Shoot the messenger: Robert Evans

In honor of our 100th birthday, Variety invited Robert Evans (producer, “Chinatown,” The Godfather,” “Rosemary’s Baby”) to talk back about his coverage in the ‘bible of showbiz.’

Does Variety have clear strengths and weaknesses?

“I care about facts. (The publication) has enough good reporters to discern the dialogue from the deal. There’s a huge valley between dialogue and the deal. This industry is filled with dialogue — everyone’s out to lunch making deals that are never made. My first dictate when I became head of Paramount was no executive could go out to lunch more than once a week.”

Have we ever scooped too soon and hurt your deal?

“Most scoops hurt you, don’t help you. A deal sometimes takes six months to settle. In ‘Godfather,’ there were six directors named (by Variety) to be on the picture, four leading men. And one actor read the other got the part and got angry. The other guy never even wanted the part!”

Has coverage ever helped you?

” ‘The Kid Stays in the Picture’ — not since ‘Chinatown’ have I gotten as good reviews. It was the biggest opening picture of the weekend for a little picture.”

So we helped get the word out?

“Like nobody else. Not only in America, all over the world. Especially weekly Variety — it’s very powerful. That Variety (weekly edition is published on Sunday) is sent all over the world. All over the world Monday morning every stock brokerage office is (reading) Variety. From London to Pakistan. In the community, they’re taken far more seriously than the Wall St. Journal. How about that?”

How has Variety grown since you’ve been reading it?

Variety has grown tremendously. I think Peter Bart has done a mammoth job. It’s the bellwether of the communications industry; it’s all over the world from London to Paris to Turkey to Hong Kong. Variety‘s the paper that tells you about communication.

When Variety started, it was entertainment — the stage and movies basically and today we’re a communications business, which is the most important and most growing industry in the entire world, and Peter Bart and Variety are the bible of it.”

They have grown bigger than the business itself. Wall Street to Hong Kong to Japan, every stock exchange gets Variety, and I give great credit to Peter Bart … he globalized a local industry. Period.”

What do you think of our coverage of your career — specifically when we cheekily mentioned why you date younger women?

“Not tongue in cheek — it was true. I make products for people who are in the 20s and 30s — I have to know what the idiom is, I have to know how they talk. If I hung around people my age, I couldn’t be in this business. I’d be making antiquated pictures.

“Without Variety, I don’t know who’s lying.”

Have we helped mold your ladies’ man, star producer image?

“I’ve never asked for anything; I’ve never had a press agent. … My problem is keeping my name out of the paper, not in it. As an example, I’ve made the biggest deal of my career these last two months for the next five years, and I’ve not given it to Variety or to anyone. … It’s no one’s business; I don’t need the publicity.

May we print that?

“Sure you can.”

‘The wealthiest man in the world is the man who has total anonymity, and I ain’t that, unfortunately.

“Since I’ve been 15 I’ve been talked about. It’s a curse in a way. I can pass a Hustler store, never go into it, it’ll be in the paper the next day that I was in the Hustler store.”

Don’t you need the coverage in order to get more exposure for future deals?

“I’ll tell you what it does: it builds you up to tear you down. You’re judged by your excellence, not by your press. What I like about Variety — it’s become a bible. I think that what Peter Bart has done has been historic.

Do we ever get anything wrong?

“Many things — some good ones and some bad ones. (Variety once reported that) I made an 18-picture deal at Paramount, a big headline. Of these 18 pictures, I made three. Then I (was reported to have received) the richest deal in the entire industry. … I was so rich I couldn’t pay my taxes at the end of the year.”

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