Fewer Bankable Stars, Smaller Parties and Less 'F—ing': Next Gen's First Class on Hollywood's Evolution
Power players Stacey Snider, Nina Jacobson, Gavin Polone, Michael De Luca, Kevin Huvane and more alums of the 1994 class share candid stories of the way things were, from taking abuse as a "badge of honor" to why awards season wasn't always such a drag.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
In 1994, Hollywood still held on to the vestiges of its small-town origins. But the industry was changing, and the catalysts were a new crop of leaders that solidified as THR's first Next Generation list. As Michael Ovitz and his other partners ruled over CAA, a quintet of ambitious agents in their late 20s -- Premiere magazine called them the "Young Turks" -- were poised to take over the agency in 1995, just as Ari Emanuel and his ICM cohorts would defect to found Endeavor. Those agents and others were tipping the balance of power in Hollywood toward actors as Jim Carrey scored $20 million to star in The Cable Guy. And just as Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and ousted Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg founded DreamWorks Studios, the modern indie movement took off in October 1994 with Pulp Fiction. Many on that first Next Gen list would go on to run studios (Stacey Snider, Nina Jacobson, Rob Moore) and agencies (Kevin Huvane, Bryan Lourd and Richard Lovett at CAA, Emanuel at WME), and several became top producers (Michael De Luca, Gavin Polone). To commemorate the 20th Next Gen issue, THR asked them to look back. If Hollywood is high school with money, then consider this a 20th class reunion.
STACEY SNIDER: (then, president of production, TriStar Pictures; now, partner, DreamWorks Studios): What strikes me about then and now is that, notwithstanding the fact that Jurassic Park topped the box office in 1993, TriStar Pictures also nabbed three of the top spots with such diverse fare as Philadelphia, Sleepless in Seattle and Cliffhanger. Studio executives could confidently make a mix of movies -- and we did.
NINA JACOBSON: (then, senior vp production at Universal; now, runs Color Force, producer of The Hunger Games): The romantic comedy was still alive and well -- it was the time of Julia Roberts and Sandy Bullock. And the female-driven thrillers -- the Sherry Lansing thriller. But I also worked on a lot of body-count movies in the mid-1990s. I got an education working on Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. It was the age of the Under Siege films, with Steven Seagal. I don't know why that he-man genre went away, but it eventually did. It must be a cultural thing. Or maybe it's that the special-effects movies got so big [in the 2000s] that they started to dwarf guys just punching and kicking each other.
CARLA HACKEN: (then, ICM agent; now, runs Paper Pictures): There were a lot more movie stars and specifically a lot more female movie stars. There was Michelle Pfeiffer, Holly Hunter, Goldie Hawn, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts. Now, when I try to buy a project and I have to think about how many actresses there are that you could actually make the movie with, it's not a lot.
LIZ GLOTZER: (then, president of production, Castle Rock; now, producer on Before Midnight): Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Will Smith -- people used to be able to sleep at night thinking: "That's a big movie star. He's going to open my movie." I don't think anyone feels that way anymore. I don't think there are more than a handful of people right now that people say, "If you get him, I'll be OK …"
ROB MOORE: (then, CFO, Walt Disney Television; now, vice chairman, Paramount): A top priority was developing films for stars. Now the priority is on developing franchises.
GLOTZER: Brad Pitt actually came in and met on The Shawshank Redemption. For a smaller part -- he wasn't that big at the time. I think he came in for the part Gil Bellows played. He was already on the cusp of breaking out, and he had liked the script. In the end, he didn't want to do it -- it was too small a part.
CHRISTINA KOUNELIAS: (then, senior vp publicity, New Line Cinema; now, chief marketing officer, AMPAS) I remember when Jim Carrey got offered $20 million in 1994 -- it felt like it was a benchmark. New Line had only paid him $7 million for The Mask or Dumb and Dumber, so it made us seem smart.
HACKEN: Oh my God, I so remember that. I remember being in a staff meeting and talking about it and all the agents being really excited. It was this [realization] that if you had one big movie star, you could make serious money.
GAVIN POLONE: (then, UTA agent; now, producer): Back in 1994, the head guy at a movie studio or television network would make a decision on what sort of movie or TV they wanted to make based on what their gut instinct was. Today you have to go to the greenlight committee, and then people have to go model everything based on all the different revenues that are coming in. So it's much more of a numbers game; it's much more corporate.
MOORE: Studios were focused on volume and market share. Now, the focus is on picture profitability.
GLOTZER: Shawshank would never be made at a studio today. I mean, it was barely made at a studio then -- an all-male prison movie with a first-time director. But I feel a lot of the movies we made then as studio movies just wouldn't be studio movies today.
HACKEN: When I think about the people who shaped and molded my career back then, they were individuals -- they were not cookie-cutter. They had big personalities. Stan Collins, Ed Limato -- they don't make people like that anymore. I can't point to anyone today that seems like they were made in their image. People are not rewarded for having big personalities anymore. On the other hand, there were some bad personalities too: There was one particular agent I worked for who used to throw things at my head. But you can't get away with that stuff anymore. I feel like the generation I came up under, you wore the abuse as a badge of honor -- it was part of paying your dues. You did not complain if Ed Limato had you doing nothing but driving around town picking up his dry cleaning, and you had a master's degree from Columbia -- nobody cared. It was like, this is what you have to do, and the people who survived proved their mettle. But the generation after us just wasn't raised that way. They're like: "Screw this. I'm not going to be treated this way."
POLONE: I'll tell you one thing: There's less f---ing going on now. The sexual politics have changed, and that's probably a good thing.