Horrified Observers of Pedestrian Entertainment: Dear Young Hollywood




Dear Young Hollywood

From Tod Goldberg:

Dear Young Hollywood,

Ah, the impetuous nature of youth! So many dreams! So many hopes! I know you well, Young Hollywood, with your enhanced cleavage and not-meddlesome-enough parents. I give you my permission to marry poorly, date B-level cast members of "That '70s Show" and cut pop records that have all the artistic merit of the Maloof brothers' chest hair. But I will not allow you to mess with great works of fiction for your own nefarious movie-making will.

What is this I speak of, you ask? I just read that Paris Hilton has signed on to play Daisy Buchanan in a remake of The Great Gatsby and that Mr. Gatsby himself will be played by Chris Carmack--purportedly a "star" on the TV show "The O.C."--and that former N'Sync heartthrob/astronaut Lance Bass is set to produce the movie. I can't think of a worse combination of elements, lest that one place is the Palms and we're being ushered out of the area for lack of plasticine good looks. But never mind that: amateur porn stars, bad actors and dreadful singers are allowed to prosper in business and life and love and bully for them...let them make Mean Girls 7 or Final Destination 14 or any number of films about very attractive people falling into and out of love with

Freddie Prinze Jr., but keep your hands off the great literature of our time.

I understand how these things happen, Young Hollywood. You get some money in your pocket, you get a phalanx of brown-nosing pseudo-friends on your payroll, an eight-ball of coke, a couple of dead hookers and next thing you know, you think you can do it all better than its been done before. Cut to five years later and you're on the new season of "The Surreal Life" trying to stop, collaborate and listen. Let me inform you now, Ms. Hilton, Mr. Carmack and Mr. Bass, you will fail and you will fail mightily. There is no green light at the end of a dock for you (and I challenge any single one of you three to catch the nuance of that and all futures references I make).

There have been some fine adaptations of classic--and not classic--novels in the last few years so I understand why you'd think this was a good choice. The problem, as I see it, is that excellent actors and actresses and filmmakers have tried to make Gatsby and even they have failed, which begs the question why anyone would bank on Ms. Hilton to be the emotional linchpin of the cast. I've only seen one movie starring Paris Hilton (though I'm sure others exist) and what I can tell you is that she won't look quite right swathed in white and lounging on a couch with Jordan Baker, their dresses rippling and fluttering as if they had just blown back in after a short flight around the house...unless the actress playing Jordan Baker is engorged on Viagra and is doing her best to incapacitate Ms. Hilton with aggressive thrusting and poor videotaping technique.

That's not to say young actors can't play pivotal roles in movies based on books, because surely they do, though evidence suggests they usually make a mess of things: Ethan Hawke in Snow Falling on Cedars, Ethan Hawke in Great Expectations, Ethan Hawke in Hamlet. Rather, I say, Young Hollywood, it is the temerity of your vanity to believe that an updated version of Gatsby is needed and that someone who once warbled the great lines of despair "Bye/ Bye/ Bye" would be the one to bring it all to us.

Of course, this could all be for naught. Movies go into and out of development on a whim, scripts get written and rewritten, rights get sold and resold and resold and turned around and resold again, actors fall on and off pictures as often as they binge and purge. The books remain on the shelves, which is nice, and eventually, Young Hollywood, another one of you will stumble across Fitzgerald or Faulkner for the first time and you'll decide that The Sound and the Fury would make for a fantastic movie, provided there is a way to have it take place in Manhattan...at an all-girls school...and with a dreamy leading man who reads poetry, but is also obsessed with time, and clocks, and has a troubled brother...but loves to dance! And sing! Bye, bye, bye.

So, you beat on, Young Hollywood, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into my antagonism. I don't blame you for finding books for the first time in your young lives. I don't blame you for wanting to make good cinema. No, I blame you for thinking that the world needs Paris Hilton as Daisy Buchanan, that guy from that show as Jay Gatsby and Lance Bass as, essentially, F. Scott Fitzgerald. See, I believe in the orgiastic future, and maybe you do, too, Young Hollywood, but I just can't abide the sense that when you run faster, stretching your arms out farther...you'll end up with Matthew Lillard playing Nick Carraway.

Yours in the valley of ashes,