She's blonde, she's hot looking, she once used the term "wetback" in a Washington Post chat room, which got her in a lot of trouble with the PC crowd. She's an aggressive reporter, chasing Jeff Kwatinetz into an elevator after he bought Michael Ovitz's management company but didn't want to talk to the press. Kwatinetz later complimented her on the story.
She's a religious Jew. She's a wonderful mother. She's got three kids. Her husband Claude, an older aristocratic Frenchman, looks after them during the long lonely days she's pursuing the big scoop, which almost never comes her way.
A former foreign correspondent who doesn't play favorites, Waxman speaks French, Arabic and Hebrew. She's working on a book about movie directors.
Born around 1965, Waxman emailed me once, heart be still, a few weeks before her Seth Warshavsky profile in 1998, for background info on Seth.
Sharon's been based in LA since 1996. She's not particularly fond of the entertainment beat.
I've stolen this photo of Sharon Waxman from the Washington Post website.
From the WP site: Washington Post Style correspondent Sharon Waxman brings Hollywood & Vine live online on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. ET for a discussion on the inner workings of the movie industry. There is a whole political universe behind how the movies happen, the tug and pull of egos, financial imperatives, a pecking order of privileges as well as genuine creative impulses.
Waxman is on hand to answer your questions and field your comments on the industry personalities she has met; the movies that are causing a stir and why; trends in the industry and the culture of moviemaking in general.
I circled around to David Poland. A tall beautiful blonde stands next to him and next to her, a debonair aristocratic Frenchman Claude.
David: "Sharon Waxman meet Luke Ford."
Heart be still, it is that spunky journalist from the Washington Post, whose work I've admired from afar for years. And now here she is, in the flesh, with her husband and fellow scribe.
Sharon: "Are you really Luke Ford?"
Sharon is adorable. She turns 15 different shades of red and stutters and stammers. I quickly apologize if I've been over the top in my praise of her. We end up chatting for 20 minutes. Claude smiles and listens. Sharon lectures me about journalistic responsibility. I listen closely because this is my Hollywood hero.
My only regret is that I didn't get to buy her and Claude a drink. I buy almost everyone else in the place a drink. I'm on a high.
When it comes to managing the news and keeping the press in the dark, the movie industry is in a league of its own.
Why are so few news stories broken in Hollywood?
A reporter/acquaintance from Washington was in town the other day asking that very question. It was a good one. Up to that point I'd only really considered why I hadn't broken more stories in Hollywood.
This is what I've learned about Hollywood in my brief time here: The entertainment industry is distinctly uninterested in reportage of the newsgathering variety. They worry little and care less about the rare skeptical observer. They ignore the still-rarer critical account. And they can. Access is theirs to give or deny. They shrewdly punish and reward journalists according to their perceived allegiances, a carrot-and-stick system that generally succeeds in evoking the desired response.
Why does it work? Most media are eager to remain on the good side of powerful studios, celebrities and agents. "Entertainment Tonight" has an awful lot of air space to fill and the Hollywood Reporter, not to mention the Los Angeles Times, seems inordinately sensitive to the whims of its most prolific advertisers.
After the Post published a profile I had written of actress Gwyneth Paltrow last summer in time for the opening of her film, "Emma," I was amazed to learn that my editor had received a barrage of phone calls from the distributor, Miramax. The Disney-owned studio had gotten wind of the fact that the article was somewhat skeptical of the newborn star (this was my own fault, having hinted at this to the studio publicist) and harangued him about the forthcoming piece, complaining about my demeanor during the interview (at which Miramax representatives were not present) and offering several times to set up special screenings of the film for him so he could judge the movie for himself. My editor, John Pancake, kindly protected me from this during the writing and editing process, but we both wondered later why a studio would go to such lengths to annoy a newspaper — a tactic that could easily backfire. I posed the question to a former Washington Post reporter who is now a studio executive; he reacted as if this were normal behavior. Miramax, he said, was just doing its job. To me the incident was educational: The studio could not accept a lack of control over any aspect of the movie's promotion.
Waxman’s journey to Hollywood has been roundabout. With a B.A. in English literature from Barnard, a master’s in philosophy from Oxford’s St. Antony’s College and fluency in French, Hebrew and Arabic, Waxman snagged an internship on the Washington Post foreign desk. She moved to Reuters as a Jerusalem correspondent and later became a freelancer in Paris. In November 1995, Waxman came to L.A. with a full-time contract to cover entertainment for the Post, the first time that Style created such a job. Eventually, she was made a Post staffer. Since 9/11, the newspaper has sent Waxman to the Middle East several times, including a stint in postwar Iraq.
As for Hollywood coverage, Waxman could be characterized as a fair but tough reporter in an industry notorious for co-opting and manipulating journalists. To her credit, she’s not known for being in the pocket of any particular Hollywood studio or executive. On the other hand, she is seen as weak in her knowledge of the business side of entertainment. Some of Waxman’s work for the Post has been generic Hollywood writing and reporting, one article indistinguishable from another. But in 2000 she won the Penney Award, the highest prize in feature writing, and was nominated in 1999 for a Pulitzer Prize. One of Waxman’s first stories to gain attention was an in-depth look at the Golden Globes. While the article covered old ground, it did unearth new controversies and led to changes within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
She also has held her own in the various causes célebrès that occasionally roust the entertainment business. She has written tough stuff about Motion Picture Association of America honcho Jack Valenti, West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin and Miramax chieftain Harvey Weinstein. During the Beautiful Mind Oscar brouhaha, not only did Miramax target her but other journalists attacked her facts and point of view. A year ago, Waxman secured a book contract from William Morrow to write about Hollywood’s so-called rebel directors, including Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson and David Fincher.
Some movie industry insiders were startled to read Miramax head Harvey Weinstein’s candid comments in a New York Times article in the wake of the departure of Roy Disney. No one was more surprised, however, than Weinstein himself. That’s because Weinstein never talked to Times reporter Sharon Waxman for the article.
“All the great executives have been driven from the company,” Harvey Weinstein was quoted as saying in the article, “Bitter Parting Words From a Disney” which ran two days after the Roy Disney left the company that owns Miramax “I think there is no camaraderie anymore, no great esprit de corps that I found earlier. I think there was more risk-taking, a more fun company. I don't know why, and it’s sad that it is.”
“Harvey gave those comments to Sharon Waxman before the article appeared - well before Disney left the company,” says an insider. "She interviewed Harvey about a month ago for a book she's writing about Hollywood in the 1990s. But she used the quotes from that interview to make it sound like Harvey was talking about Disney after Roy Disney’s departure - which hadn’t even happened yet. It was one of her first articles for the New York Times [she was hired from the Washington Post] and you'd think that in this post-Jayson Blair era she'd be more conscientious."
What’s more, says the insider, Waxman tried to convince at least one other movie executive to talk to her by saying she had on-the-record comments for her article from Weinstein.
From LAObserved.com: "Walls was upset a couple of years ago when Waxman, then at the Washington Post, lumped her in as a Miramax tool for buying into the Oscar hype for A Beautiful Mind."
I find that hard to believe. If it is true, then it is only true because Waxman has refused all interview requests.
I encounter these lines all the time. Much of the time it is an attempt at manipulation by the subject, a ploy to get gentler coverage.
Another classic piece of manipulation that Waxman used (it may have been genuine but it is often a ploy) was to say she was running out the door on important business (covering Sundance in her case), thus allowing the subject to avoid difficult questions. "Oh, dear, I just don't have time to get into that." I get those lines all the time.
The Forward piece completely glosses over the long string of accusations about Waxman's methods over the years (from Jeanette Walls at MSNBC to Fox gossip Roger Friedman who kept hammering her). So yeah, Sharon got off easy in this piece. Her manipulations worked.
I don't say this as a big critic of Sharon. I enjoy the occasional socializing with her and her husband. Overall, I believe she is a terrific journalist. But I can spot a fluff job when I see one, and this Forward piece is fluffy. Some excerpts: