As I was writing this piece I found myself a little confused. I felt like I knew that DeNiro was going to star in What Just Happened?. But how could I? All of the other sites were reporting it as news. I must have been mistaken.
But no. A quick check of the CHUD archives shows that we reported this exact same bit of news in October of 2005. So what’s the news? Maybe that webmasters have short memories. At any rate, it’s given me a chance to vent about Levinson some more…
Robert DeNiro has signed on to star in What Just Happened?, the adaptation of Art Linson’s excellent book about the trials and travails of being a producer in Hollywood. The book is very funny, and it offered more insight into how the comically fucked up movie business works than almost anything else I have read on the subject. Done right, this could be a killer movie – a Swimming With Sharks for the new millennium.
But it probably won’t be. DeNiro on board is a bad sign – it seems like he’s only interested in directing good movies, not acting in them anymore. And the real red flag is the director. Barry Levinson hasn’t made a decent movie since the OK 1999 Liberty Heights. And while his career before that was hit and miss for me (Toys is one of the worst movies ever made, and I can say that without any sort of exaggeration. It’s just dismal), his output since 99 has been unbelievably bad. And until Man of the Year, defiantly uncommercial. But not uncommercial in the “this is just too smart for the average moviegoer” way – I mean uncommercial in the “Wait, Jack Black invented a dog poop dematerializer? And Ben Stiller is… oh, fuck this movie” way. Levinson has lost whatever special skill it was that allowed him to make decent movies, let alone great ones like Diner.
DeNiro will play the character based on Linson, and most of the action will be set around the making of The Bear, which was also the main narrative focus of the book. Apparently Sean Penn, desperately trying to prove he has a sense of humor, dammit!, will cameo as himself. I guess we should be glad that Levinson didn’t go with Robin Williams as Linson – imagine Williams doing a pitch meeting and using his “wacky” voices for each of the characters in the script. Oh, hilarity.
That reminds me – I have to get around to making the “Robin Williams Wacky Voices Bingo” card for this year’s Oscarcast. “He did jive talking black guy… Now it’s lisping homo… and old Jew! BINGO!!!”