Hollywood is a place dominated by big things. Big movies. Big budgets. Big parties. Big profits. Big losses. Big personalities.
All of these — particularly the latter — apply to the life and career of Harvey Weinstein, whose impact on the Hollywood studio system has secured his name among the most colourful and influential movie moguls in history. The legendary co-founder of Miramax Films is coming to Australia in November as a guest of the Canberra Film Festival.
Famously assigned the moniker “Scissorhands” to describe his notorious tendency to hack huge chunks out of films to make them more commercially viable for American audiences, Weinstein, along with his brother Bob, transformed the way independent films are distributed, mass-marketing the indie movement and lining the pockets of a number of cash-strapped actors and filmmakers who emerged in the 90s.
These people include Matt Damon, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith and Quentin Taraninto. Weinstein has often referred to Miramax as “The House That Quentin Built.”
Biting his tongue or imparting modest gestures isn’t something Weinstein has been adept at over the years (a riveting account of his professional achievements and powerhouse personality can be found in Peter Biskind’s book Down and Dirty Pictures) so perhaps Harv could use his trip Down Under to lend us a helping hand.
Below I’ve written directly to Weinstein, pointing out five ways he can help Australians and the Australian film industry.
1) Don’t let Americans mutilate Australian accents: the guy who played the Aussie doofus pilot in Pacific Rim is the latest in a long line of ear-bleeding embarrassments. Sadly yes, that does include Tarantino’s “gore blimey!” cameo in Django Unchained but hey, that’s QT, so he can be excused. Sort of. From now on, please do your best to ensure Hollywood hires the real deal (but never under any circumstances Paul Hogan). Failing that, call Liev Schreiber.
2. Give the Australian film industry a good yelling about doing more genre and doing fewer down in the ditch dramas: you probably see the cool Aussie films (thanks for picking up The Saphires, btw) but believe me, many of them aren’t. You’re no stranger to commercial tastes, Mr Weinstein, and have an excellent track record in making low budget productions appealing for the masses. On this subject please, please chew a lot of ears off.
3) Hire talented Australian directors who’ve done great work and been stiffed by the Australian film industry: you really need to hire Nash Edgerton. He made a terrific neo-noir in 2008 with his brother Joel that didn’t get the attention it deserved. It’s called The Square. Since then he’s made three ripper music videos for Bob Dylan and has two killer shorts online called Spider and Bear. You’ll love ’em. Other Aussie guns who would do good things for Miramax include Mark Hartley (Patrick, Not Quite Hollywood) and Craig Monahan. Check out Monahan’s 1998 debut The Interview, a tight, twitchy thriller based at a police station and starring Hugo Weaving. You won’t believe Monahan’s only made one other feature film in 15 years.
4) Give the ACTAs advice on how to run a proper awards night: I know you don’t run the Oscars, but you sure know how to play the game. After all, these days whenever somebody hears the words “Shakespeare in Love won seven Oscars” the response — every single time — is “really? Really?” Miramaz revolutionised the American awards season and AACTA could learn a lot from you. We should get to a point where “AACTA winner” actually means something commercially valuable – i.e. something distributors can put on DVD covers and posters to help sell their films. Granted, with that silly acronym, it’s going to be a challenge.
5) Hire Chris Lilley to remake Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps: I really only had four things in mind, but these listicles are usually round numbers so five sounded about right. We have a TV writer/actor, Chris Lilley, who is great at cross-gender and cross-race performances and could smash a Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps remake out of the park. Alternatively, you could produce an American remake of a TV show of Lilley’s called Summer Heights High and cast Eddie Murphy as all the main characters. He needs the work.