Filmmakers hated his habit of forcing them to undergo humiliating Q&As before he green-lighted a movie. “Which was impossible because you can’t answer every question. So you bullshitted him,” a source told me. “He acted like that dean in Animal House, who takes himself so seriously, but we all know he’s a joke.”
When things began to go badly with State of Play, then with Land of the Lost, which was such a huge, embarrassing bomb (and, ironically, the kind of lowbrow comedy Fox would release — except better-executed), an insider told me, “Marc was so traumatized that he just sounded like he was under a hypnotic spell.”
Things went from bad to worse. Universal’s next three movies had to total $300 million in any combination: Bruno, Public Enemies and Funny People. They topped out at $209 million, not nearly enough. “During that time, Shmuger became delusional and weirdly paralyzed. It was too hard to talk to him. He became a contrarian. If you said one thing, he’d say the other thing,” an insider told me.
As media circled like vultures in search of carrion, Shmuger went pleading to NBC Universal for a vote of confidence. The response? “It would be a Band-Aid on a surgical wound.”
It was Meyer’s call on whether to can Shmuger and Linde, but G.E. still had to agree to pay off the two and a half years on their contracts — not an inconsequential amount. The Los Angeles Times was 100 percent wrong when it claimed Shmuger’s and Linde’s fate would have to wait until the negotiations for a 51 percent sale of NBC Universal was complete.
Still, I feared when I wrote one of my trademark, brutally honest Internet posts that it would cause Shmuger’s bosses to suddenly feel sorry for him and keep him. Yes, I wanted Shmuger gone that much. In the end, I wasn’t the only one.