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I recently had an opportunity to chat for about 20 minutes with Jeremy Thomas, the 62-year-old British producer who won the best picture Oscar for The Last Emperor (1987) 24 years ago and hopes to be back in the running for it again this year for A Dangerous Method, his third collaboration with director David Cronenberg.
As you can see in the above video, Thomas says he has wanted to be involved with moviemaking for as long as he can remember. His father Ralph Thomas directed many of the Doctor films, his uncle Gerald Thomas directed all of the Carry On films, and many of the world’s most celebrated filmmakers and stars, including Brigitte Bardot and Katharine Hepburn, visited the family home when he was a boy. As a teenager, he took his first steps into the business, and before long he was working as a film editor for the noted British director Ken Loach.
In 1974, he produced a film for the first time. Over the nearly four decades since, he has served as producer or executive producer on dozens of films, with budgets ranging from $500,000 to $50 million, partnering on almost all of them with first-rate international directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci (five), Stephen Frears (one), Terry Gilliam (two, one of which will be released in 2012), Nagisa Oshima (two), Nicolas Roeg (three), Julien Temple (three), Agnes Varda (one), and Wim Wenders (two, including this year’s Oscar short-listed doc Pina). His greatest recognition came for the aforementioned The Last Emperor, which won all nine Oscars for which it was nominated, including best picture, the statue of which goes to the film’s producer(s), which in that case was solely Thomas.
Thomas recalls that he first met Cronenberg — who he calls “a real master filmmaker” and “a joy to work with” — in Toronto in 1980. Together, they adapted two books that many thought were unfilmable into highly acclaimed films — Naked Lunch (1991) and Crash (1996) — beore deciding to pursue a third, A Dangerous Method, the story of psychoanalysis pioneers Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), the patient who came between them.
Thomas says that financing the film, which ultimately cost $19 million, was hard, as it “always” is, but he was fully willing to “sell a bit, borrow a bit,” and do whatever was necessary to see it through because of “the idea, and the story, and who [was] making it.”
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