Steven Spielberg is leaving the studio he helped found 13 years ago, say sources deep inside Viacom.
“He’s gone, and he’s not going to be missed,” one knowledgeable insider tells Radar. Word is, Viacom chief Sumner Redstone—who made headlines in 2006 for canning Tom Cruise after his off-screen antics became a liability—has struck again.
So, is the ornery octogenarian billionaire, who also controls CBS, Paramount Pictures, and MTV Networks, trying to prove that he’s still the big swinging dick of the entertainment business? Looks that way.
Spielberg and fellow moguls David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg sold their studio to Paramount in 2005, but the trio have reportedly grown increasingly unhappy about their arrangement in the years since. This fall, Geffen launched a pissing match in the press, lashing out at his corporate overlords in a Vanity Fair interview. From there, things quickly got nasty. Viacom announced it would not renew DreamWorks’ contract when it expires next November. Geffen shopped the studio “all over town,” and last month the partners entered into talks with NBC Universal.
If Geffen was so mouthy, why would Spielberg be the one to get the axe? Spielberg, remember, was right behind Cruise in pocketing profits from War of the Worlds, while the studio sucked wind. And in September, Viacom CEO Phillippe Dauman said that losing Spielberg would be “completely immaterial” to Paramount’s bottom line. But as recently as December 3, he’d seemed to change his tune, hailing the director as “one of the great filmmakers of our time and all time.” So which is it? Stay tuned. We have a feeling the shit storm’s just beginning.
Representatives for Spielberg did not return calls by post time.
UPDATE: Marvin Levy, spokesman for Spielberg returned Radar‘s call this morning and later got back to us to say: “This story is incorrect. Everybody who knows the DreamWorks deal and the Spielberg deal at Viacom knows that he is fireproof.” Radar stands by its source.