Harvard, Hollywood, Hitmen, and Holy Men
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 02/14/2023
The movie director Paul Williams is a real-life Forrest Gump. Williams' experiences form a unique and often wild constellation of encounters with star power, political power, and spiritual power—a life cycle that led to fame and fortune and to integrity and anonymity.
In a mad childhood created by an autocratic English teacher father and an infantilizing mother, he develops a precocious visual acuity to avoid wallops and a writing ability that mollified his father. This skill set wins him a scholarship to Harvard, where he needs to learn how the Wisemen think. He seeks out tutors who reveal themselves: Kissinger, Skinner, Galbraith, Erikson, Alpert, Leary, the Hubleys and Jean Renoir. Howard Gardner is his roommate and Michael Crichton is an editor friend on the college daily, The Crimson. After months, his lover reveals she is the heiress of a great American fortune.
A member of the inner circle of the "Movie Brats" who led the charge of American New Wave cinema in the 1970s, Williams' idiosyncrasies make him a darling of the era. His stories about his pals—Scorsese, Voight, Christie, DePalma, Coppola, Dreyfuss, Spielberg, De Niro, Lucas—shed new light on a world bursting with creativity and possibility. He helps Terrence Malick make his first film, tries to adjust to the tyranny of the fabulously wealthy, and turns down the offer to direct the smash hits Animal House and Stepford Wives, and to partner on a new Parisian restaurant—The Hard Rock Cafe; and turns down Lorne Michaels' offer to help him create Saturday Night Live. With amazing honesty, Williams recounts the unexpected details of making his own seminal cult classics, Out of It (1969), The Revolutionary (1970) and Dealing (1972). And his adventures with Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver in Algiers, Fidel Castro in Havana, Huey P. Newton in Oakland, and Pope John Paul II in Vatican City.
Harvard, Hollywood, Hitmen and Holy Men is an extraordinary odyssey—large, experimental, fearlessly audacious and eventually self-knowing. Through his anecdotes, shocking and delightful in their humor and authenticity, Williams takes readers on his unique journey to answer life's big questions—with aides Mescalito (the Peyote guide), Ichazo (the Gurdjieffian Sufi master), and Dilgo Khyentse (the current Dalai Lama's principal teacher), and finally, Vivian (a transcendent love).
1. Where I Come From
5. Harvard College, Class of 1965
7. Onwards, Backwards
8. It's Not Just You, Murray!
9. Big Time
10. The Prophet
11. Icons and Demons
12. The Canary Tweets
14. After the Revolution
15. Into the Unknown
16. A Childhood
17. Breaking Down, Breaking Through
19. Whirled Like a Dervish
20. Life Upside Down
21. Holy in Hollywood
23. Roman Holiday
24. The Bells Toll
25. Beyond Eccentric
26. Magic Johnson
Paul W. Williams is a gifted and highly educated writer, filmmaker, actor, and friend. Harvard, Hollywood, Hitmen, and Holy Men is the story of his life and times from the conclusion of World War II until now. It's funny. It's sad. It's exciting. It's sexy. And it's frightening—sometimes startlingly so—but it's authentic and true with a great cast of characters, all real people. If you're interested in exploring new dimensions and perspectives of creativity, pick it up and get on board.~Elliott Gould
Finally the world will know the extraordinary and hallucinogenic story of Paul Williams—the unsung hero of the 'Easy Rider, Raging Bulls' filmmaking era. Whether he's swallowing peyote with David Carradine or playing 3-on-3 basketball with teammates Francis Ford Coppola and Terrence Malick against Fidel Castro or directing a forgotten masterpiece about Harvard dope dealers—every tale that Williams spins is a jaw dropper.~Larry Karaszewski, co-writer of Ed Wood, Man on the Moon, and The People v OJ Simpson, Vice President of History and Preservation of the Academy, MPAAS
Visiting Cuba in 1975, Francis Coppola and Terrence Malick find themselves playing basketball against Fidel Castro, who cheats! When called out on his unsporting behaviour, Castro insists, 'This is my country. I can do whatever I want here'. This may sound like a scene from a Tom Stoppard play, but it's actually one of the many jaw-dropping yet genuine events recounted in Paul W. Williams' Harvard, Hollywood, Hitmen, and Holy Men; among the most striking Hollywood (or perhaps anti-Hollywood) memoirs to come along in many years. Those of us who have been flying the flag for Williams' work—a slim oeuvre which has slipped through the cracks of various corporate-controlled distribution systems—will welcome the opportunity to hear the details of this turbulent career from the horse's mouth. One hopes that this book will be not only appreciated as a valuable text in its own right, but also function as a tool to make these neglected films (particularly the remarkable The November Men) widely available. In any case, it provides a much-needed reminder of an era in which American cinema supplied something other than an endless series of superhero fantasies; a time when the line between commercial filmmaking and radical politics was in constant danger of being erased.~Brad Stevens, film critic
Williams is a human being amid this very strange space known as show business. Paul is a producer, a notable New Hollywood director, a savage, a gentleman, a scholar, a mind. He has written his memoir and the book is brilliant and hysterically funny. It's likely to become an important reference about the behavior of celebrities in film, politics, shamanism, revolutions.... you name it. Cliff notes: they all have dirty minds, many lovers, and they enjoy Cuban cigars.~Sylvain Despretz, director-screenwriter and illustrator
An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, exceptionally well written, and amazingly candid memoir that will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in Cinematic History/Criticism and Movie Director/Actor Biographies/Memoirs, Harvard, Hollywood, Hitmen, and Holy Men: A Memoir is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library American Biography and American Cinematic History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.~Midwest Book Review