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The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks Hardcover – May 4, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1St Edition edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547134703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547134703
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #799,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The rise and then the crash and burn of DreamWorks, created by three of the biggest egos in Hollywood—Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen—is a gripping saga of changing economic times. Wary of corporate inroads and catalyzed by Katzenberg’s troubled departure from Disney, the three had independently come to a point where they wanted to run their own show. In 1994, without even a name for their venture, they announced the formation of a company that would break the mold on corporate ownership of entertainment-making, respecting creativity above all else. Spielberg was coddled and cosseted as the ultimate artiste. Katzenberg, who headed the animation division at Disney, was motivated as much by vengeance against CEO Michael Eisner when he set about luring away Disney’s animators. Billionaire Geffen was looked on as the businessman who would bring together disparate parts of the company. What followed was a clash of multiple cultures and visions, within and outside of DreamWorks. LaPorte, a former film industry reporter for Variety, offers a deliciously detailed look at the trials, triumphs, and fumbles of DreamWorks—from the complicated story behind Shrek, a CGI pioneer, to the courting of stars Nicole Kidman and George Clooney and soothing of Russell Crowe. This unauthorized chronicle of DreamWorks will no doubt seal LaPorte’s status as persona non grata in Hollywood, but readers will love it. --Vanessa Bush

Review

"Want to know how business really works in LaLa Land? Read this book"
--Liz Smith, wowOwow.com

"LaPorte's lenghty narrative is the definitive history of the studio, an achievement of dispassionate reporting in the genre of corporate decline-and-fall...Hollywood, with its penchant for sunny publicity and an obsession for secrecy, is a notoriously difficult business in which to uncover the truth...Most reporters are not up to the task. LaPorte is... The Men Who Would Be King will be required reading for anyone interested in the story of DreamWorks."
--L.A. Times

"A thrilling ride... The bumbling and infighting are just too good, and sad, to resist... We're privy to some serious dirt. LaPorte has clearly done her homework... The sheer scope and depth of The Men Who Would Be King impresses. No hissy fit escapes LaPorte's gaze. Every time Geffen has a meltdown or A-list stars like Russell Crowe throw trantrums, LaPorte is there to capture it."
--Boston Globe

"Daily Beast contributor and former Variety reporter LaPorte penetrates the mysterious inner workings of DreamWorks. . . . LaPorte marshals an awesome body of research to vividly depict DreamWorks’ confused identity, the personality conflicts and ego clashes that raged behind the company’s friendly, low-key exterior . . . Behind-the-scenes glimpses at the productions of such signature DreamWorks films as American Beauty and Gladiator are wonderfully diverting Hollywood dirt, but the heart of the story is simple human ambition. Stories of Katzenberg’s toxic and litigious relationship with former boss and Disney honcho Michael Eisner, Geffen’s mission to destroy agent Michael Ovitz and the rivalry between DreamWorks Animation and Disney’s Pixar are fascinating for their insights into the ways petty personal issues are expressed in multibillion-dollar transactions. In Hollywood, it seems, business is always personal. A gripping account of money, ambition and the movies . . . same as it ever was."
Kirkus

"Nicole LaPorte has found a big story—this is the great part—that is even bigger than first appears, the story of DreamWorks being the story of modern Hollywood, which is the dream life of the world. She has climbed into the engine room with pen and notebook and been careful to record the details and dirt, then turned all that into music, the result being a gutsy saga filled with larger than life characters and incident. Read this book only if you want to know what makes our country, as Leonard Cohen sang, the cradle of the best and the worst."
—Rich Cohen, author of Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams and Lake Effect


"Power, grandiosity, arrogance, and incomprehensible ego. It’s Hollywood, of course, and Nicole LaPorte’s exhaustive non-fiction 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 to 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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Customer Reviews

This book is juicy, dishy and extremely detailed!
FAS
In "The Men Who Would Be King," author Nicole LaPorte puts together a great history of a specific business entity, DreamWorks.
Cowboy Bill
This book should be required reading for anyone interested in business and/or Hollywood.
MasterAP

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Weyer on May 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's amazed me that Dreamworks hasn't spawned more books. The only one before was "The Dream Team" which was rather short. But this more than makes up for it as Nicole Laporte does an excellent job on the behind-the-scenes struggles of what seemed the perfect talent merger. She shows how right off the bat, Giffin was above things, only coming in to supply funds when needed while Spielberg's vision as a filmmaker didn't translate as well to the business side of things.

It's Katzenberg who's the real focus and Laporte does a great job showing the key problem: The man was far more interested in beating out Disney and sticking it to Michael Eisner than really doing his best to make Dreamworks successful. He became obsessed with "out Disneying Disney" in animation, backing flops like "Road to El Dorado" and the brilliant irony is that the one movie he didn't micromanage would be the company's biggest hit "Shrek." Laporte points at 2003's "Sinbad" as a turning point for the company as Katzenberg never really recovered from the animated movie he'd been championing becoming a total bomb.

While she can be a bit too in-depth (did we really need eight pages on "Mousehunt?") Laporte does a great job detailing the company's successes and failures. She moves from how "Gladiator" survived a chaotic production to become a huge hit to how the company poured millions into "Almost Famous" only to see it die at the box office. She nails their problems like Katzenberg producing way too many copies of "Shrek 2" on DVD among other spending items. And it's terrific reading her detailing the Dreamworks/Miramax feud that would become war at Oscar time.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on June 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In Hollywood, where ego rules the day and perception is reality--there were (and are) few bigger names than wonderkind director Steven Spielberg, mogul David Geffin, and the polarizing yet savvy Jeffrey Katzenberg. When the three combined forces to form DreamWorks Studios in the nineties, the promise of a modern media revolution (and empire) captivated LaLaLand. However, the idea of a contemporary entertainment utopia never quite developed into a reality. With no real business plan in place and clashing priorities, DreamWorks became the most expensive start-up of all time and one of the most public displays of hype unrealized. Nicole Laporte's exhaustive chronicle "The Men Who Would Be King" expertly details the folly and foibles in a cautionary tale that absolutely captures the essence of the current film industry. It is THE must read of the year for anyone with a passing interest in the movie business.

The rise and fall of DreamWorks provides incredible highs and devastating lows, so Laporte's expose is as dramatic and colorful as it is informative. But you might expect that drama with the huge personalities involved! Katzenberg, in particular, is so compelling as a character--he is, alternately, an incredibly savvy businessman and utterly pigheaded. Spielberg, the center of this particular universe, is an undeniable creative genius--but with his limited attention span and free spirit, he never leveraged his power to propel DreamWorks into a successful business model. For every film success ("Saving Private Ryan," "American Beauty," "Gladiator," and "Shrek"), there were many more failures or missed opportunities.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Green VINE VOICE on June 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In 1994 the first new Hollywood studio in 60 years announced its beginning with more than just the usual fanfare. Steven Spielberg, the genius director; Jeffrey Katzenberg, the man who put Disney animation back in business with movies like The Lion King; and David Geffen, the billionaire music mogul, joined forces to create Dreamworks SKG. It was the biggest conglomeration of talent and industry power since anyone could remember. But despite such huge blockbusters and award-winning films as "Saving Private Ryan," "American Beauty," and "Shrek," Dreamworks was sold in 2006 and S, K, and G went their separate ways. In addition to the successes, there had been a pile of projects that had bombed, often spectacularly.

Nicole LaPorte has burned plenty of bridges and written an inside account of the biggest egos in the entertainment industry (understandably, few of her sources are named). Katzenberg brought them together after his firing at Disney in an attempt to regain his pride. Spielberg couldn't resist making one blockbuster after another - for other studios. And Geffen was only interested in the fight and the careers he could destroy. Thrown into the mix are the biggest movers and shakers in Hollywood - Eisner, Ovitz, Clooney, Cruise, Hanks, Crowe, etc., etc., etc. - and their petulant needs to constantly be told how wonderful they are.

Hollywood has been tremendously influential in the social history of America, and I've enjoyed biographies of some of the giants like Hitchcock and Disney.
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