The ten year-old ties between Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey and indicted wire-tapper and onetime private investigator Anthony Pellicano are a bit clearer and more detailed due to a Page One story in Monday’s N.Y. Times, written by David Halbfinger and Allison Hope Weiner. The story is mainly about past acrimonious relations between (a) Grey, a big-time talent manager before being hired to run Paramount, (b) his former client Garry Shandling (whom Grey managed and also collected a fat fee for producing Shandling’s “The Larry Sanders Show”) and (c) former actress Linda Doucett, who briefly co-starred on “Sanders,” was engaged to Shandling in the early to mid ’90s and fell into (or maneuvered herself into) a position to collect money from the show, Grey and Shandling over this and that touchy matter. The long and the short, as indicated by the Times story, is that Grey may have hired Pellicano (or had his attorney Bert Fields hire him) to lean on Doucett over matters of money and testimony. (Read the Times story for the details.) Grey has been interviewed by the FBI and testified before the grand jury investigating Pellicano, and his lawyer “has said Grey has been repeatedly assured that he was not a subject or a target of the investigation.” In a “terse” statement released Sunday afternoon by Paramount spokesperson Janet Hill, Grey told the Times that he had been “casually acquainted with Anthony Pellicano” but “had no ‘relationship’ with Pellicano until my attorney, Bert Fields, hired him in the Garry Shandling lawsuit.” He also said that “the fact remains that I had no knowledge of any illegal activity he may have conducted.” Fields “also has denied knowing of Mr. Pellicano’s illicit activities,” the story said.
Sharon Waxman is reporting in the N.Y. Times that Universal president Ron Meyer is about to appoint the studio’s distribution and marketing vp Marc Schmuger to fill the departing Stacey Snider‘s job as president of production…half of it, that is. Schmuger, presumed by Meyer to be not fully up to speed on relationships with the talent community, may wind up sharing the new job, according to speculation, with either Focus Features co-president David Linde or Sci-Fi Channel and USA Network topper Bonnie Hammer. L.A. Times reporters Lorenza Munoz and Claudia Eller are hearing it’s basically Schmuger-Linde… forget Hammer. They’re also reporting that “Meyer’s first choice for the job was Universal’s former co-production head Scott Stuber. But Stuber, who has a rich producer’s deal at the studio with partner Mary Parent, was not interested in returning to the executive ranks.”
Hooray for Dave Cullen and the Ultimate Brokeback Forum for landing a story in Monday’s N.Y. Times about the full-age ad they paid to run in Daily Variety last Friday (3.10) lamenting Brokeback Mountain‘s having lost the Best Picture Oscar to Crash. The UBF-ers raised more than $24,000 — the ad cost $15,435. Variety president-publisher Charles C. Koones told Times writer Stuart Elliott that Brokeback “really touched a chord with certain audiences…there are those in Hollywood who feel it was robbed.”
Time magazine and writer Lev Grossman have stuck it to the Wachowski’s V for Vendetta (Warner Bros., 3.17) in their story called “The Madman in the Mask“. Grossman begins by asking if it’s “possible for a major Hollywood studio to make a $50 million movie in which the hero is a terrorist? A terrorist who appears wearing the dynamite waistcoat of a suicide bomber, and who utters the line — from beneath a full-face wooden mask that he never takes off — ‘Blowing up a building can change the world’? Starring Natalie Portman, shaved as bald as Demi Moore in G.I. Jane? These are not rhetorical questions. V for Vendetta is that movie, and it is the most bizarre Hollywood production you will see (or refuse to see) this year. It’s the kind of film that makes you ask questions like, Who thought this was a good idea?” And yet V is going to do good business next weekend. It’s been tracking pretty well all along, and it’s expected to earn between $25 and $30 million, and probably closer to the latter figure.
I have a Rob Marshall question…well, actually a comment …that applies to Clint Eastwood‘s imminent filming of Red Sun, Black Sand, the companion piece to his Iwo Jima drama Flags of Our Fathers. Sun will cover the same conflict but tell the Japanese-soldier side of things with Ken Watanabe playing General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, who led the battle against American troops for 40 days, according to Variety. The comment…okay, a jibe…concerns a statement Marshall made after his Memoirs of a Geisha opened late last year, which was that the reason he didn’t shoot it in Japanese is that he can’t speak the language and therefore couldn’t direct actors speaking it. And yet the Variety story says that Eastwood will shoot Red Sun, Black Sand entirely in Japanese. I’ll bet dollars-to-donuts Eastwood doesn’t speak any more Japanese than Marshall does — the difference is that one director seems to trust himself (and his audience) a bit more than the other. Iris Yamashita has written the script, based on a story by her and Oscar-winner Paul Haggis, who adapted Flags of our Fathers. That American vantage-point story is now in post-production and is expected to come out before Red Sun, Black Sand. Paramount will release the films domestically, while Warner Bros. International will distribute overseas. In Japan, Red Sun will be titled Letters from Iwo Jima. Eastwood will begin filming it next week in Los Angeles, but also has plans to shoot exteriors on Iwo Jima.
Here’s a nice downer-head film to look forward to — Sandra Bullock starring as the alcoholic, money-wasting, totally self-destructive and overweight Grace Metalious, the author of the best-selling novel “Peyton Place” that became a hit movie and then a TV series. I read that recent Vanity Fair story about Metalious and it would appear, judging by what actually happened to the poor woman, that the theme of the film is going to be that fame kills. In other words, Metalious couldn’t handle it. Her marriage didn’t last, she blew most of her earnings, she destroyed her reputation as a reliable writer…all of this mainly due to boozing, which led to her death from cirrhosis in 1964, at age 39. Bullock is co-producing with Carol Baum, (Fly Away Home, Father of the Bride) with a script now being written by Naomi Foner (Running on Empty, Bee Season).
James Scurlock’s Maxed Out, an expose documentary on the American debt industry that showed yeserday at South by Southwest,
“anger and saddens and calls to action all at once,” says HE columnist Moises Chiullan. “It follows the trail of the debt business through the lives of a broad range of Americans, but the killer testimony comes from Harvard’s Dr. Elizabeth Warren when she expounds upon the grave seriousness of new debt legislation and the fact that low income consumers who are almost completely incapable of repaying are precisely the debtors that credit companies want. Warren says she was told by a high-ranking executive in the finance industry that bankruptcy filers are their best targets for two reasons: (1) they have a taste for credit, and (2) they can’t file for bankruptcy again. The friendliness betweek the Bush II administration and the debt industry is profound, and explored fully in the debt legislation recently passed in addition to Bush’s appointment of Larry Thompson, a former President of Providian Financial (the Enron of creditors), as the nation’s debt czar. Shortly after his appointment, Thompson was under investigation by the Justice Department. Maxed Out is going to be one of the most talked-about films of the festival, I’m sure. A friend says it won’t be acquired because its target is influential people with money. I respectfully disagree. People from both sides of the aisle will be all over it once it’s out and viewable.”
Failure to Launch, a Paramount piece-of-shit comedy co-starring a ferocious fanged chipmunk, a vicious mockingbird, a Jaws-like dolphin and one of the most stupendously vapid actors in Hollywood history, took in an astonishing $24.6 million in 3057 theatres…imagine the tens of thousands of folks who paid money to see this only to come out of theatres with faces like “buckets of cold piss” (stealing again from Norman Mailer). Tim Allen’s The Shaggy Dog (Buena Vista) grabbed $16 million in 3501 situations…and if I’m close to dying from boredom I might watch it on a plane someday….maybe. The Hills Have Eyes (Fox Searchlight) nabbed $15.5 million in 2620 theatres. 16 Blocks (Warner Bros.) earned $7.3 million in 2,706 situations. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion (Lions Gate) did $5.8 million in 1812 situations with a $55.8 million cume.
“So Paul Haggis says Will & Grace signals acceptance of gays by Hollywood, eh? The show has spent nearly a decade with the lead gay male leading a virtually sexless, even kiss-free (until very recently) life with an amazing amount of plot devices utilized to keep him single and chaste, while every other character leads sex- and marriage-filled lives, primarily Grace who’s regularly been shown in bed with men, while Jack, the brainless and effeminate (read: non-threatening) supporting character has numerous dates and conquests that are always off-camera. More telling is the NBC promo department’s eight-year streak of just releasing cast photos (bus and magazine ads, etc.) of the four leads in a strict ‘boy-girl-boy-girl’ formation. Just try to find a print ad with WIll standing next to Jack. From the pictures, you’d think it was a show about two happy straight couples.” — Joe Branham , Oak Park, Illinois.