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Another Chapter in the Strange Odyssey of 'Wired'

April 13, 1989|NINA J. EASTON and JACK MATHEWS | Times Staff Writers

"Benjamin clearly told me that various packages with CAA would be at risk" if his company released "Wired," Kijzer said this week. "He (Benjamin) cannot deny that."

"It was not a creative decision," Kijzer said of New Visions' sudden disinterest in "Wired." Kijzer added that releasing "Wired" would not pose any immediate "financial risk" to New Visions.

Both Benjamin and Hackford denied that they dropped the film because of CAA pressure. Hackford has said that his decision not to release the film was strictly a creative one. Benjamin told The Times this week that Kijzer's and Meeker's accounts of conversations with him were "inaccurate."

Under the tentative distribution agreement, F/M Entertainment would have provided $6.5 million in prints and advertising money, enough to cover expenses through the film's opening week, according to F/M officials and Kijzer. Much of that money would come from advances provided by a company that planned to buy videocassette rights to "Wired," according to Feldman. (A New Zealand conglomerate, Lion Nathan, financed the $13.5-million movie.) In addition, New Visions would earn distribution fees from the box-office receipts.

During the negotiations, New Visions hired marketing consultant Gordon Weaver to draw up a release plan for the film. Weaver said that as the outside ad agency for New Visions, he routinely provides marketing plans for projects under consideration at New Visions, but he would not discuss the plan. However, a copy of Weaver's marketing analysis obtained by The Times from F/M Entertainment suggested two alternative plans for a mid-summer release.

Feldman said that he and Weaver met to discuss the plan the day Benjamin called to say his company would not release the film. The alternative plans both suggested limited national Aug. 4 openings; one would have opened the film in 25 cities, the other in 50.

Meeker said that Benjamin called him on March 16 to say that the distribution deal was in trouble because of CAA pressure. The agency voiced objections after a published report in The Times disclosed that a deal between New Visions and F/M Entertainment was in the offing, according to Meeker's account of the conversation. Benjamin, according to Meeker, said the deal would embarrass CAA because of the agency's ties to Hackford.

"(Benjamin) went into a long speech saying that CAA itself didn't care, but that the agency was getting lots of heat from clients and that Ovitz was caught in the middle," Meeker said.

During that same conversation, Benjamin proposed a deal that he said would satisfy CAA. Under that deal, the film would be distributed by New Century/Vista, a distribution arm partially owned by Hackford's company. But the film would not carry the name of Hackford's company, Meeker said.

Five days later, Benjamin called to say the deal was off, that "the pressure had gotten to be too much," according to Meeker's notes. The notes are contained in a phone log kept by Meeker.

"This has been almost a McCarthy-type campaign," Feldman said of the CAA pressure. "It's innuendo and rumor. . . . I'm a little disappointed in the community. These are the same people that rallied to the side of ("Satanic Verses" author) Salman Rushdie, who defended Martin Scorsese's right (to make "The Last Temptation of Christ.)"

Mike Smith, director of Lion Nathan, the New Zealand company that financed the film, said Tuesday that he was "shocked" by the pressure, "particularly given how jealously everyone (in Hollywood) guards the rights of freedom of expression."

The most public display of pressure so far has come from Aykroyd, who, in an interview on MTV last June, said he was placing a curse on everyone involved with "Wired."

"I have witches working now to jinx the thing," Aykroyd said, on the MTV show "The Big Picture." "I hope it never gets seen and I am going to hurl all the negative energy I can and muster all my hell energies (against them). My thunderbolts are out on this one, quite truthfully."

Sources say that Aykroyd acted out his enmity when he discovered that a co-star in Tri-Star Pictures' "Loose Cannons" was in the "Wired" cast, as well, and refused to work with him.

The actor, J.T. Walsh, who portrayed Woodward in "Wired," had reportedly worked two days on "Loose Cannons" before the flap occurred. Soon after, he was replaced by Paul Koslo.

Neither Walsh nor Aykroyd would comment on the incident, and "Loose Cannons" co-producer Alan Greisman would say only that the casting of Walsh "didn't work out."

Many industry people contacted for this story said that allegations of CAA trying to suppress the movie were just a paper tiger and that the reason Feldman can't get a deal is that his movie isn't commercial.

"If that movie looked like it could make money, it would have been snapped up in a minute," said one studio executive. "It's going to be a tough movie for anyone to market."

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