Twenty Questions

Miramax films has never been a company to shy away from publicity. So on the occasion of this year’s twentieth anniversary, you’d expect the Hollywood trade papers – which deliriously print special sections celebrating anything from Milton Berle’s 90th birthday to DirecTV’s fifth – to assign the de rigueur retrospective on Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s extraordinary two-decade run. But neither the Hollywood Reporter nor Variety has touched upon the subject.

“We haven’t done a story,” says Peter Bart, Variety’s editorial director, “because a twentieth birthday is not necessarily news” – though this year Variety devoted nine pages to CNBC’s tenth anniversary and eleven to 3rd Rock from the Sun’s one-hundredth episode. A Miramax spokesman offers another explanation: “No one’s done a story on our twentieth birthday because we’re not going to cooperate on any of those stories. We want the focus to be on the films.” Without that cooperation, the trades won’t get the congratulatory ads from others in the industry that fatten special sections.

The company that turned Hollywood upside down with hits like The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction, and Shakespeare in Love discourages discussion of its less glamorous early years, when Harvey Weinstein was promoting Frank Sinatra concerts in Buffalo with then-partner Horace Burger. (The Buffalo News reported in 1997 that Burger owned a piece of Miramax before a contentious buyout.) “At Miramax, they don’t like to count the first ten years, before sex, lies & videotape,” says Bart.

Eighteen months ago, British author Angus Finney signed with Random House imprint William Heinemann to do a history of the company. But six months ago, Finney took a job at Renaissance Films, a U.K. production company whose last released film was The Wings of the Dove, a 1997 Miramax co-production. Now, Finney says, the Miramax book has been canceled. “I’m simply too busy making films to write books,” he explains, adding that the Weinsteins “in no way tried to block me from writing the book.”

Finney’s exit paves the way for Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock-’n’-Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. Biskind just signed with Simon & Schuster to do a book on the American independent-film scene after sex, lies & videotape. He says that his book will not be about just the Weinsteins. “It’s one of those books that you discover as you go along,” he says, adding carefully, “this subject is a very sensitive area for Miramax.”

But now comes word that next summer, the full Miramax story will finally be published by none other than Talk Miramax books. And the authors? Harvey and Bob Weinstein.

Twenty Questions