Jeffrey Katzenberg (born December 21, 1950) is a liberal progressive Hollywood executive. Born and raised in in Manhattan, he enrolled in New York University at 1971, only to drop out a year later in order to participate in John Lindsay's failed attempt at securing the Democrat Party nomination for the 1972 presidential elections. This had not been his first time working in Lindsay's campaign, as he had worked in his mayoral campaign in 1965. A year later, he found work as an assistant to the independent film producer David Picker, with the latter introducing him to Paramount Pictures chairman Barry Diller shortly thereafter, who hired him first for the marketing division and then was sent to the TV division to revive the Star Trek franchise. He worked his way to the top in a nine-year period, which was presumably around the time he met with and befriended Michael Eisner. He was brought in alongside Eisner to work for Disney after leaving Paramount in 1984, acting as the CEO and Eisner's enforcer for the animation department, and was Chairman by the 1990s. During this time, he also demanded for a "feminist twist" to be inserted into the plot of the third draft for the then in-development film Beauty and the Beast, and also hired Linda Woolverton to write the film to ensure it. Similarly, he also demanded that Pixar, when making Toy Story, make it "adult, cynical, and edgy" in terms of story, which nearly destroyed Pixar as a result. After he was forced into retirement in 1994 due to infighting with Eisner, he proceeded to form his own animation company, the struggling DreamWorks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Infamously, one of his earliest projects at DreamWorks, Antz, he had plagiarized from John Lasseter's A Bug's Life concept and claimed it as his own work. Like most Hollywood liberal producers (and in contradiction of their horror at the Hollywood blacklists), Katzenberg was not above using the blacklist for any people who managed to upset him in any way, which was revealed when he alongside fellow DreamWorks founder Geffen blacklisted Mel Gibson from future productions of DreamWorks simply because of the financial success of The Passion of the Christ.
Jeffrey Katzenberg donated to various Democrat politicians, including Barack Obama, having donated more than $1.44 million to the Democrat Party between 1978 and 2009 alone. He also was a member of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and as such actively backed Al Gore's 2000 Presidential Election bid. In the 2008 presidential elections, he initially was eager to back Hillary Clinton, although after Obama entered the scene, he quickly switched loyalties to the latter and backed him with a sum of $1.3 million in campaign donations in February 2007 alone. He implied in an interview that his decision to personally fund Obama's campaign multiple times was rooted in his former role as a member of John Lindsay's 1965 election staff, citing that Obama's demands for "hope and change" were similar to Lindsay's campaign platform. Aside from these bits, he also donated $2 million to the Obama-backed Super Pac Priorities USA Action Group, explaining he wants to stop the Tea Party due to the 2010 Republican sweep. There was also uncovered evidence that Katzenberg bribed Chinese officials, in particular the princeling Jiang Mianheng, to allow exclusive access to the Chinese Market for DreamWorks, and that said deal had been arranged by Barack Obama. This resulted in Katzenberg and his studio being placed under a SEC investigation. During the 2016 Presidential Elections, in a clear display of partisanship, Katzenberg publicly denied that Hillary Clinton had any health problems despite it being extremely obvious she had them, even going as far as to compare her to the Rock of Gibraltar. After Donald Trump won the election, in a further demonstration of partisanship, he wrote an open letter demanding for Hollywood to "get back in the game" and refuse to acknowledge that Donald Trump won the election.
In 1995, a year after he was fired from Disney, Katzenberg, in an off-the-record conversation, mentioned regarding Molly Ringwald that he "wouldn't recognize her if she sat on [his] face", which Ringwald revealed almost 22 years later in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandals (with Katzenberg ironically speaking out against Weinstein for his lewd acts). When confronted with this, he claimed he didn't ever say it, but then proceeded to apologize as if he did indeed say it.
Notes and references
- Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 307. ISBN 1-4516-4853-7.
- Jeffrey Katzenberg's profile on Discover the Networks