The Player (1992) In Robert Altman’s all star ensemble piece Tim Robbins’ studio exec deals with death threats from a spurned writer while juggling pitches for new movies and the making of a film within the film.
Adaptation (2002) Nicolas Cage hit a career high playing twin screen-writing brothers (Charlie and Donald) in Charlie Kaufman’s Oscar-winning story directed by Spike ‘he made lots of cool music videos and Jackass’ Jonze. The everyday anxieties of Charlie merge with the story he’s failing to write as the meta twists mirror Kaufman’s own real life struggles to adapt a book for the screen.
Barton Fink (1991) In Joel and Ethan Coen’s ’50s set mystery John Turturro is a New York playwright lured to California to write a movie about wrestling. The intellectual finds himself trapped in a hotel room with John Goodman’s serial killer next door. He can’t hack it and his writer’s block sends him mad in a story inspired by the brothers’ own struggles writing the thriller Miller’s Crossing.
Get Shorty (1995) Fresh from doing the twist in Pulp Fiction John Trovolta played mobster Chili Palmer on a mission to collect a gambling debt in LA when he realises his particular set of skills are perfect for the movie business. Based on the book by Elmore ‘Rum Punch’ Leonard, Barry Sonnenfeld’s film also stars Danny Devito and James Gandolfini in a Good Fellas meets L.A. Confidential romp.
Tropic Thunder (2008) Ben Stiller’s meta comedy puts a squad of actors shooting a Vietnam war flick in Southeast Asia up against the wrath of local drug warlords. Robert Downey Jr is hilarious as the method acting thesp going ‘full retard’ to play a black soldier while Tom Cruise finally learned to poke fun at himself going bald and wearing a fat suit starring as studio boss Les Grossman.
Lost in La Mancha (2002) Twelve Monkeys director Terry Gilliam’s failed attempt to make the film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, starring Johnny Depp and based on the novel by Miguel de Cervantes, forms the backdrop for a compelling documentary. Revealing the former Python’s ambitious but doomed plans, actors get ill, budgets spiral out of control and freak weather hits the set.
The Artist (2011) In this homage to Hollywood’s silent era from writer/director Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin plays movie star George Valentin (based on Zorro actor Douglas Fairbanks) who falls in love with a young dancer. With the arrival of ‘talkies’ in the ’20s her career takes off as his hits the skids. Months of rehearsals before shooting paid off – the film cleaned up at the Oscars.
L.A. Confidential (1997) Curtis Hanson’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s pulp noir novel casts ’50s Hollywood as a hot bed of corrupt cops and drug-addled starlets desperate for fame. Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce sparkle as cops trying to crack a series of murders. Both fall for Kim Basinger’s femme fatale while Danny DeVito sleazy journo digs for dirt on the stars and Kevin Spacey hams it up.
The Big Picture (1989) Directed by Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel in This is Spinal Tap) Kevin Bacon stars as a naive film school graduate seduced by the bright lights who catches a big break to make his first movie. But shark-like agents, devious producers and his own morally bankrupt quest for fame turn his dreams sour.
Swimming with Sharks (1994) Based on writer/director George Huang’s own experiences in the cutthroat world of Hollywood working for producer Joel Silver (The Matrix) Kevin Spacey’s tyrannical producer puts his assistant Guy (Frank Whaley from Pulp Fiction) through a dark initiation. Shot in just 18 days we follow Guy as he turns the tables by kidnapping his boss and exacting a sinister revenge.
The Bad & The Beautiful (1952) Kirk Douglas (dad of Michael) plays a ruthlessly ambitious producer thought to be based on Orson ‘Citizen Kane’ Welles. Driven by his own greed to succeed the film shows the Svengali-like power he exerts over his leading lady (Lana Turner) and the way a producer can control his writer and director in pursuit of his own vision. Think Harvey ‘Miramax’ Weinstein.
Mulholland Drive (2001) David Lynch takes a surreal dive down the rabbit hole in a Hitchcock-esque mystery following an actress (Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts) with big dreams caught up in a conspiracy involving an amnesiac car crash victim. Featuring another haunting score from Angelo Badalamenti, the dream-like drift of the story turns to nightmare as the characters enter the nightclub Silencio.