MGM, Patricia Cornwall, and more are on the road to Has Been

Patricia Cornwell
Her books still hit No. 1, and her behavior (among other things, Cornwell, 42, travels with armed bodyguards) is legendary, but it’s the relationship with her publisher that’s causing a stir. Insiders are still buzzing about Putnam bringing out Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six a month after Cornwell’s Point of Origin — ensuring he’d knock her off the top of the best-seller lists. (That’s akin to a studio pitting two of its movies against each other.) There’s also the stalling of a Universal film based on her ’95 best-seller From Potter’s Field, and of the ABC-TV movie ATF, based on her original script. Any wonder this writer is now conjuring up the wrong sort of chills?

MGM Studios
When Ronin — $35.4 million to date — is your only hit in seven months, you’ve got to be running as scared as a cowardly lion. That’s the mood at MGM, which, under chair Frank Mancuso, 65, has suffered a streak of flops this year, notably Dirty Work, Species II, and Disturbing Behavior. The only bright spot in ’98 was the $57 million Man in the Iron Mask, but you’ve got to credit that to player No. 17. The only surefire hits on the horizon don’t come till next year: The Mod Squad and a new installment in the Bond series. On top of that, owner Kirk Kerkorian, 81, keeps sending out confusing messages. One minute, he’s considering a merger with one of the big entertainment conglomerates. Then he suddenly decides the company — which cut 80 jobs company-wide in September — is not for sale. What’s there to roar about?

Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich
After signing a gargantuan deal with Sony for Godzilla, Devlin, 36, and Emmerich, 42, overplayed their hand, spending too much on a monster that’s raked in $360 mil worldwide — but didn’t deliver any thrills. Meanwhile, their TV efforts have met with mixed results: Fox’s The Visitor flopped, though their animated Godzilla‘s a kiddie hit. Perhaps feeling gun-shy, they haven’t committed to their next project: A Godzilla sequel is still on deck, but a temporary injunction blocking Sony from making its own James Bond film means the duo won’t soon get a crack at 007. Expect Sony to keep a tighter rein on them in the future.