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Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  731 ratings  ·  48 reviews
The 1990s saw a shock wave of dynamic new directing talent that took the Hollywood studio system by storm. At the forefront of that movement were six innovative and daring directors whose films pushed the boundaries of moviemaking and announced to the world that something exciting was happening in Hollywood.

Sharon Waxman of the New York Times spent the decade covering
Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 3rd 2006 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 2005)
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Kevin Cecil
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: film, female-author
Late in the summer of '99 I was dumped by my first girlfriend in a cabin somewhere in the mountains of Montana. Earlier that spring, RUSHMORE hit local screens. I fell in love with it. Actually love is too weak a word for what I felt, I was in lurve with RUSHMORE. I ended up seeing the film five times during its run, and bought the soundtrack the day it was available. Between RUSHMORE and the cabin in Montana: MATRIX, EXISTENZ, ELECTION, THE WINSLOW BOY, SOUTH PARK, LIMBO, AMERICAN PIE, EYES ...more
Sep 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
To be honest, this book probably only deserves three stars—however, the subject matter dovetailed perfectly with the time period in my life when I was most obsessed with (current) movies, and it was utterly fascinating to read about the creation of films that are still some of my favorites ("Three Kings," "Being John Malkovich," "Boogie Nights," and "Traffic," specifically, although with the reverberations from "Fight Club" still rocking our culture today, reading about the turmoil surrounding ...more
Malcolm Frawley
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous examination of the 'generation' of film-makers that includes Tarantino, Fincher, Jonze, Anderson & others. Waxman unloads the good & the bad about these guys, without ever taking sides, & accords them an important place in cinema history. Highly recommended for those interested in film.
Jun 25, 2016 rated it liked it
The 1990s in cinema were something else. Hollywood had blown itself out of proportion with excess. America was suffering a recession, teenagers stepping into adulthood were cynically coming to grips with their future, ultimately forming a nihilistic philosophy that saw resurgence in rebellious behavior much akin to the late 1960s and early 1970s. A major facet of this attitude began to be imprinted in the Hollywood indie scene. Who knew that these maverick directors would change the system ...more
Kristopher Pistole
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: film
Very informative and tell-all book about five maverick directors of the 90's. Though personally, it feels like David O'Russell is mostly included because of his feud with George Clooney. It seems odd to at this point in history not to include in more depth, Wes Anderson, The Coen Bros., Kevin Smith, or Sophia Coppola, (she's mostly mentioned as Spike's girlfriend). The book was written in 2005, right before Fincher, PTA, Soderbergh, and Spike Jonze had somewhat comebacks (or at least made some ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Well researched. Some tedious parts - wish it had been shorter.
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
i like the book very much,it presents the directors as normal human beings going through their share of struggles to be at the position where they are at currently now,

all of them have struggled ,take any story for ex

Soderbergh :-He was trying to do various things from the age of 16 to get a movie made ,his internal conflicts,his problems with intimacy which to an extent is the charge labelled against his movies also,that his moves are icy and too cool in nature ,his internal struggles esp
I just finished this book, loaned to me by a friend, thanks primarily to last weekend's "icepocalypse." It's about six "rebel" film directors from the worlds of indy movies, music videos, and advertising, all of whom got a chance to make movies for Hollywood studios eager to capitalize on those directors' edginess back in the 1990s. The result, unsurprisingly, was culture clash. The spotlighted directors are Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, David ...more
Nov 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Relying heavily on second hand stories, Waxman's book is still one of the best books on the late 90s crop of indie directors going mainstream and the troubles they had with the studios. The stories about Jonze and Being John Malkovich are worth the price of admission alone in my opinion.

Sadly marred by its gossipy tabloid slant a times, it's still an engaging read. Nowhere near the level of Biskind's Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film but all the same
Patrick McCoy
Dec 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: film, non-fiction
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with Sharon Waxman's Rebels On The Backlot (2006). The premise was appealing to me, in which Waxman reports on the lives and careers of Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction; Steven Soderbergh, Traffic; David Fincher, Fight Club; Paul Thomas Anderson, Boogie Nights; David O. Russell, Three Kings; and Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich. These are some of my favorite films of the last 20 years, but I would have liked to see more critical analysis and discussions ...more
Nov 12, 2015 rated it liked it
As a source of inspiration, almost functioning as a self-help book on how to navigate through the Hollywood-system (spoiler: by having your way at all costs), it is wonderful. Waxman's storytelling is very captivating and the way she presents the story, especially during the Soderbergh and Fight Club chapters, had me going through this in no-time.

But it rarely goes beyond the 'creatives struggle with the suits' side of the story. It's an insightful look at '90s Hollywood, but it fails to
John Leach
Mar 19, 2008 rated it liked it
I felt the scope of this was too broad for any sort of real depth or insight.

It's worth a look for anyone interested in the work of Fincher, Jonze, Russell, Tarantino, Soderbergh, or Anderson. I found the sections of Fincher and Anderson to be the most illuminating. The Tarantino stuff certainly had a negative spin to it and told me nothing I didn't already know from other books.

A book that takes a similar approach to a different period (the seventies) and is far more effective is Peter
Grindy Stone
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Credit to the author for coming up with a good book that spends a lot of time on movies that I think are self-indulgent crap (Reservoir Dogs, Three Kings, Fight Club). Lots of good dish too, what any book about Hollywood needs. Best tidbit - Warren Beatty took a meeting for what turned out to be the Burt Reynolds' part in Boogie Nights. Egomaniac Beatty though tried to talk PT Anderson into giving him the Dirk Diggler role. Also detailed is Harrison Ford's turning down the drug czar part in ...more
Amanda Hamilton
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting. I don't know a whole lot about how movies are made or even the background of most movie directors but this was interesting. I still haven't seen a lot of the movies mentioned in this book ("Three Kings", "Fight Club", "Boogie Nights", "Magnolia") and honestly, I had thought the book would be about older directors like Spielberg or George Lucas but maybe I should have looked at the cover a little better. ^^;

Dec 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
I started this book months ago, then paused in reading to to FINALLY watch "Magnolia" which I had purchased years ago. Good movie, and good book, full of lots of inside scoop on the big new directors of the early '90. I would have liked to have seen more focus on women or people of color though....those directors weren't necessarily as popular or influential as Tarantino or Soderbergh, they still deserved more than a cursory mention. Overall, though, a good read if you are into movies.
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
This is one of the series of books I'm reading to get a better understanding of the entertainment industry. By following six of the more (critically) successful directors through the 1990's the book gave a good overview of the rise of the studio in-house art divisions.

The book was fairly entertaining and mildly insightful but it did make far too much effort to make the six director's followed throughout the book seem important.
Chris Adams
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great companion piece to "Down and Dirty Pictures," this book told the amazing behind the scenes stories of the filmmakers that made up the class of 1999. It was a great book to read, nearly 20 years later, as the careers of the filmmakers chronicled have played our more fully. The book is worth it alone for the stories of how one of the most conservative studios around ponied up big bucks to bankroll the subversive "Fight Club". But, of course, I really shouldn't talk about fight club...
Sep 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is like the best parts of Entourage, the parts where the agents are all yelling at each other and deals are falling through and directors are being pricks. This book is not like the worst parts of Entourage, which involve ladies saying, "Hi, Vince" as they walk past him at a club. This means it is worth reading. Also, 90s independent film, yay!
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
A plethora of entertaining anecdotes from the productions of some of the greatest films of the 90s. Lacking the oppressive cynicism of Peter Biskind's Easy Riders and Raging Bulls and Down and Dirty Pictures , Waxman's well researched Rebels on the Backlot makes for a light, enjoyable read.
Jun 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
A quick read. It's interesting to see the story behind some of my favorite films I really want to see Three Kings now that I've read the story of the making. Paul Thomas Anderson is crazy. Also if you're a fan of Entourage I'd recommend reading this book because it seems like a lot of the stories were taken from this book.
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, movies, 2010
When I was seventeen, I read Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll Generation Saved Hollywood and it forever set in me a love of exactly the dishy Hollywood behind-the-scenes stuff that Rebels on the Backlot delivers in spades. A really enjoyable tour of American film in the 1990's.
Anna Boudinot
Oct 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Really opened my eyes to the hoops these directors had to jump through to get their films made -- films that are considered the best of the decade. It also inspired me to stick to my artistic vision instead of writing formulaic scripts that fit into the major studios' model for what's considered profitable. Though that doesn't necessarily mean any of my scripts will ever get made!
Sep 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Think you know all you can about Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, David Fincher and other 90s indie film stalwarts? This insightful book shares fascinating details about these filmmakers and reveals the struggles they went thru to make now-classic films like 'Pulp Fiction', 'Boogie Nights', 'Being John Malkovich', and 'Fight Club'.
May 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: cinema
Hollywood reads like a place that could destroy ones creativity. This book details how six "independant" directors managed to break through despite the fickle nature of America's movie factory. An interesting read.
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
an awesome behind the scenes look at all the antics and glory behind some of modern film's greatest filmmakers.
i'm inspired to rewatch many of these movies with the new perspectives i've gained about their auteurs.
favorites like magnolia, fight club, traffic, et al.
Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I was particularly obsessed with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez films when I read this book. It took awhile to get through and I skimmed over several parts, but generally, if you have interest in modern movie directors, it is an enjoyable read.
Nico Battersby
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
As an student film maker, this book was incredibly inspirational. To read how these men came from nothing and carved out a place for themselves in the Hollywood was a joy. Well written and informative. Reccomended to anyone who appreciates the work of PT Anderson, Tarantino or Fincher.
May 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Well written rag. Lots of hearsay and biased anger but a worthwhile read. Difficult to ascertain the full truth of some of these stories.

Thanks to M. Cassidy for letting me borrow it, for like a year or something.
Feb 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Kind of trashy and gossip-y, but also kind of awesome and entertaining. Some pretty interesting presentations of the different personality archetypes that directors tend to have. Weird when I see them completely mirrored in people I have contact with.
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If it weren't for the subject matter of this book (namely the six titular directors), this book would have been a total chore. Luckily for Waxman, the subjects of her book are fascinating, even if her take on their material and her writing is not. Could have been so much more.
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