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David Poland

By David Poland

They Call It Matt Damon

Matt Damon is reportedly grabbing only $5.5 million to star in the long-delayed All the Pretty Horses, which is now being directed by Billy Bob Thornton. I take that as a good sign. Perhaps it means that Damon’s ego is in check and that he will aspire to make better, rather than bigger, movies. Or perhaps Hollywood isn’t throwing eight-figure offers at the pretty young stud du jour. Damon jumped on the highly-coveted role almost immediately after it was offered, taking advantage of Leonardo DiCaprio‘s unwillingness to sign on the dotted line.
NEO LEO: Speaking of Leo, the battle over the tiny, almost homemade movie, Don’s Plum continues. A first time director, R.D. Robb, who was buddies with DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and some other young up-and-comers shot the film in six days in 1995 and 1996, and it is basically a bunch of kids sitting around talking. No one was interested in distributing the film. Until now. But not the right people, so the filmmaker and his backers are suing, claiming that DiCaprio and Maguire don’t want the film distributed and are using their clout to keep it from being seen. The truth is probably more like, the film sucks, but some cheesy video company will exploit Leo’s face if they have a chance. Miramax and other mini-majors won’t because they want Leo to be their friend. Unlike the Kevin Costner or Sly Stallone “lost classics,” this one doesn’t involve sex as a sales tool. It’s more like the story from a few years ago when Jim Carrey hit it big and a small film called High Strung suddenly found a video distribution deal. Of course, High Strung was directed by a friend, Roger Nygard, so I can’t say it sucked, but, well, uh, OK, yeah, right.
PLATT, AS IN SPLAT: If the most predictable things about Hollywood are the weather and the use of hair bleach, the third most is the inevitable claim made by every studio chief after he’s fired an underling that, “This is a mutual decision based largely on differences in working styles and is not related to performance.” It’s in quotes because this time it came out of the mouth of Universal chairman Casey Silver about the exit of now-former Universal President of Production Marc Platt. Uh-huh. Platt was on the job at the studio for a year-and-a-half. A year-and-a-half that produced such classics as Blues Brothers 2000, the much unanticipated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Mercury Rising.
MONSTER OPENING: Sony is aiming its Memorial Day opening weekend strategy right at Jurassic Park: The Lost World’s massive $90 million opening from last Memorial Day. Sony Distribution chief Jeff Blake is shooting for a first weekend run at 3,300 theaters, with more than 6,000 screens. The Lost World was at a measly 3,281 theaters last year. One word of caution, Jeff. Lost World shot its wad in those first few days and never even got close to the magical $300 million mega-movie mark. You had better have a really good movie if you expect to be competing with Armageddon for the No. 1 slot on the July 1 weekend.
THE COLOR OF CASTING: Laurence “Don’t Call Me Larry” Fishburne is helping to push the boundaries of non-traditional casting, heading for the Broadway stage as Henry II of France in a revival of The Lion In Winter. It’s been 30 years since the hit film version of the historically-based play, which starred Peter O’Toole in the Henry II role, with Katherine Hepburn in an Oscar-winning performance as his duplicitous wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. No definitive word on the rest of the casting, but it will likely be multi-racial. Things have really changed in France. Actually, I’m all for the choice and have no objections to creative casting, but it’s curious that none of the stories I’ve read to date have mentioned the racial anomaly. Should they have? Or is show business ready to truly become color blind?
READER OF THE DAY: From Matt B: “You know, I am looking forward to Sour Grapes. I really want to see it. The sad thing is that I don’t even know when it opens, and this is not my fault. Castle Rock has done nothing, NOTHING on this film. Is this one of those films where they’ll blow their whole advertising budget on one ad during ‘Seinfeld,’ hoping people will make the connection? Despite the presence of that ‘Wings’ guy with the surgically-enhanced smirk, this promises to be one funny film, but only ‘Seinfeld’ addicts realize that now because only they know who Larry David is. My guess is that it will be a modest sleeper hit, ending up with somewhere around $30 mil.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon