This is basically the story of two boys who never grew up, but ended up running Sony-owned Columbia Pictures into the ground. Peters, whom the Los Angeles Times described as a "seventh-grade dropout and reform school graduate who began his show-business career as Barbra Steisand's hairdresser-boyfriend-manager," was a master at self-promotion; only semi-literate but able to count well enough to make it big in Hollywood. Bostonian Guber earned several academic degrees before "going Hollywood," somehow managing to indifferently run several studios and make high profits and only a few good films. This book will leave film fans drooling at charges that Peters hired Heidi Fleiss's prostitutes as gifts and that he either bedded or assaulted his numerous conquests (Jacqueline Bisset and Lesley Ann Warren, among others). Guber, the quintessential New Age yuppie, is seen heading off his divorce because it would cost him too much, and participating in hand-holding group-therapy sessions with business-partner Peters. The business side of this book is also intriguing, recounting internecine financial twists and turns that finally have a top Sony executive exclaiming: "Huh! You bankrupt Sony!" Griffin, the West Coast editor of Premiere magazine, and Masters, a reporter for the Washington Post, present a shocking read that will have readers gasping at the obscene overindulgence of Hollywood. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (June)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This unauthorized account of Tinseltown madness features the disastrous duo of corporate executives from Columbia Pictures and their alleged bilking of Sony. With the skill of a slick salesman, narrator Ron McLarty partially succeeds in palming off the hearsay testimony about Sony's ill-advised Hollywood venture. McLarty's off-the-cuff manner enhances the tantalizing, juicy gossip served up by authors Griffin and Masters. The convincing descriptions of the grotesque displays of wealth by the chairmen pitted against the staggering $3 million loss that Sony swallows will undoubtedly titillate some. However, the shock value this program packs can't make up for the lack of good journalism. Most libraries can pass on this one.Mark P. Tierney, The World Bank, Washington, D.C.
The pretension and behind-the-scenes machinations within the motion-picture industry can sometimes be more unreal or more entertaining than the actual products Hollywood creates. A perfect example is the story of Guber, Peters, and Sony. In an attempt to gain a foothold in Hollywood and with much hoopla, Sony hired the duo in 1989 to run its newly acquired Columbia Pictures. The two, after all, had produced--or been involved with--"The Color Purple", "Batman", "Rain Man", "The Way We Were", "Shampoo", etc. Chauvinistic fears that the management-savvy Japanese would come to dominate Hollywood in the same way they had Detroit soon vanished after initial successes gave way to expensive box-office duds. Through it all, Guber and Peters treated themselves lavishly--even by Hollywood standards--and, in all, Sony lost billions. Griffin," Premiere" magazine's West Coast editor, and Masters, "Washington Post" reporter and "Vanity Fair" contributor, provide the juicy details of what went wrong. Though it is tempting to look at this story as a modern-day version of David and Goliath, one cannot be sure who the Philistines are.
For those of us who watch while talented filmmakers get taken advantage of and good (or even great) films get tossed aside, there's nothing as satisfying as confirmation of how clueless the people in power really are. There's satisfaction in spades in Nancy Griffin and Kim Masters'
Hit & Run, the story of how producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber angled to become the heads of Columbia Studios after it was purchased by Sony, and how their profligate ways wound up costing the Japanese corporation $3 billion.
With wicked deadpan wit, Griffin, an editor at Premiere, and Masters, a contributor to Time and Vanity Fair, trace the rise of Peters (a volatile, semi-literate hairdresser to the stars) and Guber (a success-hungry lawyer) as hotshot producers and their fall as faux moguls. Happy to take credit for the movies their names were attached to, Peters and Guber almost always left the actual work to other people. The pair's truest talent, Griffin and Masters tell us, was their knack for getting those in a position to offer them money and power to start salivating over the gravy, without ever producing the roast.
Of many hilarious moments, the best is perhaps when Guber summons Barry Morrow, the screenwriter of
Rain Man, and tells him, "I've got this ending which is going to be really sensational ... Raymond will come back and his brother will get him to pitch in the Dodger game -- and he'll win the game for the Dodgers! And it will be big, it will be huge!!"
The trouble with
Hit & Run is that Griffin and Masters don't know what's lousy about Rain Man to begin with. They know exactly how movies shouldn't be managed as a business; they show no indication of knowing how they should be managed as art. Movies are judged almost exclusively by their commercial performance. I don't wish to be unfair to Griffin and Masters. They are working here as business journalists, not critics. And this book, a model of clarity, readability and scrupulousness, is light-years from the publicist-driven pabulum that too often passes for entertainment reporting these days. But the movies have always gotten into trouble when they have been viewed exclusively as either a business or an art. Hollywood has more to fear from a handful of M.B.A.'s who have power but no instinct for what makes good movies than from a hundred conniving little Sammy Glicks like Jon Peters and Peter Guber. -- Charles Taylor
From Final Cut to The Devil's Candy, there are any number of well-told tales of epic motion picture disasters, but they all pale in comparison to this detailed, devastating account of the grandest debacle of them all.
Even by the usual shoulder-shrugging "Nobody knows anything" credo of Hollywood, Sony's appointment of Jon Peters and Peter Guber to head up their newly purchased Columbia Pictures was a stunning act of blind faith. As independent producers, Peters and Guber had been responsible for a remarkable string of mediocre successes and outright flops, with Batman one of their few genuine hits. So disliked were they that Steven Spielberg even had a provision in one contract explicitly barring them from his set. But in a town where executives are perpetually failing upwards, it made a strange kind of sense that the two should become studio heads. However such dubious talent didn't come cheaply. Variety estimated that just to buy up Guber and Peters's production company, as well as settle their contract with Warner Brothers, cost Sony nearly a billion dollars. This was just the beginning. From a complete remodeling of Columbia's offices to overbidding on movie properties, the two men went on a spending spree of brobdingnagian proportions. A few minor flops and major embarrassments later, the volatile Peters was off the lot, multimillion dollar buyout in hand. But even as bad went to worse, culminating in such bombs as the Last Action Hero and I'll Do Anything, Guber hung on for almost five years. Despite some awkwardness in their characterizations (particularly of Guber), Griffin, the West Coast editor of Premiere magazine, and Masters, a reporter for the Washington Post, have done excellent spadework, providing a full, lucid, even gripping, account of everything that went so very wrong.
A dead-on, damning indictment of Hollywood cupidity, stupidity, and excess.