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MORIARTY Interviews ART LINSON About FIGHT CLUB, Pitching, FAST TIMES, And MORE!!

Published at: May 15, 2002, 12:30 p.m. CST by staff

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

Art Linson is one of those guys.

You know the kind I mean. He only eats in the power restaurants in LA. He has had studio deal after studio deal as a producer. He’s firmly entrenched, a survivor of almost 30 years in the business. He’s the kind of guy who’s earned the right to actually call De Niro “Bobby.” When things go wrong, he’s the kind of guy that people rail against, and when things go right, he’s the last guy anyone would ever give credit.

Born in 1942, Linson’s first credit as a producer was the now-forgotten RAFFERTY AND THE GOLD DUST TWINS, an Alan Arkin comedy that I’d never heard of until I started reading Linson’s fascinating first book A POUND OF FLESH – PERILOUS TALES OF HOW TO PRODUCE MOVIES IN HOLLYWOOD. Luckily for him, his second film was CAR WASH, which made Universal several metric buttloads of cash when it was released in 1976.

Since then, he’s been part of films like THE UNTOUCHABLES, MELVIN & HOWARD, CASUALTIES OF WAR, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, THIS BOY’S LIFE, HEAT, and AICN TalkBack favorite FIGHT CLUB. Pretty impressive list.

Of course, he also directed WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM, a fascinating meltdown based on the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, and Cameron Crowe’s first post-FAST TIMES script THE WILD LIFE and produced WE’RE NO ANGELS, THE EDGE, and the barely-released SUNSET STRIP. So what does that mean?

That’s what I was determined to find out when I sat down to discuss Linson’s second book, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?, published last week by Bloomsbury. Together, his two books provide one of the best-articulated explanations of what exactly a producer does, and what the current face of Hollywood really looks like.

He pulls no punches on the page, and I was delighted to learn that the same is true when one speaks to him on the phone.

My phone rang at the prearranged time, and I picked up with a curt, “Hello?”

Friendly, relaxed right away, Art said, “Hi. Is this Drew?”

”Yes,” I returned.

”This is Art Linson. Did I catch you at a good time?”

”Absolutely. Ready to go, sir.”

Art growled, “Great, but we’re going to have a problem if you call me ‘sir.’”

What he doesn’t realize is that I call everyone “sir.” People younger than me get the “sir” from time to time. I think it’s more fun than “buddy” or “man” or any of a thousand other conversational place-markers that people use. I notice that guys like William Goldman and Art Linson get riled right away by it, though, so I do my best to keep a lid on it as the interview gets underway.

”MORIARTY”: First, I just want to say how much I enjoyed both of the books. I think they are as valuable to someone who wants to produce films as William Goldman’s books have been to anyone who wants to write. It’s fascinating to me to see this business from a producer’s point of view. There’s a very particular way that you come at the material that you talk about and the process that you describe. What motivated you in the first place to start writing books?

ART LINSON: I don’t know... boredom... spare time. And occasionally, I would talk to people about what it feels like to work in Hollywood as opposed to the nuts and bolts of it like “These are the agencies to work with. These are the numbers to call. This is how much things will cost.” What no one ever talks about is what it feels like behind those doors that most people never get in to see.

They never hear about the actual meetings, the conversations. Or if they hear about them, they don’t hear about them first-hand. I thought there was value in that for people, so as I weaved that together, I realized there were all kinds of things you could talk about. You could talk about what it feels like to show the executives at Fox what FIGHT CLUB was for the first time, or what it feels like to try and explain a movie to an executive and get it into development. And each of those moments, they’re sort of an amusing tale from my point of view, but for people who are trying to figure out how the damn thing works, I think they go, “Yeah, yeah.” I mean, to be quite frank, there’s a lot going on that’s a lot worse than what I wrote in the book. What I was trying to say is, “Here’s the game. No one here is particularly smart. No one here is particularly gifted, except for maybe a few great directors.”

”M”: What I thought was great about the books was that they’re honest, but they’re not mean. When Julia Phillips wrote YOU’LL NEVER EAT LUNCH IN THIS TOWN AGAIN, she was obviously looking to burn down her career, either consciously or not.

AL: Yeah, I don’t know what that’s about. How can you be mean? There’s a Middle East war going on... this is a beauty shop on Saturday morning. I think a lot of that comes out of a fear of NOT being in Hollywood. Quite frankly, I don’t really care. I mean, the people I work with, like David Fincher or David Mamet... believe me, I’m taking the gentle road in talking about it, as opposed to if they were going to write about it. I think what’s important, if I’m going to leave anything behind, is that this is what I think is true. This is what I believe happened.

”M”: I’ve worked on AICN for five years now. And in that time, people have known who I am away from the site. And there has been fallout. There’s been impact. And that’s for telling what I see as the truth. Has there been any fallout for you from the books?

AL: I’m lucky. In the past 20 years, I’ve always aligned myself with really good writers and directors and actors, and those are my friends. So I’m not going to have anything come back from that, no.

The people who are going to be uncomfortable are executives and agents. They’re the ones who are never held up to ridicule of any kind. So they’re not used to it, and sure, some of these people are going to get a little rankled. But the fact that Tom Rothman would say Gwenyth Paltrow has no chin [during the casting of GREAT EXPECTATIONS – “M”] is his problem. I couldn’t care less. What I wanted to show by that is that... look, once these executives get these jobs, they get pretty smug for a short time until they realize how hard it is to hold onto that.

”M”: It also cuts to the heart of how arbitrary many business decisions are...

AL: You bet.

”M”: ... and one person’s particular whim can influence the casting of a $60 million movie.

AL: Well, fortunately, that was only a $30 million movie. But, yeah, it shows how arbitrary, how silly, how... how frankly unqualified most people are for these jobs. In a more technical way of saying it, these companies are all so vertically integrated... and you know what that means, right? In something like Newscorp, there’s this chain, and all these divisions, like running papers and a cable division, and the movie thing is just one little thing in that whole composite.

So the guy running the movie division or his second in command gets employed, it’s not like it was 30 or 40 years ago. That’s when one guy could say, “Okay, I’m going to give you $2 million to make this movie,” and then he’d go to the bank, get his money, and pay them. That’s not what’s done. There was an intimacy among the people that made them from a corporate standpoint. Now, these are people who are not all alert. These are simply people occupying a chair for four years until they get fired, and they get into these jobs, and they desperately hold on for all that it’s worth. And one of the things you do when you’re just holding on is you do as many safe things as you possibly can. You try to do as many comic books as you possibly can. Those are films you are sure you can get made. Those are what they call tentpoles.

And then, to quote FIGHT CLUB, “You end up doing a copy of a copy of a copy.” You end up not wanting to make movies that have any adventure or that have any originality, because you’re afraid of losing your job. Even if you went in as a well-intended smart guy or a smart girl as an executive, within a year, the shit’s going to be beat out of you. The only thing they can hold onto is this sort of vague condescension that they have toward a producer. It empowers you to say things like, “Oh, I’m not casting her because she has no chin,” or, “Oh, get me Bobby on the phone.” It’s like, “Bobby?” You know? You want to go, “Oh, you mean Robert De Niro?” De Niro wouldn’t let this guy wait on his table, but now this guy’s got this job, and if he can’t say that, then what the hell’s it for?

All he’s really allowed to do is go make the next PLANET OF THE APES. He gets these calls from Murdoch saying, “How are we doing on that fifth PLANET OF THE APES? I hope you’re getting that ready. We need it for next summer.” That’s all the job is. I mean... I don’t mean to just pontificate on the phone here... you get the drill.

”M”: One of the things that’s refreshing about the book is that you’re very self-deprecating as well. There’s a quote in the new book [WHAT JUST HAPPENED?, pg. 114] that I was actually taken aback by. There’s the running dialogue, the framework for the book, between you and the character of Jerry.

AL: (laughs)

”M”: And, um, I don’t know if Jerry’s a composite, or if Jerry’s a specific someone...

AL: He’s a composite, but... (laughing harder)... the thing is about guys like Jerry, these guys that have power in Hollywood, is that they lose power. There’s a sort of a fall from grace that takes place. At one point, you’ve got a phone sheet of 125 phone calls a day. Everybody’s trying to get you. A year later, nobody calls you, and you can’t get anybody on the phone. One exec, Brian De Palma told me, moved to a small town in Italy to move out the rest of his days. I think that makes sense rather than remaining in Hollywood.

If your reason for living here was the pleasure of having power, then when you have no power and you’re still here, you end up to be sort of bitter and envious. David Begelman shot himself in the head. I honestly believe that for people who want power, when you lose it, it hard to go off to the farm. Jerry’s a bit of a composite character, but there are a few people it’s based on.

”M”: Well, in a way, he’s your...

AL: He’s my future.

”M”: He almost serves as your Tyler Durden throughout this book. When he says, “If you didn’t have Bob De Niro’s phone number, you might not have much of a producing career”...

AL: (laughing very hard now)

”M”: Seems brutal to include in your own book.

AL: Okay, maybe I didn’t mean to be THAT self-deprecating. Here’s the thing. If I’m going to pick on Tom Rothman as an executive at Fox, well, I’m in that room, too. I’m just as silly as he is. I’m in the same game, and I’m in the same suit. I’m not kidding myself. Yes, I’ve made a lot of hits. I’ve also made a lot of failures. I invariably find that when the movies become hits, it’s amazing how... like FAST TIMES hits, and it’s all “Sean Penn really delivered in it” and, yes, with THE UNTOUCHABLES, it’s awfully damn nice to have Robert De Niro and Sean Connery in the movie. You know what I mean?

”M”: Both of your books show how the best possible intentions can still produce a movie that fails to satisfy.

AL: Without question.

”M”: That is something that...

AL: It’s even hard to be bad.

”M”: Many movie fans lose sight of the fact that there’s never the meeting where you sit down and say, “Well, I’d really like to make something crappy next time.”

AL: That’s right. In my case, I really do have a set of personal standards. I want to make movies that I think are going to be really good. Sometimes it doesn’t end up good. I never go, “I’m going to make some shitty Adam Sandler movie.” Although I hate to pick on Adam Sandler. His films are actually pretty good. But I never pick something and think, “I think this is going to make a fortune.” I’ve never been that cynical. I don’t really have a feel for that sort of filmmaking.

”M”: Well, many times you’ve worked with actors or directors or writers that you’ve taken a real shot on. Kevin Costner in THE UNTOUCHABLES wasn’t a safe casting choice by any means.

AL: Well, he wasn’t a star then.

”M”: That’s what I mean. I remember... I’m just old enough to remember the impact of seeing THE UNTOUCHABLES and how Costner really hit in that film. That sense of discovery... I saw the film... I was in high school when it first came out, and my buddy and I saw the film something like five times in the first two weeks. That Ennio Morricone score, just in that first few seconds, tells you it’s going to be something big and great.

AL: Well, it’s certainly... if it’s not Brian’s best film, it’s certainly one of his best.

”M”: It delivers in scene after scene, and a big part of that was because Costner didn’t have any baggage. We weren’t watching Kevin Costner. We were watching Elliott Ness. And that sort of leap of faith is what so many producers seem unwilling to do. You know, you hire filmmakers like Lee Tamahori to do THE EDGE...

AL: Well, did you see Lee Tamohori’s film that he did? ONCE WERE WARRIORS?

”M”: Absolutely. It’s an incredible film. It was an arthouse film over here, though. Not a blockbuster. I underatand why you would be attracted to him, but it still seems to take real faith to give an independent filmmaker or a foreign filmmaker their break into the studio hierarchy here.

Now that Alphonso Cuaron [who directed GREAT EXPECTATIONS] has had his huge sort of breakthrough hit with Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, you look psychic. You knew there was something great in there. You knew there was a filmmaker with a real voice.

AL: Yes. He’s a filmmaker with a wonderful voice. The thing about that is, if you see Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, you realize that that’s really coming from a place that Alphonso knows well. It’s another thing when you come to Hollywood and you’re doing somebody else’s script, and it’s somebody else’s thing, and you’re still trying to figure out what you want to do, and sometimes it just doesn’t become... I don’t think it’s because he didn’t want to make it his thing or because we didn’t want him to make it his thing.

It’s just that there was a clash of tones. It was very interesting to watch from my point of view because he is extremely talented. GREAT EXPECTATIONS suffered a bit because he was trying to fit what he does into somebody else’s thing, and we were trying to fit our thing into what he does.

”M”: On paper, that looks like it should work. Mich Glazer. You. Gwenyth Paltrow. Ethan Hawke. Dickens. Cuaron.

AL: And sometimes it does.

”M”: It’s the great lesson of the book. You can use all the best resources at your disposal. You can have 100% of the best intentions. In a sense, it’s alchemy.

AL: And that is the wonder and the mystery of it, even when you’re part of it. And I don’t think that should stop anybody from approaching it that way. You look for talented people. You hope that they’re all going to get attracted to the same thing. And you go do it. You do the best you can. You get on with it. It takes on its own life, and it becomes bigger than everybody, and you just hold onto the tail and let it take you. Sometimes it works.

The notion of nailing it every time out is ridiculous. If you’re satisfied with everything you do, you’re probably making pretty mediocre films.

”M”: So let’s walk through some of the specific things you’ve been involved in. FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. That originally got an X when it went through the ratings board, didn’t it?

AL: That’s true.

”M”: As a producer, how do you handle that? Somebody comes back to you, you’ve made a film you like, and they come back to you and say “X,” or in our case now, they say, “NC-17.” Were you ever worried about that with FIGHT CLUB?

AL: (laughs) Oh, yeah. In a lot of ways, FAST TIMES is very similar in how it was received by Universal to the way FIGHT CLUB was received by Fox. In both cases... here, you’ve got this high school movie, and they all said to me, “Do you realize that most of the people who want to see this movie aren’t going to be able to get in?”

And as we were making it, I’ll be honest with you. We never really thought about that. We were making an honest movie that Cameron Crowe wrote about this year in this high school in San Diego, and there’s nothing in there that any high school kid doesn’t intimately understand and belive.

”M”: And Cameron’s book was...

AL: It was written from the heart.

”M”: And it was five times more graphic than what you were even allowed to do in the movie.

AL: I said that. I said, “If we pull any more punches, then NO high school kids are going to want to see it. It’s going to be... they’re going to know it’s bullshit. You’re just going to have to go with it. They said it was never going to work. We were going to come out in 900 theaters, and they hated the movie so much that they pulled 400 theaters away from the East Coast on opening weekend. They only let it open on the West Coast. They were sure it was going to bomb. There was no television advertising. Nothing. Just trailers and a newspaper ad with bad reviews.

And the movie exploded on the West Coast. It opened and just went KA-BOOM. And then all of a sudden, they were scrambling to get theaters in New York. And all the critics put it down. They were all, “Oh, god, what is this? What responsibility do the movies have?” Five years later, it’s on every top ten list of high school movies of all time. THE NEW YORK TIMES, which didn’t even bother to review the film, now has it on a top ten list. Whenever they talk about high school movies, they either mention FAST TIMES or BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. Everybody turned around on that one.

”M”: As someone who grew up with FAST TIMES, I can tell you that it was seen as a survivor’s guide. It was essential viewing.

AL: And the thing about these movies, it’s already happening to FIGHT CLUB, which Finch and I knew was going to happen. Eventually, people are going to have to see them, because if you didn’t see them, then there was a piece of the culture that was happening that you were left out of. If somebody says to you, “I never saw FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH,” you’re going to be like, “Wait a minute. You never saw THAT? Are you kidding? You have to see that?”

And I’m not taking credit for that. I just watched it happen is all, and FIGHT CLUB is going to be the same thing. People saw it and some of them went, “Oh, I didn’t get it.” Those same people, five years from now, are going to tell you that they never didn’t like it. And all the people who didn’t go see it because they heard it wsa evil or whatever are eventually going to see it, and they’re the ones who are going to go, “Oh, my god, you have to go see this.”

I absolutely bet you anything that 15 years from now, there are going to be guys who where born when FIGHT CLUB came out who are still going to be buying the DVD and watching the movie. I’m convinced of it.

”M”: Oh, no doubt. FIGHT CLUB is a seminal film, for example, for many of the people who read our site. 1999 in general was a really strong film. That film cemented Fincher’s reputation. It proves that Brad Pitt comes to play.

AL: You bet. Boy, do I agree with that. That performance, his performance... if anybody in Hollywood has ever seen a movie star who’s got more guts than that, I want to see it. There’s not a one of them who goes out on a limb like that. They all just want to cash in. Brad... he went for it. He’s great.

”M”: You have an interesting habit of working with many of my heroes. You’ve worked with many people I am in creative awe of. In particular, there was Michael O’Donoghue...

AL: Oh, my god, one of my close friends.

”M”: The Dark Prince of Comedy.

AL: I wish he was around. He’d read my book and call me up and go, “What were you thinking, you piece of shit? Oh, please...”

”M”: I’ve collected O’Donoghue stories over the years. Even his off-hand comments were brilliant so often. SCROOGED is a film that I still think is unjustly overlooked. It’s certainly not perfect, but there is real savage wit in that film...

AL: It’s certainly not the ideas that are bad. The ideas that Michael had and that Mitch Glazer had...

”M”: And I think Murray does some greatish work in the film. He really rises to the material.

AL: Some of his best work is in that film. There’s a lot I like about it. Michael... I mean, what can I say? He was a national treasure. And if you think I’m biting the hand that feeds, Michael didn’t even know there was a hand he might be biting.

”M”: The stories about him are legendary. A long-time fave: When SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE won Emmies for the writing staff after that legendary first season, COSMOPOLITAN sent over a photographer to do a feature story on the staff. They took a big picture of all the writers, and when it was published, somehow Michael was the one person to get cut from the picture. And he flipped. He wrote the editor of COSMOPOLITAN a very short note: "Dear Madam, I would walk over to your office and kick you in the cunt personally if I didn't think it would ruin my shoeshine. Sincerely, Michael O'Donoghue." And in response, NBC didn't fire him. They just got him his own stationary so it didn’t say NBC at the top anymore. He was just fearless about his point of view and the expression of it. I’ve always been curious about ARRIVE ALIVE [a film that O’Donaghue and Glazer wrote for Paramount that started shooting with Jeremiah Chechik directing and Willem Dafoe starring, only to be shut down a few weeks later] and what happened there. It seems like a rarity for a film to get shut down...

AL: It’s not that they didn’t want to continue. It’s more that I saw that what was happening wasn’t working. You know how you talk about how everyone can try to do the right thing? Well, this was one of those times, and I decided that it had to be headed off at the pass. What Michael O’Donaghue and Mitch Glazer wrote was an extremely funny script that was not being directed as a comedy. Something else was going on.

What we thought was that maybe we had to recast it. By the time we were able to think about recasting it, Paramount said the hell with it. I still believe the script is a hit movie, and it just needs to done by somebody who can be that guy, and who really understands Michael O’Donaghue’s comedy.

”M”: I worked at the Director’s Guild for a while in the early ‘90s, and when the Northridge quake hit, we were put in some temporary office space, and we shared some office space with the American Humane Association. They get every single script, basically, and they read them to determine what animal action there is and they make their recommendations. For me, it was like a treasure chest. Someone there, a friend, would let me go through things and read scripts, both old and new. There were all sorts of things I’d always wanted to read, including ARRIVE ALIVE. It was the only script where they didn’t have a copy on file. In the file, there was just a single letter that they wrote back to Paramount and said, “We in no way endorse the making of this motion picture. We find the content of the script entirely objectionable.” I thought O’Donoghue would be so proud of that letter...

AL: (laughing very hard) I wish I could get a copy of that. I would send it to Mitch Glazer right now. I will pass that along to Mitch, and I wish I could share it with Michael.

”M”: Another of the things your book does is describe the process of pitching in great detail. There’s no real textbook or guide to pitching out there, and yours seems to be as good a description as I’ve read of the visceral sensation of doing it. In your experience, is anyone good at it? Do you know people that can just blow doors every time?

AL: It’s a lot like picking up girls. There are some guys who are better at it than other guys, like meeting girls in bars, but no one ever feels like they’re good at it. You always know somebody who’s a little better at it than you, and there is no one way to do it. The problem is that most of them seem to know what they’re going to do before they do it. You can tell by the meetings that I do discuss that you can be asked the most ridiculous questions. The reason that THE EDGE got made was because they had just made a deal with me. They wanted to just get something going. It was a bear movie with David Mamet. They just wanted to say that they were producing something. Do you really think deep down that any of them wanted to see FIGHT CLUB?

”M”: That’s one of the great mysteries of the last few years in film. How did that film sneak by a studio at that price?

AL: You have to understand, it’s very simple. You’ve got Brad Pitt and David Fincher together for the first time since SE7EN. You’ve got me as a producer. The last time those guys worked together, the movie did $300 million worldwide. They’re looking at the cost of this thing and thinking, “We’re not going to get killed on this thing, no matter what.” They’re not thinking, “We have to put this onscreen. I was born to make this movie.” No executive thinks like that.

They’re looking at Fincher and Brad and thinking “Maybe it will be SE7EN in another costume.” Of course, it can’t be. And if we’d told them, “Brad’s going to play it with a shaved head and part of his teeth knocked out,” they might not have been as receptive to it. It was courage on the part of Fincher and courage on the part of Brad... and Ed Norton, too, but more on those guys. They had more to lose. They said, “This is a great piece of material.”

Sure, it’s subversive in Hollywood terms, but what it’s really about is this generation of guys who have no excitement in their lives, and they’re disconnecting from the system, and the only thing that brings them to any sort of life is this sort of punishment that they put on each other. What a notion that is. That doesn’t mean that it’s being advocated by anybody or that it’s happening to everybody.

There was a sense that there was a general discontent, that the job and the life, and everybody was living in a crappy apartment, and the world was flat. It just wasn’t working, Life wss speeding by, and our lives are all flat. I think that’s a powerful statement. Studios, of course, aren’t designed to say, “Wow, that’s a powerful statement. I want to do that.” They’re not designed to say that. They never were. Orson Welles would have worked for 30 years if they were designed to make THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. They’re not. They didn’t like CITIZEN KANE. They didn’t give a fuck if it won awards or not. Back then, the guy didn’t continue working. There’s a reason for that.

These people aren’t any different now. It’s always about “Don’t rock the boat. This is a money machine. Come on... let’s just keep going.” The job of the artist, quite frankly, is to say, “Okay, I know it’s a money machine. So how do we achieve our goals? How do we satisfy the chuckleheads, and at the same time, how do we satisfy ourselves?” The great ones figure out a way to do that. The great ones satisfy both sides. Personally, I think Kubrick is a great example of that. Kubrick made a ton of money for Warner Bros. There are many examples of really high quality directors who figured it out. Steven Soderbergh right now is a really high quality director who is making a bunch of money for them. That’s their job.

It’s not the job of the corporation to figure it out. It’s the directors who have to have the courage to say, “I’m going to convince them, and I’m going to satisfy myself.” That’s our job. You can’t blame studio executives. You can’t say, “Oh, they’re all a bunch of pet shop owners.” You’ve got to take the risk yourself. When you say I’m self-deprecating, I think it’s because I believe it’s my obligation to get this done, not theirs.

”M”: I was also looking at a list of things you’re working on. You say you don’t really keep a big development slate. You like to make what you develop. The two things I was interested that you were attached to that I saw where two Fincher films... SQUIDS and SEARED...

AL: Okay, I’ve got two things coming up, and let me give you the details on both of them. Fincher, me, and John Linson are going to produce the feature version of THE LORDS OF DOGTOWN, and Fred Durst is going to direct it. That’s the next thing on the plate.

”M”: Oh... um... really? Fred Durst is directing the DOGTOWN film?

AL: (laughs at how shocked I sound) Yes. He’s going to be great.

”M”: That’s a... that would be one of those leaps of faith we were talking about, I suppose. Him moving into the world of feature directing...

AL: It was a jump for Amy Heckerling to move into feature directing, and we got FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. Fred is quite smart. He knows this subject better than people know their own children.

”M”: So there’s something that draws you to him and this film and...

AL: We would never make the film with Fred if we didn’t have complete confidence that he’s going to make a great film. It’s not because of who he is. I’m positive that he just understands this material innately. It’s about tough kids growing up in a tough time in Venice, California, when it was hard just to get to the beach to surf without getting the shit beat out of you. This is what then became the phenomenon. And some of them survived that, and some of them didn’t. It’s going to be a very cool movie, and Fincher and John and I are very excited about it. That’s the next thing we’re going to do. After that, I’m producing another movie with David Mamet that’s an FBI thriller that he’s going to write and direct. He’s almost done with it. We’re going to try to do that at the beginning of next year. As far as SEARED in concerned, it’s still possible that David Fincher is going to direct SEARED [based on the nonfiction book KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL]. He’s still looking at it now that he’s coming out of PANIC ROOM and he’s relaxed and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3 is still being written.

Art and I chatted a bit longer off the record, and the impression I walked away with was that this is a guy who means what he says, and who is going to keep turning out personally interesting projects with challenging filmmakers for a long time to come. If you’re interested in a close-up portrait of David Fincher, or great Alec Baldwin stories, or the way something like THE UNTOUCHABLES came together, you owe it to yourself to pick up both of Linson’s books. Just last week, Robert De Niro threw a party for Linson in New York to celebrate the new book, and this photo was taken:











After seeing what he’s capable of with a baseball bat, I don’t think I’m going to argue with that face. Buy the book, or Bobby’s gonna kick your ass.

Thanks to Kareem for setting this interview up, and a big thanks to Art for his time.

"Moriarty" out.





Readers Talkback

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  • May 15, 2002, 8 p.m. CST

    Fast Times At Ridgemont High

    by Geddlee

    Is the greatest movie of all time, period.

  • May 15, 2002, 8:15 p.m. CST

    Boring...

    by The_Tao_of_Eric

    Eh, I couldn't give a rat's ass about this guy. He doesn't sound intelligent, funny, or even remotely interesting. I do give him credit for Fight Club because it was a well made film that I had no idea of how it was able to get made in today's climate. Although, the dude totally missed the entire message behind the story, in my opinion. Anyway, I have zero respect for the majority of Hollywood execs and producers. This guy isn't any different.

  • May 15, 2002, 8:22 p.m. CST

    Sounds like a producer we can trust

    by Don Pedro

    I praise him just for getting a film as brilliant as Fight Club made with a big Hollywood budget. Keep it up Art, you will be remembered for achievements like that.

  • May 15, 2002, 8:26 p.m. CST

    Fred Durst

    by DuckStar

    Is directing a feature about the Z-Boys? I feel like its either gunna be real real good, or horrible, nothing in between. Lets hope its good huh. And for the guy that who was crying about hollywood execs and producers, geeze you guys need to get a hold of yourselves and stop complaining about how Hollywood is horrible and everybody who works there is evil. A lot of good stuff (like Fight Club) is made within the Studio System. So, get over yourselves and just enjoy the movies you love and stop going to things like Murder by Numbers which you know will suck and then you won't be so mad about Hollywood.

  • May 15, 2002, 8:38 p.m. CST

    Great interview, Moriarty!

    by Milktoast

    Interesting stuff. Would like to see more with the lesser tapped mouths like producers and cinemtographers (like SMJ did at CHUD recently). Again, good reading!

  • May 15, 2002, 8:59 p.m. CST

    Great damn interview, Mori

    by Smilin'Jack Ruby

    Read it twice. Gotta read the back of his (read the chapter on The Edge in Vanity Fair - 'twas fas-kinating).

  • May 15, 2002, 9:02 p.m. CST

    Mori just continues to kick ass.

    by Nordling

    Man, the quality of the stuff coming out of AICN the past couple of weeks has been staggering. This is a terrific interview, and this is why I keep coming back here. Thanks for a fantastic interview.

  • May 15, 2002, 9:24 p.m. CST

    More kudos to Mori

    by Johnny Ahab

    Let me add to the chorus of voices above -- GREAT WORK, DREW! You write incredibly well, and you're quickly becoming the star of the site. Keep it up!

  • May 15, 2002, 10:02 p.m. CST

    by Mr Snrub

    Awesome Interview. I just finished reading his latest book, "What Just Happened?" today. Highly recommended. A little too short though.

  • May 15, 2002, 10:05 p.m. CST

    You are the only reason to read this site...

    by CHEET

    I've offered you high praise before, nothing new there, Drew (back in my old banned identity when I was the first to start calling you out as McWeeny). You really are the only reason to keep reading this site. But... There's got to be a but... I think the thing that's keeping you from becoming one of the _great_ writers of movies in our times is your lack of an editorial process. Just when this interview seems to be ramping up it ends. Since you're a scriptwriter you should know about keeping it clean and clear. I'm just saying; you're really, really good at writing about movies and you've done your time in the trenches to have the experience to interview well. I just wish for yourself you had an editor. Harry's writing's so fucked an editor would never help; you on the other hand could be churning out regularly with proper deadlines and guidance pure gold. And it's about time we saw you ask some hard questions instead of merely fawning ones. As great as your interviews are, I've never read one where I thought "ooooh... that's a tough one". You should've nailed Linson on the Durst thing - I caught five minutes of the Making of some pop promo he directed and it seemed like he didn't know what the fuck he was doing. I'm only tough because I really do like your stuff.

  • May 15, 2002, 10:27 p.m. CST

    If Jimmy D'Andrea (who is Peter and Bobby Farrely's firs

    by NFLRefugee

    I want my copy of A Pound of Flesh back! He borrowed it from me so he could understand what his cousin's did. He got fired from the place we were working and I never saw him again. I want my book back! I refuse to by another copy (even though it's worth it).

  • May 15, 2002, 10:42 p.m. CST

    Great interview - Linson is a prolific producer.

    by JXF

    Just recently read an article of Linson in Vanity fair on the making of The Edge, learnt more about the US studio system in that article, than i had in years of reading books and visting sites like ifilmpro.com. Great interview as well.

  • May 15, 2002, 11:04 p.m. CST

    Fred Durst is a hack! Total MTV sponsored product pusher.

    by TheMatarife

    He does infact, lick balls. He wouldn't be anywhere had MTV not pimped him like a 2 dollah whore. He is just another product pusher, helping out the multibillion dollar sales industry for the teen market.

  • May 16, 2002, 1:25 a.m. CST

    Linson's book A POUND OF FLESH is great.

    by Cash Bailey

    And damn, that David Mamet is a cold-hearted bastard.

  • May 16, 2002, 2:36 a.m. CST

    Moriarty always has the coolest stuff on this site

    by Silvio Dante

    Great. Sliced-bread great.

  • May 16, 2002, 2:58 a.m. CST

    Matrix Reloaded teaser is online!

    by Ambrose Chappell

  • May 16, 2002, 5:51 a.m. CST

    Great article

    by Blake Falls

    just ordered my copys at amazon.

  • May 16, 2002, 7:14 a.m. CST

    Dear Ted Pikul

    by Almost Sexy

    If it's such a mystery (e.g., the story of the smiley-face bomber), porque do both you and my mom know about it? No mom jokes, please.

  • May 17, 2002, 7:24 a.m. CST

    "Nnnnggghhhh! Uuuuurrrggghhh! Who..does... number...2..work..-oh

    by Crazy Fresh DJ

    "You know, even famous movie stars like me suffer from constipation, the bowel problem that dare not speak it's name. Whenever I find myself unable to make a 'log cabin', there's nothing like a reading of this new Art Linson book to bring relief...."

  • May 18, 2002, 2:17 a.m. CST

    Boring?!? KMBFA!

    by Tsunami3G

    Fantastic job Moriarty! Is there a collection of your interviews somewhere? I'm a newbie to AICN and I would love to read them all.

  • May 18, 2002, 8:28 a.m. CST

    Good interview

    by dastickboy

    Art Linson sounds like a real life mogul, the kinda guy that is nice as pie if you are on his right side, but could tear you a new one if you stepped wrong. I've worked in the business side of the computer games industry for nigh on 10 years, and can identify with the execs Art is talking about. It's all about the "bottom line" and hitting the quarterly target. Don't get me wrong, I know their job is to make money for the company, but goddamn, half these monkeys wouldn't know a decent game if it saved their life in 'Nam!

  • May 18, 2002, 3:49 p.m. CST

    Great interview...

    by JonQuixote

    And once again, after struggling through a low point, I'm reminded why I keep coming back to this site. I didn't even know Linson had a new book out, but rest assured it will be in my bookcase momentarily.