Welcome All Visitors

Hello and welcome to my blog.
This memoir – Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot – is unconventional because it deals with diverse topics from the wild and crazy behind-the-scenes stories of a Hollywood filmmaking career to finding and celebrating true love including the amazing journey of a cutting-edge leukemia treatment for my wife Jacqui which healed her, and for which I am so very grateful. This is what inspired the memoir.

This blog will also be about diverse topics: my take on the film industry and entertainment news to my observations about politics and relevant fun stories in the zeitgeist of our world.

I welcome your feedback and participation, and wish you all well in your endeavors, good health, and easy laughter.
Enjoy the read.

Dare to dream. Peace!

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HOLLYWOOD LORE: “Gimme A Bullet Hit Here…Like This!”

When you’re directing television, the most fun and creative challenge is adapting to the rapid transition of style/genre and meeting diverse personnel you encounter from series to series which can result in some of the most bizarre and hilarious adventures of the helming trade.

One of the most memorable occurred when I was hired to direct a new cop series titled Lady Blue, shooting in Chicago. The day before my travel from Los Angeles, I was summoned to the executive producer’s office for a pep talk and last-minute instructions about the show. David Gerber was a prolific producer of many hit shows throughout his illustrious career, and at the time, was also president of MGM Television where the show was produced.
Photo: On the set of Lady Blue, me and stars Jamie Rose and Danny Aiello.

His secretary led me into his office where David was sitting behind a large mahogany desk. After a quick handshake, David started talking about the final climactic scene which was a shoot-out between our police heroes and two brothers who were badass serial killers. As I listened, David got more and more animated talking wildly with his hands and playing out his vision of the scene. He then said, “I want the first bullet to hit him in the right shoulder…give me a bullet hit here, like this,” as he violently swung his left hand to his right shoulder. In what suddenly seemed like a slow-motion horror movie scene, I watched as David hit his shoulder so hard that he went flying backwards on his swivel chair, crashing to the floor, and all I now saw were his feet pointing straight up, wiggling.

“Oh my God!” I yelled as I shot up and hurried around the giant desk to help David off the floor. “Are you alright, Mr. Gerber?” I asked as I pulled him to his feet and straightened the chair back up. David sat down and started talking about the scene again like nothing had happened. Stunned, all I could do was return to my chair and sit down, completely unnerved, wondering if he just had a concussion and was incapable of feeling any pain—yet.

Then, he said, “I want the second bullet to hit him this time in the left shoulder…give me a bullet hit here, like this,” as he violently swung his right hand to his left shoulder…and…and…in what truly seemed like a scene from theater of the absurd, David hit his shoulder so hard that he went flying backwards yet again! I watched in disbelief this “take two” of the most surreal sight as his swivel chair hit the floor hard, feet pointing straight up, wiggling—once again!

OMG! For a millisecond I was frozen not sure if I should run out and get his secretary or a medic to help deal with what seemed like a possible medical condition I was not familiar with called falling backwards in your chair while showing a director how an actor should take a bullet hit! Or two bullet hits. Could there be more a la Sam Peckinpah? This guy could do serious damage to his head before the scene ran out of bullets!

As I rushed to help David up and brought his chair back up, he again seemed impervious to the double whammy tumbling events of the previous two minutes of my life. This time he did not sit (thank God) but walked me to the door as he told me that this was all he wanted to make sure I knew: his vision of the bullet hits. He wished me good luck on the show and told me to enjoy Chicago.

The next time I heard from David was about ten days later through one of my producers on set named Chris Chulack (who went on to great success as a producer of ER and a DGA-award winning director.) Apparently, there was a problem with the dailies they had just watched in Los Angeles. The previous day, we had shot at a train yard, and to make the dailies more fun to watch, I threw a rubber hand that landed in the middle of the tracks in front of the camera after a train passed by. The show executives at ABC freaked out seeing this hand fall on the tracks as the remnants of the victim that had just been run over. No sense of humor? What I didn’t know was that it was a nervous time for the network as the series was getting a lot of flack for being much too violent; after all, it was the TV version of “Make my day!” Dirty Harry starring a female lead.

“Tell Magar no more body parts, goddamn it!” was the message relayed from David through Chulack. Here was a guy who thought nothing of doing somersaults in his chair while smashing his head to show me the degree of violence he wanted bullet hits to hit a body but I couldn’t show a severed hand dropping behind a train? OK, so I had put some ketchup on it too.

Besides the wonderful memory of this most colorful of producers I had the pleasure of working with, I remember this show because it guest-starred a young Johnny Depp in one of his very first roles (before 21 Jump Street) as one of the killers. I bet Johnny never knew our executive producer in Los Angeles was so dedicated to the show that he almost cracked his head twice showing me how I should shoot Depp in the finale.

Ahhh…what a business!

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HBO’s “GAME CHANGE”: McCain’s National Shame of Palin

On March 10th, HBO will premiere “Game Change” which will dramatize the 2008 election focusing on Republican nominee John McCain and his fateful choice of then-unknown Sarah Palin as his running mate. The stellar film cast includes Ed Harris as McCain, Julianne Moore as Palin, and Woody Harrelson as McCain’s chief campaign strategist Steve Schmidt.

This will reopen the national disgrace of Palin’s glaring unfitness for office, and thus, irresponsible and negligent behavior by McCain and his staff for not properly vetting her before choosing her as VP on the ticket. Kudos for HBO – which has a long track record for producing fact-based dramas and relevant programming which have won more Emmys than any other network – for reminding us during this election year of our responsibility to beware of candidates so inept and woefully unprepared to run for national command office.

“Game Change,” based on the 2010 book of the same name by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, has been vouched for accuracy by McCain’s very own strategist, Schmidt himself, and by chief ’08 Palin aide Nicole Wallace. Also, Chris Edwards, one of Palin’s ‘08 campaign staffers, served as a technical advisor to the HBO filmmakers.

But ardent Palin supporters (why in the world are there any?) will choose once again to ignore obvious truths about Palin who has already dismissed this film with her usual paranoid response to media bashing: “Here they go again!” May they never stop “going again” if it exposes Palin’s continued ineptness for public office or even as a national spokesperson to satisfy her power ego. Parroting conservative dogma, never offering a single original thought, and simply tearing down the opposition for its own sake does not make a credible candidate for any office or job including parking cars or cleaning kennels.

John McCain’s “Country First” campaign motto was a shameful, utter lie. McCain knew he could never win the presidency with yawn-boring old suits like Romney or Huckabee for his VP, and wanted American voters to think he was making a bold, new-generational move to thwart the Obama Express by picking much younger, female, unknown Palin. The fact he hardly vetted her clearly shows how shallow and manipulative his decision was, and how desperate his staff was to find an atypical running mate and shake things up. Schmidt has admitted, “My judgment was influenced by ambition to win the race.”

If McCain had known that silly Sarah was so intellectually challenged she would inanely claim that the proximity of Alaska to the Russian border gave her foreign policy expertise, or that the Queen of England was the head of the British government, would he still have picked her if she guaranteed him a win? Absolutely! You bet he would have, because all John McCain wanted was to become president at absolutely any cost, including the unacceptable cost to our nation’s well-being. Given McCain’s age of 72 (in 2008) and his history of heart trouble, Palin as president was a very possible disaster nightmare for our country and the world. Even if McCain cringed at thoughts of her possible succession (as surely he must have now that we know the real story), his megalomania for power at any cost ruled the day. “Country First” my butt! That was blatant “Country Last—JOHN FIRST!”

Besides Palin’s frighteningly huge gaps of basic intellect awareness, proven repeatedly in national interviews, the book and film reveal that senior campaign aides were alarmed by her behind-the-scenes emotional outbursts, and were horrified to discover she was at times “catatonic” and possibly mentally unstable. Schmidt said of this film, “That is the story of what happened; it tells the truth of the campaign.” The consensus among McCain ’08 aides is that picking Palin was a terrible mistake. Schmidt agrees, “The result was the VP nomination of someone who was fundamentally not qualified. I have great regret over that.” So does America, Steve.

Proving once again his own ineptness of judgment and repudiation of the obvious truth, cowardly McCain recently declared: “It will be a cold day in Gila Bend, Arizona, before I watch that movie.” Yes, John, continue your shame of denial for not vetting Palin…as a supposed patriot. For the rest of America, and Gila Bend…don’t miss this important HBO film!

(Some of this text is excerpted from my memoir KISS ME QUICK BEFORE I SHOOT. Quotes and film facts are from the Los Angeles Times story on “Game Change” written by James Rainey on 2/18/12. Photo by Philip Caruso, HBO)

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SPIELBERG & WILLIAMS: The Divine Union of Film & Music

Forty years. Twenty-five films. Thirteen Oscar nominations for original score.
In honor of my alma mater, The American Film Institute, and its “Master Class” celebrating the glorious collaboration between Steven Spielberg and John Williams, I salute them as the greatest and most productive divine union between a director and a composer in the history of motion pictures. In their honor, and with utmost admiration, I offer this excerpt from my memoir: Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot: A Filmmaker’s Journey into the Lights of Hollywood and True Love.”
(Photo by Adam Rose)

I believe the marriage of film and music is one of the most gloriously natural, most cosmically intended unions in the human experience. Think about how many movies you could identify if you heard just a few chords of their theme music: Rocky, E.T., Star Wars, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are the easy ones. Wouldn’t you instantly recognize the five notes used for alien communication in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? And these two deep base notes: “DAAA DUMMM.” Anything come to mind? Jaws, maybe? Since he composed four of the above along with so many others, for me and for most filmmakers, John Williams is the reigning lord of composers.

I’ve literally had dreams while making my movies that somehow I met John through my buddy Steven S. (Hey, I was dreamin’) and was watching him score my movie. It sounded awesome! But then I had to wake up! In fairness to the talented composers I have worked with, I am deeply proud of all my movie scores, and very grateful for their dedicated work.

Italian maestro Ennio Morricone’s beautifully haunting flutes and clarinets in The Mission (one of De Niro’s few miscasts) makes it one of the most glorious soundtracks of all time. Ennio also composed all the masterful Sergio Leone Westerns, the ones that launched Clint Eastwood’s career with his infamous character: “The Man With No Name.” One of my special career thrills was working with “Tuco,” the “Ugly” in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The brilliant actor Eli Wallach was cast in the Family Honor series I directed. When I called him “Tuco” on the set, he would give me that evilish, cold-blooded “I will eat your heart out for breakfast!” look with that killer Tuco smile. Eli is a class-act professional. I was privileged to meet him and to work with him. Eli received an Honorary Oscar, on November 13, 2010, at the Academy’s Governors Awards. His latest film role is in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Eli is 95 years of age. A salute, Eli.

I had the great Bill Conti, who did the music for Rocky, at my home, trying to talk him into working for a poor indie filmmaker for the measly salary budgeted on my ultra-low-budget film Lookin’ Italian. I even had my two Italian lead actors there, Jay Acovone and Matt LeBlanc, to sway him to do it for the goombahs since Conti is, of course, Italian. He was very kind, but it was a no-go as he was too busy and gently turned us down. A few months later, he was conducting the orchestra at the 1994 Oscars, a somewhat better-paying gig. Oh well, next time, Bill.

A helpful trick while editing is to temporarily lay down favorite music pieces to scenes and see how they play. For a while, you have the thrilling luxury of using an Elton John or Bruce Springsteen or Rolling Stones song in your movie. It helps not only to set the mood but to discover the right timing of a scene. If your temp tracks work, you can ask your composer to come up with something similar or with the same tempo or structure as those “amazing violins answering the horns” or that “cool guitar riff” in the melody.

The right music marriage is so important in film that I believe it was responsible for a Best Picture Oscar win. Though it is a wonderfully made movie (kudos to its director Hugh Hudson), the instrumental score by Vangelis made Chariots of Fire a huge worldwide winner in 1981. The theme music played on every radio station across all platforms. In the final Olympic race, the character Eric Liddell (a priest and a 100-meter sprinter running the 400 for the first time due to Sabbath scheduling reasons), throws his head back and (in slow motion) starts running faster than he ever has while the music soars. It is a magical, unforgettable film moment as we hear the actor’s narration: “Where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

With the crescendo of Vangelis’ hero music peaking, that scene was almost enough to convert me right then and there! Music and film are truly one of the great magnificent unions on earth—the closest thing I know to a divine marriage of crafts. You get to create your own magical combo every time you make a movie. It doesn’t get much better than that for a filmmaker.

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Book Lovers: A Memoir for the Holidays

Happy Holidays! During the holiday month of December, KISS ME QUICK BEFORE I SHOOT is donating 100% of its sales proceeds to the cancer healing mecca of the City of Hope.

Do you love the movies? Are you a romantic at heart?
If it’s a YES-YES, then this is the Hollywood memoir for you as it will entertain, engage, amaze, and make you laugh and cry. It will make you love the movies all over again, and will make you love to be in love again.

Come share this wild and crazy inside look of the world of Hollywood moviemaking including stories of how my first producer turned out to be a real Mafia assassin, how I almost decapitated a young Drew Barrymore, and how I came close to derailing James Cameron’s illustrious career!

And come share a unique true love story that started with a Camelot wedding and the groom dueling for the bride! And what better time to get it right NOW for only $3.99 for the ebook.

So dare to dream…like I did! Buy this unforgettable entertaining memoir as a paperback or an ebook here at Amazon http://amzn.to/vGtko1 and ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS.

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James Cameron’s SHRIEK before AVATAR!

(Excerpt from Guy Magar’s film memoir KISS ME QUICK BEFORE I SHOOT: A Filmmaker’s Journey into the Lights of Hollywood and True Love)

Finally, I had found the financing for my first feature, SHRIEK. We started hiring a crew, casting the picture, and focused on creating the all-important creature/monster.

My search for the best (and most affordable) visual effects designer I could find led me to the Roger Corman Company. Corman is famous for making a lot of movies on very cheap budgets, employing first-timers who become big-timers—from Scorsese to Coppola to Howard. Everyone there was raving about a young hotshot who was the art director and visual effects guru on Roger’s latest $3-dollar (as in extremely low budget) sci-fi epic Battle Beyond the Stars. So I arranged to meet with him.

His name was James Cameron.

Jim showed me a very impressive 10-minute short he had made called Xenogenesis. It was a futuristic sci-fi robot/laser battle done for about a nickel on his kitchen table using miniatures. Jim has said that he had Avatar in mind for many years and was waiting till the visual effects world caught up to his vision so he could make the film. It’s true. The short film I saw had a walking robot machine driven by a human inside it. It was the initial primitive model he had designed 25 years earlier which became the dazzling human-driven machine we all ogled in the finale battle of his unforgettable, jaw-dropping AVATAR wonder when it premiered around the world in December 2009.

Jim liked the SHRIEK project, and was willing to leave Corman and come aboard as my production designer and visual effects specialist. He designed and built a very scary, hairy creature, complete with an expressive facial apparatus that was remote controlled. It was probably the most advanced and inventive creature ever built on the pennies we had. He even built the giant box to ship it to New Orleans. Cameron was incredibly resourceful and a very hard-working guy. His focused dedication to his work, even then, was mind-boggling.

Photos: Conceptual design creature drawings by Jim Cameron for my first feature film SHRIEK. They are signed original paintings by Jim.

At the time, I was living in Laurel Canyon with roommates, and we had thrown a kick-off party the Saturday before we were scheduled to leave for New Orleans. James showed up at the party looking bummed out. He told me he had bad news. He explained Roger Corman had found out he was leaving to design my film. Roger, known for his ability to spot talent, was not letting Jim go so easily. Roger promised to give Jim his first feature as a director if Jim continued working for him. Roger had correctly sensed Jim was a major talent. He fought to keep him.

Jim felt bad letting me down, especially a week before we started shooting, but Roger was dangling a dream apple. Cameron had no choice; he really wanted to direct a film. Two days earlier, after months of working together, we had packed the Cameron monster in its custom case, and got it to the airport. Now, at our kickoff party, he was handing me the keys to the case. We hugged and wished each other well. I’m sure he later heard SHRIEK was never made. He obviously made the better choice by staying with Corman. Had I unknowingly come close to derailing or delaying James Cameron’s career had he left Roger to do my film? Would his career path have been altered? Destiny can be a strange, unpredictable force in Hollywood…ask anyone.

Within a year, Roger kept his promise and gave Jim his first feature, the very low-budget Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. I had heard it was a miserable film for Jim to make, and he was locked out of the editing room. I’m sure he had his own producer battles; most powerless, young directors do on their first films. But I am also sure the directing experience must have helped Cameron secure the directing reins on Terminator. As they say, the rest is history.

Jim was such a great talent, I’m sure he would have found a way to make his films with or without Roger. Nothing could have deterred him from his destiny to become one of our greatest filmmakers. As an old director friend who hired Jim early in his career, I am in awe of his amazing accomplishments and of the visual breath of his cinematic work.

Photo: Me and the creature Jim Cameron built for my movie SHRIEK, which had servo-controlled facial features.

Avatar is a mind-blowing wonder, a truly magical film experience in every sense. It is absolutely an industry game-changer, and has helped reignite the 3-D craze. Jim made both the first and the second biggest box-office, record-grossing movies in the history of cinema. I doubt any other director will ever match that in the history of mankind.

Bravo, Jim. In my book, you are indeed the undisputed king of the film world!

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GREEN ZONE: Top Ten of the Decade

Regardless of what Oscars and Golden Globes tell us, it’s difficult in any one year to get full agreement on the best movie of the year, or even the best movies of all time as per the American Film Institute’s polls. Motion pictures run the gamut of subjective opinions as all art works do.

It may be easier to choose films that are superlative within a more reflective period of time – maybe a decade – a top ten over ten years seems possibly more amenable to consensus. Ten years would seem to give us a workable barometer to consider and compare.

How do we get engaged and emotionally invested in a movie? What makes a top ten? Simple: a great story and great storytelling. Of course, it all starts with a great script, but then the magic of great filmmaking is all about execution and how did all the elements from acting to locations to photography to wardrobe to sound to visual effects to music etc…come together under the “production values” banner. And the person who gets to create and wave that banner within their own visual style is the director.

For me, a shoo-in for top ten of the first decade of this century is an easy choice: Green Zone directed by Paul Greengrass, made in 2008 and released in 2010. The first time I saw this film, its magical breath of cinematic storytelling blew my mind. I’ve seen it maybe ten more times on TV and each time I thought to just watch for a few minutes only to be mesmerized till the end by this amazing, all-engrossing film.

In my opinion, this is a true masterpiece of filmmaking which didn’t get its proper due as it was marketed as an action film though it was so much more. Made for $100-million, with a US domestic boxoffice of $34-million, the film was deemed a flop. Americans were not quite ready for Iraqui war films or to face the difficult politics behind that war. Though it also sold $60-million in foreign ticket sales and was a strong DVD action seller, it received political criticism including anti-American and anti-war (God forbid!) commentary—which it wasn’t at all. Some labeled it an anti-government film which was ridiculous unless you think we should never question any government decisions including ones that proved to be completely misguided, never mind outright lies. The main plot of the film is indeed a race to silence those very lies.

If you missed it, make sure you see this film or go see it again. It’s one of the most important films of the decade as it deals with the Bush/Cheney circus of going to war with Iraq over WMDs—which of course did not exist. The plot is about an Army officer (Matt Damon) who is put in charge of finding the weapons of mass destruction but keeps coming up empty. The story is relevant even today as we are finally pulling US forces out of Iraq by the end of this year. We started this war for the wrong reasons and though we got rid of Hussein, the Iraquis are nowhere near ready for any kind of imported democracy whatsoever. I agree with all who predict chaos and civil war will break as soon as we leave until an army strongman will take over “for the welfare of the country” and Iraq will again be a brutalizing hellhole for its people. Unfortunately, that’s been their dance throughout their history…just too many stubborn and hateful religious factions to ever get along, thus they can only be ruled by brutal dictatorships.

Damon is at his best commanding the screen as the seasoned leading man he has become—kudos to him for one of his truly superb performances. The rest of the cast is equally brilliant. But the ultimate kudos go to its British filmmaker Paul Greengrass who is a masterful director and has quickly become one of the finest craftsmen in our industry. Paul also made the important and excellent United 93, and the two actioners The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. For me, the most amazing production values were the location settings where this film takes place. I was stunned to see it was shot in the middle of a war zone. How did they do this? Production notes state the film was shot in Morocco, Spain, and the UK, yet I was truly amazed by what seemed to be actual Baghdad locations. There must have been some second unit work done in Baghdad, but if indeed none of it was shot in Iraq, then the art department and visual effects teams were genius on this film.

Paul has said about his film: “The past is very important to look at and this film tells what went down to get us into this war. How they manipulated, lied to, misled us, and used the press to do it. Cinema has got to be a redemptive experience. It does have to speak to our ability to move forward. It means you can go to the dark places and examine, through a really clear, action-dominated story, you can take that journey and then feel released. You get to see how it all went down. And by living through it with a moral hero, now you’re ready to move on.”

Redemptive indeed…go see Green Zone…again and again. I tip my hat to Paul Greengrass for making a spectacular film – a top ten of the decade in my book – and since I went to film school in London and started my career there, I say to Paul: “Bravo and well done, mate…a pint of Guinness on me!”

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The Good, the Bad, and the Hollywood!

Back in 1997, a headline news story made all film wannabes’ jaws drop to the floor. I remember the story became the stuff of legend and even managed to catch my attention though I was deep in production at the time. It was one of those “wow” film tales that captured everyone’s imagination.

Good ole Harvey Weinstein, co-honcho of Miramax Films at the time, the master of promotion and churning up industry news, had done it again. The story was he had discovered a wannabe’s script, optioned it, agreed to let the writer direct it, agreed to let the writer and his band do the music score – and in a pure Harvey gold move just to sweeten the deal – he agreed to “buy the Hollywood bar” for the writer who was working there as a bartender. BAAAM! The cinema dream machine and pot of magical gold was alive and well, baby! Every wannabe exhaled on that one! Hollywood fairy dust had landed on some new wunderkind. Applications to film schools must have tripled soon after. Magic was indeed possible! That was “the good” part.

Through the years, I wondered what the heck happened to this deal? What happened to the film? What happened to the writer? What happened to the bar? What happened to the fairytale come true?

Well, I just found out. A documentary had been made of this crazy story, appropriately titled Overnight – and by random chance I stumbled on it recently on the Documentary Channel. To my shocking surprise, I see that this guy – the writer – whom I (and everyone else in the industry) had thought was some gifted deserving-of-fairy-dust genius to whom lady luck had come knockin’ in the guise of Harvey baby, was actually (as seen in the documentary) an arrogant, uncouth, unlikable low-lifer. I won’t honor him by naming him, his film title, or the bar’s name, but if you see how this guy behaves and what he says in the doc, you would not believe the Hollywood gods would ever drizzle the magic dust on this undeserving egomaniac. It will shock you to see who this once “super lucky” guy really is, and how disloyal he is to his friends and band members who stick it out with him through the ordeal. The magic had landed on the wrong guy. This is the “bad” part.

The film does not interview Harvey (though I’m sure they tried) and so it remains an enigma as to what happened on his end. Most of the film is about the writer never hearing back from Harvey and how this fairytale turns into a nightmare of frustrating silence for all players involved. I know Harvey and I’m friends with his brother Bob for whom I directed the last of the Children of the Corn franchise. My relationship with them started when they bid for distribution rights to my first film Retribution which is detailed in my just-published memoir Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot.

Knowing the man, my educated guess is that on a whimsical evening, when the stars were lined up just right, something about this script caught Harvey’s attention – maybe the commercial appeal of its Bostonian street gang storyline – and he offered to buy it. When the writer said he also wanted to direct and do the music, the sometimes supremely generous and affable good-guy (yes the Harvey I know!) said OK. After all, he knew this was going to be a low budget flick (read: low risk). And then, since we are talking about one of the greatest showmen of our time, one of the very best at generating publicity for his projects, when Harvey finds out the writer was broke and barely surviving as a bartender, the wizard of marketing says: “Hell, I’ll even throw in this bar where you work…I’ll buy it for you. It’s yours!” WHAM! Hollywood lore in an instant! And don’t think for a second he didn’t know it would create great publicity for him and the project. The man was born wrapped in a press release!

In my opinion, Harvey probably just lost interest in the project. Or he got to know the writer and lost faith in the guy’s talents. Or he just got busy with much bigger projects as Miramax was growing by leaps and bounds at the time and released Jackie Brown, Cop Land, and Good Will Hunting that same year. Shakespeare in Love was on deck and about to make Oscar history for Harvey.

Now comes the “ugly” part – the “Hollywood” part. Since Moses (I mean Harvey) had chosen this script and bought the writer a Hollywood bar for crissakes, for a millisecond, he was the hottest guy in town. Vultures (I mean agents) came swooping down to the bar to court this guy and sent their stars to cajole him into casting them in this movie – whatever the hell it was. When something is hot, everyone wants in regardless of what it is, or how good or bad the script may be. Who cares? Must be great if God himself bought the damn bar for the writer, no? This bozo was getting serenaded by the Hollywood créme rushing to kiss ass and pal with him at his “new” bar. Major stars were sucked into this maelstrom and came soliciting. Good fortune can sure be intoxicating. Crazy!

The ugly part is when Hollywood turns on you. When it presents the gold but then pisses on you instead of delivering it. When it inflates egos and unleashes everyone’s dark side. And this doc shows it – warts and all. Eventually, Harvey let it go, the project went into turnaround, and no agent could get any studio or producer to pick it up – a testament to how lousy the script must have really been. Except one – probably one of those nightmare indie companies that says yes but means no, and delivers one-tenth of whatever budget they agree to. Such producers suck the very marrow of joy out of filmmaking. The film was eventually made for a smaller budget than had been planned but I don’t recall ever seeing it distributed and no one I know has ever heard of it. The writer blew every opportunity that seemingly was opened for that millisecond. Or was this truly a classic film biz tragedy and this poor guy never had a chance in front of the Hollywood bulldozer which started as Harvey’s momentary whim and loony marketing ploy?

You should see Overnight and decide for yourself. The writer has disavowed the documentary and I guess was pissed they made him look so bad though they didn’t have to try very hard. I highly recommend this doc as a sobering reality check for all wannabes and as a mandatory “how not to behave” screening for the graduating class at every film school. On his website, I just read the writer was now trying to raise donations for a local food bank. Maybe the guy got humble. Maybe he’ll become famous for almost being famous—hey, then maybe he’ll qualify to date a famous-for-nothin’ Kardashian!

Maybe they’ll make a movie of this tragic story. I smell a blockbuster, and there’s this bar I’d like to own! Welcome to the Good, the Bad, and the Hollywood!

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An Arab Spring or an Arab Fall?

A man sets himself ablaze, a woman screams to the world of her gang rape, a 13-year old boy is mutilated and murdered—just three of hundreds of millions of Arab voices yearning to be free! To be free of what exactly? What is this surprising movement we have labeled the “Arab Spring” and can it achieve the hopes and prayers of its participants and fallen victims? Is this freedom movement working or failing?

After thousands of years of oppression, ruled by brutal forces throughout centuries of unspeakable violence, terror and injustice rained on its people as common occurrences, the Arab world is jittery with the idea of embracing a seemingly never-before-possible breath of freedom—an unlikely inhale of civilized self-dignity—an instinctual yearning for the previously unattainable, foreign concept of democracy: rule of the people, by the people, for the people.

I was last in Cairo in ’78 to film for Universal Studios at the pyramids for the Battlestar Galactica TV series. I was born in Egypt and lived there till I was nine. I have a familiarity and appreciation of Arab culture, and I sympathize with this movement that has surprised the world. Though I cheer for their freedom and breakout from their medieval customs and beliefs, I believe this “Arab Spring” is doomed to fail this time around, at least for the immediate future. Maybe in ten or twenty years it will be their time, but not now. Why not now?

Whether through dictators, monarchies, or warlords, the ferocity of absolute rule throughout the Arab world has achieved endless poverty and numbing illiteracy. This suppression of the people has kept the powerful and wealthy in charge for generations, and unleashed their armed forces to spread fear and terror among a helpless populace. Though you’d think sending privileged children to the west for an elite education would bring back a kinder and learned generation, the heirs to sadistic rulers seem more apt to follow in their fathers’ footsteps once they’ve tasted the throne of power, and no progress is ever made. Arabs have long stopped to dream of a better world.

Although the most pious of believers, their medieval-based religion has not allowed room for progress or adaptation within a modern world. The ruthless oppression of women alone has made half of the Arab populace silent and compliant to absolute rule by cruel men. This is not a mindset for freedom of anything. Even in Tahrir Square, at the exhilarating moment of an awakening thirst for freedom, a few savage Arabs raped and almost killed an American journalist who was serving their cause while reporting their promising hope and revolutionary zeal to the world.

Democracy is not something western nations can bring to the Arabs as George Bush so mistakenly believed. Ten years later, Iraq is a mess and generations away from true democracy. Afghanistan is a nightmarish hellhole of depravity. Arabs are too mistrustful and culturally victimized with conspiracy paranoia; more than half of the world’s Arabs still think 9/11 was U.S. created propaganda. Though they may yearn for freedom and wish to join the modern world, a transformation of spirit and literacy from centuries-old acceptance of status quo must come from within their own visionary souls and emerge from their deepest gut-check courage.

They may rise and bravely fight to overthrow their ruthless leaders as they have in Tunisia, Egypt, and Lybia…but then what? Even after their most sensational victory, Egyptians are disillusioned about what to do now. Last week, their finance minister resigned over the army’s brutal treatment of dissidents. It’s easy to predict what’s next: the army will clamp down and a strongman general will take over, declare Marshall law for the good of the country, and rule with an iron-fist for years to come, or an ultra-religious group will take over and turn it into a similar oppressive theocracy as Iran. Either way, no real freedom or democracy in the near future.

Arabs will need to find their own Jeffersons, Franklins, and Washingtons to lead them out of their dark ages. They will need their own intelligentsia of ideas and brave leadership to inspire their own unwavering commitment to their own declaration of independence and their own bill of rights to break the shackles of tyranny, and finally bring democracy and modern life to the archaic Arab world. Centuries-old tribal rivalries and a hopelessly antiquated and subservient way of life cannot be changed in a spring or a year or even a generation.

Though the flame of liberty has been ignited, it’s going to take a lot more than a Facebook call for freedom…but they’re getting there..

Posted in Book Lovers, Politics Today, Uncategorized, World Politics | Tagged , , , |

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Gobbledygook! It must be an election year!

When Romney was MA governor and fought hard for healthcare reform, he said it was absolutely the right thing to do and he’s proud of it. Now that he’s running for president and needs the baggers who hate healthcare (or anything Obama-ish), he’s squirming by saying it should be a state issue, not Fed! Oh, so it was a great idea for Massachusetts but not for the rest of America? Here comes the gobbledygook! It must be an election year!

Do candidates really believe we will never catch their lies and double-talks? Caught red-handed with accepting $30,000 in Fed funds, Bachmann ridiculously justified that the money was used by her husband’s counseling clinic to help his employees get training and did not directly benefit her?  Hello? That’s a valid answer? But that’s exactly whom these  Federal funds were supposed to assist. Her hubbie’s clinic was more than happy to use the Fed training money that she abhors publicly? More gobbledygook?

Farm subsidies? Bachmann says the family farm is owned by her in-laws (not herself) so that’s OK for them to receive the $260,000 Fed subsidies she is railing against? Is she that dishonest? Her financials revealed a six-figure income from that same “in-laws owned” farm. Is she mentally challenged or does she think we are? More gobbledygook? Don’t her supporters see or care to see her glaring hypocrisies and outright lies?

When confronted with these moronic statements, Bachmann panics and hides behind religion exclaiming she’s a Christian and that God steers her political course. What? She now thinks religious people are stupid? Michele, please don’t blame God for your irrational behavior. Even conservative newscaster Chris Wallace asked her on a recent interview if she was a flake. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t like flakes who outright lie. How much hypocrisy can we allow? Who would wish to elect a true flake as our leader? The ’08 Palin close call was not enough to terrify us? Why do we set so low a bar? How did we get here in America? Even tea baggers are smart enough to see these lying irrational explanations. Aren’t they? They MUST be!

And the most promising, wise, intelligent, rational GOP candidate with the proper experience to be president, Jon Huntsman, is not even being considered because he is too…too…well, too intelligent and rational and fair-minded for the baggers to support. They can’t back him because he believes in something as outrageous to them as…as…evolution? They prefer a numbskull and lying Bachmann over a bright and rational Huntsman as a presidential candidate? Crazy? Insanity? It must be an election year! Gobbledygook!

Posted in Book Lovers, Celebrity in America, Election Year Liars Emerge, Politics Today, President Obama, Tea Bagger Hypocrisy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , |

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WANTED: An American Hero – FOUND: Dancing’s J.R. Martinez

America loves its heroes. The ‘84 TV series Cover Up which I had directed had Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For a Hero” as the show’s theme song which was a huge hit tune in its time and still one of my all-time faves. And now, there is a new hero in town. In case you live on Mars and haven’t heard, come see this amazing contestant on this season’s Dancing with the Stars.
His name is J.R. Martinez.

J.R. signed up to serve our country and ended up in the hellhole of Iraq. In 2003, while driving a U.S. Army humvee, he hit a landmine and was badly hurt. His recovery took three years of hospitalization and he underwent 33 surgeries, mostly facial and skin grafts. Incredibly, he somehow found the courage and resiliency to survive and to heal. And now, he’s dancing up a storm and showing America a true spirit of valor and a lot of what heroes are made of – in the hope we can somewhat identify with his noble heart and find a little bit of the magic dust of honor and decency in us. This guy has embraced the gift of life and celebrates it daily…as we all should.

On Monday night’s show (10/3/11), he dedicated his dance to the fallen men and women of our armed forces who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. With his partner Karina Smirnoff, he pulled off a magnificent and emotion-filled rumba to Tim McGraw’s “If You’re Reading This.” It was an exceptional television moment, a beautiful and heartfelt dedication to his fellow soldiers killed in action.

J.R. knows he got a second chance at life, and he wished to honor the ones who didn’t. He was visibly overcome as he said, “Tonight was that moment. I’m on Dancing with the Stars, and I have an opportunity to really honor and pay a tribute to other service members and families that have gone on the same journey that I’ve gone on…but didn’t get a second chance.”

And in that unique moment, as our great country is so terribly divisive about everything these days, and still fighting horrifying wars costing so much in lives and treasure since the 9/11 tragedy, it felt like a magical moment – a breath of fresh air – when J.R.’s dedicated dance and his human spirit of courage and hope brought us all together in a unifying moment as one people, as one nation – as Americans – to remember and pay our respects to our fallen soldiers.

For that, he is my hero. J.R. is America’s hero.

Posted in Book Lovers, Celebrity in America, Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Hollywood Industry, Movie Magic, Reality Shows, Romance and Soulmates, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , |