The Liman indiscretion: The director who loves gossip

He's the movie director with a blockbuster appetite for gossip.
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The Independent Culture

When two major Hollywood studios decided, last week, to stifle their creative staff's love of tweeting and blabbing, did anyone tell Doug Liman?

As we reported on Tuesday, both Disney and DreamWorks have inserted clauses into the employment contracts of their movie stars, banning them from breaching confidentiality by loose remarks, confessions or thoughtless chit-chat on "interactive media, such as Facebook, Twitter or any other interactive social network or personal blog". But the master of Hollywood indiscretion seems to have missed that memo.

The studios were impelled towards such control-freak gestures by a small outbreak of plot-leaking and secret-broaching on Twitter and Facebook. One of the cast of Heroes, Greg Grunberg, posted a message on Twitter that seemed to suggest the TV show was about to be cancelled. And there were red faces at Fox earlier this year when Paula Abdul, one of the judges on American Idol, told her army of tweet-followers that she had resigned before she got round to telling the producers. When a blogger wrote a confident-sounding insider piece saying David Boreanaz, the former Buffy star, had contracted swine flu and that it was holding up the filming of his new show, Bones, the story went everywhere – until Boreanaz had to go on Twitter to scotch it.

With any luck, the new contracts will stop such regrettable incidents. Maybe it will dissuade the chatty Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz from their compulsive twittering. But can it shut Doug Liman up? Liman, the 44-year-old director of the first Jason Bourne movie, The Bourne Identity, and of the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie shoot 'em up Mr & Mrs Smith, is a blogger of excitable demeanour and unstoppable energy. He loves to spill the beans, to shot the breeze, to tease and tantalise. Much of the time, he's deadly serious – as when he voices his concern about the power of half a dozen 17-year-old kids, with no special knowledge or expertise, who write influential blogs on the internet and whose criticisms can ruin a movie before it opens. But he'd just as soon tell you about the director who likes to stick his hand down the pants of personal assistants in front of everyone at the "video village" (the area near the director's chair where video monitors are placed) and how his team, rather than have a quiet word about his behaviour, rigged up a screen around him, mid-fondle, to stop the world watching.

He drops hints about the top director who likes to attend parties during shoots and consequently suffers from exhaustion, and has effectively slept (on set) through his last three films. He chats artlessly about the producer of his new film, who happens to own the Minnesota Twins football team, and how his financial support for some vital re-shoots may be dependent on the Twins slaughtering the Detroit Tigers ...

Dispatches from the Liman lifestyle surface regularly on his blog, 30 He tells you how he spent his first flying lesson working out how to reduce the pre-flight safety checklist from 50 items to only five (he's a busy man, OK?) Later, he brags that the White House has asked if they can requisition his aircraft hangar to house President Obama's helicopter, Marine One. He turns them down – "and they said that asking was just a formality and they were taking it, so they've plowed and paved around the hangar to make more room". But he doesn't much care because, he notes with delight, his hot peppers have taken first prize at the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Fair ...

The indiscreet Liman is the son of Arthur L Liman, a New York attorney who served as chief counsel during the Iran-Contra hearings. At Brown University, Doug co-founded the student-run cable TV station. His first success was the cult favourite, Swingers, shot for $250,000, which launched the careers of Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. He dates the "rebel style" of the film from the days at Brown when he used to embrace reckless adventures – like ignoring the warnings of coastguards and sailing into 18ft swells.

He is not very likely to be dictated to by Hollywood's talent managers. Not when he has urgent matters to impart, such as the preview screening of his new film Fair Game, a spy thriller starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, in front of an audience of six people, including a suspicious CIA operative and the hot-shot lawyer, Alan Dershowitz. Or about the day he held a script conference with Jez Butterworth (author of Mojo and the recent, rave-reviewed Jerusalem) in which he, Liman, stood naked in a shower and Butterworth stood discreetly outside the door; which, for coolness, he says, outshines the occasion when Liman held a meeting with the producer Joel Silver, while the latter in was in pyjamas. Hollywood is an industry, but it's also a town that thrives on gossip. Thanks to Doug Liman, there's little chance of it being stifled for long.