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Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists Paperback – August 16, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Newmarket Press; Revised Edition edition (August 16, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557043744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557043740
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #627,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

The best account of American moviemaking in the age of conglomerate control of the studios.

Review

"The best account of American moviemaking in the age of conglomerate control of the studios." — Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

"A landmark book on movies…must reading!" —Kirkus Reviews

"A compulsively readable account of adventures in the film trade. An intimate view of what goes on in the corridors of Hollywood power…distinguished by its awesome objectivity." —David Brown, The Zanuck Brown Co.

"Buffs will love this one…inside and fascinating looks at Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Sellers, writer William Goldman, Dino De Laurentiis, Truman Capote, Martin Scorsese, et al." —Newsday

"A riveting, witty and essentially heartbreaking chronicle of a catastrophe…" —Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show

"One of the few indispensable books about Hollywood." —Jack Kroll, Newsweek

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Chris K. Wilson on July 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
It was called a "runaway," and never has a term been more appropriate. In this case, it was a movie running millions of dollars over budget with an end nowhere in sight. The 1980 film "Heaven's Gate" has become synonymous with failure, its very name punned whenever big-budget productions flirt with disaster. Steven Bach's "Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists" gives a terrific blow-by-blow account of this gargantuan flop. A former producer at United Artist who suffered the ax after "Heaven's Gate," Bach penned this detailed tome a couple of years after fallout.
The book should be a fascinating account for film lovers. "Final Cut" details the history of United Artists and filmmaking in the 1970s - a truly golden era. At United Artists, Francis Ford Coppola premieres "Apocalypse Now," Woody Allen helms "Manhattan" and Martin Scorsese prepares "Raging Bull." But the man of the hour in 1978 is a quiet guy named Michael Cimino. He just won an Academy Award for directing "The Deer Hunter," and now he wants to make a western - a big, big western.
Bach accurately reveals the difficulties United Artists was going through at this time, losing several long-time executives who jump ship to form the Orion film company. Bach and company, wishing to re-establish United Artists as a major player, take on Cimino's western project. Cimino sets up shop in Montana, the location work a two-hour's drive from the nearest cement road. He ships an antique train across five states to the Montana wilds. He hires over 700 extras. He signs a cast of mainly unknowns including Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, John Hurt and Sam Waterson.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By James P. Lammers on October 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Steven Bach's account of the "Heaven's Gate" fiasco has never been more relevant than now. With weed-like conglomerate corporate growth each day and the Dilbert-like stupidity spawned in most corporate environments, this book should serve as a lesson to many of us.
His compelling story of divided responsibility, group thinking and diluted control goes a long way to explaining the excesses of Cimino and the movie.
Bach writes beautifully and directly. He covers the machinations of the story from the corporate side only. I wished for more of the on-the-set stories - the book would have been improved with a few chapters by someone who witnessed the on-set story. One hilarious on-set story I heard about "Heaven's Gate" before reading this book described how the director needed more space in the street and wanted sets on both sides of the street destroyed and rebuilt 6 feet back. Someone suggested destroying and rebuilding one side only, 12 feet back, and saving half the cost. Cimino told him that it wouldn't have the same feel, and they commenced destroying and rebuilding the entire set! Although these sorts of on-set anecdotes aren't in the book, many other incredibly good ones from the management side are there.
The book describes the history of UA, the history of the skirmish the movie is based on, and the entire before, during and after of the film's development from the viewpoint of Transamerica and UA.
I read it cover to cover in just a few days, and laughed often. A great book!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Edward Roberts on February 18, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Steven Bach is correct in using William Goldman's quote about Hollywood in his introduction ("No one knows anything."). What follows with Final Cut happens because the executives took that attitude to heart, and sometimes, for good reason.
Cimino maneuvered the UA executives, including Bach, into making a movie they didn't believe in because they didn't believe in their own judgement on the script. They didn't step in when the production got out of control beecause they didn't trust their own judgement on what was happening on location in Montana. They didn't demand a proper edit of the movie because they didn't believe they could find any other talent to solve the problem. They didn't pull the movie because they didn't trust what their eyes told them: the movie was awful.
The above paragraph is harsh, and there are examples upon examples of studio heads pulling the plug on what became magnificent movies. These examples, however, are like fortune-tellers proclaiming their successes when they get something right. The fortune-teller did get that one prediction right, but no one remembers the hundreds of times that the fortune-teller was wrong because no one points it out, especially the fortune-teller. In Hollywood, the talent doesn't want the failure pointed out, and the executives don't either since their jobs are on the line.
None of the above is a criticism of this book. In fact, it gives a wonderful insight into how disasters like "Heavan's Gate" can happen. It is written well, and I came away with a much better understanding of the process by which movies get made. It also gives insight into the difference between honest artists who sometimes fail (Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese) and poseurs who bluff their way into creating disasters (Cimino).
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