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Harvey Weinstein Opens Up at Producers Guild Sundance Breakfast, Mistakes and All: 'I Was Worst CEO'

Interviews
by Anne Thompson
February 5, 2013 4:24 PM
1 Comment
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Philip Seymour Hoffman in 'The Master'
Philip Seymour Hoffman in 'The Master'

Until recently 80 % of $500 billion spending on ads was traditional, now they're moving aggressively into alternative. There are opportunities to promote products in a subtle way on the internet, in films. It's not cutting to close-ups in the hamfisted way they did years ago, which hurts film. This crazy promotion is almost subliminal, the kinds of ways companies are giving us money to use their products without the audience realizing it. It's harder to learn it, children are so hooked into new media from when they are little.

We used to be able to live on small development fees. It's harder to declare yourself a young producer with no money. It's hard to make a living, it's changed a lot. People are still finding a way to make great films. The Harvey Weinsteins of world made it possible for younger producers and older producers to tell great stories. You couldn't sell his movies to Warner Bros. on a pitch, thank god for him. Jason Blum is producing 8 or 9 films a year, making them for $3 million apiece, creating opportunities for young directors and writers.

It takes television to reinvent an actor to be able to become a movie star again. Today with television and cable, the line is blurred, there's no television actors and movie actors. Everybody's doing everything.

Weinstein on "The Master":  My Dad served in World War II on C-47s, I loved "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Master," it was never about Scientology, my Dad went through that search, my Dad was in a veteran's hospital, with electric shock therapy. He saw carnage and action. I saw John Huston's "Let There Be Light."

Catherine Frot, right, in 'Haute Cuisine'
Catherine Frot, right, in 'Haute Cuisine'

The "Silver Linings Playbook" preview process: He made tweaks back and forth, David (O. Russell) is the master, he will change things, work things. He worked brilliantly with Danny Elfman on 16 minutes of score, which the Academy disqualified: too many songs. Judi Dench is in eight minutes of "Shakespeare in Love" and won! David worked with Danny three or four months, changing things, so perfect for the film, you don't want 30 mins, it's 16. The things that changed were little things: where the music goes, two Bob Dylan songs or one? "The Girl from the North Country" worked but Danny Elfman composed a piece instead. It always tested great: first, second and third, that never changed.

What's ahead for TWC: We've had success with reality TV ("Project Runway"), they're commercial.

We made "August Osage County," you are the beneficiary of the people who work with you, Ben Famiglietti, he walks in with a 190-page play, 'the best writing ever out of Chicago,": "It better be good!" It was amazing, we invested in the play, which means getting movie rights. It stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, produced by Clooney and Heslov, John Wells is the director, he adapted Tracy Letts' Pultizer-Prize-winning screenplay, who liked it.

"One Chance," directed by David Frankel, is about Paul Potts, a Welsh opera singer who worked in a steel mill. His wife hears him singing in shower. After all his attempts and failures, she says, "screw it" and enters him in Britain's Got Talent. He won, he's now a huge star in Europe, sold 35 million records. This is not a bullshit fairy tale, it's gritty, a great cast, it's grounded.

A movie we acquired, "The Sapphires," is a true story about aboriginal girls who played Vietnam in '68.

Haute Cuisine is about French haute cuisine, the woman who cooked for Francois Mitterand, a 60-year-old woman from Provence, France and the battle between her kitchen and the established French kitchen. He loved the old cooking of her youth. He gets cancer and can't eat her cooking anymore. Not a studio pitch.

Producer Jason Blum on what he learned from Harvey: The thing I learned from Harvey, is not hedging. There are very few people in Harrvey's position who get in a room and have an opinion and follow it through from beginning to end, because there's so much wishy-washiness. It's endlessly 'yes, maybe. I kinda don't.' It's great to have someone in a position of power who is decisive. That's such a joy.

1 Comment

  • John W. Comerford | February 6, 2013 1:40 AMReply

    This is priceless: "Producer Jason Blum on what he learned from Harvey: The thing I learned from Harvey, is not hedging. There are very few people in Harrvey's position who get in a room and have an opinion and follow it through from beginning to end, because there's so much wishy-washiness. It's endlessly 'yes, maybe. I kinda don't.' It's great to have someone in a position of power who is decisive. That's such a joy." Thank you! ~ JC

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