With Hello, He Lied – And Other Truths from the Hollywood Trenches, Lynda Obst joins Julia Phillips and Dawn Steel among the high-profile women in the industry who have recently told the tale of how they got from A to B. But unlike Phillips, who set fire to her Rolodex, or Steel, who hopped around defensively like a boxer, Obst — who produced Sleepless in Seattle and is now producing One Fine Day, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney — spends far less time indulging in personal payback. This makes for a less sensational story (a plus or a minus depending on what you want from Hollywood literature), but it also makes Obst’s opus the most substantive (and classiest) of the three.
She’s refreshingly untortured about her privileged introduction into the business. Unhappily pried away from her job at The New York Times Magazine when her well-connected husband relocated to Los Angeles, Obst became the office ”development girl” for Peter Guber, then running Casablanca productions. ”The movie business beckoned in a kind of ‘when in Rome’ way, but the actual prospect filled me with dread,” she writes. She got to know Rome well.
In describing her journey, Obst livens her story with sketches and swatches of Hollywood corporate culture. Fawning is contained; disdain is slyly muted. (”In retrospect I am profoundly grateful to David Geffen for having been, for me, so hard to please.”) When she flags, she falls back on platitudes. ”The times are always a changin’ in Hollywood,” she hums. ”Most changes are full of sound and fury and signify nothing.” But when she’s not blowin’ smoke, Obst tells an interesting story that may serve as a useful primer for hopeful producers, as well as a model for writers of future I-was-a-female-producer-and-lived-to-tell-about-it books. B