What a week it was. But not because of Sundays Oscars, which will go down in history as arguably the worst ever. Its as if everyone involved got together, gave the secret fraternity handshake, and conspired on how to lose the publics confidence in the ability of the movie industry to amuse, intrigue or generate one genuine laugh. To what lengths must we go to make this broadcast at least sufferable? File a lawsuit asking the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for those three and a half hours of our lives back? Put a stop to The Billy Crystal Show that went from his self-promoting seven-minute movie to his even longer singing overture, all to announce Im back when no one even noticed hed been gone? Ban Ben Stiller from the show in perpetuity because hes the unfunniest small white guy on the planet next to Danny DeVito?
For chrissakes, it doesnt take an army of Hollywood moguls or a lone gunman to fix the show for next year. First, let Jason Biggs emcee, since his Diet Pepsi commercial during the broadcast was funnier than anything inside the Kodak Theater. Next, have a paparazzi reel so Us and E! cant hog the best video of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt looking disheveled and desperate trapped inside their $75,000 Range Rover. Then, stop giving honorary awards to wrinkly geriatrics who can barely breathe, let alone mouth coherent acceptance speeches. (Just recall 1991s downer deathbed footage of Satyajit Ray.) Instead, start doling it out to young-pretty-healthy actors like Jessica Biel and Chris Klein for being able, so early in their brief careers, to walk, date other young-pretty-healthy actors and recite lines at the same time. Finally, show us the money unveil what each of the years movies cost and ultimately took in at the box office. That kind of Hollywood humiliation is guaranteed to be a laugh riot.
Instead of talking about Adrien Brody and his Binaca blast, or Bill Murray and his televised temper tantrum, everyone partying post-Oscar in Hollywood was consumed with the past: Mel Gibson and his fixation on events that happened 2,000 years ago, and Michael Eisner and his secret 1996 letter to Michael Ovitz.
Its because Mel Gibson rediscovered his religious faith that were stuck with The Passion of the Christ. A normal person would have spent time working out his problems by talking to a psychiatrist, or at least a priest. But this is Hollywood, so Gibson made a movie of his angst and inflicted it on the rest of us. God bless Gibsons right to make and distribute whatever movie he wants, and the non-goyims right to refuse to see it. Too bad, though, that Gibsons Passion is feeding many Hollywood Jews paranoid nightmares you know, the ones where the entire Christian world hates us Jews for killing Christ (though such Super Jew bona fides are undercut by having shiksa wives).
The notion that some moguls who run Hollywood will not hire Gibson, as The New York Times claimed last week, is ridiculous. Lets get this straight: Actor-director, singlehandedly responsible for a multitude of hit movies, wont be hired by executives and officers of public companies whose duty it is to make the stock price go up? Boys and girls, can you pronounce the phrase shareholders lawsuit? Or, because of the attempt to blacklist, Youre being sued? Anyone who doesnt believe this town would do business with Hitler if he could guarantee a $40 million opening weekend is hopelessly naive. And all because they dislike the movies content or Gibsons sit-down with Diane Sawyer? How come we didnt hear a peep from any bigwig in Hollywood about Quentin Tarantinos head-splitting Kill Bill violence while theyre skewering the violence in Gibsons take on the Passion play?
But that sort of hypocrisy is hardly rare for Hollywood. Since everyones dwelling on the past, it calls to mind the Jane FondaMichael Cimino controversy. There was Hanoi Jane, virtually blacklisted by the studios after devoting herself full-time to protesting the Vietnam War and alienating much of her moviegoing public, having to wait until 1977 and Julia before becoming a bankable star again. So she used her rediscovered clout to get backing for the anti-war saga Coming Home. Fondas pet project earned eight Oscar nominations, but it was competing against the nine nominations for Michael Ciminos The Deer Hunter, which showed GIs captured and tortured by the Viet Cong. That both films were up for Best Picture took on an allegorical significance and exposed Vietnams bitter scars. Outraged that anyone from the Hollywood community could make anything that wasnt an outright condemnation of the war, Fonda branded Cimino a racist and Pentagon dupe. But, when the dust settled, Cimino took home five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director; Coming Home captured three, including Best Actress and Best Actor. Now thats a proper demonstration of creative freedom, Hollywood-style.
Vietnam, the son of God . . . its all about exorcising demons. Which brings us to last weeks disclosure of the 1996 Eisner-to-Ovitz letter, in which the Disney chairman complains about his then-presidents incompetence, mendacity and arrogance. More than that, the two Hollywood antichrists are shown to truly deserve one other. (For more background on Eisner-Ovitz, see "Eisners Embarrassment" [February 21 - 27, 2003].)
That it involved two of the most hated men in town and that its release came just days before Disney shareholders referendum on Eisner during this weeks annual meeting in Philadelphia only made the missive all that much juicier and more scandalous. And while the tattling was aimed at Ovitzs hijinks, the tittering was about Eisners utter lack of judgment in hiring the jerk in the first place.
What few people know is that Eisner received from people he trusted many warnings not to hire Ovitz. The most illustrative came from Joe Roth, who at the time was running Disneys movie and television business. Roth had been on vacation on Marthas Vineyard when he received word from Eisner just days after the Capital Cities/ABC merger announcement. Joe, I want to tell you that Im going to have a president, and I think Ive hired someone, Eisner said. Roth was shocked to hear it was Ovitz.
Roth immediately flew to Aspen to meet alone with Eisner. There, he tried hard to convince the Disney chairman that he was making a big perhaps the biggest mistake in his life by bringing in Ovitz.
Eisner was taken aback by Roths intensity. After all, werent Ovitz and Roth pals? Hadnt Ovitz done Roths Caravan Pictures deal at Disney a few years earlier? There was a discussion about agents and studio heads, both general and specific to Ovitz. Roth opined that Ovitz wouldnt know how to operate in the corporate arena. But Eisner was adamant. Sure, their goals were different across the negotiating table, but Mike can change, Eisner argued. He could be like Lew Wasserman, who went from an agent to a studio head.
No, he cant, Roth replied.
Eisner wouldnt budge.
Well, I hope youre right, Roth said. I dont want to piss
Roth flew on to Los Angeles, resigned to the idea that Ovitz was coming to Disney and resolved to give Eisner the benefit of the doubt.
Later that day, a transatlantic phone call tracked down Roth. On the line from a yacht in the Mediterranean where he was vacationing was power attorney Jake Bloom. So, lets do Brad Greys film deal, Bloom bellowed cheerfully, referring to the well-known manager.
What are you talking about? asked a puzzled Roth.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Brads film deal. You know. Ovitz called me about it, the lawyer replied.
I dont know anything about it, Roth said.
Roth barely knew Grey. Though Grey is a great piece of manpower, Roth had never been pitched by him in the 15 years Grey had been a manager. More to the point, Ovitz was treading on Roths turf before the new job was even announced publicly. Roth phoned Eisner pronto. Six hours! fumed Roth. SIX HOURS! Thats how long it took Ovitz. Do you still think hes going to change?
E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.