It stunned me to realise that it’s over twenty years since this was published. I have the original hardback, which means it’s over twenty years since I read it. That makes me feel old. As if I should already be staggering around the garden, entertaining grandchildren with pieces of orange in my mouth.
This charge through the world of New Hollywood of the 1970s remains a compulsive read. Starting with bad behaviour on the set of EASY RIDER (well, actually a bit before that, with the suggestion that WHAT’S UP PUSSYCAT is inadvertently one of the most influential films of the era), before proceeding to coked out gloom by the time we get to RAGING BULL.
The reputations of these men had declined in the years before the book was published – and many of them are has-beens now (only Scorsese and Spielberg still have active careers). The book does it best to puff up the reputations of then still jobbing directors, William Friedken and Francis Ford Coppola. But more importantly, does sterling work in trying to rebuild the reputation of Hal Ashby – director of HAROLD & MAUDE, COMING HOME, SHAMPOO and BEING THERE – who isn’t often referenced in this company – but the book is right, that is one hell of a run of films.
However – if you didn’t know that the author later became his biographer – you’d find it hard to believe that there’s so much Warren Beatty in this. Yes, he helps kick it all off and was winning an Oscar for Best Director at the start of the Eighties, but for him to be such a prominent, uncriticised voice feels somewhat unbalanced. Throughout the author writes about how charming Beatty is, and it does feel like he got charmed.
It’s a very male book (and filled with male sociopaths) and reading it again, in light of Me Too did makes me wonder how it would be written now. To be fair, a lot of male bad behaviour to women – be it adultery or outright abuse – is called out. But written again, one can’t help but feel that the perceived unhinged, aggressive sexuality of Margot Kidder, or the manipulativeness of Amy Irving would have been treated a differently.
Ultimately though, the best tribute I can give to this book is that like a lot of the films it covers, this is epic, frequently brilliant, if flawed, and crammed full of fascinated characters.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!