Harvey Weinstein pays tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, featuring the most eloquent rejection letter in history

The film producer writes about the late Nobel prize-winning author

Internationally renowned film producer Harvey Weinstein has written a tribute to the late Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Here, he remembers how the writer accidentally helped launched his career, always offered the best dinner conversation (with highlights including a heated debate with Bill Clinton about recognising Cuba), and why he elegantly rejected Weinstein’s offer to turn his literary masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude into a film.

Garcia Marquez died on Thursday 17 April, aged 87.

“In 1983 I was a young would-be film distributor in the beautiful aura of the Cannes Film Festival looking to find a movie to make my mark in the movie business.  I had gone to film school, I had stars in my eyes and I had studied Godard, Truffaut, Visconti, Fellini, and all the greats. 

"I wanted to follow in the great tradition of Don Rugoff at Cinema 5, who was everybody’s idol in the film distribution world. So I sat patiently through Cannes where nobody was spending any time with me at all; trying to go to various screenings and having no connections whatsoever to do anything. 

"Fortuitously, I saw William Styron - who was on the film jury that year.  Bill knew my wife at the time and her family from Martha’s Vineyard.  So I went up and introduced myself to William Styron and sure enough he knew my wife’s family and took pity on me. He said to me, 'Kid, if there was one movie to buy at this festival for what you do, it would be Erendira.'

“So here was a judge giving me a little inside information, as they say. Not as bad as some of those guys on Wall Street, but it was inside information, nonetheless. Anyhow, my mom brought me up well, and I did not make a move on the movie until after the festival was finished. My brother Bob and I were able to acquire Erendira, the Brazilian movie directed by Ruy Guerra, written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and starring Irene Papas and Claudia Ohana.

“Now this was a wonderful movie, and I got to meet Garcia Marquez for about a second. Later, I got to talk to him on the telephone as he was under some sort of criminal investigation and the government was withholding his passport.

“In New York we tested the movie. Erendira was originally a chapter in Garcia Marquez’s iconic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which he then turned into a novella, and eventually a screenplay. Our test audience appreciated the beauty of the story, but quite honestly, there were some very slow spots.

"After we spoke to the audience, director Rey Guerra told me he had tried to convince Marquez to shorten the film previously, but Marquez wasn’t sure. He thought it was better that I call. Having been in the business less than two years I was physically shaking on the phone.

“Garcia Marquez: 'Why do you want to cut the movie?'

“Me: 'The director and I thought that the audience was restless.'

“Garcia Marquez: 'How do you know for a fact the audience was restless?'

“Me: 'Well Mr. Marquez, because they started to move in their seats and we could hear noises from their seats.'

“Garcia Marquez: 'If their asses were twitching in the seats, then by all means, we must cut those parts.'

“Marquez always kidded me about the asses twitching in seats and also about the way I marketed and sold the movie: by getting Claudia Ohana – the gorgeous Brazilian girl - to pose for Playboy magazine and Irene Papas to do a big New Yorker piece.  It was a perfect confluence of high art and low art:  Nobel Prize winner and Playboy Magazine. It worked and the film became an art house hit.

Colombian writer and Nobel Prize Gabriel Garcia Marquez waves to fans, after the inauguration of IV International Congress of the Spanish Language, in Cartagena, Colombia in 2007 Colombian writer and Nobel Prize Gabriel Garcia Marquez waves to fans, after the inauguration of IV International Congress of the Spanish Language, in Cartagena, Colombia in 2007

“Years later, as an early, loyal, and strong supporter of Bill Clinton, I would see the President on Martha’s Vineyard where we both vacationed.  Over his two terms in office, I would screen movies for him and I dubbed myself the White House Chief Projectionist to which the President said, “Lucky for you, it doesn’t require Senate confirmation.” One day, when I was out on Martha’s Vineyard, the phone rang and it was the President inviting me to join him and a group of friends at William Styron's house, which was 2 miles down the road from me. I was directed to the end seat at a long table, and in walked the President, Bill and Rose Styron, Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I couldn’t believe it.

“And if you know President Clinton, you know he can talk about anything – Fifties records to baseball teams you’ve never heard to world history without missing a beat. But I was truly spellbound as he went round for round with Garcia Marquez, Fuentes and Styron about literature. Not only about their work, which he liberally quoted, but the impact of Latin American literature. It was a dazzling display of four incredibly brilliant minds. 

“Then it really got fun when Garcia Marquez brought up recognizing Cuba. Then Fuentes jumped in agreeing and then Bill Styron joined the chorus. Three on one, but the President went round for round with the Nobel prize winners and held his own for why he couldn’t do it. To this day, I marvel about that argument and how they disagreed but with intelligence, humour, respect and friendship for each other. Today I find the conversation unfortunately too one-sided.  When the lunch was over, the President shook my hand and said, “That Gabriel Garcia Marquez is quite a guy – I don’t see eye to eye on all his politics, but he sure can write.”

Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez was known affectionately as 'Gabo' Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez was known affectionately as 'Gabo'  

“One of the last times I talked with Garcia Marquez was with the director of Cinema Paradiso Giuseppe Tornatore. I approached him on Giuseppe’s behalf because I had screened Paradiso for him and he loved it. I told him we wanted the rights to make One Hundred Years of Solitude a movie. Garcia Marquez replied that we were the right men for the job and that he would be thrilled to give us the rights. And then he added that he had just one condition: that we must film the entire book, but only release one chapter - 2 minutes long - each year, for 100 years.

“So there it was, the most elegant turn-down of one of the greatest properties in the history of literature, done with humour and a master's touch.  Not only did he have a twinkle on the page, he had a twinkle in his eye.  And while I never knew Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a close friend, every time I saw him he always said something that had an impact on my life and my work. It was his gift to not only put magic on page but magic in the world.

Harvey Weinstein”

Read more: Inside Garcia Marquez's public memorial
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's obituary
How Garcia Marquez changed his country's reality
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin