Producer Gavin Polone writes occasional pieces for Vulture detailing the inner workings of the entertainment industry, and while the guy desperately needs a word limit, it’s always interesting to hear a candid take on the business. The subject of his latest article? Nikki Finke, she of the silly feuds and the haughty blogs, recently of the fight with Bret Easton Ellis. Polone discusses how he went from an avid Finke reader to being horrified by what a big meany-pants she is, and now advocates for a total boycott, in a piece called “Apocalypse Nikki.”
Studio executives, creative types, and producers now scurry to get her the first info on their developing projects; numerous times I have heard these Hollywood players saying, “Can you get Nikki to run this?” or “How should we spin this with Nikki?” or “We better give this to Nikki first or she’ll kill us.” Studio heads really care what she says about them and, I’ve heard, even made having a good relationship with Nikki the sine qua non of getting hired to a studio’s publicity department.
This perception of her power appears  to have emboldened her to step up her attacks on those who either compete with her or dare to favor one of her competitors.
A prominent journalist told me of an incident where Nikki, angered by an imagined transgression, called her at 5 a.m. and screamed at her. I spoke to a well-known studio head who told me that, after Nikki felt undermined by her, Finke called the studio head’s house at 9 p.m. and yelled at her, calling her a “c*nt” and threatening to write negative stories about her. I have also heard of a situation where another trade paper got some exclusive promotional materials from a studio on an upcoming film and Nikki called that studio and told them that, because they didn’t favor her with this exclusive, she was going to “sh*t all over” the movie in question.
Part of the reason that Nikki has continued to act in such an uncivil and threatening manner is that her conduct is reinforced by those in Hollywood who, terrified, choose a path of appeasement rather than confront or ignore her. In 2009, she wrote probably the ugliest and most vindictive business article I’ve ever read, when former Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger was fired. In this article, she said such things as, “I hate Shmuger, really detest the putz,” and “Shmuger’s biggest problem was that he thinks he plays well with others when, in fact, he treats people badly and is blind to the fact they hate his guts.” (Ignore the irony.) And how did Shmuger react to this insult-laden screed? In May 2011, he gave the exclusive press release on the formation of his new company to Deadline Hollywood.
[The Bret Easton Ellis incident] and the other aggressive actions I’ve heard Nikki has taken are believable to me because of an e-mail I received from her last October after Vulture’s Joe Adalian ran a story on a Zombieland pilot that I was developing at Fox, which I verified when he called me. The e-mail read, “so you’re reporting now? Really pathetic.” I guess she figured that since I was now writing this column for Vulture, I had offered them this truly insignificant story and denied Deadline first dibs on releasing the news to the public; honestly, I would have affirmed the story to whomever called me from whatever organization, and I’m surprised that anyone cared about the pilot in the first place. But Nikki is so easily offended when anyone but her team gets a story that she overreacts with a personal attack. Her behavior reminds me of the scene in Apocalypse Now when Captain Willard is receiving his orders from his superiors and they describe Colonel Kurtz by saying “his ideas, methods, have become unsound.”
That’s right, in a piece all about how insular Hollywood types with no perspective all kowtow to Nikki Finke despite her not having any real power, the writer also compares her to Colonel Kurtz (just in case you missed the reference in the title). That is so douchily self-aggrandizing and faux-erudite, it might be the most Hollywood thing ever written. She’s the General MacArthur of haughty blogz! This article is like if Entourage had a Wonder Years narrator.
So, I think we should run an experiment and see if Nikki Finke does have any power. The first step in this test is my making the following public statement: I think Nikki Finke’s manner of writing nasty personal attacks, threatening people, and exhibiting general incivility is unacceptable, and I am asking those who read this to “unfavorite” Deadline from their browser, read it less often, and stop tipping her and her reporters when they have a story until such time as she has modified her behavior and begun to adhere to a more professional practice of journalism.
Step two is to wait and see if she can rain down fire and brimstone on me for my insolence. [Vulture]
SPOILER ALERT: Neither of those things are going to happen. Rational folks like you and I value modesty (and probably don’t have Deadline as a browser favorite), but Nikki knows that if you constantly scream about how important you are, enough people are dumb enough that eventually, they’ll start to believe it.
Also, I hear she can unhinge her jaws when she eats and has a regrowable tale like a lizard. She’s really quite mysterious.