Roundtable: 6 Top Producers on 'Entourage' Salaries, 'Fifty Shades' Backlash and Appeasing Directors
DE LUCA: Yeah, Boogie Nights scored horribly. They recruit for these [test screenings] off a paragraph [synopsis] in the mall, and the paragraph for Boogie Nights made it look like a sitcom, and then they come for this three-hour exegesis on existential crises in porn. It got to a point where Bob Shaye, my old boss, chased good scores on that movie, and that movie was never going to score high.
WAHLBERG: I remember [he did] his own cut.
DE LUCA: Yeah, it was horrible. It was tough. That movie was going straight to video, and then the reviews started to come in at the New York Film Festival. If it wasn't for early reviews …
WAHLBERG: I was starting to think, "F---, I should have done Starship Troopers." (Laughter.)
WILLIAMS: And yet screenings aren't just [about] the score. We must have screened The Butler 70 times. A lot changed, namely tone. Lee Daniels is a certain director, and the movie needed to be PG-13, and he is [in] more of an R-rated world. And the movie started out as two hours and 46 minutes, so it was really useful to know [what might be cut]. I see those as a tool -- and if screenings are used as a hammer, that's the wrong tool.
WAHLBERG: I did a test screening in New Jersey once, and it's New Jersey. The guy goes, "Why the f--- isn't Joe Pesci in this f---ing movie?" It may have been The Fighter. I'm not sure. But if you have a smaller movie that's not working, and you need [the studio's] support, you really need those numbers.
One last question. It's a very competitive marketplace for material. What's your pitch? What is your ace in the hole when you want something?
DE LUCA: I try not to slime other people in my pitch.
GARDNER: You have to listen to the author. You have to listen to what they say, at least create the space to have a conversation. They have opinions about how they want their material adapted.
HEYMAN: And ultimately, they'll go to the person who they feel is best for them.
WILLIAMS: All you can do is lead with your passion and what your vision is.