Customer Reviews: The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks
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on May 9, 2010
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.

The book details more of the final years of the company and how this once-powerhouse became a shell of itself sold to other studios right before the economic crunch. It's an incredibly detailed book that shines new light on the personalities involved and shows how even the biggest dreamers have a hard time dealing with the reality of Hollwyood. A must-have for any movie-making buff.
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on May 10, 2010
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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VINE VOICEon September 17, 2013
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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on July 21, 2014
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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VINE VOICEon August 18, 2011
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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VINE VOICEon 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. This, however, is the flip side - the trashy business end of the glamorous and flashy facade. And those who eagerly anticipate their weekly fill of People Magazine, Variety, and Entertainment Weekly will gobble this book up and want more. I just felt the need to wash my hands. The book starts out well - lots of beautiful celebrities and juicy inside information - but I found myself losing interest less than halfway through (I usually read on my lunch break and when I start heading back in less than my usual hour, it's not a good sign). It's interesting enough to finish, but I got tired of hearing of every announcement that sent "a shockwave rolling through Hollywood" and all the men who were reduced to tears by someone's tantrums. I must admit however, since I live in Los Angeles it was rather eye-opening. (3.5 stars)
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on May 5, 2014
Its a pretty solid account of how the company was formed and their ups and downs. The business has certainly changed since this came out but its useful background for making sense of whats happening today in the entertainment business.
Speilberg is treated as royalty and Geffen is some mystery guy who pulls magic strings but it doesnt go into that....and it makes Katzenberg look like a hard working guy but even though things dont always go his way...he still makes hundreds of of to love it...
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on May 17, 2013
Given the prologue, I expected a completely different book and was happily surprised.

The book gives a very real understanding of three extremely successful men who decide to build a production company and I believe do just that, although given the end of the story, they expected different results - quickly.

Dreamworks SKG is awe inspiring and so very interesting for anyone wanting an understanding of Hollywood or what makes overachievers tick.

It doesn't delve too much into their earlier business lives and as such, made me search the kindle store for further information, although I found it sadly lacking. The one book I did find and would recommend with this book is "The Keys to the Kingdom" by Kim Masters.

A real page turner, don't start without few hours free!
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on October 16, 2015
The story of Dreamworks and its eventual decline. It wasn't just a few biographies and movie review. I didn't know about the production behind Lemony Snickett's movie. It surprised me. Steven Speilberg's independence seemed to hurt this brand, but there was so much more. It wasn't like The Beatles Apple label, but the separate motives may have done damage.
Just read this and see.
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on April 13, 2013
It seemed like Dreamworks had it all: Hollywood's top director, the smartest businessman in town, and the industry's most driven and successful executive. But it didn't work out as planned. This very tidily written, exhaustively researched book takes us into the world of the giants of the entertainment industry, and they all look smaller close up.
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