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Revenge of the Weinsteins

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The Weinsteins have sequel and remake rights to about fifteen franchises, and their plan particularly played up sequels to the highly successful Spy Kids, Scream, and Scary Movie series. But when I spoke with Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez, he mentioned that Spy Kids was finished (“There’s certain ones you want to just keep pure”), and he said Scream was over, too.

And could Tarantino honestly be prevailed upon to make sequels to Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction? Disney retained the right to co-finance the more promising sequels 50-50, splitting profits, too. Still, there are new franchises to be launched, like Zach Braff in Fletch Returns. “A man can dream is all I can say,” says Harvey

In the end, the money came from respectable hedge funds and investors like Fidelity and Wellington. Also: Georgia’s carpet king, Julian Saul.

As a group, Harvey’s individual backers have in common a certain outsiderishness. Masayoshi Son, the Korean head of Softbank in Japan. Israeli investor Vivi Nevo, who owns a chunk of Time Warner. Tarak Ben Ammar, a producer of sand-and-sandals pictures and adviser to Rupert Murdoch who has promised to introduce Harvey, who describes himself as “a staunch Israeli,” to the pro-Palestinian prince Al Waleed Bin Talal. Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, who run 2929 Entertainment, HDNet, and the Landmark Theater chain out of Texas, both tossed in about $10 million apiece; via e-mail, Cuban says he did it because “Harvey is almost as competitive as me. I love the fact that he and Bob will run through walls to get the job done.”

In bed now with a platoon of 22 new partners, Harvey is reminded of Galt’s Gulch in Atlas Shrugged, which he read as a kid, where all the mavericks went into self-imposed exile, “a Utopia, with pirates and railroad kings and everything, where there’s a kind of network, if you will, of people who move the dime.”

The cap on the company’s investment in a film is now $40 million, but Bob promises most pictures will be in the $5 million to $20 million range. The new company will focus less on prestige pictures than Miramax did. “The thing that I have to do to earn my keep, besides making classy movies, is also to help orchestrate these deals, grow the company that way,” Harvey says. “Bob hit double digits annually; it was insane.” Then, so there wouldn’t be any confusion as to who is the classier filmmaker, Harvey adds with studied nonchalance, “By the way, Bob just acquired the Piranha franchise.”

Terminal 4, International Departures. Bob Weinstein was on the Kennedy-airport set of School for Scoundrels, the new Billy Bob Thornton–Jon Heder comedy.

Todd Phillips, who also directed Starsky & Hutch, is a onetime Miramax intern wearing a backward baseball cap. “I can do the best Bob impression,” he said out of the big guy’s earshot: “Phillips, we got moah money for our waugh chest.”

Bob is like a bookie when it comes to calculated risk. (“He’s got a million theories,” Harvey says.) Last year, Dimension released Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, a gritty cult comic book brought to life; black-and-white, an anthology chain-linked by voice-over, it’s all the no-no’s, but it managed to gross $159 million worldwide.

Bob strolled over in a neat navy suit, several shirt buttons undone, an audible zing of aftershave in the air. “I wish Todd had a 50-picture deal,” he said with gusto. “I consider him in the league of Rodriguez and Tarantino.” Bob looks like an accountant, but he does enjoy talking the talk, his accent more Queensy than Harvey’s.

He expressed concern over the way, “as Quentin Tarantino puts it, journalists adjectivize words. They’ll write, ‘He lumbered into the room.’ ”

Derailed was just out, the Weinstein Company’s first release, a commercial thriller shot in London, dressed down as Chicago, for tax purposes and starring Jennifer Aniston and some foreign actors choking on their American accents. At the New York premiere’s after-party, Harvey was walking around asking people, “What did you think? You can tell the truth.”

The Times had called it a “glossy but risible bit of trash,” but obviously it didn’t affect business, said Bob, who added, “I’m overjoyed we made a profit.”

Bob reminded me that Sling Blade got stinky reviews. “At Marty Scorsese’s mom’s wake, Nora Ephron comes up to my brutha and says, ‘You guys have a wonderful movie.’ I swear to you, we left there enuhgized. Look it up. Billy Bob’s got the statue, thank you very much.”

Billy Bob Thornton was smoking on the steps of his trailer, unrecognizable in a pin-striped suit, clean-shaven and feminized by a slap of makeup. Some trailers are nice, but this was like something your aunt and uncle would vacation in, he said, his eyes drifting across the muddy floral upholstery as he folded himself into a chair. Translation: The brothers are cheap bastards, ain’t they?


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