Hey folks, Harry here... At the end of this report, I think we all owe Mr Sheldrake here a standing ovation for getting all of this down for us. Not only is this a fantastic interview between Quentin Tarantino and Bob & Harvey Weinstein... but by the end of the piece, I believe anyone that wades through it all will completely understand why Quentin just makes movies with these guys, why Rodriguez is so loyal to them... and why, well, love em or hate em, they're so damn good at what they do. Here ya go...
DEC 16 2004
THE NEW MOMA
W. 53RD STREET
NEW YORK CITY
Sheldrake here, reporting from the new Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd Street in Manhattan. A very cold night in New York. But Tarantino is interviewing Harvey and Bob Weinstein prior to a screening of Reservoir Dogs, so, tempting as it is to stay inside with Miss Kublick, off I go into the night. She'll get over it.
From cold black night Manhattan into the warm stony white well-lit space of MOMA. There’s a huge line in the museum. Miramax and security are everywhere. I tell them I’m from AICN – “are you Moriarty or Quint?” a Miramax guy asks? Uhh, new guy, I mutter. New York beat. “We read it every day!” Seriously, Miramax was welcoming and excited that Harry was interested enough to send someone. What a nice bunch of people.
We get into the auditorium. The Miramax people have seats reserved, there are lots of other museum patrons there and, thanks to MOMA I have a seat close up. We mill around for awhile, then Lawrence Kardish, Senior Curator, steps up to a lectern and we all quiet down. He talks a little about Miramax and then gives us a COOL SEVEN MINUTE REEL of all the great moments from MIRAMAX films—while it’s playing there’s stir in the back of the auditorium. QUENTIN HAS ENTERED THE ROOM with a green ski cap pulled over over his brows.
Quentin comes up on stage, with Harvey and Bob. Harvey and Bob are dressed in cool suits—Quentin is wearing all black, looks like silk, and really cool white and black car shoes. He just. looks. cool. ok?
Quentin introduces the talk and, wow, we’re getting the real deal tonight. Brace yourself– a blow-by-blow HISTORY OF MIRAMAX as told by HARVEY AND BOB WEINSTEIN MODERATED BY QUENTIN TARANTINO.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I did—there’s a lot of truly wunderbar geeky detail here to relish and take into your trivia-loving hearts. Before you read, if you don’t know about the ongoing conflict between Miramax and Disney, check out this link at Forbes: CLICK HERE
That’s all you need to hear from me. Here’s Quentin, Bob and Harvey.
QUENTIN: Heeey there, everybody. We’re gonna do a kinda informal history of Miramax, from the beginning—even, really, just a second before the beginning—right up until today.
QUENTIN: So let’s start things off. Harvey, you used to be a rock promoter, dealing with the Who, and Genesis, bands like that. How did that turn into making movies with your brother?
HARVEY: When I was nineteen years old I was at the University of Buffalo, and one of the only ways I could meet girls was to be on the music committee. So one day we booked the Stephen Stills concert, and then the school treasurer came up to us and said “we’re bankrupt!” And suddenly we were in a Mickey Rooney movie – “ok, we’ll do it!” So we raised twenty thousand dollars from the butcher, the candlestick maker, local businessmen and we put on a Stephen Stills concert. Five years later we were doing 2000 concerts all over the country. But my first love was movies and this was just a way to get into it, every time I went backstage I’d be saying to the bands, “hey, are you doing a movie, do you have a movie…” Eventually we bought this small little theater called the Century Theater, and that’s how Bob started programming movies there.
QUENTIN: And where was this theater?
BOB: It was in Buffalo. I was at the State University. Now, I was working with my brother, and when there weren’t concerts, we still had to pay the bills, so Harvey suggested, you know the 8th Street playhouse in New York, they do repertory cinema—why don’t you create your own film festival? I did it every Friday night – it was called the “Hassle Free Century Theater Film Festival,” hassle-free meaning, basically, that you could smoke pot…
QUENTIN: Don’t ask, don’t smell! So your first thought, when you started making a film company, was to stick to what you knew, as far as a rock n roll movie idea—because that was the time period when there were a lot of different rock n roll movies, and they could play for a long time on the midnight circuit if the group was popular. So wasn’t one of the first movies that actually got the Miramax label, the first official release, a concert movie?
HARVEY: The Genesis Concert
QUENTIN: What was it called…?
HARVEY: It was called “the Genesis Concert movie.” (BIG audience laugh) Rick Wakeman, keyboardist for Yes, had a movie too, and we put the two of them together and called the movie—SENSATION: THE ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE!
QUENTIN: Ok, very exploitation, very William Castle, uhh…
HARVEY: It played great at the “hassle-free theaters” all over America!
QUENTIN: So after that there was the Secret Policeman’s Other Ball…
BOB: Harvey had told Phil Collins when they did the Genesis movie, Phil said, I have this Amnesty International benefit movie, a comedy concert, what am I gonna do with it? And Harvey told him “my brother is the best promoter of movies in the country.” I hadn’t promoted anything outside of Buffalo. So that’s part of Harvey’s vision – taking care of his little brother. He decided that I would now travel across the country It would be a great…experience for me to take this movie around the country. I would call Indianapolis, Chicago, and so on and I would take the movie to that town.
QUENTIN: – This is worth mentioning, actually—I find it interesting—in the old days, with the exploitation companies, there weren’t three thousand releases: they could maybe, MAYBE afford TEN prints IF they were flush with cash, and they would take it into Chicago, the ten prints would be in Chicago—and so would YOU—and then you left Chicago and went to Cleveland and the prints would come with you…you schlepped it around.
BOB: …I booked the theater, I brought the print over, I went to the local newspaper to put the picture of Genesis into the paper. Back to the name of the company -- we picked the name of the company, Miramax, that was named after my mother and father, Miriam and Max. My father had just passed away. Let’s see, around then Harvey said we’ve got to go to Cannes. The Cannes film festival. Well, I’d never heard of the Cannes film festival, I’m not that big a reader. But Harvey said, look, we’re in the movie business, everybody goes to this festival and we’re GOING. And so we went. And when we got there I said, who are these people? He said, they’re producers. I said, what does a producer do?
HARVEY: Our first experience at Cannes, we’re trying to get into the Palais des Festival where they show all the competition movies. No ticket, no nothing, our first Cannes. So, I said to Bob, let’s do like we do back home--let’s sneak in. So in through the exit, up the back stairs—we get there, it’s completely sold out, everybody’s in black tie, we’re in jeans. We were sitting on the step, the gendarmes come, we’re sitting there watching, we’re about to be removed…all of a sudden this baritone voice says:
LEAVE THOSE BOYS ALONE!
…it was Sean Connery. I mean (laughs) these cops were pretty scared of him.
QUENTIN: So you had some success with this—also with Paul McCartney’s Rock Show, and stuff like that, and then—somewhere around there—you decided to get into making movies as opposed to just buying films and four-walling them around the country. and your first experience, this very early in the eighties, and this was when the slasher films, started by Halloween, then Friday the 13th, were like the big thing for ’79, ’80, maybe ’81. And you guys actually made one of the best of that genre, on your first film. It was called The Burning. So tell us a little bit about your experience with The Burning.
HARVEY: You know, we were desperate to make any kind of movie. And FT13 had come out, and we heard of financier who owned theaters in Hong Kong and wanted to put up money to make a horror movie. And he said—and I recommend this to anybody in the movie business—he asked us “do you have a horror movie?” and we said “we have a great horror movie!” Then I turned to my little brother and I said, Bob, write a horror movie!
QUENTIN: Ok., this was pre-Dimension Films, practice what he preaches…
HARVEY: And Bob split the writing with an English writer named Peter Lawrence, and it was based on an old campfire tale, it’s late at night an this maniac comes, kills these kids. Mayhem ensues. He said I have one million one hundred, we said our budget just happens to be one million one hundred—and we backed into it from there.
QUENTIN: And a couple of members of the cast were Jason Alexander, and…Holly Hunter!
HARVEY: She came in and read Lady Macbeth for her audition. This kid from Carnegie Mellon—she did the whole Lady Macbeth monologue. We told you her, “you only have one line: ‘There’s the canoe!’”.
QUENTIN: I have to ask one question, then—I promise—we’ll get off The Burning. Now I remember looking at the poster–by the way, I have a 35mm print of the Burning—Miraxmax does not own a 35mm print of the Burning, ok? But it will be at my retrospective, ok? Looking at the poster I noticed, ok, Harvey, you didn’t direct it—Tony Maylan directed it. You didn’t write it—Bob wrote it, ok, with Peter Lawrence. However, there is a possesorary credit that I have NEVER seen before in the HISTORY OF CINEMA. What WAS that credit, Bob?
HARVEY: Uh, well, there was some friction with the director, we had to take him off and finish the film….
QUENTIN: ...the possessorary credit IS….???
HARVEY: It said “Created by Harvey Weinstein.” (BIG BIG BIG audience laugh)
SHELDRAKE: IMDB gives no credit to Bob and lists Harvey as “story by”. And there’s no Created By credit.
After the raucous laughter stops…
QUENTIN: So now, with the next film you guys were actually the writes and creators and producers of Playing for Keeps, introducing Marisa Tomei!
After the raucous laughter stops…
SHELDRAKE: Well, not quite. She’d been in The Flamingo Kid and Troma’s Toxic Avenger.
BOB: Ok,our business was distributing movies, so we were distributing movies, but in order to make some more money, Risky Business had some out so we said, great, we’ll do one of those. So we made this movie – looking back it might have made an episode of Fame. Maybe. Probably not. But from that experience came something good. We’re sitting there directing the movie, putting it together, and people would come up to us, wardrobe would come up and say, the red shirt or the brown shirt? I mean, look at the way we dress—don’t ask the Weinstein brothers what to wear! And from that I realized what directing was—you had to have a vision, you had to have seen what the movie was that you wanted to make before you made it. Well, we had none of that. Two weeks in I said Harvey, this is not for me. You direct the movie—and he’d have none of it. And what we learned from this was how hard it is to do. And when directors would come to us later on and say to us, “I spent a year, two years of my life,”—I believe that lot of studio executives—well meaning—hear it, but you can hear something and not feel it if you haven’t walked through that. Now, the movie didn’t come out that well, it wasn’t very good, BUT the same effort went into it. So when a director comes in and wants to make a movie – you can’t fake that. It gave us an empathy with people who are truly creative and how hard they work at it.
QUENTIN: Now that brings us into the 1980s. To give you a little bit of an idea, of what independent film was like in the 1980s, as opposed to the 1970s before, and what happened later in the 1990s, with the independent film movement – the way I remember it, I was a young filmgoer going to see movies all the time – basically, the story was ONE independent movie a YEAR kind of “broke out”—when I say “broke out” I’m not saying they made any kind of money, it wasn’t’ about that, one independent film broke out, it grabbed the press, and people wrote about it and became a big deal, and then the press would argue about it and that director became known. And in a banner year, maybe there was a second one on the list. Jim Jarmusch with Strangers in Paradise. Susan Siedelman with Smithereens. Coen Brothers with Blood Simple. Spike Lee with She’s Gotta Have It. They all became their own stars. That was the decade when you guys came into the frey and made this genre your own. What was that like?
HARVEY: The Playing For Keeps experience was a turning point, like Bob said. We were working and distributing movies but, we didn’t understand the mind of a director. We didn’t know until then that we had to fight for these movies because we hadn’t had the experience ourselves, it was transformational. so with renewed vigor and passion and, now, the ability to advise filmmakers, we became different people. It became as personal to us, somebody else’s vision, as it was to them. The other people that we worked with, we told them, “look, we don’t care what the rules say.” It used to be, we’d do all right in Europe, we’d play it at the Lincoln Plaza theaters –
Sheldrake: actually, at the the late beloved Lincoln Studio Cinemas one and two, on which site now squats a Barnes & Noble.
HARVEY: we’d make two million dollars around the country, in the little ghettoes, and that be that. All of a sudden there was this young crop of American filmmakers, and we were coming off this experience of making movies, knowing how hard it was, and all of a sudden we just said: forget it. We’re changing the rules. This is a boring game. This is like ghetto, ghetto, ghetto stay down in the ghetto. Screw it. We’ll write our own rules.
QUENTIN: And then in the 80s, the number one movie of all those I mentioned—the one I didn’t mention, was Sex Lies and Videotape, which you would probably say more or less started the independent film movement. Everybody wanted that movie at Sundance. How did Miramax get hold of it?
BOB: - Well one year before that—that was the turning point year for us on a personal level. We’d been still doing only three our four movies a year…I had two children and was married, and I told Harvey, I may get a job, and for us, that was the worst thing in the world. But there was no money coming in, and it had come to that. And Harvey said, let’s take a walk, and, you know, in New York that means “let’s go get a slice of pizza.” So we took this walk and he said, let’s give it one—more—year. That was 1988. In 1989, the one more year turned out to be Sex Lies and Videotape, and given that one more year we were profitable after that. I remember screening it in New York and I loved it and Harvey loved it. An American language movie, controversial, and a smart, intelligent movie. And that was a movie that we could take out of the art house ghetto and take it to Cineplexes. And it let us call it a commercial movie and market it like that, we didn’t wait for others to do it, so that was the way we approached it.
HARVEY: Bob was the big proponent of SL&V . Everyone said what do you think it will gross, and most of our staff was there, and they said 6 or 7 million. Bob said 17 million. Now, at that time, a movie like SL&V, the thought that it would make 17 million was truly insane. But with his enthusiasm, we walked into the bidding process and said we’ll bid a hundred thousand more than anybody else.
BOB: Where they were sealed bids. So he said, how are we gonna beat a sealed bid? So Harvey, there’s only one way to do this: no matter what anybody bid, we say with supreme confidence that we’d bid $100,000 more.
QUENTIN: (stunned silence) Serious? Man, that is cool.
HARVEY: Well, dude, that’s why you’re with us. (WILD LAUGHTER FROM THE AUDIENCE) Hmm, come to think of it, that’s why we’re with you.
QUENTIN: Now that brings us into the 90s, with the beginning of the big independent American film wave. So let’s hear about that.
HARVEY: Reservoir Dogs. When we bought the movie—you know, you wanna make a good impression on the director. So, my sister-in-law and my ex-wife were there at the first screening for the employees at Miramax, Quentin’s there, and the ear scene comes on, and my sister—my ex-wife—RUN right out of the theater. And I’m oh my god, I can’t even pretend. What am I gonna say, “they loved it?”
QUENTIN: You know what you said, Harvey? “QUENTIN, that’s every woman in America THAT’S EVERY WOMAN IN AMERICA WALKIN’ OOOOUT THE DOOOOR!”
HARVEY: So when the movie was over I said, ok, that ear scene: There’s. No. Way. Cut it down.
QUENTIN: The thing that I got a kick about with Harvey—ok, we had a big discussion about the ear scene. All right? And you know, it wasn’t like I’d just made the movie and, ok guys, we’re seeing it for the very first time. I’d been on the film festival circuit for a year. So I knew the movie. And I’d seen people walk out a bunch of times. But I knew it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses, I’d seen it with a zillion audiences. So, I was kinda confident about it—“look, the movie is what it is.” So the thing is about Harvey—when he’s trying to get his way, all right, he’s not like this…ogre-jerk, all right, trying to beat you into submission. He’s like, the coolest guy ever, you want him to like you so that the charm just keeps coming and he keeps telling you about how great you are and it’sallgonnabegreat. You just don’t wanna take all that positive and turn it into negative. So the thing was I still knew my movie and it had its strengths and I had “I’d seen it for an entire year” behind me, and I said, well, no Harvey, if that means going from an audience like this [hands faaar apart] to an audience like this [hands a lot closer together] then so be it, that’s the movie I made. Ok, and then without really missing a beat—ok maybe there’s quarter of a beat in there—Harvey goes “ok, then we’re not gonna touch a FRAME and I want you to remember it was MIRAMAX THAT DID THAT!” (LOUD AUDIENCE LAUGHS) And I’ve never forgotten it!
BOB: An act of divine inspiration.
HARVEY: One day, this was before Reservoir Dogs, we got a script in, made a major impact in our company, True Romance. We bought it, the only problem was, we didn’t have enough money to make it. So we ended up executive producing it for Warner Brothers. And they cast Christian Slater. But the thing was, in the script, the character was really more of a geeky character, I would have cast Steve Buscemi. So I said to Tony Scott “I wouldn’t cast Christian Slater. Patty Arquette is the angel, right, the girl he’d never get. Christian Slater looks like he goes out with a different girl like that every Tuesday.” So I said that to Tony Scott, and the next day a guy from Warner Brothers calls and says “you’re fired.” And that was my studio experience. And so I said, from now on, everything we do, we direct.
QUENTIN: So now, as things went along, it’s like a lot of people said about alternative music, you know—alternative to what? It became the music of its time. The case is being made that that happened with independent film. With it being supported by the college campuses, and all the excitement about the these movies—well, you know where they were playing, you were booking them. That started happening in the 90s. And then 1992 was the year of The Crying Game. Now was a case of a film that had already played in its countrry of origin, England, got…mixed-TO-negative reviews. Mixed, whatever. And it only did….ok. And then you guys took it and opened it in America. And, if 1992 was one of the starts of tons of independent movies all opening up at the same time—I’d been on the film festival circuit for a year so I’d already seen all the movies that were coming out around that time. (dram pause) Crying Game came in at the last second, man, LAST SECOND of the YEAR of independent films playing all over and now they’re gonna open up Crying Game? It came out within the last two months on the film festival circuit and it ended up stealing everybody’s thunder.
BOB: I went to see Crying Game, I watched the movie, I walked out at the end and called Harvey. He said, what’d you think? I said, I told the producer Stephen Woolley that it was one of the best movies I’d ever seen in my life. Harvey said, “you are fucking OUT of your mind! I don’t OWN the movie yet, Bob! You shouldn’t have told him that!” And so Steve Wolley, not being from the Sex Lies and Videotape genre, we ended up paying a million dollars more for that movie.
HARVEY: The ad campaign was, keep the secret, don’t tell anyone the movie’s secret. We often collaborated with directors when talking about marketing. The first Pulp Fiction poster was based on your love of that pulp genre, looks like one of those book covers. So the ideas come from Quentin, from Roberto Rodriguez, whoever, they all have ideas. So: Neil Jordan is this brilliant writer, poet, director, and when I asked him if he had any ideas, he just fell silent. And during his silence I thought, well, well, we should just keep it a secret. That’s exactly how it happened. When they brought it over from England we created this whole keep it a secret, keep it a secret campaign. Neil Jordan came to the academy awards, we thought we were gonna win em all. But, you know, we were up against Unforgiven. Clint Eastwood walked to his seat and got a standing ovation! For walking to his seat. When the first award went to Unforgiven I said, I’ll see ya at the bar. So we all went to the bar. We just sat and drank while the TV went Unforgiven, Unforgiven, Unforgiven…Clint Eastwood…Unforgiven…
QUENTIN: Now the very next year you had a Palm D’Or winner in The Piano, and again you were right back at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, there was a big hot fight going on between the two films—there were five nominees, but really the fight was between The Piano and…Schindler’s List .
HARVEY: (quiet and serious) I hated to say this but I voted for Schindler’s List too. We always vote our own ticket, but that movie, you know, was very important to me, personally. It’s a steadfast rule otherwise and I’ve never broken it since. We got it because we were hanging around with Quentin, and Jane Campion wanted to meet him, and we said, ok you can meet him but we get to make The Piano. And there was Holly Hunter!
QUENTIN: That started Miramax’s march. And then the next year there was Pulp Fiction, which –sigh— went to the Oscars against Forrest Gump. But here’s what I find interesting—Pulp Fiction was the first film like that to gross a hundred million dollars. And here’s what I was told by someone really knowledgable in the industry:
--well, you know, after Pulp Fiction it’s a different ballgame for Miramax. See, what Miramax had done before, Hollywood really, really respected. They had made art films big money makers. Hollywood respected it because, they said, ok, I can’t do that. We can’t make $40 million on The Piano. We don’t know how to do that. But THEY can’t make a movie that will make $100 million. So, they have their thing, and they do their thing better than we could ever hope to, yeah, but it’s…”
--so, it was a rich ghetto, but they still put you guys in this art film ghetto. And then when Pulp Fiction made a $100 million, they went: oh shit.
BOB: I remember when Pulp Fiction came out, you told me, “Miramax can’t do this.” You can’t gross a $100 million, you can’t do what Paramount can do. So at one point you were saying, “you know what, for some of my movies, I’m gonna go with you guys but…for some others…” And I said to Harvey, well there’s our challenge. Our best filmmaker, our premier filmmaker, is telling us we can’t do this. So our discipline was to say, you know, we know they can’t gross $40 million from The Piano, but we thought it would actually be easier for us to go out to 3000 theaters in a commerial way, something they never wanted to see happen. I mean, even though the ghetto had gotten bigger, we were “movin’ on up,” (Quentin guffaws), something they didn’t want…
QUENTIN: One thing I can say, as the filmmaker involved in that movie, that it could not be denied—you had the studios, ok, not quite wanting to let you guys in, but as of Pulp Fiction they couldn’t quite NOT. The thing was, they were giving it up to you that every studio knows there’s was no way they would’ve made a hundred million dollars with Pulp Fiction. The DIFFERENCE between the way you guys looked at it and the way they would look at it: they’d go, “ok, this movie is gonna be…problematic, it’s…different…” They would put it in a ghetto. They wouldn’t know how to do, what to do with it, they would have been scared of it. The number one thing: they would have been scared of it. Scared of the controversy. Scared about it. you guys were not only not scared of it, you were like “this movie is fucking COMMERCIAL. This is fucking gonna WIN the weekend! This is going up against the Sharon Stone movie, The Specialist, and we’re gonna BEAT em! They can have a THOUSAND MORE PRINTS than us and we’re STILL gonna WIN the WEEKEND! ALL RIGHT?” And then…we diiiiid…and THEN we had to go through A WEEK, that they said you were LYING ABOUT IT. UNTIL it was proven the NEXT week…that you DID.
HARVEY: They were just, with a thousand less theaters than them…you have to prove it over the course of the weekend.
QUENTIN: Whatever, I was reading the trades. (to Audience) They were CALLED. LIARS. In the TRADES. All right? Until Hollywood Reporters rescinded it the next Thursday.
So, now you had that situation year after year after year…until…The English Patient. And finally you guys weren’t number two anymore.
The English Patient, Dimension, Now
HARVEY: An assistant of mine sent me, “you’re company passed on this movie.” And, you cannot get it right, I’ve passed, made mistakes myself, on movies that went on to do fabulous. And she gives me this tape, and it’s called “Challenge.” And I watch this movie alone, in London, it was the apartment and the office and everything else in the early days—and I started crying. I mean, it’s this beautiful movie, they renamed it Truly, Madly, Deeply. And I had missed it by one day. I called the filmmaker and said someday, I want to work with you on something. So this movie was all set to go in Italy—I’d never read the script, but a friend gave me the script, somebody who was up for one of the parts, and I read the script from a friend even though my company had passed on the movie, this was total serendipity—and it blew me away, and I gave it to Bob, because we couldn’t afford to do movies of that size. And he loved it, and I think the rest of our team in New York loved it too. And as it happened they were having problems with the casting, Anthony was thinking Kristen Scott Thomas, the studio wanted an American actress, a not-Kristen-Scott-Thomas actress. And the studio said, forget it, they were shooting in the middle of Italy and the studio was pulling the plug. That was the exact moment that we stepped in. We called Joe Roth—Katzenberg had left—we called him based on our passion and reading the script. He said, you really believe in this. I said we really believe in this. he said, ok, go ahead. You know, it was a 27.5 million dollar commitment which was—the store. We bet the store.
BOB: I remember the test screening, you know, people fill in cards, you wait for the cards to come back, they come in and have no idea what they’re going to see, it’s tough to read that test audience. Now at that time the movie was perhaps two hours and forty minutes long. The last reel broke, ok, thirty minutes to go, so we’re sitting they’re waiting, we’ll be ready soon—it took an hour. An hour for them to fix the last reel. We’re sitting there…five minutes…ten minutes, freaking out. But about thirty minutes in, we realized: we must have a smash on our hands. No one left, no one. They ‘re just sitting there, waiting and waiting and waiting. And the cards came back, exactly as that, as a hit.
QUENTIN: Now right around that time you were working on Dimension Films, tell us a little bit about how that came about.
BOB: We were thinking about New Line, we looked at New Line, and Bob Shea had started his company a couple years before Miramax, he always said he looked at it as a New York thing, New Line and Miramax as Macy’s and Gimble’s, in terms of that rivalry. And we’d look at the grosses, oh, Orion did well on this, whoever did well here—OH, Newline did well there, didn’t they? Miramax was their competition. So a couple of years went by, and Newline was known for, really, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, they were horror/black films/exploitation filmmakers, that was their bread and butter. Now, we were reading Variety one day and it was announced that Fineline, they were now going into the Fineline business—it was basically an announcment that we’re now entering Miramax. So Harvey and I had a meeting, saying ok, we have to ramp up Miramax, we have to do more, bigger and better. Then we realized that’s not really how you do more, how you be bigger, how you be better, to go against what we want to do. So we said: ok, we’ll compete. Which was ok, since it fit in with what I liked, with the kinds of films I wanted to do. In a weird way, the birth of Fineline gave birth to the concept of Dimension Films. So I started it, something I wanted to do on a personal level, start to work with filmmakers more closely and I started to look for the right films for it...
QUENTIN: That was the case at the time, I heard people saying, “Oh, for an ART kind of thing, DEFINITELY go with Miramax, but if you’ve made ths really groovy HORROR movie, you dohnwannago with MIRAMAX, you wanna go with NEWLINE.
BOB: My assistant and I were talking about the kind of films we loved, Halloween was one of them, my brother and I saw it at the 8th Street Playhouse, with an audience, when it came out, and he said Bob, I think I found the script you’ve been looking for and it was Scream. Hesent it over and I read the script right away. Then I called the agent and asked him how much he wanted for the script, and he paused, and he said $500,000. I said, ok, fine. And he said, hold on, let me get back to you.
(BIG AUDIENCE LAUGH, QUENTIN: LAUGHS HIS ASS OFF)
So I knew this was golden. I’d never read anything like it, it just was perfect. It ended up costing $850,000, my brother said, swallow your pride, you’ve got to give it to them whaever it was, we went back and renegotiated. I now have to tell a Miriam story – Mom, stand up –
Miriam Weinstein stands up to wild applause…a sweet moment…
Don’t take no for an answer came out of my mother’s mentality growing up, she would check out homework and make sure we did each little bit...those lessons came in here.
QUENTIN: And you had a weird symmetry with another ridiculously successful series, because the original title for Scream wasn’t Scream, it was…Scary Movie. Which I would have thought was great, ‘cause it’s cool, it’s intelligent, commenting on the genre and everything…
BOB: When I bought Scary Movie I said, let me make sure I bought the right script—am I buying a frightening scary movie with irony and some humor, or is it a funny movie that also happens to be scary? And I said if it’s the first way around, I think you’ve got the wrong title for it—Harvey, he calls people up at two in the morning. He assumes you’re awake, with no sense of apology, no “I’m sorry to wake you up,” he just starts in the middle of the sentence. He goes “Scream—it’s Scream. Lissen, I’m watching this video with Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson called Scream—that’s the title of your movie.”
Then, when we got the other script, the original title for that was Scream If You Know What I Did Last Halloween. If ever I saw a title that did not work…that was it. Harvey says, Bob—isn’t it obvious to you? You’ve got the title. What, I said. He said, it’s Scary Movie. So we called Kevin Williamson up and switched the titles.
QUENTIN: That brings us to right now. SO, you guys. I think EVERYONE HERE WANTS TO KNOW…what’s goin’ on, guys?(to audience) now they’re BOTH here, we can ASK – and you all promise to keep it between yourselves, RIGHT? GOT IT? (LAUGHTER)
HARVEY: (not looking happy) Well I think from our point of view, we want to resolve this in an amicable way. We’re proud of those films, and it’s Mom and Dad’s name, so it’s emotional for us. And even by their standards they’ll grant that we’ve built a debt-free two million dollar asset despite the arguments about profits back and forth. We’re trying to resolve this in a good way, and there might be opportunities to work with them, and also to have total freedom, which can help us in other ways. so it hasn’t been resolved, but I know one thing – the response from the financial community has been incredible. I’ve never known what’s it’s like to be a pretty girl, but now I wake up in the morning and I see investment bankers at my door, here’s a million dollars, please sign with me here. I got this Order of the British Empire award, which was mystifying to me—there was $90 Billion Dollars in the room. They could buy Disney for pocket change. So I don’t think we’re gonna stop making films or being the kind of film company that we are. And people like Quentin and Roberto Rodriguez, no matter what happens they’re coming with us. So that’s our way of saying we hope this gets itself resolved in a good way.
Sheldrake note: for those who missed it, that’s a HW’s line in the sand, drawn for Disney.
I think a lot of it has to do with Farenheit 9/11 and I think you make choices in your life. When you’re going to stand up for what you believe in. And sometimes when you stand up for what you believe in, you pay a price. So you know what? If we had to do it all over again, we’d still do it. (WILD APPLAUSE)
QUENTIN: So now we’re at the end of this retrospective of Miramax. Any closing thoughts?
BOB: This was really great. Sometimes you get tired, and then when you see, oh, we did this, and we did this, and we did this—and it gives you the energy to pick up again and do more.
HARVEY: I have one more thing, thanks to MOMA and Mary Lea Bandy, chief curator, Lawrence Kardish the senior curator for letting us do this retrospective, it was a blast for us.
APPLAUSE, AND EVERYBODY GOES HOME.
Thanks for coming with me to MOMA tonight, AICN fans. Til next time…