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IN THEIR WORDS - Have a gander at what they've said... Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Dustin, Hoffman
Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Charles Grodin, Elaine May, Paul Williams, Laurence Juber, Paul Standig




FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER Interview Excerpts, With MIKE NICHOLS
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
February 26, 2006  •  READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
MIKE NICHOLS: (Nichols began with an observation about the experience of watching Ishtar in 2006) Clearly we were all sitting here thinking the same thing. How were you so prescient? Where did your Orwellian vision come from? Because you invented the perfect metaphor for the behavior of the Bush administration in Iraq.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
ELAINE MAY: Well, oddly enough when I made this movie Ronald Reagan was president & there was Iran-Contra, we were supporting Iran & Iraq. We put in Saddam. We had taken out the Shah. Khomeini was there. I remember looking at Ronald Reagan & thinking-I'm qualifying this, this was just an idea, I didn't really believe it-I thought, he's from Hollywood, he's a really nice man. It's possible the only movie he's ever seen about the Middle East are the road movies with Hope & Crosby, & I thought I would make that movie.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
MN: Well, it's true. This is a road movie about the Middle East. [To the audience] How many people have never seen it before? Everybody?
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
EM: If all of the people who hate Ishtar had seen it, I would be a rich woman today.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
MN: That leads me to the subtext of all this. We have to talk about studios & how we work with studios & what your experiences have been with studios. What is your feeling about a) the machine that has to be gotten together for a movie & b) the relationship to the studio?
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
EM: Every movie I made except for The Heartbreak Kid, the studio changed regimes in the middle of the movie.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
MN: How funny, that's happening to me. Not one but two studios. I'm working on two movies & two studios: the regimes are changing as we speak. One is happening actually over this weekend.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
EM: It's not a great thing because whoever is coming in doesn't like you a) because you have been chosen by someone else & they don't really know whether they want to take responsibility for it. So it's not a good thing to have happened. But I've never made a movie, except for Heartbreak Kid, in which it didn't happen. With this movie, the guy who took over Columbia was David Putnam. Actually I prepared for tonight, because I knew about it three weeks ago-first the breast implants & then I actually looked up this stuff. When David Putnam came in, he was a guy who, when Warren Beatty did Reds, I think he did Chariots of Fire, & they were up against each other in the Academy Awards. And he wrote something that was published in the paper that said Warren should be spanked because he was profligate. But underneath the article it didn't say in italics like it does after other letters, that he was a competitor for the Academy Awards, that he had an agenda. They just printed that article. And everybody adored him. In fact even today, one of my dearest friends said to me, "He was really rotten to you, but he's a great guy." So people do seem to like him. You like him.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
MN: Well, let me say that I think that both in our work & in our life function determines character. When you run a studio you change. I think after David Putnam ran the studio he turned out to be a very nice guy. But he talked a lot when he ran the studio. And I think Ishtar is maybe the prime example that I know of in Hollywood of studio suicide. In that it had a great preview.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
EM: It had three great previews.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
MN: And then this really strange thing started to happen, which was that stories began to appear with studio sources about what a problem it was.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
EM: And many of the details were not true. This is a really embarrassing thing to say, but it's just us, so I know it won't go any farther, but I left almost immediately for Bali. The film was political & it was a satire but it was my secret. When these articles started coming out, I thought-only for five minutes-it's the CIA. I didn't dream that it would be the studio. For one moment it was sort of glorious to think that I was going to be taken down by the CIA, & then it turned out to be David Putnam. I think this man was unique in that way, in that he was going to redo Hollywood & make it a better place. He was going to work from the inside.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
MN: It doesn't want to be a better place. It's like Las Vegas. From the very beginning there's been the problem between the executives & the people making the movies. And it's a problem because the process of making movies is not something that can be apprehended from without. A guy that works in the studios, a very nice, often very intelligent executive, thinks that expressing an opinion in a meeting is a creative act because that's all he gets to do. And that's as high in the creative scale as he can ever hope to get. And the problem with it is that the opinions expressed often bare no relation to the work that's being done. Would you say you agree so far?
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
EM: Except... yes, I do agree.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
MN: I've convinced her. Here's where it gets to be a problem. They say "But it's our money." But here's the funny part. It's not, of course. It's GE's money, or it's Sony's money. Who is "us"?
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
EM: It's funny that you say that because Charles Grodin, the CIA agent in this movie, who is a very funny man & a great actor, defended it when it came out. It was attacked because they kept saying it's so much money, it's so much money. And it was actually not.
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
MN: Well if nowadays you say what it costs, I'd love to make a movie for this. It was like $33 million, right?
Ishtar, movie, film, VHS, DVD, Elaine, May
EM: Thirty. And he said one day, as I recall, to the people who were saying it was so much, he said, what do you care? It's not like you're going to get the money. It's not like if the movie were 20 million you'd get 10 of it. You'll never see it. What do you care how much money it is? They're not going to give it to school teachers.


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