‘Rebels’ without a backlot

Book's auteurs not living up to iconoclast image

They were supposed to conquer Hollywood.

But 10 years after their promising bows, upstart filmmakers David O. Russell, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Ander-son and Spike Jonze aren’t generating as many sparks as expected.

Those four, along with Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino, were pegged — in numerous magazine articles and New York Times reporter Sharon Waxman’s “Rebels on the Backlot” — as talents who would beat the studios at their own game.

“Despite the deadening crush of the studio system, their talent could not be denied, their visions could not be sup-pressed and their efforts yielded movies that reflected our time and point to where we headed,” she wrote.

Right now, Waxman’s subjects look more like rebels on the backburner.

Since their signature films — Russell’s “Three Kings,” Anderson’s “Magnolia,” Fincher’s “Fight Club” and Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” — none have gone on to the kind of meteoric and biz-changing success predicted for them, and achieved by those of an earlier generation such as Coppola, Scorsese and Lucas.

One studio insider, notes that without a long-term deal, directors have to prove themselves all over again with each movie.

But it may also be that some helmers have only one or two great movies in them. Perhaps that’s why some of these self-styled auteurs are adapting others works for their next project — with Fincher turning to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jonze to Maurice Sendak, and Anderson to Upton Sinclair.

On the other side of the coin, several indie directors who first made their mark in the ’90s — notably Alexander Payne — have successfully merged their individual vision with the studio system, winning Oscars and box office. But he wasn’t profiled in Waxman’s book.