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29.12.17

On That Deleted Max Landis Interview

Posted 29th December 2017

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At this festive time of year, I thought I’d talk about something pleasant for a change. So, what about that Max Landis, eh?

“Netflix’s first blockbuster movie, the $90 million fantasy-actioner Bright, is a steaming pile of orc shit; a nonsensical garbage pile featuring elves, orcs, a checked-out Will Smith, Chicanx gangster stereotypes worse than those regrettable “Homies” figurines (a trademark of its director David Ayer), and a slow-motion shootout set to Bastille that’ll make you want to go full Sam Neill in the final third of Event Horizon – that is, rip your own eyes out and run around naked attacking people.

It is also, according to the testimonies of several industry people on Twitter, written by an alleged sexual predator.”

If you don’t know the full story, go and read the full piece over on The Daily Beast. I’ll wait – I’m not going to recap the whole thing.1

You back? Good. Now, as is my usual practice, I’m not going to talk about the main issue here; I can offer no insight into that whatsoever. Instead, I’m going to go off at one of my usual tangents. The following is in no way as important as the real discussion going on elsewhere… but I think it is important, in its own way.

Back to The Daily Beast piece:

“Landis also has a history of making outrageously problematic statements. Back in 2013, the then 28-year-old rising screenwriting star did an interview with Shelby Sells (that has since been deleted), where he discussed sex and Hollywood – including an episode wherein he alleges that an extra on one of his films tried to pursue him, so he gave her his number ‘because i was like, why not? maybe i’ll hook her up with one of my friends.'”

For more on the content of that interview, check out the linked to Jezebel article, and try not to projectile vomit. But you know me. As soon as I read the words “has since been deleted”, I knew there was an interesting story there. When was the interview deleted? Why?

Let’s go on a little investigation. First of all, there’s the URL linked to in The Daily Beast piece, which is leads to a ‘Page not found’ error:

https://shelbysells.wordpress.com/
2013/09/30/interview-series-max-landis/

But if we plug that URL into our old friend the Wayback Machine, we only get results from 2016 onwards – and they are of the aforementioned ‘Page not found’ error anyway. Is it impossible to get our hands on that original interview?

So, I carefully checked the Jezebel article linked to above, from 2013. Sure enough, the original URL of the interview was actually:

http://shelbysells.com/
2013/09/30/interview-series-max-landis/

And while that link is dead, a quick Wayback Machine dive later, and you can now read that interview in all its, erm, glory.

But that’s not quite enough for me. Let’s try and figure out when the interview was actually deleted, shall we? Back to the Wayback Machine, and it seems the page went offline in the second half of December 2014 – one year and three months after the piece was published. The rest of the site is intact – this isn’t a case of the whole site going down. This was very deliberately a deletion of this specific article. Somebody didn’t want you to read it any more, for whatever reason.

Worse still, from what I can tell, I can see no admission anywhere on the Shelby Sells site that the piece has been deleted, or any explanation for it. This (ridiculous) Vulture piece says Max regrets the interview and “claims he was drunk” – but the Shelby Sells site itself remains quiet.

There is one, single, solitary hint, however. If you search the site as it currently stands for “max landis”, the only mention of him now is this article from 2015:

“my kooky pal, max landis, has begun a cute / hilarious new web series called “Girl Stories” and reached out to me to participate. make sure to follow him on twitter and keep up with the rest of the series! i’m only the second vid, so i’ll be breaking y’all in 😉”

“my kooky pal” indeed. I think we’ll stop there. Suffice to say that the owner of the site was friendly with Max well after that interview was deleted, rather than the deletion causing any kind of schism.

So, why does all this matter in the first place? Firstly: we’re in the middle of an ongoing story with Max Landis right now, and I’m in no mood to guess what the outcome of that story might be. But I would suggest that his 2013 interview gives a lot of context for what is currently going on. The fact that it was just yanked offline with no explanation from the site is an extremely bad thing. This is exactly the kind of thing which erodes trust when it comes to your readership: it’s very, very difficult to trust a website which deletes articles with no explanation given, or even admitting that they have done so. As much as anything, when no explanation is given, people start filling in the gaps themselves, and they’re unlikely to come up with a charitable version of events.

Secondly: if you ever thought I bang on too much about keeping archives of things online, this is exactly why I do so. You never know when something might suddenly become super-relevant. Without the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine – and services like it – the full text of this crucial interview would have been entirely lost to public view. And it’s an interview which may well be worth keeping in mind as the events of the coming year unfold.

So I’m going to repeat my plea from last year. If you think being able to look back on this stuff is useful, and it’s safely within your means to do so, please consider donating to the Internet Archive. If I’ve never convinced you before how useful the Wayback Machine can be, I’d like to think the above is undeniable proof of just how important the service truly is.

It deserves supporting as much as possible. I think the world would miss it like hell if it disappeared.


  1. Regular readers of this site may be thinking – you’ve just linked to a Daily Beast article? Seriously? I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to, and searched around for other sites to link to instead. But The Daily Beast were one of the earliest sites to cover the story, and in my opinion it was the best-written piece, so I have – reluctantly – decided to use them as the source for this article. But my issues with how they behaved over the Nico Hines story still stand – until they explain exactly how their editorial processes failed, it’s difficult to have much respect for them. 

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