Disney to Drop Miramax; "Dogma" Deal Announcement Near; Smith Comments on
by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
William Donahue, President of the Catholic League, held a press conference
in New York City yesterday (Tuesday) morning intended to increase the
pressure on Harvey and Bob Weinstein due to their involvement with Kevin
Smith's new film, "Dogma." Donahue announced the launch of a campaign by
his organization calling on Disney to sever its relationship with its
specialty division, Miramax Films, which is run by the Weinsteins. Miramax
dropped "Dogma" from its release slate in April and sold the rights to the
Weinsteins, who are understood to be nearing a distribution deal
Yesterday Donohue, who led protests of the 1995 Miramax film "Priest,"
unveiled a petition drive "asking Michael Eisner to dump Miramax." He
indicated that the campaign will include website updates, a mailing to the
League's 350,000 members, and a petition that he hopes will yield hundreds
of thousands of signatures by Labor Day. Additionally, an ad calling for
action was expected in today's New York Times.
"Dogma" debuted at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival and received an array of
positive reviews as well as a handful or critical notices. Since then,
addressing a common complaint about the length of the movie, Smith has
acknowledged going back to trim the film for length. The Weinsteins have
been pursuing a distribution deal since quietly screening the movie in New
York and Los Angeles in advance of its Cannes debut. While a source close
to the film told indieWIRE that a deal has been sealed with Lions Gate
Films, a source close to the Weinsteins would not confirm the pact
yesterday and a Lions Gate representative had "nothing to say."
Yesterday's press conference was the latest in a series of moves by both
sides in the emerging controversy surrounding "Dogma." Commenting on the
film at yesterday's press conference Donohue admitted that he has not seen
the movie, but indicated that he read a copy of the script that he
downloaded from the Internet. "It's rude, its crude, its filthy," he
explained, "And we're sick and tired of the Weinstein brothers trying to
dump their trash on Catholics."
In April, reacting to "Dogma" star Ben Affleck's alleged statement that the
movie was meant to "push buttons," the League stated, "The Catholic League
has a few buttons of its own to push, and we will not hold back." Those
comments led Weinstein attorney Daniel Petrocelli, in a letter dated June
15, 1999, to express his clients' concerns about the League's position,
indicating that the League's comments could be interpreted as implying an
intention of violence. The letter expressly stated that, "Any such
impermissible activity authorized, committed, or encouraged by the League
that harms or threatens harm to any person will not be tolerated. We intend
to hold the League fully accountable for any wrongdoing, injury, or damage
The next day, William Donohue characterized the Weinsteins as "the true
enemies of free speech," adding, "The Catholic League protest of 'Dogma'
will now proceed with even more vigor than ever before. Fascistic attempts
to silence us will never win."
In announcing their campaign to encourage Disney to drop Miramax, the
Catholic League also issued a challenge to Hillary Clinton yesterday,
asking her to denounce the movie. Referencing a New York Post report that
the Weinsteins have pressured Clinton to drop an appearance on the cover of
George Magazine in favor of a cover slot on Miramax's Talk Magazine, the
League spotlighted the Weinsteins' contributions to President Clinton's
legal defense fund. "The Catholic League calls on her to break her
association with the Weinsteins by refusing to accept another dime from
them. We'd also like to hear her sound off on "Dogma."
On Monday, in advance of the Donohue press conference, the NewsAskew
website http://www.newsaskew.com posted extensive comments from Kevin
Smith on the subject:
"Mike Eisner is the target here, folks," Smith wrote, "So much so that -
even though 'Dogma' is no longer a Disney or Miramax film - Bill Donohue is
demanding that Disney dump Miramax now. Why? What does that have to do with
anything at this point? It's about publicity, friends. You want national
attention, you don't attack the 'Clerks' guy; you go after the head of one
of the most widely recognized corporations in the world."
"And in the midst of all this sad politicking," Smith continued, "I
find my faith in Christ is even stronger than it was before, and I find
myself really sympathizing with the Man. Could you imagine having to watch
this and all the far, far worse inanity carried out in your name, when your
central message was one of peace and tolerance?"
"I grow weary from talking this to death," Smith concluded, "I'm not Lenny
Bruce (in many, many ways), so in the future, I'd like to limit the amount
of constitutional rights arguments I have to comment on. Can't we talk
about dick and fart jokes, and even the Lord instead? Oh right - that's
what got me into this position in the first place."