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Herzfeld's Directing Debut: the Second Time Around

Movies: Publicity for '2 Days in the Valley' fails to mention his big-screen bomb, 'Two of a Kind.'

October 02, 1996|ROBERT KOEHLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In 1983, John Herzfeld directed his first theatrical film, the critical and box-office bomb "Two of a Kind," which starred the then-hot duo of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. But press materials for his "2 Days in the Valley" make no reference to the earlier film, and numerous press accounts have described the new film as his first for the big screen.

The press materials for "2 Days in the Valley," prepared by its producer, Rysher Entertainment, describe Herzfeld as a veteran of many television movies, including "The Ryan White Story," "The Preppie Murder" and "Stoned" (which earned Herzfeld a best director Daytime Emmy Award).

But Herzfeld, reached Friday at his Studio City production office, said he omitted reference to "Two of a Kind" from the information he provided Rysher "because the whole picture isn't mine, and I don't feel it represents my work in the way '2 Days in the Valley' does."

"Two of a Kind," whose stars had teamed in the runaway 1978 hit "Grease," has been cited in many stories about Travolta's "Pulp Fiction" comeback as the movie that nearly ended his career.

Advance newspaper stories, as well as some reviews of "2 Days," have depicted Herzfeld as a first-time feature filmmaker. A long story in last Sunday's Rocky Mountain News told of a prize-winning TV director who "wanted to move from the little screen to the big screen." The L.A. Weekly review said the movie was "written and directed by first-timer John Herzfeld." A story on Herzfeld in Thursday's Valley edition of The Times reported that "2 Days" co-star Danny Aiello urged the filmmaker "to move into movies."

It is common for biographical production material to exclude artists' credits, particularly when they are numerous or minor work best forgotten. Rysher spokeswoman Judy Schwam noted that "if any filmmaker gives me information that doesn't include [certain] credits, I take it at face value. There are actors I've worked with and they've left off titles we worked on together, and I'd say, 'Hey.' But they didn't want it included. I see it all the time."

But "Two of a Kind"--like "2 Days" also written by Herzfeld--was a high-profile holiday release for 20th Century Fox, co-produced by Roger M. Rothstein and Joe Wizan, who at the time was head of the studio. Herzfeld said he lost creative control of the movie, noting that "major subplots did not reflect what I wrote and wanted on screen and were changed dramatically."

Wizan said Friday that "stuff in the movie wasn't working and had to be changed. It got away from the original." He said Rothstein was the movie's hands-on producer and added, "Since I was running a studio at the time, Roger really took it over." Herzfeld chose not to have his name removed from the movie's credits. Rothstein could not be reached for comment.

Mike Marcus, president of MGM, which is distributing "2 Days," said, "This is the first I've heard about this." Marcus was Herzfeld's first agent in the 1970s and early 1980s, "but since we parted ways before 'Two of a Kind,' I've never talked to him about it."

Asked for his response to the inaccurate depiction of his first-timer status, Herzfeld said, "The TV movies are what I've done for the past 13 years, but when 'Two of a Kind' is brought up in discussions, as it was when we screened it at the Toronto Film Festival, I talk about it. I'm not keeping it a secret. For that matter, there are at least eight other credits of mine not included in the press material." Those include an Israeli-made feature, "The 17th Bride," which Herzfeld wrote.

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