Hollywood spends much of its time trying to ignore a great deal of what happens east of the Ventura Freeway, which is to say the rest of the world. But sometimes it's not easy.
Take this week: Most of the film industry's phone lines were buzzing with talk of how two studios lost their top executives within a week of each other (Columbia's Guy McElwaine and United Artists' Jerry Weintraub both left their jobs after apparently incurring the displeasure of higher-ups), but at the same time events in the Mediterranean started to affect the way some Hollywood folks do business.
That doesn't mean that an enterprising producer has optioned Qaddafi's life story (though a new company called DSI has announced a film about a worldwide terrorist organization). The escalating violence has started, however, to cast doubts on the wisdom of attending this year's Cannes Film Festival.
On Monday, French security forces met with the festival's general secretary to discuss measures to protect festival-goers: New steps will include stricter security at the Nice airport and at all entrances to festival events, plus tighter reins over credentials.
Some American companies, at the same time, say they're considering skipping this year's festival rather than risk flying into that area on planes full of Americans. But don't look for terrorism to make too much of a dent in things: Even with the new-found concerns, festival organizers expect this year's attendance to top last year's.
Philippine Film Flam?
In the Philippines, meanwhile, the new Aquino government has launched an intensive investigation of the country's film industry. Local film production is currently in a serious slump and, according to some charges, much of the money invested in the government-sponsored film body -- Experimental Cinema of the Philippines -- was diverted into a nonfilm project of Marcos' eldest daughter.
But it's not all bad news: Screenwriter/director Oliver Stone ("Midnight Express," "Salvador") is shooting his next movie, "The Platoon," in the Philippines.
The Young and Maligned
"If any other minority group were so badly maligned on film there'd be pickets around the block," says director/writer David Seltzer. He's talking about teen-agers -- who, he thinks, are almost exclusively portrayed as "idiots, sex objects and dope freaks."
Seltzer's response is his "protest film": 20th Century-Fox's "Lucas," a semiautobiographical tale of an awkward high schooler who's like Seltzer: "I was a little scrawny kid who was involved with tropical fish and insects, who fell in love with a girl who fell in love with the football player -- but I would hazard a guess that that's not very different from most grown-up males' . . . adolescence."
But will a movie in which the nerd doesn't become the hero sell? "It could go through the roof, it could do respectable business, and I always held out the possibility that it might fail at the box office," Seltzer says. "It doesn't have any Brat Pack members, it doesn't have boys peeking through shower stall walls."
So far, his most pessimistic assessment looks accurate: The movie opened slowly, then rallied in its second weekend behind good word-of-mouth -- but last weekend, even with a renewed promotional push from Fox, it lost some of its theaters and its grosses dropped 28 percent.
Tracking Bob Dylan
Tri-Star's new "Band of the Hand" debuted to lackluster business last weekend, though it managed a third-place showing behind "The Money Pit" and "Police Academy 3." With Hollywood's current emphasis on filling movies with potential hit songs, it's intriguing to note that "Band of the Hand" features a new title track from Bob Dylan, who hasn't written for a dramatic film since he penned "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" for Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid."
But no mention is made of the Dylan song in any of the movie's ads -- and Dylan himself hardly seems enthusiastic about the connection. When asked how he got involved in the project last week, his response was succinct: "I don't know. I really can't remember."