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On pressing the stars into service

Working with stars can be hell, and in making that point at the Publicists Guild Awards luncheon Friday in Beverly Hills, producer Arnold Kopelson could not possibly have found a more sympathetic audience than the one he stood before.

Kopelson was there to receive the 1997 Motion Picture Showman of the Year Award. But after playfully dissing presenter Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kopelson launched a full-frontal assault on prima donna headliners who figure they are too good to promote their films at a time when the average cost of releasing a picture is $20 million.

The problem, Kopelson explained, is that “many stars do not give any interviews. … Many of them do not permit on-set press visits. Many of them do not appear at domestic or international press junkets. Many of them will not attend openings of their films. And many of them will not do publicity because they don’t like the way the film turned out.”

While the stars are shunning Hollywood’s promotion machine, Kopelson said, “We tiptoe around them for fear that they will become upset and fear that if anything is said they will do no publicity at all.”

Change must come from the studios in their negotiations with the agencies for talent, Kopelson believes. “The deal can no longer merely call for acting services … but must also require that the actor perform specified publicity services for a specified number of days.”

Kopelson noted that some stars do recognize the importance of publicity and promotion, citing Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman and Michael Douglas as examples. “The result in all cases (is) a material increase in box office because of such dedication,” he added.

Meanwhile, in his flip introduction of Kopelson, Schwarzenegger quipped that he himself was probably going to be needing some publicity help now. “That’s because I’ve just signed with the William Morris office,” he said, adding, “They’ll hate me for saying that.”

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