More than any other modern movie mogul, Miramax's Harvey Weinstein has changed the film industry, taking small, independent films out of the art-house ghetto and into the mainstream. He has also been skewered in a new book for his fearsome temper and ego. He talked with Time's Jeffrey Ressner about that reputation, and a Miramax film that suffered an unexpected snub.
MIRAMAX GOT 15 OSCAR NOMINATIONS, BUT COLD MOUNTAIN WAS IGNORED FOR BEST PICTURE. WHAT HAPPENED? I opened the movie at Christmastime so I could hopefully get Oscar nominations to fuel the box office. With the early [Oscar voting] this year, we fell short. There's a lot to do for Academy members, and I don't know how many members we got to. We just plain ran out of people who had seen this movie.
ARE YOU GOING TO REJIGGER RELEASE DATES FOR OSCAR-WORTHY MOVIES THIS YEAR AS A RESULT? I just moved J.M. Barrie's Neverland with Johnny Depp to October. With Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, which we talked about for a Christmas release, we're going to have to see if we can push that to November.
THE BOOK DOWN AND DIRTY PICTURES ALLEGES THE INDEPENDENT-FILM MOVEMENT HAS BEEN CO-OPTED BY BIG CORPORATIONS, STARTING WITH DISNEY'S PURCHASE OF MIRAMAX. DO YOU AGREE? Yeah, my brother Bob and I sit in a little room with chemicals bubbling in test tubes figuring out how to hurt something we once loved. But seriously, the Academy Award nominations are almost an affirmation. I spent 54 weeks keeping City of God in movie theaters, and it got four nominations. How in God's name does anybody think we're not devoted to independent films?
YOU'VE OFTEN TAKEN A STRONG HAND IN THE EDITING OF FILMS YOU'VE RELEASED. DO YOU INTERFERE FOR GOOD REASON? It's not that I ever want to take the integrity out of movies; it's that I want to put the integrity into them. I've seen directors and producers want to keep stuff in that's dull and boring and pretentious. Everybody thinks, "Oh, my God, the five-hour cut must be incredible!" But the five-hour cut is usually like The Picture of Dorian Gray: it should be sitting in someone's attic and never seen.
YOU'VE BEEN PORTRAYED AS A RAMPAGING BULLY. HAVE YOU TURNED OVER A NEW LEAF? Some things about me that make for great press have been exaggerated. The stuff I did do I take full responsibility for, and it's usually been on behalf of a movie. I'm passionate in that area. What's happened to me and my pals Sean Penn and Russell Crowe and Johnny Depp is that we all have children, and fatherhood has softened our approach. It's time for us to mellow out.
YOU'VE ALSO BLAMED YOUR DIET AS A FACTOR IN INCITING YOUR TEMPER. HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR EATING HABITS? I was never a big eater of meals, but I was an expert M&M hider. I took M&M's, opened the bag, put them in my jacket pockets and sneaked them at meetings. Now, everybody knows the way carbohydrates affect the insulin levels, which shifts the adrenal gland and triggers the temper. If somebody pulls out chocolate chip cookies now at a marketing meeting, my staff will take them right off the table for safety reasons.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DISNEY CHAIRMAN MICHAEL EISNER'S RECENT $6.25 MILLION BONUS? We've just had our biggest year in the history of the company, and nobody gave me a bonus.