Hollywood: Same as it ever was


If you think the movie business is markedly different today than it was when this column began July 8,1985, in The Hollywood Reporter, you're either too young to remember or you just haven't been paying close attention.

3,307 columns later, it's clear that many of the challenges Hollywood has faced during the past quarter-century remain prime concerns today.

Consider the following: new technologies that exhibitors fear will put them out of business (videocassettes then, downloads now), piracy that distributors fear will put them out of business (cassettes then, DVDs and the Internet now), rising production costs that producers fear will put them out of business and a contracting industry that everyone fears will put them out of business.

Looking back at what filmmakers have been telling me over the years, little has changed when it comes to getting movies made. Mostly, it's just not taking no for an answer.

As we kick off Year 26 with THR, here are some conversation capsules to ponder:

> Tom Cruise on waiving his $20 million paycheck for a percentage of profits to produce "Mission: Impossible" (5/29/96): "For me, in making a movie, it's never about the money or the deal. It never has been. The studio was very fair, so I don't have a problem with making myself affordable."

> Mel Gibson on directing "Braveheart" (12/20/95): "I'm not in life a real planner unless I'm terrified. So being terrified going into this project and realizing some of the things we had to achieve, for certain sections of it I did plan and storyboard very carefully -- but only the battles. I sort of shot it in my head a couple of times, but nothing ever remains the same."

> James Cameron on "Titanic" opening in December instead of the summer (3/4/98): "One of the factors we considered when we pushed the release date back was that for a long picture, you need to have time to play out. Christmas struck me as ideal because if we could implant ourselves at a high enough level in the marketplace, then we would have a very clear field in a relatively soft season through January and February to play off."

> William Shatner on the negative reaction to "Star Trek V" at an early focus-group screening (6/15/89): "They were a little confused by what was supposed to be happening at the end. A gossip columnist got hold of this and wrote it up as though it were a review of the picture. We had to do some quick damage control over this ridiculous gossip. The big mistake was to preview it in town. Four weeks later, we had all our special effects in, and we were a big hit."

> Robert Zemeckis on the first sneak of "Back to the Future, Part III" (4/19/90):

"It was amazing. I was sitting next to Steven Spielberg, and I think they recognized that we were both there. They stood and applauded the film. I've never heard of it; have you?"

> Allan Carr on persuading Paramount to do a 20th anniversary rerelease of "Grease" (3/20/98): "I said to Sherry (Lansing, then Paramount's chairman): 'I think we're sitting on a major corporate asset. People want to see this picture the way they should. You know, it's cut up on television. The prints are faded. The video is OK, but it begs to be seen on the big screen with new color and the fabulous digital sound we didn't have 20 years ago.' She said it was a great idea, but, 'You need to convince Paramount's distribution team to get exhibitors to book it.' I just bombarded everybody for about nine months."

> Don Simpson on his and Jerry Bruckheimer's production of "Bad Boys," marking Michael Bay's feature directing debut (3/29/95): "Jerry picked up on how enormously gifted (Bay) was. What's propitious about this is that (Bay just) won the DGA Award for best commercial director. Now he's coming out with his first movie and, trust us, you will see how good he is."

> Michael Bay recalling "Bad Boys" after directing "The Rock" for Simpson and Bruckheimer (5/10/96): "I had a good time working with them on 'Bad Boys.' It was fun. Honestly, we had no money. It was my first movie. I had these two great guys (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith) that weren't movie stars but had great onscreen presence. My goal was just to make a fun movie and make it for younger kids. And it did really well. I found out you really need a good script."

> Richard Zanuck on producing "Cocoon" with Lili Fini Zanuck and David Brown (12/19/85): "Of all the pictures I've been associated with and produced, 'Cocoon' was the toughest project to get going. We made our pitches before the same desk in the same office (at Fox over four years) but to different people continuously. Some were studio heads, some were owners."

> Michael Wilson on producing the 25th anniversary James Bond film "The Living Daylights" with Timothy Dalton as the new 007 (8/27/86): "When you get an actor, he brings a certain personality. Maybe the plot and the action more or less stays the same, but the way you play the scenes is adjusted by the actor and what he does. Timothy is obviously different from Roger (Moore) and Sean (Connery). He's probably somewhere in between the two of them -- exactly where, I think, is something that will sort of develop."

> Mel Brooks on "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" opening during a very strong summer (8/2/93): "What's surprising is that it appears the market is actually expanding, rather than audiences shifting their affections from one picture to another. They're seeing everything, and when a new movie enters the marketplace, the audience is actually added to by new patrons. It will be, I think, the biggest summer ever -- and I'm glad I'm part of it!"

> Robert Shaye on New Line making "A Nightmare on Elm Street III" (9/12/86): "We have the opportunity to take advantage not only of brand recognition and brand loyalty, which is a typical consumer phenomenon, but also the advertising and marketing dollars that have been expended on the original can lend momentum to the marketing and advertising of the sequel."