New Details Throughout: Like most things in Hollywood, there’s the official story, and then there’s a parallel reality, and the truth usually lies somewhere inbetween. So it was with today’s news that striking Hollywood writers disrupted a Paramount movie filming in Pacific Palisades today — and the pic’s star Eddie Murphy, who was in the middle of shooting when the picketers arrived at 10:30 AM, left soon after and did not come back for the rest of the day. On that much, there’s no debate. Yes, the comedian had been scheduled to be on the location all day. And, yes, the 100+ strikers massed at Palisades Park where the movie Nowhereland was supposed to be shooting today, tomorrow and Monday. The WGA tried to portray what happened as Murphy for reasons of conscience refusing to cross a picket line. But, technically, there was no picket line when Murphy reported for work early in the morning, so it was unclear if he would have refused to cross it.
Sure, WGA sources claimed to me he stopped work once a picket line was set up in a show of unity with the writers. “The WGA definitely hearts Eddie today. Big cheer for him,” a writers guild source told me. But Paramount refuted that, claiming Murphy left because his 8-year-old co-star was “upset and crying” because of the chanting picketers so filming couldn’t continue. The studios told me shooting would go on tomorrow as planned. So do we have Eddie Murphy, the working writers’ hero? Or do we have Eddie Murphy, the aw-fuck-it I’m out of here after a crappy day.
(See protest photos left.) Even a small nugget of news that the production at one point parked 4 big trucks trucks between the filming and the chanting picketers to try to prevent more disruption can be interpreted and re-interpreted. The WGA sources told me that the Teamsters, in an apparent demonstration of solidarity with the writers, moved the trucks back to their original locations, prompting the strikers to chant “Thank you, Eddie” and “Thank you, Teamsters!” on their megaphones. But then again, the Teamsters drove those trucks into position in the first place. So go figure.
The picketers supplied music on a trumpet, tambourine and guitar — songs included included “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Which Side Are You On?” — to accompany their marching around Palisades Park, which ironically enough is a place where under normal circumstances many children of both studio/network execs and TV/movie writers play sports. As it happens, the crew spent the rest of the lost production day there playing football.
No one refutes that the production was disrupted. Sources say the movie’s filming permit was a particularly “hard get” and the exterior of the local rec center had been made to look like a school. To save the day, producer bigwigs at one point tried to persuade Ed Solomon, one of the two writers on the movie and a WGA leader, to intervene with the picketers. Solomon reportedly let it be known that he supported his guild. But I also understand he wasn’t happy about the movie being halted.
Like him or not, there’s no doubt that Murphy is one of a handful of Hollywood icons who have incredible leverage in this town. But whether he’s the kind of person willing to use that clout for a cause bigger than himself is a huge question. I’ve repeatedly heard of studio CEOs caving on a major negotiation when they get in the same room with well-known actors. (I’ve written previously that there’s just something so needy within the Hollywood moguls’ psyche that they want to be liked and respected by the creatives they in turn like and respect. I assume this is why these businessmen make TV and movies instead of toothpaste and mattresses.) This is why lots of folks in Hollywood are wondering where major A-List stars like George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and others haven’t taken up showbiz survival as their latest “cause”.
Given what a standstill everything in Hollywood is right now because of this strike, I say whatever professional, personal and even psychological pressure these top-of-the-heap artists can put on the moguls and the writers could make all the difference in getting settlement talks back on track. Now that’s in everyone’s self-interest.