Julia Phillips was a Hollywood producer, single mother, and coke addict. She was only really good at the latter.
I picked up her You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again seduced by back-cover promises of tinsel town scandal, and a serious look at how movies are really made.
The closest we get is a lengthy tirade about producing Close Encounters, despite being late for every meeting, and frequently high. This is not charming. Like most ex-addicts, Phillips writes about her drugs like she’s writing pornography – it’s repetitive, set mostly in hotel rooms, and with one eye on the cheap bed linen.
There’s celeb gossip (well, she mocks Steven Spielberg’s stutter and shares a joint with Streisand), celeb betrayal (well, friends Robert Redford and Golide Hawn drop her when she gets really screwed up), and bizarre celeb claims (she thinks Madonna will be the new Barbra Steisand. Discuss).
But we don’t really learn that much about making movies – Julia is frequently too busy shagging crew or getting stoned to turn up to set, leaving poor Spielberg to film yet more mashed potato footage. It feels tired and lazy, like the 70s all happened one dusty, hot afternoon.
Of course, it’s impossible to stop reading – what will Julia do next? Will she cook up freebase in front of her daughter? yes! frequently! Will she get fired from Close Encounters? yes! But she blames her divorce and the CE3K board-game, rather than her erratic drugged-up behaviour. Will she ultimately find redemption? Um. Well, she gets clean and writes the last 50 pages in a free-associating whirl of feel-good girl power (Hint: You can overuse the phrase “Boom-shaka-laka” in autobiography).
There is one great moment – the agent obsessed over sequel rights to The Last Tempation Of Christ.
And there’s one jaw-dropping druggy project, where she spends years trying to make a musical of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. It’s unbelievable, but thankfully the project falls apart when Elton John comes onboard.
As a tribute to Peculiar Julia (who died 10 years ago), I sat down to watch Close Encounters. Like, really watch it, all the way through. Something I’ve never done. And still haven’t. This time I made it through the first six hours, which is still an achievement.
Flicking through the papers, I discover that Elton John is hard at work on a new project. A musical called Lestat.