Lots of fun and crazy items of interest in Bryan Burrough's December Vanity Fair piece about the ongoing nastiness between Viacom and CBS billionaire Sumner Redstone and his Paramount-owned studio Dreamworks SKG. 82-year-old Redstone, not exactly known for his soothing managerial style (although at least just yesterday he sorta reconciled with his estranged daughter), acquired the "Shrek" studio four years ago. Much to his irritation, we're sure, David Geffen came with the place. The two have been thorns in each other's sides ever since. Here's our bullet-pointed breakdown!
- Right off the bat, fun little non sequitur! Sumner Redstone shaves nude in his hot tube. What?
- Burrough's piece is based largely on interviews with two advisors, one from the Dreamworks camp and one from Redstone's circle, identified as a dude. It's hard to imagine there's anyone close to the situation who doesn't know who the Redstone source was&mdash nearly a third of the direct quotes come directly from his mouth. Also, we gotta say, given Burrough's avoidance throughout the piece of the whole pronoun thing when referring to the Dreamworks source, we're going to take a guess that it was a lady.
- The Island, that mystifying Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor action flick, cost Geffen his deal to sell to Universal, an arrangement he'd promised Spielberg he'd take care of. The G.E.-owned company took one look at that bomb and cut their offer by $100 million. Yes, Scarlett, you were $100 million kinds of terrible! Spielberg didn't talk to Geffen for weeks afterward.
- Not surprisingly, Spielberg is protected and appeased as Dreamwork's sacred muse by everyone at Dreamworks, including Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. That said, the Dreamworks source says "Let's be clear. Steven needs David. David is richer than Steven." Aww, ain't it grand having partners you can trust?
- When Geffen finally brokered a bargain-basement $600-million deal to sell Dreamworks to Sumner, a decision he now says was "poor," Spielberg refused to move his offices to the Paramount lot like the rest of the company. He's still holed up at the Universal complex, all Ruby Ridge-style.
- "Suits Do Not Publicly Criticize The Talent." An unspoken Hollywood rule, which both Paramount's Rob Moore and Redstone seriously flouted when Moore criticized Clint Eastwood for the lackluster performance of Flags Of Our Fathers and Redstone booted Tom Cruise out Paramount's door, publicly blaming the star's unhinged behavior. Dreamworks execs, especially Spielberg, were not amused, and really lost it when Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said in September that losing Spielberg would be "completely immaterial" to the company.
- Still, the director thought Cruise's bizarre crackheadedness hurt 2005's War of the Worlds. Dakota Fanning can also do no wrong, it seems. "Far worse, though, had been an episode when Spielberg told Cruise the name of a doctor who had prescribed medication to a relative and the doctor's office was subsequently picketed by Scientologists." Subtle, OT-VII, subtle.
- Hollywood publicists are all kinds of terrifying.
- A $1 million donation to the Shoah Foundation will not earn you Steven Spielberg's forgiveness.
- Nikki Finke, dare we mention her name here, is allegedly part of David Geffen's "covert press campaign" to kick Redstone's ass. (Don't hurt us, Nikki!)
- But wait a minute—so is Bryan Burrough maybe! As the VF piece was going to press, filled with lots of chest-thumping Geffen quotes like, "Redstone, he is accustomed to bullying people. And I will not be bullied. There is no fight I will run from," Geffen calls Burrough up to thank him. "Somehow you've so provoked Redstone he has come over to see me and we've cleared up a lot of these issues. This article, you, you did this. A lot of this was bullshit. This was about our personal relationship. And we've cleared up a lot of this. And a lot of this I feel like I owe to you," he tells him.
No better feeling in the world as a journalist than to know you played your role as press pawn to your subject's satisfaction.
Showdown at Fort Sumner [Vanity Fair]