Killer Instinct: How Two Young Producers Took on Hollywood and Made the Most Controversial Film of the Decade
FFC rating: 7.5/10
by Jane Hamsher
by Jarrod Chambers Why do we enjoy Killer Instinct so much more than other Hollywood tell-all books? It has all the same elements--booze, drugs, adultery, politics and backstabbing, production nightmares, and boneheaded executives--that a hundred other stories of La-La land contain. So why did I find myself gobbling this book like popcorn during the opening trailers?
In part, it is because Miss Hamsher is a real person. When she drinks or does drugs, she is hungover and cranky the next day. When she wants to buy an option on the script for Natural Born Killers (hereafter NBK), she has to call her mother in Seattle to lend her the money. She somehow likes and admires the music of Nine Inch Nails and stays up late in a hotel in Venice watching Roger Corman's cornball Death Race 2000. In short, she is a complicated woman with a full range of virtues and vices, which she reveals to us with uncommon honesty, without sinking into whining self-pity or unrelenting cynicism.
Hamsher also gives us the lowdown and dirty on what really happens when a movie is made. After reading this story, I'm surprised that any film gets made in Hollywood. The process, from the time when two self-styled producers pick up a free option on a script by some nobody named Quentin Tarantino, to the moment when Hamsher skips out on her hotel bill after the last press junket for NBK in the UK, is as mesmerizing as a car accident. You know the movie was completed, eventually, but it's fascinating just watching these people grope their way to the final product.
I think what brought them to that final product, what kept things going through lawsuits and prisons riots and health problems and studio interference, was the commitment of the three principals--Jane Hamsher, her partner Don Murphy, and the director Oliver Stone--to the idea of the movie they were making. No matter how much they fought with each other, dumped on each other and threatened to quit, in the end, they were all able to subordinate their feelings to the higher purpose of getting this thing on film. It doesn't matter, ultimately, whether NBK is good or bad. It's enough that we see three people who are capable of transcending themselves for something they really believe in.
Now, Jane Hamsher is no John Fowles, or even John Grisham (who, by the way, appears in the book when one of his friends is killed by someone claiming they were inspired by NBK), and there are aspects of her style that get on my nerves, such as her penchant for exaggeration ("It takes less effort to end world hunger and achieve international peace than it does to follow Don's conversations") and a fondness of neologism (using "paneled" as a synonym for "beat the crap out of," for example). But these are minor flaws, easily overlooked on the roller-coaster ride towards the final cut of NBK and beyond. This is definitely a book that will make you miss your bus stop, or let the kettle boil dry.
276 pages; Second Edition, 1998; ISBN: 0767900758; Broadway Books