How did one small documentary filmmaker manage to rattle two powerful producers and an entire movie studio? By filming Naked Hollywood, a made-for-British-TV expose of the movie business that has Hollywood’s elite scrambling.
When Nicolas Kent’s six-hour series aired in England last February, viewers watched sycophantic agents and embittered executives happily hoist themselves with their own petards. But when the series airs on the Arts & Entertainment network beginning July 28, one episode, focusing on flamboyant producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and their films Top Gun (1986) and Days of Thunder (1990), won’t be shown. Paramount Pictures, which owns the films, has effectively censored the segment, first by asking a six-figure fee — termed ”exorbitant and unprecedented” by A&E — for their clips from Top Gun and Thunder, then by refusing to sell U.S. telecast rights to the scenes at any price. Though Simpson (a former production chief at Paramount) and Bruckheimer refused to comment, industry sources say the producers, now at Disney, got wind of the show’s unflattering portrayal of them and were eager if not desperate to keep it from airing. But videotapes of the segment are circulating anyway. The highlights:
· An ego-deflating revelation that Simpson and Bruckheimer had to pay for two of the self-congratulatory newspaper ads that ran early last year touting their ”visionary alliance” with Paramount when the studio refused to foot the bill.
· A startling discourse on corporate ethics from the team. Bruckheimer: ”In executive training, you’ve got to read your boss’ mail on the desk upside down.” Simpson: ”It’s a tool of the executive-warrior trade. You learn to steal information from wherever you can.”
· A comment from Top Gun director Tony Scott that Paramount brass felt Kelly McGillis looked ”whorish” in early footage and threatened to fire Scott if he didn’t change her look and his attitude.
· Footage from the Days of Thunder set in which Simpson and Bruckheimer pester Scott about a shot. Later Bruckheimer brags, ”So far we’ve crashed about 65 cars!” Scott suggests that the producers rushed Thunder into production: ”I really did feel cheated in terms of the end product. The [film] suffered because there was not enough attention to the script.”
Simpson and Bruckheimer’s distaste for the show — which they haven’t seen — comes as no surprise to Hollywood insiders; indeed, Naked Hollywood portrays the pair — in the words of Beverly Hills Cop II screenwriter Larry Ferguson — as ”control freaks.” The producers cut their deals while sitting far apart at a stretch desk (that way, says Scott, nobody can look them both in the eye), and one reporter describes them as ”the bad kids. They’re the producers that race around too fast in their hot little cars.” No wonder they’re unhappy.
But Naked Hollywood didn’t offend everyone who participated. Producers Lynda Obst and Debra Hill, who made the upcoming film The Fisher King with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges, are also featured in the censored hour. Obst says Kent ”did a bang-up job. The Fisher King was a hard picture, and the Naked Hollywood crew’s presence didn’t make it easier, but it was worthwhile.” Obst says they gave Kent their film clips for free: ”That’s customary.”
”This is not a hatchet job on Hollywood,” insists Kent. ”For some people, this may not be the way they like to be publicized. But I hope people recognize the accuracy of what it portrays.”