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Publisher's Summary

For 60 years, since the birth of United Artists, the studio landscape was unchanged. Then came Hollywood’s Circus Maximus---created by director Steven Spielberg, billionaire David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who gave the world The Lion King---an entertainment empire called DreamWorks. Now Nicole LaPorte, who covered the company for Variety, goes behind the hype to reveal for the first time the delicious truth of what happened.

Audiences will feel they are part of the creative calamities of moviemaking as LaPorte's fly-on-the-wall detail shows us Hollywood's bizarre rules of business. We see the clashes between the often otherworldly Spielberg's troops and Katzenberg's warriors, the debacles and disasters, but also the Oscar-winning triumphs, including Saving Private Ryan. We watch as the studio burns through billions, its rich owners get richer, and everybody else suffers. We see Geffen seducing investors like Microsoft's Paul Allen, showing his steel against CAA's Michael Ovitz, and staging fireworks during negotiations with Paramount and Disney. Here is Hollywood, up close, glamorous, and gritty.

©2010 Nicole LaPorte (P)2010 Tantor

Critic Reviews

“This book has all the right elements: deep-dish research, attitude to burn,...and a great subject.” (Peter Biskind, author of the New York Times bestseller Star)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall
  • Richard
  • Princeton, MA, USA
  • 07-15-10

Fascinating, even-handed

Well worth reading/listening to. I had expected it to be a negative slant on the founders. Overall, though, I found the book quite even-handed, talking about both good and bad aspects of the people and personalities. Narrator is top notch.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Obviously Slanted

I think it is pretty clear that the Author of this book had a very strong point of view when she undertook the writing of this book. There is no doubt that she had a bone to pick with all three men. It is not completely surprising since she was part of the industry as a writer for Variety. She should have done a better job of hiding her animosity.

There is some good information in the book, and some interesting anecdotes. However, it was all clouded by the obvious slant of the author. It was also quite a bit longer than it needed to be. There was no editing involved as far as I could tell. The reader was OK, not great.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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The inside scoop on the Dreamworks hype machine

What did you love best about The Men Who Would Be King?

Culled from over 200 sources, many of them anonymous for fear of retribution, and with no official sanction from the three founding members, the writer had her work cut out for her in piecing together the story behind the story.<br/><br/>You'll hear about Oscar wins (American Beauty) on-set drama (Gladiator) and box office wins (Shrek) misses (The Island) and complete disasters (The Road to El Dorado). You'll also get to know some of the characters surrounding the three kings, along with the personal vendettas and the agendas that drove the company’s early days and sophomore efforts. And like any good drama, there's a clash of cultures, from the initial grouping of Amblin plus Disney employees and their clashing work styles to the organ transplant reject analogy used to describe when the DreamWorks live action business was acquired by Paramount (and then subsequently sold off).<br/><br/>I remember the early days of DreamWorks, and some of the hype surrounding it. Not just the three personalities behind the endeavor, but some of the failed attempts like the Playa Vista studio and the short-lived Sega partnership to create Gameworks arcade chains.<br/><br/>The author did a fabulous job taking us from the inception of the idea, through the early days, and highlighting some of major the struggles they encountered along the way, from films, to financing, to navigating some of the most complex and politically charged business climates in the US.<br/><br/>In addition to some great anecdotes, the author really tries to humanize these three mysterious, almost mythical three men. You’ll glean some insights into their hopes, dreams, squabbling, darker sides, and more. From the early days of the founding to the splintered ending, you'll get a great front row seat to some of the activities and craziness surrounding the formation of a one-time supposed entertainment giants that never quite lived up to its expectations of becoming different than all the other studios surrounding them.<br/><br/>And in the end, this book begs three questions:<br/><br/>Why did these three guys start this studio in the first place?<br/><br/>What would each of them have said if they could've been quoted for this book?<br/><br/>And given where their partnership (both personal and professional) finally ended, money aside, can it be said that any of them truly lived happily ever after?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Thorough and informative

I doubt that in one place you will be able to find as much information about DreamWorks and the people involved there as in this book. The research seems copious, and though one suspects whether all of it is true, the overall impression is you've learned a great deal about one of the most interesting companies in recent Hollywood history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Interesting book. Annoying reader.

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The book is what it is-- a mildly bitchy expose of Hollywood movers and shakers. But just about anything the reader *could* mispronounce, he *does* mispronounce. One would presume that any potential listener would be interested in and familiar with the people and work named in the book. So to hear so much of it all regularly mispronounced was terribly distracting, albeit hilarious after a while.

Would you recommend The Men Who Would Be King to your friends? Why or why not?

Sure. Reader aside, it was gossipy and fun.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Stephen Hoye?

Scott Brick.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Maybe, if it were a BARBARIANS AT THE GATE-style satire.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Bob
  • Longmont, CO, United States
  • 01-21-14

I really didn't care

While I am a fan of Dreamworks, especially their animation efforts, I found that the inside story of personalities and money far from compelling. Those who enjoy the inside Hollywood stuff will probably be more interested in the ins and outs described in this book. For me, it didn't take long before the story sounded like random syllables coupled with the author's outrage.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dax
  • New York
  • 10-14-17

Humbling Hollywood History

Learning the many ups and downs, you walk away with realizing that these guys, despite their awesome track records and world of connections they have, still made huge mistakes and could have stood to listen to those around them who had a feeling whatever their current obsession wasn't looking like a hit and might go belly up. It definitely doesn't make me have high expectations if I were to set forward on such an endeavor, but I would be fulfilled with whatever it is because I'd be able to set my expectations appropriately and perhaps avoid their missteps. Very thorough and covers over a decade. - Dax Martinez-Vargas, D.G.A.

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Light on background info and coherence

I have to say the book is not well written. The author presents a lot of facts but there is a profound lack of coherence and in depth background information to underpin the story. I found the lack of a basic description of the financial models and overall financial framework for the industry particularly troubling. For example, the author described a movie grossing 90 million as successful while another at 300 million was described as a failure even though both were profitable.
There was no real elaboration or explanation of the financials.

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You do learn the story of Dreamworks, however....

Would you consider the audio edition of The Men Who Would Be King to be better than the print version?

Never read the print version and not sure why Audible does such leading questions, but here is my review: You do learn about Dreamworks from beginning to end and why it did not succeed as well as one might expect considering who made up the SKG beneath the name, but the presentation was a bit robotic. Maybe it would be hard to make this material less robotic, but if you've read a great book like one read by Rob Lowe, you know it is possible to be discussing just about anything and have a better time doing it than was presented here. Glad I listened and it is passable, but could have been better.

What other book might you compare The Men Who Would Be King to and why?

"Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads"... the story of the Back To The Future Trilogy. Some of the same players, some of the same stories, but done better.

What three words best describe Stephen Hoye’s voice?

I'm a writer so I never use 3 words for anything... but I will say his voice is not the best that I have sat through.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. I listen to most of my books while driving, showering, etc and was glad at times to get away from it. I rarely feel that way but at times just wanted to get it done.

Any additional comments?

You really do learn the beginning to almost present day of Dreamworks SKG and why it didn't hit on all cylinders. A good book if that story is one you want to know.