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Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System Hardcover – January 25, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

New York Times Hollywood correspondent Waxman has written a gritty, truthful study of six boundary-breaking young directors who revolutionized 1990s filmmaking and still represent a refreshing alternative to "cookie cutter scripts and cheap MTV imagery." Her full-blooded profiles introduce Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights), David Fincher (Fight Club), Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), David O. Russell (Three Kings) and Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich). Waxman shows these auteurs, who "wreaked havoc with traditional narrative form" and combined brutality with humor, as eccentric, frequently antisocial and hardheaded. Their stories make for compelling reading: Waxman dramatizes Russell's erratic, explosive nature in the book's most blistering episode, where the director loses his temper and has a fistfight with actor George Clooney on the set of Three Kings. Other chapters depict Tarantino's penchant for jettisoning close friends after achieving success and Soderbergh's unswerving loyalty to pals. These men possess a daring vision, which the author skillfully depicts, simultaneously offering an illuminating view of motion picture politics. Most of all, Waxman proffers assurance to artists with original voices that their ideas can reach the public if they maintain Fincher's attitude - "Take me or leave me. My way or the highway" - and possess a little luck. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In the 1990s, a group of young directors roiled Hollywood in much the way that Coppola, Scorsese, and their peers shook up the establishment two decades earlier. New York Times correspondent Waxman traces the careers of six of those next-generation rebels--Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Spike Jonze, and David O. Russell--from Tarantino's groundbreaking and influential Reservoir Dogs in 1992 to Soderbergh's success, Traffic, in 2000. The '90s had more than its share of innovative and challenging films, ranging from Anderson's Altmanesque Boogie Nights and Fincher's brutal Fight Club to Russell's prescient Three Kings and Jonze's unclassifiable Being John Malkovich. Waxman details the shooting of those films and others, and the corporate barriers their directors had to overcome. The young turks of the '90s didn't change the course of the film industry the way the '70s rebels did, but if they evaded the self-destructive lifestyles that sabotaged many of their earlier counterparts, their self-indulgences were manifested in their films instead, as Waxman's sympathetic but clear-eyed account shows. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (January 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060540176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060540173
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Clare Quilty on January 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you felt a little let down by Peter Biskind's recent look at 90's indie film, "Down & Dirty Pictures," this juicier but also more personal book might be closer to what you were hoping to find there.

Instead of focusing primarily on Sundance and Miramax, Waxman focuses on the six men responsible for some of the biggest movies of the past decade: Quentin Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction"), P.T. Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia"), Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich"), David O. Russell ("Three Kings"), David Fincher ("Fight Club") and Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic").

They're a mixed bag of personalities and Waxman tells their stories with detail and relish, and also touches on other interesting filmmakers such as Wes Anderson, Roger Avary, Charlie Kaufman, Alexander Payne and others (though some are conspicuously absent -- Spike Lee and especially Richard Linklater, who isn't even mentioned).

It's hard to miss with a collection of stories like this: Tarantino's rise to power; Hackman cursing Wes Anderson on the set of "Tenenbaums"; Avary's attempts to buy a famous French film studio; Russell headbutting George Clooney on the set of "Kings" and P.T. Anderson admitting that "Magnolia" was probably too long.

"Rebels" (very deliberately) rises to the same sordid, "print the legend" heights as Biskind's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Indie filmmaker on April 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is a very quick read, but unfortunately shows all the signs of having been an equally quick write. I have never before stopped in the middle of reading a book to pull out a pen and write down all the glaring factual errors and omissions that I saw, but Rebels on the Backlot forced me to do just that. I see that many of the most egregious errors have already been noted by others, but here is some of what I wrote down as I read:

On page 231: "Texas preppie-geek Wes Anderson had made his first movie, Rushmore, based on his experience in prep school, with an utter unknown in the lead, Jason Schwartzman." Wes Anderson's first film, of course, was Bottle Rocket, not Rushmore. And, yes, Jason Schwartzman had no previous film acting experience before Rushmore, but was hardly an "utter unknown" to the film world- his family (both the Schwartzmans and the Coppolas) had done a little bit of film work in their past, both in front of and behind the cameras. Even Waxman might have recognized the mother of this "utter unknown" from all of the Rocky movies.

Traffic star Erika Christensen is identified on page 321 as "Erika Christenssen" and, most howlingly, on page 101 as "Julia Stiles." Yes, the two actresses do look alike, but that's just absurd.

On page 266, describing the marketing of Fight Club, Waxman writes that "Fincher insisted the studio hire a cutting-edge advertising firm, Weiden + Kennedy, based in Seattle." Weiden + Kennedy are based in Portland, home of Nike, their biggest client. They have offices in Portland, New York, Amsterdam, London, Tokyo and Shanghai, but not in Seattle.

On page 194, Waxman describes the profound influence of Aimee Mann's music in the creation of Magnolia, both at the script level, and in the soundtrack.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Howard Lamp on March 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I tore through this book, enjoying it thoroughly. It's a quick entertaining read, and seems to reveal a lot about the craziness of trying to manage a directing career.

However, there's also a really shoddy first-draft feel to the book. The irony is Waxman is a New York Times writer, and the book is filled with passages that would embarrass the paper. Example- "The question of Tarantino's ability to write without the support of a partner became a real question over the years." Oy vey!

The factual errors also make me wonder how much of these stories I can take at face value. She briefly mentions Wes Anderson's first film, Bottle Rocket, early in the book and then later calls Rushmore his first film. She misidentifies Erika Christensen as Julia Stiles in Traffic. She reports that David Russell used a real corpse for a shot of a bullet entering a body in Three Kings when it's been reported widely that this story was a misunderstanding of a joke that Russell had made and a dummy was actually used. These are just the ones that I (not a film industry person) caught.

That said, I recommend it to wannabe film directors as a fun set of stories that may inspire you or may revulse you to the business altogether.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chester Bollaireaux on July 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Waxman's book makes one wonder if she really writes for the New York Times. Any amateur film geek who's actually seen the films she writes about will find multiple errors, strange, unsupported statements, poorly written and edited sentences, and could probably write a better book themselves in short order.

That said, Waxman's interviews do give her a point of view on her six main subjects which is interesting, and some of the gossip is compelling. Waxman badly needs an editor. She thanks one in the acknowledgments, so apparently someone held the title, but no one much seems to have performed the function. Had a good editor got hold of this manuscript, it might seem less like it was written in crayon in a big hurry. Which is a shame, because it does have its moments, a few revelations, and a driving narrative. But too much takes away from these strengths to recommend the book highly.
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