Every few years, I re-read the Peter Biskind book that this documentary was based on, if only to make myself more depressed as time goes on over the fact that the New Hollywood that changed cinema faded so quickly and was replaced by whatever we have now.
Kenneth Bowser directed this — and several documentaries on another of my pop culture obsessions that had a brief period (s) of greatness followed by mediocrity, Saturday Night Live — and it’s the perfect companion to the book, building on the stories there by featuring interviews with most of the people who survived, like Martin Scorsese, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich, John Schlesinger, Johnathan Demme, John Milius, Karen Black, Cybill Shepherd, Francis Ford Coppola and more.
Many of the subjects from the book — including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Robert Altman and William Friedkin — declined interviews. That said, Spielberg and Lucas come off the worst in the book, so I can see them not wanting to be part of a movie that was going to blame their blockbusters for being the end of the artistic aims of Hollywood. To be fair, the movie lays a lot of the claim for that at the fact that so many of the New Hollywood auteurs flamed out or had badly recieved films. But Spielberg and Lucas did slam the blockbuster nails into the coffin.
When asked about the book, Robert Altman said, “It was hate mail. We were all lured into talking to this guy because people thought he was a straight guy but he was filling a commission from the publisher for a hatchet job. He’s the worst kind of human being I know.” And Spielberg was reported as saying that every word in the book about him was “either erroneous or a lie.”
As for Friedkin, who was painted as a bully in the book, he said: “I’ve actually never read the book, but I’ve talked to some of my friends who are portrayed in it, and we all share the opinion that it is partial truth, partial myth and partial out-and-out lies by mostly rejected girlfriends and wives.”
I kind of love that Bogdonovich said, “I spent seven hours with that guy over a period of days, and he got it all wrong,” and still shows up in this movie.
You can watch this on YouTube.