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David Poland

By David Poland

John Calley


I can’t do the man justice. Maybe in a few days I’ll try again.

He was the man whose name, invariably, brought a peaceful smile to the face of industry veterans. He was about the movies, he was beyond the movies, he was a lover of the art and its artists.

So many people offer him up as a key influence on their choices in this business… as the person who wanted to make them keep going.

There are a lot of talented, intelligent people running studios. None of them seem to be able to burn as brightly as Calley did. (The loss reminds me a bit of Sydney Pollack’s for people… champion for so many.) He had his share of misses, his share of mistakes, like everyone else does. But it wasn’t a business of measurement for him… at least not in the way corporations tend to measure.

We’re celebrating Sony Classics’ 20th year in business… ask those guys who Calley was to them. Ask Eastwood. Ask Spielberg. Ask the filmmakers of his heyday. Look back at his relationships with so many who have also gone.

To leave this world beloved is a wonderful thing. To leave this business beloved is a fucking miracle. John Calley was that kind of miracle man.

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3 Responses to “John Calley”

  1. Tofu says:

    “He was about the movies…”

    I believe this sums it up perfectly. To find a show business chairman who actually views their job as integrated into the actual culture, and not just a paycheck, was relieving.

    Plus, he was good at what he did. A total fixer, yet at the same time committed not strictly by the money, but by the inherent fun of the business.

    “We’re celebrating Sony Classics’ 20th year in business… ask those guys who Calley was to them.”

    Micheal Barker on Calley:

  2. The Pope says:

    Somehow it seems inappropriate that a tribute to such a great man receives only one comment. Mine may not be much, but just a few titles in thanks to someone whose decisions added a lot to my life: Deliverance, Dog Day Afternoon, Barry Lyndon, All the President’s Men… and that was just his years with Warners.

    Thank you John Calley.

  3. cadavra says:

    I remember when he appeared on the old Bart/Guber show after he left Sony. His explanation: “When I was at Warners, we could make a Dirty Harry movie for $3 million. It was almost impossible to lose money. Now my summer tentpole [SPIDER-MAN 2] costs $175 million and I can’t sleep at night.”

    On those few occasions when I met him, I’d call him “Mr. Calley” and he’d always reply, “Call me John.” But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. He was that impressive.

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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