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Excerpt: "Sleepless in Hollywood" by Linda Obst

Excerpt: "Sleepless in Hollywood" by Linda Obst

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Published by OnPointRadio
Sleepless in Hollywood copyright © 2013 by Lynda Obst. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY.
Sleepless in Hollywood copyright © 2013 by Lynda Obst. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY.

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Published by: OnPointRadio on Jul 01, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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Scene One
the new AbnormAl
I can trace the moment when I noticed that what seemed like nor-mal was changing—that the ways we’d always done things sincetime immemorial (at least in the three decades since I came to Hol-lywood) were beginning to become obsolete. It was the death o what I now call the “Old Abnormal” and the birth o the “New.”I call them the Old Abnormal and the New Abnormal becauseHollywood, let’s ace it, is never
normal. Think o howbizarre the people are, or starters. Famous hairdressers, notableIsraeli gunrunners, Russian gangsters, mothers who score on theirdaughters’ successully leaked sex-tape escapades, and Harvardgrads who chase hip-hop stars and Laker Girls make a uniquekind o melting pot. It boasts smart people galore with and with-out prestigious diplomas, and loves a craven con man with a newangle, a new pot o gold or a new look. It’s an equal-opportunityexploiter o talent.No wonder it draws such dysunction: Lying is a critical jobskill; poker is as good a starter course as lm school. How elsewould you know that the line “Sandra Bullock wants to do this”really means “It’s on her agent’s desk,” and “Three studios are bid-ding on this script” means “Everyone’s passed but one buyer whohasn’t answered yet.” The language has a sublanguage, and there isno libretto. It’s just plain Abnormal, and always has been.I saw that some key aspects o the abnormal Hollywood I’d
sleepless in hollywood
come to love, or at least enjoy heartily, were changing into some-thing new, but o course I didn’t know what. It was when the long-stable Sherry Lansing/Jon Dolgen administration o Paramount,where I was working in 2001, began to teeter a bit as I was making
 How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,
a romantic comedy starring KateHudson and Matthew McConaughey about two players playingeach other and losing the game but unwittingly winning love.Forty-eight at the time, Sherry Lansing was tall and eortlesslyglamorous, one o the ew women in Hollywood whose ace andbody had never seen a needle or a knie. The rst chairwoman o amajor studio, she shattered a glass ceiling in 1992 that hasn’t beenmended since. Mentored by men and a mentor to women, she isthat rare combination o a man’s woman and a woman’s woman atthe same time.Dolgen and Lansing were a great duo: She was class, he wascrass. While Dolgen’s screaming could be heard throughout the ad-ministration building, no one would ever get bad news in Sherry’soce. (She had employees or that.) Dolgen’s belligerence was asamous as Sherry’s graciousness. The whole thing worked or themor a long time.Sherry had been a big supporter o my little romanticcomedy—she loved the script I’d developed with her team, andthat helped me get it into production. But much to my surprise,it turned out that Paramount wasn’t even paying or the movie.My real nancier was a lovely guy named Winnie, who ran aGerman tax shelter. I ound this out on the set when Winnie in-troduced himsel to me and told me that Paramount had sold o their domestic and international box oce rights to him to undthe relatively low cost o the movie ($40 million). Paramount keptonly the DVD rights. But that, I understood, was how they otenput together their movies, selling o the ancillary rights to keeptheir production costs down. This is called risk aversion. It eithermeant they thought the movie had no upside other than its DVD
the new AbnormAl 
value, or that it was the only way Sherry could get the movie madeat the time.As the rest o the country veered rom red alerts to orange alertsin the atermath o 9/11—
headline: “Showbiz Rocked byReel Lie!”—I was absorbed in simpler problems, like casting aguy or Kate Hudson to lose in ten days. As rocked as we may havebeen—and we were rocked—the show must go on. I was goinginto production. But in the boardrooms and executive suites o Viacom, which owns Paramount, everything was getting very un-settled in a consequential way.The year 2001, as we began the movie, turned out to be a pro-oundly transitional one, not just or America (and the world, inthe wake o 9/11), but or the movie business as well. Lookingback, it would seem that Paramount had been looking throughthe wrong end o the telescope, in keeping only the DVD rights inits sights and ignoring the world. It was the year o the rst
 Harry Potter
and the rst
and the audiences were getting their rstexposure to the brave new world o breakthrough special eects inCGI and animation. But the historical scal conservatism o Para-mount meant they were ignoring most o the new special-eects-oriented scripts, created or this startling technology, starting to hitthe town.Paramount had a philosophy under Sherry Lansing and JonDolgen, and or a long time it had worked: Sherry chose picturesby ollowing her gut, and then would make them or the lowestpossible budget (and lower). She’d made
 Forrest Gump
(givingTom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis a big piece o the pro-its in success, but little in up-ront ees). She green-lighted MelGibson’s Scottish epic and Oscar winner
When Foxwent way over budget on
and needed a partner to nishthe lm, Sherry was able to say yes by buying domestic rights (U.S.and Canada) based on an overnight read. But it wasn’t workinganymore.

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