Producer Robert Evans, nothing if not a survivor, seems likely to rebound nicely from his latest blow: Simon & Schuster, owned by Paramount Communications Corp., put his memoirs in turnaround early last week. The reason, sources say, is that Evans dishes dirt at Paramount’s expense.
A Paramount Communications spokesman said Simon & Schuster editors felt the book would be better served by another publishing house. But if it doesn’t land elsewhere, Simon & Schuster will publish it, he said.
Simon & Schuster recently drew criticism both for refusing to publish Robert Sam Anson’s book about Disney that was critical of former Par execs and for publishing Joe McGinniss’ critically reviled “The Last Brother,” about Ted Kennedy.
Evans’ agent, Ed Victor, got the book –“The Kid Stays in the Picture”– to at least six publishers on Friday for a weekend read, and an auction is scheduled for Monday. That was the compromise reached after an initially bitter, 48-hour standoff last week between Evans and the publisher.
After working three years, Evans finally turned in 850 pages, only to be told that he had breached his contract, because it was three weeks late, and would have to return his advance. The alternative, he was told, was litigation that would have prevented the book from being published.
Finally, Simon & Schuster topper Dick Snyder permitted Evans to take it elsewhere, a compromise that will allow the publisher to recover its advance, and let Evans hook up with a publisher enthusiastic about the book.
Sources who’ve read “The Kid Stays in the Picture” say it’s blunt in discussing the formative years of Paramount Pictures, and even Simon & Schuster itself.
Evans, whose once-stellar career hit the skids because of drug abuse and the disastrous “Cotton Club” fiasco and didn’t improve much with the recent disappointment “Sliver,” hardly spares himself the rod. Indeed, the book starts with Evans escaping from a mental hospital in 1989. He checked himself in because he was afraid he’d commit suicide, but skipped out upon discovering the remedy would include electric-shock therapy.
Every top Par exec — Martin Davis, Stanley Jaffe, even Snyder — gets scrutiny. In fact, the book reports that Snyder, who believedthe publisher was being sold to MCA and that he might be out of a job, once set up a meeting with Gulf + Western chief Charles Bluhdorn by telling him he was a close friend of Evans, and that he could help Bluhdorn buy the publisher as long as Snyder got to run it. Only, Evans writes, he had never met Snyder. A Paramount Communications spokesman said Snyder, who is on vacation, disputes the claim.
David Brown, who was brought in by Paramount to speed up the development of the Evans-produced “The Saint,” said the book delivers the goods. “It’s unquestionably the most authentically inside book about Hollywood I’ve ever read , that’s the way I truly feel about it,” he said. “The reality of Evans’ Hollywood is riveting.” Sources say that several other top execs felt similarly.
Victor said that Snyder “behaved like a prince” in agreeing to allow the book to be auctioned. Evans, too, took the high road.
“I am totally sympathetic with Simon & Schuster’s dilemma,” said Evans, who expects the finished book to be trimmed to 600 pages. “The manuscript to them is far more revealing and candid than they had ever expected it to be. Simon & Schuster, being under the umbrella of Paramount Pictures Communications, puts them in an untenable situation to publish an autobiography whose approach is tantamount to one undressing nude in Bloomingdales’ window for the world to pass and see.
“From the beginning it was understood that the text of my autobiography is unalterable regarding its content. Quite frankly, I don’t think they’d even thought I’d write it, nor be as extreme in its detail, both bad and good.
“I know for certain they rue the day I took on the chore of opening a Pandora’s box to reveal the dead and injured left behind, not copping out and telling it as it was and is — unquestionably the most painful experience of my adult life. The only one more pained right now, I think, is Simon & Schuster itself.”