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Hollywood OVERHEARD 

Thursday, Jan 1 2004
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Some of these statements are uncommonly stupid (though nothing can match the Jessica Simpson “I don’t eat buffalo” comment about meaty chicken wings). Some are daringly honest. And some are ridiculously mendacious. Here’s hoping you can tell the difference:

“Some of the programs just sucked.” NBC Broadcast, Cable and News president Jeff Zucker, about why NBC axed so many fall shows, including its heavily hyped U.S. version of the big British sitcom hit Coupling

“U.S. Coupling was commissioned by NBC, promoted as the new Friends by NBC (we asked them not to), promoted as the sexiest show on TV by NBC (we begged them not to), promoted as ‘the show you’re all talking about’ by NBC (no one had seen it, how could they be talking about it?), scheduled by NBC, noted to death by NBC, canceled by NBC, and publicly blamed and disowned by NBC.” Steven Moffat, the writer and creator of Coupling

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“Once we watched it, we were mortified.” ABC Entertainment president Susan Lyne about the network’s crappy reality show Are You Hot?

“I was just playing a part. If I knew what everything was, it wouldn’t be funny.” Paris Hilton, on whether she was for real when she asked her Arkansas hosts on The Simple Life, “What’s Wal-Mart? Do they sell walls there?”

“I’m going to be the biggest ass ever on this show and win a million dollars doing it.” Survivor: Pearl Islands contestant Jon Dalton, who concocted a lie that his elderly grandmother had died simply to elicit sympathy and win a reward challenge

“Sumner Redstone and I have never had a conversation about the Reagan miniseries, never once.” CBS head Les Moonves, about accusations he caved to his bosses to deep-six the Reagans TV movie because of right-wing bullying

“I began conversations about converting to a producer deal because the learning curve was beginning to dissipate.” John Goldwyn, vice chairman of Paramount’s motion-picture group and Paramount’s president, about suddenly leaving his job

“I started wanting to do this right after I paid my income taxes this year.” Arthur Cohen, president of worldwide marketing for Paramount’s motion-picture group, about suddenly leaving his job

“I told him, ‘We don’t have to change it to a Prius. Let him drive a Porsche.’” Warner Bros. chief Alan Horn, an ardent environmentalist, on what he told one of his production executives after reading a script portraying a hero driving a Hummer

“Let’s just say, with my tickets to the Golden Globes this year, they sent me binoculars.” Alan Horn on why he finally started a specialty film unit after years of seeing his profitable Warner movies being passed over at awards time

“You mean these awards aren’t given on the merits?” U.S. District Judge Michael B. Mukasey, commenting on the Oscars during a court hearing about the screener ban

“They are given on the merits, just like political elections are on the merits.” Attorney Richard Cooper, representing the plaintiffs who support the screener ban, responding to Judge Mukasey’s question

“Maybe Oscars are like pizzas; if you deliver them sooner, people are more interested.” Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, on why the Academy Awards were moved up by a month for 2004

“There’s always the case of Michael Eisner firing us, but that might be a cause for celebration in all quarters — ours included.” Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, about possibly breaching a ban on sending movie tapes to Academy Award voters

“Disney’s CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice.” Journalist Gregg Easterbrook, opining on The New Republic’s Web site in a blog about the Disney/Miramax movie Kill Bill’s violence

“He makes every film better.” Walt Disney Studio chairman Dick Cook, describing what his boss Michael Eisner does during story meetings about movie scripts

“I can fully understand the suspicion of possible nepotism with my son as a candidate.” Rupert Murdoch, facing down rebel shareholders at British Sky Broadcasting who opposed his appointing 30-year-old son James as chief executive

“People want to believe that we’re a bunch of crazy people running around ignoring the rules.” Peter Chernin, News Corp.’s No. 2, on accusations that boss Rupert Murdoch does whatever the hell he wants to at the company, in defiance of corporate governance

“Ron came in when it was owned by a Japanese appliance company that sold it to a liquor company that subsequently sold it to a water-treatment company.” GE vice chairman Bob Wright, deciding to hang on to Vivendi Universal Entertainment’s Ron Meyer after NBC sewed up its $14 billion transaction to take over VUE

“Failure is a very good teacher.” Joe Roth, on his Revolution Studio’s box-office bombs like Tears of the Sun, Hollywood Homicide and Gigli, which played havoc with both his reputation as a moviemaker and Sony’s moviemaking bottom line

“We’re very happy with the arrangement.” Amy Pascal, head of Sony Picture Entertainment’s movie production, about the studio’s deal with Roth’s Revolution

“I don’t want to be associated with some ‘Stripperella’ crap.” Director Spike Lee, claiming that Viacom’s changing the name of its TNN cable network to Spike TV was an attempt to unfairly trade on his name and reputation

“Well, leave it to a network for men to launch prematurely.” Albie Hecht, president of Spike TV, about the effect of Spike Lee’s injunction against the channel

“We didn’t know what to expect in marriage anyway, so we thought that it was the perfect time to actually have cameras with us.” Jessica Simpson, telling CNN why she and her husband, singer Nick Lachey, agreed to do their MTV reality show, Newlyweds

“So what if I thought Chicken of the Sea tuna was actually chicken? Or that I thought buffalo wings were actually made out of buffaloes. So what if I cried for three whole days when I thought Peter Pan was ground up to make peanut butter? So what if I never learned to read or write, and when I sign autographs, I have to sign with an X?” Justin Timberlake, playing Jessica Simpson on Saturday Night Live

“I save a million bucks, and the deficit grows like William Bennett’s credit line on a one-armed-bandit bender at Bally’s.” Ben Affleck, accepting a liberal political award and explaining why rich people don’t need the Bush administration’s tax cuts

“I have a perfect part for you in my movie Terminator 4.” Arnold Schwarzenegger, trying to fend off repeated attacks from Arianna Huffington during the only gubernatorial-recall debate the actor agreed to participate in

“Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right which I thought then was playful, but I now recognize that I have offended people.” Gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, after denying, admitting, then not remembering sexually groping women against their will as detailed in a Los Angeles Times article

“I’m going to check right away your tax returns.” Newly elected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, complaining to Jay Leno that The Tonight Show host shouldn’t have looked at his watch during Arnold’s election-night victory party, which Leno emceed

“Really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would.” Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich complaining about the pop princess’ sexually provocative image. Later, the governor’s wife claimed to have been kidding

“I had never seen him violent like that, with a gun or anything, not personally.” Accused murderer Phil Spector’s ex-wife, who once testified he threatened to hire a hit man to kill her

“It was like the worst Baretta we ever shot in my life.” Robert Blake, about the day police came to arrest him on charges he murdered his wife.

E-mail at deadlinehollywood@gmail.com.

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