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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Team Rudin's Ventriloquist Act

God… I hate feeling like I have no choice but to address Crazy Nikki. But here we are… Nikki is the gossip columnist of the moment and here she goes, taking her source’s side, 100%, and as always, going so far off the deep end that she is exposing the source to ridicule for not being able to control their pet monkey.
Today, it is about The Reader.
I don’t know if it’s 42 West or Rudin’s office itself that is publishing its list of grievances in the guise of Nikki “reporting” the story (aka “opening her e-mail”), but when Nikki is “in possession of plaintive emails from Daldry, and angry letters from entertainment law pitbulls,” you know that she is passing along something that someone else is selling.
(Isn’t it ironic that on the same day she is “reporting” this and attacking Harvey, she continues to suck up to her bosses at Paramount, who have done no wrong by her assessment, in years?)
The tricky part is that all of this is interesting. Nikki, pretending to be unbiased, does deliver the lunchtime rage of one very self-interested side of the story. It’s not journalism. It’s gossip, as all of this inside baseball tends to be. But there is a value to it.
It occurs to me that all of media, online and off, is becoming a place where you not only have to read what is printed, but you have to very seriously consider where the information is really coming from and what the motives of both the sources and the outlets involved are. God knows, this is a big part of the media story this election cycle.
Anyway…
Take a look at Nikki’s thing.
I’ll offer a couple of notes here…
1) “The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s delivery date of November 7th” doesn’t exist. Movies are screened for the HFPA well after November 7 every year. I think she is referring to the joke known as The NBR.
2) Nikki parroting the dismissal that “Hollywood trades were also suckered by Weinstein’s other spin that Rudin… didn’t want his actors or his pictures competing against themselves. But that’s a ridiculous argument,” is, in fact, ridiculous.
This is spin from the Rudin camp, which would like people to believe that they are not concerned that The Reader will pull focus from Revolutionary Road. However, it is 100% true that they are ALL worried that The Reader will pull focus from Rev Road. That has been the story for months now. It does not mean that Rudin or anyone else thinks that The Reader itself is a behemoth that will crush Rev Road’s chances. But it muddies the water… and not just the public view of it.
First, let’s just look at the calendar. Scott Rudin seems to have at least 2 “Oscar movies” every year. But he doesn’t let his BP candidates release on top of one another. Last year, it was No Country For Old Men in early November and There Will Be Blood at Christmas. Second tier chasers The Darjeeling Limited and Margot at the Wedding were, respectively, launched in September and dumped (never more than 80 screens) in November. The year before, it was The Queen vs Notes on a Scandal… September and December.
No one wants to fight themselves head on, at the box office or in awards season. Had the plan been to release The Reader in December, Rudin would have surely pushed to have Sam Mendes – who is only still adjusting Rev Road because he started shooting This Must Be The Place in April, a date by which he had expected to be finished on Rev Road – to have Rev Road ready for an October release. It’s not exactly brain surgery. The only self-competing experience that comes close to this for Rudin was The Royal Tenenbaums and Iris, opening on the same day in 2001… but Royal went wider quickly and Iris was really a qualifiing run, not cracking 40 screens until March of 2002.
The other Rev Road/Reader release problem is that it represents, from the day Rudin & Weinstein teamed, a combination of behind the scenes marketing and publicity talent that is conflicted, both in terms of the immediate issue of release, as well as the long relationships in town. Rudin’s point people are at 42 West, a company driven greatly by people who used to work for Harvey… and who carry the scars of that history. They did a lot of great things together. But the end was bitter. Moreover, Harvey’s ongoing team is spread around town, as he didn’t have a lot to push this season, so they have other obligations, some exclusively. On top of that is the Kate Winslet problem.
Doubt really is on a different track altogether. Miramax’s relationship and enormous awards success working with 42 West is every bit as well established as the relationship with Rudin, who also produced this movie. There is a built-in conflict there. But unlike the Paramount Vantage situation, there is a lot less cross-over between the film’s teams.
3) ”Instead, this conflict has everything to do with Weinstein and little to do with Rudin.”
Yes. Wrote that a week ago. Not news.
But that doesn’t mean that Rudin & Co are now trying to bury Harvey in response to the choice to do exactly what Rudin did not want him to do.
And if you believe that it was about Daldry’s post schedule, I have some shares in Lehman Bros to sell you.
4) “Insiders insist to me that Harvey’s desperation to release The Reader this year is because of The Weinstein Co’s money woes. One of my sources heard Harvey say that if he can’t afford to hold The Reader and, if he can’t get it out this Christmas, then he’ll dump it in February.”
Thanks for reading The Hot Blog, Nikki.
5) ”Yet puzzled insiders tell me three other film companies want to buy the pic and release it properly in 2009.”
Uh… bullshit.
Three other companies want to buy the nearly-complete picture without having seen it?
More like Scott Rudin has gotten Dan Battsek and/or Peter Rice and/or Chris McGurk to say that they are interested in floating the budget and interest costs to have what seems to be an interesting film for next year’s Oscar race. Rice, in particular, is about to make a killing on WB dumping Slumdog Millionaire into his lap at a deep discount after he passed on making the film because he felt the budget was too high. Cleaning up messes can be a winning position for studios who have the deep pockets to do it. But it’s not like there’s a bidding war out there for The Reader.
And when has Harvey Weinstein ever sold a movie that he liked, aside from the movies that Disney wouldn’t releasse?
I mean, this is a lame one to throw out there.
6) “Insiders have told me that Rudin and Daldry and Winslet were all threatening The Weinstein Co not to support the film. That would have been a TKO for Harvey’s Academy Award dreams.”
Thanks again for reading, Nikki.
The bottom line here is that Harvey Weinstein got done what he needed to get done. He couldn’t afford to take the loss by dumping the movie – which February would have been – and he can’t afford to pay interest for another year. So he’s throwing a quarter of his additional costs of waiting onto the fire to get the post finished without a war.
He still won’t have Winslet working for his movie. He is still fighting off not only Rev Road, but Ed Zwick’s Defiance as well (another Par Vantage release).
Scott Rudin, a very sharp cookie, is using Nikki to bludgeon Harvey… he’s hoping, to movie death. Unfortunately, Nikki doesn’t know the beat well enough to know when she’s overshooting reality.
And truth told, not that many others do either. But I can tell you… everyone who knows the players and the situation do know. And starting with the crazy “Rudin Wins” headline yesterday, they knew someone had fallen down the rabbit hole.
Go ask Nikki… when she was just small.

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I do think the polemic of diversity right now is being handled with a lead pipe. It’s talked about in a way that’s not complex— and it’s a very complex issue. It’s not black and white. It’s not a conspiracy to keep women down. It’s a psychology of risk aversion. Women are question marks to the studios The indie world is changing, television is changing, but if you talk about mainstream Hollywood, they’re still looking at a question mark. [So] it’s not some kind of war. It’s people trying to figure out, imperfectly, how to change a culture that has been one way for a really long time. In terms of this movie, though, Sony was on our ass about diversity from day one. They were like, ‘Look: We want you to make your own movie. We just also want to tell you that there are other options, ones that we’re really open to, and here’s all the people we love.’ And those lists, they were the most diverse lists I’ve ever seen.
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