Hollywood & Politics: Harry Sloan on the Not-So-Lonely Life of a Hollywood Republican

Issue 15 FEA Harry Sloan Illustration - P 2012
Riccardo Vecchio

Issue 15 FEA Harry Sloan Illustration - P 2012

The former head of MGM and top Mitt Romney supporter doesn't buy complaints of bias against conservatives in the entertainment industry.

This story originally appeared in the May 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

You sometimes hear in Hollywood people saying, "I didn't get hired because I'm a Republican," or, "That person's being discriminated against because he's a Republican." You hear more of those stories than you hear someone got a job because he's a Democrat. But I don't believe either. I haven't seen it. And I'm as well-known a Republican as there is in the industry.

I've heard stories about discrimination, but I've been involved in hiring actors, writers, directors for New World Pictures, Scandinavian Broadcasting Systems and MGM, and I've never seen it. I've never seen anybody say: "Joe and Ed are up for the job. Joe's a liberal Democrat, so we're going to take him." The stakes are way too high for that. The money that goes into these productions, the careers that are on the line, you have to go with the best person.

PHOTOS: 20 Biggest Political Players in Hollywood

No one in Hollywood ever said they didn't want to do business with me because I was a Republican. I was established enough that people knew me as Harry Sloan, chairman and entrepreneur, not Harry Sloan, Republican.

Being a moderate Republican, I have pretty much the same views on social issues as most of my colleagues in the industry. The Republican Party is on the wrong side of Hollywood on all the major social issues. But because of the economy's weakness and the importance of creating jobs, people are going to vote based on economic issues. We're suffering in Hollywood just like everywhere else in the country, with high unemployment and business being down, fewer movies, less production and fewer jobs. Our industry will take a look at a Republican presidential candidate, I think, and will consider voting for him if they think he can be effective on the economy.

The two issues that will hurt us are the perception that Republicans and Mitt Romney are either anti-immigrant or not on the side of women. We need to fix those perceptions. I wouldn't be supporting him if I felt he were anti-women or anti-immigrant. I don't believe he is.

PHOTOS: 10 Hollywood Players That Will Make a Difference in 2012 Elections

When Reagan appointed me to the President's Advisory Committee on Trade [in 1987], it was because there was no studio being run by a Republican. He couldn't find one; I was the only one. But Congress said you have to appoint somebody to represent all industries because we were advising the president on trade negotiations. So he had to dip all the way down to New World to find a Republican.

Whether Romney will do better than McCain in Hollywood, I don't know yet. He's made some gaffes, and he'd be the first to admit it, but he's still running neck and neck in a Gallup poll against a popular president. So I think that keeps us encouraged.

Before graduating from UCLA law, Sloan worked for Republican L.A. congressman Alphonzo Bell. He and his partners went on to buy New World Pictures in 1983, later selling it to Ronald Perelman. Sloan bought and sold SBS, ran MGM from 2005 to 2009 and now co-heads an entertainment investment firm.