'Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery' poster, courtesy of New Line Cinema.
No movie channels pre-Millennium, “the end of history is kinda fun!” exuberance better than 1997’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. The film, which turned 20 this week, feels incredibly out of step with our dystopian present, yet the cheap gags and sophomoric puns still work. (Did you remember Carrie Fisher played the Evils’ family therapist? I didn’t).
[Director Jay] Roach It opened internationally on the weekend Princess Diana died, and there was no one in the world in the mood for Americans mocking English people. There was some reference to Prince Charles that did end up getting cut for the U.K. release.
[Actor Seth] Green The movie came out and did fine. I think the total take after eight weeks was something like $50 million.
Roach But then DVDs kicked in — they were a new market channel, and Warner Bros. was a pioneer. Mike and I did the commentary and worked on bonus features. They asked us to do a sequel, and I figured the video numbers must have done really well. They hide the video numbers, so you never know. To this day, it’s in the red. I don’t think that movie is listed as in profit, which is hilarious to me.
[Writer and actor Mike] Myers I knew we had something when I was driving on Halloween in Los Angeles and I couldn’t get past Santa Monica Boulevard because of a parade, so I sat on the hood of the car and I saw like 15 Austin Powers go by and one of the Austin Powers spotted me and came over. I had a picture with all these Austin Powers, which was unbelievably cool.
The showbiz press has been abuzz all day with news of a surprise shake-up (a group of high-powered talent agents defected en masse from one top agency to another). Most of the coverage has been inside baseball, but an analysis in The Hollywood Reporter by Matthew Belloni provides some interesting insight into Hollywood history:
Consider the case of the late legendary agent, who spent most of his career at ICM before defecting to William Morris in 2007, taking with him such clients as Denzel Washington, Steve Martin and more. [Ed] Limato was under contract to ICM but when the agency tried to diminish his status, he argued, in effect, that his contract was “illegal” because it violated California’s strict “seven-year rule” for personal services contracts. That law dates back to actress Olivia de Havilland’s lawsuit against Warner Bros. in the 1940s for repeatedly extending her contract with the studio after “suspending” her for rejecting suggested roles. In 1944, the California Court of Appeal ruled that de Havilland — or any other actor, director or other talent in the entertainment industry — could not be subject to a contract to perform personal services beyond seven years from the beginning of the deal. The so-called “de Havilland law” fundamentally changed Hollywood, brought about the end of the old studio system and allowed talent agencies to amass power.
Alex Gibney’s much-talked about new documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief—based on Lawrence Wright’s similarly titled 2013 exposé—has been making headlines since it made its Sundance debut in January. It opened on limited screens across the country last Friday and will premiere on HBO in two weeks. In the meantime, the Church of Scientology has gone into overdrive attacking the film: taking out full page ads in major newspapers to denounce it; buying up Going Clear-related search results on Google; and trying to discredit the filmmakers and their subjects in a series of videos on the Church’s website. Scientology has long been shrouded in mystery—doubtless in large part due to the Church’s secretive practices—but the Church is also notorious for terrorizing critics and defectors. Suffice it to say they are not an easy institution to investigate. In honor of their inscrutable reputation, and with Scientology-talk nearing zenith zeitgeist, I decided to put together a reading list of stories that explore the Church from a variety of angles. Please don’t kill my dog.
Wright is nothing short of a master reporter (he won a Pulitzer for The Looming Tower, his 2006 history of al-Qaeda), and his deep investigative skills shine in this epic piece, a profile of Hollywood director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. Haggis was once one of Scientology’s most prominent members; he is now one of the Church’s most prominent defectors. This article eventually became part of Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear.
Starting in the mid-1980s, journalists Joel Sappell and Robert Welkos spent five years examining the Church of Scientology for the Los Angeles Times, ultimately producing a six-day, 24-article series (available here in its entirety) that ran in June 1990. Here—more than two decades after the fact—Sappell reflects on his unnerving experiences reporting on the Church.
Little known fact: the Church of Scientology owns more historic buildings in Hollywood than any other entity. Miller’s decision to examine the Church’s relationship to Hollywood in the context of its real estate empire makes for fascinating reading.