Jaws drop all over Hollywood as Barry Diller resigns from Fox


LOS ANGELES -- Barry Diller's resignation from Fox Inc. stunned Hollywood's creative community, including some of the TV producers and filmmakers responsible for the studio's biggest recent successes.

Mr. Diller announced his resignation Monday.

"I'm shocked," Keenan Ivory Wayans, creator and executive producer of "In Living Color," said in a statement.

"Everyone I've talked to at the studio says it comes as a complete surprise," said Matt Groening, creator and executive producer of "The Simpsons."

"The very thought of Barry leaving Fox is mind-boggling!" Aaron Spelling said in a statement. Mr. Spelling, producer of Fox's "Beverly Hills 90210," has known Mr. Diller since the Fox Inc. chairman was an ABC executive in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

During his 7 1/2 -year tenure at Fox, whose affiliates include Channel 45 in Baltimore, Mr. Diller developed a reputation as an old-style Hollywood boss -- a volatile, opinionated, activist executive who personally supervised the most minute details of studio operations.

"It was always a pleasure to me to see these Hollywood sharks cower in front of this man," Mr. Groening said. "He definitely had a vision and he never doubted himself. . . . You never saw fear in his eyes at all."

John Hughes, whose first film for Fox, "Home Alone," is the top-grossing movie comedy of all time, described Mr. Diller as a "a tough guy, but you knew where you stood . . .

"I liked Barry, because he was strong, he had good ideas, he was bold, he made big moves," Mr. Hughes said from his Chicago office.

"He's not an ex-attorney making deals: he's a guy who had some vision. He said he was going to create a network and he did, and the network has a stronger point of view than any other."

Mr. Diller has been among the most publicly visible of the top studio executives. Stories abound of his unexpected presence -- at a small, closed-circuit media telecast of the premiere of Joan Rivers' late-night show on Fox, in the Green Room where guests waited to appear on subsequent broadcasts or at Fox press parties.

Last year, he was seen storming out of the Emmy press room during stand-up comic Gilbert Gottfried's off-color (and subsequently edited) routine.

But beyond his outbursts, Mr. Diller became known as a studio head who was aware and accessible.

"What was great about him is that of all the executives I ever dealt with, he was the one who called back the quickest if there was ever a problem," said Mr. Groening.

"If you couldn't get him on the phone, you could always run over to the commissary -- he was there every day -- and get a decision, a reaction."

Mr. Groening recalled a meeting with Mr. Diller about "The Simpsons" production staff's one major grievance -- the decision to move the series from Sunday to Thursday nights. "He explained why it was in Fox's best interest, and we tried to convince him otherwise," Mr. Groening said.

Mr. Groening still feels the move was a mistake, but on Monday he sounded sorry to see Mr. Diller go.

"Diller left a very personal mark on Fox," Mr. Groening said. "Whatever it's going to be, it'll be different."

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