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Killer Instinct: How Two Young Producers Took on Hollywood and Made the Most Controversial Film of the Decade Hardcover – 29 Sep 1997


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (29 Sept. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752810456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752810454
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,453,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Little Miss VINE VOICE on 31 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
Killer Instinct is a fascinating book that goes into great detail about the making of the film Natural Born Killers. The first half of the book is particularly interesting as Jane Hamsher explains the difficulties that she and her partner Don Murphy had getting the film into production. The second half explains all the insanity that took place during filming. I really enjoyed reading about all the stuff that Oliver Stone got up to. There's plenty about the actors and producers of the film too. What makes the book so compelling though is the fact that Hamsher is brutally honest about what went on and who did what. I remember all the hype around Tarantino back in the day and so it's interesting to get an inside look from someone involved in the industry at that time. Well worth reading.
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By russell clarke TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 11 Feb. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Think about all the backbiting, petty beauracracy, personality clashes and rampaging ego,s in your workplace, then multiply it by a hundred, nay a thousand because according to “Killer Instinct” that’s what it,s like when you make a major Hollywood movie.
Hamsher was a producer on “Natural Born Killers” and this is the book about the making of that film, from it,s embryonic stages right through to it,s release and the furore surrounding it.N.B.K. as it shall now be known was initially a script written by Quentin Tarrantino about two trailer trash lovers who go on a killing spree. Hamsher and her partner Don Murphy picked up the option on the script from Tarrantino who at this point was still a “video store geek”.Initially a mutual friend of both parties was slated to direct the supposed low budget film but when it became clear to Hamsher and Murphy that he was working under two misguided illusions : 1)That he actually had some talent: 2)That he had a clue what he was doing. ,and since they had no firm contract with him they decided to pass on his dubious directorial skills. Needless to say he does,nt take this well and decides to sue. As this drags interminably on it emerges that Tarrantino who by now is on the verge of making his big breakthrough with “Reservoir Dogs” does,nt want N.B.K. made and is encouraging the jilted would be director on from the sidelines.And then it gets really weird.
This is a riveting and revealing book, very well and waspishly written by Hamsher with pace and zeal. She,s not afraid to dish the dirt and some of her character assesments are so caustic they smoulder on the page. Not too many involved in this project emerge unscathed .
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BS on parade on 3 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A review of the book:

It's a very entertaining book about the making of Natural Born Killers. Sadly having then re-watched the movie I can't help but feel it was a lot of effort for very little. The film is pretty bad.

You might expect it to be a bit cut off from the proper film making creative side as it's from the producer's point of view. She was always on set and was dealing with Oliver Stone all the time so it's not too far away from the actual making of the movie.

The stuff about music was very interesting. She appears to have been very important in finding music for Oliver Stone to consider (it turns out he knows next to nothing about music). She doesn't seem to get any credit for this outside of this book.

Interestingly she says she dislikes the soundtrack album. I bought the album on the cheap years ago and I hated it too. It wasn't full songs, but instead a heavily edited mix tape collage. Waiting For The Miracle by Leonard Cohen for example is a seven minute song, and yet it's less than four minutes on the CD. Also some pointless dialogue from the movie had been included. On a Tarantino soundtrack CD the dialogue works out of context as it's not plot specific stuff. In Natural Born Killers the dialogue was conventional plot driving stuff so it didn't work.

Her name was absent from the CD liner notes. Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, came in very late and had little to do with the music selected. He is first credited, followed by Stone and then the (apparently useless) official music supervisor. I think she was right to be happy not to be associated with it.

There's a big section about a truck that turned up to be used as product placement.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 22 reviews
53 of 71 people found the following review helpful
. 19 Jan. 2003
By "iamademonfromhell" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I give 'Killer Instinct' this much: it was a quick and entertaining read -- a fun ride. The type of book you tear right through in a night. However, I find it difficult to take seriously Jane Hamsher's account of events. I find it curious that every single woman in this book is portrayed as a sweet, strong-willed, honest-to-goodness saint, worthy of enormous sympathy -- (not least of all, Jane Hamsher herself!) -- while almost every single man (save for one writer friend of hers) is portrayed as, more or less, an utter demon (at times, almost literally.)* Even her "partner in crime," Don Murphy is shown, at times, in a critical light -- but never Iron-Willed Jane. She is the very picture of patience and professionalism, often beset upon, but rarely (if ever) in error. It's interesting that at several points, particularly on the production of NBK, it is implied that a lot of people on the set are losing patience with her and are irritated by her presence -- but unfortunately, we don't have their side of the story, and as far as Jane is concerned, it is (always!) all miraculously due to their inability to handle the fact that she's a woman. (!!!) Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt there's plenty of sexism in Hollywood, but Hamsher's account, with its suspiciously unfailing tendency to portray every single woman as a flawless, tough-hearted angel, leads me to believe that this is not just a one-sided account, but quite possibly entirely out-of-whack, the rays of truth refracted wildly through Hamsher's "feminist fairytale" vision of her own experiences.
Additionally, I find it interesting that while initially very smitten with Tarantino's ideas and scripts, that as their professional ties go south, he magically turns into a thoroughly talentless hack, milking stolen ideas for all they're worth. But then she remembers that NBK is her dream project, and it was, of course, scripted by him -- drats! Thinking fast, she asserts that by far the best part of the script -- the TV sitcom parody -- was the work of her writer friend, not Tarantino. Well, uh ... OK.
Particularly priceless, though, is her initial (and I think only) direct encounter with Lawrence Bender, Tarantino's producer. They meet at a party, he says hello and is perfectly friendly and polite to her, and that's pretty much the extent of her experiences with him. Given that, it's pretty amazing (and terribly questionable) exactly how much hostility she has towards him and how much dirt she shovels in his direction throughout the rest of the book. Upon meeting him, she feels "queasy," shakes, and has to immediately leave the room for some air when they part! Why? Because she feels intuitively that she has just been in the presence of -- I believe she uses the term "jackal" -- but given the incredibly over-the-top way she describes it, the impression is more that of a "demon."* And why does she feel that way? Well, it's not one of those things you can explain, see, but essentially, it seems to mainly have to do with the fact that his eyes have a distant look to them. (They "recede into an emotional abyss when he speaks" according to Hamsher.)
I've never met Lawrence Bender, and I have no trouble believing that Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone and the host of other male Hollywood stars and hopefuls that appear in Hamsher's tale have their fair share of shortcomings and ballooned egos. Maybe a few of them really are even bad, dishonest people, through and though. Maybe. What I find more difficult to believe is that Hamsher and her coterie of oppressed agents and starlets and mother-figures are half as immaculate as they seem in the version of events she gives us here.
I also question the motivation for writing this book. A fun ride through the Hollywood system, or just an excuse to trash-talk people who've gone on to have more successful careers than she? Looking through Hamsher's filmography, I notice her unfailing tendency to grab interesting projects and turn them into mediocre films with mediocre earnings. It seems unlikely that Hamsher would ever deign to admit to an emotion as base as jealousy, but one wonders all the same.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A book that's not afraid to blast the industry. 1 Oct. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It was refreshing to read a book by Hollywood insiders that isn't afraid to be honest. Hamsher's often-scathing perspectives on big egos such as Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone was both satsfying and entertaining. Natural Born Killers wasn't a great film but this book gives you an idea of what might have been...
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Killer Bite Propels "Killer Instinct" 29 Dec. 1997
By Paula - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Behind the scenes dirt on the tumultuous production of "Natural Born Killers"? A post publication brawl with Quentin Tarantino? This book definately sounded too juicy to miss- and didn't disappoint! The conversational tone of the tome sucked me in completely. It read as though Jane Hamsher was plopped beside me on the couch, telling her hedonistic, bash em all account.
Wild tales about almost every film leak to the press-it's like Hamsher needed to let everyone know that all the zany anecdotes about her movie were absolutely true. The stories are so far removed from the reality of most people that the book should prove to be (at least) slightly shocking, entertaining, and laugh out loud funny for nearly every reader. What a great thing! Especially now, with QT's face popping up everywhere to promote his new movie, it's super to see him referred to as a "one trick pony". I also expected Hamsher to pansy around saying anything honest about Oliver Stone, (he hired her, which got her out of debt, helped her earn enough power to do things...like to write a tell all memoir) but it's like she deliberately tucked away every slight implication of a bad mood he (and everyone else on the set)experienced, just to tell someone else "later".
The never give up gumption that took Jane where she is now is more than inspirational, the dirt endlessly amusing, but did the mood carry an entire book? Almost. It a compelling read until the last chapter. After reading accounts of Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis's fights, the crew doing 'shrooms in the desert, Oliver Stone's many girlfriends, it's disappointing that certain truly life affecting stories that popped up are glazed over. Jane's bout with breast cancer that she believes was brought about by too much stess is barely discussed in terms of the affect on her job, the deaths of people she knew are mentioned in a "huhm, how bout that" manner and dismissed, and, well, she does seem a bit too into herself.
All in all, the book is good fun and completely worth reading. I just wish that Jane's producing partner Don would've contributed as well. So much is said about him, it would be nice to hear his voice in this story too. Actually, after THIS account, it would be hysterical to hear the same story from a whole lot of people- once they pick themselves up off of the floor their faces were just used to mop.
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Guts 9 Aug. 2000
By Peter Kahn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. It takes you on a wonderful journey from the depths of living the unrealized dream through the real nightmare of producing a big budget Hollywood film. While books like this have been written before, Killer Instinct is unique in two ways: it chronicles the making of one of the most controversial films of the 90s and the writing is fantastic. Hamsher throws all the emotions of the moment into her writing; despair, madness, anger, joy, hope and a multitude of others. Most important for me were Hamsher's conclusions at the end of the book, particularly the lesson of finding and keeping a good partner for the perils ahead. Hamsher is my hero; for her bravery, her courage of convictions, and her "never-give-up" approach in being able to make it in the "Boy's Club". Well written, fast paced, funny and inspiring, "Killer Instinct" is my solid recommendation for any aspiring producer's bookshelf.
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes outrageously funny, sometimes uselessly mean 18 Oct. 1999
By Guido Franco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The book of Jane Hamsher relates how two inexperienced "producers" fresh out of a film school acquired the rights to "Natural Born Killers", the screenplay of an obscure aspiring filmmaker named Quentin Tarantino. It goes on describing brilliantly how this modest acquisition (10.000 $) became suddenly hot property when Tarantino hit the jackpot in Sundance with his first feature, "Reservoir Dogs". And becomes outrageously funny when it shows how agents, "passionate" directors and screenwriters are all at cut throats with each other trying to put their hands on that treasure, which (not surprisingly) Quentin Tarantino does not want to be made as a film any more. But there is no way they will let Quentin getting back his rights, because even Oliver Stone has now in mind to direct it. Yes, as the book says, "the" Oliver Stone. Thanks for the description of the antics of this "three Oscar celebrity" and how he succeeded in turning a disturbing but modest "Tarantino movie" into what most qualified a hopelessly overblown mess. But the book could have left aside the internal disputes in the production staff, which will not remain in Hollywood's hall of fame. More than anything else, it should have abstained from attacking endlessly Quentin Tarantino for being what he is, an extremely gifted screenwriter and director. (After all, why did they buy HIS screenplay in the first place?)
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