Nikki Finke died over the weekend at the age of 68 after a prolonged illness. If you weren’t deeply into Hollywood industry news between the years of 2006 and 2016, you may not even recognize the name. During those years — as the founder of Deadline — she was the most feared reporter in the industry.
I wasn’t a fan, and if you check our archives, that’s apparent. I think I once wrote that she would mow over a litter of kittens for a story, and I stand by that. She was not only reclusive — she once threatened to sue Brett Easton Ellis for revealing that she lived in the same apartment complex as him — she was also relentless. She would break a casting news story, the studio would confirm it, and Finke would write in all caps, “TOLDJA!”
She was a mean, arrogant bully. But goddamn, she was good at her job.
I do wonder, however, if her reputation doesn’t warrant some revisionism in the wake of her death. She was like the Scott Rudin of trade news reporters: She would berate, manipulate, and threaten. But Rudin treated his employees like sh*t. Finke treated Hollywood executives that way. With comedy, you’re supposed to punch up. I wonder if it’s not the same with bullying? If you berate someone beneath you, you’re a bully. If you berate someone above you, maybe you’re just fighting the power.
I don’t know much about Finke personally — no one did, and that’s the way she wanted it. I doubt she broke a lot of stories that mattered in the grand scheme — who was cast as Bella Swan in Twilight is not a breaking story that has much impact on the industry long-term. But, the way she reported did have a long-term impact. Before Nikki Finke, the trade news outlets (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter) were basically stenographers for the industry. They refashioned press releases into articles.
Finke pushed back. Finke editorialized. She took the studios to task. She transformed industry news into hard news. She was not a nice person — at least professionally — but she changed the game for the better. If there’s a hell, and she’s in it, she’s probably berating the Devil right now, and knowing Finke, she’ll get all the answers she wants. Then she’ll say to Satan himself, “TOLDJA!”
Rest in peace, Nikki Finke.