Time and again Hollywood types — directors, producers, studios — get into business with oily foreign guys (European or Israeli) who tend to live high and swagger around and smoke cigars. The Hollywooders are always interested because there are always fresh oilies looking to buy their way into the business, and they’ll hook up with almost anyone with a connected rep in order to do so. Elie Samaha, Giancarlo Peretti, Jean-Marie Messier, Bob Yari, Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus, Avi Lerner, etc.
Yari has been doing pretty well for himself lately (The Illusionist is a hit), but sooner or later the matters of oily men always seem to turn sour or go south. Hollywooders who make movies with them always seem to regret it, sooner or later. The latest example of this syndrome has been written about by N.Y. Times reporter Sharon Waxman, and it concerns Harsh Times director-writer David Ayer and his bumpy ride with Phillipe Martinez and his distribution company, Bauer Martinez, which bought rights to Ayer’s film during the ’05 Toronto Film Festival.
Harsh Times will be released on 11.10 by a “reconfigured MGM with scant public awareness, a nest of tense financiers and a handful of abandoned release dates in its wake,” she writes. “Martinez says he still loves the film and has supported it by approving a $15 million marketing campaign and relatively wide, 800-theater release. ‘If I didn’t care about the film, I’d never have put $15 million into the marketing,” Martinez — “an expansive, cigar-smoking Frenchman” — tells Waxman that Ayer “should kiss me every morning for what I do for his movie.”
“Yet Martinez is not actually putting up the $15 million,” Waxman reports. “The money comes from MGM, which had originally expected Bauer Martinez to pay for marketing and delayed its publicity and advertising campaign when the deal stalled over this and other business issues,” and blah, blah. Ayer tells Waxman he got into bed with Martinez with the idea that “we can be neophytes together and reinvent the system.” But the system, Ayer has learned, “is not so easily reinvented. Ayer now says he wants “the warm, loving embrace of the studios. Studios are the way they are for a very good reason.”
The irony is that Harsh Times is no film to avoid. Set in East L.A., it’s a riveting, hard-case melodrama. Christian Bale plays a violent Gulf War veteran looking to find work as a professional right-wing mercenary. Freddy Rodriguez is his irresponsible best friend; Eva Longoria plays Rodriguez’s opposite-number wife. I saw it last March or April…a good while ago. I’ll get into it more next week.