Brian Grazer on Losing an Oscar and the Best Advice He Ever Got

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Brian Grazer

An Oscar winner for 'A Beautiful Mind,' the producer recalls his embarrassment when he thought he’d won for 'Apollo 13.'

Thirty years ago, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard joined forces to create Imagine Entertainment. Since then, the company has made such classic films as Splash, Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, along with TV shows including Arrested Development and Empire.

 A key to Grazer’s success, he says, was his willingness to reach out to others in varied fields for advice. But nothing anyone said impacted him as much as the words of famed MCA/Universal chief Lew Wasserman, whom Grazer managed to meet while working as an assistant at Warner Bros.

“One very seminal conversation came when I reached out to Lew Wasserman, who was the most important patriarch of modern entertainment, from an executive vantage point,” Grazer recalled. “It took me a very long time to meet with him.”

The meeting did not go well. “He kicked me out of the office,” Grazer continued, “and he said, ‘Look, you don’t really have anything to say. I understand you work at Warner Bros. and I understand from the letter that you wrote me that you don’t want a job. But listen, we’re done.’ And I said, ‘Well we’ve only spoken about a minute.’ And he said, ‘Just one second.’ He came back with a pencil, a 2H pencil, and a big legal tablet and he said, ‘Hold these two items. If you put the pencil to the paper, it has greater value than it did as separate parts. So get out of here.’ I get in the elevator and I realize basically what he said was, in order to have value, you had to either create or manufacture ideas that had value that you could breathe life into. And that’s when I started writing ideas.”

An Oscar winner for A Beautiful Mind, Grazer also spoke about his embarrassment when he thought he’d won the Academy Award for Apollo 13.

“Everyone said, ‘You’re going to win for Apollo 13,’” he explained, “and of course it’s the last envelope of the night. It got to be where [even] Las Vegas odds makers [were predicting] ‘You’re going to win Apollo 13.’ It was endless. So at the Oscars, I’m five or six rows back from the podium, and Sidney Poitier opened the envelope. And I was staring at him. I was transfixed. I had my speech right here in my pocket. I was positive I was going to win. So when it came to opening the envelope, he peels it open and I see what looks like an imperceptible ‘B’ coming off his lip. I start walking to the stage, and he says, Braveheart.’ I’m so embarrassed. I got up in front of 35 million people. And then as I walked back to my seat to sit down, one of my friends, who’s chairman of a studio, goes, ‘Loser!’ I thought, ‘Oh, this is so embarrassing.’ And I sit down, and Jim Lovell, the astronaut, reached over Ron Howard and grabbed my wrist, and said, ‘I never made it to the moon either.’ And I just thought that was so poignant, to put it in perspective.”

Grazer, the author of A Curious Mind, discussed that and his film and TV work as a guest in the ongoing interview series The Hollywood Masters, on Dec. 2 at Loyola Marymount University. 

A full transcript follows.

GALLOWAY: You wrote a book called A Curious Mind. And I’m glad you did, because curiosity seems in short supply. But you said this very interesting thing, and I want you to explain to us. You said: “I use curiosity to fight fear.” What did you mean by that?

GRAZER: Oh God. I said that in this book that I wrote?

GALLOWAY: Yes, you did. [Laughter] I’m not making it up.

GRAZER: Well, it’s funny, because I have done many different interviews, but no one actually cited that particular phrase. I use it [curiosity] for so many different things. It’s a superpower to me, and it is the thing that sort of began to differentiate me and my knowledge base from others. But using it to fight fear? I do a couple of things. Actually this is a bit of a digression: I’m also writing another book that’s about curiosity but the set point of it is eye contact. So basically, there’s a lot of ways to explain it. I use curiosity to fight fear and I am able to expand my emotional being by having met so many different people that are accomplished in different forms. And I have done this [had meetings with unusual individuals] every two weeks for 30 years. By having a little bit of knowledge about many different things, it enables me to talk to people about a subject that they would not ordinarily think I could talk about. It’s a lever for me, I suppose. The fear part? There’s another aspect of fear, [which] is that I think when you feel fearful in any kind of social environment or public speaking, it’s because you’re thinking about yourself. And that isn’t really what you’re supposed to be thinking about. So, I do use curiosity as kind of a mechanism to shift the focus of my perspective.

GALLOWAY: You’ve met a lot of people who really stood out. They include the former chief of police, Daryl Gates, Isaac Asimov. Who most influenced you?

GRAZER: Well, originally, Dr. Jonas Salk who created the polio vaccine was one of the first people that really validated this discipline of mine. And what he’s referring to is — actually, when I graduated college I became very reflective, because I thought, well first of all, what am I going to do now that I’m graduating college? I was on course to go to law school, but I just didn’t feel like that was going to be a successful venture for me. So I thought, well what did I learn in college? And I thought, I didn’t learn very much.

[Laughter]

GALLOWAY: God, you all seem to agree with that.

GRAZER: I mean, I had learned to be resourceful, I understood like social dynamics, coping mechanisms, things like that. But then I started to reflect also about a few professors that actually did have impact on me. And there was one whose name was Dr. Milton Wolpin. And he had a very big class, much bigger than this in fact. And I was sort of an anonymous person within this class; it was Abnormal Psychology. And he was a pretty profound guy. And after I graduated, about two weeks into the summer, I thought, “I’m going to try to actually meet this professor,” because I wasn’t really able to do that. So I wrote him a letter, he didn’t really want to meet. Somehow we never connected. And then I decided, I’m going to create some sort of military-like operation of meeting Dr. Milton Wolpin, who won’t meet with me. So I came up with a pitch, “Let me just meet you for five minutes, blah, blah, blah.” Didn’t get a response, so I followed him from his class to his car and then I said, “I’m that guy Brian Grazer that was in you class, blah, blah, blah.” He said, “Why do you want to meet when you’ve already graduated?” I said, “Because you had a profound effect on me and I want to have a conversation.” So I turned that five minutes into another meeting but it was an hour-long meeting that was really impactful. And then I decided, from that point on, that I would try to meet somebody every two weeks that could potentially widen my perspective.

GALLOWAY: Why was that meeting impactful. What did he say?

GRAZER: What did he say? Well, first of all, he was like an early pioneer in neuro-linguistic programming, which we all kind of know about right now, which is copying traits and things like that. And I thought that was really interesting. And then he was impactful in terms of two methodologies he introduced to me; that, and the other one was a way to reduce phobias.

GALLOWAY: Namely how?

GRAZER: So around the same time...it was very early...it was before people were walking on burning rocks — you know, where they could prove that they could withstand that kind of a pain or it wouldn’t be pain at all. And so I wanted to know how that worked. And he was involved in the early psychological training that was interlinked to human beings walking across white hot coals or rocks. And I thought that was pretty interesting. So you could actually apply that; because I had a friend that was afraid to be in elevators and you just sort of inch your way into that environment. So you force your way into it incrementally and.... This is kind of boring; it’s not even about me.

GALLOWAY: No, not at all.

GRAZER: But anyway, it was about stuff like that. The overall impact — beyond what I’d learned, the intellectual nourishment from my meeting with Wolpin — was that I could do it. In other words, I could actually convince somebody that didn’t want to meet me; regardless of their reason to do it, and I could turn it into a conversation. Because we all have predispositions or prejudice about something, and I had that about Dr. Milton Wolpin. And in the meeting I thought I found him not fearful at all, not the professor that was a gatekeeper to my life, but something different than that. Just from that, it was valuable to me. And my book is actually — I’m sorry to stutter through this — the book is actually 30 years of doing this, using the force of curiosity to have meetings with people that are experts in science, medicine, politics, religion, or just anyone that is committed to a belief system with authenticity. It could be a taxi cab driver that is really digging being a taxi cab driver. I met an extremely famous basketball player, superstar. And I said, “Who’s your manager?” He said, “Well my manager....” Usually managers are very important to professional athletes, because their service could be $10 million worth of endorsements. And this athlete has that. “Well, my guy wasn’t really suited to be a sports agent; he used to be an assistant DA in Philadelphia.” And I said, “Well then, I have to meet this guy.” He said, “Well you don’t really need to meet him,” in that he wasn’t important to this equation that I had going on with this athlete. And when I met with him he was much more interesting in fact than the athlete. Because he said, “I was one of 100 assistant DA’s in the City of Philadelphia,” and I said, “What was that like?” He said, “Well it was like a fraternity of individuals that were doing it because we thought we could make a difference.” And I thought that was pretty powerful because, literally, it was this enormous sacrifice that these guys were making in that they’re making $11,000 a year. They’re getting up at 4:30 in the morning to do this duty. And I thought it made me get a real sense of purpose; that purpose matters, no matter what that job is, purpose matters.

GALLOWAY: When did you start to find your own sense of purpose? You came out of USC, thinking of going to law school, and got your first break when you overhead somebody saying there was a really easy job at Warner Brothers. You thought, well that easy job, that sounds good.

GRAZER: It sounds like my life. [Laughter]

GALLOWAY: If only.

GRAZER: Yeah if only. So basically, you know, [it was] very similar to your situations, you guys I guess are graduating soon or at some point very soon. And I thought, what job am I going to do before I go to law school? I thought law school was more like the guillotine. I didn’t really think I would make it, I just thought this is one of the few ways to potentially get respect, to go to law school.

GALLOWAY: Your dad was a lawyer?

GRAZER: My dad was a lawyer. So it just seemed like a direction. And in any event, I’m in this little apartment complex in which I’m living, and I overhear these two guys talking about how they had just graduated law school. One of them said he had a law clerk job. It was like the cushiest job possible. And I thought, “Wow, funny word, cushy.” And the guy said, “Really?” “Yeah, it was so great, it was so easy.” So I literally opened the window and closed the drape so I could really press my ear up against the screen and I heard exactly where the guy was working. He said, “Warner Bros., the legal department, my boss was named Peter Connect.” And the minute they walked away, I called and got the number of Warner Bros. through information. “Can I have the legal department; can I please speak to Mr. Connect.” “He’s busy.” “Well I’m going to be a law school student at USC; can I speak to him for a moment? I have heard that he might need a law clerk.” Because this guy just like quit that day. I’m not even kidding. And I said, “Can I come in?” I came in at four o’clock in the afternoon and I got the job. So all of a sudden — I didn’t what a law clerk was, but I had this tiny little office about as big as the space from here to the end of this carpet with no window; just a little desk, a tiny little desk, a little phone and it was a 40-hour a week job, they gave you gas money and a corporate car that you left in the parking lot. But you had this corporate car. And the job was: when they needed official Warner Bros. papers to be delivered, I’d deliver the papers. So for several days I had nothing to do. I just sat in this little office. And one day, I had to deliver papers to somebody. The second time I delivered documents to somebody, it happened to be Warren Beatty.

GALLOWAY: Oh wow.

GRAZER: Warren Beatty was living in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. And so I drive to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and in the lobby I meet with Warren Beatty’s assistant. Or maybe it was the assistant to an assistant, and I said I had these papers for Mr. Beatty. “I have to get him these papers.” And they said, “Well just hand them to me.” And it just occurred to me in this flash moment that I’ll say to him, “Well these papers are invalid unless I hand them directly to Mr. Beatty.”

GALLOWAY: Wow.

GRAZER: I just invented that. And then the guy said, “I don’t know. Is that really accurate?” I go, “Look, that’s what I’m told; the papers are only valid if they’re handed directly to him. These are very important documents. If he’d like the papers I have to be directly handing them to him.” All of a sudden I’m with Warren Beatty in his room, and he’s got this giant suite and I’m in a living room and he comes out. I create a conversation with him that becomes kind of self-perpetuating, turns into another hour. And all of a sudden I have talked to Warren Beatty for an hour. So now I think, “Well I can do this every single time.” Which I do, like with Sue Mengers; she was the most important agent in Hollywood, represented Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, endless amounts of movie stars; I do that with her. I did it with William Peter Blatty; he wrote the book The Exorcist. He had a beach house in Malibu; someone said the same thing, “Just hand me the papers.” All of a sudden I’m sipping espressos on the porch, or on the beach. I met with Charles Bronson; I drank a mimosa with him. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just doing these conversations. But I was learning a lot. I was able to demystify how leverage was created in a creative environment. And that was gigantically valuable to me, because understanding the vocabulary and understanding how the ether works is the way to actually create leverage or understand how to get it to accomplish a creative endeavor. Then told my boss; this is a long story but I’ll go quickly —

GALLOWAY: We’re in no hurry.

GRAZER: All right.

GALLOWAY: We like the details.

GRAZER: So I then told my boss, “I’m going to stay on and I’m going to go to law school the following year.” And he said, “Fine.” And within a couple of weeks, again another fortuitous event occurred. This huge office opened up right outside the executive cadre of offices, which was the chairman of the board, and the vice chairman of the board of Warner Bros. Pictures and the president, who was Frank Wells, who [later] worked for Disney and was very important to the foundation of the new Disney. Anyways, so this giant office opened up, which was almost a third of the size of this room, and I say to my boss, Peter Connect, “Would you mind if I had that office?” That office was twice as big as his office. But he didn’t care. He’d started with Jack Warner; he left work 12:30, 1 p.m., in the afternoon. He said, “Take it.” So all of a sudden I had this giant office. And I kind of turned it into the Brian Grazer business at Warner Bros.

GALLOWAY: Wow.

GRAZER: I used all the Warner resources to the betterment and the education of Brian Grazer. And within a year I’d really learned a lot and I was still doing these conversations. One very seminal conversation came when I reached out to Lew Wasserman, who was the most important patriarch of modern entertainment, from an executive vantage point. And he ran Universal Studios. And he basically kicked me out of his office. It took me a very long time to meet with him. But he kicked me out of the office and he j said, “Look, you don’t really have anything to say. I understand you work at Warner Bros. and I understand from the letter that you wrote me that you don’t want a job. But listen, we’re done.” And I said, “Well we’ve only spoken about a minute.” And he said, “Just one second.” He came back with a pencil, a 2H pencil, and a big legal tablet and he said, “Hold these two items. If you put the pencil to the paper, it has greater value than it did as separate parts. So get out of here.” I get in the elevator and I realize basically what he said was, in order to have value, you had to either create or manufacture ideas that had value that you could breathe life into. And that’s when I started writing ideas. I got fired from Warner Bros., of course.

GALLOWAY: Oh no.

GRAZER: Well, it was about time.

[Laughter]

GRAZER: They had already removed my parking. But then I started writing, and I was able to write some movies for television and TV pilots that ended up getting made when I was about 25 or 26 years old. And then wrote Splash, a couple of drafts of Splash, and got that made as well. And so I started creating ideas. And nobody knows if any idea has value. You have to animate it. And I was able to do that. But I think that’s democratized. Curiosity and creating ideas ironically are both democratized; they cost no money, anyone can do them and it’s up the individual and the force of their personality to give life to them.

GALLOWAY: And the quality of the idea.

GRAZER: Yeah, but that’s subjective. I mean what I was able to do is get a sense of, within a story, what is the universal thematic. And I got that pretty early on — that it would be valuable to have a universal thematic. Splash was turned down a lot because it was thought of as a mermaid movie; but I knew it was about love. I understood that’s what the thematic was and eventually I was able to persuade others that that’s what it was.

GALLOWAY: Let’s take a look at a scene from Splash, with Tom Hanks and with John Candy, who’s phenomenal in it.

[Clip from the scene where Hanks plays racquetball with Cindy.]

GALLOWAY: What was the genesis of that?

GRAZER: OK, the genesis; and then can I explain the dynamics of that scene?

GALLOWAY: Oh sure.

GRAZER: Because I didn’t even know we were going to [talk about that. To audience:] I’m sure you guys know the surprise here is that none of the speakers know what they’re going to talk about, right?

GALLOWAY: Right.

GRAZER: So I didn’t know you going to put that scene up. So it made me think about it analytically, what were the elements in it. I wrote the first couple of drafts of the movie Splash, but it actually got really good when Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel wrote it like professional writers. I was just writing something to survive, so that I could say, “Hey, I have a script,” and then tell the entire story. And then somebody would say, “Let me read it,” and I’d say, “Oh, you don’t need to read it. What I’m telling you is what it is.”

GALLOWAY: Yes.

GRAZER: So, the character that John Candy played — the genesis of that was my grandmother. I had this tiny little Jewish grandmother about this tall and she had all these “isms.” Like “Thing big, be big”; that’s all she’d say, “Think big, be big.” Or she’d say, “Just as easy to love a rich girl as a poor girl.” She had all these Jewish isms. And they were funny to me. “You’re going to be big, you’re going to be special.” All this kind of stuff. All that Friars Club kind of talk. So it was a little woman that was saying this to me. When I had a chance to create a really irreverent character or be part of a really irreverent character in John Candy, I thought I’d give him all those isms of the grandmother. My grandmother would also be the kind of person that would in fact drink a beer and play sports.

GALLOWAY: Oh wow. [Laughter]

GRAZER: You know, or a glass of wine. So that was part of that thing. Now I will go back to how this came about. Because it was coming off the period of time where Woody Allen was in vogue, very, very in vogue, and those characters; that protagonist that Woody Allen played was a nebbishy guy like him. And so when I was giving life to this idea of a man falling in love with a mermaid, the studio executives would say he should be like a Woody Allen guy. That kind of a character is sort of a victim character. Larry David s does that in the modern day. But I started to think: I don’t want to do that. I don’t really want to do a protagonist that’s a victim. I think the protagonist in the case of Tom Hanks should be a cool guy, where he owns a produce company; he can actually get dates, he can do stuff, but he has this one disability, this one huge handicap, and that is that he’s unable to find [anyone] or connect. He’s unable to find love. He’s got everything else working, but he’s got a lonely part of himself, this emotional disability that is preventing him from having love. And so that’s what that character is and that’s why he can play sports well, that’s why he’s a pretty good-looking guy, he’s in good shape, he’s cool. But he just can’t do this one thing. So how did this come about? It came about just [through] knowing myself. I was a television producer at 26 years old and — oh man, I’m going to tell you this story, OK, very quickly.

GALLOWAY: Honestly you don’t have to say anything quickly because everyone’s interested.

[Laughter]

GRAZER: OK. So, I went to USC, I wasn’t a rich kid or anything like that, so I had to get a scholarship. Went to USC; my first year I took 26 units so I got to have a nickname. Everyone goes, “There’s 26.” So I had a nickname. Having a nickname is a good thing because then you start to get popular and you keep that going. And there was this girl; her name was Margie Bailey, the hottest girl at USC. Now Margie Bailey, even though I was like a popular kid, she might wave to me like in the Tommy Trojan courtyard, but from a distance. If I tried to talk to her, not a chance. The only time she would talk to me was if she could cheat off my test. You know, “I’ll sit next to you but I want to cheat on the test.” That would be a way of talking to Margie. So now I’ve graduated college, I’m out. I’m two and a half years out of college and I’m producing this little movie called Zuma Beach. It’s the day in the life of Zuma Beach for NBC. And I somehow got Suzanne Somers to be in it. She was the hottest star in America at the time. So it’s really good-looking guys and girls; it’s like American Graffiti at the beach; it’s really fun. Now I am sitting in a director’s chair with a cut off T-shirt — you know. I have some power but I have no idea what to do with it. It’s crazy. So I’m 25 and there’s this campfire thing that’s a prop in the scene. I look across the campfire and there’s the star girls: Rosanna Arquette, Suzanne Somers, a couple others. And Margie Bailey of all people is in the scene. But she’s not talking, because she’s an extra or something. I go, “I can’t believe it!” I go, “Margie!” like this, and she goes, “Shh!” — shushes me, like, “Shut up!” You know, like she used to say in college.

[Laughter]

GRAZER: She doesn’t know that I’m the producer. Then I see Rosanna Arquette and we joke about it. She’s whispering. Clearly she said, “That dude is the producer.” So Margie Bailey comes around the fire thing, da, da, da, da. “Brian I didn’t know you were the producer. God, that’s amazing. Like, what are you doing tonight?”

[Laughter]

GRAZER: And I’m...so I think.... Well, first of all I know I’m doing nothing tonight. But I do think, “Should I have a ton of integrity and go like, ‘Hey, get out of here’? Or should I like go, ‘Let’s go out’?” I choose of course the second, not that I mean to have zero integrity, and go out with Margie. And so I realized that Hollywood worked like that, that if you were a young producer you can go out with all the Margies. And I started to do that for a while and then I realized, “Wow, this is not very satisfying.” And I thought, “Well, how would I find a great girl in Los Angeles?” and I thought, “I don’t think I could.” So then I thought, “What is a great girl to me?” So I started writing down what I thought would be the great girl to me. I tried to create a definition of that; I started juxtapositioning what that definition was to me; the truth of that. And then I started to think, “What am I?” And I started writing all that stuff and I turned that into a script. And I thought the way to heighten it and really give it superpowers, you know, give it a fantasy dynamic, would be to superimpose this symbolic image or idea on top of that — and that was a mermaid. Because mermaids have power, they have mystique, they have all these things that I think we could all imagine, that we would conjure up. And that’s how the whole movie came about, just me doing all that.

GALLOWAY: But first it was the story from the mermaid’s point of view and that didn’t work?

GRAZER: Right. The mermaid’s point of view was more dynamic, or I thought it to be more dynamic. But everybody turned it down in Hollywood. And I wanted to continue to assault the problem; like, never give up. And I thought of different ways that I could shift the dynamics of the movie or try to get a star. I was always trying to find ways to find additives. And I began to think that I was running out of additives and I thought I’d better shift perspectives. And if I shift perspectives there are more guys that get movies made than women that get movies made. That was kind of the reason that that happened: I shifted the perspective because I ran out of resources or possible ways to get it made. And by shifting the perspective I got it made.

GALLOWAY: You’re going to remake Splash now?

GRAZER: I am, but by shifting the perspective again. And making Channing Tatum a merman. It actually deals like with the power dynamics in favor of the feminine and by appreciating the feminine dimension.

GALLOWAY: Splash was the second film you made with Ron Howard. How did you get to know him and what’s made that partnership work?

GRAZER: I got to know him because I, once again, had this discipline of meeting a new person every two weeks. And I was on the Paramount lot and I realized I hadn’t met anyone, and I look down and I see the guy that’s in Happy Days, Richie Cunningham. And so I yell out my window, “Hey, hey Ron.” And he’s kind of shy, so he waves me off. And I scared him, I think. And then I called his office and said, “I was the guy that yelled, blah, blah, blah, can you meet? I’m on the lot, I’m a television producer.” And so we met that way. And I did not know he could be a movie director. But we had this meeting and he said, “This is my dream, to be a movie director, a mainstream movie director.” And I said, “Well, oddly enough, my main dream is to be a mainstream movie producer.” I was only a television producer at the time. And we were sort of two unemployed guys that gave each other life and credibility.

GALLOWAY: Did you immediately have that connection or did it build over time?

GRAZER: I don’t think he had that connection to me.

GALLOWAY: Oh.

GRAZER: But I had that connection to him. I thought he had this aura of goodness about him that was very attractive to me. I was kind of magnetized by it. And then I had these two ideas. One was written, called Splash, and the other one was called Night Shift, that was a story. One was R-rated, Night Shift which is a guy like me basically that could get a bunch of jobs but got fired from a bunch of jobs. And what would be the worst job? To work the night shift in a New York City morgue. And I thought, “If I got that shitty a job, what would I do?” All of my things are what-ifs. I thought, “ I’d have a bunch of cars,” because the New York City Morgue has cars. And there’s not a lot of people watching you do stuff, so you can get away with murder. And you have a lot of space because there’s a lot of space in a morgue. And I thought, “Well, I would create a prostitution ring.” I just kind of cooked that up.

GALLOWAY: Where do you think? Do you sit in your office, do you talk these things through with people? How do you push an idea along? Often, people have a good idea but then they can’t find what you’ve called the ignition point in a story.

GRAZER: The ignition point would be the most embryonic moment, right?

GALLOWAY: “I have got this good idea but I don’t know how to click it into a story.”

GRAZER: I find different ways to redirect the routine of my mind. So a lot of times I either paint, I look through books with graphic design. Because they just do that to me. Everybody has their way. Or else I also find there are really active meditative tools; I have a drink, and I listen to music.

GALLOWAY: That’s the best meditation tool.

GRAZER: People like my wife just think I’m just tripping on music and stuff. But it’s a pretty active world that I’m living inside of. And I get these what-if ideas, and it just happens for me. But in order to build on them I do need to keep testing them on people. And I’m known for that — testing a sentence into an idea, becomes a sentence, becomes a paragraph, becomes a page.

GALLOWAY: Who do you test them on?

GRAZER: Whoever will listen to me.

GALLOWAY: Oh. [Laughs] Do you still do that with Ron Howard? He lives on the East Coast now. Do you call him up and bounce ideas?

GRAZER: I don’t do it with him that much. He’s good at a different thing. He’s good at having kind of film wisdom. Once I have matured the idea a little, beyond just a sentence, he’s good at knowing whether it will hold, whether it’s been done. He has brilliant instincts on whether any idea will hold and can produce cinematic results in any form — movies, television or anything. Because he’s not a cinephile, but he really knows that world so well.

GALLOWAY: Do you not?

GRAZER: I know good ideas. I’m good at coming up with ideas and I’m good at curating pop culture ideas. I mean, 8 Mile started because I met Ol’ Dirty Bastard 10 years before that. I was in New York, 10 years before 8 Mile; I heard someone on local radio in New York interviewing ODB. And I thought, what guy wants to be called Ol’ Dirty Bastard? That’s kind of like an insult; but he wants that. I thought that was hilarious. So I went and found a way to meet ODB. And I thought he was a trip and then I decided I’ll meet Slick Rick, which was super comical to me. And then Chuck D and I just met a lot of different East Coast rappers in that time. And then I got to learn not only that world but what the establishment thought of rap. Because of my curiosity conversations, I met the editor and publisher of The New York Times, The New Yorker, etc. And they all really relegated rap to an inferior subculture. And I felt it wasn’t an inferior subculture; it was the culture itself that they completely had wrong and it was completely inverse. And so I thought I would make a movie that proved the premise of that; that rap was the culture, not a subculture. And then I started looking for people that I could do that with. In fact Spike Lee was somebody, very early on. But it wasn’t for him at that time. And then eventually I met Eminem, but he wasn’t a star, and I got him to come to my office and he didn’t talk to me for 45 minutes and he just said, “I’m out.”

GALLOWAY: Oh.

GRAZER: I was desperate, I wouldn’t let him leave. But then he sat down and he basically told the story of what became 8 Mile. A lot of it was informed by the science of what I wanted to do, but at lot of it was his story. And a lot of Splash or 8 Mile or even American Gangster — which is a gangster movie about the drug business — to me was about respect. And that’s what 8 Mile is; it’s about respect. And that’s what Friday Night Lights is about. All the movies that I have made that are actually any good axis on self-respect. They axis on self-respect and identity. And usually about men’s self-respect. I relate to this myself and I feel that most men that have a purpose, that have something that they want — and presumably it’s a noble thing that they want — I want them to get it. And usually the thing that I want them to get and that they want to get, there are barriers to getting it, and it’s usually because they have some emotional injury that’s causing them to not be able to get there. In 8 Mile, he couldn’t even look at an audience; he was throwing up on a toilet. And by the end he’s doing battles hugely successfully, and he can out himself by liberating himself and saying, “Hey I’m white trash. I was born in a trailer park. Yeah, you did f—k my girl.” He says all those things which are really liberating. Which made him complete emotionally. It doesn’t lead to him becoming a billion-dollar rapper, because that wasn’t the point of the movie. And in Friday Night Lights it wasn’t the point of the movie that they won or lost the game. Sadly, they lost the game, but they became more complete boys, who were going to become more complete men. That’s what I’m interested in — movies that can axis on a premise of self-respect or love or family. Those are the things that usually are embedded in the things that I work on, either in movies or television, that succeed.

GALLOWAY: What was the self-respect issue in Apollo 13?

GRAZER: That was more about survival. It’s another long story. It’s about men.The premise to me — even though it wasn’t introduced this way — it was just a 12-page treatment about this event of Apollo 13, and I knew very little about space exploration, anything to do with aerodynamics and the hardware of that — but when I looked into the souls of these astronauts, I realized that these guys are supersonic experts at being capable of leaving a launch pad and going into space. And that they don’t have any fear. Later, when I started making the movie, we created an astronaut-training school where I could continue to verbally assault these guys and say, “You must be afraid” and blah blah blah. “You must have fear at some point.” And they never would cop to that. So you’ve got the most qualified guys to do this particular thing, and even they at a point when they’re in space, had a problem that did freak them out, even though they didn’t act freaked out the normal way we would do, and reached inside themselves to summon up resources to get them out of this situation. To fit a square peg in a round hole. That blew my mind, that guys that have done their 10,000 or 100,000 hours, they still can be confounded into what could become fatal to them. And then they find some extra thing inside of them to get there.

GALLOWAY: Were they afraid when they were in space, do you think?

GRAZER: They keep saying no, they weren’t.

GALLOWAY: Is that possible?

GRAZER: I’d say, “Physiologically, don’t your eyes dilate doesn’t anything happen to you? You don’t sweat, nothing happens.” And they don’t go to that space.

GALLOWAY: Let’s take a look at a clip from Apollo 13.

[Clipapplause]

GALLOWAY: It’s so powerful, it’s the best of Hollywood filmmaking, it’s got rich characters, it’s emotional, it takes you into another world. Here’s one thing I find fascinating about your mind. If you said, “What is the furthest possible place from this subject that you could go?” you would say, “a torture victim named Veronica de Negri.” But you drew from her to understand this. Tell us about that.

GRAZER: In this case I met a woman named Veronica de Negri who was tortured in Chile, she was tortured every single day. The most brutal, graphic kind of torture you could imagine. She had to survive this torture for a year and a half. So I met her in 1983, and I was able to find out, how did you survive this torture? And she told me that the way she was able to do this and do it quite triumphantly, and it’s extremely rare, I could talk about this for hours and hours and hours, was by creating an alternate reality in which she could live and have hope. So in this alternate reality, she was living another story. Everything that was going on for the most part, psychologically and psychically, and physiologically to some degree, is being diverted in to this other narrative. And I just became kind of overwhelmed with trying to understand survival itself, like how does survival really work? Actually she also provided me insight into how to create perspective for A Beautiful Mind, but it just amazes me how people that are put in life or death situations find something, you know, find something in themselves to enable them to perform, think and survive. That was an insight into what I thought was the emotional heartbeat of the scene and the movie. And so that’s Veronica de Negri, but ultimately the thing that makes me also emotional about this particular situation — and movies can do this of course — what I see within that sequence [the launch of the Apollo] is the expression of the sum total of what patriotism is. And also the enormity of the space program.

GALLOWAY: Is it possible for you to see it objectively? You’ve seen that from the writing, from the filming, from the editing. Are you able to forget all that stuff and just see it like a regular viewer?

GRAZER: No, I guess I’m not, actually. But look, the architecture of this movie was created by Ron Howard. It could’ve been so claustrophobic, if you think about it. If you read these 12 pages, or read the Jim Lovell book or any of that stuff, and all the contributing data that we had to assimilate to have it become this movie…the cinematic architecture was created by Ron Howard in that he found ways to cut back and forth to these different personal environments. The personal environment of Mission Control and Ed Harris, the personal environment of the homes or the wives of the astronauts.

GALLOWAY: The 12-page treatment, was that something you commissioned?

GRAZER: No, it was auctioned in Hollywood, like this lightning fast auction. In other words, it was introduced into Hollywood, into the bloodstream of Hollywood. A few producers read it; I was one of them. I loved it. Other producers started to like it, then every studio started to like it, and pretty quickly it was in very, very, very high demand. In order for us to close the deal and make it happen, we did it at 2 a.m. East Coast time. It was like working through the night to get it done, to pay or overpay or whatever we had to do to get it.

GALLOWAY: Was it an easy film to get off the ground, because at that point in Hollywood, The Right Stuff hadn’t been a success. And suddenly you’re coming in with a story, and we all know the ending.

GRAZER: As a producer, we try to find ways or techniques to sell projects. My technique, in order to differentiate what I was presenting to somebody, was always the thematics and the emotionality of it. Because that’s inarguable. A story is arguable, because those are written words; it’s the actual exterior of what something is; but the interior of what that something is, as I said, would be to me the thematics or the emotional engine. And that is in some ways inarguable, so I was able to differentiate this from The Right Stuff based on the emotionality and the things that I’m just talking to you about right now, and what would make me feel emotional right now.

GALLOWAY: Back then you had a deal at Universal...

GRAZER: We did have a deal at Universal, and we eventually got them to do it, but I sold it on the heroics of astronauts. Because I happen to like to make movies about people that do selfless things. We did Backdraft, that was about firemen, I just happen to like firemen — they’re willing to risk their lives, they’re willing to do selfless things, they don’t have power to offset what they’re going through. Sometimes power can turn you on — it offsets all the danger and all the stuff that you’re doing — but they don’t even have that. They’re just doing something selfless, in my view. So in the case of astronauts, they’re sort of doing something selfless, and they’re doing it with grand heroics. And I like that, and I’m a deep believer in it and I champion it.

GALLOWAY: How difficult was it to get NASA to cooperate?

GRAZER: That was really hard, mostly for Ron and a line producer named Todd Hallowell. They didn’t want to cooperate at all, but we just sort of wore them down.

GALLOWAY: How?

GRAZER: Just focus and pursuit and — this is subjective — being right-minded will wear down logic. Things get made, and they’re not based in logic, they’re based in these other intangible elements. So NASA, it’s really just a culture. And they have to believe that what we’re doing is in alignment with their culture. And that takes constant interaction, for people to believe that your beliefs are aligned with their beliefs. So it’s not about writing one letter or lobbying the boss, it’s lobbying an entire culture. But we didn’t think this movie would do well.

GALLOWAY: Oh really?

GRAZER: No, for that reason you just said. So we got Tom Hanks, who was a huge star. But we still, between Ron and Tom and I, said, “What do you think this movie will do?” We all said, “Well, I hope it’s good, but I don’t know, $40 million or something?” Because we thought, well, everybody knows the end. So we’re going to make a movie about process, which is cool, or good.

GALLOWAY: You also went into this with this enormous technical challenge. This is pre-computerized effects. Remember the original Superman tagline, “You’ll believe a man can fly”? Audiences had to go in and believe that men were in a gravity-free environment.

GRAZER: Right.

GALLOWAY: How did you tackle that? I think Ron called Spielberg at one point for advice, didn’t he?

GRAZER: Yeah, or he came by our set or something. Spielberg, he’s so brilliant, he just goes, “Wow, you’re doing something amazing, it’s science and cinema.” We thought I guess we are, science and cinema. We started to understand. And then we thought, well, if science is really one of the fundamental elements, how do we make that’s authentic? And then we thought, the way to make it authentic would be to use zero gravity instead of wires. And digitally removing the wires, which was done prior to Apollo 13, they never really had done a zero gravity film. Our contention was that people in audiences would feel the difference. A studio exec or someone could say, “Well, they won’t,” and it’s hard to win that debate, but we just felt that they would feel a difference.

GALLOWAY: You do, right.

GRAZER: And materials that would come out and say, this is how we did it, and somehow it would all have an effect on the sum total of the experience.

GALLOWAY: So how did you do it?

GRAZER: Once we NASA became friendly and aligned with us, they allowed us to use this KC-135 jet that would produce zero gravity. And you could get about 27 seconds of zero gravity in each parabola, so you’d go up, and then just like a roller coaster, you’d go down. And then you have about 27 seconds. In that 27 seconds, you get about 15 seconds of film time, because you lose the tails, the front and the back. And oddly enough, like Ron, we talked about it, and it was the same way people felt like Daryl Hannah swam in the underwater world of this underwater kingdom. Because you swim from respirator to respirator to respirator to respirator and you can’t see it, it just goes so slowly, it’s very granular. And this was the way to produce weightlessness, is through zero gravity.

GALLOWAY: So how did you do that? You have to have the actors. You have your cameraman. Were you up there too?

GRAZER: Ron went. I didn’t go. I said, “Look, if I get really sick after one or two, can I go down?” They go, “No.” The deal is we do them in blocks of 50. I said, “So if I get really sick at three, what happens?” “You have 47 more.”

GALLOWAY: God.

GRAZER: And you could take this thing, I think it’s called scopdex, you can take stuff, but I eventually didn’t do it. Ron did, he had to. So Ron’s up there with a skeleton crew and the actors. And I think one time Tom didn’t take this medicine. He didn’t get sick, he just didn’t feel well. He didn’t throw up or anything, but he toughed it out. He’s pretty good.

GALLOWAY: You were Oscar-nominated for this film. I kind of hoped you’d win that year, but you did win with A Beautiful Mind.

GRAZER: Everyone said, “You’re going to win for Apollo 13,” and of course it’s the last envelope of the night. It got to be where [even] Las Vegas odds makers [were predicting] “You’re going to win Apollo 13.’” It was endless. So at the Oscars, I’m five or six rows back from the podium, and Sidney Poitier opened the envelope. And I was staring at him. I was transfixed. I had my speech right here in my pocket. I was positive I was going to win. So when it came to opening the envelope, he peels it open, and I see what looks like an imperceptible ‘B’ coming off his lip. I start walking to the stage, and he says, Braveheart.” I’m so embarrassed. I got up in front of 35 million people. And then as I walked back to my seat to sit down, one of my friends, who’s chairman of a studio, goes, “Loser!” I thought, “Oh, this is so embarrassing.” And I sit down, and Jim Lovell, the astronaut, reached over Ron Howard and grabbed my wrist, and said, “I never made it to the moon either.” And I just thought that was so poignant, to put it in perspective.

GALLOWAY: That time you didn’t. People probably don’t realize how stressful those things are: you sit there hours in advance, you’re sitting there with no food. And it’s no fun. But you did win for A Beautiful Mind. let’s take a look at a clip.

[Clip; applause]

GALLOWAY: So you’re reading Vanity Fair, and you read an excerpt from a book about John Nash. If I had read a book about a scientist who’s schizophrenic and has to deal with that, I wouldn’t have thought, this is a movie. Why did you know that was a great film?

GRAZER: I didn’t know [laughs]. I didn’t know it was going to be a great film, I just wanted to make a movie that helped the cause of destigmatizing anyone that has any mental disability. I just had this cause, again, like a thematic; I just wanted to help destigmatize mental disability in any form. And originally I found a project that wasn’t this one, and started it with Brad Pitt, but it had a very tragic real-life ending and I abandoned it quickly.

GALLOWAY: Oh.

GRAZER: And then I stayed with this belief or commitment to try to do a movie that could accomplish that. And then I remembered — because of many Nobel laureates that I had met, there was John Nash — then there was this piece in Vanity Fair that [its editor] Graydon Carter turned me on to before it came out. And I looked at it, and it seemed like it would be in service of that thematic. But I didn’t know that. I didn’t think it would be bad, I just didn’t know it would be this great.

GALLOWAY: Did you go in thinking: this is a specialty film, this is going to be a $5 million film? Or did you think: this can be a big movie?

GRAZER: Well, I approached it as a big movie, I didn’t approach it as a specialty film. I didn’t really make specialty films.

GALLOWAY: Why?

GRAZER: Because the era in which I made movies was a time where bigger movies with movie stars and A-plus directors are being hired, and I could get them to do movies with me. And economically it was better for me, but I’ve never had economics drive me. I mean, everybody talks about it now; it oversaturates every conversation about film and television, and it’s kind of distracting actually, just talking about the economics of something. But I just didn’t make specialty films. The only one I made was after I met Veronica de Negri, I did make a little movie called Closet Land that was about torture, actually torture in Third World countries, and I really used my own money to do it and donated the proceeds to Amnesty. But it was a tiny little movie with Madeleine Stowe and Alan Rickman, and it was not very commercial at all because it was about that subject, which isn’t particularly commercial. So this one, I just approached it as what could be an important movie, but I didn’t know that the results would be what they were, either financially or critically.

GALLOWAY: Figuring out how to tell the story is very difficult, and you and Akiva Goldsman, the writer, came up with a great idea. How complicated was it to reach that solution?

GRAZER: Akiva was just so brilliant, the screenwriter, at executing it. It was once again my conversation and relationship with Veronica de Negri, because I’d met with her a couple of times, and I thought again about an alternate reality, and that of course schizophrenics live in multiple alternate realities, and that if we start the movie from this other perspective, like in the alternate reality, but treat it as though it’s real, it becomes a thriller, as opposed to doing an objective autopsy on schizophrenia itself. There was a movie called Dominick and Eugene that was really a good movie, but it was not a subjective experience. By doing it the way we did it, we made it a subjective experience because the audience didn’t know that every frame of the movie for the first 20 minutes was not real, was just in his [Nash’s] mind. So you’re so engaged in it, and then when you have this epiphany, it kind of is mind-blowing. And again, Ron Howard created cinematic magic that hadn’t really been done and he applied it or introduced it to this film, and it became kind of profound.

GALLOWAY: It’s phenomenal, because you really don’t expect it, and you don’t give us a clue that what we’re seeing isn’t real until we realize, I think, through his wife.

GRAZER: Yeah.

GALLOWAY: The great thing about any art is it makes you change your conceptions of things and makes you see things anew, and suddenly you go oh, wow, this is what mental illness is.

GRAZER: Mm-hmm.

GALLOWAY: Was it a hard sell to get that film made?

GRAZER: Well, it was a hard sell, but it wasn’t impossible. Splash was almost impossible. I mean, I probably had 500 turndowns. I’d have turndown after turndown, and then people would say, “You just pitched this,” or, “You just submitted it, but now it’s from the guy’s perspective.” Or now I have this, or I just got John Candy, and some people would say, “Who cares,” some people would say, “Great, now who’s going to be the lead?” And [on Beautiful Mind] I didn’t have endless turndowns like that. Universal embraced it, and they did it, they were down with it. I don’t think they thought a movie about schizophrenia was going to be as successful and as critically acclaimed, because there wasn’t evidence that it could occur.

GALLOWAY: I don’t want to finish our conversation without talking about your television work. So let’s take a look at a clip from Empire.

[Clipapplause]

GALLOWAY: How does Brian Grazer get involved with an African-American Dynasty?

GRAZER: Well [laughter]...well, it’s kind of natural, actually.

GALLOWAY: Oh.

GRAZER: First of all, I produced Boomerang. I mean, I have a lot of things, I’ve made a lot of movies with African-American actors, some that you know, some that you don’t. I paid for Chris Rock’s first movie, CB4; you might not even know what it is. I’ve just made a lot of movies with African-American artists. And Boomerang — the only reason I brought that up is that the element about it that studios didn’t want to do was the element about it that really made it work, which was African Americans in an upscale environment, where they’re experiencing all the glamorous things in the real world that they are and should experience. And that was like the hip part of that movie, I think it was 25 years ago or something. And so when [writer] Danny Strong came to me — there are two creators, writer-creators, Danny Strong and Lee Daniels, and Danny Strong was writing a movie for me — and he said, “You know, I’m thinking about doing a TV series,” and I love television, I love making television shows, I do 24, I do Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, I really like television for a whole bunch of reasons which we’ll do next time I come here.

GALLOWAY: Oh [laughs].

GRAZER: In any event, he said, “I want to do King Lear in the world of hip-hop.” That just sounded really good to me. It had these two fundamental, primary tent-pole elements that really turned me on. I could see it like immediately because it’s natural, King Lear in hip-hop. So I said, “I don’t know that much about King Lear, but I do know a lot about hip-hop.” I mean for a white guy, you know, only because I’d already done 8 Mile, I’d worked on Boomerang, I’d made six movies with Eddie Murphy, I did The PJs. I’ve done an endless amount of movies like in and out of that world. And so I said, “You can’t go anywhere.” He said, “Well, I got to talk to my agent.” I go, “You’re not talking to your agent, you’ve had this conversation, we’re doing it together.” So then I then called his agent before he could even get in his car. I go, “Danny has this sentence that I love, we have to do this together.” So that’s how it started. Then he said, “Well, Lee Daniels is involved, we were just finishing The Butler.” That’s a guy I just didn’t know. He said, “Well, he’s really interesting, he’s going to offer really interesting stuff.” I go, “Well, what will he do? Is he writing it with you?” “Yeah, he’ll write it with me, and he has this sort of magic that he’ll sprinkle in to it.” And I thought well OK — and by the way, he does. And that’s why it’s real hip. So that’s kind of how it happened. But it involves elements that Danny, Lee, and I really care about. It involves that world, it involves the struggle of that world, but the quick rise to a much more glamorous world where power dynamics are in their favor. And then we went to all the networks, and most of them didn’t get it at all. They just thought, we don’t see that the African-American audience can be big enough to support a television series that is predominately African America. But we did see it. There are elements in it beyond just what you would see with a perceptible eye. I just happen to believe that people love power. And they love earned power and earned success, and that was fundamental in this show. It was an ingredient in the show. Earned success. They love when earned success can get manifested in different ways, and one of those ways is song. Because when people sing like our characters sing and perform the way they perform, you go, “Wow, that’s really cool. OK, we’re praising these people, and now we’re seeing in front of our eyes why we should.”

GALLOWAY: Mm.

GRAZER: So it’s justified, and that was an element that we thought would give it buoyancy and life. Anyway, one network really loved it, and that was Fox. [Fox’s] Dana Walden and Gary Newman really championed it and marketed it in a way that was beyond belief — and that’s a huge, huge, huge thing that sometimes we all as filmmakers underestimate. It’s the marketing. The framing of something makes a gigantic difference.

GALLOWAY: Do you get very involved in that?

GRAZER: Yes, I do. I always get very, very, very involved in it, but you need smart partners that are in alignment with you qualitatively and that will spend the money and make the commitment that you need, and they did that, so they were awesome.

GALLOWAY: OK. Questions.

QUESTION: I’m a screenwriting major. In addition to everything you talked about earlier about curiosity, in your book you also mentioned that sometimes when developing a concept, you have to have anti-curiosity. So I wonder if there was an instance recently that you can recall where you had to kind of limit yourself when developing a concept, and how do you address that with your creative team?

GRAZER: What he’s referring to is what I try to do is I use curiosity to dig around and learn about a subject or a culture or a character. And you keep digging and digging and digging and digging, and while you’re digging and improving your story or the world that you’re going to transport the audience to, you’re trying to find, you know, your primary artists that are going to execute that, the writer, director, production designer, things like that. That are going to guide it in to life. And there’s a point where you have to stop asking questions, you have to stop assaulting the entire project with these questions, it’s almost like you’re dealing, you know, in the world of a vapor or a gaseous state, and then you have to like all of a sudden solidify it and make it a solid, because you have to make a decision, like let’s go, these are the people, this is our team, this is our world, this is what we’re doing. And so there is a point where you have to stop being indecisive and kind of turn water to ice [laughter], I don’t know what you want to call it, but just do that. I have a few examples from a while ago, but recently, just have to think that through. I don’t know if I have a recent example, I mean I always have an example. Let me just think of the movies, this movie I just did with Tom Cruise was a little like that.

GALLOWAY: Which film was that?

GRAZER: It’s not out yet, it’s called American Made. It’s sort of a gangster movie. It takes place pre-Iran-Contra, and Tom Cruise plays this guy that’s recruited into the CIA, a true story, to go investigate what’s going on in Colombia. And when he goes there, he’s doing that for the CIA, but secretly develops a relationship with Pablo Escobar and becomes the biggest cocaine dealer in America.

GALLOWAY: Did you do too much research for that?

GRAZER: No, I mean [laughter] Was it stored in my house? No, I mean there was a point where we just said we have to just go with the information we have, now in postproduction we have to revisit it and do some additional shooting. But you do have to just make a choice to end the research; you know, you have to shoot the film.

GALLOWAY: You were doing a project about the L.A. riots. Are you still planning that? Because I would imagine that that is a vast field.

GRAZER: That’s pretty endless. The L.A. riots [story] was based on when I met Daryl Gates, the police chief. He was one of the creators of SWAT, and he was a paramilitary police chief that created an environment here in Los Angeles that was very much part of that. He was kind of a cause of the riots. And I was really surprised that he would actually meet me the day after the riots, but his hubris was so great the he thought he’d never get fired. It wasn’t his responsibility, and he thought he was meeting a big movie producer. And he just kept it alive, you know, kept the lunch intact. So that was kind of what made me think of doing the L.A. riots.

QUESTION: It’s a known fact that Hollywood has no shortage of really dramatic personalities. One thing I’ve always been very curious about is: Has a conflict ever been so dramatic with another creative person, and how do you typically resolve them?

GRAZER: Wow. Well, I definitely have had pretty extreme conflicts with artists, but not much... wait a second, what was the question again?

GALLOWAY: How do you resolve those conflicts?

GRAZER: How do I resolve the conflicts?

GALLOWAY: How do you resolve those conflicts?

GALLOWAY: And have you just walked away at some point because you can’t?

GRAZER: I have a lot of axioms in my producer’s handbook, which isn’t really a handbook, but one of them is that I try to live inside the psyche of the person that I’m talking to. And so by living in their psyche, and I also ask them what do things look like? I always want a director or a star to go, “What does it look like?” You know, because they’ll go, “I want to do it, this is amazing, this is going to kick ass,” they’ll say a thousand things, but in order to understand specifically whether you are in alignment with somebody, you say, “What does it look like?” Going back to the axiom, I think to myself that every project should have a good beginning and a great ending. And everything in the middle you can argue out and wrestle out, as long as there’s respect involved. When you cross the line of respect, then it becomes problematic for everybody, and I’ve had movies where people lose respect and it becomes mutinous, you know? So I try to avoid people where I think it’s going to be a bad end. You know, like where it’s just going to end badly. I know that sounds very abstract. There’s so much rationalization that goes into making decisions, but when people are saying no to your project all the time, and then all of a sudden the right star but the wrong person lives inside that star says yes, you have to like protect yourself and just not do it. If everybody says that guy is a bad guy, he’s probably a bad guy — or woman, you know. You just sort of have to feel their essence energetically. You have to be in that mind space. I don’t have to fire many people, but if it’s going downhill, I will cut the losses and fire the person. I won’t just try to tough it out, because that doesn’t work. It just gets worse.

QUESTION: Why did Imagine Entertainment end its production and distribution deal with Universal after 30 years, and how has your new relationship with The Raine Group affected Imagine Entertainment since then?

GRAZER: We had this great run with Universal. I think we’re the longest producers on the lot for 30 years, and I think that narrative storytelling, whatever the form is, movies, television, digital, you might operate better independently so you can build your package or your content or your story, and then auction it to the market, because there are just so many platforms and distribution systems. So to be, you know, sort of wed to one distribution system is really not the modern era, it’s not the modern world right now.

GALLOWAY: You ended on a high note, Brian. Thank you.
 

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