UPDATED with comment from sources close to Emmerich. (See below)
EXCLUSIVE: Hollywood is known as feud central, so I have new information about an old feud that briefly resurfaced today in a The New York Times story about New Line — and that is about to become even more public because of a soon to be released book. Michael Cieply’s NYT piece recalls how New Line chief Toby Emmerich wrote the screenplay for Frequency, and “that exercise got him sued by Laurie Perlman, a onetime [CAA] agent now married to the former Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin; Ms. Perlman contended that she hadn’t been properly included as a producer of Frequency. The suit was eventually dismissed, according to court records filed in the Santa Monica branch of Los Angeles Superior Court.)” But there is so much more to this feud as I discovered when I was leaked today a chapter from Perlman’s forthcoming memoir God, The Universe, And Where I Fit In.
Chapter 13, entitled “My Last Stand”, dumps on Toby Emmerich and Howard Koch Jr because of what she says she endured on the Frequency film. I’ve been asked not to reprint the chapter but to just paraphrase and excerpt it:
Before she began work on the project Frequency, Perlman hadn’t produced a film in 7 years, “and I was now looked on by many executives as a pesky fly that still manages to buzz and bother you in autumn”. So she tried finding “young, promising talent” whose careers were ready to explode. “One of those hungry talents was Toby Emmerich, a young executive at New Line who was a damn good writer. Toby was fresh and green and eager, and I took an immediate liking to him. He had penned a script, Frequency, that I was anxious to produce and guided through numerous rewrites. We spent countless hours brainstorming and arguing and laughing. With each alteration the script got better. I found just watching Toby’s enthusiasm was contagious. I gave the script to Greg Hoblit to direct. I could feel some of the old excitement come over me once again.”
But that relationship ended abruptly at her son’s bar mitzvah, Perlman writes. She’d invited many friends: Howard Koch Jr, who’d developed projects with her together, and, of course Emmerich. She decided to seat them next to one another “knowing that a young exec would be thrilled listening to the tales of old Tinseltown that Howard was so good at spinning… [But] I was blissfully unaware of the Machiavellian screwing I was in the process of getting”. Perlman claims Koch laid “the groundwork” for convincing Emmerich to let him produce Frequency, like saying he knew Hoblit better, “and cut me out of the cinematic equation completely”… Toby was more than willing to agree to this literary mutiny before the waiters came around with dessert”.
Analyzed Perlman: “Granted, loyalty has always been a transient bond at best in Hollywood. Still, I don’t think I’m setting my standards too high when I say backstabbing reaches a new low when you do it to your dear friend at her own son’s Bar Mitzvah.”
Later, when Perlman demanded an explanation about it from Koch (who has since changed his name to “Hawk Koch” after having a spiritual epiphany in midlife that led him to get bar mitvahed at age 50), he reportedly replied, “I have always been in the shadow of my father and I need all the credit I can get.”
Perlman admits she was bitter and angry over this “act of betrayal by two of my most trusted friends” and plotting her revenge. Presumably that came in the form of her lawsuit which strangely she doesn’t even mention in the chapter. Instead, she describes how this was “the final straw in what had become an enormous and daunting haystack. Beside the lies, the forgotten promises and the broken hopes, the work had simply become too hard for no result. The day my son became a man was the same day I left the business”.
Meanwhile, there are two sides to every story, especially when it involves a Hollywood feud. So sources close to Emmerich and with knowledge of the situation tell me Perlman’s account “is just fiction”. (FYI, I’m not going into the whole backstory of the controversy over Emmerich’s authorship of the script. So let’s stay on topic here.) They maintain that, since Toby was a New Line employee, he had to sell the project to his studio. “New Line took over development. Toby did not have the ability to decide whom to make producer. The way it sounds in her book, it was as though Toby wrote this script, and she helped him, and then he fucked her. That’s just 180 degrees not what happened,” an insider explains to me. “There was no development with Laurie Perlman. She was never the producer on the project. And that was Bob Shaye’s call, not Toby’s.”
These sources close to Emmerich claim to me that Perlman only tried to get involved with the project once the script sold to New Line and it was reported in the trades. “And then she called Tony and said, ‘I’m a producer, and we’re good friends.’ She had no countless hours of development, and she did not guide him through numerous rewrites. She called Bob Shaye and said I’d like to produce this, and Bob Shaye said no. I’m not saying there wasn’t a bar mitvah, and Toby and Howard didn’t sit next together. But once Toby sold it to New Line, it was not his project to control.”