The Truth About Truman

Among those praising “Capote” are two producers who had nothing to do with the film. They are David Brown and Richard Zanuck who tell me of their experiences with Truman Capote when the producing pair were at 20th.

According to both Brown and Zanuck, then-studio boss Darryl Zanuck was furious because Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” got away from 20th. He told Brown and Dick to buy the script of Capote’s next book, “Answered Payers.” They made the script deal with Capote’s agent, Irving (“Swifty”) Lazar and paid Truman $200,000. The producers waited a year-and-a-half for a script and finally had a meeting with Capote. They saw but a few pages of the script — it was unacceptable. Capote was well into his alcoholism.

The producers demanded Lazar return the $200,000. He gave ’em $180,000, claiming $20,000 commission — for getting ’em back their script payment. “How dare you!” Zanuck told “Swifty,” “We gave you $200,000!” Lazar countered with, “I should have charged you another 10% for getting you back the $180,000!” (Brown went on to produce “Tru” on B’way with Robert Morse starring).

After seeing “Capote,” which was both DGA and PGA-nominated, Zanuck called producer Caroline Baron to tell how impressed he was with the film — “and made at a great price as well!” (And also to praise Philip Seymour Hoffman’s realistic transformation since he knew Capote first hand). Zanuck and Brown have been partners 18 years, and while not currently teamed on a go project they speak to each other (via phone) every day.

Zanuck’s readying “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” starring Jim Carrey, directed by Tim Burton at Paramount with locations including China. (Par’s Brad Grey and Zanuck had teamed on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at WB during Grey’s pre-Par days). Brown is readying John O’Hara’s “Appointment In Sumatra” with Robert Benton directing his script. And Brown’s also readying “People Like Us” for B’way with music and lyrics by Kander and Ebb, book by Joe Stein. It’s in workshop.

Brown, who will be 90, July 28, receives a terrif tribute from the PGA in the latest issue of its magazine, “Produced By.” He’s also on its cover cajoling, “There is no discrimination at this age because nobody lives this long.” Congrats, David. (and Dick, 71).

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