There are only two sins in Hollywood: to be dull and to be desperate.
Please consider what that leaves out!
I wrote these words in a career guide to entertainment industry survival called How to Make It in Hollywood (HarperCollins, 1992, 1996). It’s still in print, but perhaps not for entirely positive reasons. I had become concerned about the blatant abuse I saw - from bullying, screaming and rampant exploitation to outright sexual crimes - that those wanting to succeed in show business were subjected to. I had worked in the industry myself both as a development executive and a psychotherapist to showbiz folks and had developed a few survival tactics that could work in the strange culture of Tinseltown. I shared these with clients and students at the TV Academy, the American Film Institute and the Writers, Directors and Composers guilds.
I warned Hollywood wannabe’s that in this ruthless industry game, there are really only two sins: to be dull and to be desperate. If a power player is successful and making money for the business, almost any peccadillo or even serious crime is forgiven. This isn’t new. Years ago, studio chief David Begelman forged actor Cliff Robertson’s name on a check and remained in power – although Robertson became a pariah for outing him. This explains a lot about why actors and interns are afraid to speak up when subjected to abuses of various kinds.
In the Robert Altman film “The Player,” starring Tim Robbins, a powerful studio exec literally gets away with the murder of a lowly screenwriter. Those outside the industry thought it amusing but far fetched; those working in Hollywood took a darker view and appreciated Altman’s courage in speaking out.
Young actors and naive wannabes (women and men) are still too often seen as mere perks of power, their desperation to get roles or jobs being the kind of Hollywood sin that is easily taken advantage of. Those who brutalized their way to the top like powerful execs, producers, directors or agents can enjoy their pick of these vulnerable young people.
So will the Harvey Weinstein scandal change anything? I doubt it. He’s already being defended by top lawyers and is taking that first escape route of those caught with their hands in the cookie jar or crotch: signing up for a brief stint of rehab before continuing business as usual. “We all make mistakes,” he says, hoping for a “second chance.”