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The Plan B origin story is a two-parter. From 2001 to 2005, Brad Pitt ran the Oscar-winning production company behind The Departed with his then-wife, Jennifer Aniston, and the late Brad Grey. But in 2005, Grey took the top job at Paramount, and the high-profile couple split, leaving Pitt in need of a new brain trust. Enter Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, both recent hires at Plan B who helped usher in the company’s new era, which has spanned hit films like World War Z and Eat Pray Love and two more best picture wins with 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight.
Fifteen years and nearly 30 films later, Plan B remains one of the most envied banners in Hollywood. Since 2013, Gardner, 52, and Kleiner, 43, have run the company with Pitt as a triumvirate and have moved aggressively in TV, backing such Emmy winners as The Normal Heart and Feud: Bette and Joan. For their work, the pair, along with Pitt, 56, will receive this year’s David O. Selznick Achievement Award at the Producers Guild Awards on Jan. 18.
How would you describe a Plan B movie?
DEDE GARDNER The year that 12 Years a Slave and World War Z came out, Brad said, “Well, that makes sense. That defines Plan B.” (Laughs.) The films are so disparate. But it’s always been story-driven.
JEREMY KLEINER We work on things that have an ambition. That could take a number of forms: stylistic, thematic, technical, degree of difficulty. But there’s usually a reach for something.
What is the breakdown of duties?
GARDNER Between me and Kleiner, there is no breakdown. We both do it all. I think one of the things that’s so remarkable about our partnership is how interchangeable we can be. We sort of speak without speaking. And then that is also true on the ones that Brad is more intimately involved in. That ebbs and flows depending on if he’s off acting in something. But Brad is very involved. He’s a real cinephile.
KLEINER This is reflected in Brad’s choices as an actor and producer: He marches to his own drummer in a very unique way. He really has his own sensibilities. He doesn’t copy or attempt to mimic something.
You produced Bong Joon Ho’s previous film, Okja. Did you have an opportunity to produce Parasite?
GARDNER God, we wish. But that was an entirely Korean production. We would make anything with him.
KLEINER When he won the Palme d’Or, we were texting him in real time as the results came through, and we couldn’t have been more excited. It would be a total dream to reunite with him. He is a true master.
Dede, you are the only woman to have won two best picture Oscars. Thoughts on that accomplishment?
GARDNER I mean, lots and lots of people have won things. I just feel really grateful to have been involved in the movies. We do this because we love filmmakers.
What’s the one project you’ve wanted to get off the ground but haven’t been able to?
GARDNER Black Hole, right, Jeremy?
KLEINER That’s the one I was thinking of. We’ve been working on that for over a decade. Clearly speed isn’t always our finest attribute. But Rick Famuyiwa has done an incredible adaptation that we’re hoping to make this year.
Will a World War Z sequel ever be a reality?
KLEINER Someday. We love Max Brooks’ book. We love the universe of it. It doesn’t feel like the World War Z is done and over with.
You acquired the rights to Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s book on Harvey Weinstein. What is the timeline on that project?
GARDNER We’re getting the script right now from Rebecca Lenkiewicz. She’s a British playwright and an amazing writer. So that’s very active.
What’s the biggest challenge facing producers today?
KLEINER The pace of change is so quick that dogmas about what works and what the market is and all the bedrocks of certainty are hard to come by. You’re relying on resourcefulness, on instinct, on relationships, on being nimble, being flexible, not being dogmatic. And that can be challenging. But in that is a lot of opportunity.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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