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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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06/01/2014

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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
 actually
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
 
2
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
 
 
3
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—
Variety
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
Shrek,
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
 Braveheart.
When Foxwent way over budget on
Titanic
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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