When the low-budget biker movie
Easy Rider shocked Hollywood with its success in 1969, a new Hollywood era was born. This was an age when talented filmmakers such as Scorcese, Coppola, and Spielberg, along with a new breed of actors, including DeNiro, Pacino, and Nicholson, became the powerful figures who would make such modern classics as
Taxi Driver, and
Easy Rider, Raging Bulls follows the wild ride that was Hollywood in the 70s - an unabashed celebration of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll (both on screen and off) and a climate where innovation and experimentation reigned supreme.
"Peter Biskind's great, scathing, news-packed history...is one hell of an elixir - salty with flavorsome gossip, sour with the aftertaste of misspent careers, intoxicating with one revelation after another...an 'A.'" (
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This is a fascinating book, documenting the period from the early 70s when a new, young crowd of film-makers descended on Hollywood determined to break the established system where the studio was king, and everyone else did as they were told. But be warned, this is hard-edged and often difficult reading, as the young crowd tasted initial success, only to create an environment worse than the system they sought to overthrow. Much, much worse…
In telling the tale, the writer looks closely at a number of seminal films from the 70s, including Bonnie & Clyde, Easy Rider, French Connection, Jaws, Apocalypse Now and, of course, The Godfather. In every case, these were films made by directors looking to make their mark in the world, whilst at the same time refusing to give way to the studios when they questioned the director’s approach. The ‘inner circle’ of this group of mavericks include Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Bogdanovich and Freidkin, and the book looks at their careers during the 70s, from early struggles and failures, through to the breakthrough films that made them famous, and then to the long, painful fall from grace, as all but Spielberg struggle to recreate their early successes.
Nobody comes out of this book with any integrity. I suppose it’s a fact of life that reasonable people don’t become movie directors, but this bunch are nothing more than petulant, indulged children, who see no problem with throwing tantrums (and often other things) on the set or even in public.
Without doubt, the worst of the bunch is Scorsese, who’s temper tantrums are legendary. On one occasion, whilst staying at a plush Hollywood hotel, Scorsese’s wife is on the ‘phone with a business partner, and she is getting angry at him. Marty Scorsese snatches the ‘phone from her, screams abuse at the caller, and then rips the ‘phone out of the wall. Then, still vibrating with anger, he goes downstairs to the lobby to call the guy on a payphone, so he can continue to scream at him.
Lucas, frets over whether his idea for ‘Star Wars’ is actually any good. This mood is not helped by De Palma, Scorsese and Coppola telling him it’s a rubbish idea and he should make ‘Art Films’. Only Spielberg is supportive. When the original Star Wars becomes the biggest grossing film ever, Lucas becomes an overnight megalomaniac, and refuses to help, or even talk to, his former confederates.
And if you think they treated each other poorly, wait until you read how they treated those on the periphery of their universes. Writers, Editors, Backers, Actors and, especially, would-be actress/models are simply used and thrown away like Kleenex.
And one by one, they all follow the same path, as success instils in each an arrogance and ego of unbelievable proportions. Coppola sets the bar here; following the outstanding success of his Godfather films, he sets off to Manilla to shoot Apocalypse Now. He is told by locals that monsoon season is coming, and typhoons are a regular event where he aims to shoot. Does he listen? He does not, and instead builds enormous million-dollar sets in the middle of nowhere, and then throws a tantrum and starts firing people when, as predicted, the whole thing is destroyed by a typhoon.
This book leaves you with the impression that the film-makers of the 70s were simply making it up as they went. Most times they got it wrong, but every so often things fell into place, and a classic was born.
Narration by Dick Hill is excellent, and keeps you engaged throughout.
This is great value for money, its a long and interesting listen.
A friend recommended this book years ago and I couldn't get into it. But it really works as an audio book.
No one really comes out of this book well apart from perhaps Jack Nicholson. These great women and men are reduced to ego-maniac, childish bullies and nerds. Biskind's style is very sensationalist,scurrilous and yet compelling.
The narrator is superb and his delivery is measured, waspish and hilarious.