MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

Stop the presses! Newsweek sells soul to 'Da Vinci Code'!

April 17, 2006
In its continuing effort to keep America abreast of all things “Da Vinci Code,” Newsweek has treated its readers to a lengthy “exclusive” preview story; a “Newsweek on Air” panel discussion of the cover story; an on-line Q&A with lead reporter, Devin Gordon; several hundred searchable items on the website it shares with; links to the movie trailer; and sponsored links to Sony’s official publicity website,, and a purveyor of audio books. Several more sponsored links to “Code” ephemera can found via the Verizon With MSN search engine, which appears to be affiliated with Newsweek, as well.
With friends like this in the media, who needs an advertising budget?
The latest item to surface in Newsweek’s increasingly frivolous Periscope gossip/trivia column is an in-depth investigative piece on the hairdo favored by Tom Hanks’ character in the movie, which launches on May 19. As silly as it might look on a fictional Harvard symbologist and real-life Hollywood multimillionaire, the coiffure hardly qualifies as news .
And, neither does the imaginary tempest in a teapot furthered by reporters Gordon and Sean Smith. Instead, it’s the kind of baloney bored studio executives enjoy feeding to desperate reporters, knowing they’ll swallow it hook, line and sinker.
As the story goes, rival studio brass are keeping themselves busy these days by speculating out loud about how many millions of dollars Hanks’ modified mullet – which he’s also wearing in a ponytail — will cost Sony. (The answer, of course, is “none.”) The reporters go so far as to ascribe “whisper campaign” to what likely is nothing more than one exec at the Mr. Chow asking another, “Did you see Hanks on Letterman last night?”
If the movie performs as expected, every 40-plus male in the 90210 zip code will be sporting the same look by the 4th of July, even it means a visit to the Hair Club for Men.
Typically, though, for these kinds of non-stories, it took two reporters, two unnamed sources and 290 words not only to alert Periscope readers to the alleged whisper campaign, but, also, in the next paragraph, to completely discredit the rumor. Worst of all, perhaps, the journalistic assault squad actually allowed one of the anonymous sources to repeat the threadbare cliché, “In Hollywood, it’s not enough that I win. You have to lose.”
Why did Newsweek editors accord the “perpetrators” of this “whisper campaign” anonymity, if all the readers were going to get from it was a quote so old it’s growing whiskers? Oh, yeah, I forgot … the usual rules don’t apply when it comes to Hollywood gossip. – G.D.

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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