On a recent evening, Fisher Stevens, actor, producer and tireless organizer of dinner parties, had rallied a crew to the chichi vegan paradise Pure Food & Wine.
“Fisher’s like a good-time guy,” said Gina Gershon, who’s been to more Fisher Stevens get-togethers than she cares to count. “He’s like the catalyst for a lot of stuff that happens.”
Mr. Stevens, now 45, no longer eats meat after a pilot he did for a show called The Green Team, filmed on location at a slaughterhouse. He’s cutting back on fish too, after co-producing The Cove, a new documentary about the dolphin slaughter in Japan, and the reason for tonight’s celebration. He wasn’t drinking, either. He’d just returned from a week at Sting and Trudie Styler’s villa in Tuscany, where they host an annual, very intimate documentary film festival each year.
“It’s this incredible week,” Mr. Stevens explained to his friends, as they contemplated the wine and organic saki-based cocktail lists. “But every night was like, ‘Let’s go have a drink, let’s go drink wine!’ They make their own wine, and it’s insane!”
He’d made some new friends at Sting and Trudie’s, like Bobby Sager, a wealthy businessman–turned–full-time do-gooder upon whom the NBC show The Philanthropist is loosely based, as well as an amazing guy called Pablo who doesn’t speak any English and was involved in a doc about his fight with the oil companies responsible for a spill in the Amazon. Bobby and Pablo probably do not yet realize what that new friendship will entail—they’ve been entered into the human networking service that is Fisher Steven’s brain.
“I’m so proud of Fish,” Ms. Gershon purred.
I asked her if they had ever dated.
“Our story is way too complex,” she said. “We met at Naked Angels, we didn’t like each other much at the beginning. And then one time we were having martinis and it just flipped and we were in love with each other.”
“Fisher and I were engaged for about a day,” offered playwright Nicole Burdette, also a founding member of Naked Angels, a downtown theater group that is still active. Ms. Burdette had come up with the name.
“I was the guy who got everyone together,” Mr. Stevens asserted. There remains some debate as to who exactly the original crew was, but aside from the ladies at the table, the other thespians Mr. Stevens brought together were Rob Morrow, Marisa Tomei, Ron Rifkin, Pippin, Tim and Sarah Jessica Parker, among others.
The Cove is the first film that Mr. Stevens has been involved in since stepping down from his role at Greene Street, the production company he co-founded with producer John Penotti in 1996. There, too, his skills as connector were key. His good buddy Matt Dillon introduced him to the billionaire financier Louis Bacon, with whom Mr. Stevens started hanging, and who later invested $30 million in Greene Street. But life as a studio executive had lost its appeal for Mr. Stevens. More and more, money was getting in the way of his creative instincts.
Just the other day, he told me, while filming a scene with Forrest Whitaker and Adrien Brody in Das Experiment, he thought to himself: “God, this would have been a great one for Greene Street, if only I had known then what I know now.”
“The independent film business has changed,” he explained. “I mean we were the first company to take hedge fund money to make money, and then there was this big influx and now it’s like over again. And all those independent film companies are gone; you know, Warner Independent and Picture House, and you know all those small companies that used to buy our movies, and now they’re just giving them away.
“You know Harvey’s kind of out of the game now, and once Harvey went out, it really hurt,” he said, of fallen mogul Harvey Weinstein. “’Cause he was really driving this whole industry.” But that’s no longer Mr. Stevens’s business. These days he’s all about documentaries, where there is no money to be made. Period.
“So I’m doing a new one in Africa,” Mr. Stevens said of his new project, which involves a polluted lake, or some such. “Dylan, did I tell you I’m going to Africa a lot now?”
Sitting down at the far end of the table, Dylan Tichenor, who edits all of Wes Anderson’s movies, did not appear to be interested. “Tell us about that story I heard once, when you were in a white suit and you went wondering around Seventh Avenue. …”
Long story short: He was 20, in a white suit, accidentally took mescaline, ended up talking to a homeless guy, who convinced him that money didn’t matter in life, and then, after Fisher had passed out, robbed him blind.
Mr. Stevens got involved with The Cove through his friendship with another billionaire, tech guru Jim Clark. It was a connection Mr. Stevens came close to missing.
A girl he’d been dating named Jo said to come meet this guy who’s got a boat.
“I thought, ‘I don’t need to meet this rich guy and a boat,’” he recalled. “And she says, ‘Do me a favor and get this book called The New New Thing and tell me you don’t want to come.’ So I get the book by Michael Lewis and I say, ‘I’m coming.’ The book is about Jim and I think, ‘This guy is a maverick.’ The other truth is, I had a friend of mine was going as well, so we went together. The boat was in Antigua. So Jim goes, he’s leaving and I said, ‘You can’t go man,’ and he asks if I drink and I say yeah, and I don’t know much about wine but he opens this Volnay ’61, which we drank in like five minutes. And he goes, ‘Nobody here drinks, I was going crazy,’ and then he didn’t go and we ended up having the best week, and that’s how we connected, and we stayed friends.”
Funnily enough, the next time he saw Mr. Clark was in Papua on his boat, but it was a new boat. Turns out he’d sold the Hyperion to some British guy named Louis Bacon.
“I was like, ‘Louis is American! He’s my old partner,’” he said. On that trip, Mr. Stevens had brought along a copy of Crazy Love, another doc that he co-directed. Mr. Clark was impressed and not long after asked Mr. Stevens to help him with The Cove.
“He has a lot of interesting friends,” said Griffin Dunne over the phone. He was out in L.A. working on a script and staying in Mr. Stevens’s apartment. “You’ll probably hear from everyone that no one tends to pack as much life in as Fish; he’s been grabbing it with both hands lately.”
Mr. Dunne gave Mr. Stevens his first acting job, a bit part in Baby it’s You. Mr. Stevens, he says, has returned the favor in spades.
“He is certainly a well-connected and well-loved person by a lot of people, many of which don’t know each other—and if they do know each other it’s only through Fisher—who are all doing interesting things in their lives,” he said, adding that Mr. Stevens, Liev Schrieber and a set designer named Happy Massee have an ongoing tennis scene. “I think that is the best image I have of Fisher, his general enthusiasm that he has about life, the way he embraces life. He had a particularly nasty skin cancerous mole removed from his neck a couple of years ago, and they patched him up with tape, and it was pretty gruesome-looking, and it was one of those ‘keep it dry’ and ‘don’t move too much’ bandages, but it was a really hot day and he saw a pool and just went, ‘Oh my God, look at that pool, I gotta go in!’ And he just runs from about 20 yards away and dives into the pool with the bandages. And he hits the water and goes, ‘Ow! Ow! The water is so great, ow!’ It was like he had a choice, either go with the doctor’s orders or dive into the blue water; he’ll go for the blue water.”
Mr. Dunne said that it is Mr. Stevens’s joie de vivre that accounts for his remarkable success with women. Mr. Stevens, who’s probably best known for playing a quirky scientist in Short Circuit, dated Michelle Pfieffer.
“What will start off as just a one-on-one dinner on their first date will move on to these fantastic experiences,” Mr. Dunne explained. Like what? Skinny-dipping in the East River?
“Well … yeah … usually they end up nude, in one environment or another!” Mr. Dunne said with a laugh. He said the diversity of the women Mr. Stevens has dated is also a reflection of his curious nature: doctors, editors, actresses, different races, heights, ethnicities.
A few years back the Naked Angels held a fund-raiser. Mr. Stevens volunteered to be the subject of a roast.
Mr. Dunne again: “Everyone got up and roasted the shit out of Fish. A lot to do with women and fucking … and it sort of transcends his physical appearance, which is not what one would associate a guy who looks like Fish being with such beautiful women, and how the fuck does he do it?? It was a noble expression of his to put himself in that position to raise money for this group. It was also pretty taxing on his identity, I think.”
“He’s been spending an awful lot of time at yoga studios—which I would normally say, ‘He’s trolling for victims’—but I guess not. I think he recently got into a serious relationship,” said another friend, Matt Dillon, on the phone.
Mr. Stevens, currently dating a model and yoga instructor, said he’s looking to settle down. “There comes a time when you gotta grow up,” he said, when I pressed him on the issue at dinner.
But that doesn’t mean no more dinner parties.
“I go out a lot,” he explained. “My mother worked at night. Since I’m 13, I been eating out. I had an account at a Chinese restaurant—Jen’s Kitchen—across the street, when we lived on 13th street.”
He said that during the time he’s lived with women, he has eaten at home in Dumbo.
So you’ve lived with women before?
“Yes,” he said. “And I’d like to again.”
“I like to cook, Fish,” Ms. Gershon said.