EXCLUSIVE: Joel and Ethan Coen are putting together their next film, and it’s about a fixer in Hollywood circa 1950s who works for the studios to protect the stars of the day. Entitled Hail Caesar, the comical yarn centers on a man named Eddie Mannix who sounds a lot like the Fred Otash of his day — the famed 1950s private investigator who worked for Confidential magazine and was the muckraker of the time using wiretaps to spy on movie stars and gather dirt. Otash was a former lifeguard who became a cop, lost his job as a cop and became a private eye who wiretapped. The project is being put together now. It’s not clear if the Eddie Mannix in the script is based on the man of the same who was a MGM vp, for those of you wondering. The real Mannix was vp and general manager under Louis B. Mayer and Dore Schary. It was Mannix’s wife who actor George Reeves had the affair with. Reeves was later found with a gunshot wound to the head and it was ruled a suicide by the L.A. County coroner’s office but questions have always persisted about the death.
It was not unusual during the time for studios’ internal security to protect their assets to construct and manage the squeaky clean image of their stars. The big stars of the day were under contracts for a certain number of pictures so the powerful studios had their own go-to guys (and sometimes hired outside private investigators) to deep-six scandalous stories, whether it be romantic dalliances, drug use, DUIs, arrests, you name it. For the more serious threats, the fixers used pay-outs, strong-arming, and took care of “problems” (real or perceived) by any means necessary. It was the day of the old Hollywood star system.
A man I knew very well, Milton Ebbins, who was like my second father and was the liaison between Hollywood and the Kennedy White House, took care of the Rat Pack in a similar fashion, cleaning up behind the scenes for the boys. I would hear story after story about Old Hollywood and this kind of behavior. Pay-offs, a trip to Hawaii for a girl who witnessed something she shouldn’t have, money carried in envelopes or brown paper bags, and threats to make problems go away were not unusual. That behavior among Hollywood’s elite — illegal wiretapping, threats and a corruption of the Los Angeles’ legal system — continued up until 2002 when the current Hollywood fixer, Anthony Pellicano, was arrested and thrown into prison (after threatening my life and illegally wiretapping my phones).
Hail Caesar follows the Coen brothers’ critically acclaimed Inside Llewyn Davis which was set in New York’s folk music community and starred Oscar Isaac. The Coens won Best Picture, Directing and Writing Oscars for No Country For Old Men and won for best writing for Fargo, which has been spun off now as a event TV series on FX. They are repped by UTA.