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Rebels on the Backlot Hardcover – 3 Mar 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 436 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (3 Mar. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060540176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060540173
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 890,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


“Admirably reported . . . Waxman unearths juicy anecdotes that’ll keep film fans cackling and turning the pages.” (

“Riveting tales of Hollywood hubris . . . a fun read.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Vivid . . . fascinating . . . delightful . . . [Waxman’s] background as a hard news reporter serves her well.” (New York Times Book Review)

“A behind-the-cameras fireball of wicked insider revelations . . . Love it!” (Liz Smith, syndicated columnist)

“[Waxman’s] thorough reporting results in a compulsively readable chronicle of the decade’s auteurs and their work.” (Premiere)

“Enjoyably dishy.” (Variety)

“Addictively readable . . . fascinating” (Miami Herald)

“A lively book with gossipy and readable stories about some obsessive guys who are as much rascals as rebels.” (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

“Terrific . . . wildly informative and readable about the plight of the biggest young talents in modern movies” (Buffalo News)

“[Rebels on the Backlot] makes a case for creating a new film canon of this late ‘90s renaissance.” (Pittsburgh Tribune)

“Waxman perceptively depicts the vocabulary of the new Hollywood . . . well-written . . . recommended.” (Library Journal)

“Hums along on detail and gossip, adding up to a template for making it in contemporary Hollywood.” (

“Up-close, often gossipy” (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Fascinatingly candid” (Minneapolis Star Tribune) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Sharon Waxman is a Hollywood correspondent for the New York Times and previously was a correspondent for the Washington Post covering the entertainment industry. She lives in southern California with her family.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
On October 4, 2001, a Thursday, a banner headline in Variety caught my attention. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Bannerman on 22 Nov. 2005
Format: Hardcover
I thought this would be a good book. But it is far better than i thought. It goes into great detail about the making of such films as Fight Club, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Magnolia and Boogie Nights,Being John Malcovich, Traffic. And many others as well as going into the beginnings of the above mentioned directors. . . .This book is highly recommended for those that love the movies from the 1990's
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By russell clarke TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 April 2009
Format: Paperback
Essentially a contemporary version of Peter Biskind,s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-drugs-and Rock 'n' Roll Generation Changed Hollywood and Down and Dirty Pictures Sharon Waxman's hugely readable book attempts to put into milieu the impact that a new wave of film-makers had on the movie industry during the 1990,s .
Waxman, who writes for the new York Times spent a decade researching and interviewing for this book and it shows in the level of detail and anecdotal evidence and opinion. Though other directors could be included -Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky ,Sofia Coppola amongst others - Waxman has chosen to go with the six who she feels have most contributed to a movement that "Shattered the status quo".
So she concentrates on Quentin Tarantino ,who like in Jane Hamsher,s excellent book about the making of Natural Born Killers [DVD] [1994- Killer Instinct: How Two Young Producers Took on Hollywood and Made the Most Controversial Film of the Decade ,comes across as a bit of a prat. Disloyal ,greedy and slightly dysfunctional though clearly talented-though that seems to be on the wane now. Spike Jonze and Paul Thomas Anderson are too clearly talented but both have issues with their family background and while Jones seems eccentrically likable Anderson is toweringly arrogant if you believe the book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're interested in directing or producing, looking at the innovative and rebellious works of these 90's directors and they're films and how they got made with be extremely informative. Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 26 reviews
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
"Down & Dirtier Pictures" 25 Jan. 2005
By Clare Quilty - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you felt a little let down by Peter Biskind's recent look at 90's indie film, "Down & Dirty Pictures," this juicier but also more personal book might be closer to what you were hoping to find there.

Instead of focusing primarily on Sundance and Miramax, Waxman focuses on the six men responsible for some of the biggest movies of the past decade: Quentin Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction"), P.T. Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia"), Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich"), David O. Russell ("Three Kings"), David Fincher ("Fight Club") and Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic").

They're a mixed bag of personalities and Waxman tells their stories with detail and relish, and also touches on other interesting filmmakers such as Wes Anderson, Roger Avary, Charlie Kaufman, Alexander Payne and others (though some are conspicuously absent -- Spike Lee and especially Richard Linklater, who isn't even mentioned).

It's hard to miss with a collection of stories like this: Tarantino's rise to power; Hackman cursing Wes Anderson on the set of "Tenenbaums"; Avary's attempts to buy a famous French film studio; Russell headbutting George Clooney on the set of "Kings" and P.T. Anderson admitting that "Magnolia" was probably too long.

"Rebels" (very deliberately) rises to the same sordid, "print the legend" heights as Biskind's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls." But it also suffers from some of the same weaknesses - occasionally questionable accounts; some poor copy editing and more than a few awkward sentences that feel like they were written the Sunday night before the term paper was due: "Traffic" screenwriter Stephen Gaghan's high school drug problems are introduced twice in three pages; Wes Anderson's debut was "Bottle Rocket" not "Rushmore"; and what can one say about lines such as, "Soderbergh questioned his own questioning" and "The director kept the obituary about his father printed in the local paper framed in his office in Los Angeles" ? Waxman also has a strange storytelling habit of explaining the results of a situation, then backtracking once or twice to tell the circumstances that led to the results.

Nevertheless, it is absolutely impossible to deny the appeal of this book, and it was equally impossible for me to put the damn thing down for the past week.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy 14 April 2005
By Indie filmmaker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is a very quick read, but unfortunately shows all the signs of having been an equally quick write. I have never before stopped in the middle of reading a book to pull out a pen and write down all the glaring factual errors and omissions that I saw, but Rebels on the Backlot forced me to do just that. I see that many of the most egregious errors have already been noted by others, but here is some of what I wrote down as I read:

On page 231: "Texas preppie-geek Wes Anderson had made his first movie, Rushmore, based on his experience in prep school, with an utter unknown in the lead, Jason Schwartzman." Wes Anderson's first film, of course, was Bottle Rocket, not Rushmore. And, yes, Jason Schwartzman had no previous film acting experience before Rushmore, but was hardly an "utter unknown" to the film world- his family (both the Schwartzmans and the Coppolas) had done a little bit of film work in their past, both in front of and behind the cameras. Even Waxman might have recognized the mother of this "utter unknown" from all of the Rocky movies.

Traffic star Erika Christensen is identified on page 321 as "Erika Christenssen" and, most howlingly, on page 101 as "Julia Stiles." Yes, the two actresses do look alike, but that's just absurd.

On page 266, describing the marketing of Fight Club, Waxman writes that "Fincher insisted the studio hire a cutting-edge advertising firm, Weiden + Kennedy, based in Seattle." Weiden + Kennedy are based in Portland, home of Nike, their biggest client. They have offices in Portland, New York, Amsterdam, London, Tokyo and Shanghai, but not in Seattle.

On page 194, Waxman describes the profound influence of Aimee Mann's music in the creation of Magnolia, both at the script level, and in the soundtrack. On the very next page, she describes how writer/director PT Anderson got the idea for the film's rain of frogs, as well as its historical prologue, from "musician and friend Michael Penn, Sean's brother." Perhaps Waxman is the only person left in the film or music worlds who doesn't know that, besides being Sean's brother, Michael Penn is also Aimee Mann's husband.

This is a sloppy, poorly researched, poorly written, and incredibly poorly edited book. Reading it, one can easily imagine Waxman's interview subjects seeing how little she knew about her subject, and simply making up absurd lies just to see if she would ever catch them. Spike Jonze tells her that location scouting was conducted to find an actual half-floor building for Being John Malkovich, and she repeats this claim on page 205. I'm sure Jonze is enjoying a good laugh over that.

If you are looking for well-written book on this subject matter, I'd stick with Peter Biskind.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Fire the editor! 24 Mar. 2005
By Howard Lamp - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I tore through this book, enjoying it thoroughly. It's a quick entertaining read, and seems to reveal a lot about the craziness of trying to manage a directing career.

However, there's also a really shoddy first-draft feel to the book. The irony is Waxman is a New York Times writer, and the book is filled with passages that would embarrass the paper. Example- "The question of Tarantino's ability to write without the support of a partner became a real question over the years." Oy vey!

The factual errors also make me wonder how much of these stories I can take at face value. She briefly mentions Wes Anderson's first film, Bottle Rocket, early in the book and then later calls Rushmore his first film. She misidentifies Erika Christensen as Julia Stiles in Traffic. She reports that David Russell used a real corpse for a shot of a bullet entering a body in Three Kings when it's been reported widely that this story was a misunderstanding of a joke that Russell had made and a dummy was actually used. These are just the ones that I (not a film industry person) caught.

That said, I recommend it to wannabe film directors as a fun set of stories that may inspire you or may revulse you to the business altogether.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A book for film geeks which needed a film geek editor 17 July 2005
By Chester Bollaireaux - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Waxman's book makes one wonder if she really writes for the New York Times. Any amateur film geek who's actually seen the films she writes about will find multiple errors, strange, unsupported statements, poorly written and edited sentences, and could probably write a better book themselves in short order.

That said, Waxman's interviews do give her a point of view on her six main subjects which is interesting, and some of the gossip is compelling. Waxman badly needs an editor. She thanks one in the acknowledgments, so apparently someone held the title, but no one much seems to have performed the function. Had a good editor got hold of this manuscript, it might seem less like it was written in crayon in a big hurry. Which is a shame, because it does have its moments, a few revelations, and a driving narrative. But too much takes away from these strengths to recommend the book highly.
Great fluff piece and a page turner 24 April 2015
By Terrence A. - Published on
Format: Paperback
Rebels on the Backlot is an interesting look at six film directors (Spike Jonze, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, David O. Russell, David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson) and their rise in the Hollywood film world, starting from the late 80's and finishing out in the early 2000's. While it admittedly reads like one big gossip article, this in itself makes the book a page turner. What I found most interesting about the book was in how it draws similarities in the six directors through their behavior and general demeanor. Artists of their stature are usually social misfits and boy, oh boy does that ring ever so clear here. It doesn't necessarily go as in depth on their backgrounds as I would have liked but it does offer up plenty of information on not just the directors and their output but the machinations of the shark infested Hollywood studio system and how a business model like what it employs works against artistry and originality when the bottom line is all that matters. It also becomes quite painful to read in some places. The behind the scenes bits about Fight Club's travels to the screen are especially uncomfortable, along with the early days of Quentin Tarantino's career and David O. Russell's general insanity.

When the book ends, it almost feels you've just finished a piece of angel food cake. Light, fluffy and enjoyable all the way through but it won't change your life or anything when you stop and reflect upon it. What you will come away with is a little more of an understanding of these undeniably talented individuals. In fact, I'd go far as to say that Rebels on the Backlot is required reading for anyone with dreams of becoming a film maker, period.
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