'Hunger Games' Producer Nina Jacobson on Movie Backstory; Firing from Disney (Q&A)

1:30 PM PST 03/15/2012 by Jay A. Fernandez
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Christopher Patey

The executive tells THR how she ushered the YA novel to the big screen, picked herself up after Disney let her go, and who helped her along the way.

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THR: You have a 13-year-old son, an 11-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. What's your favorite thing to do together as a family?
Jacobson: It's not easy to find things for everybody. My daughter plays soccer -- she plays on a club team and on an all-star team. So we spend a lot of time going to different soccer things. And then there's playing the Just Dance video games on Wii. That's popular right now at our house. I hold my own. When it comes to the game my son likes, Modern Warfare -- I'm terrible at that. I find all of that really stressful. They keep killing me over and over again. The 5-year-old, he's not on any of the consoles. We listen to a lot of books on tape. That's a big activity with all three of my kids. I'm mostly Words With Friends, the word games. I'm actually on a losing streak to [Lionsgate's Jon] Feltheimer, which is a real sore spot for me.

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SIX MENTORS: Some were advisers, others were bosses -- all taught Jacobson important lessons.

Jeffrey Katzenberg
CEO, DreamWorks Animation

"When I worked for him at DreamWorks, I had never worked on a family movie before, and he gave me a piece of advice that was unbelievably helpful. When we were working on Antz, I was expressing my concerns that I had never worked on a family movie of any kind and I didn't know animation and I didn't know how to do it. And he said: "Don't think about kids. Do it for yourself. We'll animate it. Kids will go." The idea that when doing family entertainment, you don't actually worry about kids. You know what you can't do. But in terms of sensibility and sophistication and wit and ambition, aim for your own taste level, and kids will -- if they're interested in the subject matter -- be glad that you did. And the parents will be glad that you did. It really formed the backbone of my approach to family movies."

Tom Pollock
Principal, Montecito Picture Co.

"He was really influential for me. [As chairman of MCA/Universal Motion Picture Group,] he was my boss when I was at Universal, and he was a very smart guy, a very strategic guy. And he had a lot of confidence in me that helped me have confidence in myself."

Dick Cook
Former chairman, Walt Disney Studios
Michael Eisner
Founder, The Tornante Co.

"Dick is a big believer -- and Michael [former CEO of Disney], too -- in your gut instinct, that you just have to listen to your gut and that it's OK to fail. They were similar in that regard, that you're going to take your shots, not every single one of them is going to work, and to not let failure deter you from listening to your gut and to not let success deter you, either. They both were big believers in that, and it's something that I always really appreciated when I was at Disney: that there was never the expectation that every movie was going to work, ever. They knew that it's a tough business -- win some, lose some -- you just have to be smart on the risks that you take. But there was never the expectation that you would always get it right."

Skip Paul Bond
Senior Adviser, Centerview Partners

"He's an interesting fellow I met when I was at MCA and Universal. He is an adviser to heads of companies and he is just a very thoughtful, insightful strategic guy whom I've maintained a friendship with for years and whom I always turn to for advice as a mentor. He is somebody who has had an amazing career betting on himself and betting on his own instincts and has always helped to give me confidence in betting on myself."

Skip Brittenham
Partner, Ziffren Brittenham

"He thinks outside of the box. He's a role model because he's such a straightforward, honest, honorable guy, and he's been able to have great success by being honest with people. I met him when I was at Disney. He's been a great confidant and an adviser -- and my attorney."

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