Adam Markovitz
April 28, 2010 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Men Who Would Be King

Current Status
In Season
Nicole LaPorte
Houghton Mifflin
Nonfiction, Movies

We gave it a B-

When Steven Spielberg teamed up with music? mogul David Geffen and ex?Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg to form DreamWorks SKG in 1994, the trio envisioned a Hollywood utopia where creativity would trump corporate greed. In their world, there would be no job titles and no bottom-line mentality. With three showbiz titans leading the team, the only thing unimaginable was failure.

As chronicled exhaustively in Nicole LaPorte’s The Men Who Would Be King, DreamWorks has indeed had its share of ?failures, as well as storied successes like Saving Private Ryan and the Shrek series. Movies tanked, egos clashed, and underperforming TV and music branches have been all but jettisoned. In a tone that neatly toes the line between straightforward and snide, LaPorte paints the DreamWorks story as a backlot Icarus tale, a caution to Hollywood power players who dare to aim too high.

Unsurprisingly, none of the studio’s dreamers-in-chief agreed to an interview for the book. But that didn’t stop LaPorte — a former Variety reporter — from digging up gossip from the boardroom as well as various sets (Russell Crowe allegedly threw epic hissy fits during Gladiator). Her no-detail-too-small approach can be fascinating, but it can also be patience-testing, especially during lengthy digressions into the making of bombs? like 1997’s Mousehunt. LaPorte offers sharp critiques of business blunders made by DreamWorks’ founders, including the idealistic Spielberg. But with her blow-by-blow tale running well over 400 pages, it’s clear that she could learn a thing or two from the man about storytelling. B?

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