Tghid Il-Pixtu ta' Kurci jaf xi haga dwar in-Natural Selection ta' Saadi Gaddafi?

Published: March 9, 2011 at 12:29pm

Smokin' Joe tal-Malta Gaddafi Party

Published: Wednesday, 9 Mar 2011 | 2:39 AM
The New York Times
Michael Cieply

Things have gotten chilly here for Natural Selection, the film production company backed by Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi’s son Saadi.

On its office line, a recorded message has been the only answer for much of the last week. Outside the company’s suite on Sunset Boulevard — across the street from the Hustler store and under a billboard promoting the Jerry Weintraub documentary “His Way” — a parking spot identified as Natural Selection’s is blocked by a battered white van with four flat tires. (An attendant’s notice taped to the back is dated Feb. 2.)

And Mathew Beckerman, the producer who made a splash in Variety last year with word that he had rounded up $100 million in financing for the company from Mr. Gaddafi and others, is suddenly getting a very cold shoulder.

Over the weekend, Mr. Beckerman’s name was deleted from the producer credits of a documentary, “Live at Preservation Hall: Louisiana Fairytale,” on the official Web site of the South by Southwest festival, which begins this week in Austin, Tex.

In an e-mail on Saturday, Theresa Vibberts, who works with the movie’s director, Danny Clinch, said simply, “Natural Selection is not involved in the film.”

Neither Ms. Vibberts nor Mr. Clinch responded further to queries about the sudden disappearance of Mr. Beckerman’s credit, or a listing that shows Natural Selection among the movie’s backers on the Internet Movie Database.

So it goes when Hollywood begins to suspect it has made a mistake.

Speaking through an intermediary on Monday, Mr. Beckerman declined to discuss his company, or a Gaddafi investment that had been treated as routine here until the uprising against the Gaddafi regime in Libya turned bloody.

In recent days, the pop stars Nelly Furtado, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Usher all said they were giving away money they had received for entertaining at Gaddafi events.

Hollywood, meanwhile, has pretty much joined Mr. Beckerman in doing what it does best when trouble crops up — hiding out.

The writer David McKenna and the actors Mickey Rourke and Eva Amurri, who is Susan Sarandon’s daughter, have all been connected to some extent with film projects financed by Natural Selection since Saadi el-Gaddafi signed on.

A spokesman for the Paradigm agency, which represents Mr. McKenna, said on Tuesday that the writer could not be reached.

A representative of One Talent Management, which represents Ms. Amurri, and a spokeswoman for International Creative Management, which represents Mr. Rourke, had no comment.

But several people who have been involved with Mr. Beckerman’s list of films — who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid conflict — described a scramble by major Hollywood players and institutions to distance themselves from projects in which Mr. Gaddafi might be involved.

William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, which had been identified in several reports as a distribution partner on Natural Selection’s planned crime film “The Ice Man,” for instance, is now unlikely to get involved because of concerns about the Gaddafis, according to two people connected to the situation.

A spokesman for the agency said its policy was not to comment on individual projects.

Kevin Iwashina, whose Preferred Content has been lined up as a sales agent for “Isolation,” which has already been shot and stars Ms. Amurri, declined to comment.

Schuyler Moore, an entertainment lawyer who was identified in a 2009 news report as having helped Mr. Beckerman assemble the Gaddafi deal, did not respond to queries.

Meanwhile at 42West, a high-powered entertainment public relations firm, a letter to the news media that identified Natural Selection as handling the “Preservation Hall” documentary at South by Southwest is now being described — in conversations conditioned on anonymity to minimize conflict — as having been in error.

According to people familiar with the go-round, 42West planned to help Mr. Beckerman when insiders thought his involvement with the documentary was purely personal. But it backpedaled when it appeared that Natural Selection, backed by Mr. Gaddafi, might have a role.

As Mr. Beckerman has not been returning calls, the company’s future remains unclear, as does the extent of Mr. Gaddafi’s involvement with its various films. Two people who have dealt closely with Mr. Beckerman said they were introduced to Saadi el-Gaddafi at film festivals abroad, though never in Los Angeles.

Both said they found Mr. Gaddafi, a former professional soccer player, to be vibrant, forthcoming and committed to the notion of building rapport between Libya and the United States.

Neither expressed qualms about past allegations that Libya had backed terrorists or abused its people. Both pointed out that Hollywood had routinely welcomed investors whose peripheral connections might not be the purest.

In a September posting, The Daily Beast reported that Mr. Beckerman, who once worked in the music business, was introduced to Mr. Gaddafi on a beach in Mauritius at a time when he was looking for funds.

Indeed, the Gaddafis are not even the first among African strongmen to have flirted with the film world.

In 1990, the Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti was trying to line up the Liberian government as an investor in a company he was using to buy MGM/UA Communications. But the relationship ended when Mr. Parretti’s ally, the Liberian president Samuel K. Doe, was tortured and killed by opponents.

During the current uprising, Mr. Gaddafi has given speeches and appeared on television defending his father’s regime.

In 2009, Natural Selection made “The Experiment,” a psychological drama that starred Forest Whitaker and Adrien Brody, and released the film on video through Sony Pictures. It shot “Isolation” early last year and has been selling distribution rights to the movie through what appears to be a shifting team of partners since then.

(At one point, William Morris Endeavor was asked to handle foreign sales, but ultimately did not, according to people involved with the matter.) In perhaps its most prominent move, the company also bought rights to Philip Carlo’s book “The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer,” about Richard Kuklinski.

Filming was to have begun as early as this spring. But the script is still being written, according to people who were briefed on the project.

Mr. Rourke, one of those people said, had expressed interest in the lead role but had made no formal deal and will not face any decision about working with a Gaddafi-backed company until the screenplay is done.

Until then, and a world away, Mr. Beckerman’s major backer has a lot on his mind.

6 Comments Comment

  1. ciccio2011 says:

    The Pixtu’s cv reveals that he may have a soft spot for troubled regions.

    “Whenever he has time or when traveling, Joe is always in the company of books. His pet subjects are Russia after the 1917 October Revolution, World War II, US politics, the Middle East and Northern Ireland.”

    But then Smokin’ Joe has also been to some of the most exotic places around the globe, including of course Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood. Could it be he was following on the footsteps of Charles Darwin, the one who proposed the theory of Natural Selection?

    “He travels a lot on international professional assignments and has been as far as Australia, Los Angeles, Chicago the Caribbean, Singapore, Dubai, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Africa, the whole of Europe, the Seychelles and the Maldives. His eternal love remains attached to Russia, especially rural Russia. Joe’s long-term ongoing dream is to sail the Lena River from the South of Siberia to the North. ”

  2. .Angus Black says:

    Naturally, il-Pixtu ta’ Kurci will have no comments due to ‘client secrecy’.

    The Gaddafi web stretches around the world, and that’s no secret. Neither is it a secret that it has woven its way through Malta operatives and allegedly, the Labour Party as well.

    I cannot remember the Nationalist Party ever celebrating Gaddafi’s 40th anniversary as Libya’s dictator.

    Iz-zejt dejjem telgha f’wicc l-ilma, Pixt.

  3. A reader is upset because of the ‘bee of activity’ in our port, which might be in contravention of our neutrality clause:

    “But the toing and froing of the British jets at our airport and the bee of activity with foreign war ships entering and leaving our ports is not much of comfort for my peace of mind”

    Some idiots should just buzz off.

  4. Denis says:

    Who knows? Maybe Smokin’ Joe is considering giving the money he makes from Gaddaffi’s wheeling and dealing to charity.

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