By Dan Taylor
As I write this, LOST
IN SPACE has dislodged Oscar-winner TITANIC
from its lofty Box Office #1 perch. That
can only mean one thingthe summer
film season is in full swing! What that
means to you and me is another five months
of cookie-cutter sequels, retreads, remakes,
and out-and-out rip-offs. Some of them surely
starring members of the Friends
cast. This does not make me a happy camper,
and my movie-going is about as frequent
as my record-buying. Could two industries
I once loved suck as much as these do?
Frankly, my disdain for the
industry that raised me is nothing compared
to that of author, critic, observer, cinematic
terrorist Ian Grey. Grey whose new
book Sex, Stupidty and Greed: Inside the
American Movie Industry (Juno Books) can
be purchased at amazon.com has stared
into the gaping maw of the town known as
Hollywood. And, as he reports in the book,
it aint a pretty sight.
We spoke shortly after TITANIC
rode its $250 million budget to an almost-unprecedented
ER: So how did the idea for
a book about the film industry come about?
IG: I was doing a job for
Simon & Schuster, and I reviewed about
3000 movies... writing those capsule reviews
for them. And then I did writing work for
the American Museum of the Moving Image,
and writing for [everything from] Fangoria
to Time-Out. But when I say down and reviewed
three thousand new movies, I started to
get cranky. It had a real effect on me.
I started to notice that movies
werent sucking like they did in the
50s, 60s, and 70s. There was really like
this planned suckage. We live in such a
media environment that were all sort
of bombarded into acquiescence. Its
like, Oh God, just give me my entertainment!
ER: Weve become totally
accepting of crap! One of the parts of the
book that really struck me was when you
talk about how you felt after seeing TOTAL
I vividly recall walking
away from the theater after seeing TOTAL
RECALL feeling both pumped up (as if on
cheap stimulants), enerated (as if coming
down from said stimulants ersatz
high), and, in general, vaguely
sullied. Bearing the films title
in mind, it was remarkable how little
of what Id seen stayed with me.
I thought, Thats
exactly how I felt!
IG: The thing thats
more important, I think, is that you just
accept it. You walk out going, Movies
blow, it cost a lot of money, and thats
how it is.
ER: When TITANIC was getting
ready to come out I figured it would make
about a $100 million and then disappear.
How do you explain the fact that it has
become this phenomena, as well as the biggest-grossing
flick of all-time?
IG: I dont think you
can negate the fact that [director James]
Cameron is a good filmmaker. Number two,
I think hes smart in a sort of animalistic
way. All of his films are about pushing
buttons really hard. Not to get all millenial
on you, but he just pushed some very basic
millenial buttons and he did it in the right
The deal is though
this is just a theory of mine, I dont
have any hard data on this I know
the industry was very invested in this movie
succeeding. When you have two studios, what
is it, Paramount and Fox...?
ER: I think its Fox.
IG: Whatever. Big diff. It
was the type of thing where it was important
to the industry that this not fail. Because
if it failed then that would tear down the
whole infrastructure of the two hundred
vice presidents, blah, blah, blah. It was
very important to that infrastructure that
this picture not tank.
the deal is, as we speak, GODZILLA is close
to becoming the first half-billion dollar
movie. They spent $30 million just on a
version directed by the guy that directed
SPEED  and dropped it...
C14: And now its being
done by the guys that did INDEPENDENCE
IG: Right, Roland Emmerich
(director) and Dean Develin (producer).
I got this from a hidden source and hes
working on the project, and hes told
me, Well, weve spent approximately
$150 million now, and we still dont
have a good dinosaur.
And Im thinking, If
youre making a movie called GODZILLA,
wouldnt the big dino come first?!
Other things would be kind of secondary
cause your movies called GODZILLA!
But, its suppoused to open Memorial
Day and its another TITANIC thing.
Except Roland Emmerich isnt James
Cameron. Theres a big difference in
One other thing that TITANIC
did was that it verified the whole system.
People asked me, Well how do you think
its going to end? And I said,
Theres gonna be a Titanic and
its gonna sink. Im not
interested in destroying the system in terms
of putting people out of jobs, but its
a stupid, bloated economy. And the result
is you get BRAVEHEART. I rest my case.
ER: Youre not a BRAVEHEART
fan...theres many references in the
book to it.
IG: Well, because it was one
of those ones that was near the end of my
[reviewing job]. Actually, one of the things
that got the book going as the idea of a
book was that I had to see WATERWORLD. And
I had seen, at this point, how many thousands
of movies? And it actually got me ill.
Not just because it was bad.
The sound spectrum is around 60 Hz, and
they use subsonics in movies to enhance
explosions, those important parts of the
movie, and for WATERWORLD it was so bad
that they just had bbbbbvvvvvrrrrrrrrrrrr
going all the time. It really looked like
whoever edited it was using severe opiates,
it was just so OVER THE TOP bad and we all
know how much it cost ($238 million budget
vs. $255 worldwide gross).
My favorite thing is when
they go, How do we find dry land,
and the little girl has the map on her back...
what do they do if she turns around?! Do
they go somewhere else? So I saw WATERWORLD
and I saw BRAVEHEART, I forget what the
job was. I had to see it, I certainly didnt
go for the sheer pleasure of it, but the
homophobia in it, the way the women in it
are just plot mechanisms...you start to
realize that in most American action movies
the only motivation is kill the bitch.
You know, kill the woman and
then the guy will get off his ass and do
something heroic. Its just cheap,
ER: Speaking of cheap, shoddy
writing, youve got things like GODZILLA,
MOD SQUAD, MAN FROM UNCLE, LOST IN SPACE,
all somewhere in the pipeline. Why is Hollywood
so dry on ideas...
IG: Its dry on purpose.
It doesnt want good ideas. It buys
up good ideas and then shelves them. I just
did a piece for ICON magazine, and I interviewed
Barry Gifford (WILD AT HEART), Andrew Bergman
so I just said, Whats the deal?
This is a quote from the guy that wrote
the screenplay for TOP GUN: What you
dream is that you get paid and they never
make a movie. You know that once that
infrastructure of executives gets a hold
I have a quote from Jack Leschner
from Miramax, and he says theres Leschners
Law: The one absolute is no matter
what your movie is, somebody at some point
will take the most interesting part out
For all we know, theyre
buying up interesting movies and taking
that most interesting part out of it. They
want a sort of brain-stunned audience of
obedient cattle, you dont want them
to be agitated. You dont want to give
them CHINATOWN, or a Robert Altman movie
that makes any sense, or name the good filmmaker.
I mean, once Kubrick is dead, I don't know.
Im not trying to be all elitist about
it, even exploitation movies that are good...
BROWN, you know I think Tarantinos
pretty much over, no matter what I think
of him personally. That was one flavor.
ER: That was a film that amazed
me. I read reviews and articles where they
talked about how this was, except for the
stock it was shot on, exactly like a 1970s
blaxploitation flick. Bullshit! 1970s blaxploitation
was never about two-and-a-half hour running
times and a guy whos totally in love
with every word that comes out of his word
IG: Well, hopefully that will
put the tombstone on the whole idea of independent
ER: That was one of the most
interesting things in the book, your take
on independent films like THE
ENGLISH PATIENT and THE SPITFIRE GRILL.
IG: Thats not my take,
thats reportage. There was no take
to have. Its very important for me
[for the reader] to know when its
my opinion and when Im just telling
once again, its the whole thing of
keeping the audience in perpetual dissonance.
The fact that most of the stuff I report
was taken from mainstream magazines...these
arent big secrets. People read it
and I dont know where it goes. The
whole thing about [Kevin] Costner screwing
over the Lakota Nation ,
thats all taken from major magazines.
And when people read that chapter theyre
horrified. Im not trying to be superior,
but Im like, What were you thinking
when this happened?
I think its because
you have so much garbage thrown at you so
many times from so many people, who all
have the same campaign, that youll
be reading about Mira Sorvinos breasts
next to a story about kids being killed
on a boat somewhere. It all starts to mean
nothing, and thats very much in their
interests... not to get all conspiracy theory
ER: Why are there so many
guys like Michael Bay (BAD BOYS, THE ROCK)
out there and so few guys like Tim Burton
(BATMAN RETURNS, PEE-WEES BIG ADVENTURE,
ED WOOD, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, MARS ATTACKS!)?
IG: Because Michael Bay can
deliver the explosions, on time, and on
budget. Tim Burton never delivers anything
on time, he may come in under budget. No
matter what one may think of Tim Burtons
films hes definitely an artist. He
definitely has a unique vision and thats
anathema. Unfortunately for the Hollywood
people he made BATMAN a success, whoops!,
so they have to deal with the guy. But he
cranks out an ED WOOD to their horror every
ER: I liked MARS
IG: Theres always good
stuff in his movies. My whole thing isnt
to be a critic in that is MARS ATTACKS!
a good movie? Its more important
why we cant have more variety, why
is it a monopoly? The book is really all
about information monopoloy and movies have
become ametaphor for this closed monopoly
where the Iran War becomes a video game.
Its the same thing.
ER: It was all about, Hey,
we have a camera mounted on this missle
and isnt that cool?
IG: Yeah, and no one was killed,
targets were destroyed. If you
did a book on aluminum siding you might
see the same [metaphor]. Its all the
same business. How exciting is any movie
going to be when its not in their
interest for it to be exciting. There interest
is to get your adrenaline going and empty
ER: Case in point ARMAGEDDON
(directed by, guess who? Michael
Bay)...which looks like an Irwin Allen film.
IG: Hey, lets not put
down Irwin Allen.
ER: I mean in terms of the
all-star cast, the end of the world dilemma...
IG: Have you see the trailer?
ER: Ive seen it. I dont
get it, but Ive seen it.
IG: This is another whole
thing that I didnt get into, and thats
The Trailer That Tells You Everything About
The Movie and Yet Youre Suppoused
to See It. Personally, Im not sure
how this works. With TITANIC, the thing
that really confused me was, well, I know
how it ends! Everyone dies! A movie called
ARMAGEDDON... how do you think thats
going to end?! At least with a movie called
LOST IN SPACE theres the possibility
that they might get un-lost.
ER: Or a sequel perhaps?
IG: STILL LOST IN SPACE. EVEN
MORE LOST IN SPACE. There was a great quote
from Gary Oldman, whos like the villain
du jour in all these things.
C14: Hes replaced Klaus
IG: Exactly. Well he made
that film NIL BY MOUTH which he paid for
with his own bucks. He said, I paid
for that with AIR
FORCE ONE. Yeah, I just do these movies
so I can make my film. What, do you think
Im an idiot? Im going to make
eight AIR FORCE ONE 2s?! At
least we get a good Gary Oldman film out
of it, it keeps John Malkovich employed.
Im trying to think of the upsides
now. How much are movies in Pittsburgh?
ER: Theyre about $7.
IG: Do you know theyre
$8.50 here [in Manhattan]? Thats another
thing to keep in mind. Theatrical release
isnt at all about making money any
more. Its an ad campaign. The moneys
in video, DVD, whatever format. So, Im
spending $8.50 for them to do their market
research? How do you say this? Blow me.
ER: My movie-going has trailed
off monumentally. I just cant get
very motivated to go see things that I know
IG: Yeah, last night I went
to see LA CONFIDENTIAL. And its sad
in a way because this might be the last
great Hollywood movie. Its like, How
did this get made?
ER: Thats what blew
my mind. When they announced the project
I didnt know why or how they were
going to possibly make the film, having
read the book.
IG: Well, I know [how] but
its still kind of amazing. It just
so happened that at the same time the James
Ellroy mega-buzz was going on. You have
to keep in mind that the mentality of a
lot of the guys in Hollywood is that they
like to think theyre like James Ellroy.
IG: On the cutting edge. Yeah,
right. Its like Michael Lehman (HEATHERS,
HUDSON HAWK, MY GIANT) corrected me, what
makes them scary, is that theyre not
indifferent, that they really care and they
really have horrible taste! These
are basically all guys that would be in
new media, or aluminum siding sales, but
they happen to be in the movies. It doesnt
matter, its just business, youre
just selling the same crap. Its product.
ER: There are several juicy
tales in the book, especially James Tobacks
gambling-fueled disappearance and Tony Scotts
drunken diatribe. Do you ever fear that
that stuff is going to come back and bite
you in the ass?
IG: Possible. Frankly its
a very dark and disturbing book. I believe
that the insertion of that stuff is to add
a little humor while hopefully shedding
some light on the type of people that work
in Hollywood. With a little bit of dish
that is true, and I cant do anything
about the truth. I was there, this happened,
I have nothing against James Toback personally.
Im not in the movie business, I never
have been, so its not personal. Its
only personal in the $8.50 thats coming
out of my pocket.
ER: The interviews are remarkably
candid. How did you get people to open up
as much as they did?
IG: Im very grateful
to [the subjects]. Im an okay interviewer,
I know how to talk to people, but I think
that people are mad across the board. Its
probably very refreshing for someone to
ask them something besides Entertainment
Weekly-type questions. You know, to actually
be interested in their job...
ER: A real interview.
IG: Yeah, a real interview
instead of, Wow, your great new movie
starring Milla Pavolkavich, or whoever.
ER: [mocking] So, tell
us about MERCURY RISING!
IG: [Continuing in same vein]
Its fabulous, I saw the trailer!
Bruce Willis and a kid...what an idea!!
It was really a pleasure doing the Sean
Young bit. It was another thing. When you
see that many movies you start to see things
that you normally wouldnt notice.
I saw a film called MIRAGE, and it was Sean
Young and Edward James Olmos. Anyway, Im
watching it and Im going, This
is pretty good, what the hell is this?
Its not great, but its a nice
little B-movie. The kind of quality that
they used to churn out in the 40s and 50s
every week. Oh, thats Sean Young.
And like everybody else Im going,
Oh that crazy bitch. Why do I think
that? I dont know anything about this
And the more research that
we did the more it was terrifying the way
you start to see the whole onslaught of
displaced male...who knows what it was.
It was just a total assassination of a career.
Why was the postscript to the whole James
Woods/Sean Young thing so neglected when
the story itself was shoved
down our throats? 
IG: Yeah, like they neglect
to mention that. Its interesting isnt
that. Because thats a spin, and thats
the story, and the story doesnt change.
It becomes part of the media machine. Crazy
Sean Young becomes like Zany
Tim Burton. Name it. Sean Penn will
always be a violent, abusive person, suppousedly.
I dont know that.
When you interview someone
like Sean Young and she turns out to be
so cool, so sweet, so totally rational,
compared to James Toback! [laughs] Thats
why that James Toback thing is there. To
show what a guy can get away with. Sean
Young, what was her great sin? That she
went on a talk show in a Catwoman suit?
That sounds like fun to me! She learned
real quick that the girls cant do
what the boys do.
Im not a cheapjack feminist
but I liked her in BLADE RUNNER, I liked
her in NO WAY OUT. Shes taking the
bull by the horns. She makes her Hollywood
thing with Jim Carrey and then she makes
her Merchant/Ivory thing, and then she makes
her low-budget [thing]. She really has 30-plus
In a certain sense the book
is like a consumer report. You should know
about your product, and the only way you
can vote is with your wallet. Its
sad because outside of jazz this is the
only indigenous American art form. And it
 That would
be Jan de Bont, formerly Paul (TOTAL RECALL)
Verhoevens cinematographer and the
director of TWISTER, which starred Bill
Paxton and Oscar winner Helen Hunt. Interestingly
enough, much of TWISTER was filmed in and
around my brothers home of Ponca City,
OK. When visiting the area shortly before
the films release, various residents
informed me that Hunt was a Grade-A bitch
who: shunned local residents; slammed the
door on a recently-widowed woman that brought
baked goods to the house where she was staying;
had her security people chase rollerblading
little girls from the property; and summoned
the owner of the house she was renting at
some ungodly hour to unclog the bathtub.
Now I wonder how much a Mason jar filled
with Oscar-winner bathwater would go for
on the freak market. By the way, residents
had nothing but good things to say about
TWISTER co-stars Paxon, Cary Elwes, Abe
Benrubi, and Jake Busey. Return
90s version of Gary Coopermade his
name starring in DANCES WITH WOLVES. The
ultra-long (read that Oscar-winning)
flick also won him the Lokota Indian tribes
highest tribute. And the cachet to do whatever
the hell he wanted for the remainder of
his career (ie, WATERWORLD, THE POSTMAN).
Yet, after being feted by the tribe, Costner
and his brother soon found themselves embroiled
in controversy for developing a resort,
casino, and golf course on sacred Lakota
land. Lakota leaders suggested Costner wasnt
a human. Viewers of Costners
alarmingly one-note performances in ROBIN
HOOD, etc. will offer little argument to
the contrary. Return
filming THE BOOST, Young allegedly had a
brief fling with James Woods, though they
both deny the tryst. In the aftermath of
the alleged affair, Woods and then-fiance
Sarah Owen reported receiving hate mail,
photos of human and animal corpses, and
a voodoo doll complete with slashed throat
and iodine splatters. Woods sued Young for
$2 million on the grounds of intentional
affliction of emotional distress.
Young was forever labeled as a nutcase,
Woods dropped the charges, later divorced
Owen, and was quoted as saying that the
actresses charge that Woods and Owen
had set her up as actually half right...
Young remains thought of as kooky
while Woods garners kudos for his method
performances. Granted, Im a big fan
of DIGGSTOWN and BEST SELLER, so Ill
stop now. Return to