FILM / Rushes

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The Independent Culture
The jungle drums are echoing throughout the US film industry: Ricardo Mestres, president of Walt Disney's Hollywood Pictures, was ousted in a 15-minute meeting on Tuesday, ending his six-year tenure in the post - and ending, so Disney hopes, big flop movies like Swing Kids, Super Mario Brothers, Born Yesterday and Guilty as Sin.

Mestres has been putting a good face on what insiders describe as 'a forced resignation'. But even his long-term production deal pay-off doesn't disguise the fact that Hollywood Pictures, created in 1988 at the cost of dollars 100m to end a debilitating power struggle between Mestres and David Hoberman, head of Touchstone Pictures and Mestres' bete noir, has a poor box-office record. Indeed, its last major-league entry was two years ago with The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (the recent Tombstone made only dollars 55m).

All this might have been forgiven if Mestres had shown a grasp of trends. Apparently he could have had the services of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective star Jim Carrey cheap, a year before Carrey went super-nova. Instead he tried to clean up crude stand-up Pauley Shore, only to see both California Man and Son-in-Law rejected by the mass audience.

The resignation has been expected for some time among the cynical, who had been predicting that Disney Studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg would sacrifice Mestres in the face of a rumoured Disney restructuring. Such cynics are also quick to point out that Katzenberg gave the go-ahead to the Hollywood Pictures slate, so is equally liable for the studio's shoddy performance.

Unusally, Disney haven't named a successor. The smart money is on Michael Lynton, who runs Disney's Hyperion Books. It's just coincidence that Lynton happens to be David Hoberman's best buddy.

David Mamet, the writer, has signed to direct Oleanna, his play about a maliciously-brought charge of sexual harassment against a university professor. The big studios wanted a bankable name at the helm, bankable stars in the cast and extensive rewrites, which didn't appeal to the author, a legendary control freak. The Samuel Goldwyn Company have agreed to the original stage actors William H Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon reprising their roles and are hoping that controversy rather than marquee value will make the movie a must-see for middlebrows.

Something every movie-goer should know: a medium-size serving of buttered popcorn contains 1,221 calories and around 56 grams of cholesterol-raising saturated fat.

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