If you saw the segment with Maggie Smith on 60 Minutes this past Sunday, you may have seen her ragging on the director of the movie, California Suite, and wondering who it was.
"I found the director a bit tricky, a bit spikey," she said, which lead to the interviewer Steve Kroft asking about her own reputation of being “spikey.” She acknowledged it, but got back on the director. "He was jagged. He was very difficult." She added that the only thing that comforted her was finding out that that Walter Matthau got so upset by the director that he left the set in tears. It was all handled with charm but bluntness, and was clear that she really hated the guy. When Kroft asked her jokingly about libel, she said that the director was dead. “Though I didn’t have anything to do with that. I don’t think.”
For the record, the director was Herbert Ross.
Among Mr. Ross's movies, the second-to-last he directed was Undercover Blues, written by my long-time friend Ian Abrams, who I first met when we were both ne'er-do-well publicists. Me at Universal Pictures, Ian at the Rogers and Cowan Agency. Ian also co-created the TV series, Early Edition. (In the original draft, the main character's buddy, played by Fisher Stevens, was named 'Bob Elisberg.' The network rejected that as sounding, "too ethnic." Instead, they ended up going with 'Chuck Fishman.' Which, of course, sounds so much less ethic.) Ian is now a professor of screenwriting at Drexel University.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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