NEW YORK — Any job as glamorous as Sharon Waxman’s is always going to come with unwanted attention. As Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times, Waxman has been the frequent subject of Page Six gossip items. First, it was her alleged feud with “I Heart Huckabees” director David O. Russell. Then, earlier this week, it was a story about “Million Dollar Baby,” with a headline that included a plot spoiler.
But Waxman has been getting her share of good press, too, in the form of positive reviews for her new book, “Rebels on the Backlot,” about the rise of “maverick directors” Russell, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, Spike Jonze and David Fincher. WWD spoke with her about the Oscars, the state of independent film and why Page Six should get off her case already.
WWD: How did that “Million Dollar Baby” spoiler make it into the paper? Was there any discussion beforehand?
Sharon Waxman: First, the writer doesn’t write the headlines. Hello, news flash: The people at Page Six know this. It’s all just very silly. As to whether the headline writer should have been more careful, that’s not a question for me to deal with. In the story, it says very clearly very high up, in one of the earliest sentences, “If you do not wish to know the plot, do not read further.” You have to weigh the difference between not wanting to report late on something significant and not wanting to ruin the moviegoing experience.
WWD: You’ve spent a lot of time getting to know a small group of directors. Are the people who make interesting movies as interesting as the movies they make?
S.W.: Definitely. There’s not a boring one in the lot. At the same time, I’m interested in them because of their movies. I really write about these guys because I think their movies are going to last. When we look back in 30 years and say, ‘Which are the movies that felt like that period of time, that felt like the Nineties,’ I think theirs are going to be those movies.
WWD: Is the revolution you wrote about alive and well, or are we back where we started in terms of corporate Hollywood’s risk-aversion?
S.W.: It’s hard to say. I think there are some directors who are still able to make the movies they envision. The question is, have they been corrupted by the studio system, have they lost their edge? I’m not willing to render a verdict on it yet. I do say in the book that a lot of the movies the people I’ve called rebels have made in subsequent years have shown the effect of the media machine, of having been told how fantastic they are and the taint of the studio system creeping in to sand down their rough edges. It’s a constant tension.
WWD: What will you be wearing to the Oscars?
S.W.: You want to know the truth? I wear the same white Ralph Lauren pantsuit to the Oscars every damn year. Because you bake on the red carpet and you freeze in the pressroom, and then you have to go out to all the after parties. Comfort is a big factor for me. When I can find it, I wear a white cowboy hat to the after parties.
WWD: What film do you like for best picture?
S.W.: Are you asking what I think will win or what I think should win?
WWD: Let’s hear both.
S.W.: I’ll give my professional opinion. I’m not going to give my personal opinion. The actual, correct answer is, it’s too soon to tell. We’ve got four weeks of campaigning ahead of us. From the get-go, “The Aviator” has the edge because it has the most nominations. But don’t forget that Clint [Eastwood] won the DGA [Directors Guild of America] award. That can change a lot. Today, I’d probably pick “The Aviator.” I don’t like betting against Harvey [Weinstein].