The John McTiernan-Charles Roven relationship just gets curiouser and curiouser.
Within hours of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Monday accusing the famous movie director of lying to the FBI about hiring Pellicano to wiretap wealthy film producer Chuck Roven, I spoke to McTiernan’s current wife at the couple’s Western ranch home. Kate Harrington professed she didn’t know anything about the accusations against her husband and registered surprise at the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement when I read it to her.
“I’ve just returned home from a long trip,” she told me. “As far as I know, John and Chuck had a good relationship.” And she should know: she’s credited as a costume designer on Rollerball, the movie her husband directed and Roven produced. McTiernan wasn’t immediately available, his wife told me.
The 2002 MGM film was plagued by hellacious problems including bad buzz, delayed release and awful reviews. However, I spoke Monday to several MGM execs who could not recall any bad specific blood between McTiernan and Roven. Nor could the writer of a 2002 Los Angeles Times article about troubles surrounding the movie. This all seemed to back up the contention by Harrington, a well known costume designer who worked with McTiernan on The Thomas Crown Affair. She also was hired for The 13th Warrior directed by McTiernan and made her feature film debut on the action thriller Eraser. Raised by writer Truman Capote from age 12 to 24, she worked as a model then moved to fashion’s editorial side for Town & Country, Interview and Vanity Fair magazines.
The McTiernan-Roven matter stumped Hollywood all Monday. Not even Tuesday’s editions of The Los Angeles Times or The New York Times could get to the bottom of what had transpired between them. If anything, I immediately assumed Monday’s U.S. Attorney’s Office announcement would be related to McTiernan’s nasty divorce from producer Donna Dubrow. As I reported Monday, the multi-married McTiernan has been famously battling his ex-wife Donna Dubrow, a Hollywood producer, over their divorce settlement. Though the pair split up in 1997 and Dubrow is now living with ex-studio boss Ned Tanen, the matter is still “raging” before the courts, Dubrow told me Monday. Dubrow said that McTiernan hired Pellicano in 1998 to investigate her. How did she know this? “Because I saw the checks written to him,” she told me. Dubrow also claimed she used to hear constant clicks on her phone line. She is formally asking the FBI to let her know if she was indeed wiretapped by Pellicano and if Pellicano had been hired by her husband to do so. Meanwhile, Dubrow told the NY Times Monday night that McTiernan had acknowledged in a sworn deposition in their divorce case that he had hired Pellicano to investigate Dubrow.
When Dubrow and I spoke Monday, we speculated together about what might have been the reason behind any McTiernan-Roven bad blood. We both recalled how understandably paranoid McTiernan was known to have become after he directed Last Action Hero which tanked at the box office despite pairing Arnold Schwarzenegger with Shane Black at the apex of their careers. I recalled Sony execs telling me at the time, which Dubrow confirmed, that McTiernan suspected several big Hollywood names of working overtime to spread bad early buzz about that movie both to sink McTiernan’s career and the struggling studio’s fortunes. So McTiernan could have been crazed when his Rollerball — a remake of the 1975 Norman Jewison futuristic classic — also began receiving bad early buzz many months before its scheduled release date. According to a Los Angeles Times story by Richard Natale back in 2002, the website Ain’t It Cool News and its founder Harry Knowles almost singlehandedly blew the film’s chances at the box office. I reached Natale Monday and asked if he recalled any problems between McTiernan and Roven over the film, but Natale didn’t.