Roundtable: 6 Top Producers on 'Entourage' Salaries, 'Fifty Shades' Backlash and Appeasing Directors
This story first appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Rarely are the links connecting Hollywood's inner circle more evident than they were at this year's Producer Roundtable.
Before David Heyman, 52, made Gravity and Charles Roven, 64, made American Hustle this year, they were favored children in the Warner Bros. family, responsible for the Harry Potter and The Dark Knight franchises, respectively. Roven also produced the Mark Wahlberg starrer Three Kings (and reteams with its director, David O. Russell, on the upcoming Hustle). And Wahlberg, 42, worked with Michael De Luca, 48, when De Luca was at New Line as an executive -- he oversaw Wahlberg's Boogie Nights.
The history that binds these men -- along with two women, Pam Williams, 49, and Dede Gardner, 45, each with a long history of her own -- perhaps contributed to their openness at the Nov. 7 roundtable, where Wahlberg joked about firing agent Ari Emanuel, Heyman delved into how he nearly lost Potter co-star Emma Watson and Roven explained the horrible personal and professional challenges of handling the death of Heath Ledger on Dark Knight.
What's the biggest misconception that people have about producers?
MARK WAHLBERG: For me, it's like, "Oh, you're starring in a movie, so you demanded a vanity credit." You can damn well be sure that I'm involved in every single aspect of it.
What if you're starring in it, but you're not a producer?
WAHLBERG: Then I will just quietly raise my hand and suggest something I think would save us time and money. But it depends on the person that's driving the train, whether they want to listen. Like with Michael Bay [on Transformers 4] -- (laughter) -- "Tell me where to stand, what to say, boss."
CHARLES ROVEN: I think the other thing about producing is, there are so many different capacities you function in. It's very difficult to be great doing all of those things.
WAHLBERG: I've worked with Chuck, so I can attest to that.
What do you do best, and what do you struggle with?
ROVEN: I guess sometimes I don't have the greatest bedside manner.
WAHLBERG: I can attest to that!
ROVEN: But no two films are the same. Even if you're making a sequel, it's different because it's like alchemy: One different ingredient will change the whole thing. There could be more problems in the marketing or the casting, and there's always that one guy on the crew that's not exactly right, or budgets are spiraling out of control. What are you going to do? How are you going to make sure you don't hurt the process? And that's when you're actually making it; getting it to the point to where you're making it, that's a whole other skill set. On American Hustle, [director] David O. Russell made significant changes [to the script], and he was also in the middle of an Oscar campaign for Silver Linings Playbook, and it was a struggle to get his attention while he was still focused on the movie that he had made. And yet we had a release date, in December, and so the period of shooting [in Boston] and postproduction was really, really compressed.
WAHLBERG: How long was it before you guys were able to shoot [Hustle outside Boston] after the bombings at the Boston Marathon [in April]?
ROVEN: We actually shot the day of the bombings, and that wasn't a problem, but when they found the brother who was alive in the boat, they shut us down on that day, and then the next day, we were back shooting again.
DAVID HEYMAN: For Gravity, it was exactly the opposite problem. It took us four years to make the movie, and for us, the big issue was figuring out the technology with which to achieve zero gravity. It was a year and a half of R&D, where the studio was putting in money on blind faith because we didn't have a clue what we could do.