Q&A: Charles Roven
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For the past two decades, Charles ("Chuck") Roven has been one of the most reliable producers in Hollywood, with pictures like 1998's "City of Angels" and 2005's "Batman Begins." But this year, with four movies out in a 12-month period, including "The Dark Knight," "Get Smart" and "The Bank Job," he has truly come into his own. On the eve of his being named Outstanding Filmmaker of the Year at the Dubai International Film Festival, he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Galloway.
The Hollywood Reporter: You've just come back from Austria, where you're shooting "Season of the Witch." What is that?
Chuck Roven: It's a film that I'm doing with Nic Cage and Ron Perlman. Nic and Ron play knights who have returned from the Crusades. They arrive home to find that the plague has devastated their land. They're charged with taking this supposed witch to an abbey in the Alps, where they are going to perform a ritual that will hopefully stop the curse that started this plague.
THR: What drew you to the project?
Roven: I'm drawn to a lot of different material. I like material where the lead characters are constantly going through unique challenges -- crises of confidence, crises of faith, crises of morality -- and where they have to rise up and do unique things that they haven't done before.
THR: Have you been through crises like that yourself?
Roven: (Laughs.) I've been around for a while, and life always throws very unique things at us. So of course I have.
THR: Let's look at the other extreme -- you've just had the biggest hit anybody could ever imagine with "Dark Knight." What was that like?
Roven: It felt fantastic. My job, besides helping (director Christopher Nolan) realize the vision that we were all following -- which was his -- was trying to keep a perspective on the film as a whole and make sure we put the money in the right place and got the big scope on the screen, and also coping with the global footprint of the film. And that in itself was a marathon.
THR: Can you tell me what the picture ended up costing?
Roven: Nah, you really got to talk to (the studio) about that. But, you know, it was definitely nine digits. We ended up shooting about 123 days.
THR: It's a very commercial movie. Does your taste run entirely in the commercial direction?
Roven: Back when I made "12 Monkeys," people thought that was not a fastball down the middle. You know, I made a movie last year called "The Bank Job" and certainly, nobody thought that was a fastball down the middle. I had a tremendously difficult time getting financing for that film, even though it was shot in English, because people thought, "We're not sure we're even going to understand that English (dialect)."
THR: But it wasn't an expensive film?
Roven: That cost $20 million, in terms of the negative cost. But we ended up getting almost $4 million back in tax (rebates), so it really cost $16 million. We shot almost all of it in the U.K., and a couple days we shot in Australia. We did our post in Australia.
THR: Why was it such a challenge?
Roven: Because, in general, the marketplace -- as most marketplaces are in any business -- they like to bet on things that they feel are more "sure." So we would've had an easier time in raising money for another Jason Statham action film.
THR: You've had three movies this year -- Roven: I shot a fourth movie that's coming out in February, too ("The International"). How do you manage it?
Roven: I normally try to spend a decent amount of time on all of the sets. And also, there's the magic of technology, and I can essentially see dailies anywhere in the world. So "The Bank Job" shot in the U.K. while I was prepping "The Dark Knight," which shot in Los Angeles and Chicago. "Get Smart" shot in Los Angeles and there was final prepping in Los Angeles and Montreal. But for about 15 or 16 months, I would be on a plane three days a week, flying someplace. I would spend a few days on one set, or a week on one set, and then move to another set.
THR: What kind of toll does that take on you on a human level?
Roven: Well, I'm sure it depends on whom you ask. (Laughs.) But I gained a lot of weight.
THR: Do you have kids? Are you married?
Roven: I am married. I have a fabulous wife. She does her own amazing thing, which is, she rides -- she competes in a Western equestrian event called "cutting." She's actually in the running for the national championship and will be inducted in the Cowboy Hall of Fame next month. And my daughter, she goes to the University of Chicago, and one of the fabulous benefits I had when shooting ("Dark Knight") in Chicago over the summer of 2007 was that she worked on the film as a camera PA.
THR: You mentioned you had "The International" coming up. Tell me about some of your other projects in the works.
Roven: Well, I prefer to talk about those movies when they're ready to go. Development is such an amorphous thing, how movies end up coming together. It takes a lot of hard work. You can have the money and not have the script; you can have the actor and not have the money; and then there's always scheduling availabilities.
THR: How much does the international side of the business impact what you do?
Roven: It has been the biggest growth for a portion of the business for a long time, (in part because) the currency over the last several years -- particularly the euro and the yen -- really had a major uplift in comparison to the dollar. That's come back a little bit since the global financial crisis happened.
THR: Is that what a producer's job is -- having to pay attention to the currency rates?
Roven: Well, everybody produces differently, so that's why people sometimes ask, "What does a producer really do?" I just happen to be a producer who enjoys looking at all the aspects.