If you are a journalist in Washington and you ask a question of a politician that they do not want to answer, they will attempt to dance around the truth while not telling it. They will make an effort to not be caught blatantly lying on the record. You don’t get that in Hollywood. Imagine that: the world of politics has more truth to go around than the world of entertainment.
Drew McWeeny dropped some friendly confrontation on me over at David Poland’s The Hot Blog. He questions my admittedly strident attitude about the Heath Ledger toxicology report. Here’s what he said:
And Devin… this isn’t a knock or anything, but when did you guys get into the gossip business? I mean, your editorial yesterday wasn’t necessarily off-base, but do you guys normally write about this sort of fame-vulture bullshit? And if not, why this particular story? And why continue to run around making this point so stridently? Point made. He took a lot of drugs, and that’s what killed him. I’m just not sure you want to keep hammering it over and over like this unless there’s a particular point to it. It’s starting to feel a little overemphatic.
Drew’s right. This story has hit me in a particularly weird place – not one where I’m sensitive about drug use or ODs or where I’m a Heath hater or something. It’s the part of me that has been worn down by the sheer amount of untruth bandied about in Hollywood.
Drew knows what it’s like. Just a couple of months ago Aint It Cool ran a categorical denial from Peter Jackson that The Hobbit was moving forward. Then a few weeks later it was in all the trades: The Hobbit was happening at New Line with Peter Jackson producing. That deal didn’t magically appear in the weeks between the denial and the announcement; Jackson, or a spokesperson, flagrantly lied to Aint It Cool. And as shitty as that was for AICN, it was even shittier for the guy who broke the story, some low-level blogger who usually just writes about 3D movies. That guy was the butt of a lot of internet snark after that denial, but he was right all along.
I’m frustrated on a regular basis by the lies that come from the people behind Terminator Salvation in regards to the size of John Connor’s role in the current (pre-strike) script, although they at least make more of an effort to dance as opposed to just being flat out untrue. The latest was McG saying that John Connor is ‘a major player’ – which doesn’t speak to the actual size of the role, of course. The Wizard is a major player in The Wizard of Oz – motherfucker’s the title character! – but I don’t think he could be counted as a lead by any stretch of the imagination. It’s possible that once the strike ends the plan is to beef up John Connor’s role, but I am 100% positive and certain that, in terms of screen time, he is a minor character in the latest draft. But in the end who gets believed – the producers and director, who are not being truthful, or some guy writing for a site named after a cheesy 80s horror film?
The lies permeate every aspect of the business. Journalists and fans aren’t the only ones getting a face full of bullshit – ask Art Buchwald how the studios lie endlessly about the budgets and profits of their movies. Studios lie about weekend grosses so that Monday morning reports are a little more positive. I get lied to by publicists on an almost weekly basis, and it would be more often if I talked to some of them more often. Taking anything said to you in this town at face value is just completely stupid.
This isn’t the outcry of a naive fool. It’s more like I’m having my own little Howard Beale moment here. Although we all know how he ended up. I’m not stupid, and I know that calling attention to the whitewashing of Ledger’s death (hey, John Belushi died accidentally too, but that’s not how we talk about it, is it? That’s another aspect of the toxicology report that bugs me, the way some people want to pretend that Ledger wasn’t abusing the pills that killed him because their own weird moral topography makes someone who ODs getting high into a Bad Person) is probably just making people who take the lives of celebrities too personally get annoyed with me. Anybody involved in Hollywood, even someone as marginally connected as I am, eats their share of shit. Sometimes it’s the littlest teaspoonful that makes you gag, though.