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Evans Stays in the Picture on DVD

6 Jun, 2003 By: Joan Villa

Don't call The Kid Stays in the Picture a documentary.

The label chafes producer Robert Evans, who prefers “a journey” to describe his legendary accomplishments and ultimate fall from grace portrayed in this tale of 1960s Hollywood, due Aug. 19 from Warner Home Video. The DVD prebooks July 22 at $27.95 ($19.95 MAP). The VHS is $22.98 ($14.95 MAP).

At a time when generations were divided over the Vietnam War and studios were responding with broad-brush entertainment like Paint Your Wagon, Evans went out on a limb as production chief at Paramount Pictures with cutting-edge projects, from Rosemary's Baby to Love Story to The Godfather. He describes the old Hollywood as “smaller and freer,” because filmmakers were able to take risks that today could bounce corporate studio executives out of a job, he said.

“When you're overpaid you fence-straddle, when you're underpaid you don't give a damn because you've got nothing to lose,” he said. “People who are underpaid are people who are willing to take chances. I broke all the rules; I was underpaid.”

Evans lived in the spotlight -- entertaining celebrities, dating leading ladies and ultimately enduring crushing controversies that ended his career and left him virtually broke. But today he has made a comeback, appearing at colleges to promote The Kid and adapting tales from his life for a new animated program called “Kid Notorious” that will launch in the fall on Comedy Central.

“I guarantee you my DVD will be huge,” he said with a trademark flair for showmanship. The bonus material comes from Evans' personal archives that chronicle his many interviews, appearances and relationships with the biggest actors and actresses of his day. He predicts the extra footage alone will make the DVD “an immediate cult classic.” Already, The Kid Stays in the Picture is airing on HBO this month to some of the network's highest ratings, he said. But the DVD will enhance the experience by adding in-depth interviews with Evans over the years; the complete pitch for “The Film That Saved Paramount” that Evans made to the Gulf + Western board; Evans' acceptance speeches, including one for the Producers Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award; commentary with directors Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein; a clip from the “David Susskind Show”; a gag reel; and memories of working with Evans as told by celebrities and filmmakers.

“They're things that have never been seen before and will never be seen again, so I think together with the film we have a dynamite package,” he said.

Video has changed the business of filmmaking considerably in the 30 years since Evans was at the helm. The aftermarket “takes the bottom out” of the risk of making a picture and gives a niche project like his a chance to find a wider audience, he said.

“It used to be that film was like a parachute jump -- you had one shot at it and if it didn't open you were dead,” said Evans, a self-professed DVD-lover who owns hundreds of films on disc. “Today you have video as a cushion out there to protect against failures more than successes, and the aftermarket is equally as important as the front market.”

Evans had a stroke in 1998 that nearly killed him, but today he's savoring his second chance at life. His near-death experience made him “not afraid of anything,” he said, so he's writing a more revealing follow-up to The Kid called The Fat Lady Sang. These memoirs will be published first as a book and later made into a dramatic film by Universal Pictures, he said.

“It proves one thing: You ain't dead until the fat lady sings,” he said. “I was as cold as dry ice 10 years ago. I didn't have a job. I was broke, and from little acorns come great forests. I just wanted to write a book for my son to tell him who his old man really is, and from that thought, which was very private, came a whole new life.”

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