THR's Producer Roundtable: 6 Power Players on Saying No to Tarantino, Studio Politics and del Toro's Vision for 'Hobbit'
9:34 AM PST 12/13/2012 by THR Staff
Philippa Boyens ("The Hobbit"), Bruce Cohen ("Silver Linings Playbook"), Eric Fellner ("Les Miserables"), Grant Heslov ("Argo"), JoAnne Sellar ("The Master") and Stacey Sher ("Django Unchained") opened up to THR's Matthew Belloni and Stephen Galloway on Dec. 3 in a private room at The Palm restaurant in West Hollywood.
From left: Stacey Sher, Eric Fellner, JoAnne Sellar, Philippa Boyens, Bruce Cohen and Grant Heslov were photographed Dec. 3 at The Palm in West Hollywood by Emily Shur.
How do you say no to a director? "We had this crazy situation where it didn’t snow in January in Mammoth for the first time in 100 years," says the producer of Quentin Tarantino'sDjango Unchained. "And we needed snow, so within five days, we all came together with a plan to present to Quentin, who had already scouted Wyoming, and it became this great happy accident. We had to pick up our set that we built in Mammoth and move it to the Grand Tetons and figure out how to get into all the places we needed to on very short notice to not stop filming."
"I would have loved to have seen Guillermo's Hobbit," says Boyens of del Toro, the movie's original director. "That would have been cool. He has a slightly more fairy-tale thing going on there, a different visual sort of thing. I’m really glad [Peter Jackson] ended up doing this, and I think he’s done a beautiful job. But, you know, part of me still sort of thinks, 'I wonder what that would have looked like,' having lived with the possibility for 18 months."
"The most tragic thing for me [while working on a film] was, I was producing this film called Dark Blood that River Phoenix died on," Sellar says. "I spent two years putting it together, and we shot for six weeks and — I mean, obviously the tragedy of River dying was really, really awful. George Sluizer, the director, has actually just — 18 years on — finished compiling a film from the footage. I didn’t want to be a part of it because I don’t think River’s family was behind it, and I don’t think there was any point in bringing that all up for them again. So I haven’t seen it, but I’m sure I will."
Was there a debate about the live singing in Les Miserables? "It’s a nightmare," Fellner says. "You’re going to places that you don’t fully understand as dramatic or nonsinging producers. So the big decision was made by [director] Tom Hooper right at the very beginning. He said two things: 'I’ll make the movie, but everybody sings live; and if we can’t find a great Jean Valjean as the lead character, there’s no point in making the movie.' So they got lucky with Hugh Jackman wanting to do it. He was the only person on the list."
"For each project, you have to decide: How much are we listening to projections, and how much are we ignoring them?" says the Silver Linings Playbook producer. "I mean, on the one hand, they can be very helpful because if you know — we really need an element, from a director or star or something, or we don’t have a shot to get it made — then, of course, that’s good information. But a lot of us, if we listened to those projections or took no for an answer, then we wouldn’t get our movies made."
"Ben [Affleck] knows how to direct something that is really tight and really puts you on the edge of your seat," the Argo producer says, adding: "The opening of the film, which is one of the great openings that I’ve seen in a long time, is the overtaking of the embassy. That was all Ben wanting to do that. ... And as the budget started to grow and grow, we were like: 'Well, this is the piece that’s got to go. We can’t afford to do this.' Well, we were wrong, clearly, because the opening is f—ing great, and the movie wouldn’t have been as good without it."
Matthew Belloni, Grant Heslov
Heslov (center) once spent months in Washington making the HBO series K Street. “I’m a Democrat, I don’t mind saying, but the Republicans were a lot more fun when we were there,” he says.
Grant Heslov, Stacey Sher, Bruce Cohen, Philippa Boyens
Sher (second from left) cites A Clockwork Orange as her favorite film growing up. “Opening weekend, we didn’t run out to go see the family film,” she says. “My dad would take me to Raging Bull.”
Bruce Cohen, Philippa Boyens, JoAnne Sellar
Boyens (center) made The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in her native New Zealand but still feels the strain on her family. “It’s tough,” she says.
JoAnne Sellar, Eric Fellnar, Stephen Galloway
“I must have seen [1976’s] Carrie 50 times in the span of my teenage years,” says Sellar (left).
The Hollywood Reporter continues its annual series of exclusive discussions among the year’s most compelling film talents. As awards season unfolds, look for the final roundtable with composers. Go to THR.com/TheRace to watch videos of the full discussions.