Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: A Billion-Dollar Man

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: A Billion-Dollar Man

Article excerpt

Coming soon to the big screen is "The Sum of All Fears," the fourth, most terrifying, and most comprehensive of the Tom Clancy-based action thrillers. This one incorporates everything: international spies, neo-Nazis, corrupt Russian generals, shooting-bombing-garrotting-crashing-exploding-crushing-crippling disasters, with both biological and nuclear attacks. All four movies have been made by Mace Neufeld, a quiet, retiring producer, who belongs to what is known as the One-Billion-Dollar Club. Its single qualification for membership: make movies that collectively earn a billion or more at the box office.

In Beverly Hills the other day, Neufeld calmly entered the Grill, the lunching hub of risen and still rising movie-business bigwigs. He was subtly tanned and in admirable physical shape, with splendid posture and thick, peppered gray hair carefully barbered. He was attired in the classic uniform of a powerful producer: black high-necked Italian sports shirt, black designer suit, black Mephistos. The other lunchers, mostly a bit younger, including fashionably appointed, ultra-slim, cool-eyed female counterparts, were inspecting entrances, but no heads turned as Neufeld came on the scene. A young, harried maitre d', looking somewhat apologetic, led Neufeld to the last booth in a back corner.

"This waiting for a response to the film is a very nervous time for me," Neufeld said, with an easy, non-nervous smile. He crossed the second and third fingers of both hands, put them over his head, and wiggled them. He glanced tolerantly at his fellow-lunchers. "I don't do the socializing," he said. "On my way here, I spotted John Travolta's agent in his car. That's about as close as I get to the celebrated stars. I have three children and seven grandchildren, and I like to go home and be with them. I've lived in the same Beverly Hills house for thirty-seven years." He studied the menu and looked around for a waiter, who was a noticeably long time in appearing.

"In Europe, they tell me about my 'body of work,' " he said, with a genuine bubble of laughter. "Here it's different. Steven Spielberg is the preeminent producer, and rightly so. There are about a dozen other well-known names in the club, like George Lucas, Jerry Bruckheimer, Joel Silver, Scott Rudin, Brian Grazer. My movies are up near the top, in terms of worldwide box-office grosses: 'The Hunt for Red October,' $199.2 million; 'Patriot Games,' $178 million; 'Clear and Present Danger,' $207.5. And, of course, I've done other things. …

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