Paul E. Steiger

The Gold Standard: How the movies -- past and present -- changed our lives

“Hollywood tends to draw its villains from business, and they tend to be cartoonish, which is OK. You get your villains where you find them.”

That’s the expert opinion of Steiger, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. “Writers and creative people tend to have sympathy for the underdog, and business people are such obvious overdogs,” he explains. “You see it even with people in Hollywood who make $20 million a picture.”

Although he reserves kudos for the drama “Wall Street” (“it caught the excesses of the greed-is-good era”), the editor much prefers it when Hollywood attacks tycoons and moguls with a sense of humor. “In the movies, business leaders are two-dimensional in dramas and more three-dimensional in comedies,” he opines. “I don’t know why that is.”

Nonetheless, he has examples to prove his point, picking three money-hungry laffers he likes.

“Sigourney Weaver was fabulous in ‘Working Girl,'” says Steiger, thinking back to Mike Nichols’ 1988 comedy about investment brokers. “While she was vicious and hilariously conniving, it was a character that had some shading to it. Sigourney Weaver plays tall, her face conveys intelligence. She was a worthy adversary for Melanie Griffith.”

In 2006, Steiger also enjoyed Aaron Eckhart in his role as a lobbyist: “In ‘Thank You for Smoking,’ they are definitely playing for laughs, but somehow the movie lets its negative characters have some redeeming social value.”

And then there is “The Devil Wears Prada”: “Meryl Streep took an over-the-top caricature and gave her a three-dimensional element. By the end of the movie, you understand the challenges of leadership in a highly competitive and sometimes backstabbing world.”

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