The legitimacy of an exposé in the New York Post falls somewhere into the sweet spot between hard journalism and "Bat child found in cave!" but this story about Harvey Weinstein's latest bit of Oscar gamesmanship simply has to be true. A journalist fabricating the image of the infamously volatile studio boss crawling on a screening room floor in search of spilled M&Ms would be like Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa without ever having seen a real woman -- some things are simply too beautiful not to be inspired by some degree of truth, right?
Sure, it's not the most flattering portrait in the world, but Weinstein has always been known for his antics, so why might he pay $500,000 in hush money to prevent this particular story from breaking before last Sunday night's Academy Awards? Moreover, in which of his projects was he less interested in than some dropped candies? And were the M&Ms even one of the sexier varieties like almond or coconut, or did the powerful diabetic legend lunge out of his seat for ordinary chocolate wrapped in a hard candy shell? It's a long and sordid story, but now that 'The King's Speech' has won its Oscars, it's a story that's finally ready to break.
It all goes back to 'Hoodwinked,' a movie that IMDB swears came out in 2005 under the auspices of Bob and Harvey Weinstein's production company, The Weinstein Company (this was in the immediate wake of Disney's Buena Vista Pictures assuming control of Miramax). The animated CGI film about
The resultant project was to be called 'Escape From Planet Earth,' and the Post reports that the deal netted the animation team somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million. According to this AllBusiness article from February of 2006, 'Escape' was conceived as a "Comedy about a prison break from Area 51, a mysterious government facility where the inmates are a ragtag group of imprisoned aliens from around the universe." The film was scheduled to hit theaters in January of 2009, but here we are in 2011, and if you've ever heard of 'Escape From Planet Earth' odds are that you're either a disgruntled animator or a very happy lawyer.
If you're only hearing about the resulting lawsuit now, it's because the Weinstein's allegedly paid $500,000 in hush money to keep the story quiet until after the Oscars, so as not to interfere with the awards campaign of 'The King's Speech.' In the event that these allegations are true, it would seem as if the bribe money was well spent, as Tom Hooper's film ultimately triumphed over 'The Social Network' (and 8 other movies, supposedly) to win Best Picture.
Leech and Inerfeld claim that the Weinstein's are directly responsible for the film's stymied production, and have filed a suit that accuses the brothers of being a "Real life version of Bialystock & Bloom." The lawsuit alleges that Harvey Weinstein's incompetence resulted in a nightmarish and impossible production, and that he "Green-lighted and then halted 'Escape' several times; called in outside workers; ordered 17 script rewrites and even fired his brother, Bob, from the project... At one point, the Weinstein Company had 'wasted so much of their investors' money' on the movie that it went behind the filmmakers backs and secretly took out a loan -- and promised the new lenders the profits that already belonged to Leech and Inerfeld under their deal with the Weinsteins, papers allege."
And then there's the soon-to-be legendary "M&M Incident of 2009," which began with Weinstein waking up from a brief nap while screening some rough footage from the film. Here's how the Post describes the event:
"Harvey, a diabetic 'attempted to consume an entire bowl of M&M candies' and fought a Weinstein exec who tried to take the treat away. 'When [the exec] sought to retrieve the bowl of candy out of obvious concerns for Harvey Weinstein's health, he fought to keep it, and in the tumult the M&Ms scattered all over the floor. Then, instead of watching the reel, Harvey Weinstein got down on his hands and knees and began eating M&Ms off the floor.'"
Leech and Inerfeld were understandably offended by that behavior, but such antics are commonplace for Weinstein, who is rumored to have been so bored during a test screening of 'Nine' that he ate several bricks of cash that had been intended for the film's Oscar campaign (supposedly he put the leftovers in a doggy-bag and then sent them to the Hollywood Foreign Press).
Leech and Inerfeld are suing for the $50 million they estimate 'Escape From Planet Earth' would have been worth to their collective, as well as an additional $4 million for three other projects involved in the initial deal, including among them an updated take on 'Fraggle Rock.' Of course, this isn't the first time that the Weinsteins have had some difficulties seeing their animated films to completion, as the sequel to 'Hoodwinked' -- 'Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil' -- was massively delayed after Weinstein failed to deliver a promised distribution plan for the movie, and then sold its licensing rights to Burger King without the permission of its filmmakers.
I recognize that there have been a number of snide jokes in this article, but it is my sad duty to inform you that 'Hoodwinked Too' Hood vs. Evil' is not one of them. In fact, it is now slated for release on April 29th of this year, and here's the trailer:
So there you have it. It doesn't paint a pretty picture, but the film industry can be a nasty place where reputations far precede facts -- studio big wigs are the easiest of targets, so I'd certainly caution you to consider these allegations critically before arriving at your own conclusions. Who knows what this whole mess will eventually cost the Weinsteins, but regardless of whatever happens now the Oscars have already been engraved. And while I might not encourage burgeoning animators to sign a production deal with The Weinstein Company, I still can't help but wish that Harvey were in charge of 'Cars 2.'