By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Which leads to an existential question unique to Hollywood itself: What criteria constitutes a real movie? IMDB has had this problem of editorial discretion and decision making since the inception of the site. Someone will say, “Hey, I filmed a home movie of Grandma’s 90th birthday, and we screened it in front of 200 people. Now, that’s a real movie, right?” To which Simanton and his editors must answer, “No, it’s not.” But it’s a different story if it were screened at a film festival or in the Directors Guild theater.
Still another dilemma is the many transformations, mutations and even perversions a movie property endures before it ever gets into theaters. For instance: Is Planet of the Apes starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton the same film as Planet of the Apes that was supposed to star Arnold Schwarzenegger and be directed by James Cameron? Or is it a separate project deserving of its own IMDB page? “At some point in time, it comes off Arnold’s biography and then goes into his trivia. ‘Schwarzenegger once considered this project along with a “Crusades” movie,’” Simanton explains. “That’s why the site is incredibly invigorating to work for because it’s ever changing and ever evolving. We deal with these things on a daily basis.”
Then there’s when to start listing a sequel. Simanton maintains that, five months after Sony’s Spider-Man came out, “We felt pretty good with putting Spider-Man 2 as a real title. Now, whether that was going to involve Jake Gyllenhaal or Tobey Maguire in the role of the title character, that’s something that gets figured out in the wash along the way.”
Other sticky situations were smoothed out effortlessly. IMDB dealt with those 1950s blacklisted writers like Dalton Trumbo who were omitted entirely from the credits of movies by putting “uncredited” or “originally uncredited” by their names and explaining what happened in the trivia section. The same goes for stars not listed in a movie’s credits, like Debra Winger’s nearly unrecognizable portrayal of that Man-God character named “Emmett” in Made in Heaven, which starred her then-husband Timothy Hutton.
Speaking of God, one of IMDB’s most notorious goofs occurred this year when, on the morning of February 25, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ opened. That same day, reports noted that IMDB had God — with a capital G — listed as a credited contributor to the movie and with his own personal IMDB.com page. By noontime, the credit was gone. By nighttime, the page was gone, too. But not before it referred users to other films in which He had been portrayed, from The Prince of Egypt to Oh, God!
Another reported mistake occurred when Oscar winner William Goldman, famous for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, was listed as an uncredited screenwriter on Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Good Will Hunting. The reason appears to have been a long-running rumor that Goldman script-doctored the pair’s Oscar-winning screenplay. After Goldman denied doing it, IMDB excised his name from the movie’s credits.
And then there are those entries that seem like mistakes but aren’t. (No, we’re not talking about Gigli.), IMDBPro.com was launched in January 2002 to create an online subscription service designed to meet the needs of show-biz pros. Along with exhaustive box-office breakdowns, unbridled celebrity gossip and industry news briefings, included was a market-research tool called the StarMeter, which indicates who is hot in Hollywood based on who in the database is visited the most. “And the thing that just scared us to death is we kept getting this one guy in the No. 1 or No. 2 spot, and he wouldn’t get off of there. We thought something went horribly wrong with our data. And we checked it and scrubbed it. And it was Orlando Bloom.” From an unknown British actor to a high-profile role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Bloom was suddenly one of the Internet’s hottest stars, and only IMDB had quantified that. Bloom became even more bankable right after.
If there is something still lacking on IMDB, it is probably the too succinct biographical info and the often ridiculous trivia. Perhaps the most famously idiotic celebrity tidbit is listed for Tom Cruise: “Is right-handed when writing, but does most things left-handed.” Like everything, IMDB considers it yet another work in progress.
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