A Hit for Ovitz
Packages wrapped in fuchsia tulle (”because pink was way too obvious“) began arriving around Hollywood by messenger. Inside was a videotape labeled My Dinner With Ovitz, a 12-minute homage to The Godfather, distributed in a limited edition of 75 by two L.A. 40-somethings, director-writer Steve Young and producer Denise David, the owner-president of MakeMagic Productions. Shot with a DV cam over a few days (”for a lot less than one of David Geffen‘s car payments“), the spoof was born in July when Young read Michael Ovitz’s notorious Vanity Fair interview claiming the industry‘s ”gay mafia“ ruined him. ”What’s the hottest topic in Hollywood right now?“ Young asked David. ”Ovitz,“ she replied. Three days later, Young handed her a 15-page script, and David said, ”Let‘s do it.“
Next, David roped in every friend, including famed New York fashion designer David Goodman, in town to do a trunk show. ”I knew he could pull off David Geffen,“ she recalls. The actors mimic Geffen’s indignation, Michael Eisner‘s sarcasm, Barry Diller’s bossiness and Ron Meyer‘s common sense. In fact, Young was shocked when Meyer called to say, ”Me and Geffen were pissing in our pants. It was brilliant.“ As for Ovitz, Young admits, ”We might have forgotten to send him one.“
Right now, the video isn’t for commercial use because the filmmakers borrowed liberally from other sources. (Joking about lawsuits, Denise David would tell Young: ”If you want me, I‘ll be in my cell, er, on my cell.“) As Young notes, ”We didn’t do this to get a development deal, but we enjoy dinner at The Ivy.“ The best bits begin with the obligatory horse‘s-head-in-the-bed scene -- a bodyless Mickey Mouse and a shrieking Eisner. Then a sunglasses-sporting gang of moguls reads the magazine interview:
DILLER: ”You’re not serious? Wow. He actually said that on record? Wow.“
GEFFEN, in a pink sweater: ”It‘s beyond crazy. On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s an 11.“
EISNER: ”Tell me about it. It cost me $150 million to get rid of his ass.“ [In 1995, Eisner hired -- then 14 months later fired -- his best friend Ovitz as president of the Walt Disney Co. Eisner gave Ovitz an enormous severance package. But it may not have amounted to much. A Disney source last January claimed Ovitz had not yet exercised his 9 million stock options. Ovitz‘s deadline was the end of September of this year, but Disney stock on September 30 closed at only $15.14, well below Ovitz’s strike price of $19.]
DILLER: ”This guy‘s got to be stopped.“
MEYER: ”Barry, nobody’s ever whacked a superagent.“
DILLER: ”Maybe it‘s about time.“
GEFFEN: ”Let me take a meeting. Have Ovitz choose the location. Now, we insist it’s a public place. Rage [pretty-boy dance bar]. Spike [down-and-dirty leather bar]. Somewhere where there‘s people, so I feel safe. They’re going to search me when I first get there, right, so I can‘t have a weapon on me then. But if Barry can figure a way to have a weapon planted there for me . . .“
EISNER: ”What, do you think this is the music business, where you just have a drive-by?“
GEFFEN: ”Where does it say that you can’t kill an agent? I‘m not talking about some schmuck at UTA. I’m talking an agent who‘ll be getting what’s coming to him. There‘s a terrific story. We’ve got Variety and the Reporter on the payroll, don‘t we, Ron?
MEYER: “Of course.”
EISNER, over lunch in Malibu, hearing the meeting is set up at the Mother Lode [a T-shirt-and-jeans gay hangout]. “Anybody heard of this joint?”
GEFFEN: “I think I’ve heard of it.”
DILLER: “It‘s perfect.”
EISNER: “What about the gun?”
DILLER: “We’ll do what we always do: We tape it to the back of the toilet.”
MEYER: “David, you go into the restaurant. You eat. You talk. Maybe you dance a while. You relax. You get them to relax. Then you get up and you go take a leak. No, better still, you ask him for permission to go. Then, when you come back, you come out blasting.”
DILLER: “Hey, listen. I want somebody very good to plant that gun. I don‘t want David walking out of that bathroom with just his dick in his hand. All right?”
JOE ESZTERHAS, from a pool lounge: “The gun will be there.” [When he wanted to leave CAA for ICM in 1989, this once-talented screenwriter wrote an infamous letter accusing Ovitz of threats and intimidation.] “And then you’ll get my script out of turnaround, right?”
MEYER: “Yes, Joe.”
ESZTERHAS, not seeing Eisner shaking head no: “It‘s kind of Showgirls meets, uh, Alan Smithee.” [his two crappiest screenplays to date]. “It’s a musical.”
OVITZ, in the back seat of an SUV: “Glad you came, David. Hope we can straighten everything out. I mean, this is terrible. This is not how I wanted things to go at all. It should never have happened.”
GEFFEN, in front seat: “We‘ll straighten everything out tonight.”
STEVEN SEAGAL, from behind Geffen’s head [Seagal was transformed from an unknown martial-arts instructor into an uncharismatic action star by Ovitz. Seagal recently ratted out some suspected Mafia figures he claimed were blackmailing him]. “How ya doin‘, David boy? I hope you’re not a hothead like your brother Sonny.”
GEFFEN: “I don‘t have a brother Sonny.”
SEAGAL, inside the Mother Lode: “How’s the Italian food in this place?”
OVITZ: “Fuckin‘ gay bar, schmuck. How good do you think it is?” [Ovitz’s homophobia was a surprise only to Vanity Fair].
SEAGAL: “I‘ll have the veal parmigiana. Hold the cheese.”
OVITZ, sotte voce in Italian to waitress: “He’s an idiot. Bring him nachos. He won‘t know the difference.”
GEFFEN: “Michael, this Vanity Fair crap is bullshit. What assurances do I have that you won’t spill your guts to GQ -- or worse, Peter Bart?” [the editor of Variety wrote slavishly flattering pieces about Ovitz].
OVITZ: “I‘ll speak in an Italian accent for Steve. I’m-a sorry.”
OVITZ: “What happened with Vanity Fair was business. I have much-a respect for you, Meyer, Diller. What you‘re thinking is old-fashioned. You must understand why I had to say what I did.”
SEAGAL, digging into nachos: “Ah, veal parmigiana. Just the way I like it.”
GEFFEN: “Now, let’s work through where we go from here. What I want, what‘s most important to me, is that I have a guarantee: no more fucking articles.”
OVITZ: “What guarantees can I give you, David? I am the hunted one. You went after me. I’m pretty sure you went after my kids. I can forgive you. And you can forgive me, right? Now I won‘t make no more threats about beating the shit out of you, okay?”
GEFFEN: “I have to go to the bathroom. Is that all right?”
Geffen enters bathroom. GEORGE MICHAEL is singing “I Want Your Sex” into a microphone and primping in front of the mirror: “Do you mind?” [Michael pleaded no contest in 1998 after he was arrested for exposing himself to a plainclothes cop in the bathroom at Will Rogers Park in Beverly Hills].
MAN’S VOICE: “Hey, there‘s a gun taped to the back of this toilet.”
GEFFEN, taking the gun: “That would be mine.”
OVITZ, as Geffen sits back down at table: “Listen, David. I cannot allow another man to hold me back. What happened was unavoidable. I had the unspoken support of AT&T, of Michael Armstrong.” [Ovitz claimed AT&T chieftain Michael Armstrong was going to invest in his money-losing management company, then backed out, as did Diller.] “Kwatinetz even gave me a bunch of free Limp Bizkit CDs, and still I got fucked.” [Ovitz sold the company at an embarrassingly low price this spring to music manager Jeff Kwatinetz of The Firm.] “You must agree to call off hostilities. No vengeance will be taken. We want peace. But Bernie Weinraub” [the New York Times reporter whom Ovitz accused of writing only negative stories about him on orders from Geffen] “and your boys can interfere no longer.”
GEFFEN: “I just want to know one thing. What the fuck was with all that ’gay mafia‘ stuff?”
OVITZ, giggling: “What was I going to do? Blame it on the goyim?” [Yiddish word for non-Jews]. “Anyway, I apologized.” [After the article created a shitstorm in Hollywood, Ovitz did a mea culpa but never said he was misquoted.]
GEFFEN: “Fuck your apologies.”
OVITZ: “I can do that.”
GEFFEN: “How could you think that I, or any of us, could even think of doing anything so ruthless, so cold, so . . .”
OVITZ: “So what?”
Geffen shoots Ovitz first, then Seagal, dead. OVITZ VOICE-OVER: “I don’t know what the future holds. I don‘t want to work in the business. I’ve done it enough. I want to do other things. Spend time with my family. Ask me again in the fall. I don‘t know if it’s all over for me. I don‘t know.” ETHEL MERMAN singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Close-up of Daily Variety headline: “Ovitz Over. Some other schmuck also killed.” [Exiled to a small office, Ovitz now spends his time fighting the many lawsuits that have been filed against him by former employees and business partners. Political sources say this onetime Democrat has finally come out -- as a Republican.
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