Normally, I wouldn’t bother to delve into this. But I feel it’s important for my readers to know that Warner president of production Jeff Robinov had many opportunities to deny my Friday posting that he’d articulated a new decree to three different producers that “We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead”, that a male has to be the lead of every pic made, and that he doesn’t even want to see a script with a woman in the primary position. I stand by my story, Warner’s Robinov Bitchslaps Film Women. Now here’s what happened behind the scenes.
I heard nothing from anyone at Warner Bros on Friday, Saturday or Sunday despite my emails because the studio, I later heard, decided on a strategy of no comment regarding my posting. Early Monday AM, I was awakened by a phoner from a studio head telling me he’d received a call from Robinov asking for advice on “how to have a better relationship with Nikki Finke”. (The studio head, who works for a rival to Warner Bros, advised: “Don’t lie to her.”) The mogul said Robinov wanted a go-between to find out whether I would be willing to talk to him off the record. I was puzzled by this, since Hollywood people just pick up the phone and talk to me directly, but I said of course. I phoned Robinov’s office. Since our conversation was off the record, I cannot divulge what Robinov said to me except to characterize our entire exchange as extremely cordial. I did ask over and over whether he wanted to comment publicly on my posting.
Around noon, I received an email from Robinov. I treat emails sent to me as private, so I won’t divulge its contents except to characterize it as charming.
During Monday, I received calls from radio and TV wanting to interview me on the air about my Robinov posting. I was feeling ill, so I declined. This is after my posting had been carried all weekend by many high-profile websites and blogs.
Around 5 pm Monday, I received a phone call from Robinov. He said he wanted me to post this on the record statement from him: “I never said it. I don’t believe that you shouldn’t put women as the leads in movies. It’s not a philosophy I hold.” I asked him if he’d received any phone calls during the day about the posting. He said, “None.” I said, “Really, not from anyone? Because I’ve been receiving phone calls.” He repeated that no one had called him on it. I also asked if he was giving this denial to any other media outlet. He said no and told me, “I made a promise to you that since you had posted the story, I would only go to you to comment on it publicly.”
Immediately after his call, I phoned a Warner Bros PR rep to check with Robinov one last time to make sure he wanted to go public. The flack asked me to wait to post, then reached Robinov and phoned me back before 7 pm saying, “Look, he’s thought about it, and he doesn’t want to issue any statement. So let’s just forget about it.”
On Tuesday, I was ill and unable to take any phone calls or read emails. No one official from Warner Bros phoned or emailed, but several insiders did tell me that the studio had been flooded with calls regarding Robinov and women. At 7:30 pm that day, a brief article posted online at Variety.com, saying, “Contrary to recent reports in the blogosphere, Warner Bros is still committed to women. Despite the failure of three femme-centered actioners produced by Joel Silver — Jodie Foster starrer The Brave One; The Reaping, with Hilary Swank; and the remake The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman, Warner production prexy Jeff Robinov insists he is moving forward with several movies with women in the lead. Indeed, he is offended by rumors of his cinematic misogyny.”
Sources inside Warner’s tell me that, 1) Robinov doesn’t believe there’s an actress who can carry a movie worldwide since Julia Roberts, 2) Robinov has now gone so far as admitting to his studio colleagues that the decree I reported was made when he was “in the room”, 2) Robinov is acknowledging that the studio is reassessing the strategy of making action pictures starring women, 3) Robinov was inundated with calls on Monday and Tuesday from media and Hollywood types asking him about my posting, 4) Robinov has three pics currently in production and six in pre-production and not one stars a women as the main lead of the film, 5) he’s nixed Wonder Woman as a stand-alone film, downgrading her to just one of four superhero characters in the proposed Justice League pic, and, 6) Robinov will only make Wonder Woman as a spin-off of Justice League, about four superheroes including Wonder Woman. But his proviso is that JL (no doubt its proper name Justice League Of America would be too jingoistic for the foreign market) would have to do really, really boffo to justify having a female star-driven pic. Again, I stand by my story.