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The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,177 ratings  ·  132 reviews
When Brian De Palma agreed to allow Julie Salamon unlimited access to the film production of Tom Wolfe's best-selling book The Bonfire of the Vanities, both director and journalist must have felt like they were on to something big. How could it lose? But instead Salamon got a front-row seat at the Hollywood disaster of the decade. She shadowed the film from its early stage ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published May 30th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published November 1st 1991)
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Will Byrnes
Nov 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, cinema
Julie Salamon - from her site

Salamon tells the tale of the making of Tom Wolfe's satiric masterpiece Bonfire of the Vanities into a film. It provides an incredibly detailed view of diverse aspects of movie-making, any of which could, if done wrong, turn a good product into a bad one. She notes the thought process behind many of the decisions made for the film, particularly the bad and costly ones. It is unique in my reading to have such an inside view covering such a wide range of information.
Paul Bryant
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
A brilliant, exhaustive and totally exhausting account of how a big budget Hollywood movie gets conceived and scripted and cast and filmed without anyone involved having the faintest notion that what they are creating is one of the famous worst movies ever.

Rolling Stone : On film, Bonfire achieves a consistency of ineptitude rare even in this era of over-inflated cinematic air bags

LA Times : Certainly Wolfe's canvas might lend itself to a broad approach, but broad like Dr. Strangelove, not broa
Sean Condon
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Step 1. Read Bonfire of the Vanities.
Step 2. Watch Bonfire of the Vanities.
Step 3. Read The Devil's Candy (by far the most rewarding and enjoyable of the three steps).
Mark Johnson
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theater
This book details the making of 'The Bonfire of the Vanities', a movie which, along with 'Heaven's Gate', 'Ishtar' and 'Waterworld' is in the exclusive club of big budget Hollywood flicks that aspired to greatness but proved to be critical and box office flops. The director, Brian De Palma, gave Ms. Salamon the run of the set, with permission to interview anyone involved in the production. The story reads very much like a novel; in fact - by design - it reads very much like Tom Wolfe's novel 'Th ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-white-square
Fascinating! There's much that I enjoyed in the film. There's the bits everyone liked ... Chrysler building, opening tracking shot, Concorde ... but I also enjoyed F Murray Abraham, John Hancock and Melanie Griffith.

It's just that the male stars are all wrong, horribly wrong.

And the decency speech is cheese.

I liked the Warner Brothers executives' excitement at one of Saddam Hussein's young British hostages wearing a Batman t-shirt:

Tom Wolfe: "'A great
I’ve had this waiting to be read for about ten years, and I finally read it over six months. What’s with that? Oh yeah, parenting. It’s cold and matter of fact and does exactly what it should. I wish I’d read it all those years ago, because it would have felt more searing. I’m older now. It doesn’t surprise me how any of this stuff works, and I can see too many of the protagonists’ points of view.

Because I’m human, here’s my theory on why the movie bombed. In part. The book is not that great. It
This is a very well-written, absorbing behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film version of Tom Wolfe's celebrated 1987 novel Bonfire of the Vanities. The film was released in 1990 and was a notorious critical and box office disaster. Author/reporter Julie Salamon was granted total access to the production by the director Brian De Palma and it is to his credit that he went along with it, come what may. I got the feeling that Salamon went into this project with an open mind, and it really ...more
John M
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I feel like I need to see the movie to adequately review this. So many clearly awful decisions were made that read as gigantic misfires and history's judged them as gigantic misfires, but to truly appreciate the portrait Salamon paints here (and especially the fleeting moments of hope from the producer/director figures that it might just have come together) you've got to see the carnage firsthand.

Even without that angle, it's still absolutely entrancing. You've got a nuanced portrait of the behi
Bob Box
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Read in 1992. Salamon was granted complete access to Brain De Palma for the making of Bonfire of the Vanities. She goes into every detail of the making of the film until it's release and the blistering reviews. Fascinating reading. One of my favorites that year. ...more
Nancy Utley
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The right book at the right time for me, making me feel less alone as I wrestle with various challenges and eccentric folk who populate movieland!
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reading this while working on a movie is scarier than any horror novel I've ever read by a massive gulf. ...more
Jerry Hart
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fun and fantastic read, even for a movie I hadn’t seen. I loved learning every aspect of the production, and the author did a great job of setting the scenes and people involved. I felt like I was back in 1990 (I was eight, but I still remember that year vividly.)
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exacting catalogue of what going into making a movie. Tom Hanks seems cool, Bruce Willis seems lame, Brian De Palma remains underrated. Studio executives are dumb as hell!
Amar Pai
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of the making of the movie adaptation of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. It's a great novel. The movie, however, turned out to be a critical and popular disaster. So Devil's Candy has the quality of a trainwreck-- you can't help but gawk.

I haven't seen many other detailed accounts of the end-to-end process of making a film. (The only other one that comes to mind is David Foster Wallace's thing on David Lynch's Lost Highway, which is also a great read.) In the case of Bonfi
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Because I enjoy movies and I am fascinated by how they are made, The Devil's Candy is a perfect match for my reading interests; and it delivers very well on its promise to describe the making of a Hollywood film from beginning to end.

For those who don't know the story, two chapter headings on the Contents page set the stage: "This Is the Best Movie We Ever Made" and then later "You've Got to Be a Genius to Make a Movie This Bad." The chaotic ride from hoped-for mega hit to Heaven's Gate and Isht
Leah Tuscano
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for anyone interested in movies and understanding the thousands of decisions that go into making them. I wish I would have read this before moving out to Los Angeles. My favorite part about it was that the author never mentions herself, you actually forget that there is a journalist following around the crew and feel like you are actually there. People are quite honest and you find yourself rooting for some of your favorite "characters", especially Eric Schwaub and Ann Roth. ...more
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Julie Salamon's book is a fascinating look at the making of "Bonfire of the Vanities," a big-budget Hollywood adaptation of Tom Wolfe's novel. I learned more than I expected to about the ways movies come together (or fail to) and the petty maneuverings that go on. You don't have to have seen the movie or read the book to comprehend this account, which strikes a good balance between mockery and sympathy. There's a part of you that wants things to work out for the people involved, even as you know ...more
Jack Herbert Christal Gattanella
A must read for film junkies and the book that, ironically, made me a bigger fan of De Palma than I had ever been before. So much of this could have been good, but it's the study of how an artist, through and through, makes the wrong choices on adapting one of the great contemporary novels. I couldn't put it down. ...more
Kaethe Douglas
When movie-making goes horribly wrong....if you've seen the film Bonfire of the Vanities, then you understand just what a fiasco it was. At the time it was one of my favorite novels, and I hated that movie so much. ...more
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
almost too exhaustive but the 10 Years Later wrap up is great and Bruce Willis is a tool. fascinating if you love film
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Maybe the best depiction of the making of a film ever.
James Carter
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read The Bonfire of the Vanities twice and seen the movie four or five times the last two decades. Also, I am quite familiar with Brian De Palma's films and think of him as a great director and, more importantly, a visual genius.

I consider the book to be the book of the 80's although it's a flawed masterpiece with a disappointing ending. The film, well...they didn't have to overthink it. In all respects, I would not call it a "bomb." It has merits, and some things worked. Yet there's someth
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books about film--indeed, about artistic creation--I’ve read in years. It’s not about filming Bonfire as much as it is about the struggle between art and commerce, between a director and the hundreds of people for whom he is responsible, between what an artist thinks he has created and what the public tells him he has. Early in the book, Richard Sylbert, the production designer who wears safari suits, prophetically states the key to The Devil’s Candy:

“This safari suit as
Steve Mitchell
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Superb fly-on-the-wall account of what goes wrong in film making everyday, just that this time it was on a $50Million star-studded tent pole picture called 'The Bonfire Of The Vanities'. For all the talent involved, De Palma included, the smartest person in this saga of creative disaster may have been Norman Jewison who is mentioned only once in the backstory of Warner Brothers hearing pitches from different directors on how to film Tom Wolfe's novel. Not only was he smart for proposing it be do ...more
Phillip Gallegos
This book should itself be a movie

In my opinion, I don't think the movie itself was awful - not great, mind you - but if anything, I think this book serves to give a little bit of vindication to those individuals that worked on it. Nobody goes into a production - be it a film, play, or other performance - thinking it will tank. Bonfire had the makings of a potentially great film, but like many failed works, it was not down to a single catastrophic issue but was steadily undermined by a continuou
Aug 30, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book's thoroughness, but I have to think that it's lost some of its efficacy over the decades since it was written. This had to be more potent back in the early 90s when it wasn't particularly easy to get a peak behind the movie making curtain - but now, enh, not so much.
Almost every DVD has a bunch of making of features and directors commentaries, plus there's a billion websites that track every project as they go through development, and a lot of creatives have podcasts where th
Feb 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Read this way back in 2000 and loved it then but I had a bad personal association with that time in my life (nothing serious). So given the time and that memory, I wanted to reclaim it. This is a great companion piece to Steven Bach's Final Cut but Salamon had even more access. If you want an examination of how a Hollywood movie, good or bad, is made look no further. Every aspect is examined and it's never less than riveting. This is also an examination of Brian De Palma and his process and I ap ...more
Jeremy Klavens
May 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
I have two main issues with this book. First and foremost is there is no explanation of how the author knows the info she is relaying. There are multiple times where she describes a conversation or even someone's thoughts but there is no way she can possibly know what was said or thought in these private moments.

The second issue is that the author gets so bogged down in naming and describing every last person involved and what their exact job is, that it's impossible to remember who's who, or re
Jun 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are two reactions to this book: It's finely written, exhaustive, and an important document. It's also a snapshot in time and somewhat dated. Unlike Lillian Ross's very fine "Picture!", which captures the inner workings of the studio system by examining a somewhat typical film of the time, "The Devil's Candy" explains the excesses of that system by looking at an atypical spectacular failure. All the while missing the real elephant in the room: the movie was a disaster because the filmmakers ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-english
First read the book, then watch the film. Then read this, the book about the making of the film. They make a fantastic set.
One interesting point, in the book there is a scene where there is an International Cricket Match set at 'Old Trafford'. In the book of the film there is a conversation described between Brian De Palmer (director) and an English cameraman, where the cameraman tells De Palmer that 'Old Trafford' is football not cricket. And then they discuss how Tom Wolff got that wrong. Exc
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Julie Salamon has written eleven books in many genres, most recently An Innocent Bystander. released in June 2019 by Little, Brown. Julie's other books include New York Times bestsellers Wendy and the Lost Boys and The Christmas Tree (illustrated by Jill Weber) as well as Hospital, The Devil’s Candy, Facing the Wind , The Net of Dreams , and Rambam’s Ladder. She has written two children's books, M ...more

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