In a move that echoes the spirit of Norm Macdonald’s new MGM film “Dirty Work,” NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer has banned ads for the film from appearing on the network because of his ongoing dispute with the comedian.
“Dirty Work” is a comedy in which Macdonald plays the proprietor of a business devoted to revenge, and the advertising snub is the latest salvo in an ugly battle that began when Ohlmeyer removed Macdonald from the “Weekend Update” segment of “Saturday Night Live.”
Ohlmeyer’s advertising edict began when the network pulled a “Dirty Work” commercial MGM had booked for the May 23 episode of “Saturday Night Live.” NBC confirmed they’ve refused “Dirty Work” business, explaining that it doesn’t want to sell a movie for a comedian they feel went public and misrepresented the reasons the web prexy removed Macdonald from “Weekend Update.”
Sources said MGM planned to buy time during the NBA Playoffs and during “Seinfeld” reruns to hit the male demographic target audience, but is now shut out.
The continuing ill will between Ohlmeyer and Macdonald began with the “Weekend Update” removal, which NBC still attributes to Ohlmeyer’s concerns about ratings and a decline in quality from Macdonald’s earlier efforts. Critics railed that Macdonald had targeted longtime Ohlmeyer friend O.J. Simpson once too often, offering the opinion that he murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Ohlmeyer has denied his friendship with Simpson had any bearing on his decision. Macdonald has repeated his feelings and other barbed opinions during interviews with David Letterman and Howard Stern. While still under NBC contract, Macdonald then introduced Stern at a CBS press conference to launch a Stern latenight show designed to compete against “SNL” — a show Stern hopes Macdonald will strengthen by doing his humorous newscast. For his part, Ohlmeyer let Macdonald twist after the comic asked to be let out of the remainder of his NBC contract. Macdonald has since left NBC.
It’s not uncommon for a network to turn away paid movie advertising, but it is nearly unheard of for a network to refuse movie ads because its president is feuding with the film’s star.
Most networks nix ads over problems with content. ABC last year banned Fox ads for “Anastasia” from “Wonderful World of Disney,” prompting critics to charge ABC was trying to protect its parent’s stronghold in animated features. Other networks continue to air commercials for “Dirty Work.”
The next round in this spat will come as soon as this evening, when Macdonald guests on “Late Show With David Letterman,” with the former NBC latenighter sure to revisit the feud.
The “Dirty Work” spot did air on NBC once, during a primetime tribute to the late “SNL” star Chris Farley. But when the studio bought time for “SNL,” MGM found out from its tracking service that the spot hadn’t run. It was at that time the studio was informed of the network edict. “Dirty Work” is directed by Bob Saget and opens June 12.
CRUISE TOWARD “IRON MAN”: Another Marvel Comics superhero has caught the fancy of a superstar. Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner’s CW Prods. wants to develop the metallic titan “Iron Man” as a producing and possibly starring vehicle for Cruise. Cruise seems perfectly suited to play Tony Stark, the Howard Hughes-like magnate who lives in an armored suit because of a bullet lodged in his heart. It makes him a cyborg-like superhero. Nicolas Cage once had designs on wearing the iron suit, but instead opted for the Man of Steel in “Superman Lives.” Cruise is repped by CAA.
“HOUDINI” NEEDS HELMER: Director Paul Verhoeven has quietly disappeared from “Houdini,” the Rastar biopic at Columbia. “Houdini’s spiritual life was all about his mother when she was alive and when she was dead, and I just couldn’t solve that and make it a commercial movie,” said Verhoeven, who worked months with “Nixon” scribes Stephen Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson.
Said producer Ray Stark: “Although we think Paul is a wonderful director, we decided to go our separate ways and have been talking to a number of directors since that time.”
Verhoeven might revive the Walon Green-scripted “Crusade,” widely regarded to be one of the great unproduced scripts. The pic was once greenlit to star Arnold Schwarzenegger but was shelved by Carolco when its budget hit $110 million. “I had a meeting with Arnold and Walon two weeks ago, and I think we’re reviving the project,” said the director. “We’ve never lost interest in it and are all committed, if the financial and political obstacles of shooting it can be overcome.”
While $110 million now seems average for an event-caliber film, Verhoeven’s still not certain if a studio will step up. “‘Titanic’ hasn’t made getting budgets any easier; in a way, it made them more scared than ever.”
DOUBLE THREAT: After scoring a Fox 2000 deal for his first novel “Dark Horse,” screenwriter Doug Richardson (“The Money Train”) will test the town again this week with his second literary effort. The Avon novel’s called “True Believers,” about a Charles Manson-like imprisoned cult leader hellbent on fathering a child before he’s executed. He focuses his spawning pursuits on an infertile political power couple.
Richardson has managed to keep pace as a screen scribe while he writes books. Paramount and Mutual Film Co. now are moving on two of his scripts. Along with an untitled jailhouse lawyer drama which Mutual’s Mark Gordon and Gary Levinsohn will produce with Dylan Sellers, Richardson has just turned in “The Last Good Time,” an actioner about a con man and young treasury agent who’s trying to decide which side of the law he’ll land on while he tries to recover $300 million in counterfeit loot. Gordon and Levinsohn also produce that one.
Richardson has also made a DreamWorks deal with Bob Cooper on “Custody,” a thriller about a highly contentious custody case. The “True Believers” sale will be spearheaded by Richardson’s William Morris reps Alan Gasmer, Sara Bottfeld and Robert Gottlieb.
MORRIS GETS IZZARD: Eddie Izzard, the Brit comic who’s threatening to become a household name after starring in the Todd Haynes movie “Velvet Goldmine” and the upcoming “The Avengers,” has signed with William Morris. Izzard, who has been toplining the one-man show “Dress to Kill” in Greenwich Village, is a transvestite who describes himself as a “male lesbian.” He often tarts up in female frocks; hopefully they won’t clash with Armani, because Izzard will be repped by some of the percentery’s top guns, including John Burnham, Shelly Schultz and Carol Yunkas. He’ll retain his London agent, Nicki Van Gelder.