Business and Entertainment in The Golden State
By DONNA PARKER BALANCIA
BEVERLY HILLS — When I sat down at the breakfast table with Amy Pascal, it was only a matter of time before we would be laughing and sharing an inside joke.
In her new position as head of production for Columbia, she was well-suited. She would usher in some good pictures, including Little Women, Groundhog Day, Awakenings and A League of Their Own. She had relationships with actors and talent.
It’s amazing that as she steps down from Sony Pictures, there aren’t more people coming forward on her behalf. Many filmmakers, actors and women benefitted from Amy holding her position. Did I mention that a lot of women benefitted?
At the time of our breakfast, she wasn’t yet married to the New York Times reporter. So we talked about guys, gals, who’s connected to whom — all the things a reporter would discuss with the head of production at a major studio.
She was fun. She cracked jokes. Jokes that I actually understood. And she seemed smart.
It wasn’t a shock that Amy was later promoted to Sony Pictures chairman. The studio had had enough of the guy thing. And Amy was one of the women in the business who had been mentored by Peter Guber, the ex-Sony head, and self-proclaimed ally to all women in the film business. Amy had the connections and the pedigree.
Maybe what was fun about her was she seemed vulnerable then. She came from a good place. She was one of the pall bearers at Dawn Steel’s funeral. She took time out to make the call to someone who needed a bucking up. She was refreshing.
But at that table on a regular Wednesday morning, we were having breakfast at the then-new Peninsula Hotel in the center of Beverly Hills. And I was taking in the scenery as much as I was Amy’s company.
And then my facination with white marble and 1 percent milk was disrupted. Amy had just spilled some bright red raspberry jelly right on the chest of her bright, white blouse. She blurted out “Damn it!” and started blotting away.
“You know, you only spill stuff on yourself when you’re wearing a new shirt,” she said, dabbing at the spot with a water-soaked napkin. “This stuff never happens to an old shirt.”
To me — Ye of the plastic purse and reporter’s salary — the shirt did not scream wealthy. It stated “conservative,” “smart,” and “sensible.” Which I believed Amy was. She was new. She also represented a new era in Hollywood filmmaking at the studios.
Amy was considered the hope of women, whose tastes had long been forsaken at the studio level the wake of “Last Action Hero,” and a slew of other pictures that were big-budget yawners emanating from all the male-run studios at the time.
About 20 minutes and a big water-blotch later, the newly appointed Columbia Pictures production chief and I were back to cracking up about a lot of things including some of the other studios’ personnel. And competitor strategies.
It was a typical Hollywood breakfast.
I don’t know if it was Amy who told me she was engaged to Bernie the reporter from The New York Times or not. I do know that my reaction was a mix of disappointment and embarrassment. After all, here was a gal who seemed to be doing it on her own and then here comes her engagement to an older guy with a lot of clout to handle not only her personal PR, but more importantly, he would now scoop the competition — Like me!
And it should be noted here that he was among the first to get the story on her stepping down, by the way.
Yes, there are others who have connections in the business. There are those who have spent considerable “friendship time” with the studio execs who can get you to the “top” as you sell your soul and all your downtime. I just didn’t think Amy was one of them. Oh, and I never thought another reporter could be a ticket to that type of achievement. Even if he is with The New York Times.
As for Amy’s accomplishments, there are many. As far as judgment calls, however, writing what you’re actually thinking in an email that is the company’s property, well, that probably wasn’t a good idea.
Would I consider her someone who can champion a project and see it through? Of course. Will she be able to do it under the banner of her new production company on the Sony lot? That remains to be seen.
Someone had to take the fall for the culture of Sony — which existed long before Amy came on the scene — and for Seth Rogen’s ridiculous “vision.” And again there’s the chorus that chimes in to “Throw the woman under the bus.” And that’s what happened.
So, just like the falling raspberry jelly landing on the crisp new, white blouse on that Wednesday morning with the 1 percent milk, another bright one falls victim to an all-too-familiar fate. And the jelly had a much softer landing.