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Ed Limato, a great Hollywood agent, passed away this weekend at 73, after a singular and stellar 40-year-long career, during which he never became irrelevant. His style became archaic, but never ineffective. To get his way, he would scream at you at the top of his lungs, tell you he was never speaking to you again, and hang up—and then send you flowers the next day.
This is how I was finally cut from Ed's glamorous Oscar party after 20 years of happy continuous attendance:
For a sweet shining moment a while ago, I had a development fund at Paramount, where I whimsically—it seems now, anyway—developed a very good script of my favorite book, Philip Roth's American Pastoral. The fact that I did things then like develop my favorite tragedy makes me simultaneously laugh and cry now, but I digress. So for that millisecond, and the further millisecond in which I controlled the script (long, hideous story) Ed and I had one of our calls that Did Not End Well.
Another important digression: Throughout my career, I knew I had a good piece of material, if, when I came into my office in the morning, I found a call from Ed on my phone sheet. This was one such Monday morning.
"How is that American Pastoral? I hear it is wonderful." His basso profundo voice dragged on like gravel.
"Thank you, Ed. I love it. It will be very hard to get made."
"I have your solution. Mel Gibson should play the Swede." The Swede, as you probably know, is the novel's great American Jewish hero.
I almost fell out of my chair. This was in the height of the controversy over The Passion of Christ, which had set back Jewish-Catholic relations hundreds of years, if not merely prior to the second Vatican Council. Obviously, Ed knew all of this.
My problem is, I engage. I should have played the game.
It's not that I am not ecumenical. It's not that I am closed-minded or one of those Jewish people who cannot see all sides. On the contrary. Take my word, or don't. It's just that this was the stupidest idea I had ever heard.
I know what I should have said. If I were a wiser, wilier producer, or even one who lived to stay on Ed's list, I would have said, "Interesting...Let me think about it. Let me talk to my director! " Not that Ed would have let me get away with that. He's too good for that nonsense.
But I couldn't help it, it just came out. Something like, "Really?... Seriously?" I could hear his blood start to boil.
Now let me think this through. Had I been a what we shall call, for the purposes of this blog, a New-Style Producer, which I strive to be these days, Mel would have a) gotten the picture made? And then 6 months later run into a cop while drunk in Malibu and accused the Jews of starting all the world's great wars? Or b) Been on-set and completely sober when he made those comments, and Ed would have saved his career and the movie would have been made? You tell me. Anyway, I still would say the same thing, now because, frightfully, I am me. So Ed being Ed, he flipped out, screamed and yelled at me, told me what good this could do for Mel and "MY PEOPLE!!"