1) Whenever studio heads screened a groundbreaking film, almost invariably, some executive stood up and proclaimed the movie utter trash. For example, even after the audience laughed and cheered throughout George Lucas' American Graffiti (1973), Ned Tanin stood up and said "This film is unreleasable." Studio head Jack Warner said after watching Bonnie and Clyde (1967), "That's the longest two hours and ten minutes I ever spent!"
2) Writing is key to becoming a director. George Lucas' wife Marcia once pointed out that "George was not a writer, and it was Francis [Ford Coppola] who made him write, [and] said, `If you're gonna be a filmmaker, you have to write.' He practically handcuffed George to a desk." At another time, Martin Scorsese composed a screenplay with Mardik Martin in his cold Plymouth Valiant in the winter: "We were used to that," said Scorsese. "We were film students. Film students wrote anywhere."
"Because they're not in love and they're not happy. And they don't want to hear it."
"But Cary, I thought all the world loves a lover."
"Don't you believe it. It isn't true. Just remember one thing, Peter, people do not like beautiful people."
Later, Bogdanovich directed a musical At Long Last Love (1975) that tanked. Then, after his relationship with Playmate Dorothy Stratten ended with her murder, Bogdanovich's filmmaking career continued to decline. Biskind quotes him later in the 1990s at a New York party saying "Remember me? I used to be Peter Bogdanovich."
4) In books like this, largely based on many interviews that Biskind conducted with people in the film business, paragraphs occasionally carry disclaimers at the bottom in parentheses in which the director or star under discussion denies the drug use or the affair just brought up. These interjections get to be amusing after awhile. Some examples: "(Hopper denies the event took place.)" "(Milinaire refuses to comment.)" "([Amy] Irving denies sleeping with Hoffman.)" Biskind admits the book is distorted by all of the drugs taken at the time, the self-serving memories, and the fictional ambiance of Hollywood. He characterizes the research of the book as a "maze of mirrors."
6) Don't trust a romantic scene in a Warren Beatty film when the music drowns out the dialogue. As Warren and Julie Christie "walk through the rose garden of a grand estate" in Heaven Can Wait (1978), they appear to be madly in love, but according to Biskind, what she's actually saying "in her clipped British accent" is "I can't believe you're still making these fucking dumb movies when, I mean, there are people all over Europe making fabulous films, about real things, Fassbinder and so on, and you're still doing this shit."
7) Sometimes Orson Welles could be difficult to live with. At one point, he moved in with Peter Bogdanovich and Cybill: "Orson Welles was living in a bedroom off Peter's study. He turned it into a toxic waste dump full of half-eaten dinners and redolent cigar butts. Cybill couldn't stand having him around."
8) Of the more successful directors, Steven Spielberg best described what making a blockbuster entailed, in this case Jaws. As he put it, "I thought, This is what a hit feels like. It feels like your own child that you have put up for adoption, and millions of people have decided to adopt it all at once, and you're the proud ex-parent. And now it belongs to others. That felt very good."
9) Faye Dunaway did not appear to get along with Roman Polanski during the shoot of Chinatown (1974). She reportedly threw a paper cup full of urine at his head after he forced her to do a scene when she needed to go to the restroom. Somehow that anecdote suits the mood of the film perfectly. Once again, after the initial Paramount screening, someone said, "What kind of dreck is this shit?"
At any rate, the directors in Biskind's tome often suffered from "too much, too soon" disease. Their early massive successes messed them up later on. As Biskind puts it, "the new Hollywood directors were like free-range chickens; they were let out of the coop to run around the barnyard and imagined they were free. But when they ceased laying those eggs, they were slaughtered."
The book left me wondering--how much do current directors such as the Coen brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Sofia Coppola, Chris Nolan, and Wes Anderson owe to these wunderkinds of the 1970s? Will there be another period like it again? Many of the '70s auteurs take a bleak view of changes in the industry since 1980. Robert Altman said: "Last summer [of 1997] trying to find a picture to see, I went to the multiplexes in Beverly Hills. Every single screen was playing Lost World, Con Air, My Best Friend's Wedding, and Face/Off. There wasn't one picture that an intelligent person could say, `Oh, I want to see this.' It's just become one big amusement park. It's the death of film." As Friedkin puts it, "Star Wars swept all of the chips off the table. What happened with Star Wars was like when McDonald's got a foothold, the taste for good food just disappeared. Now we're in a period of devolution. Everything has gone backward toward a big sucking hole."