Farewell, New Line
The dysfunctional studio gets absorbed by Warner Bros.
Adios: We may be sentimental fools, but we feel a pang for the passing of New Line, which is becoming part of Warner Brothers as anticipated.
It's not that New Line had done that much for us lately. We could have lived without Snakes on a Plane and Monster-in-Law (which we saw when trapped on a plane ourselves and would have preferred the snakes). Co-Chairman Bob Shaye, who started New Line out of his Greenwich Village apartment in 1967, certainly had his failings. He has always run a seriously dysfunctional company in which atrocious behavior was the norm. And lately he's been distracted and self-indulgent, it's true.
But he also brought the world an array of work ranging from Pink Flamingos (and most of the John Waters oeuvre) to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The company's franchises included the movie version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and Austin Powers. There were also Boogie Nights, The Wedding Singer, About Schmidt, and Elf.
It was always highs and lows with New Line, commercially and artistically. New Line had the vision to make the Lord of the Rings films—and then got into litigation with director Peter Jackson over money. Now that Jackson's suit has been settled. J.R.R. Tolkien's heirs have gone to court.
Shaye is certainly a controversial figure, but he's also the only person in decades to have built a successful movie studio from scratch. Clearly, he's also not just another cog in a corporate machine. But his company is now. (link)
Feb. 14, 2008
Score! As we predicted last year, Steven Spielberg has bailed on his role as artistic adviser to the Olympics, because the Chinese government has not used its influence to quell the violence in Darfur.
It's been a tough ride for Spielberg, with Mia Farrow pressing him to get out last March in a Wall Street Journal article in which she exhorted him not to be "the Leni Riefenstahl" of the '08 games. On Wednesday, Farrow told us that she's happy Spielberg had what she called "a Lillian Hellman moment." (Farrow has a knack for allusions to famous ladies of stage and screen, it seems.) In this case, she was referencing Hellman's refusal in 1952 to name names before the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activites. * At the time, Hellman famously issued a statement that read in part, "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions." (It's a good quote, though it seems unlikely that Spielberg will pay the high price Hellman did for her defiance, which caused her to be blacklisted.)
In response to the Spielberg news, a coalition of activist organizations promptly said they will run ads around the world decrying China's inaction. The next move will be pressuring corporate sponsors, including GE, McDonald's, and many other giant American corporations. Farrow is already asking the public to call these companies and speak out, and she has conveniently listed contact information on her Web site. Patience, she told us, is an overrated virtue.
No one—not even Farrow—is asking athletes to boycott the games. But gold-medal-winning speed skater Joey Cheeks, co-founder of a coalition of athletes called Team Darfur, hopes some athletes will make their views known, especially when the world's attention is focused on them while they're in China.
Kim Masters is an NPR correspondent and the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Photograph of Steven Spielberg by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images. Photograph of Joss Whedon by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images.