Red Granite Founders on 'Daddy's Home,' Giving Martin Scorsese Total Control of 'Wolf of Wall Street'
Co-founders Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland, who are now launching their first co-production with 'Daddy’s Home,' took a major risk with the $400 million-earning 'Wolf of Wall Street': "We had to convince people that there's this character you have to follow, versus the Wall Street of it all."
This story first appeared in the Dec. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
When emerging film company Red Granite Pictures announced in May 2011 that it would finance the $100 million The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, many in Hollywood questioned taking a risk of that size. But Red Granite founders Riza Aziz — the 39-year-old stepson of Malaysian Prime Minster Tun Abdul Razak — and producer Joey McFarland, 43, made the right call. The Wolf of Wall Street, released in December 2013, scored five top Oscar nominations and grossed nearly $400 million worldwide. The film also put Red Granite in business with Paramount, which handled it domestically. Red Granite, backed by Middle Eastern and Asian money and now marking its fifth anniversary, has made four other films and is readying the $50 million comedy Daddy's Home, starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, which it co-financed and co-produced with Paramount for a Dec. 25 release. McFarland and Aziz, both with a background in finance, talked to THR at their company's Beverly Hills office, where they work with a staff of 15.
How did you get involved with Daddy's Home?
AZIZ Our president of production, David Koplan, sent the script over to me in mid-2014. I told Joey he had to get home and read it because it's a roll-on-the-floor kind of funny. He did.
MCFARLAND The project had been languishing at Paramount for seven or eight years. I called [vice chairman] Rob Moore and said we wanted to get involved, but if they weren't interested, we would take it off their hands. That wasn't the case. He completely embraced our interest, so we contacted Gary Sanchez, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's company, and had a sit-down meeting. This was pre-Mark. Later, I believe Will literally sent the script to Mark himself. Daddy's Home is a very unique movie for us and a milestone for our company. It was our first partnership with a studio. Our previous five films were developed, produced, financed and distributed all by Red Granite with distribution partners.
The Wolf of Wall Street was incredibly ambitious for a young company.
AZIZ We had to convince people that there's this character that you have to follow, versus the Wall Street of it all.
MCFARLAND I think the real secret sauce of the movie was that one of the promises we made to Marty was that we wanted him to push the envelope as far as he could. We told him, "We want you to make the movie that you want to make. We're taking the gloves off on this thing." Unless you did that, it wasn't worth making.
Do the recent dramatic highs and lows at the box office alarm you?
MCFARLAND It's a one-weekend town. You really have to create a good movie because word of mouth is so important these days between social media and critical reception.
What are you focused on now?
AZIZ We've been developing a massive George Washington movie, The General. It's a gritty look into the world of George Washington and the American Revolution. We've done a lot of reading. I've always been a history buff, and it's pretty interesting to see how little of the real George Washington people know.
Do you see yourselves going into the studio slate business and working more with major studios?
MCFARLAND No. We're agnostic. We want to be able to do the types of movies we want to do, and want to work with everybody. As crazy as it sounds, we love to warrant the single-picture business. We love our content.