Roundtable: 6 Top Producers on 'Entourage' Salaries, 'Fifty Shades' Backlash and Appeasing Directors
DE LUCA: In the case [of Fifty Shades], it really went down to the wire. Everyone wanted it to work out, including Charlie. In terms of schedule, to be free from Sons of Anarchy in time to show up on the set of our movie, the physical transformation and the psychological transformation from Jax to Christian Grey was more than he could accomplish in the time that we had. We all hung on until the bitter end, but to his credit, he came to us and said, "I don't think I'm going to be able to get there in the time we have, and I don't want to do a bad job. I'm not going to be able to turn into this guy." And you've got to let go, too. Sometimes you can hold on too tight and not let go of something.
David, with Harry Potter, was there any point where you almost lost the cast?
HEYMAN: They were initially signed up to two films, but then we had to renegotiate each time. Emma [Watson], in particular, was quite academic and was very keen in pursuit of schooling and was wrestling a little bit more than the others. So each time there was a negotiation, it was not about a financial [matter], it really was about, "Do I want to be a part of this?" We had to be sensitive to her needs and how important school was to her. And you have to listen. In our position, you're not dictating, you're listening. At the same time, it's a tipping point, and it's working within a framework. I deeply respected her, encouraged her. She's very smart, always was, and fiercely intelligent.
ROVEN: And it's a little bit different now because Harry Potter had so many incarnations, and The Dark Knight turned into a trilogy. But when we started Batman Begins, we were hoping to make one really good film, right? And maybe you negotiated a sequel for Christian Bale. Now you're negotiating multiple deals, and as a result, there's some really great talent who just say, "I don't want to know that you guys own me for the next 10 years."
DE LUCA: That was a big consideration on Fifty, also, because you have to sign up for three movies. The two scripts aren't written for the sequels, so it felt like this was going to go in the direction of unknowns or fresh faces, actors more willing to take the risk.
Why do you renegotiate? Jennifer Lawrence, who got half a million for Hunger Games, now is getting exponentially more to do the sequels.
DE LUCA: There's a reality to someone's changing status in the marketplace. Personally, I think it's the cheapest money you can spend -- to keep someone happy and feeling respected and still get [them for less than] they could fetch on the open market.
WAHLBERG: As an actor and a producer, you try to be fair, but it's never really going to seem fair to both sides. There was a complete misconception about what was going on with the Entourage [movie] contracts. Everybody's saying it was all about money. It wasn't, necessarily. It was really about fairness, and what I was trying to communicate to the guys was, "This is an important movie for us to do at a price." And then if the movie is successful, like Sex and the City, there's a lot of opportunity on the upside. You know, doing Transformers, I definitely had to sign up for three. Does that mean we'll make three? No, it doesn't.
So many actors try to produce. What advice would you give them?
WAHLBERG: The only reason why I wanted to was because I was never going to get the script first. I had to wait for Brad Pitt to pass; I had to wait for this one to pass. So I had to go out there and create my own thing, find material, develop it for myself and have creative control. I'd rather be behind the wheel of a car going down a highway at 200 miles per hour than in the backseat with somebody else in control. So that was it for me, and then I just loved it, and it was addictive to me.
Has it changed the way you go about the work of being an actor?
WAHLBERG: Absolutely. Absolutely. I'll go to my trailer to get dressed, and I just sit on the set. I want everybody else to follow suit because so much time is wasted. It's like, "Come on, guys, we're wasting time, we're wasting money."
When you're working with an A-list filmmaker, is there a danger of feeling powerless as a producer?
GARDNER: With any luck! You want that.
ROVEN: You want someone who has a real vision and a sense of how to get there, but they don't have to have every answer, and you want them to be collaborative and open to ideas.
WAHLBERG: There are a lot of filmmakers who are great creatively but don't understand the concept of budget and finance at all.
WILLIAMS: I come out of television, where you hire the director on a weekly basis, and they come and go, and so you're always driving the train. In film, basically, you hire your boss, and then it really is about servicing his vision.
HEYMAN: The role of producer really is supporting the director, and that can mean very different things.
DE LUCA: It could mean protecting them from themselves.
HEYMAN: One of the difficult things, I think, about the process is that it's results-oriented. It's really about those [test] scores, and sometimes they're not indicative.