This year's long-running soap opera involving Messrs. Geffen and Redstone gets an entertaining airing in the December Vanity Fair. All the barebones stuff should be familiar: Geffen breaks off talks with GE and sells DreamWorks to Paramount (a unit of Redstone's Viacom). Geffen and partner Steven Spielberg feel they're not getting the proper respect from Paramount's Brad Grey. BW reports that Spielberg wants out of Paramount once his contract is up in 2008. Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman says that losing Spielberg would be "completely immaterial" to the company's bottom line. Spielberg supporters - meaning all of Hollywood - go ballistic. Redstone gets blamed for putting on the screws, just as he's done so many times before. Conventional wisdom is that DreamWorks will be sold to Universal next year.
That's the storyline, but there's much more to it - more than any of us should really want to know. Bryan Burrough's account captures the hard-boiled silliness behind the acrimony. Much of the long piece paints Geffen as manipulating the feud - perhaps to placate Spielberg who feels he's been slighted by Redstone, or perhaps just to engineer an exit strategy from Paramount. Geffen talks a lot - off the record, on the record - but always for a purpose. In this case, the purpose is to screw Redstone, or at least that's what Redstone's people claim. One of those people said, "We know what's going on. He's doing all of this. He's relentless. He and Sumner, when they're in a fight like this, it's war. It's war." To which Geffen responds, "Whoever said these things, they must be out of their minds." You get the idea: he said-he said-their handlers said. Among some tasty morsels (some of which may be new, some already reported):
--After Geffen settled on Paramount instead of Universal, Spielberg didn't speak to him for weeks (and Spielberg refused to move to Paramount).
--A DreamWorks adviser said of the new Paramount team: “It took about a minute to realize these people didn’t know what they were doing. Tom Freston was a cable-television guy. He hires Brad Grey, who’s never run a studio. And Brad turns around and hires another television person, Gail Berman, who knows nothing! You had three people who had never run a studio!”
--Spielberg told Tom Cruise the name of a doctor who had prescribed medication to one of his relatives. The doctor’s office was subsequently picketed by Scientologists.
--Spielberg was angered when Paramount distribution chief Rob Moore blamed director Clint Eastwood for the disappointing performance of "Flags of Our Fathers" (Eastwood is Spielberg's idol).
--Grey's now-infamous appropriation of the movie "Dreamgirls" is detailed, with DreamWorks marketing head Terry Press and Paramount PR head Janet Hills going at it (Grey blamed the movie's poor Oscar opening on Hollywood's dislike of Geffen). "The situation had erupted spectacularly at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, when Hill angrily blamed Press for talking to a gossip columnist,” Burrough writes. “When Geffen got wind of this, he stalked into the Vanity Fair dinner at the Hôtel du Cap, barking, 'Point out Janet Hill,' and then proceeded to rip into Rob Moore, accompanied by his wife, as terrified onlookers ran for cover."
--Burrough gets a call from Geffen, who says that he and Redstone have cleared the air as a result of the article. “Sumner called up, he apologized to me for anything he said that may have upset me. I apologized for things that may have upset him,” Geffen said. The moguls make peace – all because of Bryan Burrough.
You get the idea. If you're into this sort of thing, it's a pretty fun read.