8 Decades of The Hollywood Reporter
The most glamorous and memorable moments from a storied history.
In September 1974, The Hollywood Reporter said "the industry was rocked by the news" that Barry Diller, then 32, was giving up his vp job at ABC, where he had pioneered the made-for-TV movie, to become chairman and CEO of Paramount. He was fortunate to arrive just as eventual best picture Oscar winner The Godfather Part II was about to become a big hit.
But it was the team Diller would assemble that kept the hits coming. The so-called Killer Diller crew -- the Next Gen of its day -- included Michael Eisner, who was 34 in 1976 when he left ABC, where he'd had hits with Happy Days and Roots, to become Paramount's president; Dawn Steel, who was 32 when she was made director of merchandising (selling Happy Days and Star Trek memorabilia); Don Simpson, who was 34 in 1977 when he became vp creative affairs (he later formed a legendary production company with Jerry Bruckheimer); and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was 25 when he landed a position as Diller's assistant. Taking a job like that might have been a mixed blessing.
In George Mair's The Barry Diller Story, Steel is quoted as saying the CEO's management technique was the "aggressive advocacy and yelling system." Katzenberg said in the book that his boss was "totally out of control … obnoxious. But maybe being out of control made me hit a home run with him."
Among the changes Diller's team made were putting films into immediate wide release, quadrupling the budget for new scripts and book rights and moving executive offices back from Beverly Hills to what was then a crumbling Paramount lot.
The Killer Diller era ended in 1984, when Diller moved to Fox and Katzenberg and Eisner went to Disney. Simpson, who died in 1996, went on to produce such blockbusters as Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun. And Steel, who died in 1997, became head of production at Paramount, the second woman to hold that post at a major studio.