The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks Hardcover – May 1 2010
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Want to know how business really works in LaLa Land? Read this book"
- Liz Smith, wowOwow.com
"LaPorte's lenghty narrative is the definitive history of the studio, an achievement of dispassionate reporting in the genre of corporate decline-and-fall Hollywood, with its penchant for sunny publicity and an obsession for secrecy, is a notoriously difficult business in which to uncover the truth Most reporters are not up to the task. LaPorte is The Men Who Would Be King will be required reading for anyone interested in the story of DreamWorks."
- L.A. Times
"A thrilling ride The bumbling and infighting are just too good, and sad, to resist We're privy to some serious dirt. LaPorte has clearly done her homework The sheer scope and depth of The Men Who Would Be King impresses. No hissy fit escapes LaPorte's gaze. Every time Geffen has a meltdown or A-list stars like Russell Crowe throw trantrums, LaPorte is there to capture it."
- Boston Globe
"Daily Beast contributor and former Variety reporter LaPorte penetrates the mysterious inner workings of DreamWorks. . . . LaPorte marshals an awesome body of research to vividly depict DreamWorks' confused identity, the personality conflicts and ego clashes that raged behind the company's friendly, low-key exterior . . . Behind-the-scenes glimpses at the productions of such signature DreamWorks films as American Beauty and Gladiator are wonderfully diverting Hollywood dirt, but the heart ofthe story is simple human ambition. Stories of Katzenberg's toxic and litigious relationship with former boss and Disney honcho Michael Eisner, Geffen's mission to destroy agent Michael Ovitz and the rivalry between DreamWorks Animation and Disney's Pixar are fascinating for their insights into the ways petty personal issues are expressed in multibillion-dollar transactions. In Hollywood, it seems, business is always personal. A gripping account of money, ambition and the movies . . . same as it ever was."
"Nicole LaPorte has found a big story-this is the great part-that is even bigger than first appears, the story of DreamWorks being the story of modern Hollywood, which is the dream life of the world. She has climbed into the engine room with pen and notebook and been careful to record the details and dirt, then turned all that into music, the result being a gutsy saga filled with larger than life characters and incident. Read this book only if you want to know what makes our country, as Leonard Cohen sang, the cradle of the best and the worst."
-Rich Cohen, author of Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams and Lake Effect
"Power, grandiosity, arrogance, and incomprehensible ego. It's Hollywood, of course, and Nicole LaPorte's exhaustive non-fiction narrative of DreamWorks and the bizarre triumvirate of Spielberg, Geffen, and Katzenberg is stunning. The book reads like a novel and the reporting is impeccable. If you pick up one book about Hollywood, make it this one."
-Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and former coproducer of NYPD Blue
"Here is the brilliant, brutal, misguided, narcissistic history of DreamWorks in all its glory, with David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg working unscripted, without handlers or publicists dimming the lights to a rosy glow. Nicole LaPorte has written a lively, cunning studio history that should be required reading for all students of modern Hollywood."
-Mimi Swartz, author of Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron
"This book has all the right elements: deep-dish research, attitude to burn, page-turning readability, and a great subject. It belongs up there with the classics of Hollywood reportage."
-Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood and Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America
"Nicole LaPorte may never be able to eat lunch in Hollywood again, but her potential loss is our gain: The Men Who Would Be King is a riveting and honest portrayal of three of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry. I couldn't put it down and neither will you."
-William Cohan, author of House of Cards
From the Inside Flap
For sixty years, through Oscars and earthquakes, the lineup of Hollywood s majors varied little, with Universal, Warner Bros., Fox, and Paramount heading the list. Then came the circus maximus created by director Steven Spielberg, billionaire David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg (who gave us The Lion King). Nothing in decades had approached the excitement surrounding the empire called DreamWorks, where hype, glory, and investors vying to kick in billions gave way to blowups, battles, and betrayals worthy of The Godfather.
Nicole LaPorte reveals for the first time the delicious truth of what happened behind the scenes. From a previously unequaled vantage, we see the slightly otherworldly Spielberg, so rich and famous that the borders of reality, much less his admiring new partners, can barely contain him. As Steven spends, offers lucrative contracts to friends, and makes blockbusters for other companies, Katzenberg attempts to create an animation kingdom that will become the new company s cash cow and annihilate his old rivals at Disney. (His shock comes when the one movie he does not micromanage the tale of a green ogre called Shrek becomes a four-billion-dollar franchise while his own projects tank one by one.) After he s charmed investors (including Microsoft s Paul Allen), Geffen hovers above the fray in his Gulfstream IV, occasionally jetting in to zap enemies who violate his rules of business, a code less flexible than omerta.[add accent grave to a]
There are clashes between Spielberg s blue-jeaned troops and Katzenberg s steely, Disney-trained warriors, and the seduction of stars such as George Clooney and Nicole Kidman (who can t believe the mess made of DreamWorks first movie, The Peacemaker). LaPorte shows us the making of Oscar-winning triumphs, including Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty, and Gladiator, a box-office crowd pleaser whose star, Russell Crowe, threatened homicide in bizarre late-night phone tirades. Behind the high jinks, however, is the very serious business of producing films, among America s biggest exports. Yet we watch as the partners alternately obsess and ignore their company as it burns through billions. We see Geffen showing his mettle against superagent Michael Ovitz, and staging a fireworks display during the negotiations that ultimately took DreamWorks to Paramount and then to Disney.
Here are three larger-than-life personalities, moguls that hark back to the days of Mayer and Goldwyn, making moves that remind us that in Hollywood, big business calls for memorable performances." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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)
Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen are all highly successful, driven men but the personalities are so incredibly different between all three and each of them had a very different idea of how they envisioned what Dreamworks would be. How each deals with the rest of the world is fascinating. What is also fascinating are the monumental egos and fragilities of individual stars, producers, directors and other primadonnas. I found myself saying over and over again how the infamous battle of Katzenberg vs. Disney under Michael Eisner was a case of two people who deserved every bit of what they dished out to each other! Katzenberg and Geffen made Steven Spielberg appear almost Buddah like in his calm and commitment toward his art. Certainly he always seemed to be the calm eye in the center of the Dreamworks storm that swirled around him! I gave this book four stars because it was a little slow in places. I doubt that many mainstream readers really give much thought to percentages of DVD sales or figures that are only going to be of interest to someone who is in production or production management and/or film finance. Nicole LaPorte did do an excellently detailed resource section in the back for a book of this type that was very impressive.
Some of the stories are humorous. The initial DreamsWorks deals were for television shows. Yet Spielberg admitted his own track record in TV was lousy. His TV resume included shows such as Amazing Stories, Earth 2, and seaQuest DSV, an underwater series that critics called "Das Bomb." And Peacemaker, starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman was the first live-action film by DreamWorks. Filming in Eastern Europe had gone from bad to worse. People at DreamWorks had a saying for how Peacemaker was being made: "Fire, aim, ready!" Also, when Kidman was walking down the streets of Bratislava, people frequently mistook Clooney as Kidman's bodyguard--which really irritated Clooney. And in the movie Lemony Snicket, Jim Carrey had insisted on multiple takes--which amounted to nearly a mile of film wasted on one scene showing Carrey walking out a door.
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