A NY Times reporter that made up stories NT

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Posted by Capt Quirk at adsl-18-51-101.mco.bellsouth.net on August 12, 2003 at 08:40:51:

In Reply to: Who's Jason Blair? *nt* posted by Qaz on August 12, 2003 at 08:27:31:

: : Yesterday, the NY Times ran a small article about “Jersey Girl” that wasn’t a “Gigli”-fed
: : attack on the movie or a scathing prognostication on the flick’s box office chances – which,
: : after the last two weekends, was a refreshing change

: : And yet, it still managed to ruin my day.

: : Had this article appeared in the Star or the Enquirer, or any number of gossip websites, I
: : wouldn’t bother trying to refute it. But that this appeared in the NY Times just depressed
: : the hell out of me. And worse, that I was attributed with saying something I didn’t say just
: : downright insults and infuriates me.

: : What follows is the NY Times article that ran yesterday, along with my comments about
: : things that were said, and things that weren’t but were credited to me regardless.

: : The starred text belongs to the Times.
: : ---------
: : *After 'Gigli,' Less of J. Lo Is Seen as a Good Thing

: : You would be hard pressed to find a Hollywood marketing manual that says killing off one-
: : half of the country's most famous celebrity couple in the first 15 minutes of a movie should
: : be used as a selling point.

: : But in the wake of the box office and critical disaster that is "Gigli," the film that brought
: : together Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, Miramax Films is doing just that with the couple's
: : next movie, "Jersey Girl."

: : When news reports in recent months revealed that Ms. Lopez's character dies early in "Jersey
: : Girl," publicity executives at Miramax were displeased. But in the last few weeks, they have
: : begun quietly highlighting the fact that Ms. Lopez barely appears in the movie.

: : Now, it looks as if Miramax will be promoting the movie the way the director, Kevin Smith,
: : had originally wanted. Mr. Smith, who attained cult status with movies like "Chasing Amy"
: : and "Dogma," had always conceived of "Jersey Girl" as the story of Ollie Trinke (played by Mr.
: : Affleck) raising his young daughter, Gertie. But when Ms. Lopez was cast as the girl's
: : mother, the production quickly turned into the "Ben and Jennifer show," much to Mr. Smith's
: : chagrin. *
: : ----------
: : Let me clarify here. “Chagrin” is probably too harsh a term. The only aspect of the “Ben and
: : Jennifer Show” I was ever uncomfortable with was in how Miramax might be tempted to sell
: : “Jersey Girl” as a Ben and Jen flick, when Jen’s not in it very long.

: : Naturally, for the better part of a year, we tried to keep the fact that her character dies in the
: : first half hour very quiet, as it would spoil the movie for folks and soften the emotional
: : wallop it packs in the film. Early on (before the “Gigli” mess was even a twinkle in every
: : gossip-hound’s eye), Miramax was inclined to promote the movie (upon release) as a Ben
: : and Jen movie – which would’ve meant cutting trailers and tv spots solely from the first half
: : hour of the movie – because everything else in the film after that refers back to Jen’s
: : character’s death. And since I didn’t want to reveal to the world Jen’s character’s early exit
: : from the film - thus spoiling the flick in advance for audiences who liked to be surprised by
: : movies - there wasn’t much I could say or do to offer up alternative ways to market the
: : flick. I just hoped that, by the time the good folks at Miramax got around to serious
: : marketing decisions, they’d show a bit of restraint, and not whore out an actress who, while
: : mega-famous and stellar in the picture, is barely in it.

: : Now, in the post-“Gigli” climate, marketing the flick as a Ben and Jen movie is the last thing
: : Miramax wants to do – which is cool by me, as I always felt the movie should be sold as
: : what it is: a father/daughter relationship film. That’s largely what the flick’s about, so why
: : not sell it honestly?

: : It’s just a shame that that particular marketing decision was arrived at under the current
: : circumstances. Because now, thanks to the voracious press machine, the news of Jen’s
: : character’s death early in the film has become common knowledge (I went to the “Battle for
: : Shaker Heights” premiere tonight, and every press person that grabbed me began with
: : “Aren’t you happy that Jen’s character dies in your movie now?”). All through production,
: : we went to great pains to keep it a secret, going so far as to shoot fake stills of Ben, Jen,
: : and Raquel (the titular “Jersey Girl”) together. But when we started test screening, and the
: : early internet reviews spoiled the death, the cat was out of the bag. At that point, I had little
: : choice but to cop Jen’s early exit from the flick – which is why in the April 27th Sunday NY
: : Times piece, I talked about her character dying.

: : So if there was any “chagrin”, it was over the fact that the movie might have been sold in a
: : bait-and-switch manner. That’s now no longer a threat.
: : -------------
: : *The publicity nightmare worsened recently as Internet chat groups and tabloids began
: : comparing "Jersey Girl" to the much maligned "Gigli." Rumors surfaced that Miramax had cut
: : Ms. Lopez's part, and even had her face removed from movie posters. *
: : -------------
: : This is a factual inaccuracy, because there haven’t been any posters finalized yet. Granted,
: : there was a promotional poster done for ShoWest that pictured Ben, Jen, Liv and Raquel. But
: : being that we were still – even then –easily eight months out from release, that image wasn’t
: : even close to a final release poster. It was a temp mock-up intended to boost awareness for
: : the film with the theater owners and exhibitors who attend ShoWest. Jen’s face has not, in
: : fact, been removed from any posters. I know this because Miramax hasn’t even started
: : focusing on the marketing campaign for “Jersey Girl” yet (I mean, have you seen a trailer yet?
: : I sure haven’t). It’s little inaccuracies like this – that come less from a place of gossip-
: : mongering and more from conjecture and a lack of comprehension of the movie biz – that
: : wind up getting quoted become over and over again by other news outlets who will in turn
: : sight the NY Times as their source. Never mind that it’s not true at all; it’s been in the
: : Times, so it’s gotta have some validity, right?

: : But even that’s not as bad as what’s about to follow.
: : ---------------
: : *Many of the changes had been made well before "Gigli" even showed up in theaters, largely
: : because of the two characters' chemistry — or, in this case, a lack thereof, Mr. Smith said. *
: : ---------------
: : This is the part of the article with which I take issue the most (and why I’ll never talk to
: : another journalist who doesn’t utilize some form of recording device other than a pen and
: : paper again). I never… NEVER… said, implied, or inferred anything regarding a lack of
: : chemistry between Ben and Jen. Maybe I’m deluded and biased, but I’m the only
: : motherfucker out there in the press who’s been maintaining they have great chemistry since
: : day one.

: : From my second “Jersey Girl” diary, that ran over at our sister site,
: : www.moviepoopshoot.com, September 20th, 2002…

: : “If you're ever shooting a movie about two people falling in love, I can't urge you strongly
: : enough to cast a pair of people who are actually falling in love. The chemistry between Ben
: : and Jen is so palpable, you could almost bottle it and sell it as an aphrodisiac. Take after
: : take, we watched Ben and Jen (who we couldn't have cast as love-at-first-sighters at a
: : better time in their lives) flirt through a rapid-fire-dialogue dance of movie meet-cute. But
: : this wasn't just art imitating life; somehow in the midst of all that smolder, they managed to
: : provide us with a pair of performances that reminded this little black duck why he's always
: : worshipped at the Altar of Affleck, and is now currently constructing a Lopez Basilica as we
: : speak. Honestly, the performances they gave were nothing short of spellbinding.”

: : I took a world of shit for writing that here on our website from the folks that don’t like
: : Jennifer Lopez, but I said it then, and I stand by it now. It was quoted in dozens of articles
: : that ran in print and on the web, not the least of which was Bob Baker’s LA Times article
: : “Say It Ain’t So, Silent Bob” that ran January 12th, 2003.

: : And in the aforementioned NY Times article that ran April 27th, 2003, I was quoted on the
: : subject of Ben and Jen’s chemistry again…

: : "We got Ben and Jennifer at a perfect time," he says. "They were falling in love in real life and
: : falling in love on film." Shooting their PG-13 love scenes, he adds, was a breeze: "I don't
: : know that they had to act that much. There were times when we'd say `cut' and that didn't
: : seem to matter to them."

: : Now why, after spending almost a year talking about how great their chemistry is, would I
: : suddenly pull an about-face and say something to the contrary? The fact of the matter is
: : that I DIDN’T say anything to the author of this current NY Times piece regarding a lack of
: : chemistry between Ben and Jen. I talked with Laura about editing the movie based on test
: : screening reactions, but never went into specifics, and certainly never sighted Ben and Jen’s
: : scenes or an imagined lack of chemistry. As written, this Times piece implies I DID say
: : something to that effect. That pretty much trashes what little faith I had left in the press –
: : especially the holy NY Times – because I’m attributed with saying something I didn’t.

: : I’m not calling Laura a liar – not at all. She seemed like a really nice lady when we spoke,
: : and unlike most of the gossip vultures I spoke with tonight in the press line at the premiere,
: : she was kind of rooting for us. But the fact remains that she printed something I didn’t say/
: : imply/infer, and attributed it to me. Call it miscommunication, call in conjecture, but call it
: : factually inaccurate – because that’s what it is.
: : ------------
: : *Ms. Lopez's part was trimmed after test audiences last spring panned the on-screen
: : relationship between Ms. Lopez and Mr. Affleck. *
: : ------------
: : While not attributed to me directly, I didn’t say anything like this in my interview either. Just
: : because someone fills out a comment card that says “I hate J.Ho in real life!” doesn’t mean
: : I’m going to alter my movie to satisfy that mental giant. The cuts I make following test
: : screenings are not based on comment cards or scores (and for the record, the movie is
: : scoring extremely well). How I use the test screenings is I listen to the room as the movie’s
: : playing, and if a scene is playing slowly, and I can feel it during the screening, I’ll re-
: : examine it in the editing room. But if you’ve seen some of the comments cards I’ve read in
: : my nearly ten years of test-screening experience, you’d learn pretty quickly to lend them
: : little credence. Putting an unfinished movie up in front of an audience is beneficial; hearing
: : their exact specifics on the movie in a scene-by-scene breakdown is not.
: : -------------
: : *Miramax, a unit of the Walt Disney Company , resisted the cuts at first. "Harvey was always,
: : `Let's leave as much of Jennifer in because we paid her $4 million for the movie,' " said Mr.
: : Smith, referring to Harvey Weinstein, Miramax's co-founder. The studio's marketing
: : executives were also pushing to take advantage of the couple's star appeal. *
: : ----------------
: : See? There’s a quote – a direct quote – that I have no problem with. I said that. That’s fine.
: : Put it in print. I obviously have no problem shooting my mouth off while putting my foot in
: : it at the same time (word was Harvey wasn’t pleased with that quote). I mean, I’m the guy
: : who publicly likened my experience working with the ABC network on the “Clerks” cartoon
: : to prison rape. I’ve been told by journalists repeatedly that they dig talking to me because
: : I’m pretty candid. So believe me when I say if I didn’t think there was chemistry between
: : Ben and Jen in “Jersey Girl” during the eighteen minutes of screen time they share, I’d say it
: : in the press, big time – especially now, when bashing them is all the rage, and insures any
: : knuckle-headed pundit ink in even this nation’s most respected newspapers. But as I
: : DON’T feel that way, and I’ve never said anything like that, and have, in fact, always said the
: : exact opposite, why the fuck would you credit me with something I DIDN’T say – like…
: : ------
: : *Many of the changes had been made well before "Gigli" even showed up in theaters, largely
: : because of the two characters' chemistry — or, in this case, a lack thereof, Mr. Smith said.*
: : ------
: : “Mr. Smith” never said that, or anything else like it. But now, because it appeared in the NY
: : Times, I was asked by no less than three reporters tonight “I read you’ve said Ben and Jen
: : don’t have chemistry in your movie. What happened?”
: : ----------
: : *But that changed as Mr. Smith whittled away Ms. Lopez's screen time.*
: : ----------
: : I know it’s en vogue at the moment to place Jen Lopez in the cross-hairs for all that wrong
: : with the world, so of course the author of this piece is inclined to write that I whittled away
: : Jen’s screen time. However, what she fails to mention is that I whittled away EVERYONE’S
: : screen time. That’s how you cut a movie – you don’t whittle away one character who was
: : barely in the movie to begin with; you get in there and shave EVERYBODY down.

: : The irritating thing is that what Laura’s expressed in that passage above isn’t wrong, per
: : se’; it just fails to represent the entire story. It’s selective with the details. And I get why:
: : because unless you’re purporting that Jen’s getting cut out of the movie, the author is left
: : with a rather boring piece about how the movie’s been edited, period. Wow – stop the
: : presses. A movie gets edited? What a scoop.
: : ------------
: : * "It became what's best for the story," said Jon Gordon, executive vice president of
: : production at Miramax.

: : You can almost hear the sigh of relief at Miramax. "In retrospect," Mr. Smith said, "it turned
: : out to not be such a bad thing." Now he can only hope the couple chooses not to get
: : married next March when the movie opens, which would provide distracting fodder for the
: : tabloids.*
: : -------------
: : The irony in making a distinction between the Times and the tabloids in an article that
: : amounts to little more than a gussied-up gossip piece is pretty precious. Since when is
: : something like this story NY Times-worthy news anyway? What happened to the
: : institution’s reputation as the Paper of Record? Has it gone from “All The News That’s Fit to
: : Print” to “All the News That Fits, We Print”? Or worse, “All Bennifer, All the Time – Just Like
: : Every Other Rag”?

: : Look, I like the NY Times. They’ve been really good to us in the past – particularly Janet
: : Maslin, when she was the lead critic there. And I don’t wanna be the guy who’s jumping all
: : over their dick, adding to the cacophony of those who’ve taken unfair pot-shots at them for
: : their recent problem with phony articles. I’m not saying this article is phony; not at all. I
: : spoke to Laura, for roughly forty five minutes. Like I said, she seems like a cool and decent
: : lady. However, it bugs the shit out of me that she wrote that I said something I didn’t. I’m
: : not out in the press attributing to her shit she never said; all I ask is the same consideration
: : in return.

: : Regardless, I’ll say it again, for the record, and so nobody can claim I’ve said different: I
: : think Jen and Ben’s chemistry in “Jersey Girl” is fantastic.

: : And, honest to God – I’m sorry I had to write this. I’m not looking to get anyone in trouble,
: : and I hate being the guy who’s always bitching about this or that injustice. Believe it or not,
: : I’m not a crybaby in real life. But if you don’t try to correct shit like this right away, fiction
: : becomes fact faster than a “Gigli” box office run. A person should always be held
: : responsible for the things they say, which is why I tend to choose my words pretty carefully.
: : But when someone puts words in your mouth – particularly in a publication as respected and
: : trusted as the NY Times - being circumspect means jack-shit. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter
: : how carefully I choose my words, because somebody can just write that I said something I
: : didn’t.

: : I swear, I can’t wait ‘til March - because then our flick can be seen, and I won’t have to say/
: : defend/correct anything anymore. The film can speak for itself.
: : ---------
: : ---------
: : ---------

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