Published March 29, 2002
Never say never, I always say. People used to say John Travolta would never part company with his longtime manager and film producer Jonathan Krane. Now he has.
A call yesterday to Travolta's publicist's office confirmed what I'd heard during Oscar weekend. The party's over and Krane is out. Krane is not listed as a producer on the upcoming John McTiernan feature Basic in which Travolta co-stars with Samuel L. Jackson. Krane's name has been on nearly every Travolta picture since 1988 as producer or executive producer.
But alas, someone was going to be blamed eventually for Travolta's dimming career. Domestic Disturbance, Swordfish, Battlefield Earth — those are just some of the recent Travolta bombs. Lucky Numbers, Mad City, The General's Daughter, and Primary Colors are among Travolta's other less than celebratory moments on film under the Krane imprimatur.
Krane had a sweet deal with Travolta after resurrecting him from the dead with a trio of Look Who's Talking pictures some 10 years ago. The rumor was that he was never paid as a manager, but took the production credit on each movie as his way of making bucks. Consequently Krane cleaned up early in the game.
But Krane was also responsible for fashioning Travolta's famous perk package, a 30-40 page document that guaranteed the star his own chef, a weekly gift worth $1,000, and many other accoutrements that made him unwanted by savvy bottom line movie makers.
Krane, who is married to actress Sally Kellerman, became well known when he worked for director Blake Edwards in the early 1980s. But Krane fell out with Edwards, even though he continued to cash in on his name when he started his own movie company, MCEG, in 1987. In 1991 Edwards told me that he was furious with Krane and no longer spoke to him because Krane had made all his contacts through Edwards and then left.
MCEG eventually went belly up and lost millions for its investors. The company ran from 1987-1990. A wildly subjective account of its short run as a "40's style movie studio" can be found on Krane's wacky self-promotional Web site, kraneonproducing.com. An autobiography by Krane is promised on the same Web site, although it's never surfaced.
The Los Angeles Times wrote about him in 1993: "The onetime Wunderkind was trashed publicly by former employees and creditors as a megalomaniac who was obsessed with perks and abrasive to his employees."
Since the demise of MCEG, Krane has managed to be involved in all the subsequent Travolta movies. Even though managers rarely turn up as producers, Krane's name has been inveigled into all of Travolta's projects.
A sign that things had changed suddenly was the absence of Krane's name from Basic, which is being produced by Guy East and Nigel Sinclair for Mike Medavoy's Phoenix Pictures and Columbia Pictures. According to sources, Krane had previously been responsible for preventing at least one Travolta project, a musical bio of singer Jimmy Rosselli, from being made. It was also said that it was because of his interference that Travolta dropped out of The Shipping News a couple of years ago. Kevin Spacey took the role.
Before we close Oscar week out, here's what this reporter thought about the 2002 ceremonies. Bravo to producer Laura Ziskin, who had to put together her first show and work in a brand new theatre at the same time. Getting Woody Allen to make his first ever appearance was just brilliant. And Woody's buoyant performance was spontaneous, delightful, self-effacing, and a miracle. Nora Ephron did a terrific job with the New York film clips.
I loved the documentary segment, which smartly used the Beatles' "Let it Be" for background music — a tip of the hat to nominee Paul McCartney. Sidney Poitier and Robert Redford made moving, profound speeches — you could really be proud of giving them each an honorary Oscar. Nathan Lane was hysterical and off the cuff. Ryan Phillippe showed unusual candor when he admitted that his wife, Reese Witherspoon, made more money. Kasi Lemmons did a fine job on the Poitier clips, although it might have been nice to see some non-African Americans talk about the famous director/actor's influence. I recently interviewed Gene Wilder, whom Poitier directed twice, and he credited him with being a father figure and with introducing him to his late wife, Gilda Radner.
I hope Ziskin is back next year, but I also hope the show moves back to the Shrine Auditorium. The Kodak Theatre is tacky and useless. It doesn't accommodate enough people, and it closed down enough of Hollywood to cause trouble and irritate small businesses in the area. Where else but in awful L.A. would they build a theatre in a mall? And it's not like the mall shops are Tiffany or something classy. The first store you see on the way in is one of those cheap looking pants places. It's all downhill from there. Yikes!
What can you say about the deaths of three Hollywood legends in less than a week? Irreplaceable? Undoubtedly.
Dudley's decline is probably the most heartbreaking since he was relatively young and had publicly dissipated. But he was a comic talent of a high standard, and for a short period — in 10, Micki and Maude and Arthur — he had a sublime run as a Chaplinesque romantic hero.
Billy Wilder was 95 and had a great life. His influence on motion picture making is indelible. From Some Like it Hot to Witness for the Prosecution and everything in between, Wilder is the consummate filmmaker and genius. Now that he, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are gone — unbelievably — we are left with nothing to take their places.
Finally, in 1998 I saw Milton Berle — then I guess about 88 — do the 15 funniest minutes of stand up comedy I'd ever seen at Denise Rich's famous first cancer fundraiser. It was mostly about his new young wife, and sex. "Honey," his wife said, "would you like to go upstairs and make love?" Milton replied: "At my age, it's one or the other." In 2000 he came to the Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Hollywood during convention week and hugged Muhammad Ali and greeted old friends like a pro. He was spectacular, raunchy, and real. Goodbye, Milton! There's no chance that anyone will ever forget you.