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This story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When he was just a fledgling producer new to Los Angeles, Will Packer was determined to have a power lunch at Mr Chow (No. 10), the Chinese cuisine power nexus in Beverly Hills that celebrated 40 years in business last year. He came away feeling less than powerful. “I was just a struggling filmmaker who probably had no business being at Mr Chow, to be quite honest,” recalls Packer. “I remember getting the bill and going, ‘Whoa! How many of these did we have?!’ ” So it became a point of pride to return to the storied spot once he became a success.
In the past eight years, Packer has had seven movies open at No. 1 at the U.S. box office, including Ride Along, Think Like a Man and No Good Deed. And his latest comedy, The Wedding Ringer, debuted to $24.5 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Some of those deals, says the producer, have been nudged along over lunch with talent and executives like Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley, who recalls of Mr Chow, “I used to have lunch there with one of my mentors and former boss Mike De Luca when I worked at New Line.”
Indeed, it was a midday meal between Packer and Langley at Soho House that led to the producer’s new three-year deal with Universal, which was announced in October. “I remember our first lunch was great, and we hugged at the end,” says Packer. “There was this understanding that we were going to be in business together.” With his latest hit, Packer will likely be taking some celebratory lunches at Mr Chow in the coming weeks, enjoying his favorite dishes: black-pepper lobster, chicken satay and green prawns.
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