Producer Mike Medavoy Says He's Now Drawn to Stories Related to His Youth

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The Locarno Film Festival honoree, whose family lived in China and Chile before settling in the States, is prepping projects set in those countries.

LOCARNO, Switzerland -- Producer Mike Medavoy, who a day earlier was presented with the festival's Raimondo Rezzonico career prize at the Locarno Film Festival, on Wednesday reflected on the way his childhood is impacting the films he chooses to make, and he speculated that he might not have passed on working on Pulp Fiction if he had been younger.
Medavoy, speaking at a round table discussion at the festival, said that he saw his career coming full circle with some projects he was working on: one focusing on Jews in Shanghai, where Medavoy was born, and another -- to be called The Dictator's Shadow -- that focuses on dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile, where Medavoy lived ten years as a youngster.
"I have been in this business for 48 years, and now, as I move into a period where I will be, let's say, less active, I think I am drawn to stories related to my youth," Medavoy said.
Much like the journey of Medavoy's family before he was born, the Shanghai film will start with the Battle of Leningrad in the then-Soviet Union, travel across Siberia, and finish in Shanghai, where Medavoy was born. His family fled the Soviet Union to escape persecution there, traveling first to China, and then to Chile, before arriving in the United States, where Medavoy began his career in the movie industry.
Medavoy said he is also working on a film revolving around last year's mine collapse that trapped 33 miners in Chile. He said he is planning to travel to the country Sept. 19 for part of the research on the film, his first visit to Chile since 1972.
"I couldn't use the same company to make each film so I'm going to give them different names: Half Circle, Full Circle, and Closed Circle," he said.
But it's not all exploring films related to his youth for Medavoy: he said another in-progress project, What to Expect When You're Expecting starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez, will be a "fun look at what expecting mothers have to look forward to – nothing to do with China or Chile."
Regarding Pulp Fiction, the 1994 Quentin Tarantino classic Medavoy had a chance to green light but that he passed on, he said he might have signed on with the film if he had been a younger man at the time.
"Back then, I had just returned from Washington where I met with President Clinton to discuss violence in films, and then there was the famous scene where the kid's head gets blown off in the back seat of a car," Medavoy recalled. "I wanted that scene removed and I told Quentin that. He said, 'But Mike, it's funny.' But I just couldn't see it and so I passed. If I had been 25 or 30, I might have taken the chance. But at that time, I decided to pass."

Two of Medavoy's best known works -- Dances With Wolves and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest -- screened at the festival Wednesday.

The 11-day event will conclude on Saturday.

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