The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Looking for a chauffeur? Phone Harvey Weinstein

August 17, 2009 |  1:10 pm

Harveyandbob

No one makes better copy than Harvey Weinstein, as the New York Times proved with its wonderfully barbed, in-depth piece on Sunday by David Segal about the travails of the Weinstein Co. As always, Harvey was the center of attention -- with Segal noting that brother Bob seems oddly tongue-tied whenever he tries to sweet talk a reporter. But Harvey's old bluster had a hollow ring to it, making him sound more like Willie Loman than the wily old Hollywood maestro taking bows during Oscar season.

Tracilords In fact, he told Segal that if he doesn't have a hit by February, "I'll be driving you, or making cheap hamburgers or selling trailers or refrigerators or something." (The mind reels at the possibilities -- imagine people all over the Tri-State area boasting, "Hey, I bought my aluminum siding from ... Harvey Weinstein!")

The Web snarkers had a field day with the piece, especially with an anecdote director Kevin Smith -- one of Harvey's cadre of loyalists -- told about the time Harvey was so distracted that he introduced Smith to a lovely blond, saying she was the actress Sarah Chalke, even though it turned out the person being introduced was actually the former porn queen Traci Lords.

But what felt especially gloomy about the piece was Harvey's response to the multitude of claims that his glory days are over. Up against a knowledgeable reporter, the best defense Weinstein could mount for his company's woes was the claim that he'd taken his eye off the ball, preoccupied by his outside investments in an Internet company and the Halston fashion firm. "I got more fascinated by these other businesses and I figured, 'Making movies, I can do that in my sleep.' " he told the Times. "That's where it went wrong."

It's an intriguing defense. There's only one problem: When I did a similar story on Weinstein more than two years ago, when his company was rocked by a similar string of costly failures and box-office duds ("Stormbreaker," "Rogue," "DOA: Dead or Alive," "Arthur and the Invisibles" and "Hannibal Rising"), Weinstein offered exactly the same defense, confessing that he'd been distracted by all of the same empire buiding he told Segal about.

But that was nearly 30 months ago. It seems hard to imagine that you can get away with using the same excuse over and over again. No one should ever count Weinstein out, since he has proven in the past to always have a couple of aces up his sleeve. But as he said himself to the Times, his ship is riding on his current slate and if I had that slate, I'd be spending a lot of time practicing my aluminum siding sales pitch.

Photos, from top: Harvey (left) and Bob Weinstein; Traci Lords. Credits: Jennifer S. Altman / Los Angeles Times; Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

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