Intelligent, solemn money run-down on the horrors of filming Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate and the demise of United...


FINAL CUT: Dreams and Disasters in the Making of Heaven's Gate

Intelligent, solemn money run-down on the horrors of filming Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate and the demise of United Artists, by its then senior vice-president and head of worldwide production. In this retelling Bach could not get the assistance of Cimino, seen here as a deeply reserved, emotionally unrevealing man, who may write his own version of this folly in celluloid. UA began in 1919 as a releasing outfit for Chaplin, Pickford, Fairbanks and Griffith, who were going to self-produce and finance their own films, and a kind of myth of creative freedom has since hung over the company. The company, however, never worked up any financial horsepower until the 60s, when Transamerica Corporation bought it to glamorize its own sluggish stock. There is, in fact, nearly 100 pages of product talk and product shortage before Bach sits down for a private screening of Cimino's then-still-unreleased The Deer Hunter--and is astonished by the young director's ability to create powerful images and enormous story rhythms. Cimino wants to film his script of Ayn Rand's adolescent battle cry The Fountainhead, but UA doesn't. So he submits instead his revisionist Western historical, The Johnson County Wars, a story about the Montana range wars which ends in a depressing massacre of a large immigrant population by US-empowered bounty hunters. News of Cimino's Vietnam epic sizzles through Hollywood. UA buys his Western script-package deal, meanwhile trembling about its mighty investment in Coppola's still unreleasable Apocalypse Now. The reader is kept deeply aware of UA's picture commitment across the board (the pages on Raging Bull are quite exceptional), and the whole Hollywood financial scene of the period has nowhere been better dramatized. The biggest blow at first was not Jane Fonda's and Diane Keaton's lack of interest in playing the female lead, but in Cimino's insistence on the unknown French actress Isabel Huppert, who spoke little English. Bach cries, ""For Christ's sake, Michael. Kristofferson and Walken are so much more attractive than she is that the audience will spend the entire film wondering why they're fucking her instead of each other!"" And so it goes, the agony deepening as production costs soar from $7.5 to $36 million. . .until its birth as an ""unqualified disaster"" (Canby, The Times) with Bach thinking, ""This strange thalidomide movie has been born and will likely suffer a quick and merciful death, but at least it's over."" But it's not--since UA soon follows down the tubes. A landmark book on financial handling of movies and, with a focus spread much wider than on Heaven's Gate, must reading for an enriched understanding of the industry.

Pub Date: July 22, 1985


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1985