At the marketing meeting, Harvey sat deep in his high-backed leather chair, stroking his fuzzy chin, as Gary Faber, his new marketing co-head, popped a commercial in the VCR for Hoodwinked, a CGI-animated retelling of Little Red Riding Hood Harvey had bought at Cannes.
As a spot, it was pretty all over the place. “It’s not me,” said Harvey tenderly. He wanted some screen time for Little Bo Peep, thought a turtle joke was slowing things down. Faber dragged out posters for The Matador, a buddy picture starring Pierce Brosnan as a hit man who’s lost his nerve. Harvey wondered whether Roger Ebert could change his quote from “It’s Sideways with death instead of wine” to “It’s Sideways with guns.”
“Or is he really fanatical about his words?” asked Harvey.
On to Mrs. Henderson Presents. Not enough weeklies had reviewed it, and Harvey announced that the meeting was now a real one just as it became obvious it was not.
Judi Dench had been turned down as a guest on the Today show, Good Morning America, and The View. “They said that she didn’t fit their demographics,” Harvey complained. “I told that to my mother, who was pretty fucking offended. I mean, whaddo they think—25-year-old people can’t watch 70-year-old people? The insanity of youth. It also assumes none of us like our families.” He grandly considered writing a New York Times op-ed.
What happened to Harvey’s storied leverage? When Miramax was at its height, Harvey had struck an inspired deal with the Today show for its book division: Hand over some stars, and a certain number of Miramax authors could slip under the barbed wire. Inviting editors and book reviewers to premieres also had a funny way of lofting Miramax books to the top of the pile.
"It’s like Paris being liberated from the Nazis." —Quentin Tarantino
Harvey smiled and looked fidgety. “Unfortunately, in the new administration, in the new life, we play much more fair than we used to. We’re trying to clean up Dodge City now. We drink milk. I used to yell and scream, ten years ago, fifteen years ago, and say, ‘What are you talking about, Mr. Today Show? You’re an idiot!’ But I think anger can motivate you differently.”
These days, the motivation is all about the IPO. It’s what all his investors are waiting for. It’s what Harvey and Bob are waiting for. “We own 51 percent of a billion-dollar company,” said Harvey. “That’s $510 million. No matter how many bonuses I earned at Disney, they’d be dwarfed by the amount of money we can make on this deal. Disney did us the biggest favor in the world.
“Most of the executives who left Disney—Meg Whitman, Steve Burke, Joe Roth, Jeffrey Katzenberg—have all gone on to create wealth for themselves,” said Harvey. “Hopefully, Bob and I will follow in that tradition.”
At a theater just off Union Square, the Weinstein Company was test-screening Hoodwinked. Cablevision CEO and Weinstein pal Jim Dolan, bundled into a seat beside Harvey, was looking hollow-eyed and vulnerable; weeks before, he’d undergone a bypass. Harvey sent him four get-well goody baskets from Downtown Cipriani.
The Weinstein Company has five other CGI projects on the stove, an up-yours to Disney the way Harvey’s joining the board of Six Flags theme parks was last month. It’s part of the brothers’ new life, with lower budgets, a more commercial outlook: Family films sell more tickets than adults-only or kids-only films. “Harvey’s going to be doing some romantic comedies in the Bridget Jones vein—and a couple of upscale thrillers, too,” says Bob with no small amusement. Even so, this next year stands to deliver Kevin Smith’s nervy Clerks sequel, a Quentin Tarantino–Robert Rodriguez double feature, a stylish Anthony Minghella set piece about relationships, and at least one Michael Moore documentary.
Harvey laughed and looked over at Jim Dolan when Little Red’s granny snowboarded across the screen. The fairy tale had been recast as an Agatha Christie–style investigation of the Goody Bandit, who was after those recipes in Little Red’s basket. As with almost every movie on the Weinsteins’ slate, some figment of the plot seemed to shadow Harvey’s real-life obsessions—in this instance, the Bandit, a self-styled genius entrepreneur who thinks he’s “never going to answer to anyone, ever again.”
When the lights went up, only four raised hands in the focus group rated Hoodwinked “excellent.”
From deep inside Harvey’s person, there issued a seismic rumble of concern: Unnnnnhh.
Though one mother commended all the grown-up jokes, “the story’s kind of thin,” said a thumbs-downer. “I mean, stealing recipes?”
“The one thing I wondered was, Where are her parents?” whinnied an aisle seat.
“This is what made me lose part of my hair,” said Harvey. Some kid pegged the animation far superior to that of Chicken Little and Madagascar, which was heartening, because it was so obviously untrue. Hoodwinked was made in Manila, cheap goods to the practiced eye.