There is something sad, almost unseemly, about the fall of James L. Brooks. Twenty-five years ago, Brooks was Woody Allen crossed with Billy Wilder crossed with Frank Capra crossed with David O. Selznick crossed with (and including) Albert Brooks. As a producer, he brought us "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Taxi" and, most famously, "The Simpsons" for television, and "Big" and "Say Anything" for movies. But his own reputation as a director was based on two films: "Terms of Endearment," which won five Oscars (three for Brooks himself), and "Broadcast News," which is a nearly perfect film. He was the king of the town. It's all been a slow descent since then.
Now, that's a bit of an overstatement: He had a lot of success with "As Good As It Gets" in 1997, a movie that, we gotta say, hasn't aged well at all. (That movie sure is proud of itself for considering gays, you know, normal people.) Otherwise, though, his three movies have been total messes. 1994's "I"ll Do Anything" famously chopped itself down from a disastrous musical, 2004's "Spanglish" seemed to think it was just fascinating that housekeepers have lives of their own outside of their employer's home and, worst of all, 2010's "How Do You Know" was a financial fiasco. (We didn't think, as a movie, it was all that bad.) That's the most heinous crime, really: Losing your studio's money. No one will forgive that.
Thus, the studio lot that Brooks has worked out of on the Sony Pictures lot in Los Angeles; his 20-year-long production deal has been canceled. Now, studio real estate is not exactly our bag here -- and he still owes Sony one more movie, one we're they're ecstatic about doing now that he just lost them about $100 million -- but it is depressing to see a guy the stature of Brooks go through such an ordeal. Though the deal itself was a bit of a relic; in a day of "Battleship" and "Lego" movies, who needs a producer like Brooks to go find "interesting human stories?" What a waste of time! Let's just do a "Ouija" movie. It's funny: Brooks could totally get away with a "it's the pictures that got small" quote right about now. Everybody goes bad when it ends; otherwise it wouldn't end.
Still: We bet Brooks has something great left in him. Just no more movies about the help, OK?
Sony Ends Longtime Overall Deal With James L. Brooks [Hollywood Reporter]