I hear Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey was on the phone today talking up his studio’s release of the mega-blockbuster Transformers when, all of a sudden, helicopters swooped out of nowhere and drowned him out. “It’s Jeffrey and David,” he quipped to the caller. After all, DreamWorks has been accusing Grey of trying to grab credit for its movie product because theirs are performing fab while Paramount’s films flop. But the messy integration and hurt feelings ever since DreamWorks sold their studio to Paramount 18 months ago may be easing. That’s because, after trying to boss DreamWorks behind the scenes for months and months, Grey finally gave up. Since April, Paramount has been issuing tortured clarifications to ensure DreamWorks gets its glory. Now Brad stays politic instead of constantly proclaiming he’s in charge. Grey is telling people that, “right now, everybody is getting along, we’re in a good place”. The last time Paramount was sitting higher than 3rd place in studio market share was 2001. Well, next week, Paramount will be in 1st place. That’s why DreamWorks has Paramount cowed.
I’m told that, when the slightest thing goes wrong, the DreamWorks toppers complain straight to Katzenberg, who complains straight to Grey. And then, if it’s not handled quick enough, the very scary Geffen gets on the phone to Grey. “It’s brutal,” a source describes. It doesn’t help that many DreamWorks execs are now doing jobs as part of Paramount “and there’s an invisible tether back to DreamWorks,” an insider explains. The other day, DreamWorks’ Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank, the pair running TV production, were renegotiating their deal. Soon, Brad was hearing that Paramount wasn’t being generous enough. “DreamWorks is just a freight car but they’re driving the whole damn Paramount train,” a source puts it. “You can’t ignore them, or they’ll grind everything to a fucking halt.”
So now Brad looks like Hollywood’s newest hero sitting on top of the heap. Oy, that doesn’t sit well with Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen. Used to be, every day a new rumor surfaced that Brad was getting dumped. Fortunately for him, Grey has a good relationship with Philippe Dauman, the No. 2 at parent company Viacom. “Philippe loves him. They have the same temperament,” a Paramount source explained to me. “But Brad’s biggest problem is not Viacom. It’s DreamWorks.” From now until Christmas, DreamWorks will supply most of Paramount’s high-profile product, culminating with Sweeney Todd directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. Not until next summer’s Indiana Jones and Star Trek sequels does Paramount put out a complete slate. Until then, Grey will still be drowned out by his billionaire colleagues.