Could Sheen's firing from Men Behaving Badly be a sign of the end times for pop culture's Valhalla, that people will no longer put up with stars' egotistic bullshit? Nah, it's more like Ragnarök in the Thor comics, a cycle that's created by them, for them, but marketed to all of us -- diversionary entertainment at its purest. Here are some other recent examples:
Peter Biskind covers Mel Gibson's id in "The Rude Warrior" for Vanity Fair. Anyone who's read the author's books (e.g., Star, Down and Dirty Pictures) knows he has a penchant for overstatement, particularly when it comes to analogizing between a filmmaker's films and his or her personal life. This results in a hilarious reading of the movie I'm most anxious to see:
[The Beaver] features Gibson talking through a hand puppet that enables him to voice feelings he’s incapable of expressing directly, has been the object of much raillery. It hits every note in the Gibson songbook, and then some—most prominently, a suicidal dad redeemed by his son. (Foster says she took the script to Gibson because she thought it would speak to him personally.) But the film is so uncompromising, and directed with such delicacy, that it cuts through the sticky sentiment that is Gibson’s stock and trade. Foster manages to find in his preoccupations an authenticity that he has never been able to convincingly dramatize himself; she’s his beaver, so to speak.
I'm not sure he actually realized what he was writing in that last sentence, but what a double entendre.
In "The Apostate" at The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright interviews filmmaker Paul Haggis (e.g., Crash, Million Dollar Baby) about his fallout with The Church of Scientology, while detailing, along the way, the cult's history and its calculated relationship with Hollywood. There's so much great material here that it's hard to pick just one example, but Scientology's use of Sea Org (its missionary wing) for slave labor is fascinating. Take ex-member John Brousseau's involvement in providing favors for Tom Cruise:
In 2005, [Church leader and chairman David] Miscavige showed Cruise a Harley-Davidson motorcycle he owned. At Miscavige’s request, Brousseau had had the vehicle’s parts plated with brushed nickel and painted candy- apple red. Brousseau recalls, “Cruise asked me, ‘God, could you paint my bike like that?’ I looked at Miscavige, and Miscavige agreed.” Cruise brought in two motorcycles to be painted, a Triumph and a Honda Rune; the Honda had been given to him by Spielberg after the filming of War of the Worlds. “The Honda already had a custom paint job by the set designer,” Brousseau recalls. Each motorcycle had to be taken apart completely, and all the parts nickel-plated, before it was painted. (The church denies Brousseau’s account.)