James Ellroy weighs in on Ronni Chasen’s murder

Sometimes, you just find yourself in the right place in the right time. Tonight, that place for me was standing next to Jonathan Storm, TV critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, who was invited over to talk with best-selling author James Ellroy (“L.A. Confidential,” “The Black Dahlia,” “The Big Nowhere”) about his new series for Investigation Discovery. When the publicist for “James Ellroy’s L.A.: City of Demons” – premiering on Jan. 19, FYI – realized that I, too, was a fan of Mr. Ellroy’s work, she immediately hustled me over to join the conversation, where I was privy to the author offering his thoughts on the murder of the well-respected Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen.

“What I think happened,” said Ellroy, “is that you have a guy, an ex-convict, living in a shitty hotel. He’s a dope fiend. He tells everybody on God’s green earth, ‘I’m a hit man. I whacked this guy, I whacked this guy.’ And everybody thinks, ‘Go whack yourself. Fuck you.’ And then he says, ‘I whacked Ronni Chasen.’ So someone stiffed a call to ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ and they just said, ‘Fuck it.’ Beverly Hills P.D., the world’s worst homicide bureau – they don’t have any murders! – they actually decided to execute a warrant off that, which is probably illegal. (But) the guy really did do it. People who knew Ronnie Chasen…she was an abrasive older woman. He pulled up next to her on this bicycle, they shared a look, she flipped him off, he capped her and then ran.”

Why, asked Storm, would he ride his bicycle out there in the middle of nowhere on Sunset?

“Because he’s a psycho,” responded Ellroy. “And because, almost always, the solution for a crime is that banal and that stupid. I talked to an LAPD guy who handled the suicide when the killer killed himself, and he said, ‘Beverly Hills PD’s got their dick in the wringer on this one.’ And then the ballistics matched. They found the gun. So Beverly Hills PD got lucky.”

But couldn’t somebody have seen that guy and planted the gun with him afterward?

“No,” said Ellroy, with a smirk. “That’s a crime novel.”

  

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More midweek movie news — it bleeds so, alas, it leads

* It’s probably just the aftermath of a quiet holiday week or two, but there’s been an awful lot of movie news I haven’t mentioned this week. Tonight, however, all of the usual casting tidbits and what not are being overshadowed by an extremely dramatic new development in the murder or Ronnie Chasen. Chasen, you’ll recall, was the highly respected and well-liked industry publicist who was shot five times in her car with hollow point bullets in a murder that seemed senseless, yet not random. Tonight, the big news if you turn on any local news station out here is that police went to serve a search warrant, one of a few, on a “person of interest” in the case but before they could talk to the man, he committed suicide with a handgun. Not surprisingly, Nikki Finke has the latest on what has to be the strangest and saddest Hollywood story of the year.

* Speaking of Finke, she claimed another “toldja” tonight. Channing Tatum will be Jonah Hill‘s costar in the upcoming comedy rendering of “21 Jump Street” written by Hill and Michael Bacall.

* A ballet comedy with Chloe Moretz, Kristen Bell and Jackie Earle Haley? Works for me. Moretz makes a lot of sense here. As we discussed when I interviewed her last summer, she has a background in ballet. She was also fairly gaga over the portions of “The Black Swan” she’d been able to see.

* A sweet tribute to the late Leslie Nielsen by David Zucker.

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* Anne Thompson has a rundown of the selections for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which is just about six or seven weeks away already, if you can believe it.

* Speaking of Anne Thompson, she posted an early review of the Coen Brothers new version of “True Grit” tonight. She was very positive about the movie herself but seemed to feel  that younger viewers don’t “get” westerns because they happened a long time ago. (Does that mean they dislike all films taking place more than a hundred years in the past? I find that a sad thought.) She also said the response at the screening she went to was “mixed.”

Well, at least so far it’s not so mixed with the geek elements of the film blogosphere because Drew McWeeney, Harry Knowles (who, yes, tends to be excitably positive), and Eric Eisenberg of CinemaBlend posted flat-out raves. This fan of Westerns, who recently read the Charles Portis novel and is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the 1969 version really soon, is excited. Only blogo-blowhard Jeffrey Welles has labeled it a “misfire” in what I’ve read so far, and I can’t help but consider the source. At least he didn’t spend the review calling Jeff Bridges fat or something. It seems like every time I read Welles, he’s criticizing someone for being overweight.

* Left over from last night. Christopher Nolan makes sense and tells us to embrace the ambiguity. Actually, the deliberate little bit of doubt at the ending was one of the few things I liked unreservedly about “Inception” which, overall, was a big, cold, glittering disappointment for me.

* Michael Douglas is apparently doing well in the health department and, from a totally selfish point of view, the best part is that it really does look like the Soderbergh Liberace movie is going forward.

* Whedonesque reveals a non-story as Entertainment Weekly manufactures a dubious scoop on the Joss Whedon-less “Buffy” movie.

* I’m sure Peter Jackson knows exactly what he’s doing, but it blows me away that a big scale fantasy epic like “The Hobbit” is going to be shot with RED Epic digital cameras. I know I have huge retro tendencies, but somehow, I’d feel better if he were using those massive old 3-strip Technicolor cameras.

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RIP Ronni Chasen (updated)

Ronni ChasenIn a shocking story that touches many top entertainment reporters, including Anne Thompson and Nikki Finke, personally, veteran publicist Ronni Chasen was shot five times in the chest and killed in her car killed last night. She was 64. The car was found crashed on a streetlight.

The mystery behind this case — where a carjacking, road rage, or some other sort of random act of violence seems unlikely but a motive remains utterly unknown — will no doubt grip readers. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m curious. Just to add to the immediacy of it for me and a lot of people, she was shot on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills at around 12:30 a.m., taking probably the fastest route at that hour to the West Side from Hollywood, where it appears she was attending the premiere of “Burlesque” at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  I was at the Chinese complex last night — not for “Burlesque,” but covering a premiere of a web series in one of the smaller theaters above. Of course, perhaps thousands of other people were there as well. Still, it brings it a bit closer to home.

As the murder remains a complete mystery at this point. the Beverly Hills police (310-288-2656) are actively seeking information from the public on this bizarre crime. However, it’s important to remember this was a living, breathing person, not a fictional character on “Law & Order.” She had friends and family, including her older brother, legendary screenwriter and B-movie auteur Larry Cohen. Our condolences to all.

More details are over at the Wrap. Pete Hammond, who’s been covering awards for Deadline, knew Ms. Chasen and has a remembrance as does Patrick Goldstein of the L.A. Times.

UPDATE: According to this story from AP, computers at Ms. Chasen’s firm have been seized by police. Would that be standard procedure in a case like this?

Also, another of the writer’s Chasen was very friendly with turns out to be Roger Ebert. What a strange and sad case.

  

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