MEMO TO BRAD GREY:The last few weeks must have been difficult for you, Brad. It’s never easy to change course in your career, especially when the whole community is looking over your shoulder. But I’ve got news for you: This is a picnic compared with what’s in store for you. So steel yourself: Herewith a list of the surprises that await you in the coming months:
- You will be presented with the director’s cut of a film that you’ve inherited, and it will be 90 minutes too long. When you suggest modest cuts, the director will respond: “What the hell do you know — you’re a manager.”
- One of your favorite superstar filmmakers, who you’ve courted for years, will finally consent to a meeting on his next project. He will pitch you the ultimate vanity project that will surely lose $100 million and, when you turn it down, his agent — a close friend of yours — will call you a dumb philistine.
- You will have lunches with three or four of your trusted friends to solicit their advice on your new responsibilities. Each will instead hit on you for a job, explaining that their own situations are disastrous; you will tactfully turn them down, realizing those friendships are over.
- Your superiors will admonish you that your production budgets are too high, while at the same time suggesting that “you’re not thinking big enough.” In response, you will blow off your favorite project in trying to chop some above-the-line costs.
- On the day before the start of principal photography, the lawyer for a major star will demand that the star’s deal be enhanced to the tune of 10% of first-dollar gross. You refuse, and suddenly the star finds he has a back problem and can’t work for six months. You cave and agree to 5%.
- Your first coveted project completes shooting and you learn that the star, the producer and the director are at war about its ending. Meanwhile, your president of advertising shows you a trailer that looks like outtakes from “Howard the Duck.” You leave for a week in Sardinia.
* * *SUBHED: Pics that might have been Oliver Stone made a mess of “Alexander,” but how would Baz Luhrmann and Dino De Laurentiis have told the story? Luhrmann once took me through his outline — his narrative of Alexander’s saga was vastly more impressionistic and opaque. Perhaps it would have been a home run, but we’ll never know. Stone and his ferocious financier, Moritz Borman, knocked the Dino-and-Baz show off the tracks. Meanwhile Warren Beatty, one of the world’s premiere procrastinators, spent years nurturing his version of the Howard Hughes legend. Bo Goldman, surely an accomplished writer, turned in several fascinating drafts, but Beatty always had a better idea. (Jim Carrey, John Malkovich, Nicolas Cage and Edward Norton also toyed with their own Hughes projects.) In the end, the Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio version won the day and, while it’s a superb accomplishment, I keep wondering how Beatty would have dealt with the basic problem of the story: Namely, that the real Howard Hughes was a total creep. His phobias went far beyond germs: He also couldn’t seem to cope with things like corporate budgets, the law, women, our democratic form of government — and everyone who disagreed with him. I appreciate why Scorsese saw fit to pursue the “genius-who-triumphed-over-the-system” theme, but, in fact, Hughes was really an evil genius who was defeated by the system. Would Warren Beatty have given us that film? Nobody knows. Like Baz Luhrmann, he never got to the starting line. I wish all four films had been made.