POV Online’s Mark Evanier is arguing that the Bruno Kirby- Billy Crystal piece by Nicholas Stix that I linked to yesterday (i.e., the one that suggested that Crystal might have been a “career-killing ogre” as far as Kirby was concerned). I don’t know anything about this, but Evanier makes some good arguments. I ‘m disputing one of them, though, and I want to point out something he didn’t mention:

“Perhaps Crystal blocked Kirby from being cast in City Slickers II and subsequent Billy Crystal movies,” he writes. “It was probably within his power to do so…but how could he stop Steven Spielberg from hiring Bruno Kirby? How could he stop Cameron Crowe or Ron Howard or…well, name the top fifty directors in the business these days. If one of them decided Bruno Kirby was the best actor for a given role, would that director say, ‘Let’s go with our second choice. I want to help Billy Crystal destroy Bruno’s career’?”

That’s well put and well-reasoned, but I also know from limited experience that when the word goes out on an actor or actress that he/she is bad news and/or more trouble than he/she is worth or has made an enemy of a very important person, etc., people pick up on this and they tend to steer away from him/her. It’s cowardly but people do this. Actors can go cold for long periods of time, and sometimes the cold streak starts when a big name hands them a black spot.

Once again, I’m not saying Crystal did this to Kirby — I don’t know anything — but I know that if a certain heavyweight decides to shun an actor, other heavy- weights pick up on this and figure, “If there’s a 1 in 100 chance I might alienate that heavyweight actor-director by hiring this character actor, why do it? Why not just hire someone else?” This is a town, trust me, that runs on terror, avoidance and backbones made of jelly.

The other thing that Evanier is missing out on are the indications of lying in Crystal’s responses to questions about Kirby put to him by USA Today‘s Susan Wloszczyna (a.k.a., Suzie Woz) on 9.12.01.

Wloszczyna asked Crystal, “The only thing I could come up with is that when you were making City Slickers II, you and Bruno Kirby had a falling out.” Crystal said, “He wasn’t in City Slickers II.” And Wloszczyna says back, “Yeah, I know, but there was some reason that he didn’t do it. Are you guys still friends?” Crystal answers, “I haven’t spoken to him — I think we are. I haven’t seen him or spoken to him in a long time.”
Stop right there — anyone who says “I think we’re still friends” is dodging and side-stepping. And following this up with “I haven’t seen him or spoken to him in a long time” is, I suspect, a code phrase that means “I haven’t wanted to see or speak with him for a long time because of some shit that went down that I don’t want to get into again.”

Crystal later says to Wloszczyna, “This is a perfect situation. We’re here to talk about the movie, and you’re talking about something personal or whatever it is that happened, I don’t know, eight, nine years ago.” That’s an obvious tipoff that speaking about Kirby is an uncomfortable thing for Crystal. And saying the words “personal or whatever” is another lie — he knows it was personal and he’s saying “or whatever” to cover it up.

I’ve believed for years that prepared or carefully phrased statements often cover underlying truths, and that it’s always the words in passing — the obiter dicta — that give the real game away. A professed truth is always suspect, but you can always trust the obvious scent of a lie.

That said, I’m not pushing any kind of notion that Billy Crystal is a “career-killing ogre”, much less the devil. I have no knowledge or stake in any of this. Kirby may have torpedoed himself in all kinds of different ways as far as his career was concerned — I don’t know a damn thing — but Crystal definitely wasn’t being honest with Wloszczyna in that exchange, and that’s why I ran the link to Stix’s piece in the first place.