Hollywood & Vine
Hosted by Sharon Waxman
Post Style Correspondent
Tuesday, April 23, 2002; 2 p.m. EDT
Washington Post Style correspondent Sharon Waxman brings Hollywood & Vine Live Online for a discussion about the inner workings of the movie industry.
There is a whole political universe behind how the movies happen, the tug and pull of egos, financial imperatives, a pecking order for privileges as well as genuine creative impulses.
Waxman was online Tuesday, April 23, at 2 p.m. EDT, to answer your questions and field your comments on the industry personalities she has met; the movies that are causing a stir and why; and trends in the industry and the culture of moviemaking in general.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Sharon Waxman: Welcome back all to our regular discussion. We're about to embark on the summer juggernaut of loud, colorful, glitzy, gargantuan movies. Some of you like em, some of you don't. But they're hard to ignore. I've seen only one of them so far, "Spiderman," and I can tell you it's going to be a big, fat hit. In truth, it's not as horrible as some of the big budget cartoon films have been in past years (or this year, to wit, "The Scorpion King"). There are mixed views on Spiderman, by the way; some say that Sony has made a film that appeals to women with the sensitive Tobey Maguire in the title role, and misses the point. Others say on the contrary, the film hits all the demographics just right. In any event, it's going to be a big summer for Sony, which sorely needs to make some money in its movie unit.
OK, here we go....
New York Film Buff: Sharon --
Just saw a new film by Clare Peploe called "Triumph of Love." If someone had told me I would enjoy a cinematic adaptation of a 1732 play I would have told them they were crazy, but what an unexpected, pleasant surprise. Miro Sorvino, Fiona Shaw and Ben Kingsley were all outstanding in this period piece. But my question is, who is Clare Peploe? Has she been making many movies? Why haven't we heard more of her?
washingtonpost.com: Quick shameless plug: Clare Peploe was online with us last week.
Sharon Waxman: I don't know much about Claire Peploe, so I"ll let you read all about her in last week's show. I must confess I was amazed at how kind Steve Hunter's review was (and yours). Myself, I couldn't make it through more than a half-hour before giving up.
Boston, Mass.: We're only a few weeks away from "Attack of the Clones" opening. What's the scuttle in Hollywood? Another "Phantom Menace"-like dud. Or a masterful epic, as Time magazine seems to indicate this week in its cover piece?
Sharon Waxman: As far as I know only two non-Lucas human beings on earth have seen this film, Harry Knowles and the guy at Time who wrote the cover story. All the rest, as they say, is commentary.
All we can tell you about is the buzz, which is good. I heard they retooled Jar-Jar as a result of the public outcry against him (thank the Lord), and that in this Time interview Lucas apparently cops to the fact that Phantom Menace was a dud.
On your behalf, dear readers, I will be travelling up to Lucasville in northern California in 10 days or so to ask him about these very issues. Until then, I"m just repeating gossip.
Bowie, Md.: I believe this summer's most anticipated movie will be George Lucas' "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones." I believe the movie was completed recently and is about to be screened for various charities around the globe. Have you heard any inside information as to how the film has been received or what the buzz has been on the completed print? If there are any last-minute tweaks, do you know the substance of them are?
Sharon Waxman: Sorry Bowie, the other guy got here first. See above.
Doda Lia, Ohio: Hi Sharon,
I've seen news reports of Robert Blake's arrest and each time the TV news also includes scenes from his movies where he plays murderers or psychos. don't you think that by emphasizing those roles, the media is already judging him or at least coloring public opinion?
Sharon Waxman: Hey Lia! That's a really good point, but only to be expected when the media falls into its well-worn mode of celebrity sensationalism. That's certainly the case this time, and it's pretty stomach-turning. (Loved the "SNL" opening last weekend, with Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer as the Fox anchors, gleefully catching up with their old OJ pals on camera, including Geraldo weighing in from Lebanon on the 'very, very, very guilty OJ Simpson.')
At the arraignment yesterday, there was a spectator carrying a copy of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" (Blake played one of the murderers in the movie), which I found interesting. Perhaps the parallels are just irresistible, and certainly Blake's lawyer will do all he can to distance his client from them.
Meantime, there were lots of other old OJ hanger-on characters present yesterday, including the crazy guy in a rainbow tie-dye shirt who always speechifies, law expert Stan Goldman trolling for business in the courtroom, etc. etc.
Washington, D.C.: What can you tell us about the Robert Blake arrest/investigation? Any news we haven't read about in the papers?
Sharon Waxman: As a rule, I try to put any and all info I have on stories I'm covering in the newspaper. Isn't that the idea?
Washington, D.C.: When you go to LucasLand, please be sure to ask him what the hell the deal was with N'Sync. Was he on drugs or something? What a way to guarantee your movie won't age well.
Sharon Waxman: I missed something here. Is N Sync doing the theme song to "Clones" instead of John Williams? Where have I been?
(And I have to give you this great anecdote from the home-front: two of my kids were discussing the movie and whether I'd let them go. The eight-year-old asks what a "Clone" is, and his 10-year-old sister answers it's when you make a copy of somebody. She pauses. Then she adds thoughtfully, it's also what Daddy uses after he shaves.)
EraserheadGuy, D.C.: Hi, sweetie. Clones, shlones. The REAL burning cinematic question is what’s the buzz on the fortified DVD version of “Eraserhead” that David Lynch is readying even as we speak? Please tell us all the details!
Sharon Waxman: Eraserman, we rely on you to bring us all relevant and new information regarding the Lynchian chef d'oeuvre. Including and especially the new DVD.
Re: N'Sync: No -- they're supposed to be in the movie. Jedi cadets or something. I heard they've been cut out, but the whole idea -- bleeech.
Sharon Waxman: Oh, thanks. There was an N'Sync or Backstreet Boy in this movie I just saw last week, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." It's a tiny, sweet movie about an unmarried 30-year-old Very Very Greek woman (her dad roasts lamb on a spit in the front yard amidst the statuary) who falls in love with a WASP. Coming to DC in a couple of weeks. The Boy Band played one of a cast of thousands of Greek cousins. (Could it be Joey Fattone or something like that?)
Vienna, Va.: "The Scorpion King" sinks to new levels of historical unbelievability. It's supposed to take place around 3000 B.C. At this time, only stone and bronze weapons were available, no shiny steel. Monumental architecture was not well-developed. (Speaking of well-developed, the push-up bra had not been invented yet.) And gunpowder from China, puh-leez! Given all these inaccuracies, it would have been better to present the Scorpion King in a more supernatural and mythic context, as in the Mummy movies. Actually, the Egyptians hadn't yet invented artificial mummy-making in 3000 B.C. So the movie got that one right. Finally, beware -- The Rock is showing up on the History Channel tonight!
Sharon Waxman: Ouch. Leave it to educated Washingtonians to hit Hollywood where it hurts. I urge you to put it all in writing and send it to Barry Diller at Universal, give him a little indigestion.
Alexandria, Va.: Just wanted to let you know that a few weeks ago on Denis Leary's TV show "The Job" there was a character (actually a family I believe) named Waxman. Hollywood writers continue to like your name.
Sharon Waxman: I sense a trend. Did you know that Woody Allen's character in his new movie, "Hollywood Ending," is also called Waxman (Val)? Can we get to the bottom of this please?
Washington, D.C.: Now, whenever people hear the name "Sharon," they think of Ozzy yelling for his wife.
"SHAAAARRRROOONNN! The #$%-- dog -&-#X! on my &-$-%! carpet!"
But we'll still think of you. Love your stuff.
Sharon Waxman: Thank you. First it was Sharon Tate. Then Sharon Stone. Briefly, the "Sharon" character on "East Enders." And now an Osbourne. I'm fine with it.
"The Bachelor": It's a total train wreck: you don't want to watch but you can't pull your eyes away.
Sharon Waxman: Does anyone else think the concept of this show is, well, immoral?
London, England: Hi Sharon,
Knowing how much you loved "Bridget Jones's Diary" (can I call you Shazza), are you looking forward to old floppy head Hugh Grant's latest, "About A Boy"? And have you heard whether he is "seeing," as they say, Ms.Bullock in non-professional capacity?
washingtonpost.com: FYI, another shameless plug. We'll be hosting a discussion with Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, the directors of "About a Boy," on Thursday. Stay tuned.
Sharon Waxman: I love clever British movies, Bridget Jones's Diary just wasn't one. And I hear "About a Boy" is great. Also, I'm a Weitz brother and Hugh Grant fan. I probably shouldn't lump that together just in case Hugh Grant is reading. I'm a huge Hugh Grant fan. Bullock's on her own, honey.
washingtonpost.com: FYI, we also hosted a show with Nick Hornby last July.
Washington, D.C.: Will there be any "grown up" movies coming out this summer? Last summer, the only movie I remember seeing was "The Deep End."
Summertime is usually movie drought season for me, as the usual "blockbuster" movies I find don't interest me.
Sharon Waxman: A moviegoer after my own heart. Let's go through the list here and see what we've got. I"m told DreamWorks is positioning "Road to Perdition" -- with Tom Hanks (in a moostache) about a Depression-era guy (OK, actually a hitman for the Mob) seeking revenge for the killing of his wife -- as a "Saving Private Ryan"-type summer release. Serious, but still a big movie. In June.
What else -- do you consider "Halloween Resurrection" the kind of thing you're looking for? Guess not. July has "Tadpole," the delightful, smart comedy that got bought after a bidding war in Sundance this year. (With Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Stanford.) Night Shyamlan has "Signs" coming with Mel Gibson, might be smart. One other that might be intriguing is "Igby Goes Down," with Susan Sarandon, Kieran Culkin and other good actors in a dark comedy "about a financially privileged, emotionally wrecked Manhattan family." Actually that sounds a bit like "Tadpole." Also, Neil LaBute ("Friends and Neighbors," "Nurse Betty") has a new movie with Gwyneth Paltrow. That's what I see so far.
Re: "The Bachelor": Better to get two idiots out of the dating pool than for the rest of us to have to deal with Miami Heat dancers DYING for a ring and Harvard grads who remind you of their Harvard grad-ness every five minutes who think this is the best way to meet sincere, nice, marriage material women.
Sharon Waxman: You wouldn't be on the dating circuit by any chance, would you?
Re: "The Bachelor": Not immoral, but sexist. Would any Hollywood exec have a show in which one young, beautiful, rich woman dated 25 men at the same time and then slowly rejected the men over a period of weeks until only one man was left?
Sharon Waxman: OK, immoral (the idea of dating to marry on television) AND sexist (I agree). The whole thing is massively gross. I don't think I could watch it and keep dinner down.
Washington, D.C.: Speaking of horrid TV -- what is up with the "X-Files"? What are they going to do now that they killed off the Lone Gunmen (in an impressively boring episode)? Nuke Mulder and Scully?
Can't wait for that movie franchise!
Sharon Waxman: Any ideas? And what about the end of "Ally McBeal"? Doesn't anyone out there care?
Fun Movie: Sharon, I saw "Kissing Jessica Stein" when it was in previews and I really loved it. Just a nice romantic comedy that was really well done. I know that it's a sensitive subject (being about lesbianism and all) so it wouldn't appeal to everyone, but is it doing well anywhere? I think that it would be such a shame if this movie just never made it onto moviegoers' radar.
Sharon Waxman: I am sorry to say I've missed that movie, though I'd been wanting to see it. I think it's doing moderately good business, but is not becoming a break-out hit, if that's what you're asking.
Washington, D.C.: OK, the D.C. Film Fest is going on right now, right here in D.C. and it is great. Anyone want to contribute on what they saw? (I can't...I'm at work...though I can read postings...that's passive.)
Sharon Waxman: Readers -- you're on.
Washington, D.C.: I first heard of the death of Linda Lovelace as it broke over the CNN scroll around midnight. The other two cable networks FOX/NC and MSNBC refused to mention it throughout the night. So kudos to CNN. Then one broadcast network, CBS, posted it about each hour beginning around 3 a.m. No other person in this brazen industry would have gotten major headlines upon dying maybe except for a Hugh Hefner or Larry Flynt or Bob Guccione (I hear he's near death)!
I feel sad for this notorious and unfortunate woman. I recognize her importance as a threshold or landmark in what has become a billion dollar industry. She should have been able to live comfortably for the rest of her life considering the money "D--p T----t" made. Now the ivy-league educated with slick back hair and the occasional blond bimbette pocket millions in an unscrupulous part of our entertainment industry. Don't you think some sort of union or residual (no joke) ought to be set up for these "misguided" people if there is going to continue to be an adult film industry?
Sharon Waxman: Thanks for weighing in. Hmmm, a pension plan for porno film stars? I'm not sure I have an opinion on that, but I don't see any reason why they couldn't join SAG if they're making movies.
Another Sharon: Sharon -- you would love "The Bachelor." Too bad it's wrapping up this week. It's the most revolting, skin-crawling thing I've ever seen and yet, I cannot look away.
Sharon Waxman: Thanks for that.
Herndon, Va.: Let me start with recommendations for two totally different movies -- "Changing Lanes" and "Big Trouble." The first actually makes you think and has some great acting, while the second is totally stupid-funny, but makes you laugh constantly. "Changing Lanes" looks like it's going well at the box office. Has "Big Trouble" died already?
Sharon Waxman: Died, gone, kaput. Available soon on video.
Washington, D.C.: The Blake article was a good one that you wrote (April 19). It was crisp, clear and dealt with the aspect (as per police) that Blake was present at his wife's murder. Also you decried Geraldo. Can't stand him.
The Suge Knight article (April 17) is another matter. You go right back to the Sharon we know and love and sometimes disagree with. I got the impression from the article that there was a sort of implication of Knight for Smalls's death because he was associated with Tupac. That information has been around (unsubstatiated) since Smalls's murder. That's not new so why the implication?
Loved Robert Urich in "Vegas" and when he hosted National Geographic Explorer. Sorry he lost his battle with that dreadful disease. We need a cure. Did you ever interview him?
washingtonpost.com: Robert Blake Arrested in Wife's Death (Post, April 19, 2002)
A Notorious B.I.G. Open Case, (Post, April 17, 2002).
Sharon Waxman: Thanks for being such a close reader of my oeuvre. The Biggie Smalls story did not mean to intimate that Knight is suspected of rubbing out Biggie Smalls in retaliation for Tupac's death, it meant to say so outright. The story was about a lawsuit and a book that put those very elements together, and indeed Knight has been a prime suspect by the LAPD all along. (They will no longer say he's a suspect, but won't deny it either.) The difference is that the book makes the connection outright, while the lawsuit only lays out the elements connecting Suge Knight to LAPD off-duty officers to Biggie Smalls's death to Tupac. It doesn't state directly that Knight contracted for the murder. I presume it doesn't say so because the lawsuit is not suing Knight or Death Row.
Which is another good question: why sue the LAPD and not Death Row? Especially if the allegation is that an off-duty cop and his friend killed Smalls at Knight's behest? The answer to this question came off the record from a lawyer on the case and went like this: Are you crazy? Do you think we want to get killed?
Thanks for writing.
Washington, D.C. : "The Bachelor" guy is creepy in that Rusty Yates way.
Sharon Waxman: Thanks.
"Ally McBeal"?: Good riddance to rubbish!
At least the "X-Files" has Gillian Anderson -- now there's a female protagonist.
Sharon Waxman: Okay. But was Ally a trend-maker, or a reflection of a new social perception of females? Hard to say.
I used to live in Boston and: I even went to law school there. I didn't know anyone even remotely like her in law school. So I won't miss her.
Sharon Waxman: Ouch.
I care about "ALLY"!: Although the show was dreadful this year, I am still VERY sad that the show is cancelled. It's like a good friend is dying. That show started when I was in law school and it got me through three long years. Made me see the bright side of the law (if there is one).
I only wish we really had singing judges and opposing counsel who make their noses wheeze, etc. Being a lawyer, sadly, is not that much fun.
Sharon Waxman: Thanks for that.
Won't miss "Ally McBeal": Did anyone besides me notice that for a Boston law firm, NO ONE has a Boston accent?
Even "Cheers" had Cliff Clavin!
Sharon Waxman: Thanks.
"The Bachelor": The premise of the show is, indeed, incredibly immoral, but it's still impossible not to watch. These women on the show actually seem surprised that things are not going the way they expect them to!
Sharon Waxman: Jerry Springer goes mainstream. We saw this coming, unfortunately...
Washington, D.C.: Hi Sharon,
Love your chats and articles! Just curious -- Do you know how much the teen stars typically make in all the recent teen movies like "American Pie," "Bring it On," etc.?
High six figures, low six figures?
Sharon Waxman: Before they're in hit movies, my guess would be somewhere in mid six figures. Then they squeeze more out of the studio for a sequel. Kirsten Dunst, though, is certainly making in the (very low) millions to be in a movie like Spiderman.
Denver, Colo.: Sharon:
This might seem a little paranoid, but I just have to ask.
I have been watching movies lately that are run on television and depict New York City. Is it just my imagination or have networks erased the twin towers in some of these movies?
Maybe other readers have some take on this.
I remember reading that "Spiderman" had scenes involving New York skyline and some scenes were (re-done?) to eliminate the twin towers. I was just curious about whether this is also happening on older films re-run on TV.
Sharon Waxman: Good question, had a long talk with director Sam Raimi on this very question. He removed a sequence with the twin towers in Spiderman, but left the twin towers in a couple of quick background shot, because, he said, he "didn't want the terrorists to win." I think a lot of filmmakers are grappling with the question. Many seem to be punting by just cutting out the shots that had the towers in them.
Sharon Waxman: And now dear readers I must dash off to do some reporting. Thanks for coming with good questions, excellent opinions. We'll see you all in two weeks, when you can bring me your personal Spiderman reviews. See you then....
That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.
© Copyright 2002 The Washington Post Company