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

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  503 ratings  ·  73 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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Mark Johnson
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
Amar Pai
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
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
Carrie Laben
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
Jack 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.
I've never actually seen Bonfire of the Vanities, so I had no particular context for this book. Even with that, it was a fascinating read. There are just so many things that go into movies that never occurred to me, most of which are lovingly recorded here. The author had full access, and talks to everyone from the costume designer to second unit crews to the sound effects guy. Brian de Palma was also pretty open about what was going on. So it's an interesting read for people interested in how m ...more
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
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.
Sean Condon
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).
Finished this today, and was sad for it to end. Really want to watch the movie now. Still don't want to read The Bonfire of the Vanities so much, the 80's were so lost to me, and I've already read books from gen x's standpoint. Interesting to see what happens when you try to make a monumental film, without meaning to. Also appreciate that the writer was a woman, so there was actually detailed writing on ALL the people, not just the big game players and sexy cast. Everyone had ambitions they were ...more
Pat C.
Aug 08, 2014 Pat C. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All readers in and out of "the industry""
Recommended to Pat by: A friend
As someone who has some ties to "the industry," I consider this book to be one of the best ever written about the wild beast of Hollywood film making. Julie Salamon is one of those gifted writers who writes non-fiction with a novelist's flair. As a film, "The Bonfire of the Vanities" was, well, not exactly what it could have been. But this book about its making is amazing in its thoroughness and its honesty. (I confess I've only skimmed through Tom Wolfe's book - it's on my to read list). I've r ...more
Barbara Greene
Apr 06, 2014 Barbara Greene rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone who's ever wanted to see what makes Hollywood tick
Recommended to Barbara by: A good friend in "the industry."
This book is a splendid read, whether you liked the book The Bonfire of the Vanities (which I did) or you hated the film (which I did). Anyway, Julie Salamon was granted amazing access and uses it wisely. She treats all the players, from Brian De Palma down to the "supporting cast" of the crew and interns, with respect. She makes them all seem enchanting. This book actually helped me grasp how easy it is for talented people to take a good work and make such a (in my humble opinion) not so good m ...more
If you have any interest in understanding the sausage-making that goes into the making of a movie, this book is for you. The author had unlimited access to the director, actors and crew from the screenwriting through the release of the 1990 movie, Bonfire of the Vanities, starring Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis. While some parts of the book are slow, Salamon really does a great job to give the reader the feeling that he is on set and in the back-office during the filming of a big b ...more
Drew Raley
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
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
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
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
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
This was so much fun! After reading Tom Wolfe's novel and seeing the movie years ago, I loved reading this massive, blow-by-blow account of the making of the movie and then watching it again. It seems there has never been, and likely never will be again, another book written on the making of a Hollywood film where the author is given the complete and unprecedented access Julie Salamon (at the time movie critic for the WSJ) was granted by DePalma and Warner Bros. studio. The level of detail is im ...more
Colin Birge
Julie Salamon was a Wall Street Journal reporter / critic who somehow managed to talk Brian De Palma into allowing her full behind-the-scenes access during the making of the film version of "The Bonfire of the Vanities." That movie, of course, was a big-budget disaster, roasted by the critics and dead at the box office. To Salamon's credit, her book isn't about the movie-as-failure, but the movie-as-process: how does a big production like this come together? How do all the egos and personalities ...more
This was hugely enjoyable. A story about the making of the film The Bonfire of the Vanities, it really lets you understand how people can think they're making something good, or at least pretty good. How little decisions can lead to big mistakes. There's some incidental gossip, but the real story here is the process story, how many hands any given frame of film or draft of the script goes through.
Overall, this was a decent read. There were vast parts of it that got tiring, but that reflected what was going on at the time more than the pacing of the novel. I do wish there'd been more follow up on the fallout, but given the timeline and the unlikeliness that money was being poured into supporting the author after the movie failed at the box office, I get it.

That said, by the end, I was just hoping it was over.
I've never read or seen "Bonfire of the Vanities" but I love, love, love a good behind the scenes of movies/TV books. They really make you realize how miraculous it is that anything good ever gets made. "The Devil's Candy" is one of the better ones I've read. The writer had total access to director Brian DePalma from preproduction through the release of the movie as well as access to anyone involved in the making of the movie who was willing to talk. Lots of good stuff, especially from the direc ...more
Barbara Isenberg
This is the first book I read by the author and journalist Julie Salamon, and it led me to read more of her books. She has the journalist's skill of placing you right in the action and the writer's skill of making sure you understand and enjoy what you're seeing.
Salamon's insider's view of the making of "The Bonfire of the Vanities" movie is, at times, a fascinating window into the nuts and bolts of movie-making.

I've only seen bits and pieces of the movie on television, and haven't seen any of it in years. Therefore, I have no particular feeling for or against the movie. My problem with the book is that, for all of the detail she reports about the making of the movie, one never gets any insight into why the movie was such a failure commercially. Accord
Alan Hoffman
I saw the movie again after I read this. They put so much time effort and money into details you don't even notice. Like over $400,000 and weeks of preparation to film a Concorde landing - it lasts for four seconds.

DePalma seems like a very hit-or-miss genius. In his defense, I have to say this project was a huge undertaking. A Tom Wolfe story is like something by Charles Dickens. And the book doesn't have a clear ending.

Salamon just wanted to write a book about a movie being made that she knew
I was expecting something gossipy and trashy, but in the end it's a much more valuable, sobering look at modern-day Hollywood. Salamon serves as a clear-eyed guide for the start-to-finish production on a typical big studio film as it was in 1989-90. The book reveals that The Bonfire of the Vanities initially had some value as a satire on New York and '80s excess - the production got derailed by a series of bad decisions (really, all that fuss over finding a courtroom that wound up looking like a ...more
Jessica Robinson
I have to preface this by saying that I've never seen the movie and I never finished Tom Wolfe's novel so when I started this book I was afraid that my lack of firsthand knowledge would make it less enjoyable. Thankfully this was not the case as I absolutely loved this book. It's definitely one of the best that I've read this year and it may be one of the best books about movies and filmmaking that I've ever read. Salamon created a non-fiction book that reads like a literary novel and her subtle ...more
Fascinating, detailed exploration of the making of the movie Bonfire of Fires. A reporter was given unprecedented access to the producers, director and actors of the film. Bonfire - infamously - a huge flop, was a huge-budget, highly complex film to make, and the book gives great insight into how "many cooks spoil the broth." Decisions on casting, location, etc. that in hindsight seem so stupid, make sense in the moment. Aside from seeing into the egos and insecurities of Hollywood insiders, it' ...more
Brian Rowe
The most in-depth look at the making of one film I have ever read. It's so heavily detailed that I read it in small sips over the course of four months (!), but then of course read the last 100 pages in a matter of two days, when director DePalma slowly realizes he's made a disaster. Great, juicy stories throughout from a report who received unprecedented access. Although it reads a little weird when she tells us what the people are literally thinking—the author is clearly telepathic—her knowled ...more
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Julie Salamon has written nine books in many genres, most recently Cat in the City, illustrated by Jill Weber. Her other books include New York Times bestsellers Wendy and the Lost Boys and The Christmas Tree (also illustrated by Jill Weber), as well as Hospital, The Devil’s Candy, Facing the Wind , The Net of Dreams , and Rambam’s Ladder. She was a reporter and then the film critic for The Wall S ...more
More about Julie Salamon...
The Christmas Tree Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein Hospital: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God and Diversity on Steroids Facing the Wind: A True Story of Tragedy and Reconciliation Rambam's Ladder: A Meditation on Generosity and Why It Is Necessary to Give

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