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Ed Zwick on Harvey Weinstein, Julia Roberts, Matthew Broderick

Ed Zwick on Harvey Weinstein, Julia Roberts, Matthew Broderick


On the bookshelf

Hits, flops and other illusions

By Edward Zwick
Gallery books: 289 pages, $29

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In his new Hollywood memoir Hits, Flops and Other Illusions, film and television veteran Ed Zwick shares a detailed account of his ordeal years trying to bring Shakespeare in Love to the screen. The Bard himself may appreciate the ups, downs and obstacles, from the day he says Julia Roberts ghosted the production Zwick was about to direct in London, to the bullying and harassment meted out by Harvey Weinstein, which Zwick had to sue to get his producers. credit. As Zwick writes, he dreamed of pushing Weinstein off stage at the 1999 Oscars, when Weinstein monopolized the microphone during the Best Picture victory speech.

Zwick also offers this piquant comparison with Weinstein: in France, there are pigs who dig through the mud and mire in search of precious truffles. They have a remarkable nose for what is valuable, but at the end of the day, they are still pigs. For a book that doesn't exist for the purpose of serving up zingers or exacting revenge, Hits manages to provide a tasty offering of both.

I sued him and got my credit back, so I metaphorically punched him in the nose, Zwick said in a recent video interview from his home in Los Angeles. But I never got around to throwing him off stage, which, as we've seen in other, more recent evidence, probably wouldn't have been a good idea.

Combining instruction manual, reminiscence and name-fest, Zwick's memoir subtitled My Fortysomething Years in Hollywood captures much of what it means to be a Hollywood storyteller: the endless delays between creation and production (in cases where production even takes place); egos were stroked and dreams were crushed; and the exhilaration that comes with the miracle of a project that somehow, through a combination of perseverance and luck, reaches its conclusion and lives up to its potential. There's never really any malice here from Zwick, the man behind films like Glory and Legends of the Fall and TV shows like Thirtysomething (with his longtime creative partner Marshall Herskovitz) and My So -Called Life (with Winnie Holzman). Zwick, a youthful 71, comes across as a grizzled veteran, always eager to learn and, above all, to pass on some of the wisdom he has gleaned from others over the years.

He looks forward to seeing young artists embrace the kind of personal cinema that inspired him in his youth and continues to light his fire. This does not necessarily mean autobiographical cinema, he says. It means investing in a story with something you deeply believe in. It can be political, cultural or psychodynamic. This is what has always motivated me, even in the midst of great horse operas and historical epics. It's about moral dilemmas, or this recognition of what heroism is. There are themes that I think unite at least some of my work, and that would be what I hope to pick out here.

Ed Zwick photographed outside his Los Angeles office with shadows crawling across the wall.

Combining instruction manual, reminiscence, and name-fest, Ed Zwick's memoir captures much of what it means to be a Hollywood storyteller.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Lest you assume that successes, flops, and other illusions are an exercise in teaching, have no fear. The tea is spilled. Before Weinstein took on Shakespeare in Love, Roberts, then in her 20s, was cast in the lead role that ultimately went to Gwyneth Paltrow. As Zwick writes, Roberts flew to London with him to help cast the male lead. She became obsessed with Daniel Day-Lewis, even though Zwick explained that Day-Lewis had already committed to starring in In the Name of the Father.

Undaunted, Roberts disappeared one night and returned the next day with a big smile, proclaiming that Day-Lewis was there. Zwick then met the actor, who explained that no, he was still away. According to the director, Roberts began moping throughout the casting process, which included readings with Russell Crowe, Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Roberts didn't like any of them. Then, one morning, she left her hotel and returned to the United States without informing her director, effectively ending production at a cost of $6 million in sunk costs. It would be years before the film was resurrected, with John Madden at the helm.

Then there was Zwick's ordeal with another rising star, Matthew Broderick. Zwick was happy to recruit Broderick, after the success of Ferris Buellers Day Off, to play the lead role in the Civil War epic Glory. Broderick also put Zwick through his paces, bringing in his mother to demand significant changes to the script and raking Zwick over the coals. At least Broderick ended up staying.

Zwick insists he has no ill will toward Roberts or Broderick, and that he aims to tell stories accurately and honestly, not settle scores. I decided very early in the writing process that I was going to be as authentic as possible, he says. It was about including both sides of what this experience not only was, but still is. Only if I could be true and authentic did it also allow me to tell other stories that are about wonderful people and deeply moving experiences. I didn't want them to just be self-aggrandizing war stories, because that's not the nature of the work.

Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions is ultimately a clear and intimate account of one man's adventures in Hollywood, the good, the bad and the ugly, from the pits of development hell to a tempered triumph at the Oscar night that didn't end with him falling off the stage, at least not out of the author's mind.




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