This story originally appeared in the May 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
After years of trailing its studio rivals in market share, Paramount zoomed to No. 1 in 2007 due in large part to Transformers and a handful of other titles overseen by DreamWorks president of production Adam Goodman. A year later — amid its otherwise acrimonious split with DreamWorks — Paramount persuaded Goodman to join the studio, promoting him to Paramount Film Group president a year after that. The Chicago native, good-natured but a tough-as-nails negotiator, hasn’t disappointed, and the studio has stayed at the top of the industry in worldwide box-office grosses — in a close rivalry with Warner Bros. — and placed No. 1 in 2011 with $5.2 billion. Goodman, 39, hasn’t been afraid to upend longtime Hollywood practices by eliminating perks like office fridges stuffed with groceries for favored producers, consolidating studio ranks and completely reshaping the low-budget space with Paranormal Activity. He’s also a chief architect behind the Transformers franchise, and he successfully rebooted the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek properties while launching G.I. Joe.
Goodman faces his share of challenges as Paramount looks to make up for the defection of Marvel movies to Disney and the possible end of its relationship with DreamWorks Animation in December. Sitting down with THR recently in his spacious, bright corner office on the Melrose lot, he revealed that Tom Cruise likely is close to signing a deal to star in a Top Gun sequel and that Ehren Kruger has returned to write Transformers 4, even as Shia LaBeouf exits. He also disclosed that he’s moving ahead with franchise hopefuls Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Matt Helm, Earthseed, J.J. Abrams’ Micronauts and Without Remorse. Goodman is married to his college sweetheart, Jessica Goodman, herself a longtime production executive who now works at Fox 2000 (the two attended American University). They have two children, Georgie, 6, and Henry, 3, and spend many weekends at their beach house in Ventura, Calif.
The Hollywood Reporter: What is your guiding mantra?
Adam Goodman: It’s all about the filmmakers and working with the best of the best, or with people who we believe will become the best of the best. The middle ground, the journeyman kind of director, is something we’re really kind of wary of, and that’s where we can get hurt the most.
THR: Are studios stuck in the past?
Goodman: Paramount is 100 years old this year, and we’ve been going back and reading old memos. What’s incredible is that everything we do has been institutionalized over the course of a century. So why aren’t we innovating more? Why aren’t we challenging ourselves? With new technology, with digital technology, we have the ability to do things that couldn’t have been imagined 100 years ago. That’s what’s been so fun: to take what works and keep enhancing it and try to mess with things differently.
THR: You’ve streamlined the studio’s production operations so there are no more separate labels with their own staffs — except for your microbudget division, Insurge, and the new animation division. Why?
Goodman: The reality is that they are all Paramount movies. An executive who works on a Vantage movie can be the same executive who works on an MTV or Nickelodeon movie.
THR: What areas can be cut in terms of the production process?
Goodman: Everything. Gross deals, multiple-steps deals with writers, giant producing-overhead deals. Now we operate in a place where it has to all be about content. When it comes to development and production, we have all the resources you could possibly need to make the best content on the planet. So we’ve scaled back on the luxuries in massive ways, whether it’s flowers for a producer’s office or huge discretionary-fund deals. Between all the labels, I suspect we had 40 producing deals on the lot, and now we’ve whittled it down to just a handful [among them Abrams, Michael Bay, Brad Pitt and Martin Scorsese].
THR: Is making Transformers 4 without Shia LaBeouf risky? Is he out?
Goodman: The story is going in a different direction now. Ehren Kruger [who wrote the past two Transformers movies] is writing it for us, and we’re starting to engage, but I can’t say anything more.
THR: What about another Mission: Impossible?
Goodman: We’ll likely make a Top Gun sequel with Tom Cruise first. Jerry Bruckheimer would produce, with Tony Scott returning to direct. All parties are moving ahead. We’ve hired Peter Craig to write the script.
THR: You’re rebooting the Jack Ryan franchise with Chris Pine starring. What is the status?
Goodman: We have a great script that David Koepp and Adam Cozad worked on. We’re going to shoot the movie after Star Trek. I think the idea is to try and get it for 2013.
THR: You recently set a March 2014 release date for Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic Noah. Can you talk about the project?
Goodman: It will be a big, robust production and will have tremendous scale. It’s the perfect combination of casting [Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly] and a remarkable adventure. This isn’t what you think of when you think of Darren, but it will be very true to him as a filmmaker. It will be PG-13 and will likely cost around $125 million.
THR: You pushed back Brad Pitt’s World War Z from Christmas to next summer amid rumblings that the project has had troubles. Why?
Goodman: It is an action-adventure movie with a lot of extreme ideas — i.e., a world war with zombies — so it felt more like a summer tentpole. One Shot, starring Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, seemed like a great Christmas opportunity, so we moved that up. We see One Shot, based on Lee Child’s novels, as a potential franchise.
THR: Michael Bay is re-envisioning Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon movies. What are your plans for Nick?
Goodman: We want it to be family adventures and really hard-core family comedies. If I was starting again, I would have put Transformers through Nick. Upcoming movies that could be released through the label are Christopher Columbus’ The Secret Lives of Road Crews or Etan Cohen’s Boy Scouts vs. Zombies.
THR: You’ve been a pioneer in terms of proving that studios can succeed in the microbudget space. What is Insurge planning next?
Goodman: The thing we’re most proud of is that the three Paranormal movies, Jackass 3D, The Devil Inside and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never were all made for $41 million or $42 million combined, and they have just crossed $1 billion at the global box office. The Ring is something that really lends itself to this format right now, so we’re talking to [producer] Walter Parkes about doing something with that. We also are planning a dance-music documentary-style film on the DJ revolution.
THR: Are you still buying festival movies? Your most recent acquisition was the 2011 Sundance title Like Crazy, which cost $4 million for worldwide rights but grossed only $3.5 million at the box office.
Goodman: Our eyes are always open to the right picture, but we don’t have a mandate. The reason why we were so excited about Like Crazy was it was a movie that was made for $250,000. It wasn’t about the box-office success, and our spend was moderate. It taught us something about production technique, and we hope to be in business with [director] Drake Doremus a long time.
THR: What do you think of the comedy space right now? You are making an Anchorman sequel for a relatively modest $50 million. How did you get Will Ferrell and Steve Carell to take reduced fees?
Goodman: I think if they are scaled appropriately, in terms of their budgets, comedies are as good a business as they’ve ever been. They used to cost $20 million or $25 million, then they quadrupled. Basically, it is a pool deal. We all start making money at the same time, and the actors become massive shareholders.
THR: You are in charge of the new animation division, which was launched in the wake of the Oscar-winning Rango. How would you make up for the departure of DreamWorks Animation?
Goodman: Putting that aside, Paramount has been in the animation business forever. Because of Nickelodeon, Paramount has done really hard-core animated films like South Park and then now into more filmmaker-driven films like The Adventures of Tintin and Rango. We feel we have the ability to make these kinds of movies as well as any company does. I can’t talk about the project, but Robert Gordon [Galaxy Quest] is writing an original story for us.
THR: How did you get involved in the film industry?
Goodman: I always wanted to be in the movie business and worked as a production assistant for John Hughes in Chicago. When I went to American University, I worked as a PA on films including Clear and Present Danger [a Paramount title]. I kept thinking I’d hand a producer or director water or coffee, and they’d say: “Oh my God, you are the kid I’ve been looking for my whole life. Let me show you everything.” It didn’t happen, so I moved to Los Angeles and went to work for Scott Rudin.
THR: Both you and Fox 2000, where your wife works, went after Fifty Shades of Grey, which ultimately went to Universal and Focus Features. Is it difficult competing for projects?
Goodman: In the almost 17 years that the two of us have been working in the movie business, it has never been an issue. There is complete separation of church and state, and when we get home, we have two kids that get all of our attention.
- 3 films
- Box office: $2.7 billion
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon grossed a series-best $1.1 billion in 2011.
- Next Up: Transformers 4 (June 27, 2014)
- 1 film
- Box office: $302.5 million
- Goodman switched things up for the upcoming sequel, casting Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis.
- Next Up: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29)
- 4 films
- Box office: $2.1 billion
- 2011’s Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol earned a series-best $693.1 million worldwide.
- Next Up: No date set
- 3 films
- Box office: $576.6 million
- 2011’s threequel cost only $5 million and made a series-best $205.7 million.
- Next Up: Paranormal Activity 4 (Oct. 19)
- 11 films
- Box office: $1.5 billion
- J.J. Abrams’ 2009 origins pic grossed a franchise-best $385.7 million; he’s shooting the sequel.
- Next up: Star Trek sequel (May 17, 2013)