In one corner is Cinergi Productions, the company behind the upcoming An Alan Smithee Film--Arthur Hiller and Joe Eszterhas' scathing mockumentary on Hollywood. In the other, the film's distributor: Walt Disney Studios and its ex-president Michael Ovitz, who get ribbed in the film.
The battle: Cinergi, saying it was under orders from Disney, told the Smithee crew be good Mouseketeers and excise all the offending scenes.
The rub: Head mouse Michael Eisner and company say they didn't know anything about the proposed cuts until Eszterhas--one of Tinseltown's highest-paid script machines whose treatments for Basic Instinct, Jade and Showgirls sold for more than $3 million each--wrote letters to Disney's top executives and Daily Variety.
Eszterhas argued that a film about Hollywood featuring real players like Sylvester Stallone and Whoopi Goldberg wouldn't work if the studio distributing it was treated as a sacred mouse, er, cow. "I poke fun at myself as well as a whole lot of other people. I also poke fun at Disney--and at Michael Ovitz," Eszterhas wrote. (He had a legendary falling out with the former Disney president when the screenwriter decided to leave Ovitz's CAA for another agency.)
Mickey took pity. Although Disney rarely has a sense of humor about its image, it nixed the censorship attempt. And Chairman Michael Eisner and studio chief Joe Roth insist the studio will maintain a hands-off policy for the film.
Why did Cinergi order the cuts? "We have a long-standing relationship with Cinergi--they did Evita--and I think it was just a case of them being gentlemanly," said Disney's Terry Curtain, senior VP of publicity. Cinergi did not return phone calls today.
Now that Eisner's preserved the film, Eszterhas has nothing but praise for his Magic Kingdom penpal. "I want to thank Michael Eisner, he has saved the day," Eszterhas told Variety. "I guess that means that Arthur Hiller and I won't need to steal the master negative."