Peter Bart, who helped oversee films including Rosemary’s Baby and The Godfather, says he believes cinema is ready for a “reinvention” like the one of the late 1960s that spawned the brilliant films of the following decade.
Bart, who helped his friend Robert Evans lead Paramount in a bold new direction after audiences dwindled in the mid-1960s, says on the latest Bret Easton Ellis Podcast that the movie business is in a similarly dark place now to the one it was in then.
“Due to the pandemic and other factors, the movie business has simply lost its audience… because of the virus, but also the movies were beginning to lose interest. And I think now, as then, there will be a reinvention situation,” said Bart, 88.
“The difference, of course, and this is an importance difference, is the mid-60s were characterized by certain amazing developments,” Bart said. “Society was beginning to change, and the movies had to come along and somehow change in a way that showed understanding of that societal change.”
He added: “I think the same is going to happen. I think that because of this total absence of movies and a movie culture that there will be a different kind of cinema that emerges.”
He continued: “What I don’t know, Bret, is what will be the themes? We’re not at war at the moment, unless you call the political war a war. Sex and drugs have long since been assimilated. So what are movies going to speak to? Will they speak to diversity? I’m glad it’s happening, but I don’t think it’s a very interesting theme. Or will they speak to the political craziness of this time? I don’t see in other words those pervasive trends that might shape a new cinema.”
Ellis speaks on almost every episode of the podcast about the fading cultural significance of movies, and what might replace them.
The changes of the late 1960s led to a filmmaking renaissance of the 1970s that launched Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and the modern blockbuster.
Bart and the American Psycho author speak for nearly two hours in a wide-ranging, fascinating and funny conversation, full of show business and journalism tales — like the time William Goldman tried and failed to cash in on a spec script “scam,” and Bart’s time as the “only Republican” who worked at the New York Times.
As a Times writer, Bart famously wrote a story about Evans, his friend, that caught the attention of Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf+Western owned Paramount. Bluhdorn hired Evans, who in turn hired Bart.
After his work in the industry, Bart returned to journalism, and is now an editor-at-large for Deadline. He describes a press conference he once covered for Variety in which he says then-Paramount owner Giancarlo Parretti was asked to explain how he divided work with executive Alan Ladd Jr.
“It’s-a very simple,” he quoted Parretti as saying. “Laddie make-a the deals, I fuck-a the girls.”
It was the first time the word “fuck” had appeared in Variety, Bart said.