Miramax Steers DiCaprio to Cover of Talk Magazine

Miramax Films signed on as distributor of Gangs of New York , a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, on Oct. 8. Three days later, Talk , the Miramax-owned magazine, reached a quick agreement with the actor that would make him the cover boy for its February issue. The deal came as something of a shock to editors at Vanity Fair , since they were under the impression that Mr. DiCaprio had already agreed to be their February cover boy.

In the process of switching from Vanity Fair to Talk , Mr. DiCaprio split with his publicist. Along the way, he annoyed several magazines with requests for what one editor in the know called “everything up to text approval.” The teaming of Talk and the idol of Titanic calls into question, once again, whether or not the magazine, edited by Tina Brown, is at all independent of its owner, Miramax Films, and Miramax’s co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, a man in love with the idea of being a press magnate.

A tossed-off remark from the actress Gwyneth Paltrow in Premiere magazine–”Here’s another thing Harvey’s making me do,” she said, referring to her posing as a dominatrix for Talk ‘s first issue–has given some heft to the notion that the magazine has become too much a vehicle for its parent company. The latest cover, featuring Robin Williams, star of the Walt Disney Company’s upcoming movie Bicentennial Man (remember, class, Disney owns Miramax), has not helped matters any.

A Vanity Fair spokesman confirmed that the magazine had been in discussions with Mr. DiCaprio for February, but refused to comment further.

Mr. DiCaprio’s new publicist, Ken Sunshine, was asked whether Miramax’s involvement in Gangs of New York had anything to do with the cover of the February Talk . “Absolutely, unequivocally, categorically No,” said Mr. Sunshine. (Is this guy good, or what?) Mr. Sunshine, who took over the DiCaprio account from celebrity publicity company Baker Winokur Ryder, refused to comment more specifically on how the Talk cover deal came about.

Gangs of New York , which will be directed by Martin Scorsese, has not begun shooting yet. February will be DiCaprio season because of a Fox release, The Beach . The Talk cover will mark the first time Mr. DiCaprio has sat for the cover of a major glossy since he appeared on Vanity Fair in 1997.

Gangs of New York was apparently having some trouble getting financing when Miramax stepped in. The movie is said to be quite dark and violent, depicting a desperate, rat-infested 1880’s Manhattan. “Sick, sick stuff,” said one Hollywood source familiar with the project. It was supposed to cost $90 million. Disney had been looking for some time to share its production costs with someone–but Sony, Paramount, M-G-M and Fox all passed on it. According to an Oct. 11 Variety story, “Miramax’s involvement was solidified … following a meeting that included Scorsese, Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth and Rick Yorn, partner in Artists Management Group.” (Both Mr. DiCaprio and Mr. Scorsese are represented by Artists Management Group, the new management shop run by Michael Ovitz.)

Talk ‘s February issue will be the first it has put together without several key staff members, and the first with the new editorial director, Robert Wallace. It’s also the first with a redesign by new creative director Oliviero Toscani, who formerly oversaw those kooky transgressive Benetton ads and its Colors magazine.

Mark Bryant, who spent a decade as editor of Outside magazine (and 16 years there altogether), is the next editor of Men’s Journal , the magazine Jann Wenner created to beat Outside at the men’s adventure game.

Mr. Wenner founded Outside , but sold it before it became the magazine equivalent of the sport utility vehicle, all rough-and-tumble affluence. Of course, it had other things going for it, mainly a certain kind of well-done, adventure journalism by writers like Sebastian Junger and Jon Krakauer, a genre that, by now, has yielded many a best seller.

“Jann asked me to come in, really for more of my track record and my sensibility,” said Mr. Bryant, reached at his home in Santa Fe on Nov. 9. Before going on, he doffed his cap to Terry McDonell, the editor who has left Men’s Journal to oversee Mr. Wenner’s Us magazine as it makes its transition from monthly to weekly. “I think Terry’s done a lot for the magazine. It’s become a really smart blend of the literary and the service oriented.”

Mr. Bryant said it all happened rather quickly, in the last few weeks. “Terry told me he was going to Us and wanted to know if I was going to talk to Jann,” he said. “At that point, I wasn’t even really interested in looking for a job–I was still developing my own magazine.”

Mr. Bryant left Outside ‘s adobe palace in Santa Fe in April. He has been spotted surfing and doing other appropriate outdoorsy activities ever since. He’d also been fleshing out a magazine idea, which hasn’t come to anything yet, leaving him open for employment.

Susan Casey, with whom he had a relationship while they were both editors at Outside , recently joined Time Inc. as an editor at large. So they’ll each be moving to New York City soon. He’s going to keep the house in Santa Fe for now, and he plans to be in the office officially the Monday after Thanksgiving.

“My intention in coming to Men’s Journal is to further expand the scope of the magazine,” he said. “Jann’s intent and mine is to make it the leading men’s magazine, bar none.”

With time running out for Janet Maslin at The Times , a number of names have popped up as potential candidates to replace her. Both New Yorker film critics–the earnest David Denby and the fluffily ironic Anthony Lane–are candidates, with Mr. Lane seeming to have the edge, according to a source at The Times .

Former Daily News reviewer Dave Kehr, former Wall Street Journal reviewer Julie Salamon, Entertainment Weekly reviewer Owen Gleiberman and current No. 2 Times reviewer Stephen Holden are also in the running. The process is unfolding at the usual Times pace (glacial).

One early candidate who won’t be taking on the job is Times TV critic Caryn James, who once worked with Ms. Maslin as her No. 2. (They didn’t get along.) Ms. James pulled herself out of the running. “I am extremely happy in the job I have,” she said.

The Times plans to have three full-time critics after Ms. Maslin’s departure at the end of the year.

Raygun Media, the Santa Monica-based publisher of the music magazine Raygun and the young men’s magazine Bikini , has been zapped by financial woes for some time. It’s resulted in delays in paying staff, a good deal of staff turnover, and lawsuits from stiffed freelancers. And now, the company’s publisher, Seth Seaberg, has told his employees that they’re putting the company’s namesake magazine on ice for a while.

” Bikini magazine is going to continue to be published on a monthly basis,” Mr. Seaberg said. ” Raygun is slated to be sort of relaunched in an entire new format in April. Because we’re small, we can’t spend a lot of money developing the magazine while it’s being published. It’ll be off the stands from January 25 to March 25.”

Raygun made its mark with innovative design that was allowed to interfere with the articles themselves. It was fun to look at but hard to read. Mr. Seaburg took control after ownership and management shuffles last year, in February. Mr. Seaberg said, “The issues we have as a business have nothing to do with Raygun ‘s relaunch.” He expects Bikini to remain as it is. “There’s no change to the Bikini staff,” he said. “But there will be changes to the Raygun staff.” Will that include layoffs? “Yeah, to some extent,” he said.

Does New York Times cultural correspondent Neil Strauss fancy himself a turn-of-the-century George Plimpton? Or does he just need attention? Latest evidence: He’s an extra in the new Beck video, “Sexx Laws,” which the singer directed with lots of 70’s Monday Night Football references. Mr. Strauss appears about three times on screen, clowning around in a fake mustache. Previously, Mr. Strauss had done some standup comedy and written about it for The Times ; he also did some breakdancing with Beck for a Spin magazine profile.