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The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks Hardcover – May 4 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (May 4 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547134703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547134703
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.7 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #305,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on May 21 2010
Format: Hardcover
What do you get when Steven Spielberg, Jeffry Katzenberg, and David Geffen all want to play together?

Why, you get "DreamWorksSKG", the studio the three Hollywood titans put together in 1994. Nicole LaPorte's well-written account of the men and their company - first private, then taken public in the early 2000's - and its impact on movies, music, and other entertainment media. But LaPorte writes about more than just the "Big Three"; she looks at Hollywood history and the development of..."development". That word - development - means a lot in reference to the entertainment industry. It encompasses "talent", "agents", and "producers" among others. LaPorte shows how deals are put together and how movies get made. She's detailed, but never boring.

If you're interested in the hows and whos of entertainment, LaPorte does a very good job at showing the inside out of the industry. Every page of her long book is interesting and makes for great reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 74 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
An excellent and concise view of the rise and fall of what seemed the perfect company May 9 2010
By Michael A. Weyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's amazed me that Dreamworks hasn't spawned more books. The only one before was "The Dream Team" which was rather short. But this more than makes up for it as Nicole Laporte does an excellent job on the behind-the-scenes struggles of what seemed the perfect talent merger. She shows how right off the bat, Giffin was above things, only coming in to supply funds when needed while Spielberg's vision as a filmmaker didn't translate as well to the business side of things.

It's Katzenberg who's the real focus and Laporte does a great job showing the key problem: The man was far more interested in beating out Disney and sticking it to Michael Eisner than really doing his best to make Dreamworks successful. He became obsessed with "out Disneying Disney" in animation, backing flops like "Road to El Dorado" and the brilliant irony is that the one movie he didn't micromanage would be the company's biggest hit "Shrek." Laporte points at 2003's "Sinbad" as a turning point for the company as Katzenberg never really recovered from the animated movie he'd been championing becoming a total bomb.

While she can be a bit too in-depth (did we really need eight pages on "Mousehunt?") Laporte does a great job detailing the company's successes and failures. She moves from how "Gladiator" survived a chaotic production to become a huge hit to how the company poured millions into "Almost Famous" only to see it die at the box office. She nails their problems like Katzenberg producing way too many copies of "Shrek 2" on DVD among other spending items. And it's terrific reading her detailing the Dreamworks/Miramax feud that would become war at Oscar time.

The book details more of the final years of the company and how this once-powerhouse became a shell of itself sold to other studios right before the economic crunch. It's an incredibly detailed book that shines new light on the personalities involved and shows how even the biggest dreamers have a hard time dealing with the reality of Hollwyood. A must-have for any movie-making buff.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Ego June 21 2010
By J. Green - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
In 1994 the first new Hollywood studio in 60 years announced its beginning with more than just the usual fanfare. Steven Spielberg, the genius director; Jeffrey Katzenberg, the man who put Disney animation back in business with movies like The Lion King; and David Geffen, the billionaire music mogul, joined forces to create Dreamworks SKG. It was the biggest conglomeration of talent and industry power since anyone could remember. But despite such huge blockbusters and award-winning films as "Saving Private Ryan," "American Beauty," and "Shrek," Dreamworks was sold in 2006 and S, K, and G went their separate ways. In addition to the successes, there had been a pile of projects that had bombed, often spectacularly.

Nicole LaPorte has burned plenty of bridges and written an inside account of the biggest egos in the entertainment industry (understandably, few of her sources are named). Katzenberg brought them together after his firing at Disney in an attempt to regain his pride. Spielberg couldn't resist making one blockbuster after another - for other studios. And Geffen was only interested in the fight and the careers he could destroy. Thrown into the mix are the biggest movers and shakers in Hollywood - Eisner, Ovitz, Clooney, Cruise, Hanks, Crowe, etc., etc., etc. - and their petulant needs to constantly be told how wonderful they are.

Hollywood has been tremendously influential in the social history of America, and I've enjoyed biographies of some of the giants like Hitchcock and Disney. This, however, is the flip side - the trashy business end of the glamorous and flashy facade. And those who eagerly anticipate their weekly fill of People Magazine, Variety, and Entertainment Weekly will gobble this book up and want more. I just felt the need to wash my hands. The book starts out well - lots of beautiful celebrities and juicy inside information - but I found myself losing interest less than halfway through (I usually read on my lunch break and when I start heading back in less than my usual hour, it's not a good sign). It's interesting enough to finish, but I got tired of hearing of every announcement that sent "a shockwave rolling through Hollywood" and all the men who were reduced to tears by someone's tantrums. I must admit however, since I live in Los Angeles it was rather eye-opening. (3.5 stars)
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Jurassic Lark--Don't Start The Revolution Without Me June 23 2010
By K. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
In Hollywood, where ego rules the day and perception is reality--there were (and are) few bigger names than wonderkind director Steven Spielberg, mogul David Geffin, and the polarizing yet savvy Jeffrey Katzenberg. When the three combined forces to form DreamWorks Studios in the nineties, the promise of a modern media revolution (and empire) captivated LaLaLand. However, the idea of a contemporary entertainment utopia never quite developed into a reality. With no real business plan in place and clashing priorities, DreamWorks became the most expensive start-up of all time and one of the most public displays of hype unrealized. Nicole Laporte's exhaustive chronicle "The Men Who Would Be King" expertly details the folly and foibles in a cautionary tale that absolutely captures the essence of the current film industry. It is THE must read of the year for anyone with a passing interest in the movie business.

The rise and fall of DreamWorks provides incredible highs and devastating lows, so Laporte's expose is as dramatic and colorful as it is informative. But you might expect that drama with the huge personalities involved! Katzenberg, in particular, is so compelling as a character--he is, alternately, an incredibly savvy businessman and utterly pigheaded. Spielberg, the center of this particular universe, is an undeniable creative genius--but with his limited attention span and free spirit, he never leveraged his power to propel DreamWorks into a successful business model. For every film success ("Saving Private Ryan," "American Beauty," "Gladiator," and "Shrek"), there were many more failures or missed opportunities. A studio compound that never got built (and angered environmentalists to boot), a television division that never took off, an Internet company before its time, a music group that courted more individualistic talent, a unwavering commitment to 2-D animation even with advances in technology, and a gaming sideline that was sold before its biggest moneymaker was released--these are just a few aspects of the DreamWorks empire with more fizzle than sizzle.

"The Men Who Would Be King" is an incredibly entertaining read. It probably helps to have a passing knowledge of the subject matter, but I found it fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at things that played out very publicly. Of personal interest, in terms of subject matter, I think Laporte excellently depicts the Oscar campaigning for certain films as modern warfare--which having lived in the periphery of that world, I found to be very true to life. A definite recommendation to cinephiles, the book also has cross-over appeal to the business set (a how-not-to, so to speak). For all its grandiose aspirations, Laporte showcases DreamWorks as a magnificent display of hype over substance and has, in "The Men Who Would Be King," created a new essential in the library of books about the film industry.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Gripping May 10 2010
By Anna David - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book somehow manages to get in the minds and psyches of three of the most accomplished men Hollywood has ever seen and explain, down to the color of the curtains in the room when they decided to go into business together, every last riveting detail. Books like these tend to skim the surface, take the easy way out, or just read like they're written by someone who's very aware of how they'll be perceived by the subjects. Nicole LaPorte seems out to both understand and explain what happened, mis-step by mis-step and clearly isn't interested in pleasing these men who would be king.

Even people who aren't interested in Tinseltown shenanigans would find this compelling: a fascinating tale of how sometimes the best intentions, when mixed with some other less-than-stellar intentions, can cause a "sure thing" to come toppling down.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
So much money, so many egos, so little little actual vision Aug. 18 2011
By John S. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In short, DreamWorks was created in part to give Jeffrey Katzenberg a job after he was ousted from Disney, to give Steven Spielberg a shot at creating an old-style studio with a new-style sensibility, and to give David Geffen a perch from which to rain misery upon his enemies. What the three of them lacked was a solid business plan or a vision of where the future of the business of Hollywood might take them.

One gets the impression that they founded DreamWorks simply because they could, and that as good as it looked on paper it would, ultimately, endure a series of near-catastrophic disasters because of the myopic vision of one partner, the sometimes-aloof distance of another, and the relative detachment of the third one.

But oh, how the money flowed! It flowed in in great quantities, turning a multimillionaire with an axe to grind into a billionaire and turning billionaires into multibillionaires. It flowed in until it stopped flowing in: grand plans were put on the back burner or abandoned altogether, alliances were formed and broken, employees became disillusioned, and one partner seemed to lose some interest altogether, at least when his personal fortune and ego could be stroked by working with outside studios here and there.

It was a grand plan that had no solid detailed plan or real leadership at all.

No one went home hungry at the end of the day, but some egos got bruised, pride got hurt, and the veils of invincibility didn't last very long.

Fascinating reading.

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