Quinn, Pollak: HBO series fabricated

By KAREN BUTLER  |  March 18, 2002 at 12:08 PM
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NEW YORK, March 18 (UPI) -- Nice-guy actors Kevin Pollak and Aidan Quinn are blasting HBO, calling its "Project Greenlight" series a fabricated and manipulative "mockumentary," designed to show tension that did not really exist on the set of their new film, "Stolen Summer."

"(HBO) created drama and built a case with editing," said Pollak, best known for his roles in "The Usual Suspects," "A Few Good Men," and "Avalon" in which he again co-starred with Quinn.

"They made Aidan out to be Richard III and they used something I said that was so out of context that I was floored. I could not believe it. ... They succeeded wildly in creating an unbelievably entertaining show and they raised the profile of the movie and (director) Pete Jones, who, I think, is a wonderful story teller. And I love that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are giving back to the writing community. All of that is fantastic, so if the series raises the awareness of all that, then it outweighs the negative and my little personal concerns don't rule the day. Quite frankly, I know not to ever do this again to myself."

First-time Director Pete Jones won a scriptwriting contest dreamed up by actors/screenwriters Damon and Affleck and sponsored by Miramax and HBO. After Jones beat out thousands of other entrants, Miramax gave him nearly $2 million to direct his first film. But there was a catch. The entire film-making process was filmed and select footage shown on the HBO original series, "Project Greenlight," a "Survivor"-style reality show.

Like many of those who were kicked off the island, then went home and saw how they were portrayed in highlights of the CBS reality show, Quinn, Jones and Pollak all complained that the footage aired on "Project Greenlight" was edited to show only the experience's infrequent moments of tension and frustration. The director and his stars all told United Press International they were greatly disappointed the show focused on the few negative moments and not the passion and joy they felt in making a movie they are all very proud of.

Admitting that "Project Greenlight" generated a lot more publicity for "Stolen Summer" than most low-budget films usually receive, Pollak said he was concerned that the series also made the movie look like a "train wreck." The upside to that, he said, is that the series lowered people's expectations to the point where they may find themselves pleasantly surprised by how good the film really is.

"In a nutshell, the movie is a tiny, little movie with a huge heart and the series is a huge event with no heart. And there was lots of heart on the set ... We would tease the documentary crew that was following us around, saying: 'Your show's going to suck. You have nothing. We're all getting along great. We're having a great time,'" Pollak said.

"You have three bad days out of 25 ... All 13 episodes were about those three days," said Quinn, star of "Practical Magic," "Legends of the Fall" and "Michael Collins." "(Producer) Chris Moore was on the set for two days -- two days. That's it and he has a lead role in the series and those were two of the three bad days... It was a 'mockumentary.'"

Quinn, who has worked on more than three dozen films over the past two decades, said the "Project Greenlight" aspect of the job was "the only thing that almost made me not do it."

"Because I knew it would make making the film more difficult for Pete (Jones)," he explained. "I wasn't worried about us the actors so much as Pete, not having come from film school or anything. Making a film is hard. It's like going to war slightly -- especially a low-budget film, so that was my concern. But it was such a good part and such a good script that I said, 'I'll do it.'"

"It wasn't as nerve-wracking for me because I started out in stand-up comedy 20 years ago, so eight cameras is always better than one because I'm such an uncontrollable ham," said Pollak. "Plus, I didn't know that they were going to take it to the editing room and create drama that didn't exist. I thought 'documentary' meant capturing the truth."

"So, is there an appetite in America for a compelling, truthful re-telling of an experience where a crew and the actors and the director really get along and have a lot of laughs and are up late at night, drinking with each other and sharing ideas about tomorrow's work and having a wonderful time? I don't know. I think there is. Obviously, the people editing ('Project Greenlight') did not. There is a lot of fabrication. I thought it didn't accurately match the good time that we had making it," Quinn said.

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