Monday, March 8, 2010

Dick and the man who got a percentage of the budget.

by Richard Fleischer

I went about my job of preparing the picture, trying to save money wherever I could. The resistance from everyone was considerable, even nasty. The art directors, Colesanti and Moore, went into a positive snit when I restrained them from building large portions of sets I knew I'd never photograph. The propmakers sulked when I stopped them from making hundreds of props I didn't need. And so it went, right down the line. Everyone was used to wallowing in unlimited funds. Economy and discipline were anathema. Nobody liked me except Samuel Bronston's right-hand man, an obese bon vivant and Russian ex-patriot, Mike Washinsky. He liked the good things in life and seemed to have them in abundance.
The budget I came up with was millions of dollars lower than anyone expected. I turned it in to Washinsky, and he was delighted. It was just what he'd hoped for. Then he said something I didn't understand at all. "Don't talk about this budget to anyone. This isn't going to be the official budget. You'll get a new budget next week. It'll be quite different than this, a lot higher. But I don't want you to question it, just accept it. Hokay?" and he slapped me on the back in conspitorial fellowship. "If you say so, Mike," I answered.
Then I began hearing stories about Washinsky. He had, it was said, a percentage not of the profits of the picture, which would be normal, but of the budget of the picture, which would not. No wonder they wanted to beef up the budget. I would make the picture for the original price I turned in, but the surplus would be skimmed off.
I learned that on the previous picture the materials for set construction were so overordered that an apartment house was actually built with what was left over.
On the day I left Madrid to spend the Christmas holidays in Klosters with my family, six brand-new Rolls-Royces were delivered to the studio. For the use of the executives, I was told.
I never returned to Madrid. Word reached me in Klosters that Pierre S. Du Pont had, as he later put it, turned off Bronston's water. No more turkeys would be laying golden eggs. Happy New Year!
The money owed me by contract had not been paid. All I had recieved for my eight months work were my expenses. The main salary was to have started when we went into production. Legal actions were instituted by me against both Bronston and Du Pont. I had no choice.

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