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The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks Paperback – Bargain Price, May 24, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"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."

"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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 516 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547520271
  • ASIN: B005OLAL5E
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book somehow manages to get in the minds and psyches of three of the most accomplished men Hollywood has ever seen and explain, down to the color of the curtains in the room when they decided to go into business together, every last riveting detail. Books like these tend to skim the surface, take the easy way out, or just read like they're written by someone who's very aware of how they'll be perceived by the subjects. Nicole LaPorte seems out to both understand and explain what happened, mis-step by mis-step and clearly isn't interested in pleasing these men who would be king.

Even people who aren't interested in Tinseltown shenanigans would find this compelling: a fascinating tale of how sometimes the best intentions, when mixed with some other less-than-stellar intentions, can cause a "sure thing" to come toppling down.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love reading good Hollywood stories as well as the business behind the business. I had this book for over a year and never read. DON'T MAKE THAT MISTAKE! Read this book if you like knowing the backstory.

This book studies in depth the principals of Dreamworks from its creation to some of its final moves that separates the three partners. AND IT IS FASCINATING! All three men have completely different personalities and roles and some have exceptionally poor management skills. The backstory to the Hollywood God Spielberg and who runs his company (Walter Parks) and how it is run while Parks produces also is fascinating and not the type information you would get in a typical read. So let me take a minute and honor the author whose research and thoroughness is absolutely incredible.

This is a commitment book. It will take some time. But that time is well worth it. I strongly encourage anyone with interest in Hollywood particularly if you like to know the business behind the business to read this book. It's like a history of the past 20 years of the business.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition Verified Purchase
A very detailed, meticulously time-lined narrative of the creation and life of Dreamworks. The author gives great background to the important players, deal makers, and production teams, and their agreements. Fascinating. Hollywood Business 101. The audio narration is very good (just a couple of names mispronounced). However, as there is so much information, it's a tough audio book to follow and may be a better hard copy read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In short, DreamWorks was created in part to give Jeffrey Katzenberg a job after he was ousted from Disney, to give Steven Spielberg a shot at creating an old-style studio with a new-style sensibility, and to give David Geffen a perch from which to rain misery upon his enemies. What the three of them lacked was a solid business plan or a vision of where the future of the business of Hollywood might take them.

One gets the impression that they founded DreamWorks simply because they could, and that as good as it looked on paper it would, ultimately, endure a series of near-catastrophic disasters because of the myopic vision of one partner, the sometimes-aloof distance of another, and the relative detachment of the third one.

But oh, how the money flowed! It flowed in in great quantities, turning a multimillionaire with an axe to grind into a billionaire and turning billionaires into multibillionaires. It flowed in until it stopped flowing in: grand plans were put on the back burner or abandoned altogether, alliances were formed and broken, employees became disillusioned, and one partner seemed to lose some interest altogether, at least when his personal fortune and ego could be stroked by working with outside studios here and there.

It was a grand plan that had no solid detailed plan or real leadership at all.

No one went home hungry at the end of the day, but some egos got bruised, pride got hurt, and the veils of invincibility didn't last very long.

Fascinating reading.
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