I read Bonfire of the Vanities so that I could read this book, an account of the making of the big-budget, star-studded film adaptation, which became one of the most legendary flops in film history. You wouldn’t have to have read the book to enjoy this account but I’d think you would at least have to have seen the film (which I have not, incidentally). That being said, I felt like I got a lot more out of the book having read Wolfe’s book, and knowing what its message and tone was in comparison to how the film was made.
Author Salamon sat in during the entire production of the film. Of course at the time, she and director Brian De Palma, who approved her journalistic presence, were unaware of the disaster the film would turn out to be, so Salamon would have had no idea that she’d be chronicling a symbol of Hollywood hucksterism. Sometimes the universe just hands you a big juicy plum for no particular reason.
Salamon’s account of the filming is precise and detailed, even a tad dry at times, but she admirably sticks to what she witnessed and learned through interviews. She doesn’t speculate or traffic in gossip, presenting the actors and Hollywood power types as she experienced them. The book was a fast read and very interesting, as well as illuminating of the frustrating process of trying to make a good film when every single thing is piecemeal. It’s like the death by a thousand cuts, or like being pecked to death by ducks. I would have appreciated some more material at the end and some analysis of why the film failed so badly. There is some, of course, but the end felt a tad rushed.