Notebook

September 20, 2011 11:14 pm

The long road to redemption

Hollywood loves nothing better than a comeback – but for two fallen stars a rocky road of redemption lies ahead, writes Matthew Garrahan

Hollywood loves nothing better than a comeback – but for two recently fallen stars a rocky road of redemption lies ahead if former glories are ever to be retained.

Mel Gibson’s career as an actor and director went into freefall five years ago after he hurled anti-Semitic abuse at a Jewish police officer in a drunken tirade. With this in mind, many Jews in Hollywood were outraged to learn this month that Gibson’s next project is a biopic about Judah Maccabee, a Jewish hero, in a film he is developing with Warner Brothers.

“Casting him as a director or as the star of Judah Maccabee is like casting [Bernie] Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Marvin Hier, dean of Los Angeles’ Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance, fumed in The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s simply an insult to Jews.”

Banx cartoon

With hostility like this evident before Gibson has even begun filming, a sensitive approach will be needed. He is working with Joe Eszterhas, the screenwriter of Basic Instinct – a film about as sensitive as a punch in the face – yet it is unclear whether the Maccabee project, or any other, will help him rebuild his shattered reputation.

The road back to public affection is a little less fraught for Charlie Sheen, the actor whose drink and drug-related public implosion this year cost him his job as the star of Two and a Half Men. The ratings-topping show turned Sheen into one of the biggest stars in America but there wasn’t much fondness for him on display at Sunday night’s Emmy awards in downtown Los Angeles.

 Sheen is developing a new series with a different producer and has expressed regret for his behaviour in recent interviews. But when he took to the Emmy stage to present an acting award the reception was so cold there were icicles forming on the noses of the Warner Bros executives who fired him.

Yet he can afford to be patient. He earned $2m an episode during the show’s peak and after suing Warner Bros for wrongful termination, the Los Angeles Times reported this week that he and the studio are close to agreeing a $25m settlement. Maybe comebacks are over-rated.

Celebrity backers

With the Republican primary race picking up steam, candidates are hunting big-name endorsements to lend their campaigns credibility. One unlikely friendship is between Ron Paul, the libertarian candidate, and Vince Vaughn, the comic actor best known for movies such as Wedding Crashers. “Ron and Vince are friends, with Vince not merely interested in Dr Paul’s philosophy,” said a Paul campaign spokesman.

With Vaughn’s help, Dr Paul should reach younger voters. There’s little chance of that happening with his other celebrity endorser, a singer who says he “agrees with just about everything,” Dr Paul says.

Step forward, Barry Manilow.

Talking hard cash

Netflix, the DVD and online movie streaming company, has not won many friends lately. This summer it upset many of its customers with a 60 per cent price increase. Its shares slid at the time but really tanked last week when Netflix warned that a million customers were quitting the service.

To make matters worse, the company then said it would rename its DVD business “Qwikster” and keep the Netflix brand for its online movie streaming service. Given the company’s tech-savvy and the growing importance of Twitter as a communication tool it was natural to assume Netflix would have registered the Qwikster Twitter name before announcing the change.

Except it didn’t. The owner of the Qwikster Twitter “handle” is Jason Castillo, a young man partial to expletive-laden Tweets about his prodigious drug intake. Netflix customers looking for information about their DVD subscriptions will be disappointed. “Tired as shyt n i can’t sleep,” Mr Castillo writes in one recent message, while another tells us he is “Bored as shyt wanna blaze…where’s the bowl at…spark me up”.

The number of people following Mr Castillo on Twitter has increased by several thousand since Netflix unveiled the Twitter name. The good news is he’s willing to talk hard cash in return for giving up the name. “I won’t agree till I get a contract n ill negotiate,” he wrote this week. Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive, must be thrilled.

matthew.garrahan@ft.com

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