It looks like Hollywood took one look at Howard Stern's New Year's Eve pay-per-view special and decided against making him a movie star.
Studio executives who once considered courting the titan of trash backpedaled furiously after seeing "The Miss Howard Stern New Year's Eve Pageant," in which one bare-chested woman ate maggots, another smeared ice cream over her body and a third passed out after singing opera with a plastic bag over her head.
What brought on Hollywood's change of heart over the radio personality, who draws 16 million fans for his nationally syndicated show?
"Because he goes too far, even for Hollywood standards," said one executive at Universal, which reportedly thought about making an offer to Stern. (He asked to remain anonymous, fearing he would incur Stern's wrath.)
The special--which looks to be the top-grossing pay-per-view broadcast ever--certainly went too far for 20th Century Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose TV group was seriously considering Stern to replace the short-lived late-night Chevy Chase show. Also dropped was Paramount Pictures' offer for a screen adaptation of his best-selling autobiography "Private Parts."
Before the special, New Line Cinema had dropped a deal to produce the film "The Adventures of Fartman"--a fictional avenging angel familiar to Stern's radio fans. That deal blew out over disputes regarding content and merchandising rights. New Line wanted a PG-rated film, Stern wanted an R-rating. New Line wanted to be sole seller of the movie T-shirts, Stern wanted his radio stations to hawk them as well.
Those close to Stern say he has taken the rejections a bit hard. Repeated attempts to reach Stern, his producer Gary Dell'abate and manager Don Baldwin for comment were unsuccessful.
"I've been a Howard Stern fan since his WNBC (a New York radio station) days and I was one of the ones at New Line who sought him out," says Mike DeLuca, president of New Line Cinema production. At one point, DeLuca said, the independent production company toyed with a Howard-Stern-Meets-"The Player" idea, but squelched the notion as too pretentious. Then New Line decided to latch onto a project with the Fartman character Stern played at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.
"This is a goofy character that has great appeal to the mass public. It's too bad this didn't work out," says DeLuca. "It was kind of a mutual understanding when we parted ways. We realized we weren't the studio that could make this movie." Translation: It takes a major studio's big bucks to give Stern what he wants.
And the studio that could have made a Stern movie wouldn't. Paramount and producer David Picker ("Lenny," among other films) backed off from their offer after the New Year's Eve special aired. While parties involved say that the special had nothing to do with it, the timing was curious.
The studio set a $9-million budget cap on the movie, but offered no up-front book option money. Instead, Stern, who would be the star, would share in the film's profits from the first dollar earned. But Paramount sources say that he wanted the up-front money and thought he could get a better offer after the special.
In fact, they say Stern hoped that Paramount's offer would spark a feeding frenzy from other studios. "When we didn't hear back from him, we knew he was shopping around trying to get another movie deal," said one Paramount executive. "But it blew up in his face."
Paramount probably won't be courting Stern again. Ditto for other studios--or so they say.
But Stern previously has said he has received other movie offers--another for "Private Parts" and one for an undisclosed story. But their identity is something Stern, for once, is keeping private.