Money not artistic integrity is what drives Hollywood

When Hollywood washes its dirty linen in public it uses every laundry in the town.

Angelina Jolie, director of Unbroken at the films world premiere in Sydney this year.
Angelina Jolie, director of Unbroken at the films world premiere in Sydney this year.

One of the most toxic exchanges of recent years has to be the email spat between über producer Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal.

The row involved the late Steve Jobs, Angelina Jolie, director David Fincher and sundry other industry types as these two powerhouses sought to drive a film forward.

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The movie was Jobs, a biopic of the Apple supremo, a long-heralded project that has ricocheted from one crisis to another. And the issue was whether Fincher would be free to direct.

The fly in the ointment was, allegedly, Angelina Jolie who, according to the leaked series of increasingly angry emails, put paid 
to the film’s chances by hijacking Fincher for her dream project: a film about Cleopatra.

Then she went off to direct Unbroken, her Second World War drama about American athlete turned prisoner of war Louis Zamperini.

With Cleopatra on the back burner Fincher should have been available. But more problems arose.

At the heart of the exchange of emails was this astonishingly harsh comment on Jolie: “I’m not destroying my career over a minimally talented spoiled brat who thought nothing of shoving this off her plate for 18 months so she could go direct a movie.”

Rudin, producer of 100 movies including Sister Act, The Social Network and True Grit, goes on to call Jolie “a camp event” and describes Cleopatra as “a $180m ego bath that we both know will be the career-defining debacle for us both”.

It makes for some reading. But such to-ing and fro-ing is common in Tinseltown.

Resembling Great War generals marshalling their troops, studios, producers and agents call the shots. 
Stars are just the poor infantry sent over the top.

And it’s all about money. Artistic integrity comes way down the scale.

The shock factor of such a vituperative conversation comes courtesy of its aggression, rudeness and excoriating commentary on celebrity.

The public has long been treated to a sanitised version of movie-making – all premieres, red carpets and stars with fixed rictus smiles.

Yet the route to a smash hit is often a rocky one, and it’s the inside stories that rarely emerge that are the juiciest.

And when they do come out they are invariably given a gloss, courtesy of whichever personality’s memoirs are being used to score points.

What’s more, it’s a given that most if not all of the people being trashed in print will be under the sod. You can’t libel the dead, and Hollywood is a most litigious town…

It’s an eye-opener to be a fly-on-the-wall witness to such conversations.

But John Gregory Dunne did it with The Studio, his expose of the machinations of Twentieth Century Fox, and Steven Bach documented the downfall of United Artists in his book Final Cut, which told of the making of Heaven’s Gate.

They’ve both become classic books.

The Rudin/Pascal exchange may yet achieve similar status, and for all the wrong reasons.