The public face of Miramax Films is and always will be Harvey
Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein loves this dirty town. He loves barreling through its
corridors of power, politics and social ambition, uniting, usurping and
generally proclaiming his existence. He is Burt Lancaster in an inflatable
But despite all the noise that Mr. Weinstein, 50, makes in this
city, he is only the co-chairman of his company. He shares the title with his
younger brother, Bob Weinstein, a man who is all but invisible to the naked
Occasionally Bob, who’s 47 and recently married, can be spotted,
looking intense and nervous, at Elaine’s or some Miramax premiere party, but
mostly he lets his brother have the spotlight.
Yet in the wake of Miramax Films’ biggest bloodletting in its
22-year history-approximately 75 staffers by the company’s count-it is Bob
Weinstein’s name and the very successful division of the company that he
oversees, Dimension Films, that keep rising to the surface. Perhaps it has
something to do with the fact that for the first time, Miramax has had to put
the cold, hard facts of finance before its love of filmmaking. As one Miramax
insider pointed out: “Harvey understands money inside-out. But Bob is always
the one who’s made it his responsibility to look out for the bottom line.”
And after years of getting great mileage out of brother Harvey’s
mastery of perception, Miramax, for the moment, seems to be steered by Bob’s
cold fix on reality.
The company’s new reality is this: Dimension Films, which has a
dedicated staff one-fourth the size of Miramax-although sources within the
company point out that many executives are shared-managed to earn both plaudits
and revenues with five films in
release. Its first critical hit, the Nicole Kidman thriller The Others , grossed over $97 million
domestically, although some people thought it was one of Harvey’s pictures the
way Bob’s big brother was steering Ms. Kidman around town. Spy Kids turned into a surprise blockbuster, grossing almost $113
million, and the Wayans Brothers’ spoof sequel Scary Movie 2 grossed $71 million in the United States.
And Miramax? Well, according to a Miramax source, Bridget Jones’s Diary did approximately
$72 million domestically, Chocolat
did more than $70 million in 2001, and Serendipity
grossed $50 million. But then there was Captain
Corelli’s Mandolin , a co-production with Universal, which cost $57 million
and pulled in just $26 million. Two Christmas turkeys didn’t fare much better: The Shipping News cost $35 million and
made $11 million, while Kate &
Leopold nearly broke even on its $48 million price tag.
Then there was the magazine called Talk . That one was Harvey’s baby-one that bled the company for $25
million in the three years of its existence, all the while breeding resentment
within the ranks of Miramax because Tina Brown and her minions got swanky new
Chelsea offices, and Miramax staffers had to work out of three different
And so in the weeks before Miramax’s March 15 announcement, as
rumors of the cuts swirled and there seemed to be an awful lot of meetings
involving Bob Weinstein, Miramax executives and staffers became convinced that in the right-brother/left-brother equation
that rules the company, Bob, whom one insider called the “ka-ching” side of
Miramax, was asserting himself.
Indeed, within the company there was speculation that
Miramax-which hired a new chief financial officer, Ross Landsbaum, late last
year-was contemplating revising its methods of accounting in ways that would
hold Miramax Films (the releasing division, not the umbrella company) more
accountable for its successes and failures.
Elizabeth Clark, executive vice president of publicity for
Dimension and a senior Miramax executive as well, denied that this was
happening. Miramax and Dimension have always had their earnings reported as one
company’s, and Ms. Clark told The Transom that “we are not changing the way
that Miramax accounts for its business, which includes both the Miramax and
Dimension labels as one entity.”
This doesn’t mean that some perceptual shifts aren’t taking place
at Miramax. As one insider put it: “It’s not about accounting; it’s about
drawing the line.”
In her role as Dimension’s mouthpiece, Ms. Clark would not say
that Bob Weinstein was laying down the law at Miramax. “Harvey and Bob discuss
every aspect of the company together,” she said. “It’s not Bob mandating. They
jointly decided this was the best thing.”
But Ms. Clark also said, “Bob is proud that he had a good year.
He’s proud of it, and he’s not going to shy away from that.”
Meanwhile, Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik told The Observer : “One of the great things
about Miramax as a whole is the diverse slate of films. The incredible
commercial success of Dimension has allowed the company to continue Bob and
Harvey’s commitment to bringing independent and foreign films to the screen.”
Though neither Ms. Clark nor Mr. Hiltzik would acknowledge it,
sources within the company said the March 15 downsizing cut into Miramax’s
payroll far deeper than Dimension’s and demonstrated a long-awaited
acknowledgment of the fiscal structure of the companies.
One Miramax executive familiar with the situation said that
Dimension wasn’t spared from the cuts, even as it faces summer with a schedule
that includes Spy Kids 2 and Halloween: Resurrection . Its
15-position publicity division, for example, cut two people and eliminated two
slots that were waiting to be filled. But in the last month, Dimension has also
made at least one major hire, former PMK/HBH publicist Jennifer Glaisek.
Sources said Ms. Clark hired Ms. Glaisek to ensure that her division will be in
good hands when she goes on maternity leave-but given Ms. Glaisek’s previous
employer, one of the true heavy hitters in the celebrity P.R. business, she
didn’t come cheap. Indeed, PMK managing director Lois Smith said she wasn’t
able to match the salary that Dimension offered Ms. Glaisek, “and I would have
loved to have matched it,” she added.
Meanwhile, a source at Miramax said that their summer schedule
includes A View from the Top , with
Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate and Mark Ruffalo, and
possibly-monumentally, at long last-Martin Scorsese’s hugely budgeted Gangs of New York , with Leonardo
DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz. But PMK’s Ms. Smith, who
represents Mr. Scorsese, said she’s heard a range of potential release dates
for the film between summer and Christmas 2002. “I’m just hoping they’ll let us
know,” she said, “so we can plan accordingly.”
According to the New York
Times March 16 article about the cutbacks, the majority of the dismissals
were in the publicity, marketing and production departments. “It should have
been a good year at the company,” said one source. But, according to sources
familiar with the situation, Miramax also eliminated three of six
post-production positions, its four-person exhibitors’ relations department and
its Chicago office. Mr. Hiltzik would not confirm the layoffs in
post-production or exhibitor relations.
Mr. Hiltzik said the layoffs were an effort to streamline the
company back to October 2001 levels. A Miramax source said, “This is setting us
back five months, not five years. Sometimes you need to take a step back and
consider whether you are operating at your highest efficiency. There were
changes that needed to be made.” The source also said, “We grew too much too
As the bad news was delivered on March 15 at Miramax’s Tribeca
office buildings on Greenwich Street, Beach Street and Hudson Street, company
sources said that security guards, whom one staffer described as “thugs,”
escorted the newly unemployed out of the building. Robin Jonas, a veteran of
Miramax’s publicity department who was laid off, was seen crying at her desk.
E-mails bearing the subject line “MiramAXE” zigzagged between
employees as the dismissals took place. Each time an employee was seen packing
his or her belongings, their name was added to the list.
Miramax sources said that the employees in Miramax’s Chicago
office were part of the tally of dismissals-75-that the company released to the
press. But on Monday, March 18, some of those employees seemed to be unaware of
their fate. An assistant who picked up the phone said that she “hadn’t heard
anything about” the possibility of her office being shuttered. Gene Gibbons,
who ran the office, would not comment on the situation. An hour later, Miramax
spokesperson Mr. Hiltzik acknowledged that “as part of the process of
streamlining our operations, we are following the industry trend and closing
our Chicago office.”
Elsewhere in the company, Miramax co-president of production
Meryl Poster, who was responsible for conveying the bad news to employees in
several departments, lost one of her two assistants. A number of other
employees were unplugged: assistants, the Special Events director, various
creative executives. Sources said that the Dimension publicity staff huddled in
a separate meeting on Friday afternoon after the bloodshed.
Strangely, Talk/Miramax Books, the surviving publishing arm of
Talk Media, had to trim its small staff of 10 by three people. Run by Tina
Brown and Jonathan Burnham, is often trumpeted as the wholly owned and truly
successful remnant of Harvey Weinstein’s venture into publishing, the company
is about to release books by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Queen Noor of Jordan
and Madeleine Albright.
“Last year doesn’t define me,” Mr. Weinstein told the Observer at last year’s Oscar pageant.
And maybe this year doesn’t either. Or maybe it defines a new, more streamlined
and quieter Miramax. The company still garnered 15 Oscar nominations, including
a Best Picture nod for In The Bedroom ,
a film that it distributed but did not produce.
But the announcements of the cutbacks come at a time of the year
when Miramax has been used to putting its best foot forward, attempting to crow
“King of the World!” but in a nice way: Oscar Time.
Win or lose, Harvey Weinstein likes to be the Sunshine Boy of the
Oscars, dispensing gruff wisdom and insouciant comments as he trails a conga
line of Hollywood’s new hot things and some old ones as well. Show business is
tough, and it doesn’t seem very long ago that Mr. Weinstein practically wore a
toga and an olive wreath as he won for
Shakespeare in Love . It was a great moment by anybody’s standards.
The March 15 announcement probably won’t hurt this year’s Oscar
chances any. According to sources within the company, none of those let go were
working on Miramax’s Oscar campaigns. And every company in Hollywood has had to
take some kind of economic hit in this terrible economy: Disney alone, let go
of 4000 employees in the last year and a half, and on March 18 announced that
it was laying off 250 of its animators.
Nevertheless, some company sources contend the announcement was
timed so that the majority of Academy votes-which were due by March 19-would
have already been cast. But it does mean that Harvey Weinstein is going to land
in Tinseltown with a whole lot of industry people and wretched journalists
wondering what’s up with Miramax. At a time when he’d probably rather be
celebrating and exhibiting his usual gruff, volcanic exuberance, he’s going to
have to be answering, or dodging, questions about Miramax, as well as the now
yearly kerfuffle over dirty publicity campaigns. This year, Washington Post reporter Sharon Waxman
has all but accused Mr. Weinstein of masterminding the plot to discredit Ron
Howard’s A Beautiful Mind , which is
in competition for the Best Picture prize with In The Bedroom.
It’s probably going to mean that jubilant, irrepressible Harvey
Weinstein is going to be a whole lot quieter this time around the Oscar
carousel. Internalized, suppressed and responsible. Like his kid brother.
Run for Your Life!
Ben Gazzara, muse? It’s hard to imagine the Run for Your Life actor in
La Belle Noiseuse mode-especially with that 5 o’clock shadow he never seems
to be without. But that was definitely the impression Mr. Gazzara gave at the
March 14 opening of Julian Schnabel’s Big
Girl exhibit at Larry Gagosian’s Chelsea gallery.
As rock artist David Bowie, actors Al Pacino and Adrien Brody,
fashion designer Helmut Lang and Mr. Schnabel’s mother and father checked out
the artist’s work-giant canvases depicting the faces of girls whose eyes were
obscured by a kind of streak or blindfold-Mr. Gazzara stood by Mr. Schnabel
nursing a drink and occasionally reaching out to pat the hefty artist’s cheek.
Although Mr. Gazzara professed that “I know nothing about
painting; I know about love,” he does follow Mr. Schnabel’s career-closely, it
“Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I have to. I hang out while he paints,”
Mr. Gazzara said. “He’s painting these enormous paintings, and I sit with a
bottle of wine and I watch and kibitz with him while he paints.
“I drink the wine, I look at the art, I suggest what color he
should use, what brushes- naaaaaah ! Ha
ha ha!” Mr. Gazzara let out a raspy, staccato laugh. Then he went for The
At the entrance to the Jewish Museum’s current exhibit, Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art -described
in its catalog as “the most daring exhibition ever mounted by the Jewish
Museum”-museum director Joan Rosenbaum has posted a question on the wall: “What
are the limits of irreverence?”
For museum brass, the line apparently gets drawn at golden
Although the show includes such controversial and much-debated
works as fake Zyklon B canisters made of Chanel and Hermès wrappings, and a
fake Diet Coke ad featuring emaciated inmates at Buchenwald, the show’s curator
asked artist Roee Rosen to remove the text depicting the aforementioned
activity from his installation Live and
Die as Eva Braun (1995).
The work, which appeared in a 1997 exhibit at the Israel Museum
in Jerusalem to considerable scandal, has never been altered before. “The
museum director seemed to have felt that parts of the text were too sexually
explicit and may be found too offensive,” Mr. Rosen said from New York, where
he was visiting. “The sensitivities were heightened, and they didn’t want to
add any unnecessary offenses.”
“The Roee Rosen [piece] was abbreviated in the exhibition from
what appeared in Israel,” a museum spokeswoman said. “A big part of the reason
was space. There were other reasons as well, and I’m not going into that.”
Live and Die as Eva Braun
consists of a series of images and text that invites museum goers to imagine
themselves as Adolf Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, in the final moments of the
Walking through the installation, museum goers view, in
chronological order, images meant to represent Ms. Braun’s worldview at the
time: seemingly naïve and childish imagery mixed with perverse or morbid
elements, all depicting a mental space where, according to the catalog, “moral
judgment is suspended and brutality becomes seductive.”
At the Jewish Museum, however, the first text banner for Mr.
Rosen’s installation warns its viewers that parts of the text have been omitted
at the request of the museum.
Mr. Rosen said that initially he’d spoken with curator Norman
Kleeblatt about shortening some of the text in his work because, “in terms of
installation in a group show, it’s a little burdensome.”
But several weeks before the New York opening, Mr. Kleeblatt
contacted Mr. Rosen again and asked him to excise a scene that dealt with Eva
Braun giving her lover a golden shower.
“This was not about
accommodating the viewer anymore, but about avoiding offense,” Mr. Rosen said.
“That was more difficult for me …. To me, respecting the audience means
treating them like adults. But I didn’t feel assured, because it’s a different
sensitivity and the American audience is more puritan.”
So, after what he described as a series of sleepless nights and
long conference calls, Mr. Rosen agreed to cut the writing, on two conditions:
The omission had to be signaled at the beginning of the piece, and the book
cataloging the entire installation had to be placed at the end of the piece.
“At least they’re abiding by my conditions,” Mr. Rosen said. “I
think they were, all in all, fair; I don’t want to vilify them.”
Indeed, Mr. Rosen praised the museum and Mr. Kleeblatt for their
courage in hosting the exhibit. “To condemn them for their cowardice and
censorship would be strange,” he said. “I don’t think these pieces would have
been picked up by many other curators. The [artwork] is volatile, despite the
importance of the topic it tackles.”
Still, Mr. Rosen said that he
doesn’t stand by the piece as it’s currently on display at the Jewish Museum.
Now viewers freely walk from “Scene 4-The Bed” to “Scene 6-Tears,” many of them
probably not realizing that “Scene 5-A Dream” is missing. The text inviting
them to imagine themselves as Eva Braun peeing in her lover’s mouth isn’t
there; neither are several sexually explicit images, including one of a naked
woman being approached by an indescribable, but clearly sexually aroused,
“I know Norman wanted the text in,” Mr. Rosen said. “If he came
to ask me a month before, the pressure must have been immense.”