BOOKS: Killer Instinct

Jane Hamsher
Killer Instinct
Broadway Books

Hollywood tell-alls tend to reflect their subjects by employing one of two modes: the self-serving or the scathing. Potently mixing both, this exposé of the various cretins who concocted Natural Born Killers--written by the film's neophyte co-producer, Jane Hamsher--spans from the author's modest roots as an industry bottom-feeder ("I awoke on Tuesday morning with a world-class hangover...") to her self-promoting epilogue about the posh office space on the Sony lot that she currently shares with partner Don Murphy. NBK's gestation was a tough one, though, and Hamsher brilliantly recounts how it arose out of a cesspool of wannabe big shots: particularly screenwriter Quentin Tarantino, transmogrified under the Sundance spotlight from a mere film geek into a duplicitous asshole with serious delusions of grandeur. While Hamsher's sense of humor is plenty sharp, it's lucky in every way that she has a helluva punch line to recount on page 71: "Oliver Stone wants to direct your movie."

Like NBK itself, Killer Instinct loses perspective in its second half, which races through the movie's bacchanalian shoot and torturous postproduction at the expense of details. Intriguingly, Hamsher claims that Stone's initial cut of the film flat-out sucked, but doesn't quite explain how she can credit herself with turning it from "awful" to "cohesive." Less of a mystery, believe it or not, is Stone the womanizing Buddhist pot-smoker and didactic Godard devotee, whose contradictions are drawn carefully and even affectionately by Hamsher. This, despite his having drunkenly told her that she "just [wants] to get fucked by greasy garage-mechanic types."

Compared to Tarantino (who wrote Hamsher an even lewder letter), Stone actually seems vulnerable and perversely charming--especially when a bout of mushroom-induced paranoia renders him helpless to buy a Pepsi at a New Mexico KFC. Me, I still don't like NBK, but Killer Instinct has somehow raised my admiration for Stone's methods to an all-time high.

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