Julia Phillips v. François Truffaut

ImageJulia Phillips co-produced Taxi Driver, The Sting, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. She was the first woman to win an Academy Award for best picture. Her acceptance speech remains unmatched: “You can imagine what a trip this is for a Jewish girl from Great Neck. Tonight I get to win an Academy Award and meet Elizabeth Taylor, all in the same moment. Thank you so much.” It made a favourable impression on the French director François Truffaut, who agreed to act in Close Encounters. On the set, Truffaut and Phillips did not get along. “She is incompetent,” Truffaut told The New York Times. “Unprofessional. You can write that. She knows I feel this way. Sometimes it was so disorganized that they had me show up and then do nothing for five days.” In 1991, Phillips got her own back in her memoir, You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again.

‘I was so proud and happy when [Truffaut] committed to the part of Lacombe. It was a coup, no doubt about that, and a score at seventy-five grand and no points. That should have been a clue as to how he felt about the project, but Steven and I were so excited it didn’t occur to us that he might just be doing research.

He wrote a fab letter accepting. Ever the director, he seemed most preoccupied with my moment on the Academy Awards–“You whore a beautiful black dress…”– and decided if he were ever to make a movie in Hollywood, it would be with me.

Very chatty about his love for Los Angeles. Loved Larry Edmund’s bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard: the best movie bookshop in the world, in his opinion. Loved to visit Jean Renoir à la maison. As it were.

As for our movie, basically he agreed to play Lacombe, on the condition that Steven could release him by August. We were to work it out with Louis C. Blau, the heaviest of the heavy-hitting entertainment lawyers. His client list included Stanley Kubrick. Who needed anyone else? Unless of course it was François Truffaut.

In closing: “I speak English WORST I write it.” Duly noted. Sincerely, François Truffaut.’

You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again, Julia Phillips, Random House, 1991.

The Sting wins Best Picture in 1976: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhRG1OzbDJs

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