Magazine article Variety

Bannon's Roots in Hollywood

Magazine article Variety

Bannon's Roots in Hollywood

Article excerpt

WHEN HILLARY CLINTON'S campaign team clashed with Donald Trump's strategists at a Harvard University forum last week, the most polarizing figure, outside of the candidates themselves, was the man who wasn't there: Steve Bannon.

Trump's campaign chairman and incoming chief strategist made his early fortune as a Hollywood investment banker, hitting paydirt by collecting a share of the returns from "Seinfeld," then went on to run, which he calls the "platform for the 'alt-right," a white nationalist movement.

But along the way, Bannon and a handful of other filmmakers built up a cottage industry of conservative documentaries. The films weren't blockbusters, but they helped boost their makers' profiles, particularly at forums like the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. As a number of conservatives were complaining that liberal Hollywood was shutting them out of jobs because of their political inclinations, Bannon saw something else.

"People have very strong political beliefs, but at the end of the day, I haven't met a bigger set of capitalists than I have met in this town," he told Variety in 2011.

What set him apart wasn't the success or failure of his movies, but the fact that he moved seamlessly from the role of creative to on-air personality to dealmaker. But it wasn't until the early 2000s that the former Navy officer, Harvard MBA, and boutique banker would reveal the fiery, rightwing sensibility that has come to define his profile today.

Bannon arrived on the entertainment scene in 1990, setting up shop in Beverly Hills as a banker and financier at an opportune time to capitalize on a vibrant market for indie production-distribution entities.

"He was a banker looking to do deals. He had no other agenda other than that," says one person who worked with him.

Trevor Drinkwater, who partnered with him on Genius Products, says, "I can't tell how many times we had dinners with people with very different political views. I knew he leaned right, but he would just listen to them and hear them out. He didn't force his opinions."

In the 2000s, Bannon became a partner in the management and production company The Firm. There, he alerted the production team to a hot book prospect when it was in manuscript form - Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" Bannon, who had a relationship with Brown, knew the book would be a valuable film property, sources say. That led The Firm to pursue the project aggressively through 20th Century Fox, though the deal eventually fell apart over money. …

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