Straight Eye for the Queer Guys
I NEVER THOUGHT THE DAY would come when iconoclastic Johnny Depp would become the biggest box-office star in Hollywood. Yet Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, opening July 7, now has the highest combo of “definite interest” and “first choice” ever tracked by research groups. In real-speak, this means that Depp’s fey romp could be as big as any film in history. Either there’s a major screwup, or the Magic Kingdom has a near-Titanic on its hands. Naturally, Disney wants to wring every last nickel out of this merchandising bonanza. Absurdly, those workaholic studio lawyers have registered the trademark for Depp’s pirate character, Jack Sparrow, for 1,400-some items, including bikinis and bolo ties and badminton sets, licorice and lemonade and leg warmers, bagels and bowling balls and BBQ mitts. (Although Jack Sparrow after-shave sounds sexy.) Just shows what long hair, eye makeup and some nice jewelry can do for a guy.
But Warner Bros. has the reverse problem: the studio’s failure to stem the gay buzz surrounding Superman Returns, which opened Wednesday. I maintain it was first sparked by those one-sheets that made Brandon Routh look like a baby-faced bottom. Then Warners went into a nelly panic because of gay-themed Superman stories in The Advocate. Singer himself didn’t help matters with his own desperate damage control, claiming this was “probably the most heterosexual character in any movie I’ve ever made.” Things got so out of hand, I’m told, that Warners president of production Jeff Robinov sought advice from his Matrix pal Joel Silver on how the hell to sell Superman in a more butch fashion. (When it comes to making and marketing manly movies to manly men, Silver’s the manliest.) As late as this week, new TV ads transformed Routh from doe-eyed softie to macho man of steel, with special effects set to pounding rap music (cue Terminator-like eyeball suck-out). With no thumpa-thumpa Gloria Gaynor in earshot, the Warners guys can’t wipe away that flop sweat yet, since the perception now is only that Superman is a bona fide top.
Who Ya Gonna Call? Fox’s Perkbusters!
GIVEN ALL THE HOSANNAS showered on Fox Filmed Entertainment’s managing pair, simply because they keep an eye on costs, to me the most interesting aspect about Jim Gianopoulos and Tom Rothman is why no Hollywood agency has yet tried to bump them off. The New York Times extravagantly dubs them “Fox’s Superheroes” for canceling $120-mil-budgeted comedies starring Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller. But I say Gianopoulos and Rothman should be known as “Fox’s Perkbusters.” Every year, there’s yet another studio outcry over the mountain of ridiculous perks demanded by talent, or rather demanded by agents for their talent, which is one more explanation for insanely soaring movie budgets. But the studios never do anything about it. (I remember when Paramount’s Frank Mancuso bought a NYC apartment for Tom Cruise, like the gazillion-net-worth actor couldn’t afford to buy one on his own.) Now Fox is cracking down. Not just on the ridiculous, like Evian water to bathe in, separate private jets for luggage, a 24/7 army of nannies, masseurs and waiting limos with chauffeurs. But I’m told they’re actually saying no to the stars’ demands for heretofore “normal” perks like $100,000 stylists, well-known hairdressers, even renowned makeup artists.
“What they’re saying to talent is, ‘Do you want more money for perk-type stuff or more for marketing?’?” an insider explained to me. “They’re making talent conscious of costs, which are so absurd, so that someone will think twice next time they ask for a private plane they never even use.”
The Fox duo also are refusing to take out so-called “vanity ads” at awards time. (That’s when the trades carry those “For Your Consideration” contractually dictated ads for performances that don’t have a prayer of winning anything but derision.) I’m told that in desperation the trades have gone to Gianopoulos and Rothman with charts showing what every studio pays for ads at awards time and complaining how Fox is consistently at the bottom. But the duo doesn’t care. Which throws out the window the oft-repeated argument that if you don’t give talent and their agents what they want, then they’ll go to a rival studio. Maybe once upon a time, but certainly not in this scaled-down entertainment economy that has stars begging for work.
Slacker Town: Why Hollywood Gets No Work Done
INCREASINGLY, HOLLYWOOD HAS BECOME Slacker Town now that industry types sneak off in mid-June for the July Fourth holiday. It’s bad enough these assholes cancel meetings at least four times before there’s any face-to-face action. Or have their assistant book appointments six months ahead just to seem busier than any mere mortal has a right to be and then rebook anyway just to be obnoxious. Or that this all happens without any pang of guilt. Don’t believe me? Just look why Hollywood gets no work done:
June: Spend most of the month coordinating long-weekend travel plans to brownnose Bob Wright on Nantucket, or finagle an invite to the Hamptons with Nick-and-Nora, or hang with Ashton and Demi in Hailey. Leave on June 20 for July Fourth “weekend” vacation to Canyon Ranch, Cal-a-Vie or The Peaks because you think you’re too fat to cruise the Mediterranean with Geffen or Diller.
July: Jump for joy that Ron Meyer has permanently canceled his ridiculously overcrowded annual July Fourth party at his Malibu Point Dume manse. Return from July Fourth weekend just in time to depart for Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley investment conference. (Bring lots of DVDs to avoid the embarrassment of dining with anyone mentioned in the Pellicano scandal.) Depart July 25 for “real” August vacation.
August: The first part of the month is the official vacation in East Coast owned or rented property in the Hamptons or Connecticut or Martha’s Vineyard. The second part of the month is an unofficial vacation at the Four Seasons on the Big Island to recover from the real and perceived slights suffered the first part of the month.
September: Return to work September 10. Depart for Toronto Film Festival on September 12. Take week off for each High Holy Day, then take more time after you blame imagined food poisoning at the break-the-fast meal at your mother’s. Take off for annual Aspen confab by Forstmann Little & Co.
October: Work, unless your studio owns a theme park that gets decorated for Halloween, or your agency is figuring your salary/bonus for next year, or you’re Brad Grey, Tom Freston, Les Moonves and Jim Wiatt planning another outing together (previous jaunts took them to Cuba and the Amazon). Overbook your trainer and therapist and golf pro so you have an excuse to leave work early.
November: Departures for Thanksgiving on the East Coast begin November 15. Spend a week supervising just which $10,000 Frank Lloyd Wright tchotchke you’ll give to Joel Silver to spend Turkey Day at his South Carolina plantation.
December: Return from NYC power-shopping trip with the family on the first few days of December to keep your third wife from divorcing you. Don’t forget to get the Oscar screeners back from the nanny before you head to Hawaii or St. Bart’s December 10. Then spend New Year’s Eve ice skating with Ah-nold in Sun Valley.
January: Return from Xmas/New Year’s vacation January 8. Tell everyone how hard you’re working, then leave January 11 for Sundance. Slink away to Aspen for a vacation from Sundance.
February: Schedule new tux fittings, jowl lipo, and Botox injections. Waste even more time partying with people you hate because it’s the dreaded awards time.
March: Spend month hiding after the dreaded awards time. That means in your office. Working.
April: Take off Passover Week to recover from imagined food poisoning at Sandy Gallin’s seder. Try to recall which kids in the house during their school vacation are yours.
May: Spend 10 days in NYC sweating out the network upfronts. Spend 10 days sweating out the frog critics in Cannes. Spend another 10 days getting “lost” on your way back from NYC or Cannes. And then it’s June again in Slacker Town.