Swimming With Sharks rapidly became a cult favorite, a mean and unsparing indictment of the Hollywood ego trip, as seen through its evil villain (Kevin Spacey in one of his first standout roles) and his nebbish assistant (Frank Whaley, playing the Huang character). Whaley's Guy suffers the abuse of Spacey's power broker, Buddy Ackerman until it hits a breaking point. (Sample dialogue: "You have no brain. No judgement calls are necessary. What you think means nothing. What you feel means nothing. You are here for me. You are here to protect my interests and to serve my needs.") Finally, when Buddy makes a move on Guy's new girlfriend, a studio producer named Dawn (Michelle Forbes) who has inexplicably latched on to Guy, Guy goes bananas and takes Buddy hostage in his own home. It's a come to Jesus moment, and the entire film is cast as a series of flashbacks from that night in his house.
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The acclaimed performer had just cancelled touring due to a battle with cancer.