Living Legend David Picker’s Movie Memoir

Here’s a wonderful reason to interrupt my vacation: my longtime pal David V. Picker has finally published his Hollywood memoir – Musts, Maybes And Nevers. A one-time wunderkind who is 3rd generation film royalty, Picker at age 82 looks back on a legendary career that included running four different studios: United Artists, Paramount, Lorimar, and Columbia. Of course there’s a book party for him on October 1st hosted by Norman Lear, Tom Rothman, Mark Gordon, Larry Mark, and Bonnie Arnold who except for Lear all worked for David as assistants (as well as Jeffrey Katzenberg, Larry Kramer, and Jonathan Demme). Picker is a natural raconteur and this Amazon Digital book reads just like he talks and spins stories from the film industry during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. He could have penned an entire memoir just about the days he became UA President in his 30s and made all the early Woody Allen movies, read the James Bond books and brought them to the big screen with Cubby Broccoli, signed the Beatles to a 3-picture deal before they ever came to the U.S. and… Well, you get the picture. David provided me with the following nuggets to tease you:

The great director Billy Wilder once said to me, “David, there are only three kinds of movies – musts, maybes and nevers.” The phrase stayed with me throughout my many years as a studio executive and then a producer. That’s what this book is about.

It’s a book about what most people consider the last Golden Age of the studio film and United Artists, the studio I ran, was central to that golden hue. But it’s also a book about raging ego, and corporate involvement, and out of control talent, and the inner workings of a film studio – all of which is relevant to today. This is a book that will make people understand what the movie business can be, and has been, and isn’t any longer.

It’s a book about movies that I was actually part of – from getting Sean Connery to come back and do one more James Bond film and save the franchise, to getting Brian Epstein to clear enough time on the calendar of his clients The Beatles to film A Hard Day’s Night after I signed them a year before anyone had ever heard of them. What it was like in the 1960s and 1970s to run United Artists and create the very nature of the independent film business, a precursor to the Weinstein Company, Focus Films and Sony Classics of today. What it was like at United Artists in those years bringing to the company filmmakers such as Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Sergio Leone, Norman Jewison, the Mirisch Company or Bernardo Bertolucci. To win Oscars with The Apartment, West Side Story, Tom Jones. Midnight Cowboy, Lilies Of The Field and subsequently, at Paramount and Columbia, Ordinary People and The Last Emperor.

But it’s not only about the successes. I’m credited with a famous quote in our business: “If I had turned down every picture I greenlit, and greenlit every picture I turned down, I’d have the same number of hits and flops.” Rob Reiner has told people it should be on my gravestone. So, yes, we’ll talk about the “misses” in some detail, too. And here are some of the questions that get answered:

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