Noted film director Peter Bogdanovich is bankrupt.
A failed effort to salvage the memory of the young woman he loved--slain Playboy Playmate of the Year-turned-actress Dorothy Stratten--has left Bogdanovich with only $21.37 in the bank and $25.79 in his pocket.
Those are among the few assets listed in his Chapter 7 federal bankruptcy petition filed recently in Los Angeles. A trustee’s hearing on the bankruptcy is scheduled for Jan. 10 at the Federal Building downtown.
The director’s current financial problems stem from his unsuccessful film “They All Laughed.” According to a statement issued by his business office, Bogdanovich’s “attempt to market and distribute the film as a memorial to . . . Dorothy Stratten . . . was a financial failure” resulting in a mountain of debts totaling more than $6.6 million against assets valued at slightly more than $1.5 million.
Bogdanovich claims to have a monthly income of $75,000 and monthly expenses exceeding $200,000.
Equally noteworthy, however, the court papers filed in Bogdanovich’s unusually high personal, “no asset” type of bankruptcy provide an inside glimpse at the life style of a leading entertainment-industry figure.
Unpaid debts to hotels, florists, a limousine service, a dog-training school and local newspapers suggest that Bogdanovich may have tried to maintain the appearance of prosperity as his highly leveraged life style collapsed beneath the weight of his unpaid bills and well publicized personal and professional problems. Among his debts is a $12,000 outstanding balance with the American Express Co.
Bogdanovich declined to talk with The Times about his current financial problems and referred questions about the bankruptcy to William Peiffer, his business manager.
“It happens to many people over the duration of their careers,” Peiffer said in a telephone interview. “Peter is no different. He’s just more newsworthy.”
The director of “The Last Picture Show,” “Paper Moon” and this year’s “Mask” has asked the bankruptcy court to dissolve his assets and distribute them among more than 130 creditors, including banks and financial institutions holding loans secured by his 7,000-square-foot home in Bel-Air.
Bankruptcy and county records show that the house, which carries a 1972 assessed value of $366,000, has seven trust deeds and several liens against it totaling more than $3.3 million.
Real estate agents familiar with the area estimated the current market value of homes in the neighborhood at about $2 million.
In addition, neighborhood pharmacies, doctors, veterinarians and others also hold smaller unsecured claims against the director.
In his petition, Bogdanovich claims to spend $110,000 a month on past-due bills and judgments, $16,000 for lawyers, more than $15,000 in agent and management fees, $2,000 for transportation, $1,000 for laundry and cleaning and $1,000 for child support.
Most of his problems appear to date from the months immediately following Stratten’s August, 1980, murder. The former Playmate was killed, apparently by her estranged husband Paul Snider, in a grisly shotgun murder-suicide shortly after she had finished working in Bogdanovich’s “They All Laughed.”
The actress and director had become romantically involved during shooting of the film and, according to Bogdanovich, planned to marry.
The movie was released in 1981, after Bogdanovich took the risk of buying it from the old Time-Life Films division of Time Inc. and distributing it himself.
Peiffer would not characterize Bogdanovich’s attachment to Stratten’s memory, but said that the “facts are reasonably clear” about the director’s feelings for her.
Last year, Bogdanovich published “The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980.” In it he wrote that Stratten was “the noblest person I ever met, the gentlest and the bravest. How better could I serve her memory, than to honor her with the whole truth and nothing but, until death do us join?”
In a Times article coinciding with the release of the book, columnist Roderick Mann wrote that “every detail of that murder is as clear as if it happened yesterday. He has lived with it day after day. . . .”
Bogdanovich said then: “My mind was totally taken up with the tragedy.”
The “Unicorn” book has resulted in at least one lawsuit--a $10-million libel and slander action filed by Santa Monica private investigator Marc Goldstein. The book, the detective claims, falsely implied that he aided and abetted Snider in the killing.
Court records also show that the book’s publisher, William Morrow & Co., has a $20,000 unsecured claim against Bogdanovich.
Stratten’s life story was the subject of the 1983 motion picture “Star 80" and the 1981 made-for-TV film “Death of a Centerfold.” Another picture, “Strangers Kiss” in 1982, was based on the Stratten-Bogdanovich love affair.
While grieving over Stratten’s death, Bogdanovich found himself caught in a corporate shuffle with Time-Life. Parent company Time Inc. decided to close down the movie-making firm just as the Bogdanovich film was to be released. The director bought the film rather than have it die along with the movie company.
Bogdanovich invested about $5 million in the movie, Peiffer said, but the film sold “well under $1 million” worth of tickets and returned less than half of that to Bogdanovich. According to the bankruptcy petition, Time has a $150,000 attachment on his home.
The bankruptcy traces “to a distribution and investment in a picture that, like many others, didn’t pay its freight,” Peiffer said.
Peiffer’s management firm holds a $220,000 fourth trust deed on the Bel-Air house and unsecured claims totaling more than $400,000.
Bogdanovich’s latest hard times have come amid an erratic movie-making career that has seen him celebrated as one of Hollywood’s best directors. At the same time, however, he has made several unsuccessful movies and has had public scrapes with studios.
Most recently, Bogdanovich was involved in a public fight with Universal Pictures and CBS Records over the sound track to this year’s film, “Mask,” starring Cher as the mother of a hideously deformed young boy.
According to Peiffer, Bogdanovich’s salary from “Mask” went to his creditors, and court records show that he assigned his “net profit” participation in the film to First Los Angeles Bank in Century City, his principal creditor.
Bogdanovich owes the bank $2.5 million, and it holds rights to “They All Laughed,” the “Unicorn” book and his interests in two unmade films and other projects.
According to Peiffer, Bogdanovich has “deals being discussed and being negotiated” that will help to ease the crunch. For now, however, the director is relying on a “network of close friends” for financial support, Peiffer said.