He feels that DreamWorks has been treated shabbily under the ownership of Paramount Pictures, and BW's Ron Grover reports chatter about him wanting out once his contract runs out next year. We've heard these murmurs of unhappiness before and you can be sure the current grumbling is heavily orchestrated. Nevertheless, even the suggestion of a Spielberg departure is certain to be noticed. And if he were to leave - taking a bunch of his folks with him - the bloodletting would be considerable over at Paramount. Grover says other studios already have expressed interest in working with Spielberg and a reconstituted DreamWorks. Like, who knows?
Spielberg's departure would be a huge blow to Paramount chief Brad Grey, whose nascent turnaround at the studio is based largely on DreamWorks hits, including Transformers and Blades of Glory. In recent months, Grey has been toiling to rebuild his relationship with Hollywood's most powerful director-producer. In early July, Grey went to Spielberg's sprawling East Hampton (N.Y.) compound and gave him a $1 million check from Paramount for the Shoah Foundation Institute, which Spielberg founded in 1994 as a tribute to Holocaust victims. Paramount and its parent, Viacom Inc., express confidence that Spielberg will stick around. "We couldn't be happier with DreamWorks, and I think they're enjoying the success as well," says Viacom CEO Philippe P. Dauman.
Paramount managed to alienate the director. Early on, Grey addressed a premiere for Dreamgirls and left the impression that the film was a Paramount release. In fact, the film was put into production at DreamWorks and was produced by Geffen, who had long had ambitions of making a movie of the original musical. Press releases began referring to DreamWorks-produced films as Paramount productions. In February, Spielberg told The New York Times that he "took exception" to Paramount "referring to every DreamWorks picture as a Paramount picture." Spielberg, who is famously loyal and shuns public conflict, also fumed at how Paramount and Viacom treated his friends. He was upset last year when Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone fired and then publicly trashed actor Tom Cruise, who worked with Spielberg on two films. (Spielberg and Redstone later had a makeup dinner.) Nor did Spielberg like it when Paramount executives criticized Clint Eastwood's marketing plans for Flags of Our Fathers, a DreamWorks production.