They all beat me, didn't they? [laughs]
The New York Times' Aljean Harmetz said the movie had no major stars—
Bill Hurt was a star.
—a bland title, no car crashes, and a heroine who won't sleep with her leading man because she doesn't like his ethics.
She tried! But he turned her away, man.
Given all those things, how did you think Broadcast News would do at the box office?
I did all my test screenings and marketing, but I was coming off Terms of Endearment. So I took some breathing room. I was enmeshed in making the picture and just trying to get it right.
Broadcast News was made a time when the news business was changing. Romance was, too. You once asked, "Who else are you going to fall in love with when you work 18 hours a day?"
We were hearing about two-career couples. There were couples living in different geographic places. Pragmatism came into relationships. Before today's technology really hit, there was fundamental change in almost every era. I was obsessed with all that.
Your most recent picture, How Do You Know, is about love. Where is romance today?
Falling in love is different. But I've got a hunch that if you asked every adult in America, "What's the smartest thing you've ever done?," a lot of them would answer, "Marrying him." "Marrying her."
What's the smartest thing you've ever done?
Giving up a union job, a union writing job. It was a better job than I ever conceived of being able to get. I quit and somehow came to L.A. for another job that I lost in six months. But quitting that job was the smartest thing I ever did. It brought me here.
In the years since Broadcast News, we've lived through major news events: the end of the Cold War, the 2000 presidential election recount, and the September 11 attacks. Do you think September 11 coverage was TV journalism at its best?
The remarkable thing about 9/11 was that journalism pretty much put down its badges. People didn't worry about reacting as human beings. People who weren't reporters reported. David Letterman was sort of a brilliant reporter for a second—but it was a way nobody had ever covered a story. They just presented what was inside themselves.
You've worked with some of the top actresses in the business—Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Holly Hunter, Reese Witherspoon, and others. Who's your favorite leading lady?
Well, I'm stunned by what Holly did in this movie. But my answer is Whittni Wright, the six-year-old girl in I'll Do Anything. I think she gave the greatest child performance ever. She's a miracle. I think she was God. She's my pick.
You were recently quoted as saying, "I never believed this would happen. Motion pictures have been made successfully into a business." But hasn't Hollywood always been an industry?
Yes. We've always tested pictures, and marketed them. But the folly was, when someone had an idea or script, people were silly enough to run numbers on what kind of business the picture might do. Pictures were always a successful freak show. You just couldn't tell which freak would bring in an audience. Now, we can run numbers. There's actually a way to do that job. That's what the so-called tentpole movies started. Studios can be pretty damn accurate about business all the way around the world if they make a certain movie in a certain sort of way. Of course, there will always be surprises. But Irving Thalberg isn't someone you'd want to hire right now.