Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions: My Fortysomething Years in Hollywood (Hardcover)
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER * USA TODAY BESTSELLER
This heartfelt and wry career memoir from the director of Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai, Legends of the Fall, About Last Night, and Glory, creator of the show thirtysomething, and executive producer of My So-Called Life, gives a dishy, behind-the-scenes look at working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
“I’ll be dropping a few names,” Ed Zwick confesses in the introduction to his book. “Over the years I have worked with self-proclaimed masters-of-the-universe, unheralded geniuses, hacks, sociopaths, savants, and saints.”
He has encountered these Hollywood types during four decades of directing, producing, and writing projects that have collectively received eighteen Academy Award nominations (seven wins) and sixty-seven Emmy nominations (twenty-two wins). Though there are many factors behind such success, including luck and the contributions of his creative partner Marshall Herskovitz, he’s known to have a special talent for bringing out the best in the people he’s worked with, especially the actors. In those intense collaborations, he’s sought to discover the small pieces of connective tissue, vulnerability, and fellowship that can help an actor realize their character in full.
Talents whom he spotted early include Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Denzel Washington, Claire Danes, and Jared Leto. Established stars he worked closely with include Leonardo DiCaprio, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Daniel Craig, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, and Jennifer Connelly. He also sued Harvey Weinstein over the production of Shakespeare in Love—and won. He shares personal stories about all these people, and more.
Written mostly with love, sometimes with rue, this memoir is also a meditation on working, sprinkled throughout with tips for anyone who has ever imagined writing, directing, or producing for the screen. Fans with an appreciation for the beautiful mysteries—as well as the unsightly, often comic truths—of crafting film and television won’t want to miss it.
About the Author
Ed Zwick is an Academy Award and Emmy Award–winning director, writer, and producer of film and television. A graduate of Harvard and the AFI Conservatory, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Liberty Godshall.
“Ed Zwick is responsible for some of the best entertainment of the last forty years. Hits, Flops and Other Illusions takes its place alongside Adventures in the Screen Trade and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls as one of the indispensable behind-the-scenes books for fans of movies and television.”
— Aaron Sorkin
“Ed Zwick is a great storyteller, and Hits, Flops and Other Illusions is a terrific trifecta. It’s a true memoir, filled with people we all want to know more about. It’s personal and funny, charting a career of clear and definitive twists and turns. AND, as a bonus, it's full of do's and don'ts for filmmakers. I inhaled it. It made me think, like a book about a creative life should. It’s the best kind of book. EVEN THOUGH THE MOTHERFUCKER NEVER HIRED ME!”
— Jamie Lee Curtis
“With characteristic warmth and wit, Ed Zwick has delivered an instant classic. Hits is not just a wonderfully intimate memoir. It's also an indispensable guide to the shark-infested waters of artistic integrity. Zwick is a masterful storyteller, well known for creating characters brimming with humanity. It’s no surprise to learn that his best character just might be himself."
— Cameron Crowe
“In this delightfully candid and moving memoir, Ed Zwick allows us to follow him on his remarkable journey as a filmmaker. He guides us onto the movie sets, behind the cameras, and into the rooms with studio execs and stars. In the process, we are given a front-row seat to witness a world of Hollywood most of us never see."
— David Grann, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wager and Killers of the Flower Moon
“The legendary Ed Zwick's rollicking, rib-wrecking recollection of cinematic silliness and salvation is an ‘in-one-sitting’ thrill ride. Get it!"
— Patton Oswalt
“If you’re interested at all in movies, directing, navigating Hollywood, it is sweet . . . Great book . . . This is up there for me with the Sidney Lumet book [Making Movies].”
— Rob Lowe on Literally! With Rob Lowe
“Irresistible . . . A fantastically entertaining memoir that shows the movie business in high definition. It is part how-to guide, peppered with frank lists that crunch hard-won advice into easily digestible bites, and will be useful for young film-makers – but the layperson will inhale it for the gossip and what it reveals about the frankly bewildering systems of power that prop up the entertainment business.”
— The Guardian
“Tone is everything in filmmaking. False notes ring the loudest. The same is true when it comes to writing a memoir, especially a memoir about a life in Hollywood. Some are gossipy tell-all trash; some are dry, academic histories of the medium. With his new book, Oscar and Emmy-winning writer-director-producer Ed Zwick avoids those pitfalls and delivers a banger of an autobiography about what it’s like to spend a lifetime behind the camera. It’s a must-read for any film fan, and a sacred text for any aspiring filmmakers out there.”
“A combination instruction manual, reminiscence and festival of name-dropping, Zwick’s memoir captures the interminable delays between inception and production (on those occasions when production even happens); the egos stroked and dreams dashed; and the exhilaration that accompanies the miracle of a project that somehow, through a combination of persistence and good luck, reaches its fruition and lives up to its potential . . . For a book that doesn’t exist for the purpose of serving up zingers or exacting vengeance, Hits manages to deliver a tasty supply of both.”
— Los Angeles Times
“This funny, insightful, and deliciously dishy memoir covers the highs and lows of life in Hollywood, recalls the superstars and psychopaths who've crossed Zwick's path, and shares the all-too-rare truth about what really happens behind the scenes of one of the world's most glamorous industries.”
— Town & Country, “Must-Read Books of Winter 2024”
"A rollicking career retrospective that looks back at temperamental actors, vengeful studio heads, and the mysterious alchemy that governs great filmmaking . . . wildly entertaining . . . For film buffs, it’s a must-read."
— Publishers Weekly
“A compulsively readable account of Zwick’s time in Hollywood, one chronicling both the grand vistas of a nine-figure Tom Cruise epic and the intimate patios of a network TV show drawn from his own experiences.”
— The Bulwark
“The author warns early on that he’ll be dropping names, and he certainly does . . . Not everyone is remembered so fondly, but the author on the whole comes off as humble about his success and charmingly self-deprecating . . . [a] heartfelt memoir in movies and more.”
— The Wall Street Journal
“Engaging and panoramic . . . Zwick’s tone is self-aware and funny, using humor to inch toward the serious and, occasionally, profound observations about directing [and] acting . . . distinguishes itself from Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman [because] Zwick writes from the consciousness of both writer and director, immensely grateful for what actors, crew members and happy accidents bring to the game . . . A bonus of the memoir is at the end of almost every chapter, there is an instructive and entertaining list of wisdom that Zwick has gleaned over the years.”
“Revelatory. Ed Zwick goes deep on the pain, the glory—and the sometimes combative male energy on set.”
— Vanity Fair
“Zwick’s willingness to bare struggles makes his book a must read, whether one is an aspiring filmmaker looking to avoid pitfalls or how to handle situations, or movie fans who will revel in tasty backstories of films we all know.”
“True to its title, the memoir finds Zwick examining both his triumphs and failures, offering lessons learned and colorful tales about working in the creative trenches . . . Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions is smart and funny.”
— Tim Grierson, RogerEbert.com
“[The flops] are outweighed by his many successes, including the beloved TV series My So-Called Life, and films with such imposing (and challenging) stars as Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. The book includes lists of filmmaking tips from mentors including Sydney Pollack (“Certain actors can’t do speeches”), lessons learned (“Every great film has at least one indelible image, but you can’t plan it”), and indignities (one star made Zwick sit and watch as he rehearsed in 48 different pairs of pants).”
— Chicago Sun-Times
“Director, producer, and writer Zwick shares the highs and lows of his storied career in this lively and intimate memoir . . . Filled with both behind-the-scenes anecdotes, including his difficulties with Matthew Broderick on Glory and his attempts to wrangle a young Julia Roberts for Shakespeare in Love, and his pointed and insightful tips for directing and writing and thoughtful meditations on making a life in the arts, there's plenty to enjoy here for film buffs and aspiring creatives alike.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“[The dish Zwick delivers] explains how easily personality clashes can derail a project and how a good director manages the difficult dance between art and commerce in an industry overflowing with narcissists . . . Zwick keeps his own ego out of the narrative . . . [but] has kept his sense of humor. A good-natured memoir of 1990s and 2000s show-running and filmmaking.”
“A frank appraisal of Hollywood over the last 40 years . . . This name-dropping but also rewardingly name-naming look back from the director of 1989’s Glory and other consequential films is a surprisingly strong choice . . . Zwick has seen things and done things, and he’s reached a stage of his career — and, 15 years after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in his life — where he’s unafraid whom he might offend.”
— The Washington Post