Playing on the title The Man Who Would Be King which was published by Rudyard Kipling in 1888 and made into a movie starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine in 1975, this audiobook was curiously read by Stephen Hoye. I say curiously because it was written by a woman, so why did the audiobook company choose a man to read it?
Nicole LaPorte is a former reporter for Variety who is well familiar with Hollywood, and if she didn't want to read it, or wasn't able, could they not have found another woman to read this? What, did Tantor Audio buy into the Hollywood paradigm where women and minorities can't carry it, so white men (in this case Stephen Hoye) must be called upon? Well guess what? His reading sucked. It was annoying, and the only reason I stayed with this book (I skipped very little of it, surprisingly!) was because of LaPorte's largely engaging writing.
The book tells the inside story (as reported by insiders to the author) of the 'SKG' of the movie studio Dreamworks SKG. These people are legendary in their own spheres, and the S: Steven Spielberg, is widely known outside of them. Jeffrey Katzenberg is known best as the magician who shepherded several highly-successful Disney animations to success, including The Lion King which I personally thought was laughable, but which was a huge success at the box office.
David Geffen made himself a billionaire in the music industry. The book is mainly about Katzenberg who, fired from Disney and with a grudge over his not-so-golden parachute (and yes, there was a lawsuit - which he won), wanted his own studio. He pulled onboard Spielberg and Geffen, and with backing from ex-Microsoft founder, billionaire Paul Allen, the company launched with great fanfare, proud claims, extravagant promises, and much cash on hand, and began to fritter it away as fast as it could.
DreamWorks was the launch-pad for movies such as "American Beauty," "Saving Private Ryan,", and "Shrek," and began life very boldly, but eventually through mismanagement resulting in an inability to get successful movies out the door in volume, kept on tripping and stumbling. The company slowly crumbled from its lofty perch into broken pieces, with the remainder of it eventually being sold to Paramount, which didn't really want it either in the end, and who themselves sold it off.
The thing which came across most powerfully to me in listening to this was how greedy and arrogant these three men are. Too much is never enough. Spielberg was earning hundreds of millions from the deals he made to direct movies such as Jurassic Park. In that particular case, he agreed to no money up front, but to take fifteen percent of the first dollar - and no, that's not just the fifteen cents! The first dollar is everything the movie earns up front before anyone else gets their hands on it, and Spielberg got fifteen cents from each and every one of those dollars: $300 million in all.
The thing is that we've heard of the successes of these legends, but no one dwells on their many failures, and there were lots of them at Dreamworks, This book does not shy away from that. From Katzenberg's inability to turn out a successful animation until the internally overlooked and neglected Shrek finally came to the screen - and took off big time. Spielberg's failures with multiple movies while having only a few successes, and his penchant for directing movies for any studio except Dreamworks are also examined.
I kind of liked Spielberg before I listened to this book. Now I don't. I had no feeling either way for the other two, but now consider them to be people I would not like if I met them (which is highly unlikely I am happy to report!). Katzenberg seems to come out of these tales with the least tarnish, although his finicky and meddling ways must have been annoying to anyone who worked under him, and while he did have flashes of brilliance in dictating how a movie should look and feel, his successes came few and far between several embarrassing disasters.
Overall I consider this book to be very informative, and full of trade information. It's especially useful if you're looking to get a feel for Hollywood with a view to maybe, somewhere down the line, writing a novel about it! I commend it for interesting and informative reporting.