And while I’m in the mood to bitchslap The New York Times, here’s more: In October, Sunday’s Business section ran a puff piece on Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal headlined “Sony’s Version of Tracy and Hepburn”. But Tim Arango failed to report that Lynton’s and Pascal’s 6-year “leadership display operating in sync” hit a big snag over the summer that’s still not entirely smoothed out. As a result, the mogul duo are little like Tracy & Hepburn and a lot more like Martin & Lewis.
In the article, the two moguls tried to portray themselves as “checking their egos” at the door in order to work well together. But the truth is their rift began in mid-July when Peter Bart penned a Variety love letter to Amy Pascal — headlined “Sony’s Free Spirit Shows Steady Hand” — and mentioned Michael Lynton only in passing. That, and the fact that Pascal gave an interview to Variety that was all “I, I, I” (and not “we, we, we”), did not sit well with Lynton. He accused her of engineering a professional slight. Amy proclaimed her innocence.
Fast forward to later in the summer when it was Pascal’s turn to feel hurt. The Hollywood rumor mill was churning about all the top studio execs who might get axed (and ultimately did exit: Dick Cook, Oren Aviv, Marc Shmuger, David Linde, Kevin McCormick) and Amy’s name found its way onto the list. When Lynton was asked whether Pascal was in trouble, he was noncommittal. And when he was asked why Pascal had no fresh franchises for Sony Pictures, he agreed it was a problem for the studio. This time, Pascal accused Lynton of engineering a professional slight. Lynton proclaimed his innocence.
Now you see why I liken their relationship to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis whose professional partnership lived and eventually died on the basis of perceived slights. (Dean resented Jerry for hogging the spotlight. Jerry resented Dean for behind-the-scenes betrayals.)
To cool things down, the Sony Pictures PR machine began working overtime this fall to generate press for Lynton/Pascal. Variety started stressing Lynton’s role, and also cooperated with a story about Sony franchises. The Producers Guild Of America announced it would honor Pascal and Lynton. And then came Arango’s article.
By the way, the latest PR blitz from Sony Pictures is to pump up the volume for Columbia presidents Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach because they don’t get enough credit for shepherding the major’s box office hits. Belgrad oversaw Mall Cop and Ugly Truth as well as Will Smith and Adam Sandler pics like Hancock, Big Daddy, and Click; Tolmach was in charge of Zombieland, the Spider-Man and Da Vinci Code franchises, and Will Farrell and Judd Apatow pics including Superbad, Pineapple Express, Talledega Nights, and Step Brothers.