By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Murphy is also the guy who has stood up to industry powerhouses like Jerry Bruckheimer by threatening to go to the press. (”Years ago, I was involved in a project at Touchstone, and because of the way it was orchestrated, I think mostly by agents, it was putting me in a position where if I didn‘t get out of the way, the very successful Jerry Bruckheimer was going to cancel my Christmas. a And I stood in front of the tractor and said, ’You know, run me down, this is not okay what‘s happening here.’“) And when German financing entity Senator backed out of financing a Manson biopic last year, Murphy made sure its credibility suffered at every agency in town. (”You know, you have your little checklist of people who must die? Most of them now are people who fucked up that movie.“)
Much of what sets Murphy off is business as usual -- people so mortified of being the bearers of bad news, to themselves or others, that they refuse to return a phone call, or pass on a project, or admit that their line of credit has come to an end. But his sense of right and wrong also extends to matters that, arguably, he has no business getting involved in -- and which invariably come back to haunt him.
”I was developing a film with Mike De Luca at New Line that was basically the Teena Brandon story,“ he says. ”We knew there was another project with Lindsay Law at Fox Searchlight, a joint production between Diane Keaton‘s production company and Drew Barrymore’s production company. Drew was desperate to play the lead. Also, Drew was best friends with [Fox chairman and CEO] Bill Mechanic. So Drew and Diane had their rights, and we had these rights. There really weren‘t any rights left. Then we heard that [independent producer] Christine Vachon in New York was doing her version of the story -- Boys Don’t Cry. And Lindsay Law bought it.
“The worst thing of all was, the Chloe Sevigny character, Lana Tinsdale, I‘d gotten to know her through all of this. She was a nice girl. She was fucked, because she was living in Bumfuck, Nebraska, where people are calling her a dyke. And I said to Lana, ’You know what? You need to meet this attorney I know, a really good litigator. And I know they don‘t have your rights, because I do.’ And she did see them, and she did sue Fox Searchlight, and they settled.
”At the time, people told me I was crazy. They said, ‘You’re about to start a film with Fox, and you‘re sending them lawyers?’ And okay, it did fuck me up. But it was wrong. Here‘s this 24-year-old kid who I think they gave her maybe 60, 70 grand to shut up. Where she comes from, that’s a fucking house. At one point, the chairman of Fox told me I‘d never set foot on his lot again. Then, a year and a half later, I was not only premiering From Hell for them, but the head of the studio was no longer the head of the studio. He had his own company and was buying projects from me.“
Mechanic, who’s gone on to produce The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with Murphy, says diplomatically, ”Well, you know, Don‘s an excitable guy. He’s fought for what he‘s got. He believes that is what has gotten him there. As with anybody who fights for stuff, sometimes they fight when they don’t have to. I‘m the one who kind of banned him from the lot. There were some behavioral issues, in terms of what I thought was inappropriate for somebody who was making a movie for us. But,“ he sighs, ”Don and I made peace.“
”The one thing I have learned,“ Murphy says, ”is the value of the long-term. Should I kill this guy now, or should I just wait until it presents itself later, when it’s less overt? Should I get upset about this or,“ in the words of Charles Manson, ”realize that what goes around comes around?“
Stuart Cornfeld: ”Yeah, That Was Pretty Weird.“
The Elephant Man
(1980, executive producer)
The Fly (1986)
Wilder Napalm (1993)
Mimic (co–executive producer, 1997)
Had he never become a producer, Stuart Cornfeld would still be remembered as the fast-food boss in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, as an enduring symbol of minimum-wage humiliation. ”Hamilton, you‘re going over there as a representative of Captain Hook’s Fish and Chips,“ he tells a laconic Judge Reinhold, who‘s about to change out of his pirate costume. ”Part of our image, part of our appeal, is that uniform . . . Show a little pride.“
”He produced my student film at the AFI,“ says the movie’s director, Amy Heckerling. ”As far as working with him, he‘s the most fun guy in the world. He just looks like the world’s worst boss -- especially in a pirate outfit.“