AB: What are the biggest changes you witnessed in Hollywood?
SS: What was is no more. The corporate takeover of Hollywood over the last 25 years or so has completely changed the industry forever. A business that once thrived under the guidance of people who were passionate about movies has now been co-opted by corporate thinking and marketing managers. Hollywood has always been a business, yes, but it has also always been an alchemical mixture of business and creative thinking. Under its new management, The New Hollywood is obsessed with teenagers, technology, and film “franchises”, all of which explains why The New Hollywood is releasing a record 27 sequels in 2011, breaking the old record of 24. Does the world really need Fast and Furious 5, Underworld 4, and Big Momma’s House 3? The industry as it is today has also almost completely abandoned its own story development departments and is relying more and more on technology like 3-D to mask its own story telling deficiencies. Oh, and by the way, the financial model is utterly shattered as well. Average movies costs have soared way above $100 million while the DVD business has plummeted and attendance has dropped over 20% in 2011 from 2010 which was also not a great year. Despite all the flash it shows to the world, The New Hollywood is in dire straits indeed.
AB: What improvements would you like to see?
SS: I am very clear in my book that The New Hollywood is what it is and we should not try in any way to improve or change it because we simply can’t and don’t even need to try. The New Hollywood is simply so entrenched in its ways that we should, I believe, just wish it well and pursue a completely separate path. After all, The New Hollywood still makes some wonderful, even dazzling (if hugely expensive) movies for general audiences and we can only hope that these so-called “tent pole” or “event” movies will continue. For independent films, the kind of movies that Canada has excelled at sharing with the world over the decades, that’s where bringing back The Old Hollywood comes in. We need to return to the art of storytelling and character development, and not just release those films in the last 3 months of the year. We need a radically new plan for development, financing, distribution, and exhibition that is 180 degrees different from The New Hollywood model. For those who are interested in learning more, I invite you to join our community at TheOldHollywood.com.
AB: Is there a sequel to Bringing Back the Old Hollywood, in movie parlance?
SS: As to a sequel, I think we should leave those to The New Hollywood. May they rest in pieces.
AB: What makes a star? What is star quality?
SS: Ah, charisma. How do you define something as ephemeral as charisma? You just know it when you see it. For example, I first met Tom Cruise in 1982 when he came in to interview for the lead role in All The Right Moves. He had just committed to starring in Risky Business but he hadn’t started shooting yet and his previous roles had been somewhat small. As I wrote in Bringing Back the Old Hollywood: “There is something about certain young actors and actresses that sets them apart from most of the peers: presence, charisma, an aura of inevitability, confidence, charm, and a sense of “beingness” that radiates an unmistakable essence of talent. I had seen “it” before when we cast Jane Seymour in Somewhere in Time and I would see it again in later years in Charlie Sheen, Matthew Perry, and others. With Tom, it was just unmistakable. Star quality emanated from him like a beacon in the night.
Find out more about Stephen and his book, Bringing Back the Old Hollywood, at theoldhollywood.com.
Anne Brodie is a freelance film reporter and critic.