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HIGH CONCEPT by Charles Fleming


Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess

by Charles Fleming

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48694-4
Publisher: Doubleday

Lots of sex, lots of drugs, and even a little rock ‘n’ roll—there’s something for every scandal lover in this rollicking, dirt-dishing account of the life and times of Hollywood producer Don Simpson. Movie insiders credit Simpson with inventing high-concept movies—the action-packed, loud, flashy, simplistic, but tightly structured films, that crowd the multiplexes every summer. With his producing partner, Jerry Bruckheimer, he certainly hauled in great gusts of money with films such as Flashdance, Top Gun, and Crimson Tide. Simpson’s life was as big and in-your-face as his creations. He hit Hollywood as a junior studio executive and quickly climbed the corporate ladder. But his increasingly public drug habit eventually got him fired. Financially, this was the best thing that ever happened to him. He and Bruckheimer teamed up as independent producers and began to crank out the movies that would make them feared and loathed and celebrated. If anything, success upped the ante of Simpson’s misbehavior—from even more drugs to a constant stream of hookers to epic mistreatment of subordinates. But the powerful absolution of success kept him working until his heart gave out when he was 52. In his first book, Fleming, a former staff writer for Variety and Newsweek, is not so much interested in Simpson the man (in fact, in strictly biographical terms, this book is a failure), but Simpson the poster boy for ’80s excess. This leads to long, tell-tale digressions on Hollywood seaminess. This oft-told tale features the usual suspects (Heidi Fleiss, Charlie Sheen, Jack Nicholson), but Fleming does manage to dig up enough juicy, original tidbits to slake all but the most jaded prurient appetites. A tale full of sound and fury but signifying little beyond gossip. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)