Harry Shearer Tackles Nixon; Ben Affleck to the Rescue

Tuesday, 30 Aug 2011 06:49 PM

By James Hirsen

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The Left Coast Report: A Political Look at Hollywood

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Ben Affleck Fakes a Sci-Fi Flick for a CIA Rescue
2. Harry Shearer Tackles Richard Nixon in U.K. Show
3. Hollywood Walk of Fame Bars Reality Stars
4. Jon Peters Hit With Multimillion-Dollar Sex Harassment Verdict
5. Steve Jobs' Talents Stretched to Hollywood
 

1. Ben Affleck Fakes a Sci-Fi Flick for a CIA Rescue

Films in Hollywood are pitched using one-sentence summaries, known as "loglines" in the trade.

An example from a while back was the alleged logline for the first "Alien" movie script: "It's 'Jaws' in Space."

Ben Affleck has started production on a film called "Argo," which is based on a true story. If I were pressed to come up with a logline for it, I'd use the following: "'Mission Impossible' Meets 'Tropic Thunder' in Reverse."

"Argo" springs from a 2007 Wired magazine article titled "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran."

The film dramatizes a real rescue mission launched by the CIA that, with an assist from Hollywood, used a phony movie project to smuggle six U.S. diplomats out of Tehran in 1979. The fake film was called "Argo," too.

Affleck stars as a CIA team leader who develops the plan. Bryan Cranston is cast as an Irish CIA agent, Alan Arkin plays a Hollywood producer, and John Goodman portrays the Oscar-winning "Planet of the Apes" makeup artist John Chambers.

George Clooney co-produces the film.


2. Harry Shearer Tackles Richard Nixon in U.K. Show

Over the years a slew of actors have tried to tackle the role of former President Richard Nixon, including some big-name stars such as Anthony Hopkins, Beau Bridges, and Frank Langella.

The latest to take a stab at portraying the nation's 37th president is Harry Shearer.

Shearer is the voice of scores of characters on "The Simpsons," including the evil factory owner Montgomery Burns, the Christian neighbor Ned Flanders, and an animated Nixon.

"Nixon's the One" is a U.K. television show based on more than 2,000 hours of audio that were part of the much-talked-about "Watergate tapes" — secret recordings of conversations that had taken place in the Oval Office during Nixon's tenure.

A replica of the White House Oval Office has been constructed at a London studio. Shearer is quoted by the U.K. Guardian as saying: "Having grown up in L.A., I'd had Nixon in my brain my whole life and it recently struck me that the current portrayals of the man were leaving out the wonderland of his emotional complexity. To me, the key point of the comedy was that these conversations were being held, usually during working hours, by what was then usually described as the most powerful man in the world."

The comedic actor is set to team up with his longtime collaborator, Christopher Guest; the two played heavy metal bandmates in the spoof documentary, "This Is Spinal Tap."

"Nixon's the One" will air in 2012 on Sky Arts.


3. Hollywood Walk of Fame Bars Reality Stars

Reality stars may achieve instant fame and may even make some big bucks. But one thing they're apparently not going to make is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The names of reality show cast members are not going to appear at the landmark locale any time soon.

The organization in charge of the renowned Hollywood sidewalks responded to a request to grant a star to Kim Kardashian, one of today's biggest reality celebrities, by posting a statement on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Facebook page. It shut the door to Kardashian and also nixed the inclusion of any other reality stars.

"Someone asked if we give reality show characters stars? H*ll to the No!" the post read.

Ana Martinez, vice president of media relations and producer of the Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony, told CNN that nominees need to meet the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce committee's criteria, including the receipt of awards and honors in the entertainment field, philanthropic work, career longevity, and of course, payment of $30,000 for the star's installation and upkeep on the street.

According to Martinez, reality stars are "just not on the radar for us right now."

Well, there's something to be grateful for in the star-dashed news, and that is among the more than 2,400 five-pointed stars embedded in the sidewalks along the 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street, we won't have to gaze at any Snooki star.


4. Jon Peters Hit With Multimillion-Dollar Sex Harassment Verdict

Movie mogul Jon Peters recently found himself in some deep legal trouble.

Peters, whose entrée into the film business came from his stint as a Hollywood hairstylist, gained national prominence when he began to date one of his famed clients, Barbra Streisand. He then produced Streisand's 1974 album, "Butterfly," and received producing credit for the singer's 1976 remake of "A Star Is Born."

Peters was reportedly also the inspiration for the 1975 film "Shampoo," which stars Warren Beatty. He produced "Flashdance," "The Color Purple," "Batman," "Rain Man," and "The Bonfire of the Vanities." Along with former business partner Peter Guber, he additionally ran Sony Pictures for several years.

Now a Los Angeles jury has found that Peters subjected a former assistant to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, and it has handed the film producer a potential bill in excess of $3 million.

Shelly Morita filed suit against Peters and his company, J.P. Organization Inc., in December 2006. The former assistant alleged that the filmmaker fondled her at his Malibu home. She also claimed that he climbed into her bed at an Australian hotel during the 2005 filming of "Superman Returns."

Morita asserted that she was blacklisted as well, alleging that, following the filing of her suit against Peters, she was unable to obtain any employment in Hollywood because of Peters' clout in the industry.

The jury awarded Morita $822,000 in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages. It found that Peters not only created a hostile work environment but that he had acted with malice.

Peters testified at the trial, denying any wrongdoing.

His attorneys plan to appeal the verdict.


5. Steve Jobs' Talents Stretched to Hollywood

As has been widely reported, Steve Jobs recently stepped down from his CEO position at Apple.

Jobs is not only the co-founder of one of the most successful businesses in history, he is an unconventional leader who follows his instincts, demands excellence, and rather than following trends, pioneers them.

Even though Jobs' management style stands apart from many other entertainment industry executives, his innovations have nevertheless been deeply intertwined with the Hollywood business community.

One notable piece of Jobs' Hollywood background is the time back in 1986 when he purchased a company called The Graphics Group from a division of Lucasfilm Ltd. for $10 million. The company underwent a name change and became Pixar, working out a deal with Disney to produced some computer-animated films after years of failure as a specialty computer firm.

Pixar's first full-length flick, 1995's "Toy Story," was a financial and critically acclaimed winner. Jobs is credited as an executive producer.

Pixar became a powerhouse of quality feature films under the direction of an additional creative visionary, John Lasseter, with titles that include "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," "Cars," "Ratatouille," "WALL-E," "Up," and "Toy Story 2" and " Toy Story 3."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences actually came up with a new award for Pixar's high-quality content, the Best Animated Feature. "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille," "WALL-E," "Up," and "Toy Story 3" all brought Oscars to Jobs' company.

Jobs had an unfortunate falling out with then-Disney chief Michael Eisner. But when Bob Iger replaced Eisner, the top exec worked out a purchase of Pixar by Disney for an estimated $7.4 billion, making Jobs the largest single shareholder of a Hollywood institution.

Jobs joined the Mouse House's board of directors and stayed active in guiding Disney and Pixar's animation decisions.

Jobs' coaching style is reminiscent of the best leadership in the sports world. It is not surprising that, at the 2007 Macworld, the icon would use a sports legend to summarize his winning approach.

"There's an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love," Jobs said. "'I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.' And we've always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very, very beginning. And we always will."

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