The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks

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9780547520278: The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks

Former Variety reporter Nicole LaPorte draws from years of inside-the-filmmakers-studio access to spin a smart, gritty tell-all about a clash of industry titans in The Men Who Would Be King.

 

DreamWorks—the mega-million-dollar brainchild of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen—heralded a new age of entertainment empires when it launched in 1994, and their competitive strategy was fierce. For avid business readers, among others, seeing David Geffen in action as he seduces investors like Microsoft's Paul Allen and takes on CAA's Michael Ovitz is worth the price of admission. Their creative battles cost them untold billions on the way to the box office, but this is no rags-to-riches story: in fact, as they grow DreamWorks into one of the most influential film brands operating today, these rich men get richer, even as the stakes get higher.

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From the Inside Flap:

For sixty years, through Oscars and earthquakes, the lineup of Hollywood’s majors varied little, with Universal, Warner Bros., Fox, and Paramount heading the list. Then came the circus maximus created by director Steven Spielberg, billionaire David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg (who gave us The Lion King). Nothing in decades had approached the excitement surrounding the empire called DreamWorks, where hype, glory, and investors vying to kick in billions gave way to blowups, battles, and betrayals worthy of The Godfather.

 Nicole LaPorte reveals for the first time the delicious truth of what happened behind the scenes. From a previously unequaled vantage, we see the slightly otherworldly Spielberg, so rich and famous that the borders of reality, much less his admiring new partners, can barely contain him. As Steven spends, offers lucrative contracts to friends, and makes blockbusters for other companies, Katzenberg attempts to create an animation kingdom that will become the new company’s cash cow and annihilate his old rivals at Disney. (His shock comes when the one movie he does not micromanage — the tale of a green ogre called Shrek — becomes a four-billion-dollar franchise while his own projects tank one by one.) After he’s charmed investors (including Microsoft’s Paul Allen), Geffen hovers above the fray in his Gulfstream IV, occasionally jetting in to zap enemies who violate his rules of business, a code less flexible than omerta.[add accent grave to a]

There are clashes between Spielberg’s blue-jeaned troops and Katzenberg’s steely, Disney-trained warriors, and the seduction of stars such as George Clooney and Nicole Kidman (who can’t believe the mess made of DreamWorks’ first movie, The Peacemaker). LaPorte shows us the making of Oscar-winning triumphs, including Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty, and Gladiator, a box-office crowd pleaser whose star, Russell Crowe, threatened homicide in bizarre late-night phone tirades. Behind the high jinks, however, is the very serious business of producing films, among America’s biggest exports. Yet we watch as the partners alternately obsess and ignore their company as it burns through billions. We see Geffen showing his mettle against superagent Michael Ovitz, and staging a fireworks display during the negotiations that ultimately took DreamWorks to Paramount and then to Disney.

Here are three larger-than-life personalities, moguls that hark back to the days of Mayer and Goldwyn, making moves that remind us that in Hollywood, big business calls for memorable performances.

From the Back Cover:

Here is the archetypal tale of today’s Hollywood, the cinematic saga of three entertainment legends—friends and rivals, brilliant and savage, ultraconfident and a little crazy—who built the company of their dreams, but wound up with more than a few nightmares.

"Power, grandiosity, arrogance, and incomprehensible ego. It’s Hollywood, of course, and Nicole LaPorte’s exhaustive nonfiction narrative of DreamWorks and the bizarre triumvirate of Spielberg, Geffen, and Katzenberg is stunning. The book reads like a novel and the reporting is impeccable. If you pick up one book about Hollywood, make it this one." — Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and former coproducer of NYPD Blue

"Here is the brilliant, brutal, misguided, narcissistic history of DreamWorks in all its glory, with David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg working unscripted, without handlers or publicists dimming the lights into in a rosy glow. Nicole LaPorte has written a lively, cunning studio history that should be required reading for all students of modern Hollywood." — Mimi Swartz, author of Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron
"This book has all the right elements: deep-dish research, attitude to burn, page-turning readability, and a great subject. It belongs up there with the classics of Hollywood reportage." — Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood and Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America 

"Nicole LaPorte may never be able to eat lunch in Hollywood again, but her potential loss is our gain: The Men Who Would Be King is a riveting and honest portrayal of three of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry. I couldn't put it down, and neither will you." — William Cohan, author of House of Cards

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