Rob Reiner on Warners exec succession plan: 'What a boneheaded move'
Rob Reiner has got to be enjoying life. His new film, "Flipped," which opened today in selected cities, has earned the director some of his best reviews in years, with my colleague Betsy Sharkey saying in her review today that the film "is the kind of small, special movie that wraps you up in so much warmth, humor and humanity that it will leave you wishing that stories like this weren't so rare." Reiner also has to be celebrating the news that California's Proposition 8 has been overturned. It's a huge victory for Reiner, who was a key figure in the legal battle against the anti-gay marriage bill through his American Foundation for Equal Rights. (The Hollywood Reporter has an excellent piece about how Reiner became the anti-Prop 8 kingpin.)
The only dark cloud for Reiner is the impending departure of Warners studio president Alan Horn, who has been one of Reiner's closest friends for years and one of the main reasons why Reiner has made four straight films at Warner Bros. Even though the studio has enjoyed unprecedented success under Horn's leadership, Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes dropped a bombshell last year, saying he was only re-upping Horn and studio chairman Barry Meyer for two more years. Normally, when you make a studio untold hundreds of millions of dollars, you get to stay on almost as long as you want, especially if you're only in your mid-60s, as Horn and Meyer are. But Bewkes wants to shake things up and bring in a new team to run Warners, which seems like a questionable move considering the unparallelled stability Warners has enjoyed under Horn and Meyer.
It definitely doesn't sit well with Reiner, whom I interviewed recently for a story about "Flipped." When the subject of Horn's 2011 departure came up, Reiner launched into a heated denunciation of Bewkes. I stopped him to make sure he realized he was on the record. He paused for a moment, as if considering the consequences, then said, "Absolutely." So Rob, what do you think about Bewkes giving Horn and Meyer the bum's rush next year?
"It's idiotic," he said. "In the 10 years that Alan Horn has headed the movie studio, Warners has had the best 10 years in the history of the movie business. Can you imagine how much money they've made, just on 'Harry Potter' alone? So if I'm the guy running Time Warner, I'd never get rid of the guy who brought that much success to the company. And even if I was a big enough idiot to say that I need my own new guys, I'd never say that I'm gonna put them in charge in two years, since it takes a bare minimum of three years to bring a new project to the screen. Even if you were dumb enough to want to fire the best guy in your company's history, why ruin the future for everyone else at the company? I mean, what a real boneheaded move."
If it's any consolation for Bewkes, Reiner is just as outspoken about a thousand other people, starting with President Obama, whom Reiner believes has been too much of a "pragmatist" in dealing with conservative opposition to his social agenda. But when it comes to loyalty to his friends, Reiner gets points as a stand-up guy. The old joke in Washington is that, like Hollywood, it's such a coldhearted town that if you want a friend, buy a dog. Luckily for Horn, he has Rob Reiner sticking up for him to the bitter end.
RECENT AND RELATED: ROB REINER'S 'FLIPPED': A RETURN TO THE GLORY DAYS OF 'STAND BY ME'
Photo: Rob Reiner, left, with Warners president Alan Horn at the premiere for "Flipped" last month. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press