Picks and Pans Review: Ovitz: the Inside Story of Hollywood's Most Controversial Power Broker
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Michael Ovitz was considered the most powerful man in Hollywood—a secretive figure so feared that even his mother felt nervous visiting him in his I.M. Pei-designed office on Wilshire Boulevard. But ever since 1995, when Ovitz left CAA, the talent agency he cofounded, for an ill-fated job at the Walt Disney Company that lasted only 16 months, he has been losing mystique by the minute. What better time for a biography to come along and obliterate Ovitz's aura once and for all?
This baby ain't it. Slater, who wrote biographies of General Electric chairman Jack Welch and Wall Street fund manager George Soros, secured what five years ago would have been unthinkable: Ovitz's full cooperation, as well as interviews with previously tight-lipped friends and former clients. Unfortunately, Ovitz reveals little, while admirers like Dustin Hoffman and Paul Newman divulge even less. In fact, there's hardly an unkind word in the entire book. It looks like no one got the memo about Mike's diminished stature.
Slater's best material is his take on Ovitz's stormy tenure at Disney, which culminated in a mind-boggling $128 million severance package. "I just made a smart deal for myself," explains an unapologetic Ovitz. "This is America. This isn't the Soviet Union." More of that kind of candor might have helped illuminate the human side of a still mysterious man. (McGraw-Hill, $22.95)