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The buzz on Tina Brown

Former 'New Yorker' editor faces Miramax challenge

Web posted on: Friday, July 17, 1998 4:26:58 PM EDT

A NewsStand: CNN & Entertainment Weekly report
From Correspondent James Hattori

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- You may not know her name, but you probably know her work. Tina Brown, when she was editor-in-chief of "Vanity Fair," put a very pregnant and very naked Demi Moore on the cover of the magazine -- just one in a very long line of media frenzies she has created.

The latest frenzy came last week when she announced that she was stepping down as editor-in-chief of "The New Yorker" -- considered by many to be the most coveted job in magazines -- to build a new monthly magazine in cooperation with Miramax Films.

Brown created a media frenzy when she put a very naked and pregnant Demi Moore on the cover of "Vanity Fair"

'The buzz machine'

"I think Miramax hopes that she can do for her new production company at Miramax what she did to 'The New Yorker,' which was (to) create this buzz machine," says "Fortune" magazine's Joe Nocera.

He went behind the scenes at "The New Yorker" and says Miramax made Brown an offer she couldn't refuse.

"She has ownership interest for the first time," Nocera says. "And I think that had a lot to do with it. I mean, I'm sure they're paying her gobs of money. And I'm pretty sure they'll pretty much leave her alone."

Adapting movies from articles is not uncommon. "Saturday Night Fever," for example, was based on characters portrayed in 'New York' magazine.

Movies from articles?

Her job will be to create the monthly magazine, and from the articles and stories printed in it, Miramax officials will hope to glean ideas for movies.

It's not a new idea for movie studios. Movies have always drawn from the printed page. The 1954 classic "On the Waterfront" was inspired by a series of articles in the "New York Sun." An article in "Esquire" inspired the 1980 film "Urban Cowboy," and "Saturday Night Fever" was based on characters portrayed in "New York" magazine.

In recent months, studios have optioned dozens of articles in hopes of finding the next big hit. That makes some wonder if writers will be tempted to put a good story line ahead of good journalism.

"I think to some degree it will affect how writers do their articles," says literary agent David Viliano. "The bigger impact is going to be the kind of articles that writers want to do and the kind of articles that editors are going to assign. More commercial ideas or more ideas that are more easily adapted to movies."

Brown must deliver

But is it worth paying millions to Tina Brown, just to see if she can create a magazine that might, or might not, dig up story ideas?

"I guess the thinking is, if this magazine delivers one movie based on one of its articles in the first couple of years, that's a big success," says independent producer Mark Johnson, who is now doing a project with DreamWorks.

Miramax, owned by the Walt Disney Company, has a reputation for intelligent, popular, Oscar-winning films, including "The English Patient" and "Slingblade." And now their looking to new horizons, with Brown captaining her own ship.

"She'll be accepted by Hollywood if she delivers," says Johnson. "If she doesn't deliver in a year or two, believe me, it will be yesterday's news."

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