, that Katzenberg should be appointed to replace Disney's former number two man, Frank Wells, who'd died. Eisner read the Times and shook with fury at Katzenberg, believing he was agitating for the number two position. In reality, it was Geffen leading the charge. Geffen and Eisner hate each other.
After the firing, Katzenberg and Geffen, with Steven Spielberg, created the Dreamworks studio.
Dennis Prager writes on Townhall.com: I took the news of the forced resignation of Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene -- for having had sexual contact with an 18- or 19-year-old woman 11 years earlier -- very hard.
You see, in 1995, Greene and I were the two most vocal voices in America in defense of a 4-year-old boy taken away from his family and given over to a birth father whom the boy had never seen. The boy, Danny Warburton, was known as "Baby Richard," though at the age of four, he was hardly a baby. The Illinois Supreme Court, in a vote of 5 to 2, overturned a lower-court ruling to leave Danny with his parents and his brother, and to hand him over forever to a birth father who soon after abandoned the boy again. The justices did not even provide a way for Danny to communicate with his family, the only family he had ever known. At Danny's birth, the birth mother had legally given adoption rights over to the Warburtons, a fireman and homemaker -- his parents virtually from birth.
There are many children in Illinois and elsewhere who lead better lives, who are more loved, because of Bob Greene's work on their behalf. Bob's own children need to know that and never to forget it. Their dad strayed morally, and he has acknowledged it. But their dad is a good man. They should know that a lot of us know that. And always will. Not least, the Warburton and Prager families. Whatever sins he has committed pale alongside the good he has done, just as whatever good the five Illinois justices did pales alongside the bad they did.
When I realize that the five justices who ruined lives are still honored citizens in Illinois and that Bob Greene, who helped so many, is in disgrace, I recall the ancient Jewish proverb that the good get their punishments in this world and the bad in the next.
Gay Man Beaten in West Hollywood
Chaim Amalek writes: Jews! (You too, Luke). Read this one carefully. Got it off of Drudge this morning. What I find interesting about the story is what the editors chose to lead with - and what they chose to bury at the end. Note the names of the people involved. Note also the various stories in today's papers (real ones, not the crap you get in LA) about attacks against Christians in Pakistan.
(AP) WEST HOLLYWOOD- A gay man was assaulted by two men who yelled anti-gay epithets and wielded a metal pipe and a baseball bat, the third suspected hate crime attack in the city in less than a month.
On Sept. 15, two men were attacked outside a nightclub by a mob of about 15 people who allegedly chanted "Kill the Jews." Daoud Mohammed Mavid, 19, and Mohammed Hassan Aref, 22, were arrested for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon.
No Arrests In Anita Busch Case
Though law enforcement know who the two hoods are that threatened Anita Busch (LA Times) and Ned Zemen of Vanity Fair, they have yet to make arrests. And I've yet to find out who sent the hoods after the two journalists.
Tom King Can't Distinguish The Blondes
Tom King writes in the WSJ Friday: "If Julia Stiles, Erika Christensen, Kate Hudson, Kate Bosworth, Reese Witherspoon and Charlize Theron were standing in a police lineup, could you pick out and name each one?
"Hollywood seems to think so. In case you haven't noticed, there's been a dizzying explosion recently in young, look-alike blonde actresses. The half-dozen above have popped up in 28 movies over the last two years (often as the vanilla love interest of a bigger male star), and three of them have movies opening this weekend. And despite the potential for confusion, some studios are even treating these relatively fresh faces like established box-office draws: billboards for next week's "Sweet Home Alabama" consist solely of a giant headshot of Ms. Witherspoon."
I wonder if Tom King can't distinguish between these blonde actresses because he's gay and not sexually attracted to them?
David Poland writes on Hot Button: Let’s do the easy part first. Bosworth and Christensen have each been the lead in a total of one movie. Both are beautiful and neither of them has played an objectified blonde in their big movies.
Charlize Theron has been a key part of the marketing effort, if not the lead, in thirteen movies since her breakout performance in 2 Days In The Valley six years ago.
Kate Hudson has never opened a film.
Reese Witherspoon and Julia Stiles are actual box office stars… today.
Joel Silver Furious At Rolling Stone Over Jeffrey Wells
Joel Silver is incensed about what Jeffrey Wells wrote about The Matrix sequels in Rolling Stone. Jeffrey got a copy of the script of the two sequels.
XXX says: "It's a complete blowjob of an article. It's a cheerleading rah-rah isn't the Matrix going to be great. Jess Cagle went down to Australia and did a tour of their production facility for Entertainment Weekly. Jess wrote about seven paragraphs of innocous copy and had a few photographs. Jeffrey wrote some reveals about the structure of the sequels.
"Joel Silver called up editor Peter Travers at RS and yelled at him for revealing plot points of The Matrix sequels. Joel called Jeffrey Wells an assassin.
"Wells apparently got a phone interview with Joel Silver. Joel found Jeffrey's phone manner too aggressive and hung up on him. Joel consented to be interviewed by email. Three weeks after getting Jeffrey's questions, he finally deigned to reply."
Mark Ebner Goes Along To Get Along
For two years after his piece in Spy magazine about the Gay Mafia, fearless Mark Ebner could not get a writing job in Hollywood. He's learned his lesson. He won't share copies of his infamous Spy article with the many people who request one. Ebner now wants to get along with the industry and bury his muckraking reputation. Many editors fear hiring Ebner because he's such a loose cannon and can damage an outlet's reputation with his 'I don't give a damn' ways.