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The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy Of A Hollywood Fiasco

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  795 Ratings  ·  97 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: non-fiction, 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
Shelves: movies
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 a giant waddling squawking turkey.

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 broad
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
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).
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
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 Gattanella
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites, bio
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.
Sep 11, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
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
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
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
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David Rodriguez
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: movies
Bet you never heard of THE BONFIRE OF VANITIES before - I sure hadn't. Directed by Brian De Palma and starring Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis, it died slowly and painfully at the B.O and you won't find many today exhorting its qualities. Samalon's account, enriched by De Palma's professionalism and Hanks' and Willis' diametrically opposite approaches to stardom, enthralls as the reader understands why the film did not deserve to pass the test of time.
Stefan Fergus
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Much like the movie it chronicles, this book promises more than it delivers. It's interesting, certainly, but also drags at times and frequently feels anticlimactic. If you're interested in the movie-making process, however, then I'd certainly recommend it.
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
"He felt this film might be an embarrassment, but it could also be one of those movies that are so strange they're entertaining."

Please do not judge this book by how long it took me to finish it.

This book is engrossing, funny, and seemingly effortless in both respects. Seemingly effortless until you think about it (and read the author's note) and realize that Julie Salamon was working just as hard as every person on that overworked movie's set. She gets every angle in what is a very cage-y indus
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone with an interest in how a major studio funds and shapes the process of making a motion picture, this book is for you. It is written from a unique perspective: the author, Julie Salamon, was given complete unrestricted access to the production from start to finish by its director and producer, Brian De Palma. The remarkable thing about the book is that it reads like a novel in itself, but some of the content within is truly stranger than fiction.

A little background detail: The Bonfire
Paul Wilson
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
This and the documentary "Hearts of Darkness" about the making of "Apocalypse Now" demonstrate how the making of a movie can better encapsulate the themes of a movie's literacy source than the movie itself. The making of Bonfire shows how yuppie Hollywood culture matches Wolfe's yuppie opus better than the movie that attempts to mock it. Bruno's prima donna excesses, De Palma's ego-stroking, and the studio's backwards feedback are far more interesting and humorous than the rather bland movie tha ...more
Lori Summers
I read Bonfire of the Vanities so that I could read this book, an account of the making of the big-budget, star-studded film adaptation, which became one of the most legendary flops in film history. You wouldn’t have to have read the book to enjoy this account but I’d think you would at least have to have seen the film (which I have not, incidentally). That being said, I felt like I got a lot more out of the book having read Wolfe’s book, and knowing what its message and tone was in comparison t ...more
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love books about making movies, and The Devil's Candy is a fantastic example.

Start with a best-selling book. Mix in some studio execs with one eye on the budget and the other on their own careers, a director trying to break away from the suspense genre, some big-name stars who may or may not be right for the parts in which they've been cast, and a whole gaggle of anonymous, ambitious underlings and hangers-on, and you have a recipe for either a huge success or a humiliating failure.

Of course
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Brian DePalma, in a stunning stoke of hubris, was so certain that his movie version of The Bonfire Of The Vanities was going to be a masterpiece, he invited a reporter from Variety on set to document how a great film is made, from pre-production clear to the red carpet of the premiere.
Of course, the film was a complete fiasco. Released in Decemeber for Oscar consideration (from Paramount, who buried GoodFellas the year before in the spring, never considering that movie's Oscar potential), it in
Drew Raley
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ostensibly a slice-of-life recounting of the chaotic production of a below-average film adaptation of a middle-brow pot-stirrer, the inner life of this book is a secret biography of Brian De Palma. A one-time jovial anti-establishment raconteur, De Palma is most familiar now for his standoffish and obscurant responses to personal and artistic questions. Is there any wonder after he is so thoroughly exposed here? The youngest of 3 sons, unwanted by his mentally ill mother, with a philandering and ...more
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is one of my very favorite things to read: a detailed, relatively objective look at how a really good idea spiraled into something really horrible. I love film history, and I love history of small specific things, and I love reading about why creative people choose this lighting vs. that lighting or whatever, and I love, to my shame, Hollywood gossip. So this is all of those things.

It doesn't have the same generosity of spirit as, say, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of
To her credit, Salamon's reporting doesn't leave much room for a thesis; she presents the details (entertaining but not so salacious or revelatory) in a fashion that allows the production to be considered on its own terms, not as a symptom of blockbuster thinking gone wrong, over-producing, egos in conflict, or the cannibalizing of a great novel. But the sudden dismissal of the project by the press in the book's final chapter is its most surprising and infuriating detail: how the junket infected ...more
Nov 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Well, this one took a while to get through. I think, maybe, because (a) I wasn't a big fan of the book nor the movie. So why in the hell would I pick up a book on the making of this bomb? Well, I love the back scenes of filmmaking, the writing, the directing, the producing, the editing, the budgets, etc. In reading the book, one of the first red flags that it was probably going to be a bad movie was the editing...two editors with two different editing styles. That's a recipe for disaster. But th ...more
Carrie Laben
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Could use some tightening, but overall a fascinating account of how a combination of arrogance, shortsightedness, and the million moving parts that make up a big Hollywood production took the film adaptation of Bonfire of the Vanities from sure thing to stinker. No one comes out well here. De Palma, frankly, seems more or less unhinged. Melanie Griffith is a mess, and Bruce Willis is the same, though he doesn't have an ill-timed boob job to point and laugh at. Morgan Freeman and Tom Hanks are so ...more
Mugizi Rwebangira
I actually enjoyed it a lot, I would have given it 3.5 stars. The stars off are because it does tend to get bogged down in details at certain points and also because I realize that I big part of my enjoyment was due to my insane curiosity about how movies get made and not necessarily due to the quality of the writing.

And this is something that this book does very well: bring you inside the process of how a big budget movie was made circa 1990. What's interesting is how tedious and chaotic the wh
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this book a long time ago and it really stuck with me. From time to time I thought of rereading it, but I could never find it. But then it showed up at the library.

It's the inside story of the making of a block-buster movie. A clearly talented reporter got virtually unlimited access to the set and the people. But by chance, it wasn't just any block-buster--it was Bonfire of the Vanities, which eventually proved to be a truly awful movie. (I got it from the library just to see after I rea
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Julie Salamon has written ten books in many genres, most recently Mutt's Promise, illustrated by Jill Weber. Their previous collaboration was Cat in the City. Julie's other books include New York Times bestsellers Wendy and the Lost Boys and The Christmas Tree (also illustrated by Jill Weber--a new edition was released Fall, 2016), as well as Hospital, The Devil’s Candy, Facing the Wind , The Net ...more
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