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I first met Sumner Redstone in 1996 when I was working with Robert Evans and we were at Paramount. We had a producing deal, and we were up for renewal. Bob asked me to come to The Palm to meet Sumner. My first impression was that he was very stoic and very, very powerful. He looked me in the eye and said, “You’re going to have a steak.” And I said, “I’m not really that hungry.” And he goes, “I’m ordering you a steak, and you’re going to eat it.” I was like, “OK.” I couldn’t say no to that.
And I pitched him what our slate looked like. He was very excited about it, said, “Great. Let’s keep moving.” And from that point on, Sumner was a very, very big supporter of Bob and me and the company. We proceeded to make The Out-of-Towners. We then became very good friends and we started to spend more time together. Then, Bob had his stroke, and Sumner was flying in every weekend to see him. It was from that period that Sumner and I became very close because we were both obviously very much concerned for Bob and spent a lot of time in the hospital with him after that stroke, which came out of nowhere. It was around that time he had asked me to go to Sardinia because Silvio Berlusconi was a friend of his and had offered him his house. I thought about it and said, “Why not? I haven’t been to Sardinia.” He said, “I’ll fly you there. We’ll go for like, just a week.”
Silvio’s house was amazing, and then when we came back our relationship had hit the press and everybody was going nuts. Then I had to go to Europe to visit my family in Amsterdam, and I took my two daughters. About three weeks later he flew to Paris to meet us there. He took me to dinner at La Tour d’Argent. He wanted me to meet a friend of his who happened to be in Paris at the same time. His name was Jeffrey Epstein, who joined us with two girls who I thought were his daughters. But Jeffrey said he was flying them on his jet to the South of France to meet their parents. They looked to be 15 or 16. We had a lovely dinner, and I thought nothing of this. Of course, that was pretty common: If you have private jets, you take your friends’ kids. You give them a lift. I never, never thought anything more of that until recently.
It was in Paris that the paparazzi surrounded us wherever we went, and all those photos ended up on the front page of the gossip magazines. At that point, Sumner and his then-wife [Phyllis Gloria Raphael] got divorced. When he got divorced, he decided then that he was going to marry me and I kept saying to him, “I’m not ready. Like, let’s play this out.” I was being as nice as I could, but you know, I just didn’t see myself married to him because he was so demanding and got his way in everything he did. I felt that if I married him, he owned me. As long as I was my own person, we had a great relationship. But if he owned me, it would change, and I didn’t want it to change. I wanted my career.
I pitched Sumner How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. He kind of chuckled and said, “Oh, that?” I said, “You know, I think this could be something for women, and I believe there’s an audience out there that’s untapped.” There was a little stick-figure book, and it didn’t look like much except to me because I saw the vision and everybody else wasn’t quite sure what it was. He basically said, “Great. We’ll see what happens.”
And I just proceeded to develop and develop and got it to a point where I had a great script, and then I went to Paramount. But they still wouldn’t finance it. I got it financed through a German finance company. Then Paramount was like, “Why not give it a shot?” Sumner was kind of surprised by the film’s success. It was, “You did it. Congratulations.” But there was a little bit of resentment. That’s when the relationship started to cool.
He married a woman that he hardly knew to make the statement that he was going to get married. But I saw him nearly every day after he was married. We had lunch at the Bel-Air Hotel every day for almost three years, and then we’d go buy fish in the Valley at his dealer.
It was back to the friendship that I wanted with him, not the romance. We started going to dinner at Il Piccolino. That was his new place because he had been banned from every restaurant in L.A. because he was so rude — I actually used to order the food in advance — and that’s where we made the deal with Tom Cruise for Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. I pushed him on that deal. I said, “You’re making a mistake by letting Tom Cruise go.” So he said, “OK, set up the dinner.” We had dinner there with Tom, who came in through the kitchen door. It was such a good night.
Around 2011-12, Sumner started getting a little incoherent. But he would still throw me birthday parties, and he was still very much wanting to always do something special.
It’s hard to make when things ended. People ask me how long was I married to Jon [Peters], and I honestly cannot answer that question because I still have to run to his house when he needs something. It never ends, these things. But the last time Sumner and I communicated was in 2014. He called me. He said, “I need you to come up, please. I need help.” And I said, “I’ll be up there as soon as I finish my meeting. I will call you when I’m on my way.” I called and a new strange person answered and said, “Redstone residence.” Normally, Sumner would answer. I later discovered that all the staff had been changed. The driver, his butler. I never spoke to him again after that. You couldn’t bang down the door there because they had that place sealed. There were two gates. I wish I could have said goodbye.
Ultimately, he was a true visionary, a rogue, one of a kind. He would always see the trends before anyone else did, and he’s the one who shaped entertainment as we know it today. If he had been in charge in recent years, through the whole conversion from theatrical to streaming, I guarantee you he would not have missed this trend. He would have been ahead of the game.
Peters is the producer of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and is developing the film Legally Green.
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