This book details a harrowing time of illness in your life — it’s pretty incredible that you’re sitting here talking to me now.
It’s a lot easier to read than it is to live it. [Laughs] In 1998, I had three strokes in two days. I flatlined and had to come back from the dead. It’s something I don’t think any magician could do. But one thing is for sure: When your back is against the wall, the impossible does become possible.
What made you want to write about it?
It was not cathartic in any way. I wish to hell it were. It took me five years. I wanted to write about how you can get back from being on the canvas. Listen, it’s tough getting up — I had nine months of eight-hours-a-day therapy. It was torture. But if I can do it, other people can too.
Your close friends — Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson — supported you by visiting you almost daily.
I learned who my friends were. I also learned who they weren’t. [Laughs]
Do you keep a journal?
No, I never have. There’s three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. Memory to each of us appears differently. I can’t tell you what I did last night, but I’ll tell ya what happened 10 years ago at 6 o’clock in the morning. I work on my memory; I read. The written word has been my life for a long time. When I took over at Paramount, I started bringing the idea of film-turned-book rather than book-turned-film. We started to develop books and films almost simultaneously with Love Story and The Godfather. The books wouldn’t have come into fruition without the films, and vice versa.
What do you think of the state of movies today?
Everything is comic books today, but who am I to criticize it? It does bring in business. My kind of filmmaking is really about the heart. One thing is interesting: The American film is the only product manufactured in the United States that is number one in every country in the world. The industry, by the way, was criticized tremendously by Wall Street up until about 10 years ago.
It flies the American flag higher than any industry we have, so I’m very proud of it.
The Kid Stays in the Picture was an enormous hit, but it dished a lot of Hollywood dirt. Was there any fallout from it?
Surprisingly, none. I think it reinvigorated my career, quite frankly.