Whopper of the Week: Variety Editor Peter Bart
"Variety has a policy that prevents its reporters from being seduced byHollywoodwhile they are covering it. As Bart explained it to me, 'You cannot shop a script while you're writing for us. Obviously it's different if you write a book or a novel and it sells to a movie studio. I have no problem with that, except I'm not going to write the script. I don't think the line is that blurry.'
"[...] In 1998 Variety reported that Michelle Manning atParamountPictures had acquired the rights to a novel written by Bart. The novel was called Power Play, and the plan was for [producer Robert] Evans to develop it. It was set inLas Vegasand focused on a power struggle between established casino owners and Indian tribes. Bart had used a pseudonym, the article said, 'to avoid any potential conflict of interest.'
"I'd read all of Bart's novels but had never heard of Power Play. When I first asked Bart about it, he said, 'It's not a novel. It's a novella. It needs work. I never finished it.' When I asked to read it, he told me he had no idea where it was. 'I did it to try to help Bob out. And Bob never did anything with it,' he said, referring to Evans.
"So no script was ever written? 'Not to my knowledge,' he said. 'In the old days I'd have swung into action, gotten a director assigned, gotten it off the ground. But I don't do that for a living anymore. And it's not what I should do.'"
-- "Hollywood's Information Man," by Amy Wallace, in the September issue of Los Angeles Magazine.
"Then the script arrived. It was called Crossroaders, but it was the same story as Power Play. Its title page read: 'By Leslie Cox'--the maiden name of Bart's current wife--'Based on the novel by Peter Bart. September, 1996.'
"[...] I tell Bart I have a copy of the 1996 script he wrote. 'The script I wrote,' he repeats, neither confirming nor denying. I look into the face of the man with the incredible memory. It is blank. But one knee starts jiggling, and he fiddles idly with the band of his watch.
"'Boy, you got me. Did I write a script? Now I'm facing memory loss,' he says, as I pull a copy of Crossroaders out of my bag. He looks it over. 'Let's just say this is a script that has Leslie's name on it. What does that indicate? Therefore--therefore, what?'
"I repeat that I know he wrote it. 'I may have written this,' he says. But, I counter, you said you hate writing scripts. 'I do. Maybe this taught me never to do it again. I'd love to read this. Is it any good?'
"Persuasive Peter, Argumentative Peter, Smooth Peter--they're all here, and they're taking turns. 'You know something? In all honesty, I do not remember writing this,' he says. 'I guess it was written to work out the novel. That would be my answer.'