May 7, 2010 | 12:40 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
A MUST-read on Steven Spielberg.
Nicole LaPorte, author of the new book, “The Men Who Would Be King” (a.k.a the scions of Dreamworks: Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen) reveals the inside story of the failed Dreamworks empire. Her portrait of Spielberg depicts a side we haven’t seen—or haven’t wanted to see—namely, that of a needy child in search of business partners who could serve as surrogate parents. LaPorte breaks down a world that seemed largely perfect on the outside, “suitable for framing,” she writes, in order to reveal the darker details surrounding Spielberg’s “shattered dream” as she calls it. The book purports to reveal details of Spielberg’s failed marriage to Amy Irving, his veneration of producing partner Walter F. Parkes and the elaborate world around him designed to cater to his whims (the author writes that at Amblin Entertainment, there were speakers in the bushes so that Spielberg’s spontaneous cravings and requests could be satiated immediately).
Read more at The Daily Beast:
For protection, Spielberg had always had surrogate parents, such as the late Lew Wasserman and Sid Sheinberg, the legends of Universal. Amblin, meanwhile, was overseen by the husband-and-wife team of Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, who tended to Steven’s day-to-day affairs and were referred to as the “parents.” Kennedy, a scrubbed, athletic type whose style was forceful diplomacy, understood that working for Spielberg wasn’t just about execution; it was about cushioning him from the harsher truths. When her husband left Amblin to set up a production company elsewhere, the idea was that Kennedy would follow. The couple wanted lives of their own. But Spielberg was so upset over the prospect of her leaving—considering it a kind of desertion—that in retaliation he forced her to delay her departure. At Amblin, the situation was labeled “the divorce.”
At DreamWorks, Spielberg replaced the aging, disempowered Wasserman and Sheinberg with guardians just as tough: Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Assuming the Kennedy/Marshall roles were another husband-and-wife team, Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, who ran DreamWorks’ live-action studio. Hollywood was shocked when that job did not go to Katzenberg, who had nearly 20 years of studio experience (Katzenberg himself was pained and embarrassed by the news, according to friends), considering that, between them, Parkes, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and MacDonald, a former junior studio VP, had virtually none. But for Spielberg, it was a no-brainer: He believed in the couple, trusted them above anyone, and valued their sophistication, class, and taste. For a man, who as one person says, “falls in love with people,” Spielberg was enamored of his friends, most especially Parkes, a tall, unnervingly good-looking Yalie whose overpowering confidence and verbal agility caused one associate to describe him as “a Shakespearian actor holding forth on the Globe stage.”
No one could miss the Freudian implications of the relationship between the nerdy boy-man, who, growing up in unkind suburbia, had wanted “to be a gentile with the same intensity that I wanted to be a filmmaker” and this chiseled golden boy, who had grown up as Wally Fishman in Beverly Hills, but changed his name to Parkes when he landed in New Haven.
“Walter Parkes is Steven’s idea of what he should have been—East Coast-educated, upper-middle-class family, good-looking guy, right wife the first time, not the second time,” said producer Tony Ludwig.
Unlike most, Parkes wasn’t afraid to stand up to Spielberg, and had no trouble telling the director that some of his ideas were harebrained, or, worse, low-brow.
“Walter wasn’t afraid to bully Steven,” said one insider, “with everything—his looks, his ideas.”
But the couple’s inexperience running a studio became apparently almost immediately—it would take three long years before any movies were released, a fact that drove Katzenberg, especially, mad (at one point he confronted Parkes at a company retreat: “Where are my movies, Walter?”—and Parkes’ propensity to rewrite scripts and bully not just Spielberg, but filmmakers, with his healthy ego, would ultimately make DreamWorks quite the opposite of what it set out to be at its inception: an artist unfriendly place.
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