For Aronofsky, 47, better known as a director (Black Swan), producing Jackie marked a switch of roles, just as producing Manchester by the Sea was for movie star Matt Damon, 46. But one could say it was a change for many of these established professionals, several of whom had worked together before: Frank Marshall, 70 (Sully), produced the Bourne films with Damon, who also worked on The Departed with Emma Tillinger Koskoff, 44 (Silence). They were joined by Todd Black, 56 (Fences), and Marc Platt, 59 (La La Land, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk) in a conversation moderated by THR‘s Matthew Belloni and Stephen Galloway.
MARSHALL The best and the worst day is the last day because you’ve been with a couple hundred people in the trenches 24/7, and you’re a family. And you always say, “Hey, we’ll have dinner,” and for 10 years you never see that person.
PLATT At the end of La La Land, the last day, we’re done, the sun is literally going behind the horizon, and Damien Chazelle has a camera in his hand. He said, “We can get another shot and another shot …” And what I realized was, he couldn’t put the camera down. He was too sad. And it got pitch black. We were in Pasadena. And I walked up to him and I said, “You have to put the camera down.” And I gently took the camera from him, and he had the saddest look.
BLACK Last days can often be bittersweet and wonderful.
DAMON The best day [on Manchester] was when we went to Sundance and screened the movie, and I was sitting there with my wife and Mat Rosengart, who is Kenny Lonergan’s lawyer — and the last time I’d seen Mat, he was deposing me [in the legal battle over Margaret]. So I’m sitting there, and I look up and it’s Mat. And he goes, “It is really good to see you here.” And I said, “It’s really good to see you here.” And then we screened the movie and it was a huge triumph, and everything was right with the Force again.
Do you all remember the first — or worst — job you had?
MARSHALL Dishwasher. In Aspen. My hands were frozen every night when I went home. They were raw. It’s so cold.
DAMON I had to hand out fliers on the street to get people to come in and buy women’s dance shoes, half off. All my friends were walking by. It was horrible. Just embarrassing.
ARONOFSKY I drove a car service in south Brooklyn, where I grew up, did the midnight shift. But it was great — driving guys to pick up their heroin.
KOSKOFF I was a hostess in a restaurant for two days, and then became a PA and never looked back.
ARONOFSKY And the PA was the worst job?
KOSKOFF It was heaven compared to hostessing.
You’re on a plane, and it’s sinking rapidly. What one film would you want on that desert island?
ARONOFSKY Time Bandits. I love the fantasy of it. I can remember when [director Terry] Gilliam first had God appear and chase them all down that dark passageway. And I think [there are] probably lots of different layers and levels to think about.
KOSKOFF One of those movies that I was drawn to as a child was [Mike Nichols’] Silkwood. I love dramas based on real-life events, and I always was captivated by the acting in that movie and the story.
Did you ever meet Mike Nichols?
KOSKOFF Actually, I grew up with his son, Max. He was always so sweet and lovely. And just to see his body of work, it’s amazing.
DAMON I’m afraid I’m going to give the least exciting answer and the most obvious one, which is The Godfather: Part II.
Not the original?
DAMON No, no. I remember when we did The Departed, I asked Marty, “Marty, Godfather I or II?” And he goes, “Two! ” And I go, “OK, why?” He goes, “He had more money!” (Laughter.)
BLACK One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It encapsulated drama and pain and comedy all at the same time and was ultimately both a tragic and inspiring story.
MARSHALL I’d have to say The Wizard of Oz. If I’m going to have to watch something over and over on an island, it just has everything for me, and it was a movie I watched a lot when I was growing up. I’d maybe hope I would wake up and not be on the desert island, just in Kansas.
Tune in to the full roundtable when it airs on SundanceTV Feb. 5, 2017.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.